• Jack Gayer

7 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Thailand

Updated: Jun 2

The Thai food you've had in your country is not reflective of Thai food in Thailand

The majority of Thai food is exceptionally spicy. Some (I), would argue it is sometimes masochistically spicy. You may say to yourself, "I can handle spicy, no problem." This is kind of like saying, "I'm a pretty good swimmer, maybe I should challenge this Michael Phelps guy to a little 100-meter freestyle."

Bangkok skyline at dusk
Bangkok skyline at dusk

It's spicy, very spicy. Thai food is also sweeter, and saltier than you are probably used to, but this presents nowhere near the challenge that the spice factor presents. So, when you are inevitably asked "pet mai?" (essentially: "spicy, yes?") bear in mind that spicy for Thai people have a different definition than what you are probably used to.


Motorbike skills are essential

Unless you live in a major city where public transport is widely available, you will need to rent or buy a motorbike/scooter/etc. Even if you're secure enough to rent a car or get a Grab (Thailand's version of Uber) everywhere, it is far more efficient to rent a motorbike. It's also much more fun.


Yes, you can learn as you go but if you want to rent a motorbike on one of the islands you will likely encounter steep hills that are far more challenging than driving on flat roads. I had driven a scooter countless times in Thailand, but I learned the extent of my skills when I got to the islands.


If you have an opportunity to drive a motorbike before you go to Thailand, jump on the chance, it'll come in handy.

Motorbikes are essential for getting around in Thailand
Motorbikes are essential for getting around in Thailand

Finding English language books isn't easy

If you are a big reader and you intend to stay awhile in Thailand, or you merely want to pick up an extra book while you are in the Land of Smiles, you'd be wise to stock up before you arrive. A kindle is an even better idea as they take up much less room than a physical book.


Most towns will have a bookstore or a shop that sells some books. However, these are almost always Thai language books. You will find bookshops in malls and Bangkok has several excellent stores; you can also find a hodgepodge of books in hostels and some hotels; but outside of that, books in English are pretty scarce in Thailand.

A sunset view of Railay, Thailand
A sunset view of Railay, Thailand

Expect stickers

Stickers, the little cartoon images that you can send over text, are hugely popular in Thailand. If you get a job or make Thai friends, expect a sticker to take the place of a typed-out response.


There hardly seems to be a time when sending a sticker isn't appropriate in Thailand. They are acceptable to send to your boss, your landlord, your Grab driver, pretty much anyone. At first, it can seem a bit strange or off-putting to get a sticker because it feels like the conversation warrants a more serious response.


Well, they usually don't and it's not a sign the conversation isn't being taken seriously or anything else.

Strangers will talk to you, wherever

In America, we tend to keep to ourselves. In Thailand, I've had conversations with strangers on the beach at night, at stoplights, at markets, walking through a neighborhood, and many other times. Part of it is curiosity.


Thai people are curious where you come from and they just want to chat. Sometimes they want to call a relative who speaks English and have you talk to them (I've had this happen several times and it can be a bit awkward for both parties but it's done with the best intentions

Titanic is huge!

I have been called Jack Dawson more times than I can count despite having little to no resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio. I've looked over many homework assignments to see drawings of that famous ship.


Why? The movie is very, very popular here, especially with kids. If you're talking to a Thai kid, and they will talk to you, freely and unabashedly as they often like talking to strangers (even more than adults like talking to strangers), and you're struggling to make small talk, bring up Titanic. It's cultural currency.


You're not turning into professor X; most visitors notice hair coming out

I haven't been able to locate any research on this one to back it up, but anecdotally many people will tell you how it seems like since living in Thailand they've noticed more scalp hair falling out (across genders).


It doesn't seem to be enough to form bald spots, but it does feel slightly unsettling to comb your hair and see what amounts to a small doll's worth of head hair coming off.

Strangers are just friends you haven't met yet, while in Thailand
Strangers are just friends you haven't met yet, while in Thailand
 

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