The Buffalo Tours’ team is full of seasoned travellers, destination experts and professed food fanatics – but no one knows travel and tours in Southeast Asia quite like our tour guides. That’s why, when it comes to the travel basics, we go to our on-the-ground travel experts. Thankfully, we have a whole team of them!
This time around in our Tips from a Tour Guide series, we caught up with Thailand tour guide Yotpisai Namutawong, who’s a pro at making the most of a trip to Thailand. This month, he’s giving his pro Do’s and Don’ts for surviving Thailand’s craziest and most exciting festival… Songkran!
1. Dress Smart
“During Songkran Festival, everyone looking to soak through every person who walks within their line of water gun fire. Dress comfortably so that you can move easily – either to dodge them or get in on the excitement! Plus, lots of Thai people dress in their most colourful clothes for Songkran – so you should, too!”
2. Protect Your Electronics
“Electronics and other gadgets like mobile phones, watches, keys and music players are safest in a plastic bag or water proof bag. Otherwise, you might find your electronics just as soaked as you are – but probably not having as much fun!”
3. Leave the Valuables at Home
“Because the festival is so busy, theft is a bit more common during Songkran. Money, your passport and other valuables should probably stay at home if they aren’t necessary. Before you go out, photocopy your ID or passport to carry with you in case you need it for currency exchange or identification. The, put it in plastic bag or water proof bag. If you are carrying money, credit cards or anything else easily snatched, carry it in a safe pocket or belt wallet to avoid pick pockets who might be out to kill all the fun.”
4. Remember Religious Customs
“Both for cultural reasons and for safety, Songkran isn’t a time for you to hang out in a swim suit. Dress modestly to respect locals, who are often spending the holiday praying or upholding spiritual traditions. Just because you cover up a bit more doesn’t mean you’re going to miss out on the fun!”
5. Come Prepared To Play!
“Songkran is a time for fun! So, don’t forget your equipment to join the water festival. Water guns, buckets and bottles of water are easy to “reload” and get in on the action. There are a lot of water guns to buy in the market or festival area, so even if you don’t bring some with you, you’ll likely find something on the way. Avoid high pressure water guns, though – they’re illegal (and no fun)!”
6. Pick a Base
“Everywhere is a great place to enjoy Songkran, but the best places in Bangkok are probably Khaosan Road with lots of security. Silom Road is also a great place to go, but be aware of pickpockets here, since as many as ten thousand people will gather here to enjoy. If you’re in Chiang Mai, head to Coo Mueng (the city canal) – it’s a local favourite!
7. Plan your Transport
“Traffic can be very slow in and around areas where the festival is taking place, so plan your transport ahead of time. A ‘Tuk Tuk’ is a speedy way to go, and a great vantage point to either enjoy the scene or splash people with water guns as you drive by! If you take a taxi, have them drop you nearby and walk to the festival. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck for hours!
8. Map Out Your Day
“Plan your way to get to your “home base” and make sure to leave a few hours on either side. The skytrains and subways will be busier than usual, so your commute might take a while. Check your location and plan ahead so you aren’t rushing or missing out on all of the fun. If you’re heading to the airport, make sure to leave plenty early – even four to five hours in advance!”
9. Be Nice!
“Not everyone in Thailand will want to get in on the excitement, so make sure you’re careful not to splash those who don’t want to participate. If you want to splash a passerby, make sure they’re ready to have fun with you – ask them before you douse them with a bucket! Plus, it’s a big no-no to splash small children, the elderly and Buddhist monks – so make sure you’re paying attention!”
10. Eat Smart
“You’ll be pretty hungry after the festivities, but the city will be busy during the event. If you’re looking for a quick bite, head to a convenience store for something to eat. If you would rather have some street food, make sure you find a place that hasn’t had food sitting out for too long (hot food is the best)! If you want a meal out, make a booking in advance during Songkran – it’s often too busy to get a table right away!”
Ready to experience Thailand’s most colourful festival? See Buffalo Tours’ Thailand tours and plan your unforgettable journey around Thailand’s own new year celebration!