Stuff happens, and at inopportune times. So it’s best that you’re prepared. We will have a group first aid kit, but it is prudent to have a personal one as well. Not a huge one that will take care of any possible accident or disease that could happen. You’d need an entire hospital and a staff for that. What you want is something that will take care of minor problems that occur so that it doesn’t get worse, and for those with existing medical conditions, something that can make sure those conditions are taken care of. Plus, we’re not going to have enough NSAIDs, bandages, or Immodium for everyone; you are responsible for bringing your own.
Now, the easiest way to do this is purchase a premade first aid kit, and add on to it. The best ones for international travel are ones that are specific for that, such as the one above (which you can purchase at REI). But any first aid kit is better than none.
Continue reading What to Bring – A Personal First Aid Kit for International Travel
Of course you’re going to need personal stuff…toothbrush, deodorant, medication, sunscreen, etc. Luckily, most items are readily available in Thailand, as long as you’re not too picky about brands. So don’t worry about bringing a month’s supply of shampoo or soap, unless you HAVE to have a particular brand. Just bring a few days worth, and buy what you need when you get there.
Items that can be easily purchased in Thailand include:
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Hair products such as gel, mouse, etc.
- Toothpaste and toothbrushes
- Moisturizing lotions (although when the humidity is 90%…)
- Shaving cream
- Over the counter medications (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.)
- Laundry detergent
Continue reading What to Bring – Personal Items
You’ll need money in Thailand. In Thailand, the currency is the baht, and 30 baht is roughly equivalent to US $1. If you want to check the current exchange rates, a good site is xe.com. Dollars are not very widely accepted here in Thailand, so you will have to get some baht when you’re here.
So what’s the best way to get it? Forget traveller’s checks; they are a total waste of time and money. You actually get WORSE exchange rates for traveller’s checks, and they aren’t honored everywhere. And don’t bring a lot of US dollars to Thailand, either. The best way to access your money is through the thousands of ATMs all over Thailand. This gives you several advantages:
- The best exchange rates – since the banks are negotiating the rates, you get much better exchange rates than if you go to a bank with US dollars and definitely better rates than the tourist exchange booths.
- Convenience – ATMs are literally everywhere in Thailand. Just make sure you know your pin number!
- Reasonable fees – the transaction fees are reasonable. It’s about $1.00 for the Thai bank and $1.50 by your US bank. To minimize fees, you’ll want to minimize the number of withdrawals. I usually withdrew about $150 at a time, and I never had to go to the ATM more than once a week.
- Security – Now you can withdrawl funds as you need them, and not have to carry large amounts of currency or traveller’s checks.
Continue reading Money, Money, Money
There are some critical pieces of paperwork that you need to bring to Thailand:
- Extra passport photos
- Driver’s license or other official ID
- Westminster College Student/Employee ID
- Health insurance card (we provide this)
- Credit card (preferably not American Express)
- Bank/ATM card
- Travel itinerary/airline ticket
- Written prescriptions for ALL prescriptions you are on
- Eye prescription if you wear corrective lenses
- Next-of-kin information
Keep these with you in transit, so make sure they are in your carry-on luggage. Also, please make a copy of all of these, and have them in another part of your luggage. Westminster College will also have a copy of the paperwork that you submitted, and I will have .pdf copies of your paperwork that I will place on a secure server, so that we can have access to it. However, it is a good idea to have a copy of this paperwork with someone at home, just in case.
By the way, you don’t have to bring every piece of ID or card from your wallet/purse. Your Smith’s Fresh Values Card and Salt Lake City Public Library Cards are not going to be used in Thailand. Leave those at home.
We take global communications for granted. We can call, email, text, message, and video chat. We can do it the old-fashioned way, on landlines, or on cell phones, satellite phones, smart phones, tablets, or computers. We can use Facebook, Twitter, Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, iMessage, and many more applications to communicate. While it may be a bit more challenging to communicate when traveling abroad, especially outside of North America, East Asia, and Western Europe, it has become much easier to take advantage of this brave new world of global communications, even in the most remote locations in the world.
So, how will be be communicating while in Thailand? How will you be able to call home to friends and family? Will there be Wi-fi access? Are there data plans available? I hope this post will answer some of these questions. Continue reading Communicating while in Thailand
We live in a world surrounded by high tech electronics. Rarely do we leave home without a smart phone. We also have digital cameras, video players, laptops, tablets, smart watches, Bluetooth speakers, fitness trackers, heart rate monitors, etc. But when you’re traveling like we will be, electronics are both good and bad: they can either enhance your experience, or cause more trouble than they’re worth. Think about these pros and cons:
Pros: they can record your experience in audio, photos, or video, allow you to communicate with the world, entertain you on a flight or a van ride, or allow you to access information that you may need.
Cons: they are expensive, heavy, delicate, require power, and are a target for theft. They can also isolate you from the travel experience; I’ve seen too many people so obsessed with electronically recording everything around them, or so busy on their texting/email/Facebook/Instagram applications that they miss the true experience.
So before bringing every electronic toy you own, think about if the pros outweigh the cons. Also, try to bring devices that will do multiple things (such as a smartphone). Here are my suggestions for electronics: Continue reading What to Bring – Electronics
Count on packing pretty light. Bring one medium bag to check in, and a carry-on that can double as an everyday bag to carry with you for the trip A backpack or courier-type bag is appropriate for the carry-on.
Per Hong Kong Airlines, you are allowed to check two bags. However, for this trip, you are allowed ONLY ONE. It must fit this criteria:
- 3 dimensions of each bag may not exceed 62 in. (158 cm)
- Weight of each bag may not exceed 50 lb (23 Kg)
DO NOT OVERPACK. One medium bag should be sufficient, along with a carry-on large enough to carry at least a days worth of clothing and gear. If you need something, you can always get it cheap in Bangkok. We will be traveling by van from Bangkok to Kalasin to Chiang Mai and back to Bangkok, and there isn’t a lot of cargo room. If you have two large suitcases, your van mates will not be happy. Continue reading What to Bring – Baggage
We will be experiencing just about every mode of transportation during this trip. We will be flying, driving in minivans (a lot, through city traffic as well as curvy, mountainous roads), riding in speedboats, riding in the backs of pickups over rough mountain roads, riding in tuk-tuks, riding bikes, riding tractors, and even riding on elephants.
Unfortunately, traveling causes misery for many people in the form of motion sickness. Motion sickness results from when the motion that your inner ear senses differs from the motion that you visualize. Many people experience motion sickness to one degree or another, some more severe than others. Some only get sick on ships during the roughest seas, while others can experience it during short drivers or even while skiing on an overcast day. Motion sickness progresses from a feeling of uneasiness to sweating and dizziness, and progresses to nausea and vomiting. Symptoms are exacerbated by lack of ventilation, inability to see outside the vehicle (and visualize the movement), being inside an enclosed space, or having anxiety or fear of traveling.
Estimates of the prevalence of motion sickness varies, from 3% to 60%, depending on the study. Many researchers believe almost everyone suffers from motion sickness, given strong enough motion stimuli. Women and children are generally more at risk for motion sickness. Continue reading Treatments for Motion Sickness
Vietnam is a very popular choice for travelers to Southeast Asia, and for good reason. It’s very cheap to travel there, the people are welcoming, the locale is breathtaking, the cities are vibrant, the culture is unique, the history is complex, and the food is amazing. There is a pretty good travel infrastructure in most of Vietnam, so it’s quite easy to travel there. And there’s something there for just about everyone: the culture buffs, the beach bum, the adventure traveler, the foodie, the city explorers, shoppers….
Getting there – I suggest flying to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) from Bangkok. Flights are relatively inexpensive (roughly $40 one way on a discount airline). From Hanoi, you can then fly or take a train to Da Nang or Ho Chi Minh City, and then fly back to Bangkok. Air Asia, Nok Air, and Jetstar all fly from Bangkok to several Vietnamese cities. Please keep in mind that many of these flights depart from Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok, not Suvarnabhumi Airport, the airport we arrive and depart from. It’s anywhere from 45 – 90 minute drive via taxi or shuttle bus between the two airports, depending on traffic, so keep this in mind if you are arriving in Bangkok and departing for the US on the same day. Continue reading Vietnam
For students who are planning on staying afterwards and traveling on your own, here is some advice on where to go, getting around, visas and passports, and other sundry comments.
Where to go and for how long?
Bangkok is a great base for travel to a number of places. Within a one hour flight, you can reach Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Chiang Mai, Southern Thailand, and Northern Malaysia. Within a two hour flight, you can reach Singapore and the rest of Malaysia, as well as parts of China. Within a four hour flight, you can reach a number of places, including Bali, the Philippines, Indonesia, more of China….. Continue reading For Those Staying Afterwards….