I like to use a checklist of things to pack and do for a long trip to make sure I don’t forget anything. This one is specifically for Thailand. You can add and subtract certain items, but I would be really careful about dropping items. I have a packing list you can print out here in .pdf format. I would literally check off items as you pack them.
It’s a long flight to Bangkok, there’s no way around it. It is almost on the opposite side of the globe. It’s not quite as long as a flight to Africa, or India, or Australia, but it’s close. It’s a 2 hour 20 minute flight from SLC to SFO, a 3 hour layover in SFO, a 14 hour flight from SFO to HKG, a 3 hour layover in HKG, and a 3 hour 20 minute flight from HKG to BKK. It’s a long long day! And during this “day”, we pass through 13 time zones and the international date line. We miraculously land close to 2 days after we leave. You will have no sense of time or place; your body will be completely out of whack.
But there are ways to make this flight, if not completely enjoyable, at least tolerable. You have to do three things: bring the right things for the flight, wear the right things during the flight, and do the right thing during the flight. Continue reading How to Survive the (Gulp!) 24+ Hour Flight to Thailand
Here are some more unusual items to pack that will be VERY useful on this trip, or really ANY international trip:
Zip Lock bags, various sizes – These are incredibly useful, and take up almost no room. They can be used to pack up wet or dirty clothing, used to store liquids when going through airport security, waterproof important documents or electronics, pack potentially leaking toiletries, etc. This site has some other wonderful ideas for these incredibly useful items.
Garbage bags – For the same reasons as above, but for bigger and bulkier, or more, things. And they make a handy emergency poncho.
Duct tape – This is obvious. You can repair your bag, use it as a label, repair clothing….its uses are only limited by your imagination. Here are some more ideas. You can bring an entire roll, or roll some around your water bottle or other cylindrical object.
Zip Ties – These are great impromptu luggage locks, but they also work great for repairs. Bring a bunch of miscellaneous sizes. Continue reading Miscellaneous Items to Bring
Thailand is hot and humid, especially in May and June. The monsoon season is just beginning, and the air feels saturated with moisture. It may not be quite as hot as August in Salt Lake City, but the humidity leaves you soaking after just walking a city block. It’s tempting to wear a t-shirt and shorts all the time. And if we were in the US, we would. But we’re not in the US.
In most of Asia, academics are considered at the highest level of achievement. Becoming a professor is highly respected, and there is a lot of status in being a university student. Undergraduate students are expected to wear uniforms. Luckily, we will be doing service work, so we won’t need to dress up as much. But be aware that appearances are important in Asia, and as Americans we really do dress casually (dare I say slovenly) compared to the rest of the world. Continue reading What Not To Wear…..
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.
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
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.
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