How to Move to Thailand Without $1000’s in the Bank

Ever see influencers that travel the world and wonder “How the hell do they do it?”  Well, I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me to achieve my move to Thailand, it was all about prioritization.

I changed my mindset on what I thought my life should look like, saved as much as I needed for the move, got a job overseas & lived beneath my means to afford one year of living/traveling abroad on my own terms. 

move to Thailand

Why did I move to Thailand? 

I’d always wanted to study abroad to experience culture and a different lifestyle, but never had a free summer to do so. 

It wasn’t until I learned about teaching abroad, that I began to take the necessary steps toward making life abroad a reality. 

I was completely over the Buckhead scene in Atlanta; over being surrounded by narcists and disingenuous people, done with the bar scene, fed up with the traffic… I just had to get out!

However, as a teacher in the States, I wasn’t exactly “rollin’ in the dough” :/ But I was determined to change my life for the better and have my “Eat, Pray, Love” kinda journey.

How much did I have to save? 

I knew that I didn’t have the means to live abroad without a job, so I got my TESOL, costing $150. Most schools abroad require some kind of second language teaching certification.

There are tons of teach-abroad websites! I went with teachaway.com. I spoke with an actual recruiter, but you can apply to jobs on the site without a recruiter. 

She gave me 3 options: Thailand, Korea, or China. I didn’t trust being in China (I didn’t want to kiss my social media, Google & Gmail goodbye), I knew little about Korea (other than North Korea was too close for comfort), and I loved Thai food. So, I went with Thailand!

I was told the transition to work there would be easiest if I got a 1 year Multiple Entry Non-Immigrant B visa (that’s a mouthful) . The visa was about $200 from the Royal Thai Consulate in Chicago (you can mail everything in). 

The cost of a one-way ticket to Thailand was about $650

All I needed once I got to Thailand was 1st months rent and money for food & transportation. This would last me until my first paycheck!

  • Rent $500/mo and because I love food I saved $300/mo for that, but I didn’t spend it all. PS. Food is Thailand is super cheap! Most local dishes cost about $2. 

To sum up my embarkment from US to Thailand the total cost was $1800.

How did I save money to move to Thailand? 

As I said before I was teaching in the States, so, like most Americans, I was living paycheck to paycheck BUT I knew I wanted to travel and live abroad, so I PRIORITIZED! 

I stopped caring what my life looked like and focused on what I wanted it to be. Which was a life in Thailand. 

I began eating more meals at home, brought lunch to work, gave up clothes shopping (I knew I wouldn’t be able to bring my entire wardrobe with me so no point in adding to it), changed my TV/Internet package, even quit daily visits to Starbucks! I basically budgeted using the oh-so-popular Dave Ramsey method of envelopes! *look into that 😉

It wasn’t hard. And ANYBODY can save if they change their priorities. To be blunt, if you haven’t saved enough money to travel, then you must not want it bad enough, yet. And that really goes for anything you want in life.

How I afford to continue traveling & living abroad:

If you’re planning to live abroad, I would do so only if you are able to bring in income for the first year, at least. This way, you can cut living expenses (cost of living is soooo cheap in SE Asia) by living abroad and save as much as you can.  

For example: a 1 bed/bath in Bangkok (with pool and gym) cost around $500/mo for rent, $200 for food, and ALL utilities (cell, power, water) about $100. Total of $800/month to live. 

Your paycheck (lets say you don’t have teaching experience) will probably be $1,500+. So that’s $700/month you could save x 12 months = $8,400! 

*Obviously, you could spend less a month depending how frugal you are. 

Now, I was able to save a lot more because I was a veteran teacher, and therefore my salary was much higher.

However, I still lived beneath my means and was able to save a FULL YEARS SALARY in one year. And, aside from freelance editing & photography, I am still living off of my savings of 2 years teaching in Bangkok. 

Tip to save: Eat local cuisine as Western restaurants are double, sometimes triple, the cost of local food. And the Western restaurants are never as good as what you’re used to. 

Is it hard to get a work visa? 

Not at all, if you have a job lined up. Luckily, your employer pretty much takes care of all the paperwork.

Once you move to Thailand, your employer is on the clock to prepare everything needed for your work permit, you just have to show up. 

I do recommend applying for a job before you move, and getting a 1 year Non-Immigrant B Visa from your home country. 

Once you get your work permit, you have to check-in every 90 days.

This can be done at the immigration office; you can take a trip to another country and your re-entry counts as a check-in (MAKE SURE YOU GET A RE-ENTRY STAMP BEFORE LEAVING THAILAND! If you don’t, your visa will be automatically cancelled).

There are also multiple companies you can pay that send off your passport and check-in for you for a small fee. (THIS WAS A LIFESAVER beacuase getting to/from immigration in Bangkok is a NIGHTMARE!)

The work permit itself only needs to be renewed every 2 years, and the process from your employer will begin again. 

Is there a certain time limit you are allowed to stay?  

Each country in Asia has different amounts of stay, and it also depends on your Passport country. So, I would check on the country you plan to visit’s Immigration website.  But this is what I know for US Passports: 

Thailand:

If you are working in Thailand, you are able to stay one year without exiting, but with 90 day check-ins. 

There’s also a 90 day visa you can apply for before you leave your home country. 

Or, when you land you have 30 days (without any visa), which you can extend for another 30 days. Total of 60 days. 

Japan:

You can stay for 3 months without a visa, but it cannot be extended. So after 3 months, you have to leave. 

Vietnam:

You can pre-purchase your visa online and you have 30 days to stay, and you can extend for another 30. 

Malaysia:

Without a visa, you have 90 days. 

Indonesia:

You can stay without a visa for 30 days, then you must leave. OR you can get a 30 day Tourist visa for a fee, and extend for another 30 days. 

I hope you found this information valuable and helpful. As always, if you have ANY questions feel free to drop them in the comments, email or DM me on Instagram. 

If you want more for your move to Thailand, check out these posts! 

Do Not Miss This Town in Thailand: Kanchanaburi

The Best Beach Town in Thailand: If you hate touristy islands

Bangkoks Great Escape: The Green Lung


Why I Moved to Thailand

Did you ever have to make a brochure or travel guide for Elementary Geography class? I did. I remember loving projects like those and telling myself, at age 8 or so, that I would travel to all the places I researched for class assignments.

Fast forward to 20 years later: I moved to Thailand for a year, then moved back to Atlanta for 2 years, then back to Thailand with the love of my life, Joey, and my mother with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s. We have lived here for about 3 years. I know. It seems crazy that I up and left my home in Atlanta to the exact opposite side of the world. But hear me out:

I had been working at a school in Atlanta for 5 years and although I loved my job, I knew I wanted to travel. And Joey was unfulfilled in his career and wanted to pursue his dream in golf. Also, my mother was in a retirement but wasn’t loving it. So when a co-worker got a job at an international school in Bangkok and said they were looking for another teacher, I jumped on it! Afterall, I had lived there before and loved it, Joey (who is naturally talented at golf) wanted to pursue his dream, and my mom… well, when I asked if she would want to come she obviously said “yes!”

All Things Considered

This was my exact thought process: win, win, win. Haha. I loved Thailand. Win. Joey could logistically succeed in golf through the Asian Tour Q-school (in Hua Hin, Thailand). Win. And my mom and I would be able to travel AND save money while doing so because the cost of living is so cheap in Thailand. WIN!

The downfall, of course, being that I’d miss out on family functions, hanging with friends and the life I had always known. I’m not going to lie. Missing your family and friends sucks! But I can’t always live my life for others. I had missed out on studying abroad during college because of weddings, childbirths and illnesses. I am so glad I was there to witness and help through those milestones, but they weren’t mine. I had put my life and my dreams on hold for other people’s important events. So, impulsively, I said “the time is now!” and packed me, Joey and my mom up for Thailand! (Really Joey’s sister packed him up because he procrastinates and if I had done it… well, I probably would have thrown half of his crap away and we wouldn’t be in Thailand together. Haha)

A Whole New World

I had lived in Thailand (solo) in 2014-2015 and it was sooooo much easier than bringing two other people with me. The first time I came through a TESOL organization and they pretty much supplied me with everything I needed (papers for visa, arranged accommodations, job placement). This time, however, I was hired BY the school and not through a 3rdparty. And they had NO idea how to hire, employ or even run a school. I hated it there! The children were the only good part of my day, but they only stayed for 2 hours a day. The other 6 hours spent in that hellhole were the worst! See, Thailand is very much a cast system. This crazy, probably inbred, family is a product of the upper-echelon of the system. They weren’t wealthy because they were intelligent, or earned their place, so you can imagine what a joke-of-a-school they ran. But enough about them, let’s talk about Thailand itself:

What’s to Love about Thailand

  • culture
  • extensive history
  • cuisine
  • way of life (work to live, not live to work)
  • affordable living

When you think of Thailand I’m sure visions of “Hangover part III” or “Brokedown Palace” come into mind, but Thailand is such a culturally rich and safe country! Even during late, drunken nights in Bangkok, I have never felt unsafe. Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, and Buddists strongly believe in Karma (along with the fear of Thai prison), so it is very rare to be the victim of a crime here. 

Also, the fact that Thailand has never been colonized is one reason for their rich culture. Without the influence of western control, their culture has never been watered down… therefore their traditions and customs have remain untainted for centuries!

Now, let’s talk way of life! The people of Thailand are super friendly! Yes, there are language barriers, but that doesn’t keep Thai’s away from trying to have friendly chit-chatter. And, the are extremely laid back (which can be a good but sometimes bad thing). Once you allow yourself to adapt to the sabai-sabai life and go-with-the-flow, you can truly appreciate the way of everyday life: enjoy it!

-I once met a cab driver that told me he only works until he makes 1000 baht each day. No more, no less. Of course my response was, “What if you make that first thing in the morning?” He simply smiled and said, “Then I can go enjoy my day with my family.” That is working to live my friends. Life is too short to not be able to enjoy it.

Another plus, cost of living. Thailand is a third-world country, and most of Thailand is very undeveloped. Thus, the living is cheap which gives westerners a chance to splurge! How much does it cost to live in Thailand? I’ll tell you. 

Cost of Living

We lived a little more luxurious than I did the first time I lived in Thaialnd. We had a full apartment in a very nice neighborhood with all the amenities.  

Then
Now

I also spent pretty frivolously, but I still managed to save. I am going to take you into my personal finances per month: 

  1. Rent: 20,000 thb
  2. Electric bill: 1800+ thb (we run the AC a lot)
  3. Water: 120 thb
  4. Phone & Internet: 1000 thb
  5. Groceries: 5000 thb
  6. Entertainment (mostly drinking at the bar): 8000 thb

Total (approx) 36,000 thb/ $1,185 USD

This is for 2 people! Crazy, right!? My total monthly spending was less than the cost of rent in Atlanta.

Now, I could go on and on about everything I LOVE about about Thailand, but chances are you’ll probably get sick of me yammering on. So, if you want further reasoning just check out some of my favorite experiences in Thailand:

Erawan Waterfalls

The Green Lung

Quick Island Getaway

The Cadillac of Buffet’s


Bang Krachao: Bangkok’s In-City Escape

Bangkok is definitely worth visiting. Buuuuut….. the smells, the noises, and the crowds can send you into sensory OVERLOAD! My favorite way to decompress is to escape for the day in a smaller, quieter part of town. Also known as the “green lung,” Bang Krachao is an artificial island created by the Chao Phraya River and a small canal. The island is full of luscious, jungle greens with small paths for bike riding.

IMG_8015Getting there is simple. Just take a motorbike/taxi to Khlong Toei Pier. Once you are there, walk toward the water, down the ramp and they will know where to take you! Pae- Jaeb Pier. Here, you rent your bike for just 80B for the day! They will supply you with a map (I just use Maps on my iPhone) and a bottle of water.

Then, the day is yours!

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I usually start to head to the furthest destination first, Bangkok Treehouse. Usually, about halfway, I get hot and thirsty so I stop here at Bike & Cafe.

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Bike & Cafe

The Butterfly Pea Tea is highly recommended. But DON’T eat lunch yet! You’ll want to save that for the market!

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Bike & Cafe

Once you make it to the Treehouse, you can sip on more tea or water, or beer. Whatever your little heart desires, while you sit in the treetops.

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Bangkok Treehouse

Once you’ve finished your photo ‘sesh, it’s off to the market for lunch! And a little shopping, if you please.

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Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market

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Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market

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Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market

On the way to the park, I stop by the temple of Ganesh. If you don’t know what that is or what in the world to do, don’t’ worry, the people at the temple can explain everything and take you through it if you ask. And they appreciate you asking!

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Wat Pram

Last stop, the park!

Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park & Botanical Garden

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Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park & Botanical Garden

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Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park & Botanical Garden

Now, I haven’t mastered the jungle paths yet because my mom has a hard time on the narrow paths, and Joey gets annoyed by the heat and other riders. But, if you go and will explore with me, I’m all for it! *I plan on going by myself this December… just so I can do what I’d like without putting others at discomfort.

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Happy trailing!

Xoxo, Jess


Why This Buffet Should Be #1 On Your List

Nestled between BTS Prakanong and Onnut Stations, lies the All-You-Can-Eat restaurant, BEST BEEF!

Shortly after moving to Bangkok, we noticed the large, outdoor dining area from the train and knew we had to give it a shot! (Especially since Joey’s a meat and potatoes kinda guy.) After our first visit, we frequented often… sometimes 2-3 times a week!

We were lucky enough to meet one of the owners, Michael, after an evening of stuffing our faces at his restaurant, and I asked for an interview. Michael not only met with us, but entertained me, Joey and Mom for the entire evening. It wasn’t long before I realized why our dining experiences at Best Beef have ALWAYS been a delight. Michael was the MOST gracious host! Not only that, but I could see that he truly cares about the staff and patrons that enter his establishment. (FYI, some of the employees have been there since they opened in 2008! That should tell you what a great environment the owners provide.)

When speaking about the restaurant, and the vision they had, it was this: Great service, great quality, great price. Check, check, and check! For only 439B you can enjoy all-you-can-eat beef, seafood, pork, chicken, vegetables (yes, you can still be vegetarian and fill up), and all you can drink beer.

So, what’s on the menu?

Be sure to check out monthly specials!

The brown sauce is my favorite!

239 (food only)

329(food and non-alcoholic drinks)

439 (food and beer)

How do you cook your food?

Open Flame Grill

Soup (chicken stock, or soy milk)
Skillet

(Note: if you’re vegetarian, Michael has thought of you too. They now offer soy-based soup if you’re uncomfortable with the meat-based broth. )

As a matter of fact, Michael said he has met vegetarians (while dining at Best Beef) that say, they were skeptical to come but really enjoyed themselves, and the variety of food.

What sets Best Beef apart from other buffets?

PASSION! Michael said, “Anyone can copy our food selection, anyone can copy our prices, but they can’t copy us.” And who is this family? People who enjoy other people, that treat every guest kindly, and put others happiness over their own.

Who will enjoy Best Beef?

  1. Families. It’s a great price and lots of food and variety that every member of your family will enjoy! (Not to mention, there is self serve ice cream 🍦 that little ones will love.)
  2. Tourists on a budget. For less that 500B you get food and beer. What a cost-conscious way to start your night in Bangkok.
  3. Those with dietary restrictions. Because the menu is so extensive, and you cook the food yourself, you won’t have to worry about added, or unknown ingredients.

So take my advice: when in Bangkok, this is a MUST visit establishment. Whether your goal is a full belly, or excellent service (or even a vegetarian friendly meal), you will get it all!

Bon Appétit!

Best Beef – 1490/2 Sukhumvit Rd. 4pm- midnight


Hua Hin (The Beach Town That Feels Like Home)

Hua Hin Intro

Ooooh, how I love this town! Hua Hin was the city I lived in when I decided to move to Thailand back in 2014. I didn’t know it then, but this city would become my home and favorite place that I’ve been to yet. The water isn’t emerald green, the beaches aren’t secluded… no, it’s not your picturesque Thai experience. But to me, Hua Hin is like the Hamptons of Bangkok. It is a home away from home. It has beach, amazingly fresh seafood, mountains, nature, its where the Royal family has one of many vacation homes, its safe, its a “southern hospitality” kind of community… it will never disappoint.  People of Thailand are hospitable enough, but in Hua Hin… they are even more so!

Hua Hin is 4 hrs south of Bangkok. You can take a train, bus or van to get here. And because it is a fishing town and a popular destination, the seafood is always fresh! I know, “popular destination” doesn’t sound very appealing, but the visitors here are not your typical tourist. Hua Hin, although full of Thai and Foreign tourists, still has a sense of community. The locals and visitors remind me of “southern hospitality”. Everyone is here to enjoy great food, relax, and perhaps make some friends along the way.

Here is the 411:

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GETTING THERE:

  • Train:  6hrs+ 400฿  (Bangkok Hua Lamphong Railway Station)
  • Van:  4hrs; 180฿  (Ekkamai BTS– Eastern Bus Terminal)
  • Bus:  3-4hrs; 290฿ (Southern Bus Terminal/ Suvarnabhumi Airport)
  • Private Car: 3-4hrs; 2000฿

*Traveling by bus or car will get you there the fastest! The train is the slowest! I usually book on

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ACCOMMODATIONS
:

I typically use Booking.com to find accomodations. I suggest saving a little money and NOT stay on the beach, as those resorts will cost you $100+/night, as opposed to $100 total! You can rent beach chairs for 100 ฿/day.

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STUFF YOUR FACE:

The standard of food in Hua Hin is impeccable. The fresh produce typically comes from local farms,  and the seafood is caught that day, fresh off the boat! Here are my favorite places to eat:

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Hua Hin Night Bazaar65/2 Soi Hua Hin 72  Daily 6-11 

There are vendors selling food, clothes, souvenirs, knock-off goods, etc. Hua Hin Seafood and Lung Ja Seafood are the best bet (other than rotee and satay from the carts). BUT, I would get there before 6pm, as there are crowds at Lung Ja Seafood.

IMG_6228Tamarind– Nong Kae-Takiap, Hua Hin Thanon 3  Thu-Sun -11

I suggest getting here at 5pm, as the tables do fill up fast! Tamarind is strictly a food and drink market. They offer live music and alcohol (holidays excluded). All the fresh grilled seafood is amazing!

However, this guy is my favorite:

Once you arrive on the beach, you will notice stretches of umbrellas and chairs. Go to ANY of these beach “restaurants”  to enjoy delicious food, drinks and scenery (the ocean!).

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PARTY:

There is only one place to go… Soi Binta Baht! There you will find tons of bars! Just walk around until you find one that interests you. However, if you love live music like I do, go to Hua Hin Brewing Company. In the ‘basement’ area is a bar that has the best band and a dance floor!

BE ONE WITH NATURE:

Starting left to right, top to bottom:

  • Wat Khao Tao
  • Hutsadin Elephant Foundation
  • Phraya Nakhon Cave
  • Hin Lek Fai Viewpoint
  • PEAK: Any time I’m in Hua Hin it is an amazing experience! But if I had to pick a “peak,” I’d say it was our last night. We ate at Tamarind and the live music was amazing! They played the best songs, and Mom and I really enjoyed singing along!
  • PIT: I forgot that it was a holiday weekend (the Kings Birthday and Buddhist Lent), which means no alcohol sales. Not that I need to have alcohol, but I do enjoy a glass of white with my seafood! *BTW: On Buddhist Holidays and any day honoring the King there are no alcohol sales in the stores or restaurants. Also, no alcohol sales before 11am, 2pm-5pm, or after midnight.

If you have any questions about Hua Hin, please feel free to leave a ‘reply’ or email me any time!


Bangkok

45BD0F4F-8894-4892-B533-74D50F31DD1A TOURISM

This picture was taken on the Chao Phraya River (chow pry uh). My friend and I attempted to go to one of the infamous river markets via boat. It was 1700 Baht for the two of us, and the market we saw consisted of two boats selling overpriced trinkets. I advise you NOT to attend a river market. However, the long tail boats are helpful for traveling to tourist locations like Asiaique, Grand Palace and China Town. The tickets are cheap and the views are a sight to see.

IN-CITY, CITY ESCAPE

IMG_1230Bangkok, like any large city, has something to appease just about everybody (unless your like me, and hate the city, and prefer the country). But even amongst the smog, extremely loud transportation, and sidewalk hazards (loose wires, random poles, missing tiles), there is an AMAZING escape that’s smack dab in the city. They call it the “Green Lung,” or Bang Krachao (bong cra chow). If you are traveling via MRT, get off at Khlong Toei and take motorbike to the port, or just take an Uber or Grab IMG_1267(download both apps) to Klong Toey Port (klong toy-ee). Upon arrival, walk toward the water and they will automatically assume you are traveling to the Green Lung/ Bang Krachao. The boat ride is about 10 baht there, 80-90 baht back. However, when you get to the other side of the river, you will arrive at a bike rental. RENT A BIKE! It is the ONLY place in Thailand that is safe to ride a bike. The map they give you is not much help. Your best bet is to screenshot google maps prior to going.

HIDDEN GEMS
2689B3D3-339A-4CDC-9453-CBDB1374C77EWattana Panich – 336 Ekamai Soi 18, Hours 10a-8p Daily     

This restaurant is 40 years old, and so is the beef soup. Yes, the huge pot of soup you see upon entering is the same batch from 40 years ago! Before you get disgusted, its A.) delicious, B.) the entire batch isn’t 40 years old.3374114E-B1A9-4190-BC3C-18EF2A0C315E They have added to the original broth over the years, but still contains some of the original. They boil it for about 10 hours each day, store it at night, then bring it out and add to it the following morning. The broth and bits of beef that melt in your mouth will not let you down! When ordering your meal, order #6. I prefer small noodles, but the large noodles are tasty too!

Note: Take BTS Ekamai, then get motorbike or taxi to restaurant. 

                      

Zanzibar- 139 Sukhumvit 11, Hours: 5p-1:30a Daily.   (BTS Nana)                                                                            

When dining at Zanzibar, you will forget IMG_8222you are in a smelly, noisy and overpopulated city. You will teleport to a jungle that serves you delicious food and great cocktails.

Note: I highly recommend the Chicken Satay and Som Tum with fried fish on top. 

IMG_1296Chok “choke” 99, Hours 10p- 4a                                            

This bar was recommended by a tuk tuk driver outside the BTS Siam Station. It was around midnight when my friends, visiting from the states, wanted to go out. You would be surprised how many places shut down before midnight! Not only that, I could not find anything on Google that was open and nearby. So, we walked from the stairs of the station to the sidewalk. I asked a random driver if there was a nearby bar/club open. He didn’t speak English. So I went to the next. He gave us two options, one being Chok 99. It was hidden off a side soi (street) and we were the ONLY white people. Only Thais. It was a BLAST! They played EDM/House Music and the dance floor was full of people. We got a table for 3000 baht (included service, table, 2 bottles of Sang Sam (rum), and mixers).  This is truly a hidden gem because NO frarong (foreigners) will be able to tell you about it.

Note: The only way I know to get there (it’s not on Google) is to go to BTS Siam, find a Tuk Tuk and ask for “choke 99.” 

HELPFUL TIPS:

  • Always look down when you walk to avoid missing sidewalk tiles, dog poop, mysterious puddles… these streets can be fatal people!
  • Tipping: masseuses, nail techs, tour guides.
  • Haggle. When Thais see a fralong (foreigner) it means $$$$. Don’t waste money just because of ignorance. Taxi: ฿300 or less. Clothes: ฿250/item. Thai suite: ฿ 6500- 15,000. Extra tip: See how much the locals are paying before you buy. 
  • Wai-ing goes a long way! Bring your hands together in front of nose (in prayer pose) and bend head down while smiling and saying “sawadee ka” (suh-woh-dee-kah/cup).
  • Bring tissues, hand sanitizer and bug spray with you AT ALL TIMES!

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