This is Thailand

 |  October 31, 2013

For those of you with questions regarding Thailand, Thai culture, history, tourism, laws, rules, food, nightlife, subculture, dating, or generally anything as long as it is relevant, we have a panel of experts ready to respond to your enquiries. Email:

I want to recycle my old plastic and cardboard in Chiang Mai. What do I do?

Sophie (intern): There are many places in Chiang Mai where you can go to recycle all your plastic and cardboard, and get paid for it! One of the best and largest ones is on the northeastern corner of the city, where Nong Hoi Road intersects with Mahidol Road. Go to to check the recycling prices.

My Thai cell phone was stolen. Can I keep my old number or do I need to get a new one?

Sophie: Unfortunately, setting up anti-theft or location service applications aren’t very reliable, so it would be best to go to your service provider (AIS, TrueMove, etc.) and ask them to either help locate your phone or disable the service. If your service is disabled, it’s time to get a new phone. And I’m sorry to say that unless you have a monthly plan, you’re going to need a new number as well.

Ever since moving to Thailand, I keep getting shocked by my electrical outlets and appliances. Why is this happening? Is there any way to prevent it?

Sophie: Many people in Thailand get shocked occasionally by hot water showers with electric heaters, washing machines, cooking appliances, and other appliances. The solution is proper grounding/earthing. For example, the hot water shower’s electrical heater, the electric stove, and the washing machine can be grounded. Compressors outside (which are connected to the units inside by copper tubing), and the rest of the house can be left alone. You can make the home safer at a low cost if only a few outlets and key appliances need to be grounded. With proper grounding, you should never get shocked again by cooking, washing, and other appliances. Just call your local electrician (we hear good things about Chiang Mai Handyman; visit or call 053 218 271). You can also check out for more useful information.

How do I get a Thai driver’s license as a farang? 

Sophie:  If you have an international driving permit (IDP), all you have to do is take the eye test along with the reaction test. If you do not have an IDP, you need to take the aforementioned tests as well as the written and practical driving tests. This can all be done at the Traffic Department building which is located in the compound directly opposite the end of the airport runway, on Hang Dong Road. Requirements for obtaining a Thai driving license are:
– Valid passport with valid Non-Immigrant Visa
– Doctor’s certificate indicating the applicant is in good health (available from most clinics and hospitals)
– Valid home country driving license (if you do not have one, you will have to sit through the full test)
– Proof of address – this can be a valid work permit, a letter of residency from your embassy, or a letter from immigration
– Signed photocopies of all documents

All documents must be valid and no more than 30 days old. Licenses are usually issued fairly quickly after all the tests have been completed and all the paperwork has been verified.

Is it safe to walk around Chiang Mai at night?

Sophie: Chiang Mai is generally a safe town, you just need to have some common sense and be smart about where you go. Obviously, walking in a narrow, unlit alley at night anywhere in the world isn’t the brightest idea. Certain measures that should be taken are unique to Chiang Mai, however. Be sure to use discretion when going out, such as not exposing or carrying your valuables in plain sight. Chiang Mai’s Walking Street and Night Bazaar are a particular focus for petty criminals who are aware that these areas are swarming with tourists who carry cash, cameras, cell phones, passports, and other valuables. Rule of thumb: if you are walking around Chiang Mai (or anywhere for that matter) at night, make sure you are not alone.

How can I avoid MSG in Thailand?

Sophie: MSG is commonly used in restaurants throughout Thailand. It is often added as a garnish, as well as included in the cooking process. Watch out for the street-side noodle stalls where the standard practice is to slap a spoonful of MSG onto the finished dish. The easiest way to say you don’t want MSG in your food is “mai sai phong churot.” Most restaurants and street stalls are used to foreigners asking this. There are also plenty of restaurants that never use MSG; sometimes they will have a sign on the door or a note in the menu, but you can always ask to make sure.