Make the most out of your Thailand adventure by staying healthy and safe and avoiding common scams.
By now, it seems as though every travel blogger and their mother has written about the splendor of Thailand. You've probably heard about the tropical beaches of Phuket, the golden temples in Bangkok, and the island parties that don't end until the sun comes up. However, what many people don't mention is what to do before your trip. In this article, I'm going to discuss the nitty-gritty details of how to prepare and be safe for the trip of your lifetime!
If you are planning a trip to Thailand, then one thing I suggest you do at least a couple of months in advance is visit a travel clinic. There is a list of recommended shots from the CDC and WHO that varies depending on what parts of the country you'll be visiting. Some of the shots need at least a month to take effect and some need to be done in a series, so don't procrastinate!
While on the topic of shots, let's talk about the shots you want to avoid having to get: Rabies. There are stray dogs and wild monkeys, among other animals, all over Thailand that may carry Rabies or other diseases. On my trip, I heard of more than one person who was bitten by a wild monkey and had to be rushed to the hospital."Stay away from stray animals," may sound like an obvious piece of advice, but it is important to remember! (Especially when there are stray dogs roaming the streets and you're a dog lover, like me, who believes every dog should be passionately pet).
Many areas in Thailand are home to mosquitos that can carry Malaria, so you will most likely be prescribed Malaria pills to take with you. In addition to the Malaria pills, it is important to have insect repellent on your skin at all times, even when you sleep.
My doctor recommended that I use a repelling agent called picaridin and the best product I found for this is Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent. This lotion has almost no scent at all (unlike traditional deet products), doesn't make your skin feel tacky or oily, and will protect you all day. On top of the Picaridin lotion, I sprayed all of my clothes with Permethrin Insect Repellent a couple of days before my trip, which is a spray that seeps into your clothes and dries odorless for another layer of protection.
*Helpful hint: Although this spray dries odorless, it is very much not odorless when you spray it on your clothes so I recommend doing this in a well ventilated area with a face mask and gloves.
Your trip to Thailand wouldn't be complete without a box of Imodium-D! For travelers who are not accustomed to it, the water in Thailand can cause diarrhea. My travel doctor advised me to drink, brush my teeth, and wash my hands with bottled water and to try my best to keep my eyes and mouth closed in the shower. Since it can be difficult to thoroughly wash your hands with bottled water, I always made sure to have a small bottle of hand sanitizer on me as well.
I would also advise you to only use bottled water from the store and not the bottles you can buy from vendors on the streets because they sometimes fill empty bottles with tap water and re-seal them.
One thing Thailand is known for is its cuisine. Thai food is absolutely amazing and there are street markets all over the country that are lined with food stalls that will have you drooling. However, there are some things to keep in mind before you go dishing out your baht. There are three things you should be the most cautious about buying on the street: meat, raw fruits/veggies, and seafood.
Thailand is a hot country and many of the street food stalls do not have refrigeration. I walked past countless stalls that had their meats sitting out on the counter, in the heat, and often with flies buzzing around them. A skewer from a stall like this is likely to put a damper on your next couple of days. That's not to say that all the stalls are unsanitary, I definitely saw some vendors with proper storage and sanitation. I'm merely suggesting that you should be careful before buying meat from street stalls.
Other foods you want to be cautious about are raw fruits and vegetables. If you are buying street food then you want to try to avoid raw foods all together because they may contain a bacteria that can cause food poisoning. If you want to try some of Thailand's delicious fruit dishes (like mango sticky rice...mmmmm!) then stop by a restaurant instead! I'm not advising you not to be adventurous, just cautious.
Finally, as ridiculous as this may sound, my doctor advised me to stay away from Thailand's seafood all together. Even though Thailand consists of many islands and has an abundance of seafood, some of it may contain bacteria that can cause severe food poisoning. Now, I would never want to discourage travelers from trying local foods but I learned about this one the hard way. My partner and I avoided seafood almost the entire trip until he decided to try some from a restaurant on one of our last days and was hit with one of the worst cases of food poisoning that I've ever seen.
This wouldn't be a complete article about health and safety if I didn't talk about physical safety. Like all subjects I discuss, I can only attest to what I experienced personally and that was traveling with my partner and not as a solo traveler so please keep that in mind.
I don't think there was a single moment in Thailand when I felt unsafe. We flew into the city of Bangkok, traveled up north to the mountains, then flew down to the islands; everywhere we went, the locals were beyond hospitable. For example, we asked one taxi driver to take us to a store where we could purchase an SD card for our camera and he went so far as to walk in the department store with us and take us to the correct counter so we wouldn't get lost. And we had another taxi driver offer to wait for over two hours while we went on a mountain excursion because there was no cell service to call another taxi and we wouldn't have been able to get a ride home. And not only did he wait, he wasn't even going to charge us any extra money and was shocked when we gave him a generous tip. And those are just a couple of the many examples of local Thai people who went out of their way to be kind and accommodating towards us. The Thai people were generally laid back and friendly and made us feel comfortable and welcome wherever we went.
Although I never felt physically unsafe in Thailand, one thing I did have to constantly look out for were scams. There are a few common scams that every tourist should be aware of before visiting Thailand because odds are that you will encounter at least one of them.
Taxis: When fetching a taxi in Thailand, make sure that you can see the meter! Some taxi drivers will try to cover the meter with a hat or other object and then charge you a higher rate. They may also offer to turn the meter off and to charge you a flat rate, which will also be more than the ride is worth. If they won't run the meter, then get out of the cab.
Another famous mode of transportation in Thailand is the tuk tuk (pronounced "took-took"). I would caution travelers to avoid tuk tuks at all costs. As you walk down the streets of any city, you will be bombarded with tuk tuk drivers offering to give you a ride. These drivers often work with local businesses and will get a kick-back if they can convince you to shop/eat at certain places. In addition, tuk tuk rides will cost you much more than a taxi ride. If you're determined to try riding in one of these novelty vehicles, then try it out but be wary.
A great way to avoid this is to use the Grab app instead of using local taxis. Grab works the exact same way Uber does so you pay a set price for a set distance on the app with no risk of scams. I used Grab for my entire trip and it saved me a lot of worry and hassle!
Attraction is closed: This hasn't happened to me personally, but I heard many stories of tourists being told that an attraction (such as a temple) is closed. The local will then offer to take the tourist to another temple that is open and will then charge them for transportation and entrance into the other temple. Always check signs and online schedules for hours of operation and don't follow a tour guide unless you booked them from an agency.
This scam is sometimes combined with the tuk tuk driver scam because you may ask your tuk tuk driver to bring you to a famous temple and they will tell you it's closed and offer to take you to a different one that they receive a kick-back from.
There are more scams than the ones listed above, but those are the major ones that you're likely to encounter. My words of wisdom: always be cautious. I'm not telling you to expect the worst of everybody, especially since most Thai people are honest and kind, but just trust your gut when you feel like something isn't right.
So why travel to Thailand? After reading this you may be thinking, if there are so many risks, then why don't I just travel to a different country? Short answer: it's worth it. I know that I went over a number of health and safety concerns but they are in no way meant to scare or deter you from visiting Thailand. This article was meant to inform you of those risks so you can get the most out of your Thailand vacation.
Thailand is one of the most beautiful countries I've ever visited, with such a vibrant culture and breathtaking landscapes. And now that you're informed and prepared, I can't wait to tell you about some of the amazing experiences you can have in my upcoming articles!
If you got to the end of this post, thank you so much for taking the time to visit my page!<3
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See you soon!