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Thailand Travel Guide
Last Updated: November 17, 2023
Thailand is the travel hub of Southeast Asia . It’s the most visited country and most visitors coming into the region fly into Bangkok and make that their base for doing the circuit as they backpack around Southeast Asia.
With its lush jungles, famous beaches, world-class diving, Earth shattering cuisine, and cheap prices, Thailand is actually my favorite country in the world! I’ve been coming to the country since 2005, lived there for 2 years, and always seem to be pulled back. It’s an easy country to travel and, because of the backpacker scene, you can meet a lot of other people there.
Thailand has a lot to offer travelers. You can backpack on a limited budget or you can live a luxurious travel life in fancy resorts on the beach.
Since the country is such a well-worn destination on the backpacking trail, everything is convenient and easy. However, there are still many off-the-beaten-path destinations away from the crowds and the higher prices they bring too.
This Thailand travel guide can show you how to travel the country like a pro, what to avoid, how much things cost, the best things to see and do, and everything in between.
Table of Contents
- Things to See and Do
- Typical Costs
- Suggested Budget
- Money-Saving Tips
- Where to Stay
- How to Get Around
- How to Stay Safe
- Best Places to Book Your Trip
- Related Blogs on Thailand
Click Here for City Guides
Top 5 things to see and do in thailand.
1. Visit Bangkok
Bangkok is a chaotic, must-see city. Explore temples, palaces, amazing markets, shops, one of the craziest nightlife scenes in the world, and, of course, eat all the amazing Thai food. At first, I didn’t like the city, but now it’s one of the places in which I feel most at home. Check out Khao San Road to see the backpacker’s haven, Thong Lor/Ekamai, the Grand Palace’s beautiful artwork and the emerald Buddha, and Chatuchak Weekend Market, where you can spend hours eating your way around the 15,000 stalls trying anything your heart desires. Bangkok is an onion that requires time to peel back.
2. Adventure around Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a city filled with temples, food markets, night markets, lots of cafes, and a chill vibe. It’s a good launching pad for multi-day jungle or visits to the nearby elephant sanctuary where you can volunteer to help rescued elephants. To get your fill of temples, head to Wat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai’s most famous temple (the pagoda supposedly contains relics of Buddha himself). Other temples to check out include Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Suan Dok, and Wat Chedi Luang. If you’re craving some adventure, you can go ziplining or white water rafting nearby (both cost around 4,000 THB for a day trip).
3. Hike in Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park , located about 2.5 hours north of Bangkok, is one of Thailand’s best national parks. It’s visually stunning, filled with lush flora and fauna, and even a few wild elephants. You can even visit the famous waterfall from the movie ‘The Beach’. Stay at the Greenleaf Guesthouse for the best tour/accommodation deals in the area.
4. Throw water during Songkran
Every April, Thais celebrate their new year by holding an enormous, three-day water fight. Songkran is meant to wash away the old and begin the year anew. This once-in-a-lifetime water party is the biggest in Bangkok and Chiang Mai so book your hostel ahead of time. In Bangkok, there’s an opening ceremony at Wat Pho temple where they bathe the Buddha. The whole country turns into a big water fight and everyone plays along. If you’re around Songkran, be prepared to get wet everywhere you go those days (so keep your electronics sealed in plastic). Everyone outside is fair game.
5. Go to Ko Lanta
While Ko Lanta has become more developed in recent years, it’s still a paradise compared to its more developed neighbors. Wide, white sand beaches, cheap and delicious food, gorgeous sunsets, great caves, snorkeling, and diving make this one of my favorite spots in the country. For day trips by boat, check out the Trang Islands, beautiful limestone formations stretching out of the water and a great place to snorkel and see the marine life or head to Ko Rok for kayaking in perfect turquoise waters. Ko Lanta is one of the best islands in all of Thailand. Don’t miss it.
Other Things to See and Do in Thailand
1. visit the grand palace and wat pho.
Thailand’s royal palace, built at the end of the 18th century by King Rama I, is the official residence of the current monarch (though he doesn’t live there anymore; now it’s just used for ceremonies). It’s a striking place filled with numerous temples, including Wat Pra Kaeo, which houses the 15th-century Emerald Buddha. Nearby Wat Pho is famous for two things: a 150 foot (46 meters) reclining Buddha statue and a very relaxing massage school. The temple is wonderful and the statue really impressive. Both can be done back-to-back and should definitely not be missed. It costs 500 THB to enter the Grand Palace and 200 THB to enter Wat Pho.
2. Hike in Khao Sok National Park
Located in the south of Thailand, Khao Sok National Park is constantly rated as one of the best national parks in the country, offering incredible trekking, camping, limestone karsts, cooling rivers, and a glistening lake. The park offers semi-challenging hikes, tons of wildlife (including sun bears, elephants, gibbons, and more), walking paths, and incredible sunsets. Park entrance costs 200 THB. Half-day guided treks cost 940 THB. Try to spend at least one night here on the lake. The stargazing is top notch.
3. Hop around the ancient capitals
Thailand’s three ancient capitals — Sukhothai, Lopburi, and Ayutthaya — lie between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Visiting them on your way north is a unique way to head from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. You’ll get to learn about ancient Thailand and see rural life at its best. My favorite is Ayutthaya, which is located about 1.5 hours from Bangkok by train. It was the capital of Siam from 1350-1767 (it was razed in 1767 by the Burmese during the Burmese-Siamese War). You can visit on a day trip for just 900 THB. Lopburi, which is so old it is mentioned in texts by Marco Polo, was the capital in the mid-17th century while Sukhothai, founded in 1238, was the capital for over 140 years between the 13th and 14th centuries.
4. Relax on the tropical islands
Thailand has tons of beautiful tropical islands. Some are overdeveloped, while others only have a single bungalow on them. Some of my favorites are Ko Samet, Ko Taruato, Ko Lanta, Ko Chang , Ko Tao , Ko Jum, Ko Lipe , the Similan Islands, and Ko Samui. It’s hard to go wrong here as they all have beautiful beaches but the atmosphere of the islands will decide how much you enjoy it so think about whether you want to prioritize peace, parties, activities, etc. Some of the most chill beaches have fewer activities and accommodation options while more touristy places provide a range of lodging and tons of activities and parties but can sometimes be a bit intense. Choosing a few beaches is a good idea to see what you like best.
5. Hit the Full Moon Party
There’s no better party in the world than the famous Full Moon Party . The Full Moon Party is a giant festival-like party with a lot of drinking, dancing, and drugs. Each bar has its own sound system, so you’ll hear different music loudly blasting onto the beach every few feet. The beach itself is lined with people selling alcohol, fire dancers putting on shows, and little booths selling glow-in-the-dark face paint. Sure, it is super touristy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of fun if that’s your vibe. Just don’t take part in the fire jump rope — I’ve seen people get burned badly!
6. Go jungle trekking
There are some great multi-day jungle trekking opportunities in northern Thailand. For longer treks, the biggest departure points are Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. You can book these sorts of outings through the hostel or hotel you’re staying in. While day-trips are popular and cheap, try to head out for at least 3-4 days as you’ll be able to get to much more remote areas and see some incredible wildlife (there are tons of birds and bats, as well as lizards, monkeys, and even wild boars) as well as some gorgeous waterfalls. If you book online ahead of time, you will pay more. But skip the shorter hikes that include meeting “authentic” hill tribes; they are exploitative and the visits are usually unethical. Expect to pay around 5,000 THB for a three-day tour.
7. Scuba dive in the Similan Islands
Scuba diving is a popular activity here because of the crystal-clear waters and majestic sea life. While you can dive all over the country, the Similan Islands offer the best diving. Given the islands’ locations, most of these dive trips last a few nights. You’re really far out, making the remote diving some of the best in the country. If you dive here, be sure to see Elephant Head Rock, as the reef there is home to plenty of fish, snappers, rays, and turtles. Day trips start at 5,900 THB for two dives, including equipment and park fees.
8. Learn to cook
Thai food is delicious and it’s relatively easy to cook. There are cooking schools all over the country but the best are in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. It’s a fun experience as you’ll get to spend a day making and eating (hopefully delicious) food. I loved being able to go to the market and pick out my fresh ingredients and then learning how to make my own paste for a delicious green curry and a tasty shrimp pad Thai. A half-day cooking class in Bangkok (including a market visit) costs around 1,300 THB.
9. Explore the Khmer temples in Isaan
There are many temples built throughout the Isaan region , all along the ancient roads connecting Angkor (the capital of the Khmer Empire) to the other villages. The largest of these is Phimai, located at the end of the ancient highway. It dates to the 11th century and is one of the largest Hindu Khmer temples in Thailand (and hardly anyone visits so you’ll get the place mostly to yourself). Two other magnificent Khmer temples (Phanom Rung and Muang Tum) can be found in the Buriram province, only a few kilometers apart. Phanom Rung is built on top of a hill, and Muang Tum is at the base of the hill. While in Isaan, be sure to spend a day or two in Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima) and visit Wat Ban Rai and Wat Phayap, two beautiful local temples that I especially love.
10. Take the day train to Chaing mai
Taking the day train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is not only cheaper but a much better way to see the countryside than the night train. Sure, you “waste” a day, but you see the countryside, experience how Thais take the train, and can eat from vendors coming on and off at every stop. The day train remains one of my favorite experiences in Thailand. Just make sure you have a good book as the journey is 10-13 hours long! You can also break up the journey by stopping in Lopburi and Sukothai.
11. Visit Elephant Nature Park
While you can come to Thailand and ride an elephant, once you know how they suffer from abuse in order to provide these rides, you might think twice about this unethical activity. An even better way to get up-close-and-personal to the animals is to volunteer at or visit the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai. It’s a phenomenal place, allowing you to give back to the community and letting you help these magnificent animals all at once. After coming here, you will know why you should NEVER ride an elephant. A one-day visit costs 2,500 THB for adults.
12. Admire Wat Doi Suthep
This stunning Buddhist temple lies in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, 16 kilometers (10 miles) outside of Chiang Mai. A tram or a trek up 300 steps takes you to the summit of Doi Suthep, where the glittering gold temple spire awaits you. The temple dates back to the 14th century and holds rare relics of Buddha. It’s too beautiful of a view to miss, so don’t leave Chiang Mai without visiting Wat Doi Suthep. Admission is free.
13. Visit the Golden Triangle
The point where the Mekong River meets the Ruak River is known as the Golden Triangle. It’s also the meeting point of Laos , Thailand, and Myanmar. Once known for its opium production (which is used to make heroin), today the region thrives on tourism. You can take a boat along the river and visit the Golden Triangle Park, check out some of the many Buddha statues, scenic viewpoints, and markets. It’s just 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) north of Chiang Saen. Golden Triangle day trips from Chiang Mai cost around 2,200 THB. If you’d rather visit solo, you can visit the region from Mae Sai or Chiang Saen via songthaew. Don’t miss the Hall of Opium, one of the most interesting museums in the entire country. It explores the history of opium production, shows how it was made and trafficked around the world, and more.
14. Party on Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi is one of the most popular tourist islands in Thailand. From the infamous Maya Bay (made famous in the 2000 film, The Beach , with Leonardo DiCaprio) to the monkeys on the aptly named Monkey Beach, to the diving and nightlife, there are reasons people flock here. Destroyed by the tsunami in 2004, the island has been rebuilt and developed to an even greater extent than before. While I personally don’t love Ko Phi Phi , it’s nevertheless one of the most popular places in the country. You’ll just have to see for yourself whether it’s for you.
15. Relax on Ko Lipe
Located in southern Thailand, this semi-off the map island is one of my favorite places in the world. Here on Ko Lipe , the super friendly locals bring in the daily catch for amazing seafood meals. The beaches are beautiful, the water is warm, and the island is cheap. I came for three days and ended up staying for a month. In the last few years, it has become more developed and it’s not the sleepy little island it used to be, but it’s still way less developed than many other destinations in Thailand. Moreover, you’re near a pristine and undeveloped national marine park where you can snorkel and enjoy some beaches to yourself!
16. Explore Kanchanaburi Province
This region is home to a lush forest perfect for trekking, though the history of this area is rather dark. The infamous Death Railway linking Myanmar and Thailand runs through here, which was constructed during World War II by prisoners of war and civilians. Around 90,000 Southeast Asian civilian forced laborers and more than 12,000 Allied prisoners perished in the railway’s construction. The bridge over the River Kwai is also located here, built using POW labor and the subject of both a famous film and a book. While visiting is a haunting reminder, it is an essential part of Thailand’s history.
17. Motorbike through Northern Thailand
There are lots of picturesque routes for motorbiking all around the country, but especially near Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Many people rent bikes and tour the scenery, taking a day trip or a few days. The Mai Hong Son Province offers a great loop that you can do starting in Chiang Mai and ending in Pai. Note: Make sure that if you’re renting a motorbike, you’re comfortable with driving it and never (ever) drink and drive. Accidents are incredibly common.
18. Relax in Pai
Pai has grown as a tourist destination in more recent years, but it is still a great place to escape some of the craziness of the larger cities. Located in Northern Thailand, it’s nestled in rolling green mountains, surrounded by waterfalls, and near incredible hiking trails. Be sure to take a day trip to the Tham Lot Caves, where you can stop off to swim in waterfalls and hot springs on the way there. Stay on the outskirts of this backpacker town in a lovely little bungalow, rent a bike, traverse the hills, and bathe in the cool waterfalls.
19. Bounce around Phuket
Phuket is the biggest destination for tourism in Thailand. There are great beaches and amazing activities on this island, and if you stay away from Patong Beach, you can avoid most of the over-development and crowds. Phuket draws a lot of tourists, and if you really want to enjoy the area, get out of the main spots. Don’t miss visiting Wat Chalong, hiking to the Karon Viewpoint, and visiting the weekend Night Market.
For information on specific destinations in Thailand, check out the following guides:
- Bangkok Travel Guide
- Chiang Mai Travel Guide
- Ko Chang Travel Guide
- Ko Lipe Travel Guide
- Ko Pha Ngan Travel Guide
- Ko Phi Phi Travel Guide
- Phuket Travel Guide
( Hey there! Wait one second! Did you know I also wrote an entire guidebook to Thailand filled with – not only even more detailed information on the things included on this page but also itineraries, practical information (i.e. hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, prices, etc), cultural insights, and so much more? It has everything you want in a guidebook – but with a focus on budget and cultural travel! If you want to go into more depth and have something to take on your trip, click here for more about the book! )
Thailand Travel Costs
Accommodation – Thailand is very cheap, though the north and bigger cities are far cheaper than the islands. Hostels range from 270-500 THB per night for a 4-6-bed dorm. Larger dorm rooms with 10 or more beds can be found for 170-250 THB. Private rooms in hostels cost 700-1,000 THB. Hostels on the islands are going to be on the upper end of that range. During peak season, expect to spend about 20% more.
Free Wi-Fi is common and many hostels also include free breakfast and have air conditioning. It’s not uncommon for hostels to have pools either (especially if they are a party hostel).
You can find cheap guesthouses for as little as 400 THB per night in cities and 300 THB per night in the countryside, though in the big cities like Chiang Mai and Bangkok, rooms cost about 400-700 THB per night. On the islands or for a nicer room with an air-conditioner, expect to pay 600-850 THB per night. Basic bungalows cost about the same.
Hotels start at around 1,350 THB per night and go up from there. Big resorts on the islands start at 2,100 THB per night for a bungalow on the beach.
Airbnb is very popular in Thailand and you’ll find a lot of options in most major cities. Renting private rooms is not common, but renting full apartments is very affordable for the quality you get, starting at around 600-900 THB per night.
Food – Thai food is spicy and flavorful and uses many ingredients to create layers of flavor. Typical spices and fresh herbs include garlic, basil, galangal, cilantro, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chilies, and fish sauce. No matter what region you’re in, you can expect to find a variety of curries, salads, soups, and stir-fries.
Rice and noodles are central to Thai food, while the meat is usually pork, chicken, fish, or seafood, which is everywhere on the islands and coastal areas. Popular dishes throughout the country include pat tai (a fried noodle dish, more commonly known to Westerners as pad thai), tom yum goong (hot and sour soup with shrimp), massaman curry, som tam (spicy papaya salad), kao phad (fried rice), khao man gai (rice with boiled chicken), and satay (grilled meat on skewers, served with a peanut dipping sauce).
Street food can cost as little as 20 THB, though on average you’ll spend about 45-80 THB per meal if you want something really filling. If you stick to the local street food, you can eat for around 180-275 THB a day.
Sit-down Thai restaurants begin at 65 THB for a dish like pad thai or curry. In bigger cities, the malls have huge (and popular) food courts where you can get a filling meal for around 60-100 THB.
Western food venues can be pricey compared to Thai food. Most Western dishes (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) cost between 170-340 THB, though they can be higher in fancier establishments. Most Western food also pales in comparison to its original so it’s best to skip it altogether. I mean, you didn’t come all this way to have a crappy burger or pizza, right?
When it comes to drinking, going to bars can become pricey. The cheapest beers cost about 60-85 THB each, a glass of wine costs 120 THB, and cocktails cost around 290-400 THB. You can save money by buying beers from 7-Eleven for half that price.
And, since food is so cheap, there’s no point in grocery shopping unless you’re looking to get some pre-made salads or fruits. If you do decide to shop, expect to pay 600-800 THB for a week’s worth of basic staples like rice, veggies, and some meat.
Backpacking Thailand Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Thailand, budget between 800-1,125 THB per day. On this budget, you’ll be staying in a hostel dorm, eating food from the street vendors, enjoying a couple of drinks per day, using public transportation, and doing mostly free or cheap activities like swimming, hiking, and relaxing on the beach.
On a mid-range budget of 1,750 THB per day, you can stay in a private hostel room or guesthouse with air-conditioning, eat a few meals at Western or sit-down restaurants, rent a motorbike or scooter, and do more paid activities like jungle treks and diving.
On an upscale budget of around 3,725 per day or more, you can do anything you want. There’s nothing you can’t do. After this amount, the sky is the limit and Thailand does luxury really well!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). I just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in THB.
Thailand Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Thailand is an inexpensive country and it’s hard to overspend here unless you’re trying to splash out on high end meals, imported alcohol, and fancy resorts. If you stick to traveling like how Thais live, you just won’t be spending a lot. If you want to save money, here’s my tips on cutting costs in Thailand:
- Go local – The easiest way to save money in Thailand is to simply live like a local. Take local buses, eat street food, and drink local beer. The average Thai lives on less than 7,750 THB per month in Bangkok, and on even less in the countryside. Keep it simple to keep it affordable.
- Eat street food – Thailand’s best food is on the street, and it costs a fraction of a restaurant meal. Stick to street food if you’re on a budget. There are plenty of delicious curries and rice, fresh juices, and meat skewers. Eating around the markets is a must-do in Thailand.
- Take advantage of happy hour – Thailand’s many happy hours have half-priced drinks and 2-for-1 specials. If you want to hit the bar, stick to drinking during happy hours. If you visit the areas frequented by backpackers, you’ll find even more drink specials.
- Buy beer at 7-Eleven – Buying beer at Thailand’s ubiquitous 7-Elevens and drinking outside will save you quite a bit on your bar tab. While you can’t get wrecked on the street, you can take drinks with you to sit outside your guesthouse or while on the beach. These places are usually 50% cheaper than drinking at the bar and they have tons of snacks.
- Don’t book tours before you arrive – Want to take a cooking class? Go zip-lining? Trek in the jungle? Dive? Wait until you get into Thailand to book anything. Travel agencies are located all over the tourist areas, looking to sell their tours. While you’re able to purchase these tours online before you arrive, you’ll be paying a lot more that way. Instead, book when you arrive so you can haggle for a better deal.
- Stay with a local – Nothing’s cheaper than sleeping for free. Couchsurfing connects you with locals who give you not only a free place to stay, who can introduce you to all the great places to see. Just make sure to send your requests early!
- Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier comes particularly in handy in Southeast Asia as the tap water isn’t potable. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw , which has built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe (it’s good for the environment too).
Where to Stay in Thailand
Thailand has a wide variety of accommodation to choose from. To help you save money on accommodation, here’s my list of the best hostels and budget hotels in Thailand:
- Lub d Bangkok Siam (Bangkok)
- D&D Inn (Bangkok)
- Kodchasri B&B (Chiang Mai)
- Smile Robotist Hostel (Chiang Mai)
- Chang Puak Hotel (Chiang Mai)
- Pineapple Guesthouse (Phuket)
- Balcony Party Hostel (Krabi)
- Noom Guesthouse (Lopburi)
- The Famous Pai Circus Hostel (Pai)
- Old City Guesthouse (Sukhothai)
- Mut Mee Garden Guest House (Isaan)
- Bodega Party Hostel (Ko Pha Ngan)
- Echo Beach Hostel (Ko Pha Ngan)
How to Get Around Thailand
Public transportation – Local buses cost as little as 8 THB per trip (for buses with no AC) and around double that for buses with AC. A week-long pass in Bangkok costs between 120-255 THB, depending on if you want buses with AC or no AC. The Metro and Skytrain in Bangkok cost 16-52 THB per trip.
In Chiang Mai, the buses have AC and cost around 20 THB per ticket. An unlimited day pass is 180 THB.
In many places, songthaews are the most common mode of local transportation. These converted pick-up trucks don’t follow set stops, simply going wherever their riders ask. They generally cost 30-50 THB for a ride.
Taxi – Metered taxi rides are usually 60-100 THB each. Always stick to the metered taxis, otherwise, you’ll get charged an overpriced ride. If you notice your driver not using the meter, get out and find a driver who will.
Tuk-tuks are un-metered and generally more expensive, costing 100-235 THB per ride. Be sure to agree on a price before you take off. I generally try to avoid tuk-tuks, but for very short distances they can be fun.
Motorbike taxis (in orange vests) are available all over the country with short trips costing about 35-80 THB, but you need to negotiate the price.
Bus – Coach buses in Thailand are incredibly cheap and a great way to get around the country. For intercity travel, you’ll pay more for better services like sleeper buses and air-conditioning. A budget bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai takes 10 hours and costs about 529-617 THB, while a first-class ticket for the same journey costs 825 THB. Bangkok to Trat (where you can then change to a ferry taking you to Ko Chang) takes 5 hours and costs about 250-300 THB. A two-hour bus journey from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is just 120-140 THB.
Train – Trains in Thailand tend to be slow, but they’re an incredibly scenic option for getting around. Taking the train is a genuine Thai experience, making the journey as much a part of your trip as the destination. Day trains cost as little as 30-50 THB and night trains start at 875 THB for second class without air-conditioning. By the way, the air-conditioned night trains can be freezing so be prepared. A train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai takes 11-13 hours and costs 715-900 THB, while Bangkok to Pattaya takes 4 hours and costs 30-50 THB.
There is a new Bangkok–Vientiane train for getting to Laos, which takes 11-13 hours and costs around 1,000 THB. Taking the train is also a convenient way to travel between Bangkok, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore.
Flying – Flights are a quick and affordable way to travel around the country, with prices ranging between 825-4,500 THB. Flights to the islands tend to be higher in price than flying between large cities or popular destinations. For example, Bangkok to Phuket, Chiang Mai, or Krabi all cost 450-825 THB for a one-way ticket, while a one-way from Bangkok to Koh Samui can be found for around 2,150 THB.
Budget-friendly airlines in Thailand include:
- Thai Lion Air
- Vietjet Air
Ridesharing – Grab is Asia’s answer to Uber and it works the same way: you hire a driver to take you somewhere via the Grab app, and you can pay via the app or in cash. It’s often more affordable than a regular taxi, though drivers are a bit unreliable.
Ferry – Travel between islands and beaches is best done by long-tail boat, which costs around 150-275 THB per person for shorter trips. Bigger cities like Bangkok have regular ferries, costing 13-32 per ride.
Car rental – If you want to rent a car in Thailand, an IDP (International Driving Permit) is required. That said, unless you’re an adventurous traveler with experience driving in rugged conditions, I don’t recommend renting a car here as traffic in the cities is sluggish and the roads in rural areas can be unreliable.
For the best car rental prices, use Discover Cars . Prices start around 700-800 THB per day.
Renting a motorbike is super popular in rural areas and on the islands, either for day trips or for road trips. Just make sure you wear a helmet and have insurance (and ideally have experience on a bike or scooter) as I’ve seen a ton of backpackers with road rash who wrecked their bikes because they just weren’t experienced enough.
When to Go to Thailand
Overall, the best time of year to visit Thailand is between November to March. The high season (cool/dry) is from November to March. Temperatures during this time are usually 30°C (86°F) or higher (yes, that is “cool” in Thailand). The islands are much hotter and more humid, though the entire country is very humid during this time. This is also the busiest time of the year so expect higher prices and lots of tourists, especially around Christmas/New Year’s.
If you plan on being in the north during this time, temperatures can drop quickly in the evenings so bring warm clothing.
The shoulder season is from April to June, and it is HOT, with temps regularly over 40 C. It’s the hottest time of the year! The country is still really busy this time of year, though crowds begin to shrink after mid-April.
Monsoon hits the northern area at the end of May, bringing daily bouts of rain (though the weather is still warm). The low season is the rainy season, from July to October. Rainfall can be dramatic, ranging from light showers to major flooding. June and August have the heaviest rains, but things wind down during October. You might still get some afternoon showers, but October is also generally a good time to visit.
How to Stay Safe in Thailand
Thailand is a safe place to backpack and travel. Violent attacks against tourists are uncommon. People who get in trouble here are usually involved with drugs or sex tourism, so if you avoid those activities you’ll likely not have any serious issues.
Solo female travelers should feel safe here, though the standard precautions apply (always keep an eye on your drink at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.). Thailand is very safe for women but, since I’m not a female traveler, check out some female bloggers who can provide a better perspective.
When it comes to cannabis, Thailand changed some of its regulations on marijuana in June 2022. This means that there are licensed weed stores, cafes, vendors with cannabis-infused beverages, etc., where you’re allowed to buy it within that space to smoke it. However, while it is technically legal for people over 20 to smoke weed in ‘your residence’ or certain areas, doing so in public can still land you a 25,000 baht fine. If you want to take part, follow the laws and use common sense. Regarding other drugs, avoid them. The penalties are harsh and include the death penalty.
Petty theft (including bag snatching) can occur around major tourist areas so always keep an eye on your belongings, especially while taking crowded public transportation. If you’re carrying a purse, wear it across your body and not over one shoulder so it’s hard for someone to take.
Scams in Thailand, unfortunately, are common (though they are rarely violent). The most common scam involves unmetered taxis and tuk-tuks. For that reason, always make sure the taxi driver is using the meter. For tuk-tuk drivers, make sure you know the price in advance so you don’t get ripped off while haggling.
For more information on common scams to avoid you can read this post on common travel scams to avoid.
It’s illegal to defame or talk ill of the monarchy so avoid doing so (avoid talking politics in general if you can). The penalty can be prison (or worse) so do not talk about the monarchy while you are in Thailand!
Anti-government protests are common around the country, but chiefly in large cities. If they occur when you visit, avoid them. They don’t usually turn violent but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you experience an emergency, dial 191 for assistance (112 from a mobile device).
Always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
The widget below can help you pick the right policy for your trip:
Thailand Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Agoda – Other than Hostelworld, Agoda is the best hotel accommodation site for Asia.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
- SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
- LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
- Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Thailand!
My detailed 350+ page guidebook is made for budget travelers like you! It cuts out the fluff found in other guidebooks and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel around Thailand. You’ll find suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off-the-beaten-path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, bars, safety tips, and much more! Click here to learn more and get your copy today.
Thailand Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more tips for your trip? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Thailand travel and continue planning your trip:
The 22 Best Things to Do in Bangkok
The Ultimate Guide to Teaching English in Thailand
Is Bangkok Safe to Visit?
The Complete Guide to Diving in Koh Tao
Is Southeast Asia Safe for Travelers?
How to Get Around Thailand on the Cheap
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Thailand Travel Guide
Thailand has lots of interesting things to see and do.
The islands in the Andaman Sea like Phuket, Krabi, and the Phi Phi islands are great for boat tours, while cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai have some amazing food to try and traditional style Buddhist temples to explore.
Read through this Thailand travel guide for some of my best Thailand travel tips & info!
Thai Baht (THB)
VOA or visa free access for 70+ nationalities
Tropical; hot & humid year round. Dry season is Nov - April
Type A / B / C
Thailand has two major airports in Bangkok called Don Mueang (DMK) and Suvarnabhumi (BKK), and they have direct flights from many countries all over the world. In fact, a good portion of the air traffic in Southeast Asia connects through Bangkok, so if you do any traveling in this part of the world then you'll most likely pass through there at some point in your journeys.
The DMK airport mainly handles domestic and regional flights (via budget airlines), while BKK handles more international destinations. There are also smaller airports in the popular Thai tourist spots like Krabi, Phuket, and Koh Samui, but these are mainly reached by domestic flights. You can shop for flights to Thailand on Skyscanner.
Thailand is a relatively safe place to travel, with a low violent crime rate of 3.24 per 100k inhabitants (48% lower than the global average). I’ve traveled in many parts of Thailand and witnessed very little crime. The biggest safety risks are probably motorbike accidents and natural threats, like dengue fever. Be sure to wear mosquito spray in rural areas, especially during the rainy season.
The climate of Thailand is tropical, so the weather is hot and humid year round. For Phuket and the Andaman Sea, the rainy season generally runs from May to October, and the sunny season runs from November to April. It's still possible to visit Thailand in the rainy season, but give yourself some extra days as a buffer in case of bad weather.
Thailand is a very budget friendly travel destination, with hostels available from 180 Baht ($5 USD) and private hotels from 360 Baht . Meals are also cheap, costing about 50 to 200 Baht depending on location. Transportation in Thailand is generally by motorbike or car, and these can be rented, but hiring a driver is sometimes preferable. The Grab transportation app can be used in Thailand, but the prices are a bit inflated here because of price fixing by the Thai taxi industry.
The best Thailand tours & activities
Thailand By Drone
My latest blog posts about Thailand
Samet Nangshe Viewpoint: Best Sunrise Spot In Thailand
The Samet Nangshe viewpoint in Thailand is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my travels. It’s also fairly easy to get there by …
James Bond Island Thailand: Phang Nga Bay Tour (Phuket)
Thailand’s Phang Nga Bay is loaded with exotic island scenery, and one of the best things to see in the bay would have to be the famous …
Maya Bay Thailand: The Beach Is Open! (Phi Phi Leh)
The beach at Maya Bay is one of the most famous and photogenic places in Thailand, and it was the main thing responsible for bringing tourism to …
Phi Phi Island Thailand Travel Guide (Koh Phi Phi Islands)
Koh Phi Phi island is a beautiful spot in Thailand with limestone hills, turquoise lagoons, and the world famous beach at Maya Bay. There are two main …
Ayutthaya Ruins, Temples, & Buddha Tree (By Bangkok Thailand)
The Ayutthaya ruins and temples in Thailand are fascinating, and they’re pretty easy to visit on a day trip from Bangkok! This abandoned city from medieval Siam …
Koh Tao Beach Guide: 12 Best Beaches In Koh Tao, Thailand
Thailand is loaded with nice beaches, and the island of Koh Tao is no exception. We spent almost an entire month exploring Koh Tao last year, and …
Koh Tao Island: 22 Best Things To Do In Koh Tao Thailand
Thailand has some of the most underrated islands in Southeast Asia, so of course we had to put together this list of the best things to do …
Ang Thong National Marine Park In Thailand – Info & Tours
Ang Thong National Marine Park is a group of 42 paradise islands in the Gulf of Thailand. The ultra scenic panorama viewpoint at Mu Ko Ang Thong …
Koh Tao Viewpoint Guide: 6 Best Viewpoints In Koh Tao
Koh Tao is a hilly island with lots of great viewpoints, so we had to put together this Koh Tao viewpoint guide explaining how to get to …
11 Best Things To Do In Krabi Thailand
When it comes to island hopping destinations in Thailand, Krabi may be overshadowed by nearby Phuket island, but I think both are very scenic and worthwhile. Krabi …
Shark Bay Koh Tao – Bay & Beach In Koh Tao, Thailand
Shark Bay Koh Tao, also known as Thian Og (in Thai), has incredible turquoise water and it’s one of the most popular snorkeling spots on Koh Tao …
Ao Leuk Koh Tao: The Aow Leuk Beach & Bay In Thailand
The Aow Leuk Beach is one of the nicest white sand beaches on Koh Tao island, and it’s hidden in the easy to reach Ao Leuk Bay. …
Sairee Beach Koh Tao: Main Beach In Koh Tao, Thailand
Sairee Beach is the biggest and most popular beach on Koh Tao island in Thailand. If you’re looking for white sand, lazy palm trees, and a great …
Koh Nang Yuan Viewpoint: Nang Yuan Island In Koh Tao Thailand
The Koh Nang Yuan viewpoint is easily the most famous picture in Koh Tao, and it’s one of the most scenic too! Nang Yuan island is located …
Bottle Beach Koh Phangan: Bottle Beach Viewpoint In Thailand
Bottle Beach Koh Phangan is a fun adventure away from the noise and bustle of this popular island in Thailand. After a short boat trip you’re rewarded …
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Travel Guide Thailand
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With 16 million foreigners flying into the country each year, Thailand is Asia’s primary travel destination and offers a host of places to visit. Travel to Thailand and you’ll find that despite this vast influx of visitors, it’s cultural integrity remains largely undamaged. Thailand is a country that cleverly avoided colonisation has been able to absorb Western influences while maintaining its own rich heritage.
Thailand travel facts
Where to go in thailand.
- Best time to visit Thailand
How to travel to Thailand
How to travel around thailand, best places to visit in thailand, itineraries for thailand travel, accommodation while travelling in thailand, food and drink in thailand, activities in thailand, top national parks in thailand, festivals in thailand, travel visa requirements for thailand, rat or raja, spirit houses, thai boxing.
Though the high-rises and neon lights occupy the foreground of the tourist picture, the typical Thai community is still the farming village, and you need not venture far to encounter a more traditional scene of fishing communities, rubber plantations and Buddhist temples.
Around 40% of Thais earn their living from the land, based around the staple rice, which forms the foundation of the country’s unique and famously sophisticated cuisine.
Tourism has been just one factor in the country’s development which, since the deep-seated uncertainties surrounding the Vietnam War faded, has been free, for the most part, to proceed at death-defying pace – for a time in the 1980s and early 1990s, Thailand boasted the fastest-expanding economy in the world.
Through all the changes of the last sixty years, the much-revered constitutional monarch, King Bhumibol has lent a measure of stability.
Furthermore, some 85 percent of the population are still practising Theravada Buddhists, a unifying faith that colours all aspects of daily life – from the tiered temple rooftops that dominate every skyline, to the omnipresent saffron-robed monks and the packed calendar of festivals.
- Country name: Divided into 77 provinces or changwat, Thailand was known as Siam until 1939 (and again from 1945 to 1949); some academics suggest changing the name back again, to better reflect the country’s Thai and non-Thai diversity.
- Population: 63 million, made up of ethnic Thais (75%) and Chinese (14%), with the rest comprising mainly immigrants from neighbouring countries as well as hill-tribespeople.
- Religion: Buddhism is the national religion, Islam the largest minority religion, but nearly all Thais also practise some form of animism (spirit worship).
- Leadership: The country has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932.
- The world record for nonstop kissing was set by two Thai men in Pattaya on Valentine’s Day, 2012, at a gobsmacking 50 hours, 25 minutes and 1 second.
Deciding where to go in Thailand depends on two things: what you want to do, and when you want to go. The varying areas of the country, from North to South offer visitors a selection of sights, activities and experiences. In this travel guide on the best places to visit in Thailand, we unearth where to enjoy the country’s range of activities, from world-class diving to carousing at lively festivals. Once that’s decided, you’ll need to check the best time to visit .
The clash of tradition and modernity is most intense in Bangkok , which forms the first stop on almost any itinerary. Within its historic core you’ll find resplendent temples, canalside markets and the opulent indulgence of the eighteenth-century Grand Palace . Downtown’s forest of skyscrapers shelters cutting-edge fashion in decor boutiques and some achingly hip bars and clubs.
Most budget travellers head for the Banglamphu district, where if you’re not careful you could end up watching DVDs all day long and selling your shoes when you run out of money. The district is far from having a monopoly on Bangkok accommodation, but it does have the advantage of being just a short walk from the major sights in the Ratanakosin area: the dazzling ostentation of the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo, lively and grandiose Wat Pho and National Museum.
Once those cultural essentials have been seen, you can choose from a whole bevy of lesser sights, including Wat Benjamabophit (the “Marble Temple”), especially at festival time, and Jim Thompson’s House, a small, personal museum of Thai design.
If you’re wondering where to visit in the northern uplands, then start with Chiang Mai . It’s both an attractive historic city and a vibrant cultural centre, with a strong tradition of arts, crafts and festivals.
Self-improvement courses are a strong suit – from ascetic meditation to Thai cookery classes – while the overriding enticement of the surrounding region is the prospect of trekking through villages inhabited by a richly mixed population of tribal peoples.
Plenty of outdoor activities and courses, as well as hot springs and massages, can be enjoyed at Pai , a surprisingly cosmopolitan hill station for travellers, four hours northwest of Chiang Mai.
Many colourful festivals attract throngs of visitors here too: Chiang Mai is one of the most popular places in Thailand to see in the Thai New Year – Songkhran – in mid-April, and to celebrate Loy Krathong at the full moon in November, when thousands of candles are floated down the Ping River in lotus-leaf boats.
Beyond the city limits, a number of other day-trips can be made, such as to the ancient temples of Lamphun – and, of course, Chiang Mai is the main centre for hill-tribe trekking, as well as all sorts of other outdoor activities.
The pick of the coasts are in the south, where the Samui archipelago off the Gulf coast ranks as one of the best places to go in Thailand. Ko Samui itself has the most sweeping white-sand beaches, and the greatest variety of accommodation and facilities to go with them.
Ko Pha Ngan next door is still largely backpacker territory, where you have a stark choice between desolate coves and Hat Rin , Thailand’s party capital. The remotest island, rocky Ko Tao , is acquiring increasing sophistication as Southeast Asia’s largest dive-training centre.
Tucked away beneath the islands, Nakhon Si Thammarat, the cultural capital of the south, is well worth a short detour from the main routes through the centre of the peninsula – it’s a sophisticated city of grand old temples, delicious cuisine and distinctive handicrafts.
With Chiang Mai and the north so firmly planted on the independent tourist trail, the intervening central plains tend to get short shrift. Yet there is rewarding trekking around Umphang , near the Burmese border, and the elegant ruins of former capitals Ayutthaya and Sukhothai embody a glorious artistic heritage, displaying Thailand’s distinctive ability to absorb influences from quite different cultures.
Even if you’re just passing through, you can’t miss the star attraction of Nakhon Pathom: the enormous stupa Phra Pathom Chedi dominates the skyline.
To get an idea of what shopping in Bangkok used to be like before all the canals were tarmacked over, many people take an early-morning trip to the floating market ( talat khlong ) at Damnoen Saduak. Sixty kilometres south of Nakhon Pathom and just over a hundred kilometres from Bangkok.
The Andaman Coast
Across on the other side of the peninsula, the Andaman coast offers even more exhilarating scenery and the finest coral reefs in the country, in particular around the Ko Similan island chain, which ranks among the best dive sites in the world.
The largest Andaman coast island, Phuket , is one of Thailand’s top tourist destinations and graced with a dozen fine beaches, though several have been overdeveloped with a glut of high-rises and tacky nightlife.
Beautiful little Ko Phi Phi is a major party hub, surrounded by the turquoise seas and dramatic limestone cliffs that characterize the coastline throughout Krabi province . Large, forested Ko Lanta is, for the moment at least, a calmer alternative for families, but for genuine jungle you’ll need to head inland, to the rainforests of Khao Sok National Park .
Further down the Thai peninsula, in the provinces of the deep south , the teeming sea life and unfrequented sands of the Trang islands and Ko Tarutao National Marine Park make this one of Thailand’s top places to go. There’s now the intriguing possibility of island-hopping your way down through them – in fact, all the way from Phuket to Penang in Malaysia – without setting foot on the mainland.
The greatest interest in the deep south is currently all over on the beautiful west coast, where sheer limestone outcrops, pristine sands and fish-laden coral stretch down to the Malaysian border.
Along Trang’s mainland coast, there’s a 30km stretch of attractive beaches, dotted with mangroves and impressive caves that can be explored by sea canoe, but the real draw down here is the offshore islands, which offer gorgeous panoramas and beaches, great snorkelling and at least a modicum of comfort in their small clusters of resorts.
Khao Yai National Park
Another regular in lists of the best places to go in Thailand, Khao Yai National Park – the country’s first national park – encapsulates the phenomenal diversity of Thailand’s flora and fauna. It’s one of the very few national parks to maintain a network of hiking trails that visitors can explore by themselves, passing dramatic waterfalls, orchids and an abundance of wildlife.
Spanning five distinct forest types and rising to a height of 1,351m, the park sustains over 300 bird and twenty large land-mammal species – hence its UNESCO accreditation as a World Heritage Site.
Rangers discourage visitors from exploring the outer, non-waymarked reaches unguided, partly for environmental reasons, but also because of trigger-happy sandalwood poachers. Sandalwood trees are indigenous to Khao Yai, and though oil collection does not usually kill the tree, it does weaken it. Guides can point out trees that have been cut in this way along the trails.
Few tourists visit Isaan , the poorest and in some ways the most traditionally Thai region. Here, a trip through the gently modulating landscapes of the Mekong River valley, which defines Thailand’s northeastern extremities.
It takes in archetypal agricultural villages and a fascinating array of religious sites, while the southern reaches of Isaan hold some of Thailand’s best-kept secrets – the magnificent stone temple complexes of Phimai , Phanom Rung and Khao Phra Viharn , all built by the Khmers of Cambodia almost ten centuries ago.
We may have already mentioned the Andaman Coast, but Phuket is worth looking at in greater detail. Thailand’s largest island and a province in its own right, Phuket is the wealthiest province in Thailand, with tourism driving the economy.
Some tourist developments have scarred much of the island, however, many of the beaches are still strikingly handsome, resort facilities are second to none, and the offshore snorkelling and diving are exceptional.
If you’re after a peaceful spot, aim for the 17km-long national park beach of Hat Mai Khao, its more developed neighbour Hat Nai Yang, or one of the smaller alternatives at Hat Nai Thon or Hat Kamala.
Despite over a million visitors a year, Ko Samui remains a top places to go in Thailand. Back-packers to bougie fortnighters come to this part of southern Thailand for the beautiful beaches. At 15km across and down, Samui is generally large enough to cope with this diversity and the paradisal sands and clear blue seas have kept their good looks.
The island’s most appealing strand, Chaweng, has seen the heaviest, most crowded development and is now the most expensive place to stay, though it does offer by far the best amenities and nightlife. Its slightly smaller neighbour, Lamai, lags a little behind in terms of looks and top-end development, but retains large pockets of backpacker bungalow resorts.
The other favourite for backpackers is Maenam, which, though less attractive again, is markedly quiet, with plenty of room to breathe between the beach and the round-island road.
Discover more places in Thailand
- Southern Thailand: the Andaman coast Travel Guide
- The east coast Travel Guide
- The north Travel Guide
- Southern Thailand: the Gulf coast Travel Guide
The weather in Thailand is split into three seasons: rainy (roughly May–Oct) cool (Nov–Feb) and hot (March–May).
The rains usually builds momentum between June and August, hitting its peak in September and October. The cool season is when travelling in Thailand is most pleasant, though temperatures can still reach a sticky 30°C. In the hot season, you’re best of hitting the beach.
So, the best time to go to Thailand is the cool seasons: more manageable temperatures and less rain, it offers waterfalls in full spate and the best of the upland flowers in bloom. Bear in mind, however, that it’s also the busiest season.
Thailand currently has seven main international airports: Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang), Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Krabi, Phuket and Ko Samui. The vast majority of people travelling to Thailand fly into Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Air fares to Thailand generally depend on the season, with the highest being approximately mid-November to mid-February, when the weather is best, and in July and August to coincide with school holidays. You will need to book several months in advance to get reasonably priced tickets during these peak periods.
The cheapest way of getting to most regional Thai airports is usually to buy a flight to Bangkok and then a separate domestic ticket. However, there are dozens of potentially useful, mostly seasonal, international routes into Phuket, including direct flights with several airlines from Australia.
Most international flights into Chiang Mai, Krabi, Ko Samui and Don Muang are from Malaysia, Singapore and China (including Hong Kong and Macau). Krabi also handles seasonal, mostly charter flights from Scandinavia, while Korean Airlines from Seoul is a popular route for North American visitors into Chiang Mai Airport, which has links with Myanmar and Laos too.
Travel in Thailand is largely cheap, easy and efficient – though not always speedy. For instance, long-distance journeys on land can be arduous, especially if a tight budget means you’re sat in the unforgiving second-class seats and there’s no air con.
That said, the many transport options available makes getting around Thailand a whole lot easier than elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Buses are speedy, inexpensive and frequent, and can be quite luxurious.
Trains are slower, but safer and, there’s more chance to sleep during an overnight trip. It’s also worth nothing that if you’re travelling by day you’re more likely to follow a scenic route by rail than by road.
Songthaews (literally “two rows”) – open-ended vans with as many people squashed into the back as possible – supplement the bus network, especially in rural areas. Slightly more comfortable are share-taxis and air-conditioned mini-buses which connect many of the major towns and cities.
Discover more domestic transport options and how to get around Thailand .
Here is our Thailand travel guide condensed into 15 unmissable Thai destinations:
You could spend a year in Thailand's capital and still not tick off all the boxes. There are a few absolute must-sees though. Start with Wat Pho, a lively and lavish temple, encompassing the awesome Reclining Buddha. Move onto the Grand Palace, which encompasses the country’s holiest and most beautiful temple, Wat Phra Kaeo. Then the markets…
Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, is the region’s major resort destination for families, package tourists and novice divers. Its dining, shopping and entertainment facilities are second to none. Phuket Town offers handsome Sino-Portuguese architecture and some of the most interesting sleeping, eating and drinking options on the island.
The furthest inhabited island of the Samui archipelago, Ko Tao, has taken off as a scuba-diving centre, but despite a growing nightlife and restaurant scene, still has the feel of a small, rugged and isolated outcrop. A boat-trip round Ko Tao Satisfying exploration and great snorkelling, especially off the unique causeway beaches of Ko Nang Yuan.
Southern Thailand’s gently undulating Gulf coast is famed above all for the Samui archipelago, three small, idyllic islands lying off the most prominent hump of the coastline. A lazy stay in a beachfront bungalow is so seductive a prospect that most people overlook the attractions of the mainland. Added to that you’ll find scenery dominated by forested mountains that rise abruptly behind the coastal strip, and a sprinkling of fascinating historic sights.
Old-town temples, the best of Thai crafts, cookery courses and fine restaurants – the north’s sophisticated capital is a great place to hang out. The capital and transport centre of the north, it's also a great place just to hang out or prepare for a journey into the hills. For many tourists, this means joining a trek to visit one or more of the hill tribes, who comprise one-tenth of the north’s population.
In the last few years Chiang Rai has acquired several genuine sights of interest, notably the Mae Fah Luang Art & Cultural Park, a beautiful storehouse of Lanna art. There’s now also a good choice of guesthouses and upmarket riverside hotels in which to lay your head, and from here you can set up a wide range of trekking, day-trips and other outdoor activities in the surrounding countryside.
In recent years, backpackers have tended to move over to Ko Samui’s fun-loving little sibling, which still has a comparatively simple atmosphere. The most popular activities on Ko Pha Ngan are round-island boat trips, from Hat Rin and Hat Yao, and trips to Ang Thong National Marine Park. Other activities include learning to cook Thai food, bicycle tours, yoga, meditation and kiteboarding.
The “island of long beaches”, Ko Lanta has an atmospheric old town, offers an appealing choice of places to stay. There’s good snorkelling and diving nearby, plus caves to explore, kayaking and other water sports. The island is especially popular with families, in part because of the local laws that have so far prevented jet-skis, beachfront parasols and girlie bars from turning it into another Phuket, though resort facilities are expanding fast.
Ko Samui is easily one of the most naturally beautiful Thai islands, with its long white-sand beaches and arching fringes of palm trees. Samui has over a dozen scuba-diving companies, offering trips for divers and snorkellers and courses throughout the year. Also on offer are plenty of spas, as well as meditation retreats, island tours, ziplines, kiteboarding and cooking classes.
The stunning jungle-clad karsts of Khao Sok National Park are well worth heading inland for. Located about halfway between the southern peninsula’s two coasts and easily accessible from Khao Lak, Phuket and Surat Thani, the park has become a popular stop on the travellers’ route, offering a number of easy trails, a bit of amateur spelunking and some scenic rafthouse accommodation on Cheow Lan Lake.
Protected from the ravages of the Andaman Sea by Phuket, Ao Phang Nga has a seascape both bizarre and beautiful. Covering some four hundred square kilometres of coast between Phuket and Krabi, the mangrove-edged bay is spiked with limestone karst formations up to 300m in height, jungle-clad and craggily profiled. This is Thailand’s own version of Vietnam’s world-famous Ha Long Bay, reminiscent too of Guilin’s scenery in China, and much of it is now preserved as national park.
Located in an idyllic spot in Phang Nga bay, almost equidistant from Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi, the island of Ko Yao Noi enjoys magnificent maritime views from almost every angle and makes a refreshingly tranquil getaway. Measuring about 12km at its longest point, it’s home to some four thousand islanders, the vast majority of them Muslim, who earn their living from rubber and coconut plantations, fishing and shrimp-farming.
The fourth-largest island in Thailand, forested Ko Kood (also spelt Ko Kut and Ko Kud) is still a wild and largely uncommercialised island. Though it’s known for its sparkling white sand and exceptionally clear turquoise water, particularly along the west coast, Ko Kood is as much a nature-lover’s destination as a beach-bum’s. Swathes of its shoreline are fringed by scrub and mangrove rather than broad sandy beaches, and those parts of the island not still covered in virgin tropical rainforest are filled with palm groves and rubber plantations.
Blessed with the softest, squeakiest sand within weekending distance of Bangkok, the tiny Thai island of Ko Samet, which measures just 6km from top to toe, is a favourite escape for Thais, expats and tourists. Its fourteen small but dazzlingly white beaches are breathtakingly beautiful, lapped by pale blue water and in places still shaded by coconut palms and occasional white-flowered cajeput (samet) trees, which gave the island its name and which are used to build boats.
Ringed by high mountains, the small but prosperous provincial capital of Nan, 225km northeast of Lampang, rests on the grassy west bank of the river. Few Western visitors make it out this far, but it’s a likeable place with a thriving handicrafts tradition, a good museum and some superb temple murals at Wat Phumin, as well as at Wat Nong Bua out in the countryside. The town comes alive for the Lanna boat races, usually held in late October or early November.
We’ve curated a series of itineraries that span Thailand, from running the rapids in the northern mountains to lazy beach stays in the Andaman archipelagos.
Meet your Thailand local travel expert
22 days / from 4799 USD
The Ultimate Southeast Asia Grand Tour
Explore the highlights of four countries in a bit over 3 weeks: Halong Bay & the Mekong Delta in Vietnam combined with the cities Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Proceed to Cambodia with Angkor Wat before watching the monks in Luang Prabang/Laos. Your trip ends in Thailand with elephants and Bangkok.
10 days / from 1850 USD
Best of Thailand with Phuket
Discover Thailand's busy capital Bangkok with its unique markets and temples before heading north to Chiang Mai - the cultural center of Thailand offers authentic family experiences as well as elephants up close. End your trip with beach days in beautiful Phuket.
15 days / from 3715 USD
Signature Vietnam & Thailand
Discover 3 main areas in each country: Vietnam with Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and the Halong Bay. Thailand with Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. Discover authentic food experiences, historic city tours with knowledgeable guides and much more on this two week itinerary.
So, whether you want to come closer to superlative nature, satisfy your appetite for Thailand’s varied and colourful cuisine, or keep things low-key on a paradise island, this lineup of Thailand travel guides will see you navigate this incredible country with ease.
For the simplest double room while travelling in Thailand, prices start at a bargain B150 in the outlying regions, around B200 in Bangkok, and B400 in the pricier resorts. Tourist centres invariably offer a tempting range of more upmarket choices but in these areas rates fluctuate according to demand.
Most of Thailand’s budget accommodation is in guesthouses and bungalows. These are small, traveller-friendly hotels whose services nearly always include an inexpensive restaurant, wi-fi and safe storage for valuables and left luggage, and often a tour desk.
Thailand travel sales reps and other people travelling for business rather than pleasure rarely use guest-houses, opting instead for budget hotels, which offer rooms for around B150–600. Usually run by Chinese-Thais, these functional three- or four-storey places are found in every sizeable town, often near the bus station or central market.
The rest of the accommodation picture is all about tourist hotels, which, like anywhere in the world, come in all sizes and qualities and are often best booked via online discount accommodation booking services such as local outfit sawadee.com . One way or another, it’s a good idea to reserve ahead in popular tourist areas during peak season.
As guesthouses have become increasingly hotel-like and commercial in their facilities and approach, many tourists looking for old-style local hospitality are choosing homestay accommodation instead. Homestays give an unparalleled insight into typical Thai (usually rural) life and can often be incorporated into a programme that includes experiencing village activities.
Thai food is one of the biggest reasons for the country’s popularity with tourists. Bangkok and Chiang Mai are the country’s big culinary centres, offering the cream of gourmet Thai restaurants and the best international cuisines. The rest of the country is by no means a gastronomic wasteland, however, and you can eat well and cheaply in even the smallest provincial towns, many of which offer the additional attraction of regional specialities.
In fact, visit Thailand and you’ll find that you could eat more than adequately without ever entering a restaurant, as itinerant food vendors hawking hot and cold snacks materialise in even the most remote spots, as well as on trains and buses – and night markets often serve customers from dusk till dawn.
Hygiene is a consideration when eating anywhere in Thailand, but being too cautious means you’ll end up spending a lot of money and missing out on some real local treats. Wean your stomach gently by avoiding excessive amounts of chillies and too much fresh fruit in the first few days.
You can be pretty sure that any noodle stall or curry shop that’s permanently packed with customers is a safe bet. Furthermore, because most Thai dishes can be cooked in under five minutes, you’ll rarely have to contend with stuff that’s been left to smoulder and stew.
Many travellers’ itineraries take in a few days’ trekking in the hills and a stint snorkelling or diving off the beaches of the south. Trekking is concentrated in the north, but there are smaller, less touristy trekking operations in Kanchanaburi, Sangkhlaburi and Umphang. There are also plenty of national parks to explore and opportunities for rock climbing and kayaking.
Diving in Thailand
Clear, warm waters (averaging 28°C), prolific marine life and affordable prices make Thailand a very rewarding place for diving and snorkelling.
Most islands and beach resorts have at least one dive centre that organises trips. Thailand’s premier diving destinations are generally considered to be Ko Similan, Ko Surin, Richelieu Rock and Hin Muang and Hin Daeng – all of them off the Andaman coast.
Thailand’s main dive resorts
- Ko Pha Ngan
Snorkeling in Thailand
Boatmen and tour agents on most beaches offer snorkelling trips to nearby reefs and many dive operators welcome snorkelers to tag along for discounts of thirty percent or more; not all diving destinations are rewarding for snorkelers though, so check the relevant account in this book first.
Trekking in Thailand
Trekking in the mountains of north Thailand differs from trekking in most other parts of the world in that the emphasis is not primarily on the scenery but on the region’s inhabitants. While some of the villages are near enough to a main road to be reached on a day-trip from a major town, to get to the other, more traditional villages usually entails joining a guided party for a few days.
For most visitors, however, these hardships are outweighed by the experience of encountering people of such different cultures, travelling through tropical countryside. Here’s our take on some of Thailand’s best trekking routes .
The limestone karsts that pepper southern Thailand’s Andaman coast make ideal playgrounds for rock-climbers, and the sport has really taken off here in the past fifteen years. Most climbing is centred round East Railay and Ton Sai beaches on Laem Phra Nang in Krabi province, where there are dozens of routes within easy walking distance of tourist bungalows, restaurants and beaches.
Sea kayaking and whitewater rafting
Sea kayaking is also centred around Thailand’s Andaman coast, where the limestone outcrops, sea caves, hongs (hidden lagoons), mangrove swamps and picturesque shorelines of Ao Phang Nga in particular make for rewarding paddling.
Entertainment and sport in Thailand
Bangkok is the best place to catch authentic performances of classical Thai dance, though more easily digestible tourist-oriented shows are staged in some of the big tourist centres as well as in Bangkok. The country’s two main Thai boxing stadia are also in the capital, but you’ll come across local matches in the provinces too.
Spas and traditional massage in Thailand
With their focus on indulgent self-pampering, spas are usually associated with high-spending tourists, but the treatments on offer at Thailand’s five-star hotels are often little different from those used by traditional medical practitioners, who have long held that massage and herbs are the best way to restore physical and mental well-being.
Thai massage ( nuad boran ) is based on the principle that many physical and emotional problems are caused by the blocking of vital energy channels within the body.
Spectacular archipelago in the Gulf of Thailand, generally visited on a day-trip from Ko Samui or Ko Pha Ngan.
Waterfalls, hill tribes, orchids, around four hundred bird species and the country’s highest peak.
An exceptionally pretty, seven-tiered waterfall that extends deep into the forest. Hugely popular as a day-trip from Kanchanaburi.
Coastal flats on the Gulf coast known for their rich birdlife plus an extensive stalactite-filled cave system.
Southern Thailand’s most visited park has rainforest trails and caves plus a flooded river system with eerie outcrops and raft-house accommodation.
Thailand’s most popular national park, three hours from Bangkok, features half a dozen upland trails plus organized treks and night safaris.
Remote group of Andaman Sea islands with famously fabulous reefs and fine above-water scenery. Mostly visited by dive boat but limited national park accommodation is provided.
National marine park archipelago of beautiful coastal waters in the Andaman Sea, though much of its coral became severely bleached in 2010. Good snorkelling and national park campsites.
Beautiful and wildly varied land- and seascapes on the main 26km-long island and fifty other smaller islands on its western side.
Dramatic and strange 1300m-high plateau, probably best avoided at weekends.
Nearly all Thai festivals have a religious aspect. The most theatrical are generally Brahmin (Hindu) in origin, honouring elemental spirits and deities with ancient rites and ceremonial costumed parades.
Buddhist celebrations usually revolve round the local temple, and while merit-making is a significant feature, a light-hearted atmosphere prevails, as the wat grounds are swamped with food and trinket vendors and makeshift stages are set up to show likay folk theatre, singing stars and beauty contests.
Many of the secular festivals (like the elephant roundups and the Bridge over the River Kwai spectacle) are outdoor local culture shows, geared specifically towards Thai and farang tourists. Here’s what you need to know on when to go .
Travel advice for Thailand
From travel safety to visa requirements, discover the best tips for traveling to Thailand
- Getting around Thailand: Transportation Tips
- Khao Sok National Park
- Eating and drinking in Thailand
- How to get to Thailand
- Travel Tips Thailand for planning and on the go
From costs and climate to tipping to taxes, this Thailand travel guide has all the advice you’ll need to stay safe and happy.
Visiting Thailand for most Western passport holders (that includes citizens of the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) is simple as they’re allowed to enter the country for short stays without having to apply for a visa.
Visa requirements for extended trips in Thailand are subject to frequent change, so you should always consult before departure a Thai embassy or consulate, a reliable travel agent, or the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website at wmfa.go.th .
Top image: Thai khon dancers © saravutpics/Shutterstock
There’s no standard system of transliterating Thai script into Roman, so you’re sure to find that the Thai words in this book don’t always match the versions you’ll see elsewhere. Maps and street signs are the biggest sources of confusion, so we’ve generally gone for the transliteration that’s most common on the spot; where it’s a toss-up between two equally popular versions, we’ve used the one that helps best with pronunciation. However, sometimes you’ll need to do a bit of lateral thinking, bearing in mind that a classic variant for the town of Ayutthaya is Ayudhia, while among street names, Thanon Rajavithi could come out as Thanon Ratwithi – and it’s not unheard of to find one spelling posted at one end of a road, with another at the opposite end.
Although the vast majority of Thais are Buddhist, nearly everyone also believes that the physical world is inhabited by spirits . These spirits can cause trouble if not given enough care and attention, and are apt to wreak havoc when made homeless. Therefore, whenever a new building is constructed – be it a traditional village house or a multistorey office block – the owners will also construct a home for the spirits who previously occupied that land. Crucially, these spirit houses must be given the best spot on the site – which in Bangkok often means on the roof – and must also reflect the status of the building in question, so their architecture can range from the simplest wooden structure to an elaborate scale model of a particularly ornate temple or even a sleek little icon of modernism. Daily offerings of flowers, incense and candles are set inside the spirit house, sometimes with morsels of food.
Such is the national obsession with muay thai , or Thai boxing, that when Wijan Ponlid returned home from the Sydney 2000 Olympics with the country’s only gold medal (for international flyweight boxing), he was paraded through town at the head of a procession of 49 elephants, given a new house and over 20 million baht, and offered a promotion in the police force. Belatedly perhaps, muay thai has recently entered the canon of martial-arts cinema: Ong Bak (2003), Tom Yum Goong (2005) and their various sequels were global box-office hits, and their all-punching, all-kicking star, Tony Jaa, who performed all his own stunts, has been appointed Cultural Ambassador for Thailand.
Though there are boxing venues all around the country, the very best fights are staged at Bangkok’s two biggest stadiums, Rajdamnoen and Lumphini, and are well worth attending as a cultural experience even if you have no interest in the sport itself (see The media & Thai boxing).
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- Where to stay
- Travel advice
ABOUT CONTACT US
- US National Parks
Official Language: Siamese
Population: 71 million
Capital City: Bangkok
Currency: Thai baht
Power Outlet: Types A, B, & C
Eating (and Drinking) Our Way Around Bangkok
10 Best Things to Do Your First Time in Bangkok
Learning to Rock Climb in Krabi, Thailand
Island Hopping Off the Coast of Thailand
Favorite Photos, Favorite Moments from Krabi, Thailand
Ten fun things to do in chiang mai thailand.
Cycling to the White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand
AYUTTHAYA AND SUKHOTHAI
Visiting ayutthaya and sukhothai, ancient cities of siam.
Traveling to Asia
What Traveling Through Asia Has Taught Us
3 Month Southeast Asia Itinerary & Travel Planning Guide
Bangkok: Bangkok can be a hot, hectic, and overwhelming city. It can also be a delight to explore, with golden temples, floating markets, luxurious shopping malls, and some of the best street food in Asia.
Krabi: Krabi, Thailand…paradise. We spent nine amazing, action-packed days here, swimming, kayaking, rock climbing, snorkeling, playing on the beach, and island hopping. Without a doubt this is our family’s new favorite beach spot in the world.
Chiang Mai: Chiang Mai, located in the northern part of Thailand, is a popular destination for jungle trekking, getting up close with elephants, and visiting hill tribes. Or, if you are looking for a laid-back trip, we had a lot of fun taking a Thai cooking class and shopping at an outdoor Thai market. Chiang Mai is one of our favorite Thailand destinations.
Chiang Rai: Chiang Rai is a small town located in the far northeast of Thailand, not far from Laos and Myanmar. The city is best known for its intricate “White Temple”, stunning “Blue Temple”, and other impressive Buddhist monuments.
Ayutthaya: Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 as the second capital of Siam, and was once the largest city in the world in 1700. Ayutthaya was attacked and burned to the ground by Burma in the late 1700s, ending the golden age of this city. Now all that stands are the ruins of many of the temples. We saw numerous headless Buddhas, crumbling brick walls, and a Buddha’s head encased by a tree trunk.
Sukhothai: Sukhothai was the first capital of the kingdom of Siam, dating back to the mid-thirteenth century, and it is one of Thailand’s most important historical sites. By bike or on foot you can tour The Old City of Sukhothai, and admire giant Buddhas and temple ruins.
Phuket: Experience the beach-paradise destination of your dreams in Phuket where the waters are a dazzling turquoise, there is no lack of adventure activities, and where people party all night long. Phuket is Thailand’s largest and most popular island. Traveling here is great for all types of tourists, especially for those planning a relaxed vacation.
Koh Samui: As Thailand’s second largest island, there is lots of space to spread out and enjoy a peaceful beach vacation in Koh Samui. Here you can explore Koh Samui’s jungles and golden beaches, discover golden Buddah statues, island hop to Koh Phangan and Kho Tao, and kayak along the Ang Thong archipelago. Koh Samui is a great stop for budget and luxury travelers alike.
Koh Chang: Koh Chang is Thailand’s third largest island, and it is cheaper and less popular than Phuket and Koh Samui. The island is great for outdoor adventurers as there are many spots for beautiful panoramic views, jungle-covered mountains to hike, and remote waterfalls to discover. Meanwhile, Koh Chang also offers resorts, high-end restaurants, and beautiful beaches to spend a relaxing evening on.
Similan Islands: The Similan Islands are an archipelago of 11 islands in the Andaman Sea. These islands are famous for their impressive array of marine wildlife including species of sharks, rays, turtles, and eels. As a result, the Similan islands are one of the best spots in Thailand for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Khao Sok National Park: Where limestone mountains rise above the clouds, turquoise water meets centuries-old evergreen forests, and where wildlife lies around every corner. Khao Sok is a breathtaking and relatively uncrowded National Park that is a top bucket-list destination for all outdoor adventurers.
Khao Yai National Park: Khao Yai is one of the best parks in Thailand to spot impressive wildlife. Over 70 mammal species call this park home including elephants, northern pig-tailed macaques, gibbons, Asian black bears and sun bears, gaurs, otters, and jackals. At Khao Yai you can take day and night-time safaris to see these animals. And, if you are feeling adventurous, there are also hiking trails through the jungle to huge waterfalls and to the top volcanic peaks.
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park: Khao Sam Roi Yot is a paradise with a little bit of everything, from mountains and caves, to marshes and beaches. Here you can find outdoor adventures such as hiking, kayaking, and boat tours. The most popular activity here, however, is to hike to Phraya Nakhon Cave. This is a giant cavern with a jungle ecosystem growing within.
Hua Hin: Hua Hin is a beautiful beachside resort town near both Bangkok and Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. With its great location, Hua Hin is an easy and relaxing place to enjoy Thailand’s turquoise waters and golden sun.
Kanchanaburi: Kanchanaburi is a destination filled with beautiful natural landscapes and lush tropical wilderness. Many national parks surround Kanchanaburi, and here you will find magnificent waterfalls, cave systems, and a variety of wildlife. Additionally, Kanchanaburi was a site of much tragedy during WWII, and many relics remain of this time, including the Bridge on the River Kwai.
Pattaya: As a relaxed and family-friendly beach resort location, Pattaya is a bustling city on the Gulf of Thailand. Here you can enjoy wide beaches, see many beautiful temples, experience the Pattaya floating market, and take part in the city’s nightlife.
Best Time to Visit Thailand
The best time to visit Thailand is November through early March, when temperatures are coolest. The days around Christmas and New Years are one of the busiest times to be in the city, as this is when many people flock to Thailand for their winter vacations. But, you can take part in New Years celebrations and launch lanterns into the sky if you come at this time. From May through October, expect hot, wet weather.
We visited Thailand at the end of December and beginning of January. Daily temperatures were in the low 90’s and the temples and Chinatown were very crowded.
Most visitors kick off their Thailand adventure in the country’s exhilarating capital, Bangkok, before moving on. The north offers emerald forests, mist-shrouded mountains, and the famously laid-back Chiang Mai. The south contains some of the world’s best beaches and diving, including iconic islands Phuket and Koh Samui. There’s much more to the country than its biggest hitters, though—ask anyone who has trekked through jungle in Mae Hong Son or visited cultural sites in Isaan. Thailand has experienced some political strife in recent times, but continues to capture visitors’ hearts with its beautiful landscapes and friendly people.
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When’s the best time to go to Thailand?
There are three distinct seasons in Thailand: relatively cool from November to February, hot from March to June, and rainy from July to October. Generally speaking, it’s best to visit during the cool season. The hot season really is very hot, but this is also a popular time to visit because of Songkran (Thai New Year). Monsoon season is actually surprisingly pleasant, with heavy rains interspersed with long spells of sunshine.
How to get around Thailand
Bangkok is a hub for world travel with direct flights to Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and all the major cities in Asia as well as many secondary cities. There are no direct flights between the United States and Thailand, however: journeys usually involve a stop in another Asian city like Tokyo or Hong Kong. There are also international airports in Chiang Mai and Phuket. Once you’re in the country, it’s easy to get around Thailand. There is a top-class supply of internal flights, the public transport infrastructure is comprehensive, and you can always hire a car.
Food and drink to try in Thailand
Thai is one of the world’s most famous cuisines. From street-side feasts that come in at just a few dollars to full-on five-star blowouts, the dining options for local specialties are breathtaking. The flavors vary widely from region to region. Northern Thai food carries Burmese and Chinese influences. The northeastern Isaan cuisine shares much with Laos and Cambodia, while the spicy coconut milk–infused dishes of southern Thailand carry strong notes of Malay and even Indonesian cuisine. The best introduction to traditional Thai food is in Bangkok, where you can explore every nook and cranny of the country’s abundant larder. The Thai capital is also the best place to experience contemporary cuisine. Venues like Nahm, Bo:Lan, and Gaggan (this latter is molecular Indian) have featured in recent lists of the continent’s best restaurants, and culinary standards are lofty across the board.
It’s worth making the effort to catch Loy Kratong, the November river festival in which Thai people ignite fireworks, release airborne lanterns, and float thousands of offerings to the river spirits on the country’s waterways. Thai New Year (Songkran) in April is a raucous celebration that sees Thais and visitors drench each other with water as the temperatures soar. To better understand the Isaan belief in ghosts and spirits, seek out Phi Ta Khon, a colorful merit-making festival that is held in the village of Dan Sai in Loei Province. It takes place over three days around the first weekend after the sixth full moon of the year. Also look out for the Surin Elephant Round Up, held in late November each year, during which participants prepare enormous buffet spreads for the local pachyderms.
Culture in Thailand
With sacred spiritual sites complemented by modern museums, hip galleries, and other cerebral attractions, Thailand is the perfect place for an injection of culture. Bangkok, especially, is awash with international-class museums and plenty of contemporary art. For the more traditional side of Thai culture, bask in the history and grandeur of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The nation’s long and storied history of majestic Buddhist kingdoms can also be witnessed at sites like Sukhothai and Ayutthaya—both former capitals. Chiang Mai, the northern capital, has an incredible array of wats (Buddhist temples) as well as a youthful and happening art scene centered upon Niemenhaemin Road.
Local travel tips for Thailand
Thailand’s many contemporary clubs, bars, and nightspots belie the fact that most Thais prefer local sounds to foreign imports. Thai country music, which includes luk thung (rowdy and mostly instrumental) and mor lam (a slower, more vocals-orientated sound), is hugely popular around the nation. In Bangkok, venues like Isaan Tawandaeng and Isaan Tur Tur are packed with migrant workers whose level of boisterousness is commensurate with the flow of booze.
- BK Magazine
- Bangkok Post
- Khaosod Engligh
The 15 most amazing places to visit in Thailand: from glittering temples to golden beaches
Nov 10, 2022 • 7 min read
Here are the best places to visit in Thailand © Westend61 / Getty Images
Thailand is hailed worldwide as the land of smiles and golden temple spires. A country where the beaches are so brilliantly white you have to wear shades, and where the curries are so scorchingly hot they make your toes tremble. All of this is true, and more, which leaves travelers facing a tricky question: with so many amazing things to see and do , where do you begin?
The following top sights and experiences can help you narrow it down, but before you start ticking things off your bucket list, there’s a geographical decision to make: do you go north, or south, or both? The south has the beaches and coral reefs, but the north has the pick of the culture, national parks and historic ruins.
Also pay attention to the weather – monsoon rains drench the beaches and turn jungle roads into rivers from July to October. On the other hand, it doesn’t rain all day, every day, and you’ll certainly see another side to Southeast Asia’s top tourist destination.
Best city for backpackers
Sure, Bangkok’s Thanon Khao San (Khao San Road) is a bizarre fantasy of what the backpacker-created hippy trail used to be, but it’s a must-see stop before you head off to explore Wat Pho and other temples on Ko Ratanakosin and the mercantile marvel that is Chatuchak Weekend Market . Load up on street food sà·đé (satay) sticks and enjoy the exuberant atmosphere.
Detour: With branches around the country, Jaroenthong Muay Thai Gym has a training centre a short walk from Thanon Khao San. There are courses for beginners if you want to try out this martial-art while you're here.
2. Khao Yai National Park
Best place to see wildlife.
Thailand’s most impressive wildlife haven is just a few short hours from Bangkok by road, but the dense, dripping jungles hide elephants, monkeys, gibbons, bears, hornbills, bats and some of the last wild Thai tigers. Hikes in the rainforest pass through terrain strung with vines and orchids while waterfalls thunder into jungle pools.
Detour: For a complete change of place, swing by the wineries on the Khao Yai approach road to sample Thailand’s best home-grown vino.
Best for family travelers
Thailand’s easy-in for families, Phuket is the gateway to the southern beaches, and a favorite starting point for families visiting Thailand for the first time. The food is fragrant and spicy, the resorts air-conditioned and comfortable, the beaches sand-sprinkled and lovely, and there’s tons for children to do, from kayaking, snorkeling and surfing to mangrove trips.
Planning tip: December is peak tourist season and conditions are ideal for diving and snorkelling. May is the start of the raining season. Some resorts close, others slash their prices.
4. Ko Tarutao
Best island escape.
So far south it almost edges into Malaysia, Ko Tarutao Marine National Park is Thailand’s last true island escape. Laid-back Ko Lipe has its own burgeoning traveler scene, but most of the 51 sand-circled, reef-fringed isles are part of the national park, which means cheap beach-side campgrounds, abundant wildlife and the chance to be a modern-day Robinson Crusoe.
Best region for local history.
There’s more to Kanchanaburi than the famous bridge over the River Kwai. Stay in floating guesthouses on the river, explore the complex history of the Thailand-Burma railroad, swing by gleaming monasteries and pay your respects at WWII cemeteries. Then rent a scooter and head out of town to splash about in waterfall-filled Sai Yok National Park and Erawan National Park .
6. Chiang Mai
Best city for temples.
Historic Chiang Mai is the capital of the north, and magnificent monasteries adorn every city block. Some are delicate jewel boxes covered in mirrored mosaics; others are towering constructions of hand-hewn teak, or centuries-old relics of exposed brickwork and carved stucco.
Planning tip: Any time is dinner time in the foodie capital of northern Thailand; graze all day then learn to cook the same dishes on a Chiang Mai cooking course.
Best place for rock climbing
People talk about "climbing at Krabi" but in fact, the breath-taking karst cliffs are outside town, nestled around the beaches of Railay East, Railay West and Ton Sai. With dozens of routes bolted for sport climbers, Railay’s sea cliffs are one of the world’s top climbing playgrounds. Add in blinding white beaches, jungle trails, cheap beach-hut accommodation and access by longtail boat and this is one of the definitive Thailand experiences.
Local tip: Most climbers start off at Muay Thai Wall and One, Two, Three Wall, at the southern end of Hat Railay East, which have at least 40 routes graded from 4b to 8b on the French system.
8. Isan Region
Best region for rural culture.
Over in far Northeastern Thailand, Isan culture prevails, and the tourist flood slows to a trickle. In rural towns such as Nong Khai and other outposts along the Mekong River, you’ll see a different face of Thailand as you wander eccentric sculpture gardens, watch dragon boat races on the mighty Mekong and uncover prehistoric rock paintings in Ubon Ratchathani .
9. Similan Islands
Best for scuba divers.
Some 70 miles offshore from Phang-Nga province, the Similan Islands call out like a beacon to scuba divers and snorkelers. Despite some bleaching of hard corals, iridescent fish and soft corals abound, and there are lovely island beaches to relax on between dives. Manta rays and sharks (including whale sharks) are the top critters to spot beneath the waves.
Planning tip: Underwater visibility is best from February to April.
10. Khao Sok National Park
Best for rainforest views.
The beautiful Rafflesia kerrii, one of the largest and pongiest flowers in the world, is just one of the natural wonders waiting in this unique and stunning national park , in the steamy center of southern Thailand. Access is on foot, hiking up towering limestone formations that soar above emerald rainforest views; gentler adventures include tubing, kayaking, rafting and sleeping in floating huts atop serene Chiaw Lan Lake.
Best place for thai history.
The second capital of Siam from the 14th to the 18th century, Ayuthaya has long since been eclipsed by other Thai cities, but time-worn relics of this golden age are littered around the streets. Recorded on the Unesco World Heritage list, the ruined temples and shrines are an evocative Thai history lesson.
Planning tip: While you're there, visit Bang Pa In Palace , the summer home of the kings of Thailand, which is just outside Ayuthaya.
12. Ko Pha-Ngan
Best for all-night partying.
Ko Pha-Ngan is the full-moon party capital of Thailand, a place for hedonistic adventures that last all night. But don't worry: quiet corners with shady palms and swaying hammocks preserve the tropical island mood, and you can easily spend your days dozing on sand-dusted beaches to recover.
Planning tip: Get yourself moped ready before your trip; it's the best way to explore the island, especially as there are few public transport options to reach the more local and remote interior and north.
Best for hot springs
Rubbing shoulders with Myanmar’s Shan state, Pai is like a southern island escape, magically transported across the country and dropped into the northern Thai hills. Guesthouses, restaurants and backpacker bars are clustered in the township at the bottom of the valley, while the fringing peaks hide hot springs, forest waterfalls and majestic viewpoints.
Local tip: There are plenty of traditional Thai massage places charging from around 150B an hour. Reiki, crystal healing, acupuncture, reflexology and other non-indigenous methods of healing are also available.
14. Chiang Rai’s Hills
Best for hikers.
Thailand’s far north is a land of jungle wonders, a former haunt of drug lords that now calls out to trekking-booted adventurers. Hiking is the big drawcard around Chiang Rai , passing through tribal homelands that spill over the borders into Myanmar and Laos.
Planning tip: Make time for the often overlooked temples and homestays in tea and coffee growing villages that make this one of the most charming corners of the country.
15. Sukhothai Historical Park
Best for ruins.
The other great historic capital of Thailand, Sukhothai is regarded as the first capital of Siam, but it rests on the site of an even older Khmer capital. The ruins of these ancient kingdoms lie strewn around glorious Sukhothai Historical Park in the form of brick stupas, crumbling Buddha statues and toppled monasteries.
Planning tip: Rent a bike and explore the ruins at your own pace.
This article was first published September 2021 and updated November 2022
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Thailand Travel Guide
Your ultimate thailand travel guide, with tips, ideas on things to do, and best things to see in thailand. great for first-time and returning travelers..
Known for its famous cuisine, Thailand is also a country full of history and culture and home to many sacred sites and temples.
Add in plenty of shopping venues (both on land and on the water), friendly locals, and many natural wonders like beaches, lagoons, and caves, and it all makes a memorable trip.
There are many things to see and do in Thailand.
This Thailand travel guide will help you plan your next vacation.
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Our highlight, table of contents.
Table of Contents
Fast Facts about Thailand
- Currency: The official currency is the Thai baht and 1 baht is equal to 0.032 USD.
- Power: Power voltage is 220 V at 50 Hz.
- Visa: To enter, you will need a U.S. passport valid for 6 months after your departure date and a return plane ticket. You can stay for 30 days without a visa.
- Getting Around The best way to get around Thailand is by bus or train.
- Sales tax The sales tax rate is 7%.
- The Capital City of Thailand is Bangkok
Things to See and Do in Thailand
- Climb in Railay – We went Rock Climbing in Railay for the first time in 2000 and each time we go back to Thailand we climb, King Klimbers and Hot Rocks are our go-to shops.
- Go Sea Kayaking – through the Hongs of Phuket
- Volunteer or visit an Elephant Sanctuary
- Take Part in Songkran – It’s the world’s largest water fight. Actually, it’s the Thai New Year and they ring it in in style with a lot of water.
- Take a Muay Thai Kickboxing Course – Sign up for a month and really delve into the culture.
- Take a Cooking Class – Thai food is a favourite around the world and cooking courses are popular around the country. Sign up for a multi-day course to really get to know the cuisine.=
- Beaches – Thailand has the most beautiful beaches in the world. Places like Phuket and Kho Samui are popular with the tourists but there are many other beaches like Railay and Ao Nang in Krabi, Kho Lanta and Kho Lipe near the Malaysian Border.
- Tip: avoid Pattaya Beach it’s overrun and just downright depressing.
- Bridge on the River Kwai – Made famous by the movie it was a strategic location during WWII. There is a war memorial here for soldiers who were kept as POWs in unbearable conditions.
Thailand Travel Guides
- Best Things to do in Bangkok, Thailand
- The Best Things to do in Koh Samui
- Best Things to do in Krabi
- Best Things to do in Phuket
- 35 of the Best Things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Loy Krathong and Yi Peng – A Guide to The Lantern Festivals of Chiang Mai
Budget: You can find a number of backpacker hostels in the range of 250-700 baht per night. Enjoy dorm-styled or private rooms, shared kitchens, lounge areas, free Wi-Fi, and great locations.
Mid Range: For mid-range hotels, expect to pay 1,500-2,750 baht per night and enjoy private rooms, free breakfast, an outdoor pool, a hotel restaurant and bar, a gym, and nearby attractions.
High End: Upscale hotels will range from 3,00-12,000 baht per night, with the mostluxurious going all the way up to 76,500 baht. Take in the best of Thailand with top-of-the-line hospitality, polished rooms, and suites with flat-screen TVs, beautiful hotel architecture, rooftop pools overlooking the city, multiple dining options, fitness centers,tennis courts, and more.
If you are starting your trip in Bangkok check out our suggestions for where to stay in Bangkok.
Thai cuisine favors rice, noodles, nam pla (fish sauce), vegetables and fruits, seafood or meat, and herbs and spices. Pad Thai is one of the national dishes in Thailand.
Soups and curries, with various combinations, are also popular dishes. Thailand has many street vendors where you can sample great Thailand cuisine.
When out and about, try some mango sticky rice or banana roti (banana pancake). Expect to pay 90-150 baht per meal when dining in a restaurant.
The Best Ways to Get Around Thailand
Getting to thailand:.
Getting to Thailand: The Suvarnabhumi International Airport is the main airport to fly into and is about 19 miles from Bangkok. The Phuket International Airport (20 miles from Phuket city center) and the Chiang Mai International Airport (2 miles from the city center of Chiang Mai) are alternatives.
You can check for the best flights to Thailand on Skyscanner .
Transportation: Trains are a fast way to get around, especially the BTS Skytrain in Bangkok. Tickets cost 16-59 baht depending on how many stations you pass through, or you can pay 120 baht to get a one-day pass with unlimited rides. The Skytrain runs from 6:30 AM to midnight and passes by many attractions, including more rural areas
Buses : are a good way to get around and travel through most parts of the country. Pay just 7 baht for shorter rides or 9-19 baht for air-conditioned buses that cover longer distances.
Taxis: Taxis are an alternative way to get around. In major cities like Bangkok, the taxis are metered, and prices start at 35 baht, with 2 baht being added per kilometer traveled
Car Rental: To rent a car, you need to be at least 21 years old and have a U.S. license that you have held for at least one year prior. Prices start at 700 baht per day
When to go To Thailand
When to visit Thailand: Thailand mainly has two seasons, wet and dry.
Thailand’s high season is November to February. This is when it is the driest but this is also when you’ll be swarmed with the most tourists.
Southern Thailand is hot all year long, but has a very wet rainy season:
The West Coast of Southern Thailand is wet between April to October.
The East Coast is wet from September to December.
June to October is the rainy season and temperatures soar with high humidity.
Northern Thailand’s dry season stretches from November to May.
Temperatures are less hot between October and January and can actually be a little cool in the North especially in the evening and early morning.
Where to Stay in Thailand
Hansar Hotel Bangkok : This five-star hotel in the Pathum Wan District of Bangkok is the place to be. Enjoy private suites with glass showers, an infinity pool and hot tub, a hotel restaurant and bar with live music, a fitness center, and complimentary breakfast and room service. Shopping centers and the Lumphini Park are nearby.
Royal Phuket City Hotel : Just a short trip to the Tiger Kingdom animal park and Wat Chalong temple, and a short walk to the Trickeye Museum, this four-star hotel is the place to stay in Phuket. Enjoy private rooms with sea views, a day spa, the hotel’s three restaurants, a karaoke lounge, and a rooftop pool, plus more.
Check out our favorite booking platforms Booking.com , Tripadvisor and Air B&B for the best deals on accommodation in Ireland.
Thailand Accommodation Guides
- Where to Stay in Bangkok – A Guide to the Best Neighborhoods
- The Best Things to do in Pai Thailand
What to Pack for Thailand
We have been back numerous times and have come up with these Thailand travel tips to help you pack right.
That being said, you don’t have to pack a lot to travel to Thailand, it is always hot! And whatever you don’t have, you can buy there, but here are our top suggestions for things to have while traveling in Thailand.
You can basically live in a bathing suit and flip-flops, although the cities are getting quite chic so it’s nice to dress up too.
Pack lightweight breathable clothing.
Thailand is hot and humid. You won’t need a lot of heavy clothing. A bathing suit, shorts, t-shirts.
Hiking boots or shoes are good for jungle and mountain treks
- Sarongs – these can be used for anything. From covering up when visiting temples, being used as a towel or keeping cool on a hot night while using it as a light sheet. Check out our Many Uses of the Simple Sarong for more suggestions.
- Ladies, make sure to pack a light long-sleeved blouse for entering temples. A skirt is a good idea for the same reason, although I often just tie a sarong around my shorts.
- Flip Flops – Flip Flops, Thongs, Jandals…whatever you call them in your part of the world, flip-flops are a must for Thailand. They are easy to slip on and off when entering temples. Since the weather is so warm, you don’t need a lot of footwear unless you are going for hikes. If you are planning on hikes, pack some lightweight hiking boots.
- Backpacks – We prefer a backpack to a suitcase for Thailand as you’ll be on boats, tuk-tuks, motorcycles and trains. Backpacks are easier to carry and you don’t have to roll them through the sand of Thailand’s amazing beaches. We buy a lot of our clothing in Thailand. The fabric is lightweight and perfect for the weather.
Thailand Travel Guide: Best Booking Resources
Whenever we travel to we make sure to start with these companies. We have tried a lot of different ones over the years and all of these have consistently proven to be the best when it comes to offering great prices.
We have used every one of these personally and continue to do so.
- Booking.com : This is our go site to when comparing prices for accommodation. It usually has the cheapest prices, especially in Europe and we love their interface. Not to mention you get free cancellation and you are guaranteed the best price.
- Trip Advisor : What we like about Trip Advisor is that we can look at all the reviews and then book our accommodation. TripAdvisor is where we go when we want to compare prices with multiple accommodation providers.
- VRBO : is the main search engine we use when we are looking for a home or apartment rental. It can sometimes be cheaper than hotels and it is the best way to stay in areas that offer a more local feel.
- Hostelworld : With one of the largest databases of hostels in the world, Hostelworld is the go-to site when you are looking for budget accommodation.
- Skyscanner : This is the first place we check for flights. It consistently comes back with the cheapest and best options. It allows us to compare a lot of airlines to get the best price.
- Rome 2 Rio : If you want to see how to get somewhere by plane, train, bus, ferry or car Rome2Rio lays it all out for you as well as related costs.I love how they show it all to you on a Google Map and it works offline.
- Get Your Guide: For all your day trip and city guide needs, we use Get Your Guide. It has the world’s largest collection of things to do with more than 30,000 activities in 7500 destinations.
- World Nomads Insurance: When traveling to Italy you should always have travel insurance. We have found the best bang for your buck is by far World Nomads.
Thailand Travel Guide: Related Articles
To browse all our articles and guides about Thailand click here .
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The Best Things to do in Koh Samui, Thailand
32 Best Things to do in Bangkok, Thailand
27 Amazing Places to Visit in Thailand
From exploring canyons in Pai to partying it up in Bangkok, here’s our list of the absolute best places to visit in Thailand.
Thailand is one of the most popular countries in the world for tourists, and for a very good reason.
There’s just so much to see and do in Thailand that any type of traveller will easily feel at home there, whether they’re looking for parties, adventures, or just casual relaxation.
Table of Contents
Khao Sok National Park
Kanchanaburi, khao yai national park, kamphaeng phet, tonsai beach, koh phangan, ang thong national marine park, koh phi phi, phanom rung historical park, mae hong son, the best places to visit in thailand.
The entire country is very welcoming and it’s heaven for all tourists as there are a lot of diverse places to visit in Thailand.
From the amazing Bangkok to tropical rainforests and ancient temples, Thailand is just an incredible destination to visit .
This national park is one of the most well-known natural places to visit in Thailand.
Khao Sok is located on the mainland in southern Thailand, and it’s a large rainforest that was made into a national park in 1980.
The national park itself is quite sizeable and is home to a wide variety of wildlife such as elephants, porcupines, bears, hornbills, and so much more.
On top of being one of the oldest rainforests in the world and a viable home to some of the world’s largest mammals, Khao Sok is most known for its unique and one-of-a-kind flowers like the Bua Phut.
The national park is very well maintained.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities here, although there are only two maintained trails.
There are floating bungalows on Cheow Lan Lake, which are immensely popular, and the million-years-old limestone cavers are a sight to see as well.
READ MORE: Read all about our time at Khao Sok National Park .
Thailand is known for its incredible tropical paradise feel, and while there are a million spots like that in the country, few are as vibrant, charming, and relaxing as Koh Lipe.
Koh Lipe is the southernmost island in Thailand, and it’s sparsely populated in contrast to many of its counterparts.
Unlike many of the other islands in Thailand, Koh Lipe is not too developed.
You will find some of the most Zen and charming white sand beaches in the country, as well as pure and almost untouched nature, which make it one of the most beautiful places to visit in Thailand.
The beautiful beaches with their crystal-clear turquoise waters and very fine white sand are stunning.
Scuba diving, watching sunsets, yoga, observing bioluminescent planktons, hiking, and so much more is possible on the island paradise that is Koh Lipe.
We suggest this eco snorkeling tour when you visit Koh Lipe.
Anyone who is not sure where to go in Thailand but wants to see something totally unique and chilled vibe should definitely opt for a trip to check out the best things to do in Pai .
It’s a charming little town that’s very close to Chiang Mai – the second largest city in Thailand – and for such a small town, there is a mind-bogglingly large number of activities to explore.
The entire atmosphere of Pai is very calm and relaxing, and it’s considered something like a hippie commune in the middle of Thailand, where backpackers and visitors go to relax.
There is so much to explore and so much to see in Pai.
Some of the popular things to do in Pai are exploring the canyon, Pembok Waterfall, and driving around with a scooter amidst gorgeous nature while some of the friendliest folk you’ll ever meet are surrounding you.
The history of South East Asia is incredibly vibrant, turbulent, and diverse, and it’s filled with tales of old kingdoms in the form of old ruins left behind after their fall.
Ayutthaya, the old capital city of one of those thriving kingdoms, Siam, was sacked and looted after a conflict with Burmese forces.
The ancient city of Ayutthaya used to be one of the most important trading posts in this part of the world, but it was also a centre for arts, culture, and religion, which is what most of the ruins are all about.
Here you’ll find plenty of old temples, whose silhouettes shape the sunset skies, and enormous stupas that evoke a lost feeling of grandeur.
We suggest you book a tour of ancient Ayutthaya to get the most out of your time in the ancient city.
The Historical Park of Ayutthaya is one of the most unique places to visit in Thailand because it looks and feels entirely magical.
As the former capital city of the Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai is a cultural city that offers plenty of rest and relaxation for those who seek that.
It has hundreds of temples and unique streets and shops that make Chiang Mai one of the best places to visit in Thailand all on their own.
However, the real charm of Chiang Mai is the sheer amount of outdoor activities it has to offer, mainly because the surrounding nature is so pristine and varied that you’ll have a hard time trying to do anything else but have outdoor adventures.
Trekking is something everyone should do while visiting Chiang Mai, especially exploring the many trails in the Mae Tang and Chiang Dao districts.
You can also cycle, which is one of the most recommended things to do here, particularly if you like exploring the more rustic backdrop of Chiang Mai.
A unique way to get the adrenaline flowing is by taking the zip-line through the jungle .
There are plenty of other adventurous things to do here in northern Thailand, like rafting, zip-lining, and kayaking, all of which are very streamlined and incredibly easy to start doing.
Chiang Mai is easily one of the best places to visit in Thailand!
Don’t miss our epic guide of the top things to do in Chiang Mai.
The town of Kanchanaburi has a long but dark history.
It used to be an important strategic location in World War II, mainly because of the Death Railway Bridge, which was one of the most important things built there in WWII.
Most of the things to see here are concerned with the war, and that’s why there are plenty of important and haunting museums.
To learn firsthand about this history, we suggest that you join a tour to visit the famous River Kwai Bridge and the Death Railway .
However, this city is also considered to be a gateway of sorts into the nearby gorgeous and pristine national parks.
The Erawan National Park is one of them, which is one of the most beautiful things to see in Thailand, as it has a multi-tiered waterfall that’s the perfect spot to visit for any nature lover.
History buffs will also enjoy this region because of the centuries-old ruins, like the Prasat Muang Singh, which used to be an old trading post and town in the 12th century.
READ MORE: Check out this post about the best things to do in Kanchanaburi !
Chiang Rai is the sister town of Chiang Mai, and even though it’s not considered as popular, it’s still a fantastic destination on its own that deserves a lot more love.
It’s found in the northern Thailand, close to the borders of Laos and Myanmar.
Chiang Rai is a destination filled with temples and historic buildings, but also spots ideal for trekking and exploring.
You’ll find historic buildings like the White, Black, and Blue temples, each with its own vibrant and unique aesthetics.
Join a private tour today and enjoy the beauty of these majestic buildings.
One thing that every visitor should do is visit the northernmost point of the country, as it’s only a short drive from the city.
It is a signpost marked location that’s found on the border with Myanmar that connects the two countries via a bridge.
Among many other things, the nearby Tree Top Adventure Park is considered one of the best adventure activities in Thailand, where you can find rope bridges and zip lines surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
READ MORE: Check out these awesome things to do in Chiang Rai .
Khao Yai National Park is the first national park in Thailand and is also one of the largest ones.
It’s one of the most biodiverse parts of Thailand where you’ll find wildlife like monkeys, elephants, deer, macaques, and hundreds of other unique species.
Khao Yai is incredibly beautiful too – it’s filled with stunning waterfalls, natural caves, deep rainforests, and gorgeous scenery, which is why it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most popular Thailand attractions.
Camping is one of the most popular things to do here, which is why there are plenty of campsites dotted around Khao Yai National Park.
Due to the sheer number of parks, they’re often visited by critters, for which there are strict rules on how visitors should handle them.
Koh Tao, a picturesque island nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, has become a sought-after destination for travelers seeking an idyllic tropical getaway.
With its white sandy beaches, lush greenery, and crystal-clear turquoise waters, Koh Tao offers visitors a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The island’s captivating beauty and laid-back atmosphere create a perfect setting for relaxation and adventure.
Not only does Koh Tao boast some stunning landscapes in Thailand, but it is also the country’s premier destination for learning how to scuba dive.
The calm, warm waters surrounding the island provide excellent visibility and an abundance of vibrant marine life, making it the ideal location for novice divers to gain confidence and master their skills.
Furthermore, Koh Tao is home to numerous professional dive centers offering PADI certification courses at competitive prices, making it the most affordable and accessible place in the country for scuba diving enthusiasts.
In addition to its underwater allure, Koh Tao offers a diverse range of activities, such as hiking, rock climbing, and yoga, as well as mouthwatering Thai cuisine and bustling nightlife.
With its unique blend of natural beauty, thrilling adventures, and welcoming atmosphere, Koh Tao truly is a must-visit destination in Thailand.
Check out our guide on the best things to do in Koh Tao !
Bangkok is the single most visited place in Thailand, and it’s an enormous metropolis that offers just about anything for anyone.
It’s considered the pillar of tourism in Thailand, and even though it might often feel like a place filled with tourists, it’s actually perfect for a visit.
Bangkok is one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand because there’s an excellent mix of urban and outdoor things to do.
You’ll be able to explore the city properly and subsequently fall in love with Thai culture.
One of our favourite things to do in Bangkok was to tour the floating markets .
However, having an adventure is also highly recommended, especially if you like adventurous activities like leaping from a plane, wakeboarding at Taco Lake, cycling, trekking, zip-lining, and so much more.
There is no shortage of things to do in Bangkok, and it’s the capital city of the country and truly one of the finest places to visit in Thailand.
Check out our full guide to the best things to do in Bangkok .
Down in the far south of Thailand, not too far from the Malaysian border, are some of the most spectacular islands in the Andaman Sea.
From Lipe to Libong, Kradan to Ngai, there’s no shortage of awesome places to explore down here.
One of our favourites though is the picture-perfect island of Koh Mook.
This old-fashioned paradise is the perfect place to use as a base for exploring all the other islands, and there’s plenty to do there to keep you occupied for a few days.
It’s laidback, beautiful, has lots of good spots to stay and some great restaurants. Well worth a visit!
READ MORE: Plan your trip with our guide to the best things to do on Koh Mook .
The quaint town of Kamphaeng Phet is an underrated destination.
In many ways, it’s the opposite of the regular Thailand tourist attractions because it rarely sees many tourists, at least not international ones.
However, this is a town with a wide palette of things to see and do, especially if you’re a fan of history and tradition.
One of the coolest locations is the Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well an archeological dig site that’s dotted with numerous temples and old ruins.
In the historical park, you’re free to wander and explore as much as you like, although make sure not to climb anything that resembles a Buddha statue.
The nearby Phra Ruang Hot Springs are just a pleasure to visit as they’re literally filled with hot water with healing and therapeutic properties.
On top of that, you have a very welcoming local culture, which makes this town one of the best places to go in Thailand.
READ MORE: Be sure to add these things to do in Kamphaeng Phet to your itinerary.
From kayaking to motorbike exploration, the beautiful island of Koh Lanta offers everything.
It’s a totally laidback and charming destination, one that offers a lot more activities than it may initially lead on.
It’s a perfect destination for travellers on all budgets and there’s just so much to see and do.
Because it’s not as visited as many other islands, it’s not as developed, but that gives it a much more relaxed and homely vibe.
The long and empty beaches are ideal for relaxation, and the roads are perfect for driving a motorcycle.
This is a destination that you’ll definitely want to stay for as long as possible, especially in a place like the Crown Lanta Hotel .
The street food is also unbelievably good, and there are also restaurants that serve traditional and unchanged recipes from centuries ago.
From hiking and exploring the stunning and unforgettable Koh Lanta National Park to scuba diving and kayaking through water caves, Koh Lanta is just an ideal traveller’s destination.
Due to it being in a unique position on the west coast of southern Thailand and flanked by limestone cliffs, Ao Nang is practically impossible to develop more than it already is.
However, being slightly underdeveloped is just one of the main draws of Ao Nang because that lends it a very specific atmosphere of adventure.
You’ll be able to explore some of the finest backdrops in Thailand such as jungles and beaches.
Rock climbing is one of the most popular things to do here because of the limestone cliffs, which are natural borders that separate Ao Nang from the rest of Thailand.
You can also go trekking, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkelling, and basically anything that’s involves the outdoors, all the while enjoying one of the hippest and relaxing atmospheres in Thailand.
We definitely recommend that you explore the underwater world by snorkelling or diving while you’re there.
Here’s our guide to the best things to do in Ao Nang.
If anyone says “paradise” doesn’t exist, they haven’t been to the islands of Thailand.
Postcard-worthy beaches rest underneath limestone cliffs and the shining Southeast Asian sun.
Rich Thai culture complements the beauty of nature, with elaborate temples, crowded street markets, and friendly locals inhabiting the land.
For the best introduction to the stunning scenery and warm culture of Thailand, visit Phuket, the country’s largest island.
At roughly 576 square kilometres, the list of things to do in Phuket is quite long.
For those who want to relax and soak in the sun, you can spend quality time with Phuket’s many beaches and dine out at the island’s best restaurants.
For those who want to experience authentic Thai culture, you can tour the Buddhist temples, take a cooking class or visit a local boxing match.
For those who want to have a little adventure and explore nature, you can go island hopping, swimming in waterfalls, or hiking to a scenic lookout point.
There are so many things to see in Phuket that cater to any sort of traveller.
Phuket’s attractions can suit budget, mid-range, and luxury travel styles, and Phuket also makes a great starting point for venturing out to Thailand’s other islands.
Cheap ferries and boat tours connect Phuket with the other islands in the Andaman Sea, so you can easily base yourself in Phuket and take day trips to the other surrounding islands.
Or, you could conveniently fit Phuket into an island-hopping extravaganza , which we highly recommend!
Either way, Phuket is definitely a must-see island of Thailand.
Plan your trip to Phuket with our comprehensive guide .
Even though Koh Kood is one of the largest islands in Thailand, it has the feel and atmosphere of a much smaller one.
That’s because the island is barely inhabited, and there aren’t even any towns, just fishing communities.
Its main draws are the beaches and pure relaxation – along with a little snorkelling .
The beaches on Koh Kood are often considered to be the best beaches in Thailand.
There are resorts on the island, but due to its size and number of stunning beaches, you’ll want to explore and get around, which isn’t an ideal situation.
The roads aren’t perfectly maintained, but they’re more than good enough for scooters.
However, the quality of the beaches is so good that it’s entirely worth visiting this island, even with the mild inconvenience of poor roads.
Planning a trip through the many islands of Thailand can seem overwhelming.
There are over a thousand Thai islands and they all have something different to offer.
The big developed islands have lots of accessible tourist attractions, and the small uninhabited islands have raw, untouched natural beauty.
To make your trip-planning easier, visit the bigger islands that have a diverse range of landscapes and activities and explore them thoroughly.
One of the most rewarding islands to visit is Koh Samui, the second largest island in Thailand after Phuket.
Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui is a huge island covered in forest and fringed with pristine beaches.
Koh Samui has had a reputation for being quite ritzy and expensive.
There are lots of luxury resorts, fancy hotels and vacation packages that appeal to the wealthy, but recently the more local, affordable side of Koh Samui is beginning to surface.
Backpacker hostels, street markets, cheap tours and a long list of attractions are starting to pull more young budget travellers to Koh Samui.
READ MORE: Be sure to add these activities to your Koh Samui itinerary!
Koh Surin is an archipelago that consists of two main islands, Surin North and Surin South, but it’s actually part of a larger national park, called Mu Koh Surin National Park.
The islands of Thailand are often considered some of the best reasons for visiting the country, and if that’s the case, then Koh Surin is the best of the best in the country.
They’re arguably the most biodiverse part of Thailand, and even though they’re known most for their marine life, the land wildlife is just as diverse.
The beauty of Koh Surin is so stunning, it’s almost unbelievable.
From the pristine nature to incredible hidden beaches to perfect camping spots, Koh Surin is a remarkable sight.
It’s absolutely worth a visit, though it’s also worth mentioning that a large portion of the islands are off-limits to everyone.
As one of the oldest cities in Thailand, Lopburi offers a lot of different things for every type of visitor.
There are plenty of attractions in Lopburi, from historic landmarks to natural retreats.
Spots like Wat Phra Sri Ratana Mahatat and the old spiritual site, Phra Khan Shrine, are old ruins that perfectly encapsulate what Lopburi was all about.
However, the thing that Lopburi is most known for is the sizeable population of macaques that live freely in the city and are found everywhere.
We’d recommend that you check out the monkey temple when you visit.
Here you can easily find plenty of natural spots, too, like Ang Sub Lek, which is a reservoir outside of town that’s ideal for an afternoon of relaxation.
Southern Thailand is known for its white sand, crystal clear waters, dramatic islands and laid-back lifestyle.
It is also a hub of adventure and activity, such as rock climbing, diving, kayaking, snorkelling, and plenty more.
Tonsai Beach , in the Krabi province, is a small village based in a bay on the Thai mainland, which is only accessible by boat.
We’d recommend you check Tonsai Beach out on this tour , along with several other great beach spots.
Its neighbours, Ao Nang and Railay have long been favourite traveller destinations because of their imposing limestone cliffs, drawing a huge crowd of dedicated rock climbers and BASE jumpers.
Tonsai is the lesser-known of its counterparts, and as a result, is a lot more rustic. But in this lies its beauty, and it is the kind of place you come for a day and stay for a week or longer.
The typical crowd that congregates at the beach are budget-focused, bohemian backpackers.
Rock climbing is the main daytime activity, but for those who prefer to keep both feet on the ground, sea kayaking, slacklining, hiking and exploring tend to chew up the hours.
In the evenings, the art of fire dancing takes over the scene, and all up and down the beach, the hypnotising views of twirling flames is dominant.
Reggae music drifts from all the bars, and exhausted adventurers lounge on the cushions, in a slight conversation between intermittent naps.
The haze of “herbal smoke” floats in the air, and everyone is happy and relaxed.
The little market town of Sukhothai might appear uninteresting and unremarkable at first but it’s actually an important spot of old historical ruins: Sukhothai Historical Park.
This town used to be a kingdom in the 13 th century, which is considered to be the golden age of Thailand, and the Sukhothai Kingdom was one of the most prosperous of the time.
Today, the town has a quaint and charming feel, but it’s entirely worth visiting to explore the ruins of the old quarters.
One of the best ways to see the old town is by taking a bike tour .
The Sukhothai Historical Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s one of the most impressive ones in Thailand. It’s worth coming here to see Sukhothai Historical Park alone!
This is one of the quietest and most relaxing islands in Thailand, even though it used to be one of the main party spots in the country a few decades ago.
However, developments of other islands led Koh Phangan to be slightly sidetracked, leaving its developments at a slow pace.
That’s not a bad thing, however, because that means the island today is just the ideal place for those that want to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern Thailand.
The beaches are absolutely stunning and are arguably the main draw of the island.
You may also enroll in cooking classes, go boating, or just relax in a pub while you’re watching the sunset.
We’d recommend you spend some time on the water enjoying the beauty of island life.
READ MORE: Check out all of the great things to do on Koh Phangan !
Located in the south of Thailand, home to towering limestone karsts and white sand beaches is the stunning Trang province.
For those looking to get off the beaten path in one of the world’s most touristed nations, Trang offers a multitude of incredible attractions and activities without the crowds.
The main hub in the province is Trang City, an interesting town filled with delicious street food, curious artwork, and heavy Chinese influence.
Most people that come through Trang City use it as a launching point to get out to the nearby islands of Koh Mook, Koh Kradan, and Koh Ngai.
And while those islands are indeed gorgeous, it’s worth spending at least one day here to experience an authentic Thai city that hasn’t been spoilt by tourism.
Split into two sections, Trang City and Trang Old Town, you’ll find an eclectic culture where Buddhists, Catholics, and Muslims live in harmony, celebrating life and food with pride.
Locals are proud of their heritage and feel a distinct connection with the nearby sea.
Dugongs live in the Andaman Sea right next to Trang, and residents happily display their fondness of these captivating creatures through paintings, statues and monuments all around the city.
What really sets Trang apart from the rest of the country though is its unique cuisine. Thais from all around the nation visit Trang on holiday purely to sample their delicious versions of seafood, dim sums, and pastries.
It’s a truly wonderful place, and well worth a stopover when looking for unique places to visit in Thailand.
Be sure to add these great things to do in Trang to your itinerary!
As one of the most beautiful destinations in Thailand, Ang Thong National Marine Park is just a joy to explore.
It’s not only gorgeous and scenic but it’s also filled with mystery as it is believed to be the place where sea gypsies live.
This archipelago, specifically Emerald Lake, was also featured in the movie The Beach.
There are over 40 islands that are part of Ang Thong, each more beautiful than the last. Book a boat tour to visit the national marine park and see the best of the islands while you’re here.
You can explore to your heart’s content some of the most diverse marine life in Thailand here.
The islands of Koh Phi Phi are very popular among tourists in Thailand, but with good reason.
The natural scenery here is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Everything you’d expect to see on a postcard from a tropical island paradise, like soft white sand, brilliant turquoise water, and lush green palm forests, you can find all over the Phi Phi Islands.
Koh Phi Phi is actually an archipelago of six different islands.
The only inhabited island is Koh Phi Phi Don. This is the biggest island out of the six and it is still no bigger than 10 square kilometres.
Travellers can only stay on Koh Phi Phi Don, and there are tons of hostels, resorts, restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions.
The island is so small that you can walk everywhere, and you can visit the other islands by kayak, long tail boat, or speed boat.
Koh Phi Phi Leh is the second largest island and is home to great snorkelling sites and picturesque beaches and lagoons.
We’d recommend you check out this snorkelling eco tour when you visit Koh Phi Phi.
READ MORE: Plan to do these exciting things whilst visiting Koh Phi Phi
Even though Buddhism is the most represented religion in Thailand, Phanom Rung is a Hindu temple that has persisted over the region that was first ruled by the Khmer.
While this temple isn’t quite on the same level as the magnificent Angkor Wat, it’s still a stunning and unique temple as it is the only Khmer temple that’s built on an extinct volcano.
The surroundings around the temple are breathtaking; however, the real star of the show is its sanctuaries.
From the top sanctuary, you have a great view of the rest of the region.
The Phanom Rung Festival is something that every visitor should strive to attend, as it happens only in April.
It is a gorgeous parade of traditional sounds and sights, as well as dances and even fireworks.
As a decidedly provincial town with obvious Burmese influences, Mae Hong Son is ideal for those that don’t really know what to do in Thailand but prefer to have a relaxing and calm time.
This town in northern Thailand is relatively small, and at times, it hardly looks like a normal Thai town.
Unlike the rest of Thailand, Mae Hong Son has a mostly different culture, where it has far fewer tourists as it focuses more on domestic tourism rather than international.
Most of the visitors are Thai, which is why there is almost no party culture in this town, but rather calm and quiet activities for those that want to get away from other places in Thailand full of tourists.
On the other hand, trekking in Mae Hong Son is definitely one of the best things to do in Thailand as the terrain and landscape are so perfect that you’ll never want to leave.
Want a real adventure? Check out the Mae Hong Son Loop – the best motorcycle adventure in the country.
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About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd
Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook , YouTube and Instagram .
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How to Plan a Vacation in Thailand
A First-Timer's Guide for Planning a Trip to Thailand
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Although planning a vacation in Thailand sounds exotic, expensive, and potentially out of reach, getting there is easier than you think!
Bangkok often ranks as the most visited city in the world for a reason: Thailand is a beautiful, affordable destination — even for two-week trips. Each year, millions of travelers enjoy a vacation in Thailand without spending a fortune or backpacking for months.
How Much Will a Trip to Thailand Cost?
Forget the long-standing myth that faraway places are accessible to only the wealthy or retired. A vacation in Thailand can be as inexpensive as a trip to California, Hawaii, the Caribbean , or any of the other usual top destinations for Americans. It may even cost less, or at the least, you'll get nicer rooms and more memorable experiences for the same amount of money spent.
A large number of Thailand's annual international arrivals are backpacking budget travelers who get by on less than US $900 for a month in Southeast Asia . You may opt for a bit more luxury on a shorter trip. The good news is that tourism is well developed in Thailand; you have choices. You can find beach accommodation for $10 per night (bungalow with fan) or $200 per night (five-star hotel) — the choice is yours!
Airfare is obviously the largest upfront cost. But finagling a deal is possible with a little trickery. Use domestic carriers to get yourself to LAX or JFK, then book a separate ticket to Bangkok. Splitting a ticket between two carriers could save you hundreds of dollars!
Once on the ground in Thailand, the exchange rate and lower cost of eating and drinking can quickly compensate for the cost of the airfare.
Take a Tour or Plan an Independent Trip?
Although organized tours in Asia may seem the quick-and-easy solution, you can save money by just organizing transportation and activities once you are already on the ground. Research activities you want to do, however, there is no real need to book them online or before arriving in Thailand.
Booking day trips and activities is very easy in Thailand. Unless you go far off the beaten path, the language difference won't present any problems. Pretty well everyone who works with tourists will speak good enough English.
You'll find numerous travel agencies in tourist areas. Simply walk in, tell the person behind the counter where you want to go , and minutes later you'll be holding a bus/train/boat ticket. Commissions charged are trivial. The reception desk at your hotel or guesthouse will gladly book tickets and activities for you.
For activities, you'll usually be collected at your hotel by someone from the agency on the morning of your tour. Travelers are consolidated then taken on the day trip. At the end of the day, you'll be returned to your hotel — easy!
When Is the Best Time to Visit Thailand?
Weather differs a little between regions, but generally Thailand's driest months are between November and April . Even during the low/rainy season in Thailand , you'll enjoy days of sunshine. Discounts for activities and accommodation are easier to negotiate during the low-season months.
You may wish to time your vacation in Thailand around one of the many big festivals . At least make sure that you are aware one is coming — missing an exciting event by just a day or two is very frustrating!
The big Full Moon Party each month will affect transportation to and from the Koh Samui Archipelago (especially Koh Tao and Koh Phangan) . Planning an itinerary around moon phases may sound a bit pagan, but you'll be glad you did!
Do You Need Vaccinations for Thailand?
Although no specific vaccinations are required for Thailand, you should get the general ones recommended for all international travelers in Asia .
Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and a Tdap (for tetanus) are the most common jabs international travelers go for — all are good investments and provide protection for years.
You will not need rabies, yellow fever, or Japanese encephalitis vaccinations for a regular vacation in Thailand. The same applies for anti-malarial drugs. There is a relatively low risk of contracting malaria in Thailand, especially if you aren't spending extended amounts of time in the jungle.
The biggest risk in Thailand is dengue fever . Until the new vaccination being tested becomes available widespread, your best defense is to do what you can to avoid mosquito bites .
Zika (another mosquito-borne illness) is not a serious threat in Thailand.
What to Pack for Thailand?
With expansive malls in Bangkok and outdoor markets in Chiang Mai, along with plenty of smaller open-air street markets between, you'll have no shortage of cheap shopping opportunities. Leave room in your luggage: you'll definitely want to take home some unique finds! Pack less clothing and plan to buy an outfit or three there.
Rather than doing a lot of shopping before your vacation in Thailand, plan to purchase items locally to help merchants who need the income more than Western CEOs. Why carry an umbrella 8,000 miles if you can buy one there for $2 if it rains?
There are a few things you'll want to bring from home for your trip to Thailand. But beware of the biggest mistake most travelers in Asia admit to making: packing too much .
Accessing Money in Thailand
ATMs are literally everywhere in Thailand; they often compete for space! That's because providing cash to travelers is business: fees have skyrocketed to US $6-7 per transaction (on top of whatever your bank charges).
When using ATMs in Thailand, request the maximum amount each time . Sometimes breaking large denominations can be a challenge. Experienced travelers know to ask for 5,900 baht rather than 6,000 baht — that way they get some smaller denominations, too.
For instance, if you request 6,000 baht from an ATM, you'll receive six stiff 1,000-baht banknotes. Breaking them in small shops and eateries may produce some groans from the staff. Paying with them at carts for street food is simply rude. Instead, ask for 5,900 baht at the machine and get five 1,000-baht notes, one 500-baht note, and four ever-useful 100-baht notes.
As usual, exchanging U.S. dollars is an option. Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted at malls and larger hotels/restaurants, however, you may be charged an additional commission when paying with plastic. Identity theft is a growing problem ; opt to pay with cash when possible to minimize risk and transaction fees.
Haggling is a part of Thai culture , and you should bargain playfully for purchases such as souvenirs and clothing. Prices are even flexible in shopping malls. Accommodation and activities can often be negotiated, but always keep in mind the rules of saving face . Never haggle for food, drinks, or items with standardized prices.
Tipping is not the norm in Thailand , although there are some rare exceptions. Even if your intentions are good, leaving a tip accelerates cultural mutation and inflates prices for locals. Doing so causes people to prefer serving tourists (because they sling money around) over locals who may be more frugal.
For large purchases made on your trip, you can request a VAT refund at the airport as you exit Thailand. You'll need to have receipts and paperwork.
Prices displayed always include tax. At the register, you'll pay the price that was displayed. Sometimes a 10 percent service charge may be added to restaurant bills.
Where to Go in Thailand?
Most travelers arrive in Bangkok, but there are plenty of beautiful destinations farther afield .
- The Thai Islands : No Thailand vacation is complete without visiting at least one or two of the beautiful islands. All differ in personality and allure. The shape of Thailand means choosing between some great island options in the Andaman Sea (west side) and the Gulf of Thailand (east side).
- Chiang Mai : Thailand's northern capital is a favorite for many visitors. Life within the Old City is more manageable and easier to get around than Bangkok. The vibe is inarguably different and pleasant. Good food, outdoor markets, Lanna culture, and $6 massages are all great reasons to grab a low-cost flight or train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai .
- Pai : Located around four hours north of Chiang Mai and surrounded by green hills, Pai has transformed in recent years from a quiet, "hippie" village into a major tourist destination. Despite the extra visitors, Pai retained much of its riverside charm. Organic farms and food, surprisingly good nightlife , and yoga/holistic/healthy workshops are all great reasons to visit. Northern Thailand provides many other draws in the area as well.
- Ayutthaya : Just a two-hour train ride north of Bangkok, Thailand's former capital is the place to enjoy culture and cycle through ancient temple ruins. You'll often be the only person in a centuries-old temple!
- Railay : Thailand's rock climbing epicenter in Krabi isn't just for climbers anymore. The impressive limestone scenery is unlike any other. But even if you prefer feet on the ground, the powdery sand and isolation (Railay is only accessible via boat) will make you feel as though you're on an island.
What to Expect on a Thailand Vacation
The tourism infrastructure in Thailand is well established. They've had a lot of practice accommodating visitors of all budgets and trip durations. But as with many top destinations, things are creeping decidedly upscale as older, mom-and-pop businesses are demolished and replaced by foreign-owned chains.
Thai food is celebrated around the world for its savory flavors and spicy potential. But forget the myth that all Thai food is spicy — most restaurants (especially the ones catering to tourists) will ask how much pain you can handle or allow you to add your own spice. Chili powder is usually available on every table.
Fun nightlife is widespread in Thailand. The cost of a large domestic beer averages $2 – 3. From epic beach parties to drinking sessions with locals , only a few specific areas are as seedy as is often depicted on television.
Thailand is a Buddhist country . You will inevitably end up encountering monks and visiting impressive temples. Don't expect Hollywood's depiction of a Buddhist monk: the Theravada monks in Thailand often have smartphones!
Thailand is a very safe destination. Crime, aside from the usual petty theft, is rarely ever a problem for foreign visitors. Tourism is big business, and Thais will often go out of their way to help you enjoy their beautiful country.
Enhance your trip by learning how to say hello in Thai before you go. Locals are patiently tolerant, however, you should know a few dos and don'ts in Thailand to avoid being "that" tourist who accidentally ruins a good thing!
If planning a vacation in Thailand is so easy, there must be some downsides, right? Sure. With every international destination, there are some potential concessions to make. Here are a few common complaints most often cited by travelers:
- Assuming you departed from North America, circling the globe to Asia will consume a full day (each direction) of your vacation time. Also, jetlag bites harder; the time difference between Eastern Standard Time and Bangkok is +12 hours.
- Major attractions get very busy during the dry season months (November to April). Traffic in Bangkok is worse than ever.
- Although crime isn't bad, there are a number of individuals who make livings by scamming tourists.
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How to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train, Bus, and Plane
Vital Information for the First-Time Visitor to Thailand
Drinking in Thailand: Etiquette and Local Spirits
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What $100 Can Get You in Southeast Asia
Is It Safe in Thailand?
Getting Around Thailand: Transportation Options
10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Plan Your UK Trip
10 Great Places to Visit in Thailand
Summer in Thailand: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See
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Winter in Thailand: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See
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Your Trip to Chiang Mai: The Complete Guide
Top 10 Tourist Destinations in Asia
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The Complete Travel Guide to Thailand
With around 40 million tourists visiting the country annually, Thailand is Asia’s top travel destination and offers a myriad of places to visit. Home to pristine white sandy beaches, masterfully crafted temples, and rich cultural heritage, Thailand has something for everyone. A great thing about this amazing country is that in spite of the influx of foreigners, it’s cultural integrity remains intact. Moreover, Thailand managed to avoid colonization yet it was able to imbibe Western influences while retaining its own rich heritage. It’s tough to sum up the diversity of travel to Thailand. Bangkok, is a bustling metropolis with magnificent temples and splendid palaces, while the coastline of the Andaman Sea features picture-perfect beaches. Wherever you travel in Thailand, there’s the ‘scrumptious food and the friendliness of the locals. Read our Thailand travel guide that highlights what you can see and do in this beautiful nation.
What to pack for your trip, when is the best time to visit thailand, get lost in the hustle and bustle of bangkok, go on an adventure around chiang mai, go island hopping, koh phi phi, koh phangan, historic city of ayutthaya, grand palace, jim thompson house, sukhothai historical park, erawan national park, wat phra that doi suthep, khao sok national park, food in northern thailand, food in central thailand, food in southern thailand, the popular tuk tuk, inter-town buses, songthaew and air-conditioned minibuses.
In this Article
Thai is the official language and is spoken by the majority of the locals. It is sometimes referred to as the Siamese language which originated from Sanskrit, Old Khmer, and Pali. In the Islands, English is much more common because most of the people are in the tourism industry. Most of those who work in hotels, resorts and tour activities will be able to converse fluently with you. In Northern Thailand and in rural areas, you are likely to meet people who don’t speak English. No worries though, a game of charades is an excellent way to get to know the locals.
Generally speaking, visitors to Thailand must secure a visa, unless they come from a visa-exempt country or a country whose nationals are eligible to secure visas on arrival. Thailand is currently offering visa-free travel to citizens of 64 countries and territories. Citizens of 18 countries can secure a visa on arrival. Travelers from the United States, United Kingdom, and those with European Union passport get a free 30-day visa when they enter Thailand by air and 15 days if they enter overland. Holders of ASEAN passport are given a free 30-day visa upon entry. Please note that more countries in Southeast Asia are now requiring tourists to show proof of onward flights before allowing entry so see to it that you make the necessary booking arrangements.
Thailand has different seasons, but in general, traveling around is fairly warm, with the exception of a couple of cooler months in Northern Thailand. Having said that, bring several cool and quick-dry clothing along with a few scarves for visiting temples. Aside from the usual travel essentials, make sure you bring along slip-on shoes, a good pair of travel sandals, a sturdy travel water bottle, sweater or sweatshirt, bug spray, sunscreen, sand-proof beach blanket, bathing suit, and an RFID travel wallet. In case you forget these items, you can easily find most of what you need, especially when you’re in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.
The weather in Thailand is divided into three seasons: rainy (from May–October) cool (November–February) and hot (March–May). The best time of year to visit is when the weather is cool and pleasant, roughly from November to February . During this period the temperatures are more manageable and there is less rain; the waterfalls are in full flow and the upland flowers are in bloom. Note, however, that it is also the busiest tourist season. If you plan to head north during this period, the temperatures can drop rapidly at night so bring warm clothing.
The rains usually pour between June and August, reaching its peak in September and October. The monsoon usually hit the northern region at the end of May. The rainy season is considered the off-peak or low season for tourists. However, it does not necessarily mean that those months are a no-go. Yes! there are some heavy downpours, but they don’t last too long. In the hot season, you are best off going to the beach.
Things to See and Do in Thailand
Most visits to Thailand start with Bangkok. This cosmopolitan city is the heart of the nation and is one of the most vibrant cities in Southeast Asia. In its historic center, you’ll find majestic temples and scuttling canalside markets. Head downtown and you’ll see a slew of skyscrapers and Insta-worthy bars and clubs.
If it’s your first time in Bangkok, the city can overwhelm you! Try to ease into the metro by going on an organized tour so you won’t have to go through the hassle of traveling all around by yourself. Here are a few recommendations: Ayuthaya Day Tour, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market & Maeklong Train Market Tour, and then treat yourself to scrumptious dinner on the 82nd floor of the Baiyoke Sky Tower so you can take in the spectacular view. When you are already settled down and enjoying the pace of the city, check out the following sites and activities:
- Visit the famous Wat Pho Temple and the Grand Palace
- Shop in the diverse Chatuchak weekend market
- Explore Lumpini Park
- Drop by Jim Thompson’s House
- Take in the view from Wat Arun
- Visit the Royal Elephant Museum
- Catch a performance at Patravadi
- Spend a hip night out in Thong Lo
- Visit the Temple of the Golden Mount
- Head to the Dusit Zoo
- Visit the Vimanmek Mansion
- Go to the Bangkok Butterfly Garden & Insectarium
- Visit Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World
The cultural capital and transport hub of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a haven for temple-spotters, culture geeks, and family travelers. This quaint city is littered with temples from the once autonomous Lanna Kingdom. It also has Thai handicrafts, cooking classes, and fine dining. It’s a great place to hang out especially for those who wish to enjoy a break from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.
Between its numerous ancient temples, mouth-watering street food, and fantastic hikes and treks, Chiang Mai has tons of things to offer. Cookery courses teach tourists the art of Thai cuisine, while the picturesque countryside boasts hill tribes, jungle treks and easy access to wonderful natural attractions. This old city offers superb dining experiences thanks to imports such as Burmese curries and Japanese sushi, plus an array of vegetarian fare home-grown specialties. In a nutshell, Chiang Mai is a melting pot of cultures, traditions, beautiful architecture, and of course, delicious food!
Here are some of the top things to do when visiting Chiang Mai…
- Pay a visit to Doi Suthep
- Explore Doi Inthanon National Park
- Take a Boat Trip on the Mae Ping River
- Experience the Loi Krathong Festival
- Meet and greet the monks at Wat Phra Singh
- Relax At Bai Orchid And Butterfly Farm
- Check Out The Ruins Of Wat Chedi Luang
- Discover the curative powers of the San Kamphaeng Hot Springs
- Experience the Songkran festival
With thousands of beautiful islands in Thailand to choose from, deciding on a route can be tough. It can be overwhelming so we decided to do much of the leg work for you and included in this travel guide which islands to go to so you don’t miss out on the best ones.
Top Islands in the Andaman Sea
Phuket is the biggest and busiest island in Thailand. It’s also one of the world’s best destinations, with powdery white sands, stumpy palm trees, emerald waters, and bustling towns. Every island has beaches, but none can compare to those in Phuket. The island is blessed with over 30 fabulous beaches, with Kamala, Karon, Kata and Patong being the most popular. Phuket City, the capital, has buzzing markets and old shophouses. Patong, the main resort town, boasts a number of chic bars, discos, and nightclubs. Head north of the island and you’ll find some hidden gems that make for a more romantic atmosphere.
The natural beauty of this rainforested, mountainous island cannot be rivaled, the high-end seaside resorts are so inviting, and the Thai food is just as pleasing as the island’s rich history. Phuket has something for everyone, with hundreds of hotels to choose from, and a wide variety of dining and partying options. The dichotomy between luxury and low key, busy and blithe, and nature and adventure will make you fall in love with this remarkable island.
This is another of Thailand’s island-superstars. It’s most popular as the setting for the critically acclaimed film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Danny Boyle. Amidst all the hype and fanfare, the island doesn’t disappoint. It is unspeakably gorgeous, especially where the rolling mountains meet the clear turquoise waters of the Andaman Coast. Koh Phi Phi actually consists of two islands: Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh. Only the former is inhabited and it has all the accommodation and amenities. The latter is home to the world-renowned Maya Bay and receives hundreds of tourists on day trips. Unfortunately, the island has been closed for repair and renovation since October 2018 and will likely remain so until 2021.
Fastly becoming one of the tourists’ most favorite islands in Thailand, Koh Lipe offers clear turquoise waters, paradisiacal local cuisine, and a sense of serenity that is truly unique. Known as the Maldives of Thailand, this L-shaped island is a part of the Adang-Rawi Archipelago, located on the outskirts of the Tarutao National Marine Park. It has three popular beaches namely Sunrise (east), Sunset (west), and Pattaya (south). Just a stone’s throw away from these pristine beaches are famous dive sites including the Yong Hua Shipwreck and the 8 Mile Rock pinnacle. What’s particularly great about Koh Lipe is that it hasn’t been ruined by over-tourism and you can explore it all year round.
Top Islands in the Gulf of Thailand
The Gulf of Thailand is a shallow inlet in the western section of the South China Sea. This region is hot, but the warm weather comes with certain perks such as living a simple life on one of the dazzling islands. To get here, you can take a bus from Bangkok to Pattaya, and then take a ferry to whichever island you wish to visit. For Koh Chang, it’s best to go from November to February, but for the rest of the islands you can pay a visit until the end of April.
Koh Chang is the third largest island in Thailand and also widely considered as one of the best for tourists. Bohemian and laid back, it features lush forests, friendly local people, delectable dishes, and some of the most beautiful beaches with stunning sunset in the Gulf of Thailand has to offer. Once you arrive, you will understand why it is such a tourist magnet. A big plus is that the island has not been over-commercialized though it is very popular.
Named after the ‘Samet’ trees that thrive on the island, Koh Samet offers all the key elements that make for a fun-filled holiday getaway – crescent bays with powdery white sand, turquoise blue sea, tons of water sport activities, and a pulsating nightlife. The Thai government restricted overnight stays on Koh Samet up until 1981. Since then, the island’s nightlife has flourished and cliff-top resorts sprung up like mushrooms. A mere 15-minute speedboat ride from the mainland, it has significantly less rainfall than most other Thai islands, making it the ideal destination to visit all year round.
If you want a laid-back setting along long stretches of white sand beaches, then Koh Mak is the perfect place to visit. Because it is relatively underdeveloped, there will be no fancy bar or any kind of buildings. It is like Thailand from 20 years ago! With its quiet coasts, this tropical island is therefore perfect for families and couples looking for a romantic and secluded vacation. The island is a well-kept secret for most tourists so it’s great if you don’t want to follow the big crowds.
Top Islands in Surat Thani
Surat Thani is the largest of the southern provinces of Thailand. It is divided into 19 districts that include many islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Some of which are well-known as the most unique islands in the country because of their hidden waterfalls, budding gastronomy scene, and one of the biggest parties on the planet! It is best to visit between December and April because the region receives the least amount of rain.
This island city is a cosmopolitan melting pot that attracts travelers for extended stays, from beachside bungalows to one of the many luxury resorts or villas on the white sand beaches. From the lively yet laid back atmosphere of Lamai Beach to the hustle and bustle of Chaweng Beach and the timeless appeal of Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village, Samui is absolutely unique among the Thai islands. It has you covered, whether you want to bask in the sun, doze in a hammock, feast on world-class cuisine, go beach partying or discover wellness in an exclusive spa. With adventure around every corner, the island is perfect for a romantic honeymoon, a chilled-out getaway, and everything else in between.
Popular for its monthly Full Moon Party, the beer-infused festival on the beach that draws thousands of travelers from across the globe, Koh Phangan is easily the wildest of all the Thai islands. The neon-heavy, night-long celebration draws 10,000 to 30,000 dreadlocked revelers to the island’s southeastern peninsula, with most of the festivities centered on Sunrise Beach. There’s much to Koh Pangan though and if partying isn’t your thing, venture out of the social hotspots and explore the island’s bustling night markets, waterfalls, semi-hidden coves, and temples between jungle treks.
Koh Tao, meaning ‘Turtle Island’ – definitely lives up to its name as it has emerged as the premier scuba diving destination in Thailand. It’s warm shallow water is perfect for newbies wanting to get their PADI license. The underwater scenery is highlighted by tropical coral reefs and a variety of marine species including rays and whale sharks. Green and hawksbill turtles also gather here to breed. This hilly 21 km² island was only fully explored in the early 1980s, but it has developed rapidly and now hosts restaurants, nightspots, and a wide selection of hotels, from budget beach bungalows and guesthouses to five-star luxury resorts.
Top Attractions in Thailand
This once affluent Siamese political and trade capital is considered as the most magnificent as well as the most ravaged city in the history of Thailand. Still, tourism is thriving, as the metropolis is buzzing with tales to tell. Founded in 1350, it served as the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. It prospered from the 14th -18th centuries, when it became one of the biggest and most cosmopolitan urban areas in the world, and a center of global commerce and diplomacy.
At the heart of Ayutthaya is the Ayutthaya Historical Park which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, and the most visited site in the area. The park sits on an island enclosed by three rivers where four majestic temples of the early Ayutthaya period stand amidst a dense canopy of ancient trees. To the west lies the Royal Palace and the Royal Chapel – the political and spiritual center of the bygone kingdom.
Apart from understanding Ayutthaya’s rich history and exploring its breathtaking temples, your trip can be made extra special with something more recent as regards to the cultural contexts like the Ayodha Floating Market, the Ayutthaya Boat Museum, the Bang Sai Royal Folk Art and Crafts Center, and the Krirk Yoonpan’s Million Toys Museum. The city’s proximity to Bangkok makes it a popular destination for tourists from the capital.
This architectural marvel is the busiest tourist stop in Bangkok. Its 2.35 million square feet of space encompasses over 100 structures that represent 200 years of royal history. The grounds are literally swarming with tourists who crave for some Thai history and culture. Considered as the birthplace of Bangkok, the palace forms part of a larger complex that also includes the hallowed Wat Phra Kaew temple which is home to the famous Emerald Buddha. The palace was constructed in 1782 and for 150 years it served as home for the King of Thailand, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government. Today, it is exclusively used for ceremonial occasions.
Travel Tips: Dress in long skirts/trousers and sleeved shirts (no tank tops). If you’re wearing flip flops or sandals, you must wear socks (no bare feet.). Guides can be hired at the ticket kiosk. Tickets are sold from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm and the price includes entry to the Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall and Vimanmek Palace.
This is the former home of James Harrison Wilson “Jim” Thompson, the American entrepreneur and art collector who founded the world-renowned Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. Born in Delaware in 1906, Thompson served briefly in the Office of Strategic Services in Thailand during WWII. After the war, he settled in Bangkok where he developed a passion for Southeast Asian art and antiques. His interest was piqued by his neighbors’ handmade silk and he later decided to send samples to fashion houses in London, Milan, and Paris. Over time, he managed to build a steady worldwide clientele and was ultimately acknowledged as the man who revitalized the silk industry of Thailand. Thompson’s house is now home to a magnificent collection of Asian and Southeast Asian paintings, ceramics, sculpture and object d’art.
This is the biggest and oldest temple complex in Bangkok. It’s famed for its enormous reclining Buddha that measures 15 meters high, 46 meters long and covered in gold leaf. Hence, it is also known as the “Temple of the Reclining Buddha”. Wat Pho is a must-see for first-time visitors in Bangkok because it features a host of superlatives including the first public university in Thailand and the country’s largest collection of Buddha images. After a stroll around the complex, try to get a soothing foot or head and shoulder massage. Wat Pho is the birthplace of Thai massage so it will be a good idea to experience it, especially if you’ve never tried it before.
Travel Tips: The temple complex is open daily from 8 am to 6:30 pm. The reclining Buddha is revered image, all visitors must take off their shoes before entering the temple. A strict dress code also applies: no exposed shoulders or skin above the knee.
This walled city houses the ruins of Sukhothai, the capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom in the 13th and 14th centuries. The entire city is surrounded by a moat and walls fringing an area of 2 km long and 1.6 km wide. There are 193 ruins, including the remains of 21 historical sites, on 70 km2 of land. The park is highlighted by the remains of the royal palace and 26 temples, the biggest being Wat Mahathat. The whole compound is maintained by the Fine Arts Department of Thailand with assistance from UNESCO, which declared it a World Heritage Site in 1991.
Travel Tips: The park opens daily from 8:30 am to 6 pm. It consists of five zones that each charge an entrance fee of 100 Baht. Cars and motorbikes are no longer allowed inside the park. Some of the most impressive ruins are located outside the city walls, so you may need to rent a bicycle to fully appreciate everything. Electric buggies can also be rented to get around and free maps are available at the ticket office.
This very popular 550-sq-km park is located in the Tenasserim Hills of Kanchanaburi Province. It was founded in 1975 and became the 12th national park in Thailand. The highlight of the park is bathing in the emerald-green pools under the seven-tiered Erawan Falls, a waterfall named after Erawan, a three-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology. Conquering the first three tiers is easy, but for the succeeding ones, you’ll need walking shoes and some endurance to complete the 2-kilometer hike.
There are several caves in Erawan National Park, but four are worth noting: Mi, Phartat, Reua, and Ta Duang. You can visit them and escape the crowds near Erawan Falls by taking a ranger-led hike on the Khao Hin Lan Pee Trail which takes you through the forest to the fifth tier of the falls.
Travel Tips: Bring a swimming costume and beware of monkeys as they have been known to snatch swimmers’ belongings. You can’t bring food beyond level two and while water bottles are allowed, you’ll need to register them and leave a 20-Baht refundable deposit.
Overlooking Chiang Mai from its mountain throne at an elevation of 1,073 meters, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most sacred temples in Northern Thailand. Construction of the temple started in 1386 and legend has it that it was built to house a bone from Gautama Buddha’s shoulder. Unfortunately, the bone broke into two pieces. The smaller fragment was enshrined at Wat Suan Dok, while the other was placed by King Nu Naone of Lan Na on the back of a sacred white elephant which was released into the jungle and climbed up Doi Suthep. The elephant stopped near the summit and trumpeted three times, then it gently laid down and passed away. The spot where it lay became the site where Doi Suthep temple was founded.
Travel Tips: Entrance to the temple costs 50 Baht. Once inside the temple grounds, you must remove your footwear and be appropriately dressed. The area can get very busy, so try to time your visit as early as possible during the day. The temple also has a meditation center where you can learn and practice meditation.
Covered by the largest expansion of virgin forest in Thailand and the world’s oldest evergreen rainforest, Kao Sok National Park is perfectly located on the mainland between Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui , the most sought after destinations in Southern Thailand. But if you’ve had your fair share of beach-bumming, venture inland to the 738-sq-km park and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Thailand.
Khao Sok’s expansive terrain makes it one of the last suitable habitats for large mammals. More than five percent of the animal species in the world can be found in this park, which also features soaring waterfalls, networks of dirt trails, and a beautiful lake. During the rainy season you may spot bears, boars, gaurs, gibbons, tapirs, wild elephants and if you’re lucky, even a tiger. You’ll also find more than 300 species of birds, 38 species of bats, and the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia kerrii .
Travel Tips: Animal spotting aside, the best time to visit is during the dry season which runs from December to April. During the monsoon season (June to October), the trails get slippery and there are plenty of leeches. Plan your trip well because there are lots of things to do and the park is extremely vast.
What to Eat in Thailand
Any visit to Thailand won’t be complete without a taste of its world-famous dishes. Aside from being aromatic, Thai cuisine is also characterized by a unique mix of flavors and textures as it perfectly blends the five essential flavors: sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and bitter.
Thai food is one of the major reasons for the nation’s popularity with tourists. The capital Bangkok and the city of Chiang Mai are the primary culinary centers, offering the best gourmet selection from street food to the delectable dishes served at the finest Thai restaurants. Make no mistake about it though, you can enjoy a gastronomic treat in even the smallest and remotest towns, many of which offer specialties. Let’s break it down region by region…
In the north, much of the food differs from the rest of Thailand because of the region’s distinct climate, which is generally cool, making it ideal for a number of different herbs and vegetables. The food also bears the culinary influence of neighboring countries like Laos, Myanmar, and even China. The two flavors that are present in most dishes are bitter and sour. Note that seafood is not in abundance in this region so the food is not salty.
Khao niaow, meaning * sticky rice, is the staple of the diet in the north, instead of white rice. One of the most popular dishes to pair khao niaow with is som tum* (papaya salad). Noodles are also common in the region. Khao soi , one of Thailand’s most popular dishes, has a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles and boiled egg noodles. Some of the other more popular dishes in the region include gaang hang lair (curry), larb (meat salad), and sai oua (sausage).
The cuisine in Central Thailand is by far the most unique. The region draws culinary influence from all of its surrounding geographic neighbors. The specialties from both Northern and Southern Thailand are often used in central Thai cuisine, so chefs and cooks are able to tweak dishes since many of the ingredients are readily available. Thai meals here usually consist of four to five different courses, including a type of soup, a curry, a fried dish, a spicy salad, or some type of vegetable. In Bangkok, the locals normally order a signature Thai dessert to go along with this full course. Some desserts in this region you definitely should try are thong yip and thong yod, which are popular for supposedly bringing good luck to the diner.
As you head to the South, the food changes as radically as the landscape. Fish sauce is commonly used in most of the dishes. The cuisine in this region is often overlooked when compared to the dishes in the north, but its salads, soups, and spicy curries give its central and northern counterparts a run for their money. If you are fond of intense flavor, please don’t hesitate to visit Southern Thailand with a wide variety of seafood. The dishes here are not only the saltiest but also the spiciest.
Curries are very popular in Thailand, but the most scrumptious ones are found in the south. The curries here are very thick, flavorful, and remarkably spicy. This region also draws upon flavors from neighboring countries. For instance, it uses flavors and ingredients from Indonesia and Malaysia. Coconut is likewise used in most dishes as it is readily available. Coconut milk is used in cooking some of Southern Thailand’s signature dishes, including soups and curries. It is often used as an alternative to different types of cooking oils, and it makes the dishes creamier and thicker. Aside from coconuts, pineapples also thrive in the climate, making them a common ingredient in dishes as well.
Getting Around Thailand
There are always a lot of options when it comes to travel logistics so there’s no need to worry. You can book a trip either at the reception desk of your hotel or travel agencies. They can take care of your needs so there will be easier for you to have combination tickets including transfers.
Traveling around Thailand is generally cheap and efficient. The country has different modes of transport that come in different shapes and sizes. However, these sizes and shapes often vary in smaller towns and cities compared to those in Bangkok. Anyway, this travel guide covers everything from the world-renowned Tuk Tuks to trains, inter-town buses, and Songthaews.
The tuk-tuks are the most indigenous mode of transport in Thailand. They are the 3-wheeled motorized rickshaws that you usually see in travel-related photos of Southeast Asia. These vehicles are unique to Thailand and have become one of its national icons. The drivers give their beloved vehicles colorful paint jobs and decorate them with dangling trinkets to make each one unique. They give tourists a sense of adventure and make for some Insta-worthy photos. Note that because of their popularity among tourists, the fare in a tuk-tuk is often the same or more expensive than in metered taxis. But if you can, you should certainly take at least one ride during your visit in Thailand.
Buses are one of the cheapest and most convenient means to get around Thailand. They come in four categories in terms of cost, speed and level of comfort: ordinary buses (not air-conditioned and usually orange-colored) and three types of air-conditioned bus (usually blue); second-class, first-class and VIP.
Ordinary and a number of air-con buses are operated by a government-controlled transport company called Baw Khaw Saw (BKS), while privately owned air-con buses also ply the most popular long-distance routes. On most routes, including almost all trips leading out of Bangkok, second class air-con buses have already replaced ordinary buses as the primary workhorses of Thailand’s bus system, although there are still plenty of the latter plying shorter routes in the more remote areas of the country.
First-class and VIP ****buses offer express services with fewer stops. These are the best option for long-distance trips because passengers are allotted specific seats, there’s a toilet, and on the longest trips passengers are given snacks, blankets, and nonstop DVDs. The first-class buses have fewer seats and more legroom than second-class. VIP buses have the least number of seats and the most legroom.
In the rural areas, buses are often supplemented by songthaews, which are open-ended vans or pick-up trucks onto which the drivers pack as many passengers as possible on two facing rows of seats. If you don’t mind waiting 10-15 minutes for a ride, then this is an excellent mode of transport and it’s a cheap way to get from one side of a town to the other. In most towns, the songthaew ‘terminal’ is located near the market. If it’s time for you to get out, just press one of the stop buzzers on the roof and the driver will pull over for you.
In the deep south, the major towns are connected by the so-called ‘share-taxis’, although they are being replaced by air-conditioned minibusses. They cover the distance faster than full-size buses, but they can be uncomfortably cramped when full. Hence, they are not ideal for travelers with large luggage or rucksacks. In most cases, long-distance songthaews and air-conditioned minibusses drop off passengers at the exact address if the drivers are informed far enough in advance.
Thailand has one of the world’s best meter-gauge railway system. Traveling by train is easy to get around and explore the country. It’s cheap, comfortable, and safe. Unlike taking a bus or a flight, it is a genuine Thai experience that makes the journey a part of your trip as much as the destination.
The rail network of Thailand is composed of four main lines. The Northern Line links Bangkok to Chiang Mai via Ayutthaya, Lampang, Lopburi, and Phitsanulok. The Northeastern Line divides splits into two after Ayutthaya, with the more northerly branch connecting Bangkok to Nong Khai via Khon Kaen and Udon Thani. The lower branch runs eastwards to Ubon Ratchathani via Khorat and Surin. The Eastern Line also has two branches, one links Bangkok to Pattaya and Si Racha, while the other runs from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet. The Southern Line is the longest railway line in Thailand. It extends via Chumphon, Hua Hin, and Surat Thani, with secondary lines to Nakhon Si Thammarat and Trang to Hat Yai, where it splits: one line runs down the eastern section of the peninsula to Sungai Kolok, while the other line continues down the west coast of Malaysia via Butterworth.
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Complete Guide To Traveling Thailand
Thailand is ranked as one of the top vacation destinations in the world. It features world-class white sand beaches, big beautiful temples and historical sites, scuba diving and adventures that will remain memories forever. There are large bustling cities like Bangkok (Thailand’s Capital city) and quiet mountain towns like Chiang Mai.
This Southeast Asian hotspot is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in the world. Despite having been there multiple times, we dream about returning every time we feel the travel bug. Thailand is one of the easiest and fun places to travel. Adventure seems to be around every corner and won’t break the bank along the way.
There are some tips and tricks you should know before you travel to Thailand. Let us walk you through the basics of the country and some expert travel tips that will make you feel like a travel pro!
Table of Contents
Top 8 places to visit in thailand.
Thailand has so many amazing sites to visit, that you may have some trouble deciding on where to spend your time. The Thai word for island is Koh which is the name of many of their tropical islands. Below we’ve listed our top must-see places in Thailand:
1. Koh Pha Ngan / Ko Phangan
First on our list for a reason, this tropical paradise is our favourite island in Thailand. Koh Pha Ngan (pronounced Ko-pun-yun) is most famous for its full moon parties and luxury wellness retreats. This island is the ideal size for renting a scooter. The island’s north end has a boho vibe with tons of yoga retreat centers and vegan restaurants. If you are looking for a party, head to the south of the island, near Haad Rin beach where the nightlife is palpable. This is also the home of the infamous Full Moon parties.
If you’ve been itching to try scuba diving, Koh Tao is one of the cheapest places in the world to get your open water diving certification . This is the smallest of a 3 island series in the area with neighbouring islands Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui located close by. We recommend bringing a snorkel along with you to this island as there are many spots to snorkel from the many beaches on the island.
Koh Tao is a great place for hikers or those looking for a quieter beach experience. With most of the roads on this island being made of dirt and hotels often being in the form of thatched-roof bungalows, you will feel a world away visiting here. If basking on a beach and watching warm turquoise waters splash up on white sandy beaches sounds good to you you’re sure to love it here.
3. Koh Samui
This is the third island (Koh/Ko in Thai) in the Gulf of Thailand that sits just south of Ko Phangan. It’s the largest of the 3 and has a lot to offer. An international airport allows you to fly directly to this island.
Spend your day visiting the famous Big Buddha, soaking in stunning waterfalls or simply lazing at the beach. There is also great shopping on the island. Koh Samui is quite a large island so the best way to get around and see the sights is to rent a scooter to explore.
Thailand’s capital is a lively metropolitan city that is full of life. This inland destination offers tons to do and see. Once your feet are burning from walking the city, take a needed rest aboard a boat and float your way down the city’s floating market. If you are looking to immerse yourself in culture, stroll the grounds of the Grand Palace or head to either of the nearby temples Wat Arun or Wat Pho. Backpackers will want to head to Khao San Road where they will feel right at home with many hostels and a lively party scene.
One of the largest tourist hubs in Thailand, Phuket is a must see destination. You can expect the perfect blend of busy city life and lazy beachfront resorts in this area. It is located on the east coast near the southern tip of the country. There is a large international airport that you can use to arrive and depart. Some places (like Patong) are super popular, and therefore busy, but you can scooter to a number of less busy beaches in the south.
6. Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a great place to visit in Thailand, especially for adventure lovers. This inland village requires a bus or train ride to get to but is well worth the visit. This is a great place to visit for street food. Chiang Mai’s affordable prices are bound to impress you. As you’d expect in this jungle paradise, there are tons of great waterfalls that you can visit in the area.
This northern town is a popular starting point for many of Thailand’s great overnight treks. There are many jungle tours in the area that vary with activities from rafting down rivers, zip lining and more. Overnight you can stay in huts in the hills and get the opportunity to mingle with local hill tribes such as the well known Karen Longneck Tribe.
Just be sure to not book a tour that offers elephant riding. If you’d still like an up close and personal experience with them you can do so ethically at sanctuaries such as the Elephant Nature Park.
Read about 6 heartbreaking things to avoid while traveling .
Located just northwest of Chiang Mai is the backpacker/hippie paradise of Pai. If lush jungle, natural hot springs, cascading waterfalls and quaint markets are your thing, head north to the city of Pai. One of the best things to do in Pai is to lazily float down the Pai river on an inner tube (you can rent them there). In the evening, the city comes alive with a night market that has some delicious street food. While you can do adventurous cave exploring and white water rafting in this area, it is more known for eclectic cafes and swinging in a hammock as the sun sets.
8. Koh Phi Phi
Much like Ko Pha-Ngan, Koh Phi Phi is another place to experience the nightlife. Our first island on the list on Thailand’s west side, this island is commonly reached through nearby city Phuket. A ferry will take you across stunning clear waters weaving past other small islands to get you to the Phi Phi islands. You may have seen this island popping up all over your Instagram for their gorgeous viewpoint you can hike to and get some beautiful views.
Partying is undoubtedly the biggest pull here, you can’t walk the beaches at night without having a bucket drink (literally sand buckets full of drinks), trying laughing gas balloons and taking in an impressive fire show on the beach. The clear ocean waters make for great snorkeling and nearby islands allow for many island-hopping tours leaving from the island.
Top Activities To Do In Thailand
1. scuba diving.
Thailand is one of the biggest scuba diving destinations in the world. Ocean water temperatures sit around 30℃ (85℉) and offer a very inviting turquoise colour. Under the water, you’ll be treated to near perfect diving conditions with impressive 30m+ visibility in some areas. Once diving below the water you will be welcomed by impressive schools of fish and colourful coral reefs.
Thailand is one of the biggest scuba diving destinations in the world. Ocean water temperatures sit around 30℃ (85℉) and offer a very inviting turquoise colour. Under the water you’ll be treated to near perfect diving conditions with impressive 30m+ visibility in some areas. Once diving below the water you will be welcomed with impressive schools of fish and colorful coral reefs.
2. Rent a scooter
It’s no secret that we love to ride around Thailand on scooters. We find them to be one of the best activities in Thailand. You can find scooter rental shops almost everywhere for a reasonable price. Find more about renting scooters in Thailand here .
3. Beach life
A tropical vacation isn’t complete without time spent on the beach. One of the most famous things about Thailand is its many white-sand beaches. The southern part of the country has some of the nicest beaches you’ll find anywhere in the world. Keep in mind that some will have an admission fee but this is usually because they’re a maintained beach meaning they will be free from garbage.
Many beaches in Thailand are perfect for snorkelling. The more popular beaches will usually have places to rent snorkels allowing you to see the magical world under the surface of the water. Marine life in Thailand is abundant and you are sure to see fish and coral in the warm tropical waters.
5. Jungle adventure
There are many places to adventure in the Thai jungle. Mainly found in the northern part of the country, jungle treks are a great way to see a different perspective of Thailand.
Thai temples are found all over the beautiful country. Renting a scooter in Thailand will allow you to get to these historical sites on your own terms and not have to spend money on a guided tour. Just be aware that there is usually a dress code to enter these spiritual places.
How Much Does It Cost To Travel Thailand?
Thailand is known for being an inexpensive travel destination. You will get huge value for your money no matter where you travel in this country.
There are different types of accommodations in Thailand. Different types of rooms will have different price points.
If you’re comfortable sleeping in a room with other people, a dorm room in a hostel will typically be the cheapest option for a single traveller. The more people are in a room the cheaper it will cost. These types of places range from 150 THB to 400 THB .
Smaller towns away from the tourist areas will be the next cheapest place to stay in Thailand. Rooms in these areas will typically start around 400 THB to 700 THB .
A fancier night in a hotel will be more expensive, but still much cheaper than you’re used to at home. You should expect to pay around 1400 THB for a room with a fan and a double bed.
Resorts will be the most expensive option to spend the night in Thailand. Starting around 2300 THB a place on the water will cost around the same as a regular hotel back home.
Thailand is known for their cheap and unbelievably delicious food. There are food choices that will fit anyone’s budget. You will have many different options for great eats wherever you travel in Thailand.
Street food is by far your cheapest option, in Bangkok, you can even find a plate of Pad Thai for 25 THB. When eating street food in Thailand you can expect to spend less than 50 THB a meal.
Sticking with the local street food will likely cost you between 120-170 THB a day . The street food is safe and arguably much more delicious than restaurants, not to mention much cheaper.
Restaurants serve western food but at a higher price point. If you are craving a hearty pasta dish or a good burger expect to pay closer to 150-300 THB per plate.
Thai dishes in a restaurant on average start at around 65 THB depending on how fancy the restaurant is.
If you’re looking to have a beer at a Thai restaurant you can expect to pay around 60 to 80 THB. Cocktails and mixed drinks will be around 300 to 450 THB .
Tips To Save Money
Like travelling anywhere in the world there are some ways to save your hard-earned money. Thailand is unlike any other travel destination and e ven if you’re a seasoned world traveller you may be surprised by some of these tips and tricks.
Don't Book Ahead
Some things you should not pre-book before you leave. We typically try to book our first night or two of accommodation in a city and then don’t book any more nights until we get there. This allows us to ensure we are staying in a good area as well as ultimate flexibility.
We’ve found that if you walk into a hotel you can usually get a better rate than going through a booking service.
This is also the case with transportation around Thailand as well. Booking ahead of time can sometimes cost more than double the price of booking in person. Renting a scooter to drive you to tourist sites will be far cheaper than booking organized tours and allow you the freedom to see the sites at your own leisure.
If you time your meals right you can get a huge discount. Happy Hour is alive and strong in Thailand, especially in larger cities like Bangkok and Phuket. You can expect a discount on alcohol and even possibly some lower prices on special dishes.
7-11 is one of the best places to get everything from Toasties to Chang’s (the beer of choice in Thailand). This is a one-stop shop for many tourists as this Thai convenience store has stocked everything you will need.
You can drink alcohol while walking the streets in Thailand. If you are on a budget, try buying your alcohol at a local 7-Eleven rather than at a restaurant. Having a Chang, the local beer, at 7-Eleven costs about 35 THB rather than the 100-150 THB it costs in a restaurant. If you do go to a bar, take advantage of the many happy hour deals around.
7-11 also sells food, medical supplies and toiletries (among other things) as well. Toasties and chips are among the most popular travel food found here. They even heat up the toasties!
How to Get Around Thailand?
Thailand is one of the most tourist friendly places in the world. With many travel agent offices scattered throughout all tourist areas in the country, getting from point A to B is safe and stress-free. There are many different ways to get around the country:
One of the cheapest ways to travel around Thailand is by bus. Affordable prices draw in a strong backpacking crowd to this form of travel. Complex route systems allow you to travel anywhere and everywhere.
Most places will have the option of either daytime or overnight buses to take you to popular tourist destinations. These buses are a bit of a gamble, some offer new comfortable lounging chairs while others look like they’re held together with duct tape. Buses have bathrooms on board and most routes include a rest stop along the way to stretch your legs.
Pro Tip: Try to not get a seat near the bathroom!
Thailand taxis are just as you’d expect in terms of accessibility. You will undoubtedly rely on this transportation when leaving airports, although this is the most expensive place to rent them. When hiring a taxi, make sure that your driver uses the meter or settle on an agreed price before you start driving. If you don’t you could end up paying significantly more.
Also, be cautious with your bags. Only put your bag in the trunk of the taxi if you absolutely have to. If you do, make sure one person stays in the car while the bag is retrieved as there’s a chance the driver may drive off with it.
Tuk Tuks are some of the most famous ways to get around Thailand. As these are privately owned, you can expect the prices to vary dramatically not only from city to city, but from driver to driver. We recommend taking a ride on this iconic Thailand experience only when travelling short distances. You can expect your Thailand Tuk Tuk to cost around 100-300 THB , depending on how far you’re riding.
Tuk Tuk’s are not equipped with the meters that you would expect from a taxi. Be sure to agree on a price with your driver before leaving for your trip.
With many of the top places to visit in Thailand being islands, you will likely be taking a boat or ferry while travelling through Thailand. There are many different types of boats and ferries ranging from longtail boats to huge car ferries. You will usually always have more than one option to get to your destination.
Note that ferries range in price, and their prices are directly reflective of what you can expect. The less expensive ones will usually be older boats with fewer amenities.
A comfortable and affordable way to get around the country is to take a train. 5 major train lines allow access to many areas throughout the country. Trains in this area offer 3 travel styles, all with their own pricing points. While first-class riding will be the most comfortable offering private air-conditioned cabins with comfortable sleeping. Second-class train tickets are split into categories: air-conditioned and fan-cooled cabins.
While this is going to be the most expensive form of travel, the many airports located throughout the country make travelling by air an easy way to see the country. Bangkok (BKK) is one of the biggest travel hubs in the area with over 63 million passengers passing through a year (2019).
- Chiang Mai International Airport allows accessibility to the country’s northern area.
- Phuket International Airport is located in the southern end of the country allowing tourists easy access to the country’s stunning beach life.
- If you are looking to jump right into island life, Koh Samui is home to another international airport that has easy access to the popular island chain in the Gulf of Thailand.
If you’re staying in an area for a couple of days, renting a scooter will allow you to see the area from a unique perspective. Scooter rental companies are readily available in all areas of the country and are incredibly affordable. Driving around Thailand on a scooter is one of our favourite things to do.
What To Bring To Thailand? - Our Thailand Packing Guide
What you decide to pack for a trip to Thailand will depend on a few factors. The length of time will be one of the biggest factors when packing for your trip. You should also consider how readily available laundry services will be. A good rule of thumb is the more remote a place is, the less likely you’ll be able to find laundry when travelling. Below is a guide to what we always bring to our Thailand vacations.
- Swimsuit – we like to bring at least two pairs of swimsuits. This way you can wash and let one pair dry so you always have a fresh and clean one. Nobody likes wearing a wet bathing suit.
- Underwear x12
- Socks x 12 pairs
- Toothbrush and toothpaste (travel size)
- Shampoo (travel size)
- Water shoes
- Walking shoes
First Aid Kit
- Antibacterial cream – Wounds will not heal in Thailand. Having some of this will give you the best chances of healing your wounds.
- Bandages – having your own bandages will come in handy in an emergency.
- Lip Chap – Your lips will definitely take a beating when you’re in the hot sun for long travel days.
- Lock – Many tourist attractions and hotels will have lockers where you can store your belongings while you’re out and about. Having your own lock will make it way easier and make sure your stuff is safe.
- Dry Bags / Zip-Lock Bags – Dry bags are great places to keep things you want dry, even in your bag. Zip-Lock Bags will be a great place to keep shampoo and anything else that can leak separate from everything else.
- Travel Charger Adapter – Thailand uses a different type of charger than the standard North American plug. Be sure to travel prepared with a travel adapter.
- Ear Plugs – Trust us, you will want a few pairs of these for overnight buses or dorm rooms where it can get a little loud at night.
- Headphones – great for long flights or overnight buses. Be sure to download your favourite playlists to your phone!
- Garbage bag x4 – these are great for keeping your dirty laundry separate from your clean stuff
- Reusable water bottle – We love our Yeti water bottles. They come with clips so you can attach them to your bag so you always have access to a drink. There will be many places you can refill them as well.
When Should You Visit?
Thailand remains around the same temperature all year round. But parts of the year are much rainier than others.
Cool Season: November – February
This will depend on which area and the time of the year you’re planning on visiting. The cool season is between November and March and is the best time of the year to travel to Thailand. It could also be the most expensive (but still cheaper than most places in the world). Temperatures at this time of year will be around 30℃.
Hot Season: March – June
If you want to experience Thailand’s hot season you should plan for days over 35℃. Nights will also be just a little cooler than this. Be sure to pack some protection from the sun. We have been to Thailand twice in June and it was quite warm.
Rainy Season: July – October
If you are the type of person who doesn’t like rain we suggest not going to Thailand during this time. The temperature will still be hot but the nights can drop a little bit especially in the north. It’s considered the “off-season” and could run into some attractions being closed or have reduced hours. Beaches can also be quite dirty due to the more extreme weather.
This is also considered monsoon season. We experienced some flash flooding with huge rainfalls when we were in Thailand in June.
Have you been to Thailand? Let us know if you think we missed anything in the comment section below!
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- Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport
Bangkok has been on one heck of an economic and political rollercoaster ride.
It started out as a quiet farming and trading community on the banks of the Chao Praya river, but grew in the 15th and 16th centuries, when a new waterway was created, easing the passage of ships up the river.
When Bangkok became the Thai capital in 1782, the town was mainly inhabited by Chinese merchants and customs inspectors.
The growth of the city started with the construction of Wat Phra Kaew. Defensive moats were dug, canals built and a city wall erected. Bangkok soon became a hub for Chinese trading ships.
King Mongkut (Rama IV) and his son King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) modernised the city in the 1850s, adding roads and railways.
By the end of the 19th century, the population had swelled to around 500,000 and Thailand was successfully fending off interest from colonial powers.
Bangkok expanded east and north in the 20th century. The first bridge over the river (Memorial Bridge) was built in 1932, the same year an absolute monarchy was replaced by a constitutional monarchy.
Following Japanese occupation during WWII, the 1950s saw a period of political turmoil in Thailand, with several coup d’états.
Come the 1960s, Thailand’s fortunes rose. Yet the country wavered between civilian and military rule over the next decades.
Thailand’s economy spectacularly crashed in the 1990s and it was only after tough reforms that Bangkok’s economy started to pick up again.
The 21st century hasn’t been smooth either. In 2006, a bloodless coup overthrew Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was accused of corruption and who now lives in self-imposed exile.
Anti-government demonstrations took place in 2008 amid calls for reform. But in 2011, Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was elected PM, then ousted three years later.
Since then, the reins of power have been in the hands of the military.
Did you know? • Red Bull was inspired by a Bangkok creation called Krating Daeng. • Though many are now filled in, Bangkok’s khlongs (canals) earned it the nickname ‘Venice of the East’. • In Thai, Bangkok is known as Krung Thep.
City Highlight: Bangkok
The capital of Thailand possesses an intoxicating charm that will lure you in and hook you for life.
Featured hotels, the eugenia.
A fine boutique hotel, with just 12 suites, in an elegant colonial house. The suites all have antique furniture, part of a collection belonging to the owner. There is a lounge bar and a restaurant, the D B Bradley, which serves a fusion of east and west. Facilities include an open-air swimming pool and high-speed internet access. Airport transfers can be arranged in one of their fleet of vintage cars.
The Dusit Thani
This is one of the most opulent hotels in Bangkok and is conveniently located off the Silom Road in the business and entertainment district overlooking Lumphini Park. The 500-plus rooms are all sumptuously decorated in Thai style and all have satellite TVs, VCRs and mini-bars.
One of the most famous hotels in the world, The Oriental is located by the Chao Phraya River and is the hotel of choice for royalty and celebrities past and present, such as Somerset Maugham, the Prince of Wales and Elizabeth Taylor. Although the original Author's Wing was built in 1887 and is very much colonial in style, two more modern wings tend to dominate the appearance of the hotel. However, the 393 rooms (including 35 suites) are all sumptuously decorated.
This trendy boutique hotel, where the style is a fusion of East meets West, is now well-established on the Bangkok scene. The 200 rooms have plasma TVs, iPods, Wi-Fi and under-bed lighting. There are even pet-friendly rooms. There is one restaurant, Flava , and a cocktail lounge, spa, health club, swimming pool and business centre.
Stylish Bangkok hotel, close to Lumphini Park, with contemporary, understated Thai design throughout. Silk and wood are used in all the rooms and suites. Superb facilities including several restaurants (Italian, Chinese and Japanese), nightclub, spa, fitness centre, swimming pool, jogging track and tennis courts.
With commanding views of the Chao Phraya River, this hotel in Bangkok has a reputation for excellent service and hospitality. All rooms have a river view, some with balconies, terraces or outdoor Jacuzzis, and are sumptuously decorated. Rooms have marble bathrooms, executive work desk, CD/DVD player, camcorder video playback facilities and Wi-Fi. Diners are well catered for with several restaurants including Mediterranean cuisine at Jesters and Thai home-made style cooking at Thiptara. Leisure facilities include a spa, gym, tennis courts and three-tiered swimming pool.
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Snorkel Thailand: 15 Best Places To Explore Underwater
Thailand remains one of the best places in the world to snorkel and dive, and these underwater worlds are truly magnificent.
There Are Even More Diving Locations For Tourists In Thailand
- Thailand offers some of the best snorkeling locations in the world, including Tachai Island and Chumphon Pinnacles. Cost: $50 to $100.
- Koh Rok Islands, Koh Tao, and Koh Phi Phi are popular snorkeling spots with rich marine life and stunning coral reefs. Cost: $10 to $31.
- Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, Koh Talu, and Koh Lipe are also great places for snorkeling, with diverse underwater ecosystems and clear waters. Cost: $20 to $247.
Home to snorkeling and diving paradise, Thailand features some of the world's best diving locations . Travelers visiting Thailand do not have to forgo their savings to explore under the sea's surface. Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world, with plenty of attractions for everyone. One of the top things to do is to go island hopping in Thailand .
While the cost of diving equipment, a guide, and other expenditures make a thorough dive a costly endeavor, Thailand is home to a variety of snorkeling areas right off its gorgeous islands like Koh Tao and Koh Phi Phi. To know more, here are the top snorkeling spots off Thailand's coast.
UPDATE: 2023/11/28 15:39 EST BY NOAH STAATS
This article has been refreshed with two new diving/snorkel spots in Thailand, including an island peacefully away from the mainland. Luckily, in Thailand, there is beauty at every angle, so diving here will be extraordinary. Have fun, say hi to the fish, and be safe!
15 Tachai Island
For those wanting to snorkel around one of the country's most beautiful islands, Tachai Island is a can't-miss. Here, people can charter boats and head from the mainland to the secluded island, where fish, clear water, and little noise are plentiful. Moreover, Tachai Island in Thailand is located between the Surin Islands and the main Similan Archipelago, offering great beach space to guests. That helps with relaxing before and after the snorkel or dive, especially during a long day. There are companies that head out on liveaboard boats where travelers can stay the night between dives in Thailand, as are regular charter boat trips that don't require a stay. Again, many of these islands and dive spots require a bit of traveling, which can be expensive if you're doing it extensively.
- Cost : $50 to $100
For those hungry in Thailand, here's a guide to street eats throughout the country.
14 Chumphon Pinnacles
Another dive site in Thailand is the Chumphon Pinnacles area of water, located 45 minutes from the mainland. This diving site is also within the Koh Tao area, making it a nice add-on for those already planning a day there. While in the water at Chumphon Pinnacles, people can expect pretty smooth conditions, with one long, complete pinnacle and plenty of marine life. In addition, there's a massive fissure divers can swim through during this experience, and it is a popular spot for photos. Shark sightings are frequent here, so that is one thing to be wary of. Of course, they're used to folks swimming around, but that doesn't mean anyone should engage with them. Keep your distance!
- Cost : $172
13 Koh Rok Islands
Koh Rok is a tiny island in the Andaman Sea in southern Thailand. It is adjacent to the island of Koh Lanta and is a popular snorkeling spot for a day's visit for every tourist. The Koh Rok islands offer a rich marine ecology. The abundant ocean life is an incomparable feature of the Koh Rok journey from Koh Lanta. Koh Rok comprises two islands, the first of which is Koh Rok Yai and the second of which is Koh Rok Noi.
- Cost: $25 to $52
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Koh Tao is bordered by more than 8 kilometers of coral reef and is home to a diverse array of marine life. It's no wonder that the underwater terrain of Koh Tao is spectacular since it's one of the country's most famous diving sites for scuba diver training. Add to its calm, shallow water surrounding most of the island, and snorkeling is a fantastic choice for every tourist. Snorkeling on Koh Tao is an excellent way for the island's many tourists to appreciate the value of the coral reef and the richness of marine life.
11 Koh Phi Phi
Snorkeling or diving among the rocky cliffs of Koh Phi Phi is a must-do while in Thailand , and one may find some of the most fantastic snorkeling areas in southern Thailand on Phi Phi Island. The island is renowned for a few of the world's most diverse coral reef systems, offering grand and breathtaking vistas. When the tide is perfect, locations like Monkey Bay are accessible for tourists, with coral just beneath the surface and vividly colored fish swimming around.
- Cost: $13 to $31
10 Koh Chang
Koh Chang is a paradise for divers and those seeking PADI certification . It is home to one of Thailand's most incredible shipwrecks, allowing for a memorable diving and snorkeling experience. Tourists may also witness the world's largest fish around the area, the whale shark, at various rock pinnacles such as Hin Luk Bat and Hin Rap. In addition, surrounding islands such as Koh Wai provide relatively unspoiled beaches and uncrowded diving spots with shallow, formidable coral reefs teeming with manta rays, leopard sharks, and beautiful reef fish.
- Cost: $16 to $25
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Koh Larn is an ideal site around Pattaya for snorkeling. It is also referred to as 'The Coral Island' for its different species of coral along the beaches. Two more tiny islands near Koh Larn are famous for diving: Koh Krok and Koh Sak. Beautiful coastlines may also be seen, with harmless brown nurse sharks and turquoise spotted manta rays swimming offshore. In addition, since there are no restaurants or stores on these tiny islands, travelers are highly advised to prepare their meals beforehand.
- Cost: $10 to $57
Checking out the ever-stunning city of Bangkok may also be worth it if you have a layover in Thailand.
8 Hin Daeng And Hin Muang
Mu Koh Lanta National Park has two scuba diving and snorkeling locations, the Hin Daeng and Hin Muang. These two world-class dive sites offer some of the best diving and snorkeling in the area, with a reasonable possibility of sighting Manta Rays and Whale Sharks. Because of the increased depths and currents, these locations are only appropriate for scuba divers with a minimum of 20 dives. Also, it is difficult to reach certain snorkeling and diving places; however, travelers are strongly suggested to organize a private driving excursion for easier access.
Koh Talu is a snorkeling and scuba paradise in the Gulf of Thailand, with shallow-water reefs all over the island. Because of the island's chief fish conservationist, snorkelers and divers may witness vast areas of tropical fish off the stunning beaches of Koh Talu, one of Thailand's few privately owned islands. Visitors can also organize expeditions to adjacent islands. Also, the island's only resort offers seaside bungalows, private pools, snorkeling, and diving. Guests may also help save sea turtles by seeding fresh coral on the reefs.
- Cost: $150 to $247
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Koh Lipe is bordered by approximately 30 islands and hundreds of corals, all easily accessible. Tarutao National Marine Park, to which it belongs, is an excellent site for private snorkeling trips and boat vacations. Snorkeling is superior to any Koh Lipe beach since one colorful reef surrounds the island's bulk. With an abundance to visit and experience, tourists are spoilt for choice and will need at least two to three days of snorkeling activities from Koh Lipe to get the most out of their visit.
- Cost: $17 to $20
5 Koh Kradan
Koh Kradan is just another best insider recommendation in the Andaman Sea. Sunset Beach is among Koh Kradan's main two beaches and is a famous snorkeling location. The reef is in good condition and is only a few meters from The shore. After just a few meters, tourists may enter the ocean right from the beach, begin snorkeling, explore the beautiful underwater world with various fish, and enjoy their stay most out of it.
- Cost: $46 to $50
4 Koh Similan
Snorkeling at the Similan Islands is guaranteed to put a smile on every tourist's face, with vividly colorful and lush houses beneath the surface and exquisite white sand beaches with tropical trees in the backdrop. Similan's Islands snorkeling is spectacular; there is no such thing as a terrible snorkel around the area. As the Similan Islands feature great shallow reefs for snorkeling, several islands also have more well-known places.
- Cost: $50 to $100
3 Koh Samui
Another excellent place to leisurely discover the world underneath the waters is Koh Samui. Here, people can enjoy calm waters and good visibility, and is one of the places not to miss. It is a rather busy destination in Thailand, but a bit less busy for diving. It is a great place to see whale sharks (they are sometimes seen while scuba diving in the area) . Whale sharks are the largest and biggest fish in the world. Other marine life includes turtles, jackfish, and barracuda.
- Cost : $230 to $275
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2 Anemone Reef
Anemones are one of the most stunning life forms under the water's surface. Sea anemones are predatory marine invertebrates named after the Anemone - a flowering plant - because of their colorful appearance. Anemone Reef is between Phuket and Phi Phi, a submerged reef close to Shark Point. Dive and discover a reef carpeted with sea anemones starting from just 5–6 meters below the water's surface (granted, this is more of a scuba diving site than a snorkeling site).
- Cost : $120
This is one of the most charming regions in Thailand .
1 HTMS Sattakut Wreck
HTMS Sattakut Wreck is a scuba diving site and not a snorkeling site, but it deserves mention here as it is one of the largest and most successful artificial dive site projects on Koh Tao. It was a WWII wreck sunk in 2011. The wreck rests around 100 feet or 30 meters below the surface. Dive down and see the three Canon guns, the cabins, and its resident fish, including groupers, snappers, moray eels, etc. In the United States, the largest artificial reef is the Great Carrier Reef in Florida .
- Cost : $150 to $200