Disspelling some Thailand Myths

If you’re finally making those big plans to travel Thailand, and you’re anything like 90% of first-time travellers, you’ll have scoured the internet for every clue to what lies ahead of you. That’s probably why you’re reading this now!

There’s already a lot of great advice out there, but there are also a few common Thailand myths that, based on my experiences here, don’t always hold up. Let me sooth your worries.

Thailand myths busted

Myth: Thailand is dirt cheap

Street food in Bangkok is cheap, but restaurants in Koh Samui often aren’t. Most of my friends and family who have come to visit have quickly had to shake their cheapskate mentality.

In well-established tourist areas in the south, like Koh Samui, Phuket, Koh Phangan, and Krabi, things are cheap, but perhaps not quite what you’re expecting. You still need to make a conscious effort if you need to stretch your budget.

A good way to judge the price of a restaurant, for example, is by the price of its pad Thai. Every place will serve this staple, making for easy comparison!

Myth: Thai sunscreen contains whitener

Sunbathing in Thailand

This one gives us bronze-loving westerners the heebie-jeebies. Thankfully, while these cosmetics do exist, you don’t need to worry.

Most Thai commercialism is designed for tourists (90% of the economy relies on it), so I’ve found recognised brands everywhere, particularly in the 7-Eleven mini-marts. So there’s no need to bring gallons of your own sunscreen with you!

Myth: Malaria tablets are a necessity

Thailand is not a high-risk malaria country, and I’m yet to meet a traveller who is taking any sort of tablets. The only time you should really consider them is if you’re travelling north, near the Burmese border.

Dengue fever, however, is a risk. It’s transmitted by mosquitoes across the country and unfortunately there is no vaccination or tablet protection. Mosquitoes can catch you during the day, not just as night falls, so it’s worth making repellent spray part of your morning beauty routine. Look for hostels that provide mosquito nets.

Always be sure to consult your doctor before you travel.

Myth: Thailand has a strong tipping culture

Tipping in Thailand

Unlike India and other nearby countries, it’s not compulsory to tip drivers, waitresses, or anyone else from whom you receive a service in Thailand.

Thai people are very kind-hearted and their actions are usually genuine. They expect the same from you, so if you enjoyed their service offer a tip out of gratitude rather than obligation.

Myth: Travelling alone in Asia is dangerous (especially if you’re female)

In my time here I’ve found quite the opposite. Being alone, people want to help me wherever I go, particularly when I’ve kept a grin on my face (hard not to in the ‘land of smiles’).

There’s a reason Thailand is often recommended for first time travellers. It’s friendly, it’s easy to get around, and most of the locals speak English. You should exercise common sense to make sure you stay safe, just like at home, but there’s no need for excessive worry.

If the nerves are still jangling, make a habit of establishing your ‘base’ when you’ve moved on. Book a hostel and take the chance to get your bearings before you throw yourself head first into your next adventure. 


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Katie is currently taking South East Asia by storm, teaching yoga and writing about her experiences as she goes. She travels to seek out authentic places and inspiring people, living off the beaten track and sometimes off grid. Next stop after this adventure will be New Zealand and Australia, and then over to South America, baby! Follow her journey right here on Gapyear.com and on Instagram.