Poverty is still a problem in many parts of Thailand, so be prepared.
Although most of the major cities and tourist centers are fairly developed, there still exists poverty in isolated places throughout the country. If you are a first-time visitor, you should understand that many of the modern conveniences to which you might be accustomed back home aren't readily available if you stray away from the well-traveled tourist paths.
Even in cities like Bangkok, poverty still is hard to overlook. You'll occasionally encounter beggars in the street, but they tend to be much more passive and non-confrontational compared with beggars you might see in the West. Because Thailand values tourism so strongly, the government has enacted numerous measures to clean its image. As such, it is highly unlikely that you will ever encounter overt poverty head on.
To Give or Not to Give
Many people ask us whether or not they should give money to homeless people and beggars. Based on our research and experience, we feel that it is perfectly acceptable to give or not give. The choice is entirely up to you, and we would rather not bias your predilections, customs, or feelings with our own personal opinions.
What about Giving Money to Monks?
Again, this is a personal choice. You'll occasionally see monks during your stay in Thailand. Sometimes, they'll be going about their business with a newspaper, iPod, or shopping bag. Other types of monks, however, live almost exclusively on goodwill and donations. You can spot them easily because of their brass offering bowls. Feel free to give them money if you want, but you are not obliged to do so.