There are some rules of conduct and No Goes in Thailand. Especially the island of Koh Samui is a popular holiday destination. It is different from home and also many rules apply that are different. That’s means there are many things that you should pay attention to during your holiday in Thailand. As a visitor you may make a mistake every now and then, which is not bad and will be mostly forgiven, but this little guide will help you save yourself from them. Of course, some of them are mandatory and better to remember.
Driving without a license, helmet or drunk
Many visitors in Thailand explore islands such as Koh Samui on their own with a scooter. However, there is a lot to consider, starting with the international driver’s license. Even if the rules appear looser in Thailand, this is mandatory. If you don’t own one then this can result in a fine of around 2000 baht and for the owner of the rental bike shop around 10.000 baht. Please provide current documents to safe yourself and the others.
Another point that is very important is wearing a helmet. Unfortunately, many scooter riders don’t do that and apart from the penalty you can get, a helmet on Koh Samui can be vital. There are often accidents involving tourists, which can also be fatal if you don’t wear a helmet.
In addition, you shouldn’t drive in Thailand under the influence of alcohol, just like in your home country, of course. The temptation may be there, but if you’re going to have a drink, better get on a taxi or Songthaew. Unfortunately, this is still a cause of many accidents.
The penalties on the possession and consumption of drugs in Thailand are not comparable to the laws of Europe or America. Even the possession of small quantities can put you in jail and incur long prison sentences and fines. For larger amounts, this jail term can even go as far as the death penalty.
Also on the consumption there are high fines and imprisonment, if you are positive tested in a drug test by the police. In some resorts like Phuket, Pattaya or even Koh Samui, you sometimes can be offered drugs at parties for example. But think twice about it, because you certainly don’t want your holiday to end in prison.
The Royal family
The royal family is highly revered in Thailand and you can’t talk badly about them. You will see images of the queen, the former and the current king or princesses throughout the country, as they are greatly honored. Also on the bills and coins are images of the king, therefore, never step with your feet on it. Not even when a coin rolls away. You should also withhold criticism against the Royal Family, because for insults you can even end up with jail time in Thailand. The royal family is untouchable. Just stop talking about the royal family and show your respect during your holiday in Thailand.
How you dress is important in Thailand. If you dress very well, you will be treated well by everyone. There are some rules that you should keep in mind. These include e.g. that beach clothes like a bikini definitely only belong on the beach. So you shouldn’t go to the restaurant or shopping in bikini or swimming trunks. Very important are you clothes when entering a temple. Unfortunately many tourists make some mistakes, so please pay attention. Always cover your shoulders and knees. Always remove your shoes when entering a temple building. This also applies to Thai households and sometimes even to some shops. You usually realize that if some shoes stand already in front of the entrance.
Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand and about 95% of the inhabitants are committed to it. So there are countless temples all over the country, as well as on Koh Samui. As a visitor, you are always welcome to visit them and should, however, accept the customs. When you visit, always make sure to follow the rules of behavior. Of course, this includes proper clothing, covering shoulders and knees or taking off shoes before entering a building. Also, you should never disturb prayers, you may like to take photos, but be careful not to bother anyone. Women should always keep their distance from the monks and never touch them. Monks have a very high status in Thailand and enjoy some privileges such as their own seats in waiting areas, the train, etc. Anyhow, you can of course talk to a monk as these sometimes also like to practice their English. Furthermore, you should not climb on statues of Buddha or point with your finger or feet on these. More information on that topic you can find under point 11.
Animal shows or attractions
You should never participate in animal attractions, such as caressing tigers or taking pictures with them. The animals don’t have a good life and are partially drugged so they are sedated. Also refrain from other shows with elephants, monkeys, crocodiles, etc. It is not recommended. Often the living conditions for the animals are absolutely bad and the fewer guests come to these shows, the sooner they will hopefully be history.
Another big topic is riding on elephants. These pachyderms are often tormented for years to endure one day. In addition, the health of elephants doesn’t do it well, because the back can’t carry a large amount which means it’s getting great damage. If you want to meet elephants, then, for example, take a look at the Samui Elephant Sanctuary. There you can spend a day with elephants without riding.
Gambling is banned in almost all forms within Thailand. Exceptions are the state lottery as well as e.g. betting on horse racing. Other types of sport bets, as you are maybe used to from Europe, are banned in Thailand. Although you can sometimes watch Thais betting on cock fights or Muay Thai battles, this is illegal and not recommended to you as a visitor to Thailand. If you really want to play or bet on your trip to Asia, then you should plan a visit to the neighboring countries of Laos and Cambodia, because there you can find legal casinos for everyone.
Don’t destroy the nature
Unfortunately, in countries like Thailand many people don’t pay attention to the environment. Plastic waste is a huge problem, which is luckily raising more awareness every year. Of course, as a tourist, it should be obvious that you don’t leave your trash or cigarette butts somewhere on the ground, in the jungle or on the beach. Take plastic bags or straws from stores like Family Mart or 7-Eleven only when you really need them, because with every item you buy you will get mostly a straw or plastic bag. It may be exaggerated, but you get the point.
Pay also attention to the ocean. There is a lot of plastic inside it and many people just throw their trash in the ocean, when riding a boat. Please don’t do that. Also when snorkeling, you shouldn’t touch corals, step on them and of course don’t take them home with you. Unfortunately you can see many Asian tourists doing all that as they don’t pay any attention to the nature or their surroundings; luckily it is rarely among Western tourists.
Greetings are a little bit different in Thailand than you are used to. Although handshaking is done sometimes, mostly only because the Thais know that Europeans etc. do so. That’s no rule or thing Thais usually do. In Thailand you can see employees in hotels or restaurants to be very polite and greet you with a “Wai”. In doing so, the hands are folded in front of the chest or the face, depending on the status of the opposite and then they kind of nod with the head. You will recognize it. You don’t have to reciprocate this, but you can do it if you know how. Otherwise, a friendly hello or in Thai Sawadee Khrap (male) / Sawadee Ka (female) is enough. This definitely guarantees a smile on their face when you greet them in the local language.
Don’t lose your temper
Thais take everything calmly and relaxed. Stress doesn’t really exist and even if something doesn’t suit them, they usually just leave it or take it anyway. You can’t change it. The same occurs to problems. It’s best to just avoid them and to keep your face, like the Thais say. You should also consider this and never get loud, talk loudly in public or get upset. That leads to nothing in Thailand. Just stay friendly and avoid conflicts. That way you are keeping your face, which is a lot easier for the life in Thailand.
To point at something
As mentioned in number 5, you shouldn’t point at statues of Buddha or monks with your finger or the soles of your feet. This applies not only in these situations, but in general. You shouldn’t do this with pictures of the king or the royal family, but also not with other people. The soles of the feet are, so to speak, the dirtiest part of the body and it is absolutely rude to point this out to people. So be sure to sit down not showing the sole even if you put one leg over another. Particularly bad are some visitors e.g. which put up their feet on the train or the bus and show their soles to other people, that’s an absolute no-go. If you want to show something, then nod in the direction, but don’t use your finger. It’s easy for you as a tourist to make a mistake, but it’s nice to be able to stick to such simple rules.
Despite of some places where you can find them, Shishas for example are largely forbidden. E-cigarettes, on the other hand, are completely illegal and using one can lead to get arrested. Even the liquids that you need to vape an e-cigarette are banned in Thailand and may not even be imported into the country. There are even jail time and high penalties if you get caught. Leave your e-cigarette at home as long as this law still prevails in Thailand. Normal cigarettes are allowed as long as you are at least 5 meters away from public buildings.
Smoking on the beach
The smoking on beaches we list as a separate point, because this always causes amazement for tourists. For some time now, Thailand has banned smoking on most beaches, as thousands of cigarette butts have been found in the sand while cleaning up. At some beaches, e.g. in Phuket, therefore, small smoking areas near the beach with ashtrays were built. On Koh Samui this is not too much forced out, but again you should abstain from smoking on the beach or at least bring you a container for disposing the cigarettes and don’t bury them in the sand. Anyway, smoking on the beach can lead to high penalties if you get caught by the police.
Overstay in Thailand is no trivial offense. Although it is often read on the Internet or on forums that a few days don’t matter and you only have to pay a small fine of 500 baht per day, don’t do this on purpose. If you make it to the airport or the border with an expired visa, you pay the fine and leave. However, if you are previously caught up by an immigration official or police with an expired visa, you can quickly go to deportation and spend a few days in jail. If you overdraw your visa for a longer period of time, you may even get a re-entry ban of several years. The better alternative is always to visit the immigration and extend your exempt stamp for another 30 days with a price of 1900 baht.
Rules while eating
There are also some rules regarding food, which is more about courtesy and local customs. You should e.g. don’t eat with the fork, but the spoon. The fork serves only to get the food on the spoon. A knife is usually only present when you eat Western dishes such as a piece of meat. With noodle soups, chopsticks are used. Some dishes are sometimes even eaten by hand, which is partly the case with the kitchen from the Isaan, Thailand’s northeastern region.
If you are in a restaurant, you should pay attention to a few more things. At the table you should neither clean your nose nor burp. If you absolutely have to do it, then turn away from the table or even better, go to the bathroom. Never try to clean your teeth with your fingers from food scraps; toothpicks are usually placed on the tables.
There are a lot of more rules you can discover when staying a long time in Thailand. As a tourist those 15 are enough to cope with. If you remember them and try to avoid those mistakes, you are going to be just fine during your holiday. Even if you are making mistakes, you are a tourist and it’s mostly easy forgiven. Don’t worry too much and enjoy your time in Thailand.
Any Questions about No Goes on Koh Samui?