The following are some Frequently Asked Questions posted by Chanchao on the Lonely Planet Thorntree:


*** Should I get my xxx at home or can I get it (cheaper) locally?

Anything that you could possibly need on your travels can be purchased locally, from toothpaste to camping gear to medications. As for price, almost everything can be bought (much) cheaper locally, with the exception of imported goods such as brand name cosmetics and fancier photo/video/audio equipment. For clothing and shoes, be aware that bigger sizes may be more difficult to find. Anyone not over-weight/sized and with a shoe size no larger than US 12 / Eur 45 should have no problems though. Particularly good (yet boring) places to buy just about anything are hypermarkets like Tesco-Lotus, Big C and Carrefour. These are often found in the outskirts of major towns, however Bangkok has a few that can be reached by skytrain or other public transportation easily. Markets are far more interesting of course.. Don't miss out on the markets even if it's just for atmosphere and funshopping.

*** I'm arriving at [insert ungodly hour here] at the Bangkok Airport. Can I get a bus/taxi at that time or should I sleep at the airport?

Don't sleep at the airport. While it remains open and is perfectly safe, there is just no need for it. Airport buses to the major tourist areas (including Khao San) run until 11 pm or so, meter taxis run all night. Getting into town at those hours takes just half an hour or so. Downtown, there will be far more hotels/guesthouses to choose from and will be cheaper than hotel-airports. Also when departing there's no need to stay close to the airport on the last night. Taxis run all night remember? At 4am a taxi takes just half an hour to get to the airport.

*** Shots, Malaria & Other diseases

Get your shots, you can afford them. As for anti-malarials, ONLY use them when you know for sure you will be in areas affected by malaria. Your doctor is BY NO MEANS an expert on where malaria occurs and where not. Some anti malaria drugs like Lariam can seriously hurt your physical and mental health. Your choice. In Thailand, malaria occurs on small strips along the borders with Burma and Laos. Overall using proper clothing, sleeping in screened rooms and using repellant is MORE important than using medications.

*** Snakes, spiders, scorpions?

If you're going to get hurt and end up in a hospital, it will be from a traffic accident, not from any nasty creatures with the possible exception of dogs. Don't worry about creepy crawlies. If you must worry, then worry about big bad centipedes which are poisonous as ####. A bite from a big one will likely cause you more grief than most snake and scorpion bites.. They're not particularly numerous though. Cars, trucks and motorbikes ARE numerous. Be careful!

*** Is it safe?

Travel is never as safe as staying home watching TV. Again if you're going to end up seriously hurt then it'll likely be from a traffic accident or taking a fall while hiking. Violent crime and terrorism are way down the list of risks. Crime & Terrorism-wise, SE Asia is about as safe as Disneyland. (Now THAT's a target!)

*** Should I make a reservation (for the first night)?

Up to you. Most cheaper places, be it hotels or guesthouses, do not take reservations. They figure that if you actually show up then you're a customer anyway. If you DON'T show up they'll lose money as they could have sold your room to someone else. If you don't want the hassle of walking around in a strange place at night then a booking in a more expensive place for the first night may be an option. Check out the hotel / travel web sites.

*** Does anyone know a good, cheap, convenient place to stay in ...

Overall, guesthouses are clustered together in certain areas. In Bangkok this is Banglamphoo / Khao San, in Chiang Mai it's around Thapae Gate. The proximity of these places to each other makes it easy to shop around for a nice one. Your guide book should be used in this way as well, just look for an area with lots of options. Things change too fast and likes and dislikes may vary. Never ever pay for anything in advance for more than a day. If you find a nicer place, move.

*** I hear June to October is the rainy season. Should I cancel by August trip?

No. Even at the height of the rainy season, there are far more hours of sunshine than in Western Europe in the summer.. When it rains, more water falls down, but it rains mostly for a an hour or 2 in the late afternoon and evening. There are very few days that are totally overcast and rainy..

*** Is there / How much for a flight to ...

Use the web, dummy! Locally in Thailand, all flights, times and prices are at and prices are fixed, it doesn't (shouldn't) matter if you get your ticket directly from THAI at the airport or through a travel agent. For other flights, all tourist centers are crawling with travel agencies. Use them.

*** Should I take the train or Bus?

Trains are very nice. Especially aircon sleeper trains. It's not so much the temperature that makes aircon nicer, it's the fact that there is no noise, dirt and diesel-grime coming in through the windows. Compared to flying, you save a night in a hotel. Compared to buses, you actually get to sleep at night. As for seeing something along the way North, the nicest views are the last 2 hours before Chiang Mai. If you take the night train, dawn will have arrived by the time you get to the scenic part.
Aircon sleeper trains are a little more expensive than buses, especially the backpacker-buses which are really cheap. Backpacker buses are about as touristy an experience as you can get, being herded like cattle into one of the buses which for some reason is chaos every single day, then to some horrible restaurant half way, then stopping short of your destination to let the guesthouse touts feast on the new arrivals.. It's cheap though, and you usually get there. The complete train time table can be found at or better at if it ever goes online again.

*** If I rent a motorbike, do I have to leave my passport with the rental company?
What if I don't have drivers license?

Some places will insist on it, others will go with a photocopy and deposit money. Don't be overly paranoid about losing your passport though. It's not like nobody ever loses one or gets one stolen; the fear for leaving your passport is perhaps a subconscious fear of being stuck in a foreign country among foreign people? Reconsider if you want to travel at all. Really, worst case relating to passports is having to go to your embassy and apply for a new one, which you'll get the next day. Having photocopies helps of course.

Most motorbike rentals don't care if you have a driver's license. Unfortunately, your (travel) insurance company however DOES care quite a bit. So don't have an accident, or it'll cost ya. If you do get an accident, don't tell them it was from riding a motorbike. Any damage to the bike is better to get fixed somewhere yourself before returning the bike. Fixing bikes is rarely expensive and rarely takes long. Fixing damage to yourself is likely more expensive and may take a longer time. Whatever you do, don't get the bike stolen. Always lock it and consider getting your own padlock.
For car rentals a valid driver's license usually is required.

*** Backpack or wheeled suitcase?

Actually I just put this question in to remind everyone that most of the answers in this list are MY OPINION ONLY! I'm not going to get overly religious on this topic, yet I quietly wonder if backpacks aren't either carried over flat pavements or just sitting on trains/boats/buses most of the time.

*** Should I bring ... ?

ARE YOU INSANE? Look at the size of your backpack, it looks like it contains everything your mother brought on her honeymoon! A 5 baht pack of washing detergent will save LOTS of bulk. Keep in mind that you can buy absolutely ANYTHING you need easily and cheaply. If at some point you feel like buying a [insert the item you're pondering to bring here] then buy it if you really need it! The only exception is a nice big towel. You need one at all times.

*** What scams should I watch out for?

Anyone striking up a conversation with you at or near a major tourist spot is very likely to try to scam you into buying something or waste money in some other way. Even westerners may be trying to earn extra travel money by working as scam artists.

Of course there are honest people as well; some teachers occasionally send their students out to exactly these touristed areas with the assignment to go gain some experience by interviewing a native speaker. You can usually tell the difference in approach. The scammer is nearly always the fairly professional looking, jovial kind of type speaking good English telling you all kinds of hogwash with a smile. Honest people in Asia nearly always have a level of shyness about them. Don't be a moron; anyone who doesn't check out his brains & common sense at customs will not fall for a scam. They're really just as obvious to spot as the African Scam Emails you receive. As for public transport providers such as taxis and tuktuks, never take one that's waiting around hustling for business rather than driving around doing his job. They're not dangerous, they're just more hassle than they're worth.

*** Seeing old bald fat guys walking with young innocent Thai girls makes me sick

Tough. And good that you didn't have to look at who stitched your backpack or sneakers together. You could of course try to tell the young innocent girl that she should go stitch sneakers and backpacks together in some factory somewhere. Alternatively, don't go to Pattaya, Phuket and lower Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok.

*** Should I bargain when buying things?

Some people like bargaining, some people don't. Regardless if you like it or not or are good at it or not, the number 1 prerequisite to successfully reach a mutually acceptable price is KNOWING WHAT IT SHOULD COST! Here you are, looking at a nice watch, and do you have any clue whether it should cost 100, 500 or 1000 baht? How on earth are you going to going to be successful at bargaining unless you know what things cost roughly? The obvious mistake is to compare with what you know something like that would cost back home. Instead you should try figuring out the actual cost, then the bargaining can't really go wrong anymore. Ways to find out the price are of course checking the prices of similar items at fixed-price stores, then work from there. Personally I'd say to #### with bargaining in an uncomfortable environment and just buy your stuff at a nicely air-conditioned hypermarket where stuff is likely cheaper anyway and where you can actually return something and get your money back if it doesn't work. Of course for some items you will be condemned to the tourist markets, mostly souvenir shopping. Tactics may include asking the price of some other item for which you DO know a rough price, then see from that how much the seller is charging extra, then apply the same percentage to the item your interested in. Finally don't sweat it when someone else bought the same thing for a lot less. Someone somewhere ALWAYS pays less. Think about what you have, not what you paid for it; it's still a lot less than it would cost back home. Finally, DON'T bargain for food. It's just not done. DO bargain for accommodation, especially mid and high range where there always is a discounted-rate or corporate-rate or watchamacallit-rate as long as you get your room for less. ESPECIALLY bargain at National Parks, where foreign tourists pay 10 times the Thai price. (200 baht vs. 20 baht). Often you can get in for the Thai price or for free. Paying 200 baht per person to look at a waterfall for 20 minutes just doesn't make sense and the park officials know it. (Note that the pricing is not their fault!)