Last November I decided to travel alone to Thailand – a country I have always wanted to visit but a part of the world I had relatively little knowlege about traveling to. Dangerous? No. Crazy? Maybe. A serious adventure? Absolutely.
And although I fully intend to share many of my experiences here in other posts, there were some interesting things that all my research online and travel books did not really prepare me for when traveling to Thailand:
1. Carry Unmarked Currency Only. Seriously – make sure every single bill is crisp, new, and with no markings. I had two $100 bills that no currency exchange, bank, guesthouse, etc. would change for me. The first bill had some black marker around the edges and the second was slightly ripped. No matter how small, don’t chance it – make sure the bills are new so as to avoid this issue.
2. Have an alternative way to take out cash. When I was in Chiang Mai, I lost my debit card and did not realize it until I reached the airport for my flight to the south. At that point, I had very little cash as I anticipated taking more out when I arrived in Phuket. I had a very hard time getting money and ended up having to get a wire transfer.
3. Leave the AMEX at home. American Express is not accepted ANYWHERE in Thailand (except for maybe at an airport lounge). No restaurants, no bars, no ATMs, nothing. Seriously – not even American chains like McDonald’s accept it. Leave the AMEX at home and bring a different credit card (Visa or Mastercard mostly accepted).
4. Travel South, then North. This is arguably a more individual preference but hear me out. If you care about shopping (and not in the “customized suit” way but more in the “quality tokens of travel” and “gifts for loved ones” way) – you are going to want to rack up the goods at the end of your trip so as not to travel with too much stuff. The problem is – most of the stuff sold on the islands is the same. Thus, with a few exceptions, you will find better variety, quality and deals in the North. If you plan on doing both the North and South – get your beach fix in first and then make your way to Chiang Mai where you will find beautiful silver, textiles, statutes and the best walking street markets.
5. Enjoy the Unknown. This isn’t some mystery – but should be something adopted rather than just conceptualized. Put down the guide for a few hours. Get lost in the streets, eat a few questionable things and spend time in the unlikely places. Those moments, after all, always seem to be when the best things happen.