Things to Know, What not to do in Thailand!

What not to do in Thailand? The 12 things NOT to do in the land of smiles!

The best way to visit Thailand (and all of Southeast Asia), is to be an invisible tourist, i.e. one who is able to blend in best with the locals when travelling.

These Thailand do’s and don’ts also provide a great insight into Thai values and culture. If you are planning a trip to Thailand, these travel tips will help you have a more enjoyable experience and know what to expect before you leave.

1) Avoid any physical contact with Buddhist monks

In Thailand, monks are among the most respected and revered figures. As such, the best thing you can do when you see a monk is to keep your distance. Although the rule of not having any kind of physical contact with the monks is particularly suitable for women, also men should not, out of respect, come into physical contact with the monks (by physical contact we also mean a handshake!). Also, always remember not to put yourself in a position that appears to be taller than a monk. For example, you should not be standing when there is a monk sitting because you will be in a higher position than his posture.

2) Romantic gestures in public

Thailand is an Asian country and just like many in other Asian countries, people rarely show romantic gestures in public. So, respect oriental culture and behave accordingly when in public places. Do your best, essentially, to avoid kissing your partner on the street. In Thailand, even a simple romantic gesture like holding hands is rarely seen. Of course, even while travelling, you will have plenty of time to show your love to your partner…but do it, out of respect, in private. Thus, it will be even more romantic!

3) Dress NOT appropriately when visiting temples

You will find numerous temples when you are in Thailand and like any good traveler, you will certainly want to visit most of them. However, remember to keep in mind that it is not allowed to visit places of worship if you wear revealing or provocative clothes. This is considered very offensive. Therefore, you cannot wear shorts, low cut tops, miniskirts, and tank tops. Much better, it would be better to wear trousers and a top that covers the arms and shoulders.

4) DO NOT touch people’s heads

Another thing you shouldn’t do when traveling in Thailand is touching other people’s heads. You may be used to touching someone’s head in your home country to show affection or to say hello, but here in Thailand this gesture is considered rude. For Thais, the head is the holiest part of the body. Therefore, you should be careful not to touch someone’s head unless you are in close confidence.

5) DO NOT go (even out of curiosity) to a Ping Pong show

In Thailand, table tennis shows are notorious for being shady and infamous places. Many Thais know well what it is, that is, a scam where the black market of prostitution is hidden. Often, one way or another, you will be forced to spend a lot of money before you can leave the club. How does the scam work? You are free to enter the club and the drinks you buy are not that expensive. However, what you don’t know is that you will be paying for the drinks for the girls performing. That’s why a hefty bill will be waiting for you before leaving the club.

6) DO NOT disrespect the royal family

This “rule” is extremely important! Never ever do or say anything negative or offensive towards the King and his family. Whatever you do, always be respectful when it comes to the royal family. In the past, there have been many cases in which foreigners showed offensive behavior or attitudes towards the King… and before returning to their respective countries, some of these tourists visited their homeland prisons and paid high wetsuits.

7) The handshake

wai is the thai greeting – handshake
It is interesting to know that it is not common in Thailand to shake hands in greeting. Instead of shaking hands, you can say the traditional Thai greeting called “wai". All you need to do is bring your palms together in front of your body and tilt your head slightly, so you’ve just made a wai.

8) DO NOT show interest in the Buddha

Most Thais practice Buddhism and respect the Buddha very much. By showing respect to the Buddha, you show respect for Thai culture and religion and this is what everyone who they travel to Thailand. So when taking pictures of Buddha statues, avoid standing or mimicking their pose. Also, never point your feet at the Buddha…especially if you are sitting or lying down.

9) DO NOT bargain excessively when shopping

Thais will get offended and angry if you bargain too little while shopping. Before you start haggling, you should already know how much you want to pay for the item you want to buy. Then, you can start negotiating but not at a price that is too low compared to the one offered (50% maximum). If you think it’s not worth it, maybe say goodbye and walk out of the store for better deals.

10) Pointing with index finger or feet

Always remember never to point at someone with your index finger or, even worse, your foot. It doesn’t matter who or what you’re pointing at. Just like stroking someone on the head is not polite, pointing with your forefinger or foot is really unacceptable. The head is the holiest part of the body, while the feet are the dirtiest part, at least for Thais. Also, there are many things you shouldn’t do with your feet. For example, you are not allowed to hold a door open with your feet, step on Thai money etc.

11) DO NOT go elephant trekking

In Thai culture, respecting animals is a great practice that manifests itself that mirrors Buddhism and people’s beliefs. Thailand’s national animal, the elephant, is depicted throughout the country as a mascot, often objectifying it, with the associated dire consequences for its health. The Chiang Mai Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand rehabilitates and cares for those elephants that have been exploited by tourism and logging industries. Thailand’s tourism industry often puts these creatures in grave danger, using them as props in circus tricks to woo tourists. Therefore, the need to avoid riding elephants merely for photographic opportunities is ever-present, while it would be far more ethical, and even more fascinating, to take part in the conservation and care of these animals by visiting rehabilitation centers such as the Elephant Nature Park.

12) Pay attention to the duration of the visa

Tourists and travelers who fly to Thailand for holidays are sometimes unaware that the visa extension procedure is not lax compared to other neighboring countries and is absolutely mandatory to continue visiting the country. Starting two hours after the visa expires, you will have to pay a fine of USD 16 up to a maximum of USD 627. Those who have extended their stay beyond 90 days will have a temporary ban on re-entry for at least one year. So, before your trip to Thailand make sure you have valid documentation and in compliance with local laws.

6 Things to Know About Traveling Abroad If You Have HIV

Traveling overseas can be risky for anyone, but if you have HIV, your concerns may be greater. A compromised immune system can increase your risk of contracting an opportunistic infection, so you may have to make more of an effort to safeguard your health. Also, some countries may present medical or legal barriers that directly affect you as an HIV-positive traveler. Here’s how to prepare before traveling abroad.

1. Find reputable travel information.

International travel has become so commonplace that we often underplay or entirely ignore the possible risks to our health. A 2009 study from the University of Wisconsin that examined a group of U.S. students studying abroad found that only 24 percent obtained prescriptions for travel-related medications before their departure, while less than half received the recommended vaccinations. More concerning, about 85 percent of study participants used travel guides as a primary source of health information, while only 60 percent used a doctor or clinic.

When planning a trip abroad, don’t rely on brochures, guides, or even travel agents to get the health information you need. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention operates a comprehensive Travelers Health website, which provides HIV-specific information about the country you’re visiting. Choose your destination country and select “Immune-Compromised Travelers” to see a list of recommended vaccines and medications, as well as regularly updated travel advisories.

2. Familiarize yourself with the local laws.

While the majority of countries, including the United States, place no travel restrictions on visitors with HIV, there are some that do. Of these, eight countries technically bar entry to all HIV-positive people, while others impose restrictions for long-term visitors and immigrants.

When planning a trip abroad, start by identifying travel laws that might affect you as a person with HIV. The most up-to-date information can be found on The Global Database, a website managed by the International AIDS Society (IAS), European AIDS Treatment Group, and Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe.

“Even in countries that have no specific HIV immigration laws, there could be issues if your status is disclosed,” says Linda-Gail Bekker, MD, an infectious-diseases specialist and the president of the IAS. “It’s important to always speak with someone familiar with the laws — and the enforcement of the laws — before booking your ticket.”

Most advocates recommend that you call the embassy or consulate of the country you’re going to visit. These offices can often give you advice as to whether any laws have changed or whether any medical tests are required for short- or long-term visitors. Calls can be made anonymously, with no disclosure of your HIV status.

3. Visit your doctor well in advance.

When planning an overseas trip, make every effort to meet with your treating doctor at least four to six weeks before your departure. For a person living with HIV, “it’s important to consult with a specialist, who will not only know which vaccines you need but those you don’t,” says Dennis Sifris, MD, an HIV specialist based in South Africa. “Travel clinics can’t always make these calls, especially if they don’t have your medical history.”

As a rule of thumb, any vaccine made with a live virus (also known as a live attenuated vaccine) should be avoided by people with severely suppressed immune systems. While vaccines, like the yellow fever vaccine, can be used in healthier HIV-positive individuals, others, like the oral typhoid vaccine, should be avoided.

In countries where vaccinations are mandatory, a certificate of exemption may be issued by your doctor if you’re unable to be vaccinated for health reasons. Be aware, however, that this waiver may not be accepted in all countries and may carry information about your HIV status.

4. Check your health insurance.

Before traveling abroad, learn which medical services your health insurance will cover if you become ill while traveling. If coverage is provided, be sure to carry both your insurance ID card and one or more claim forms (which you can request from your insurer).

Also, be sure to ask whether your insurance company will pay the cost of medical evacuation if you need to be transported back to the United States. While many policies cover “customary and reasonable” hospital expenses, few provide payment for overseas evacuation — which can easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars.

The U.S. Bureau of Consulate Affairs maintains a database of insurance providers who can offer you short-term travel health coverage and medical evacuation services. They can also help direct you to recommended doctors and hospitals in your destination country, as well as the nearest U.S. embassy, consulate, or diplomatic mission in the event of an emergency.

It’s important to note that neither Medicaid nor Medicare pays for any medical costs incurred when you travel abroad. Seniors seeking travel health coverage can purchase a Medicare supplement plan (C through J), which includes a foreign travel emergency benefit for the first 60 days of a trip.

5. Pack smart.

Be sure to always pack your pills in your hand luggage, ideally in a sealed container well away from any liquids or gels that you may be carrying. Replacement drugs are usually difficult to obtain overseas, so bring extra doses — up to double the number you’d normally take for shorter trips — in case your return flight is delayed or pills are lost. And always be cognizant of time zones when traveling; discuss any changes in your dosing schedule with your doctor well in advance of your departure. Here are additional quick tips:

  • Carry a prescription, a doctor’s letter, or an unsealed prescription bottle (with your name on the label) to minimize hassles at border control. This is not always necessary and doesn’t have to include any information about your HIV status. If asked, you can let customs officials know that your pills are simply medications for a chronic condition.
  • If you’re traveling to areas where there are mosquito-borne diseases (like dengue fever, yellow fever, and malaria), pack ample supplies of insect repellent with a minimum of 30 percent DEET. Travel-size mosquito netting can also be purchased online.
  • If you have to take an antimalaria drug, consult with your HIV specialist to ensure that it will not interfere with your antiretroviral medications. Therapies containing ritonavir, efavirenz, or nevirapine may require a dose adjustment if they’re taken with certain antimalarial drugs.

6. Watch what you eat.

If you’re traveling to a developing country, avoid any foods or drinks that might expose you to disease-causing bacteria or parasites. These include:

  • Tap water or ice made from tap water
  • Unpasteurized dairy products
  • Raw or undercooked meat or street food
  • Raw vegetables or fruit you haven’t peeled yourself
  • Bottled drinks that haven’t been opened in front of you
  • Any food from a street vendor

Overkill? Maybe. But the consequences of getting a water- or food-borne disease can be far greater in people living with HIV, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.