There is tons of information about traveling in Thailand all over the internet, but here are just a few things that I learned along the way, that would have been really helpful to know beforehand.
1. Bring Deep Woods mosquito repellent, with a high concentration of deet. We brought only one bottle for some reason, that was 100% feet, and it worked really well. I didn’t have a single mosquito bite for the first two weeks, but once it ran out, we had to buy stuff from here, and most of it is only 15% deet. Once we switched, I had 300% more mosquito bites. It is possible to find higher concentration, but it takes quite a bit of looking, and it’s more expensive.
2. Change your money over to Baht. I read over and over again when we were getting ready to leave for Thailand that you don’t need to change your money and that American dollars are accepted everywhere there. That was not my experience at all, it was almost impossible to find anywhere that accepted American dollars, and if you were traveling to a remote part of Thailand, money exchanges are few and far between, so it’s best to change your money when you’re in Bangkok, or another larger city.
3. Keep your ticket stubs. I saw this happen over and over and over again, to us, and to many other travelers. If you book something through a travel or tourist agency, or even your hotel, make sure you hold on to your ticket/receipt, even after you think you’ve turned it over to the right people.
Often people will get picked up via mini-van, and transported to ferry/bus terminals to go to other parts of the country. The ticket has confirmation that you’ve paid for all legs of the journey, not just the mini-van, but often the mini-van driver will take your ticket when he picks you up, and then either lose it, or sometimes the drivers switch out mid-way through the trip, and he’ll take your ticket with him, and then you have no way to prove that you’ve already paid, even if you are traveling the whole way with the same travel company.
Show the driver (or hostel, etc) your ticket, and then insist on holding on to it. I’ve met a lot of people who didn’t, and missed connections, spent hours fighting, or worst of all, had to re-pay.
4. Bring all of your lotions from home. Lotions are readily available at every mini-mart on the street, but 98% of the ones sold there are whitening, to make/keep your skin whiter. You can usually find sunscreen that isn’t, but it’s definitely true for any face creams or lotions that you have. I ran out of moisturizer in our third week and ended up having a 20 minute Who’s-On-First type debacle with 3 different ladies at a store trying to figure out if one of their products was whitening or not.
5. Beware of Sea Lice. This tip is going to be more relevant depending on what time of year you are visiting. We were there in June, during the peak time for sea lice, and it was a big problem for me. Sea lice are basically tiny jelly-fish larvae that float on the top of the water. I first encountered them as I was coming up from a dive in Phi Phi, everywhere my wet suit didn’t cover it felt like I was getting burned, it really hurt.
I asked one of the guys on the dive boat, and he told me about sea lice. I did some more research when we got home that night, and sure enough, I woke up the next morning with a red itchy rash on my elbows, and down the fronts of my legs. Sea lice doesn’t affect everyone, many people can be in the water when they are present and not feel them, but some people are affected badly. I encountered them again in Krabi, only for a few minutes at the beach one day, and then again on our third day in Koh Samui, swimming in the same spot I’d been swimming at for the last three days.
In Koh Samui they were so bad that I couldn’t stay in the water, but people all around me were swimming and having a blast, completely oblivious. I checked into it a bit, and you can buy repellent for them, I couldn’t find it in Thailand, so I’m not sure if it works for me, but if you are sensitive to sea lice, and will be there (or any other warm climate beach) during the summer months, it might be a good idea to order some and bring it with you, just in case.
6. Bring anti-itch cream. See tip number one, and tip number five. Because I had a lot of mosquito bites, and also had a reaction from the sea lice, I was basically an itchy mess, and it was really hard to sleep some nights. Luckily I had packed a little first aid kit with basics, including Benadryl cream, and a Cortisone cream. It basically saved my life, I would highly recommend this.
7. Pack light. Depending on the time of year you visit, it will be better or worse, but it is a tropical country, and generally, it is very hot here. Be sure to pack light, and bring light, airy fabrics. I didn’t bring that many clothes with me, but there are a couple of items I brought that I haven’t worn, (a few tshirts, a synthetic fabric sun dress, anything tight or constrictive) and it’s because it’s just too hot.
Also, there are places that do your laundry for you on every corner, so don’t worry about running out of clothes. It usually cost us about 120B ($4) to get both mine and Derek’s clothes cleaned.