Your Comprehensive Guide to Thailand & The Islands

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It goes without saying that Thailand is across the world. Thus, there are some serious (yet awesome) cultural differences and insider tips you should know before you pack your bags for Bangkok and beyond. We chatted with Trip Consultants Claire and Laura about their recent EF College Break trip to Thailand and the Islands. Read on for the inside scoop.

The Dress Code:
Like many religious or sacred sites around the world, modesty is the best policy. In Buddhist Temples in which a monk lives and practices, it is required to dress conservatively. Shoulders and knees need to be covered, but it’s a little different from just throwing a scarf around your shoulders like in a European church. Your shirt must have sleeves, even if they just cover the very tops of your shoulders. This means t-shirts and long shorts or skirts.

Pro Tip: “Since it’s so hot in Thailand, some girls on our trip packed a maxi skirt in their purse and threw it on over their shorts before entering Temples.” – Laura

Oh My God, Shoes:
In Buddhism, the head is home to a person’s spirit and thus the most sacred part of the body. That being said, can you guess the least revered part of the body? If you said feet, you’re right. Because of this belief, taking your shoes off just about everywhere is the norm. Wear comfy walking shoes that are easy to slip on and off when entering restaurants, stores, and Temples.

Pro Tip: “It’s actually kind of nice to walk around barefoot all the time! I got back and was like ‘Why do I need to wear shoes in here?’” – Laura

Drop It Like It’s Hot:
You may think you know what being hot is, but trust us, you don’t. Being a tropical climate, Thailand is very warm all year round. This makes for a great winter getaway (check out the winter departures for this trip here) or another hot spot in the summer, but don’t forget to pack deodorant.

Pro Tip: “Be prepared to be sweaty every day. Embrace it.” – Claire

Om Nom Nom Nom:
The food in Thailand isn’t the typical Pad Thai you’d pick up on a bougie weekend in SoHo. This is the real deal. Thai food is spicy, and rice is served with just about every meal, even breakfast. Go into this with an open mind and stomach. There are a lot of exotic fruits, like Dragon Berry and Lychee, you can’t find easily in the States.

Pro Tip: “We tried a fried worm! It honestly tasted like a french fry. You just can’t think about it too much.” – Claire

Gizmos and Gadgets:
This an active trip to one of the most breathtaking destinations in the world, so stock up on some photo gadgets before you go. We suggest a GoPro or a waterproof phone case so you can take your phone to all of the various water activities. You may also want to invest in a backup battery so you’re always charged up (Drake pun intended).

Pro Tip: “We did tons of water sports on the islands like snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking. We got some of our best pictures those days!” – Laura

Toiletries on Fleek:
Go to the travel section at Target and just buy everything. You’ll want bug spray, sunscreen, towelettes, tissues and maybe even toilet paper.

Pro Tip: “They have these funny things called ‘squat toilets’ that are exactly what they sound like. Most places have toilet paper provided, but better to be safe than sorry.” – Laura

The Islands:
Enough about toilets and sweat. We know you want to hear about the Islands [Insert emoji with heart eyeballs here]. Phuket and Koh Samet are two of the most beautiful places on earth. With their white sand beaches, crystal blue water, beach bars with chill pillow areas, you will truly feel like you’re in Paradise.

Pro Tip: “Check out a fire show! Once the sun goes down, guys come out with ropes that they set on fire and swing it around. It’s hard to describe, but really cool. Keep a safe distance—it’s pretty entertaining.” – Laura

The Bottom Line:
Go into this trip with an open mind. Being so far away from home is going to come with its moments of culture shock. While most of Thailand is beautiful, some areas are still developing. Be open to the culture, the food, the sights, sounds and smells. This trip is for the true traveler at heart; someone who can roll with the punches and embrace other cultures for what they are. If this is you, get ready for the time of your life.

Pro Tip: “You’re always told not to talk to strangers, but the people in Thailand are SO friendly! They want to practice their American English, so don’t be surprised if everyone wants to talk to you.” – Laura

Take your own trip to Thailand during the summer or winter.