Thailand: A Quick Guide for First-Time Visitors

As soon as you enter the gargantuan arena of Bangkok Airport you’ll realize why Thailand is known as the ‘land of smiles’. On arrival you’ll notice that locals are among the friendliest and welcoming imaginable, and this might be down to living in a country of unparalleled beauty. If you’re a first-time visitor to Thailand then here are a few tips that will help to ensure a stress-free vacation.

 The offering.

Thailand has a whole load to offer visitors, including the beauty of those famous beaches on the islands of Phuket, Ko Tao and Ko Phi Phi. Thailand’s 127 national parks — amongst them, 22 marine parks — are also a major draw and a place where getting back to nature will take you trekking through lush rainforests on the back of an elephant. Of course this country’s coastal resorts have long been famous for their nightlife and party atmosphere, which is why many backpackers and gap-year students travel to the country on flights to Thailand every year.

Thailand Travel

Entering the country.

The Thai people may be friendly but you won’t be able to sweet-talk your way into leaving Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport if you don’t have a return ticket or a passport that’s valid for six months. A visa isn’t required if you’re staying for only 30 days, but overstay your welcome and you’ll usually be charged a 500 baht fee for each additional day. There are certain exemptions though and if you arrive into the country by land you’ll be granted a stay of only 15 days. It’s always best to check visa requirements before departure as there are exemptions, such as Croatian nationals who must apply for a visa in advance.

Getting around Thailand.

Thailand has an extremely good (and very cheap) rail network, which links most of the major towns; the network stretches for 4,600 kilometres and a rail pass is generally valid for 20 days. Car hire is another option available in most cities or towns and the road quality is good although it can reduce to small lanes in rural areas. There’s over 1,600 kilometers of inland waterways in this country. If you can prefer this option you can take inexpensive water-taxis or the more traditional narrow motorboats. If you’re heading from Bangkok Airport to destinations such as Phuket, Ko Samui and Chiang Mai there are a range of domestic flights available.

Like a local.

The Thai people may in general be aware of the misunderstandings of local customs by first-time travellers, but there are few points to keep in mind. If you’re visiting religious shrines, mosques or temples then stay appropriately dressed; no flips flops, shorts or short sleeves, otherwise you might be denied entry. The southern Muslim areas aren’t keen on topless sunbathing or nudism so stick with bathing costumes and shorts. If a disagreement does break out with a local then keep calm; Thai people do not respect those who cannot keep an even temper, even during an argument.

Be aware of the law.

Ensure you have your passport with you at all times. This is a Thai law and travellers can be arrested if they’re unable to produce their passport when required. Don’t criticize the Thai Royal Family under any circumstances — your views can land you a prison sentence of between three and fifteen years. Be aware that smoking is now illegal in areas with air-conditioning and the police also regularly fine people who discard cigarettes; official ashtrays are provided. The legal drinking age is 20 — many people ignore this rule but you can find yourself on the receiving end of jail time if you’re caught.

You’ll find that English is spoken widely through Thailand but learning a few Thai phrases is always courteous and will be seen as a sign of respect. As when traveling to any foreign destination, stick to the customs and laws, and you should be able to just relax and enjoy your holiday.

-------------- * --------------

About the Author: Jed Mason is an experienced backpacker and has spent the last 10 years exploring different continents. Backpacking around Thailand has been one of his favorite travel experiences so far. Image by permanently scatterbrained, used under Creative Commons license.

Post a Comment


  1. Well written and informative for a first time traveler to this place (like me)
    For one I didn't know this fact that a visa isn’t required if you’re staying for only 30 days.

  2. Nice picture and description ! I didnt know about the Royal family.. interesting.

  3. Very informative post and good to learn Thai's customs and rules.

  4. These are all great and useful tips. I've only been to the Bangkok airport on a long layover and desperately want to go to Thailand. It's nice to know that there are various options for cheap transportation. There are some very interesting things I learned here.

  5. An amazing post, wonderfully descriptive. Its really helpful that you remind people to be aware of the laws of the land.

  6. Arti, Thanks a lot for the informative post on Thailand.
    Keep sharing :)

  7. Nice post Jed. Especially useful is the insight about the law...

  8. What a coincidence that I read this post after I came back from bangkok thailand (though mine was business trip)....


Delighted you stopped by... Your suggestions, feedback are really appreciated. Thanks a lot :) Hope you visit again!

If you have asked a question, please give me at least 2 days to reply back. Thank you :)