What Should I Avoid in Thailand?

things not to do in Thailand
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What Should I Avoid in Thailand?

A Traveler’s Do’s and Don’ts Guide in Thailand: Maintaining Good Health, Maximizing Safety and Respecting Culture

I. Why Visit Thailand

what should I avoid in Thailand
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Before we dive into the topic at hand, which is “what should I avoid in Thailand“, let’s first take a look at some of Thailand as a whole. Thailand has diverse landscapes consisting of forests, grasslands, wetlands, rivers, rice fields, broad plateau and coastlines on beaches. Thailand attracts tourists for many reasons. Some are because of their historical attractions, beautiful scenery, enormous and awing Buddha statues, great culinary dishes at cheap prices, and their stories and arts packed with culture and history.

Its capital, Bangkok, holds the name, “Venice of the East” because of its floating markets on 83 canals. These boats carry fruits, vegetables, meats, spices, and souvenirs as customers hop in and out the slightly rocking boat. Bangkok also houses the Grand Palace with plenty of Buddha structures ranging from different sizes that usually are made of gold. More on the modern side of Thailand, tourists enjoy the elevated BTS Skytrain for moving between shopping malls at a cheap price. Nothing but the best can be expected of the past home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of Thai government.

The city Ayutthaya is rich in history and culture within the walls of its temples, the statues of Buddha, and the very earth that it owns. While the Chiang Mai is a city filled with temples, massage parlors, and night markets that will leave you no choice but to feel the buzz of excitement and buying, and plenty of street food to try the Thai cuisine. Some weird attractions like the Sathorn Unique Tower, also known as the ‘Sathorn Unique’, is an abandoned skyscraper because it stopped construction in the late 1900s because of the global crisis. Until today, no one has picked up the pieces and started rebuilding it yet.

But tourists being tourists, they pay the security guard in the entrance to climb up all the 49 floors and take a peek of the rumored ghosts lurking in the shadows of the tower.

So, what could go wrong when Thailand clearly is no stranger to tourists? Well, there are plenty of precautionary measures needed to be taken for your own safety, for the better of your health, and to avoid insulting the natives. Do you point at things and people in public? Yeah, you might not want to do that in Thailand as it is considered as rude. Are you a heavy smoker? Well, you might want to ditch that habit of yours because smoking in certain public areas can cost you a night in a cold, hard cell in jail.

What was that? Did you just say, “What should I avoid in Thailand”? Now you are asking the right questions! Your answer lies within the “Taking Precautions” section. But first, let us go in depth and understand what the specific dangers of Thailand towards tourists such as yourself.

II. Dangers of Thailand

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I know that the title seems to imply that Thailand is in fact a dangerous city, but it actually isn’t as bad as you think. Thailand may appear to have a bad reputation at times, but it is mostly because of the debauchery at full moon parties, scams from taxi drivers, and corrupt policemen. However, violent crimes such as murder, aggravated assault and rape rarely occur at such a modest and spiritual country. In fact, a review on TripAdvisor even went on his way and commented that,

“The biggest danger in Thailand is becoming addicted to its hospitality, cuisine and lifestyle … then spending every penny you earn to plan future return trips” (2009).

However, Thailand’s government are faced with protesters and activists. As of August 2020, the UK government website states these advocators are likely to hold rallies in the coming weeks. The specific places in Bangkok that are prone to rallies are the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the Ratchaphrasong Shopping District Skywalk near the MBK building and Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre, and more importantly, the usual suspect and epicenter of all activities, university campuses. These rallies can also cause heavy traffic in its surrounding areas which will either let your patience wear thin or keep your taxi fare running for a long time.

Thailand’s laws and penalties are different from that of any other country. Protesters and activist at these rallies or even supporting these causes on social media have been faced with criminal charges, Thai or not. In Thailand, any criticism on their monarchy is considered as a crime that can put you away for a very long time. So the next time you click that “post”, “publish” or “tweet” button for a post about the Thailand monarchy, make sure to double check its contexts and implications or else you will be serving a lengthy jail sentence.

While the possession, distribution or manufacture of drugs can even lead to the death penalty! Remember, do not be involved with illegal drugs at all when in Thailand!

So, is Thailand dangerous for tourists? Only if tourists choose to be. So, make sure to brush up on your Thailand laws, penalties, and customs before taking a vacation in the world’s best tourists spots. Now, only if there were some specific guidelines that you can follow when they decide to finally check Thailand off their bucket list. Well, I guess you’re in luck as I had conveniently made one for you.

III. Taking Precautions

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Now that you have a general mental image and understanding of the possible dangers to you when you visit Thailand at the wrong place and the wrong time. So now, let us discover how we’ll avoid these dangers and their consequences. These lists will help you and your health, safety, and dignity be kept intact.

Health-related Dos and Don’ts, but more on don’ts

•           Do not drink the tap water

Although the tap water in Thailand is deemed clean by the World Health Organization back in 1999, you should not drink tap water because the water from the plantation usually goes through old and broken pipes. Thus, leaving it either fresh and clean from the planation or contaminated. But to avoid taking the chance of getting sick, just stick to bottled or container-sealed water. This also means you might want to double check with the concierge before you brush your teeth with tap water.

•           Do not drink beverages with crushed ice

Crushed ice is usually from large blocks of ice that might have placed and dragged on the ground, making it dirty and contaminated. But the cylindrical-shaped ice with holes through the middle are safer. So, remember to say “no” to weird and uneven ice cubes unless they have holes in them.

•           Do not forget to bring and use mosquito repellent

When dining in an open-air area or simply walking down the streets, you might want to pack a mosquito repellent or two as “mosquitoes are present in Thailand all year long” (Mariska, 2017). Mosquitoes are present in tropical countries with high temperatures and humidity- characteristics that perfectly describe Thailand. You might want to avoid going outside or in open areas after it rains because mosquitoes are attracted to still water.

•           Do not eat raw, uncooked, and unopened/unpeeled food

You should avoid fresh, raw, and cold-cooked food because they are usually washed with the contaminated tap water. The dishes Luu Moo, Larb Leuat Neua, Shark fin soup, scorpion, Yum Khai Maeng Da should not be ingested mainly because they are not be peeled, boiled, or cooked.

Tourist’s Safety (and Wallet) Precautions

•           Do not ride on public transportation without negotiating the price

You must keep in mind that the Land of Smiles does not mean all and every Thai person is friendly and fair. Before you enter the vehicle, make sure to set a price, because when you are already being taken to the destination, the price set by the driver, fair or not, will be final. As for taxis, they usually have meters. However, some taxi drivers want to make a quick buck and claim that they need you to pay extra.

Their excuses range from their meters being broken or justifying that the traffic at rush hour must be paid for. Whatever their excuse, make sure to come to a consensus that what the taxi meter says, goes. There is a chance that you might be denied but not all taxi drivers are unfair.

•           Do not bargain a low price

You have the right to voice out your concerns that you feel like being ripped off but avoid asking to pay for items at a very low price from the original because Thai people might take it as an offense, especially if they themselves made the product. I recommended that unless you are confident about the true price of a certain object, do not bargain any counteroffers.

•           Do not follow any misinformation about tourist destinations

Thai people looking to make money would usually encourage you to visit tourist attractions which may require you to take their services (i.e. taking a tuk tuk to the venue, purchasing a map, etc.) or may scam you into something else (i.e. commuting to the tourist hotspot only to find it closed and offering you to take you somewhere else which adds to the commuting fee).

•           Do not smoke in some areas of Bangkok

There are reported cases in Thailand where the police campout at certain spots in Bangkok (i.e. Sukhumvit and Khao San Road) just to catch anyone throwing their cigarette butts into the pavement. This way, they can fine the smoker and put money into their own pockets. To avoid these devious cops, make sure to fine areas that have signs indicating that it is a smoking area, or better yet, do not smoke at all on your stay in Thailand.

•           Do not purchase, trade, ingest or get involved with illegal drugs

Of course, it is not all rainbows and butterflies in Thailand. The Land of the Free are free to indulge in the nightlife that Thailand’s urban cities have to offer. However, this means that shady and illegal purchasing and consumption of drugs are also prevalent. So, when you go out partying and drinking at a bar or nightclub, remember to continue exercising precaution because chances are you will be offered the same drugs that placed other people into prison, and worse, death row.

•           Do not overstay your visa period

Basically, if you do stay in Thailand past your Visa period, your wallet and passport will have to take the damages. The fine for overstaying in Thailand past your Visa period is 500 Baht per day (15.86 U.S. dollars, as of August 2020) which can reach to a maximum of 20,000 Baht (634.22 U.S. dollars, as for August 2020). Your passport will also be stamped with “undesirable alien” when you overstay three times. This means that you’ll be having a tough time explaining and getting pass airports to any other country, and you could even be banned from Thailand for 5 to 10 years.

Cultural Etiquette

•           Do not point in public

When you want to point at something, do it with your four fingers out and the thumb resting on the palm, because pointing in general is considered as impolite and rude. So, you might want to start practicing because you do not want to receive sour faces and snobby attitudes by accidently pointing at that someone.

•           Do not use your feet for anything else other than walking

For the Thai, the feet is dirty, may it be visibly dirty or not. So, to avoid extending your feet to anyone else and keep them planted on the ground. Also, using for feet for anything other than walking and standing is rude simply because you are showing and implying to the Thai that the activity you are doing with your feet is dirty, justifying your means in a very rude way. Sort of like throwing a tantrum just to show that you are annoyed and mad. On that note, you also should not point anything at all with your feet, that includes pointing your feet towards holy temples, images, structures, and people.

•           Do not touch anyone’s head

The head is considered as the most important part of the body in Thailand. This is because it is considered as the most holly and cleanest part of the human body. So, even if you came with close friends or family, you should avoid touching each other’s heads because it is a gesture of disrespect, and you do not want the Thai people to get the wrong message now, do you?

•           Do not wear revealing or provocative clothing

You need to wear clothes that cover you from the chest to the knees. Given the humid and hot weather of Thailand, you can wear shorts and skirts, but non that would be revealing too much skin. Although, when visiting holy places like temples, try to wear clothes that will appropriately cover you up.

•           Do not disrespect the king [or anyone else of the royal family]

As written in the Thailand law and penalties, you cannot disrespect the king directly or indirectly. That means you cannot make fun of or vandalize the king’s images on social media or even on the Thai baht. Dang, going to jail just because you drew something on the Thai Baht bill? That is a tad bit extreme, don’t you think?

•           Do not solely use your left hand for gestures or basically anything else

Similar to the idea of the feet, the left hand is considered as dirty because it is used to clean up after doing your business in the toilet. So, avoid using your left hand with any transactions with other people.

•           Remove your shoes

In most temples, homes, and even restaurants, you are required to remove your shoes before you go in. Usually, there will be a pile of shoes at the entrance which is your indicator to take off your shoes and do what the Thais do. That is why you need to wear easy to detach shoes if you plan on visiting and going in many temples and restaurants or if you are visiting a local at their home. Imagine you being invited in their home, but it takes you several seconds to take off your shoes!

•           Return a wai when given

Just like smiling back, when a Thai sends you a wai to your way, you must return the gesture by mimicking it. If you don’t, let’s just say that the one who gave it to you won’t be smiling. A wai is head bow with the hands together in front like in prayer. In Thailand, whenever someone sends a wai to you, you need to respect them by giving one back. The only people with the exception to this rule are the king and monks.

•           Eat with a spoon

In Thailand, you need to eat with a spoon in your right hand and fork in your left. You need to use the fork to place food onto your spoon. When eating, remember to only eat from the spoon, never use the fork to eat from it.

IV. Main Takeaways (Summary)

things not to do in Thailand
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Do you know feel relieved to know the dos and don’ts when traveling in Thailand? Well, I sure am! But to make sure that you understood and remember what you cannot and should do, here is a quick summary of what you read and learned so far:

To avoid the dangers of Thailand, you need to be updated on the local news to avoid protests and rallies, be aware of Thailand’s laws and regulations, and be knowledgeable of the Thai culture. Here are my lists of dos and don’ts to take precautions you need to know before travelling in Thailand for your health and safety, and to respect the Thai culture.

Health-related Dos and Don’ts, but more on the don’ts

•           Do not drink the tap water, it might be contaminated

•           Do not drink beverages with crushed ice, it might be contaminated

•           Do not forget to bring and use mosquito repellent, there are mosquitoes all year round

•           Do not eat raw, uncooked, and unopened/unpeeled food

Tourist’s Safety (and Wallet) Precautions

•           Do not ride on public transportation without negotiating the price, unless you want to pay more than required

•           Do not bargain a low price, it is offensive

•           Do not follow any misinformation about tourist destinations, they are scamming you

•           Do not smoke in some areas of Bangkok, the police might be waiting, ready to pounce on you with a fine

•           Do not purchase, trade, ingest or get involved with illegal drugs, it’s illegal (duh)

•           Do not overstay your visa period, unless you want to pay a fine

Cultural Etiquette

•           Do not point in public

•           Do not use your feet for anything else other than walking

•           Do not touch anyone’s head

•           Do not wear revealing or provocative clothing

•           Do not disrespect the king

•           Do not solely use your left hand for gestures or basically anything else

•           Remove your shoes

•           Return a wai when given

•           (Use the fork to rake food, then) Eat with a spoon

References

Mariska (2017). Mosquitoes in Thailand: Everything You Need To Know! Retrieved from https://gotothailand.com/mosquitoes-thailand/.
TripAdvisor comment (2009). Re: dangers of Thailand. Retrieved on August 23, 2020 from https://www.tripadvisor.com.ph/ShowTopic-g293915-i3686-k2587029-Dangers_of_thailand-Thailand.html.

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