Know Before You Go: Bargaining, Taxis, and Speaking English in Thailand
It’s been exactly a week since I arrived in Thailand. It is my first time in Asia and it’s been a very intense few days. Although this place is exactly how I imagined it would be, there were still many things that came by surprise. I got a lot of tips and advice from my friends and cousin, but I wished I’d gotten more information regarding the culture and language issues before coming here. Here are some important things to know about Thailand.
First of all, not everything here is cheap. Of course, most of the stuff is cheaper than it is in Europe but not than it is in Poland. Also, I think that the famous bargaining thing doesn’t work that much anymore. You can get lower prices for some things, but in many places I’ve encountered salespeople who didn’t agree to lower the price–even just by a little bit. Maybe I need to learn some super tactics or maybe I will suck at it forever. For now neither my friend nor I has managed to get any great discounts.
Some things here are also pretty expensive–I was shocked by the price of the sunscreen; it was around seven times more expensive than it is in my country! I’ve checked various places and ended up paying a lot anyway.
Even if you are lucky enough to deal with people who speak a little English, you will have a lot of trouble understanding what they’re saying.
Also, if you happen to be a girl with a big feet, good luck! I was not able to buy myself simple flip flops because apparently my feet are too big! Just for the record, I wear a size 39-40. When I finally found a place that had my size, the owner refused to give me a discount because as he said, “Bigger shoe, bigger price.” My advice: if you have big feet, bring any necessary footwear with you.
If you are used to traveling to countries where people speak more or less decent English, you should be aware that Thailand is a bit different in that regard. I was (and still am) not able to understand what people say to me here. Even if you are lucky enough to deal with people who speak a little English, you will have a lot of trouble understanding what they’re saying.
They don’t pronounce “r,” and in general, it’s just impossible to know what they’re saying most of the time. Also, they won’t understand what you say to them. You will be misunderstood many times, and you will have to deal with the consequences.
Know Before You Go: Bargaining, Taking Taxis, and Speaking English
I accidentally boarded a bus going to the airport instead of the local night market. I had asked the driver several times if he was going to the night market and he just kept repeating, “Yes yes yes yes.” So, I got on the bus hoping that it was the right one and only after a while did I realize that the other passengers had suitcases with them.
It looked suspicious to me (who goes to the night market with a suitcase?), so I started asking the other passengers where the bus was going. Finally, some American told me that it was going to the airport! I started to shout at the driver, asking him why he didn’t look at the paper I’d given him (the hotel receptionist had written, “night market” in big letters) and asking him why “night market” sounded like “airport” to him.
After some negotiating, he took us back to our hostel. There was a couple waiting for that bus – they’d started to worry that they wouldn’t be able to catch their plane.
In the end, we got on the correct bus and saw the famous night market, which was amazing. But this situation happened to us a few times and made me wonder why none of my friends warned me how difficult it would be to understand and be understood by Thai people.
If you’re ever trying to catch a taxi with a meter, don’t give up.
You need a lot of patience Thailand, and you better get some practice before you come to this part of the world. I got scammed in Bangkok when taking a tuk tuk so I decided that from then on, I would only take official taxis that used the meter.
To my surprise, it was very challenging to do this; drivers don’t want to use the meter and always prefer settling on a fixed price instead. They demand a lot of money that I refuse to pay, and I have to stop around seven to ten taxis to finally find a driver who agrees to use the meter.
If you’re ever trying to catch a taxi with a meter, don’t give up. Keep stopping them until you find someone who will take you on your conditions. Believe me, you’ll save a lot of money and you’ll know that you are taking a ride with an honest driver who won’t drop you in the middle of nowhere. I got scammed the first day I arrived in Bangkok and trust me, you don’t want that to happen to you.
You need a lot of patience Thailand, and you better get some practice before you come to this part of the world.
Also, don’t be surprised if your hostel/bungalow doesn’t look like it did in the pictures you found on the internet. No matter how many platforms you check – Hostelworld, Trip Advisor, Booking, etc., you will end up surprised by what you’ve booked.
My first hostel looked like a fairytale place on the internet and ended up being under constructions with a lot of noise. So just don’t expect too much if you are a backpacker and be grateful if you have hot water (I wasn’t so lucky).
Overall, the first week in Thailand was a bit overwhelming and exhausting but I really like it here and I can’t wait to see the sites!
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Photo credits for Know Before You Go: Bargaining, Taking Taxis, and Speaking English Joanna Kowalewska.