Surprising Things About Thailand You Should Know Before Visiting

Thailand, and Southeast Asia in general, is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Not only are the sites and history incredible, but the cities, villages, and islands offer foreigners a taste of the country’s vibrant culture.

However, before booking your flight across the world, there are a few things you should know about Thailand.

Don’t Believe Everything Taxi Drivers Tell You

Buddhist monk in the back of a three wheel tuk tuk taxi on a road in Bangkok
Photo Credit: In Pictures Ltd. / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: In Pictures Ltd. / Corbis via Getty Images

Taxi drivers might tell you that a specific tourist location or landmark is closed even if it isn’t so that they can take you to a different “open” one and receive a commission.

People Don’t Wait In Lines

GettyImages-166779232
Photo Credit: Peter Charlesworth / LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Peter Charlesworth / LightRocket via Getty Images

In most Western countries, people are used to forming and waiting in neat lines in order to get service at stores and other businesses. However, in Thailand, people form into crowds and you have to stand your ground against people trying to push in front of you.

Beer Or Water?

A monkey drinks bottled water given to it by a tourist at the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple
Photo Credit: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

Most brands that make beer in Thailand also make bottled water. If you plan to visit a bar make sure you specify which drink and brand you want. For example, ask for a “Chang beer” or a “Singha beer.”

Cover Your Elbows And Knees When Visiting Temples

Tourists at Royal Temple of the Emerald Buddha,Wat Phra Keow
Photo Credit: Tim Graham / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Tim Graham / Getty Images

Temples, monasteries, wats, and palaces often have rules about how much skin you can show when entering. Carry a light jacket or coverup with you when exploring in case you stumble upon an interesting site.

It’s Not Normal To Eat Off Of Your Fork

Eleven forks on a plate:
Photo Credit: Romulo Yanes / Conde Nast via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Romulo Yanes / Conde Nast via Getty Images

First of all, chopsticks are the norm more than using a fork. However, if you do use a fork, don’t eat directly off of it: instead, use it to scrape food onto your spoon and eat from there.

Negotiate Prices With Tuk-Tuk Drivers

Tuk tuk in the street
Photo Credit: Sergi Reboredo / VW PICS / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Sergi Reboredo / VW PICS / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Unlike with cabs and Ubers here, prices for transportation run by individuals can be negotiated. Many tuk-tuk drivers, upon seeing a foreign traveler, will inflate the price exponentially hoping they don’t know any better.

Are You Pointing Your Feet At Me?

Feet for Standing Buddha statue
Photo Credit: Heritage Arts / Heritage Images via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Heritage Arts / Heritage Images via Getty Images

While it can be impossible to avoid while seated on a subway across from someone, try not to point your feet at people. It is considered a sign of disrespect to do so.

Do Not Speak Ill Of The Royalty

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha (middle L) and Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda (C, pink sash) prostrating themselves in front of newly appointed Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn as he accepts the position as monarch after the death of his late father King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok
Photo Credit: STRINGER / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: STRINGER / AFP via Getty Images

The king and other royalty are highly revered by the people and are almost seen as gods. The Thai people mourned the previous king for a full year after his passing.

Pad Thai Is Not That Popular

plate of pad thai
Photo Credit: Geovien So / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Geovien So / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Pad Thai is probably the most popular dish from Thailand across the rest of the world, but it’s not all that popular there. It’s considered more as a minor snack than an actual meal.

There Are 7-Elevens Everywhere

A Seven Eleven shop on a busy street corner of Bangkok, Thailand
Photo Credit: In Pictures Ltd. / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: In Pictures Ltd. / Corbis via Getty Images

You might think that 7-Eleven is a predominantly American thing, but they are extremely common in larger Thai cities. The stores feature Thai products and often have delicious prepackaged meals.

Some Stores And Temples Require You To Take Off Your Shoes Before Entering

Shoes and Remove Shoes sign on carpet steps Wat Chalong Phuket Thailand
Photo Credit:: Andrew Woodley / Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit:: Andrew Woodley / Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If someone tells you to take your shoes off before entering a temple, small store, restaurant, personal home, etc., take them off: not doing is extremely disrespectful. You’ll often see tons of shoes outside of boutiques when walking the street.

Eat All The Mangoes You Can

Fresh yellow mangoes are for sale
Photo Credit: Frank Bienewald / LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Frank Bienewald / LightRocket via Getty Images

Southeast Asia is where mango trees are natively grown and therefore they have some of the most delicious species of the fruits available to man. Eat all the mangoes you can get your hands on while there.

Massages Are Really Cheap

A foot massage sign on Rama 1 Road
Photo Credit: Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

While an hour-long massage in the US can cost about $100, Thai massages are very cheap with some costing as low as $3 for an hour. Massage parlors are common, but avoid ones that says things like “happy girls” on their signs.

Bacon And Eggs Are Not On The Menu

Baskets of dim sum, a traditional breakfast
Photo Credit: Leisa Tyler / LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Leisa Tyler / LightRocket via Getty Images

Traditional “breakfast foods” that we’re used to in the Western world aren’t the norm in Thailand, and you’ll be hard-pressed to come by some. Most Thai people just eat the same foods typical of lunch and dinner early in the day as breakfast.

Touching People’s Heads Is Off-Limits

Buddhist monks bathe the shaved head of the rescued Thai boy
Photo Credit: PANUMAS SANGUANWONG / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: PANUMAS SANGUANWONG / AFP via Getty Images

I don’t know why you’d want to go around touching people’s heads in the first place, but in Thailand, the head is considered the sacred home of the soul and should not be touched by others.

Meals Are Shared, Not Individual

A couple of tourists enjoy dinner
Photo Credit: Peter Charlesworth / LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Peter Charlesworth / LightRocket via Getty Images

When going to a restaurant in the Western world, it’s normal for each diner to order their own meal. In Thailand, most meals at restaurants come in large portions and everyone at the table is meant to share. Dishes often come out one at a time based on how quickly you finish the one before it.

Want To Get In A Quick Lift?

dumbbell
Photo Credit: Elisenda Roig / Bongarts / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Elisenda Roig / Bongarts / Getty Images

Males who have traveled to Thailand’s party islands have noted that washrooms at clubs sometimes will have weightlifting dumbbells inside them. I guess if you want to get a few quick curls in, it’s great.

Bangkok Belly Is A Real Thing

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Photo Credit: LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP via Getty Images

Just like when traveling to any foreign country, you have to be ready for some digestive discomfort. Be wary about which stalls you get food from, and check to see how sanitary they look—do they have cats walking across the food prep stations?—before chowing down.

Toilet Paper Is Not A Given

toilet paper rolls
Photo Credit: In Pictures Ltd. / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: In Pictures Ltd. / Corbis via Getty Images

Make sure to take toilet paper with you if traveling to Thailand. Most public bathrooms won’t have any, and even some hostels are lacking in the supply. Better to be safe than sorry!

Thailand Is One Of The Friendliest Nations

Thai students smile
Photo Credit: TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP via Getty Images

Travelers from all around the world will attest to the friendliness of the people in Thailand. Strangers on the street will want to stop and strike up a conversation, and most locals will smile at you for no reason at all.