When my friend took a gap year before heading off to university I was envious. I’d considered doing the same myself but had decided I’d rather take advantage of a year of decreased tuition fees and think about travelling afterward. When he got back we celebrated, talked about his holiday and looked through his photos. Now, a few years later, I’m asking him about the trip again, this time to get any advice he might have as I plan my own trip to this incredible country.

The first piece of advice he had for me is that I shouldn’t just arrive in Bangkok and settle there. He said that a lot of travellers fell into that trap, lured in by the sheer variety of cheap bars, entertainment and wealth of hostels there. He said that I should have my first destination clearly planned out. I might also want to make sure that there were no festivals going on in the city when I arrived, as they can make travelling around that much harder.

So, I picked my first destination (Ko Samui, as I wanted to try out scuba diving) and he moved onto his next piece of advice. In any area you visit where you want to do something specifically, (like scuba diving, or jungle treks) it’s worth shopping around. You’ll often find that the people services where most passengers disembark won’t be the cheapest or the best quality. If you take the time to actually look around, rather than settling for the first merchant you meet, you’ll likely find an option which is as good, or better, without having to fork over nearly as many baht.

Making sure you get your travel plans sorted was his next piece of advice. There are plenty of scams that the various taxi services run, so be sure to agree a price before you take off, make sure the driver is taking you to the right destination and don’t take anybody’s word when they tell you a nearby attraction is closed, but that they’ll take you to a similar one if you like.

That was all I managed to get out of him advice-wise, as the conversation quickly turned to how much fun he’d had and how I was going to enjoy it immensely. He thought I should definitely try and get an elephant ride at some point, claiming it was one of the best points of his trip. I’m not sure if I could stand the height.