Clothing Tips for Hot Tropical Weather


After years of living in the tropics, I can tell you with confidence that you can’t dress like you can at home. On average, the daily high temperature in Bangkok is 35°C or more, so it’s important to dress comfortably.

Here are my five clothing tips for dealing with the tropical weather for expats and people visiting Thailand and other warm countries on holiday:

  1. Forget about coats, or anything with long sleeves. Bring one long sleeved garment for temples and other cultural sites, then wear short sleeved shirts the rest of the time. If you’re in quite a conservative country, avoid anything that shows your shoulders.
  2. Wear thin underwear, since you’ll sweat a lot. My first few months here I wore the same underwear as at home and ended up sweating everywhere I went. For men, get some thin cotton boxer shorts. For women, forego the usual padded bra and wear a breathable cotton bra, an adhesive bra or nipple covers to stop yourself from getting sweaty during the daytime.
  3. Get a pair of comfortable walking or casual shoes. I have a pair of Lacoste sneakers I wear 99% of the time. They fit in between casual and sporty and look good while keeping my feet cool.
  4. Get used to sweating. It will happen, although you will get used to it with time. Avoid wearing overly tight clothes that make your sweating obvious – loose is better!
  5. Bring some formal clothes, or at least “smart casual.” There are lots of nice restaurants and rooftop bars here, and they have strict dress codes. You don’t need a suit, but it helps to have a nice shirt or dress and some stylish heels or leather shoes.

Surviving in the tropics isn’t as tough as people make it out to be, and you’ll adjust quickly. Follow the tips above and you’ll avoid the downsides of tropical living (the heeeeat) while you get all of the benefits.

Is Thailand Actually Cheap?


Thailand has a reputation as a very cheap place to live. Whenever I talk with my friends in Taipei and other countries, they always comment on how much I must be saving by living in Thailand compared to somewhere else.

At first glance, Thailand is very cheap. There are many expats here that survive for under 30,000 baht per month. That’s less than $900 US dollars, and that’s their entire salary. They can rent a very modest apartment, eat local food and live pretty well for this kind of salary.

In this way, living in Thailand is very cheap. But if you want to have a better lifestyle – the type of lifestyle you can get in most Western countries, with a house and car – Thailand can get very expensive, very quickly.

For example, I was looking at used cars on the other day. Because of the import taxes in Thailand, even a very basic Volkswagen Golf from two to three years ago costs more than $30,000 US dollars. That’s a huge amount for what most of us would think of as a simple, affordable car.

The only way to reduce the cost of buying a car in Thailand is to buy a Thai-made car. Lots of Japanese companies like Honda and Toyota have licensing agreements with Thailand and make their cars in Thai factories, thus avoiding the import tax. If you want a simple, made-in-Thailand car, prices are low. If you’d prefer a Ferrari (or even a BMW) you should be prepared to pay two, three or even four times as much as in other countries.

There are some ways in which Thailand is cheap, aside from the basics. It’s also very cheap to go to hospital here. Medical care costs virtually nothing. I had lasik two months ago for just over $2,000 US dollars, which is a fraction of what it would cost from a good clinic in Australia. You can get dental veneers done in Thailand for $200-300 per tooth, compared to a fortune more elsewhere. In this way, Thailand is an amazingly cheap place to live.

So, to answer, Thailand is very cheap if you can live a Thai-style life, but quite expensive otherwise. It’s also expensive in ways that we often take for granted as being cheap, such as buying a car or searching for a house. Land, vehicles, luxury goods and just about anything imported costs a lot in Thailand, and over time, those costs can add up to an expensive lifestyle.

My One Gripe About Shopping in Thailand: Why are Imported Products so Expensive?


For the most part, Thailand is a shopper’s paradise. There are more shopping malls in Bangkok than you could ever possibly need, with more going up every day. It’s easy to find very cheap clothing, electronics and other stuff from malls like Platinum and Pantip. Markets are everywhere and you can haggle the price of almost everything.

However, there’s one way in which shopping in Thailand isn’t such a good experience. Imported products, from clothing to food, cost an absolute fortune in Thailand due to the import taxes applied to basically everything.

Case in point: I wanted to buy a pair of formal shoes (I have to travel to a friend’s wedding in California in January). I looked at reviews online and found that good brands were Loake, which is made in the UK, and Allen Edmonds, which is made in the USA. I googled “Allen Edmonds Bangkok” to see if they were available here and couldn’t find anything. Luckily Loake is sold here in the department store in Siam Paragon.

I visited to try on a few pairs and choose the ones I liked. The price here is almost THREE TIMES as much as they cost in the UK. I’m fine with paying 20% more, but paying three times the retail price for a pair of shoes is crazy.

I’m not the first person to notice this. There are hundreds of threads on Thai Visa about the cost of imported goods (wine, in particular, is ridiculously overpriced here) and many other bloggers have commented on this before. It’s not just shoes; everything that’s made outside of Thailand or China is highly overpriced in 99% of Thai shops.

I ended up giving up on the shoes and just buying a men’s belt for wearing with jeans and having it shipped here. It costs slightly more than it would to get it in the UK, but I at least get them at a price that’s close to the regular retail price. Hopefully they don’t get held at customs on the way here, which would mean I have to pay another huge tax to receive them in Thailand.

I like living in Thailand a lot and love shopping here, if it’s for cheap things like locally made clothing or electronics, but the prices for imported goods in Thailand need to get more reasonable if the malls want people to shop here instead of flying to Singapore or Hong Kong, or buying o

Should You Stay on Khao San Road?

Fried insects for sale on Khao San Road, perhaps found in a nearby hotel room.

Fried insects for sale on Khao San Road, perhaps found in a nearby hotel room.

Over the last two months I’ve had several friends visit me in Thailand. Two made the mistake of staying on Khao San Road. One didn’t. His experience was (I estimate) 100 times better, at least from the perspective of actually experiencing what Bangkok is about, than those of my friends who stayed on Khao San Road.

Here’s why I don’t like Khao San Road: it’s not a good sample of life in Thailand. People that stay there have the misguided idea that they’re staying somewhere that’s “uniquely Thai” or “off the beaten path” when they are actually staying on a street that’s in a bubble away from normal Thai life.

The entire street is full of hawkers selling cheap products, usually at silly prices. The food isn’t even remotely close to actual Thai food! I bought Pad Thai on Khao San Road and it was just cheap instant ramen noodles with sauce, while people that stay there rave about how “authentic” it is. It’s the same story for other Thai dishes there — Western “Thai” food that’s watered down and poorly made, all sold to people that aren’t aware.

The other problem is the quality of most hotels on Khao San Road. There are some nice hotels there (the Dang Derm Hotel is the only one I recommend to friends, if they insist on staying there) but many are poorly maintained and are infested with all sorts of vermin. I stayed on Khao San Road the first time I visited Thailand (we all make mistakes) and remember seeing more cockroaches in the three nights I was there than in the last two plus years in this country.

If you want to experience a bubble life that’s completely unlike Bangkok, stay in Khao San Road. If not, stay in a hotel along Sukhumvit Road, preferably from Phrom Phong to On Nut. It’s still a “bubble” (this is the most upmarket residential part of Bangkok) but it’s at least a better sample of life in this city than Khao San Road is.

Visiting Pattaya, A Convenient (But Awful) Beach Resort in Thailand


Living in Bangkok makes it easy to access places like Phuket and Koh Samui, both of which have beautiful beaches, by plane. However, sometimes I don’t want to buy an expensive plane ticket (prices go up a lot on weekends and major holidays) to visit the beach, and just want to catch the bus to my destination.

I’ve written before about visiting Hua Hin, one of my favorite beach resorts in Thailand. Hua Hin is close to Bangkok, but it isn’t quite as close as Pattaya, and as such doesn’t attract as many visitors.

Pattaya is a beach resort city that’s about two hours from Bangkok. It’s easy to get there from Ekamai Bus Terminal, which is located close to Ekamai BTS Station on the BTS Skytrain. I get the bus there for just over 100 baht and usually arrive within two hours, although sometimes it can take longer.

Pattaya has a lot of beautiful resort hotels, including the new Hilton right beside the beach (winner of several hotel awards and arguably the nicest place in town). There’s also the Dusit Thani and other nice places, many of which are older but have great facilities.

The beach in Pattaya is horrible, with lots of dirt and garbage, as well as street hawkers everywhere. At night, the entire road along the beach is full of prostitutes (this is a recurring theme in Pattaya, which I will talk about later) but there are other better beaches nearby Pattaya, including Jomtien, which is a quieter beach (but still not very quiet) just around the headland from Pattaya city.

The worst point of Pattaya is the constant sleazy nightlife that’s present everywhere in the city. Almost all hotels in Pattaya are full of older male tourists with escorts in various sleazy states of dress, including high end hotels. In Bangkok some hotels allow people to bring guests back (there is a list here so you can avoid them) but most nice hotels bar this type of nightlife from intruding into the property. It’s very annoying to pay over $100 per night for a beautiful room only to arrive at breakfast and feel like you’re in the middle of a dirty nightclub.

Aside from this, Pattaya is an alright beach resort and an okay break from life in Bangkok. With that said, I recommend spending an extra hour on the minivan and visiting Hua Hin instead, which has a much nicer beach and less of the sleaze factor of Pattaya. Hua Hin doesn’t have quite the selection of hotels and activities as Pattaya, but overall it’s a much better destination, especially for couples and families.