Your tickets are booked. Your visas are sorted. And you’re about to embark on a year abroad to the glorious country of Thailand.
Spending a year anywhere that isn’t your home requires a lot of preparation, planning, and education before setting off. We’ve put together a list of expert tips and tricks to help you get ready for your time in Thailand.
Keep reading our six top tips so you’re more than prepared to begin your year abroad in Thailand!
Pick a Homebase
Whether you’re there to study or to travel and explore, you need to know first where you’re going to lay your roots. Basing yourself right in the hustle and bustle of Thailand’s capital city Bangkok means you’ll be instantly immersed in the culture. But if this doesn’t sound like it’s for you, there are still plenty of other areas that could be more appealing.
Chiang Mai offers a hub for many Westerners who are interested in technology and the advantageous components of the digital age while Chiang Rai, Kanchanaburi, Phuket, Sukhothai, and Nong Khai are smaller areas many love to call home.
What’s most important is that you establish your homebase from the beginning, giving you a place to come back to as you travel throughout the country for your year abroad. Not only is this more cost effective, but it will also give you the opportunity to really make lasting connections to your surroundings and the people there.
The art of packing for a long trip is one that very few of us get right the first time. It’s easy to think that because you’re traveling so far from home, you’ll need to take absolutely everything with you because you won’t find it there. This isn’t true for Thailand.
Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world– you can find most of your home comforts (like toiletries and clothing) there at relatively cheap prices, meaning you can go lighter on your packing. The weather’s warm which means you’ll need less bulky clothes, and there are plenty of markets where you can pick up some extra t-shirts or swimsuits if you need them.
The room you save in your suitcase from not taking endless pairs of shoes and tons of clothes could be filled with more meaningful things like your favorite food treats from home, gifts that you could give people you make connections with in the future, or even technological devices you may struggle to get your hands on in Thailand. Regardless of what you take, do your homework before leaving and be smart about what you bring from home.
Set Up a Local Bank Account
When you travel anywhere for a year to live, it is always important that you do your best to live like a local. One of the best ways to do this is by setting up a local bank account for yourself upon arriving. You are going to need easy access to local currency to fund your accommodation, food, shopping, and all the basic necessities.
Once you’ve set up your local Thailand bank account, you can use a service like Pangea Money Transfer to receive transfers from a bank account back home to your local Thai bank account. When you begin compiling all the ATM conversion fees and the back and forth between you and your home bank, you’ll be glad you’ve gone through the steps to set up your Thai bank account!
Make Friends with Locals
This seems like an obvious trope of traveling, but one that can be easily overlooked when there are so many Western travelers around you.
Regardless of how long one of your fellow Westerners has been in Thailand, they’ll never know all the hidden spots the locals do or the language as well.
Be brave and introduce yourself – people will be glad you’ve made the effort to learn some basic Thai and will help you with it, and in return will be happy to test out their English with you. If you really want to understand Thai culture from an authentic vantage point, then get to know the locals.
Get Around Cheaply
Taking a tuk tuk is a must-do experience when in Thailand, but not all are as cheap as others. Tuk tuks with white and black or red and black number plates are government sponsored and will be up to 10 times cheaper than the tourist-targeting yellow number plated tuk tuks, which can cost you up to 200 baht (just over $6, or about £4.50). Also remember you can barter – this is common practice in practically all shops, stalls, markets and transport around Thailand.
Dig into the Local Cuisine
Thai food is amazing, and is best eaten from the many street stalls there, made by locals from traditional family recipes. Along with pad thai (Thai fried noodles), you’ll find amazing khao pad (fried rice), tom yum goong (spicy shrimp soup), and som tum (spicy green papaya salad).
Most of Thai food is based around shrimp, pork and beef, and is often spicy, but there are plenty of vegetarian and milder options too. When eating and drinking, the most important thing to remember is to not drink tap water, which can upset your stomach. Stick with bottled and filtered water.