Thailand was the first place we went to that was far away from home, we first experienced Thailand last year in 2018 and had THE best experience of our lives. We’re now back for the second time and checking out different places in Thailand. However, we did get to experience the lantern festival twice, which was just amazing!
Thailand’s majestic temples pull you in, and you can’t help but be drawn to the history of it all.
Language: The main languages spoken in Thailand is Thai.
Currency: The currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht. $1 CAD is equivalent to about 22.93 THB
Credit Cards and ATM’s: There are plenty of ATM’s around in in Thailand. You can for the most part pay with credit cards, However, if you’re planning to go shopping at the local markets, you’ll need cash to pay for your purchases.
Plugs: The plugs in Thailand are type A, B C. The standard voltage is 230 V, and the standard frequency is 60Hz. I recommend buying a universal adapter (make sure it has surge protection) and using a converter for hair dryers and hot tools.
Best Time to Visit:
The best time to visit Thailand is in the dry season. From November to April, temperatures are cooler and you can expect picture-perfect days for outdoor activities. The only downside is that it’s also Thailand’s peak tourist season. Flights and accommodation prices will be a bit higher.
If you want to avoid the crowds, plan your trip to Thailand between May and October. While you will have to deal with some rainstorms, but if you want cheaper flights and hotels, it might be worth it. Just make sure that you factor in monsoon season as it affects different parts of the country at different times (especially the islands on either coast).
How to Get Around?
Thailand has many different modes of transport which tend to come in all different shapes and sizes. Here are some ways to get place-to-place.
Tuk Tuks are the famous 3-wheeled vehicles that you would have seen in many travel-related photos of Southeast Asia. You should definitely take at least one because it’s so different from back home.
If you take a taxi, just make sure the metre is on, that way they don’t try to scam you out of cash.
Motorcycle taxis are your best bet if you are looking for cheap and immediate transport for short distances. They can be found in most Thai cities throughout the country as well as smaller towns with good transport systems. If you have a lot of luggage, a taxi would be ideal (Grab also offers bike taxis).
Bangkok has the largest bus system in the country! Buses are everywhere, so just do your research if you do want to use that option.
BTS Sky Train in Bangkok
Probably the best way of moving around the city. BTS trains are fast, clean and comfortable. The Skytrain has 2 lines Sukumvit, which stretches from the north to the east and Silom, which runs from the south to the west. The trains work from 6:30 until midnight. The machines only accept small cash. It costs from 16 baht $0.70 CAD/PP for a single ticket. A one-day ticket for unlimited travel costs 140 baht $6.11 CAD/PP.
Uber no longer exists in Thailand, so there is the Grab App you can download, which is basically like Uber. Great way to get around for cheap.
You can fly with Air Asia for cheap if you wanted a quicker way of getting around. We tend to book on Sky Scanner or Momondo.
Thailand’s overground railway network runs throughout the country and offers a comfortable travel option compared to some of the cheaper bus routes. The train is still a cheap option and you can get from Bangkok all the way to Chiang Mai in the north for as little as 800 Baht $34.91CAD/PP where you can get your own private cabin. The Thai train also has three different classes with different rates.
Scooter is the easiest way to get around. Rental places and gas are cheap, and there is something nice about being on your own schedule.
Things to Consider When Driving A Scooter
Police corruption isn’t something that we are used to as North Americans, while it exists, and we read about it from time to time in the newspaper, or see it in TV shows and movies, it is something that the majority of us seldom experience. That is quite different in South East Asia, and I wanted to walk you through our experience in Thailand, what happened to us, how we handled, it and what you should and shouldn’t do.
According to the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International, Thailand is the 99th least corrupt country out of 175 countries, with Canada ranking in at the 9th least corrupt country and Somalia coming is as the 180th least corrupt country, so Thailand more or less falls in the middle when it comes to corruption, with a lot of the corruption coming from police and tourists. Based on research this is because the majority of low level police officers make very little money from their salary and thus, “fines” make up the majority of their wages.
Last year when we were in Thailand we had 0 incidences with the police, when we were in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe, with the only varying factor being that last year we only rented a scooter in Koh Lanta and this year we rented a scooter in Chiang Mai as we were staying 20 minutes outside the old town.
On our second day in Chiang Mai, we went through a traffic checkpoint that they say is set up to ensure that everyone is driving legally, but when you look at it, it’s definitely a tourist trap to stop tourists and fine them for riding a scooter in Thailand.
Firstly, I think it’s important to understand a few things about renting a scooter in Thailand before we delve into the police:
1) Scooter companies will most likely take your passport make sure you don’t steal the scooter, and use it as a bargaining chip with you in case there is any damage to the scooter. This is a normal practice across Asia, and I’ve gone through this many times in Vietnam without incident.
2) 100% take pictures of the scooter you are renting, and document any scratches or damage that you see on the scooter. Think of this just as you would if you were renting a car back home, to make sure you aren’t charged for damage you didn’t cause.
3) You need to have your IDP (International driver’s permit) in order to drive a scooter, and you should have one with you anyway if you are travelling. You will read things online that you don’t need one, and that your home licence is okay, but the laws change so much in Thailand that it is better to be safe.
Now to get into the police, and how to be firm and respectful, and not get taken advantage of.
Getting stopped by the police in your home country is scary enough, but getting stopped by police in a foreign country sends my anxiety right through the roof. You wonder why you were stopped, you worry that you did something illegal, and that you are going to get in big trouble, where for the most part, they are simply stopping you because you are a tourist (unless you are really careless, and don’t wear a helmet, drink and drive, or drive like a moron).
This is exactly what happened to us on our second day. We were driving in the old town of Chiang Mai and were told to pull over as we went through a “traffic stop” where we were one of many confused tourists stopped by the side of the road.
The first time I was stopped, I was in the wrong 100%. I had my international driver’s licence, but had lost in somewhere in Vietnam, so I paid the 500 baht fine on the spot, was issued a receipt and swiftly went home and went through the steps of getting a replacement licence, which came a few hours later.
The next day we drove the same stretch of road, and guess what? We were stopped in the exact spot, once again one of the many tourists stopped. This time i thought aha! I have my IDP so I am okay. I proceeded to show it to the officer, who swiftly told me that it wasn’t valid for Thailand even though Thailand is listed as a country on the IDP. I was polite, but firm, and told them that I would not pay the fine on the spot, as I was obeying the law. It was definitely a weird feeling saying no to the police, but I didn’t want to pay another 500 baht fine when the only reason I was being stopped was because I was a foreigner. The officer then grabbed my IDP out of my hand and walked away (which they aren’t allowed to do), and then another officer issued me a ticket to pay at the station, where in theory I would maybe get my IDP back.
I then continued on my day, and figured out a different route home to hopefully avoid the tourist traffic stops.
While what happened is extremely unnerving, and you might want to simply pay the bribe ( I mean fine), on the spot (as we did in Bali and the first time in Thailand), it’s important to know that you do have rights, and what should and shouldn’t happen.
If you are stopped by the police, under no circumstances, don’t you EVER GIVE THEM YOUR PASSPORT, or any documentation that you need to either continue your journey or get home. A law has just passed in September where police are no longer allowed to hold onto your documentation as a way for you to pay a fine. They of course don’t tell tourists this, but our friends who live and operate a business in Thailand told us this.
Be polite with them (as you always should with any official), but do not be bulled into doing something that you are uncomfortable with. You will not get put in jail for riding a scooter (unless you are drinking and driving, have done drugs, have drugs on you, or have done something extremely stupid). You will simply be given a ticket which you pay at the police station if you choose to do so. Just please, remember that you do not have to give any police officer your passport as they will illegally hold this as ransom to ensure you pay the fine, which is another reason why they want you to pay it on the spot.
I hope that this information is helpful to anyone travelling throughout Thailand, but if you do ever feel like you are being pressured into something, or you are scared, please contact your local consulate (there is a Canadian, Australian and US consulates in Chiang Mai), or stick to tuk tuks and taxi’s.