Visiting Bangkok, Thailand. The Dos and Don'ts

What Not To Do in Thailand: 12 Essential Tips

As you plan your trip to Thailand, it’s important to learn exactly what NOT to do in this country in order to have a successful holiday.

The most important thing you could do in preparation for a trip abroad is research, research, research. Understanding the social norms and traditions of the country you will be visiting is extremely important.

Not only will it help you understand and assimilate to the culture, but you’ll also avoid scams and tourist traps.

Is It Safe to Travel to Thailand?

Thailand is a very safe country to visit whether you’re going with friends, family, or by yourself. Violent crime is nearly non-existent and the Thai people are known for being accepting and friendly to outsiders.

What Not To Do In Thailand

There are so many amazing things to see and do in Thailand; this country is so diverse. You’ll find mountains in the north and breathtakingly beautiful beaches in the south.

There are so many travel guides out there that tell you exactly what to do while visiting Thailand. But we’re going to switch things up. These are the 12 things you should not do in Thailand:

1. Don’t Take Taxis That Don’t Have Meters

Taxi scams in Thailand have been happening for years and years. It’s unlikely that it will ever stop.

Many Thai taxi drivers like to take advantage of tourists because tourists can be clueless. A lot of travelers will gladly hand over any amount of money for a cab ride. Unfortunately, this is unethical and against Thai laws.

Don't Take Un-Metered Taxis in Thailand

In order to avoid being scammed by a taxi driver, refuse to take rides from anyone that isn’t using a meter. Metered taxis are your friend and they keep taxi drivers honest about the cost.

What To Do Instead

In order to make sure a taxi is using a meter, simply ask the driver before you get in the vehicle.

It’s likely that the cab driver will roll down his window and ask where you’re going. He’ll either agree to not, depending on where he’s headed. If he agrees to take you, point at the meter in the car and say, “meter?”

If he says no, simply wait for the next taxi. There are so many taxis in Bangkok that it’s really easy to find taxis that operate with meters.

2. Don’t Get Sick

This was one of the worst things that could’ve happened to me while living in Thailand and it happened three times in six months; stomach infections from eating bad Thai food.

If you can avoid it, this is definitely something you should not do in Thailand.

Getting Sick in Thailand, What Not To Do

Now don’t get me wrong, Thai food is incredibly delicious. But be wary of where you’re buying food. Freshness is key when it comes to not getting sick in Thailand.

Unfortunately, getting sick from eating bad food can’t always be avoided. In that case, I recommend bringing an Azithromycin prescription with you during your trip to Thailand.

What To Do Instead

I absolutely encourage you to eat Thai food. If you haven’t tasted heaven yet, you’re in for a real treat. Thai street food is some of our favorite food from around the world.

My only warning is that you don’t consume food that looks like it’s been sitting out all day in the hot sun. This could lead to stomach problems, traveler’s diarrhea, and more.

3. Don’t Overpay For Souvenirs

You might have already heard this one, but something you should not do in Thailand is overpaying for souvenirs. You know that Chang shirt and elephant pants you’ve been dying to buy? They shouldn’t cost you more than a few dollars each.

What Not To Do in Thailand

What To Do Instead

If you feel like you’re being taken advantage of, don’t be afraid to bargain for souvenirs. Cut the price in half and go up from there.

4. Don’t Bargain For Food

Although bargaining is common in markets, it should not be practiced when purchasing food. The food at the market, street food, and food at restaurants have a set price. Bargaining will get you nowhere fast and you’ll likely insult the seller.

Bargaining for Food at Thai Markets

What To Do Instead

Pay the full price! Rarely do food markets or street food vendors try to take advantage of tourists.

This also holds true for established stores. You’ll notice that Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and other major cities have massive malls on every street corner. Here, you’ll find Victoria’s Secret, The Gap, Macy’s, and more. These are not stores where you should be bargaining.

5. Don’t Buy Gems

Although I don’t have any experience with this, I know plenty of people who have fallen for this scam.

Buying rare gems in Thailand is quite popular, however, the risks might not be worth it. Buying fake gems that have no value can put a huge damper on your vacation.

What To Do Instead

You have two options here. If you’re dying to buy rare gems in Bangkok, I recommend asking for advice, reading reviews, and reading up on gem sales in Thailand.

The other option is to buy other souvenirs in Thailand and save the fancy jewelry shopping for when you get home.

6. Don’t Let Your Guard Down- There Are Pickpocketers Among Us

Although violent crime is extremely low in Thailand, you should always be aware of your surroundings. Like most major cities, falling victim to pickpocketers is common.

What Not To Do in Thailand

I noticed that this was particularly true in crowded tourist areas like Chinatown, Chatuchak Market, and busy public transportation.

What To Do Instead

I’m not trying to scare you because, in all honesty, Thailand is a very safe country. But, if you’re going to explore some of the more popular tourist spots like Chinatown and Chatuchak Market, I recommend keeping your belongings close to your body and paying attention to what’s happening around you.

7. Don’t Cuddle With The Thai Street Dogs

It’s so tempting to pet all of the Thai street dogs (also known as soi dogs). They are just so cute, innocent, and in desperate need of some love, right?

Unfortunately, most of these dogs were born and raised in the streets. They aren’t pets and they shouldn’t be treated like pets. Treating them like pets and invading their personal space could get you into some trouble.

Don't Pet the Street Dogs in Thailand

Many of these dogs are aggressive toward people if they feel threatened. Give them their space and save yourself from possibly being bitten.

Note: A lot of these dogs also have rabies, fleas, and other diseases. If you want to know what not to do in Thailand, getting an infectious disease is at the top of the list.

What To Do Instead

Seeing these poor dogs living in such horrible conditions really tugs at my heartstrings.

If you’re having this same feeling, I recommend volunteering with the company SoiDog.org while visiting Thailand. Located in Phuket, this is an excellent opportunity to give back and help the local street dogs.

8. Don’t Ride The Elephants

The most important thing I suggest not to do while visiting Thailand is riding the elephants. It’s extremely disheartening to see so many tourists ride on these poor creatures.

As an FYI, most elephant camps treat their elephants really poorly. Many of them are taken from their mothers in the wild, are forced to do hard labor, and are subjected to torture in order for tourists to see “neat tricks”.

Don't Ride the Elephants while visiting Thailand

I learned so much about elephants during my stay in Thailand and I suggest that anyone traveling to Thailand should also do their research.

In the end, you shouldn’t be able to ride on elephants or get too close to them. They deserve to be wild and protected.

What To Do Instead

Visiting elephants and understanding conservation was one of the best parts of my time in Thailand. I encourage everyone to have a day with elephants during their Thailand trip.

However, instead of riding elephants or watching them do ridiculous tricks, I suggest choosing an ethical elephant sanctuary. We visited Elephant Nature Park and absolutely loved it. It also made us feel good that we were contributing to a wonderful cause.

9. Don’t Ride In Tuk-Tuks

Before moving to Thailand, I was so excited about immersing myself in the culture. I couldn’t wait to ride in tuk-tuks, eat the delicious food, and visit all of the temples.

Little did I know, riding in tuk-tuks is by far the easiest way to get ripped off while visiting Thailand.

What Not To Do in Thailand

Tuk-tuks do not have meters to determine the distance and price for each ride. Instead, they charge tourists 10x more than they should.

Since many tourists come to Thailand without any prior knowledge of the price of living, they willingly throw the tuk-tuk drivers $20 USD to ride down the street. Don’t do this.

Apart from the ridiculously high prices, tuk-tuks are also incredibly dangerous. Traffic in Bangkok is horrendous. Getting hit while riding in a tuk-tuk or tipping over while turning a corner could be deadly.

What To Do Instead

Instead of riding in tuk-tuks, grab a metered taxi. Taxis are everywhere and they are much safer and cheaper.

10. Don’t Walk Out On Your Restaurant Bill – You Must Ask For The Check

As I sat and waited for the server to bring me my bill during my first experience in a Thai restaurant, I couldn’t help but think… did she forget about me?

What Not To Do in Thailand

As it turns out, she didn’t forget about me. Instead of bringing you the bill when you’ve finished eating, the servers in Thailand wait until you ask for the bill.

What To Do Instead

Be vocal about what you want from your server. Even if you tell them, “I think we’re done here”, they still will not bring you the check. You must say the Thai phrase “check bin” before your server will bring the bill.

11. Don’t Disrespect The Royal Family

When you’re in Thailand, being respectful is vital. Showing respect is of the utmost importance to Thai people. This is especially true when it comes to the Royal Family.

Regardless of your political views, religion, etc, you should always show respect to Thai culture when visiting this country.

This isn’t America where you can just bash anything you disagree with. In fact, you could be put in jail for saying or doing disrespectful things toward the Royal Family.

Note: This also holds true for Buddha.

What To Do Instead

One of the best things you can do before visiting Thailand is to learn how to wai. The wai is similar to a handshake and it shows respect for the person you are greeting.

In order to wai to someone younger than you, simply press your hands together (like Ronald McDonald is doing below), hold your hands to your chest, and bow your head.

When to Wai in Thailand

If you are greeting someone around your age or older, press your hands together, touch the tips of your fingers to your nose, and bow your head.

And of course, the Royal Family and Buddha have their own form of wai. In order to wai to the Royal Family or Buddha, press your hands together, touch your thumbs to your forehead, and bow.

12. Don’t Wear Revealing Clothing To Temples

Temples in Thailand are sacred. These are their houses of worship and they should be treated with the utmost respect.

In order to visit temples, you’ll need to be dressed appropriately. This means that you should not be wearing shorts above your knees or have your shoulders exposed.

What Not To Do in Thailand

Some of the more popular temples will have a security guard checking attire, while other temples expect visitors to be responsible for themselves.

If you think you’ll be going into a temple at any point during the day, bring a light sweater with to put over your shoulders and wear a long, flowy skirt. This will keep you cool in the hot Thai sun.

What To Do Instead

If you want to wear revealing clothing, I’m not the person to stop you. Flaunt as much as you’d like on the beaches of Ko Phi Phi or while island hopping in the Andaman Sea.

Just don’t do it in a Thai temple.

The Wrap-Up: What Not To Do In Thailand

If you’re researching information for your upcoming trip to the land of smiles, be sure to read about what not to do during your Thailand holiday.

Remember and utilize the tips suggested above to help you stay out of trouble, keep you out of hospitals, and leave you in good standing with the local Thai people.

Want to find out the Thailand destinations you should completely avoid? Check out our blog post: 4 Disgusting Places to Avoid in Thailand.

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    What Not To Do in Thailand

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