Thailand is every Asian traveller’s favoured choice. The land of smiles will indeed charm you with friendly warmth and incredible experiences. The historic and natural vistas, the gorgeous tropical beaches, bustling city life, flavours of delicious cuisine, cultural settlements – every aspect of Thailand is alluring.
An enticing travel hub for most tourists, travellers find Thailand very reasonable on their wallet. However, given its expansive assortment of sights and experiences, it becomes slightly overwhelming while planning a trip to Thailand, especially for first-time travellers.
There is so much information available that it gets quite confusing to decide what to see, how to travel and where to stay in Thailand. Here’s a short Thailand travel guide focusing on what you need to know on your first trip to Thailand.
Basic facts about Thailand
Thailand is a South East Asian country sharing borders with Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. Bangkok is the capital city which is also one of the most visited cities in the world. Thailand’s main religion is Buddhism.
Thailand’s currency is known as Thai Baht. 1 USD is approximately 32 Thai Baht.
Thailand is a value for money destination and suits all types of travellers. A budget traveller can spend a day in 1000 Thai Baht which is about 30 USD. A basic guesthouse costs from 600 Thai Baht onwards. If you are looking for slightly higher stay options, mid-range hotels to boutique hotels cost from 1000 to 4000 Thai Baht per day.
Thailand is seven hours ahead of GMT and does not observe Daylight Saving Time.
The main language spoken is Thai although people in major metropolitan cities and tourist destinations widely speak and understand English.
Electric Voltage is 220 Volts, plugs used are either 2 flat blades or round 2 pin plugs.
Best time to visit Thailand
Most favorable months – November to March is the high season for Thailand tourism. These months are the most preferred time to travel as the weather stays pleasant with the temperature staying between 25 to 35o Celsius. Rates during these months are high due to the festive season, Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Shoulder season months – From the end of March till June, the temperature starts soaring. April is the hottest month with temperature rises over 40 o Celsius. September to October is cooler in Northern Thailand.
Least favourable months: July to October is the low season as the weather brings heavy rainfall in Thailand.
Things to do in Thailand
The City life of Bangkok and Pattaya
Situated along the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok is one of the most dynamic cities in the world. Thailand’s capital city welcomes thousands of visitors to experience the overwhelming enthusiasm of the city. The city is bustling with gleaming golden pagodas, temple shrines, floating markets, extravagant hotels and malls along with an amazing array of street food stalls and night markets.
Some of the must-visit highlights on a Bangkok tour are the Wat Pho, Wat Arun, The Grand Palace, Damnoen Saduak floating markets and Chatuchak Weekend Market.
Just 2 hours away from Bangkok lies the coastal town of Pattaya which matches the vibes of Bangkok city. The city offers a pleasant getaway for beach lovers and adventure seekers and promises an incredible nightlife. A two day trip to Pattaya lets you explore the beautiful sights of Sanctuary of Truth, Big Buddha at Wat Phra Yai, Nong Nooch Tropical Garden and gorgeous beach shores of Coral Island.
Spend the daytime visiting unique museums such as Art in Paradise and Ripley’s Believe it or Not and shopping at Royal Garden Plaza, Mimosa Pattaya, and Central Festival. Night time in Pattaya opens up a world of famous cabaret entertainment and nightclubs. A combined stay at Bangkok and Pattaya on your Thailand Holiday is the perfect way to experience Thailand’s vivacious city life.
Sun, Sea, and Sand
Flanked by the Gulf of Thailand in the south and the Andaman Sea in the West, Thailand is blessed with gorgeous stretches of shorelines, idyllic islands, and postcard-perfect beaches. The coastal hem of Thailand offers a blissful paradise with laid-back vibes and breathtaking panoramas of tropical forests, emerald waters, and white sandy beaches.
While Phuket and Koh Samui tops the list for popular seashores, the beaches of Phi Phi Island and Koh Lanta get hordes of tourists making it a very crowded destination. For idyllic beach escapes with fewer crowds, head to Koh Chang for wellness pampering amid breathtaking natural vistas, Koh Samet for a secluded tranquil getaway and Koh Phangan for some nightlife fun and full moon parties.
Similan Islands and Koh Tao Island are few other scenic island destinations that are still a peaceful retreats and beautiful diving spots to view the underwater realm of Thailand. Island hopping is a great way to explore these out-of-the-way serene islands of Thailand.
Amid nature trails and heritage relics
Thailand is renowned for its extraordinary landscapes- right from the verdant rainforest clad mountain ranges dotted with charming waterfalls and faraway countryside to ancient ruins and relics of Khmer dynasty and olden settlements. Located in the north of Thailand, Chiang Mai is one of the best places to visit in Thailand to witness the country’s abundance of nature’s splendor.
It is a perfect destination for mountain hiking, biking, elephant rides, zip lining and much more. Chiang Mai’s old walled city is a spectacular sight to view antique temples of the bygone era. Thailand is steeped in historic heritage and its glimpses can be seen all around.
Just on the outskirts of Bangkok lies the ancient city of Ayuthaya that offers visitors a look into the past of Thailand. The ancient complex of Phanom Rung showcases the ancient Hindu Khmer fusion of architecture which was once a sanctum dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Thailand’s shopping & nightlife
Thailand is a shopaholic’s paradise. It is also a haven for those who love a vibrant nightlife. Bangkok is a premier hub presenting a myriad of choices for shopping and nightlife entertainment for your Thailand tour. Shop till you drop at colossal malls and sprawling street markets such as Chatuchak weekend markets. Right from designer labels to handmade antiques and merchandises, you can get anything and everything in Bangkok.
The buzzing street markets of Chiang Mai, boutique shops and night markets of Phuket are popular for handmade goods, cheap merchandises, and lip-smacking local street food. Thailand is also well known for its after-dark enthusiasm.
Bangkok has an amazing collection of rooftop bars from where you can get stunning views of the illuminated Bangkok city skyline in a pleasant nightly ambiance while enjoying your favourite drink. Bangkok, Pattaya, and Phuket are filled with live music bars, DJ events, and cabaret shows. Phuket, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan are extremely popular for its beachside night parties and full moon parties.
For adventure junkies
There is so much to do in Thailand that you will be overwhelmed with choices. Thailand is a treat for nature lovers and beachgoers, but Thailand also offers a wide assortment of activities for those who need a touch of delight in their peaceful vacation.
If you are looking for an adrenaline rushing experience, check out Railay beach for rock climbing and abseiling activities on its limestone karsts. Venture into Khao Sok National Park for a canoe and hiking experience through dense rainforests. Ko Lanta, Koh Samet, and Similan Islands offer stellar dive zones for fantastic scuba diving and snorkeling experiences.
Getting in and around Thailand
Thailand has easy accessibility options. Bangkok is the main travel center and has the busiest airports in the country. The easiest way to travel to Thailand is by air. Other than Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand has 5 international airports in Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Samui, Krabi, Hat Yai. You can also travel into Thailand by bus and cars from its neighbouring countries – Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
A scenic train ride from Malaysia can also be taken to Butterworth station – a common station at Thailand and Malaysia. There are other train routes that have border crossing routes into Thailand. You can also arrive at Thailand by ferry from Langkawi Island in Malaysia. For inland travel in Thailand, domestic flights are practicable for long distant travel; for shorter distances, you can opt between bus routes, trains, taxis and private cars. If you are venturing into the faraway rural countryside, then you may have to rely on bicycle and motorbike rides.
Visitors from most countries can get visa-free entry into Thailand for no more than 30-day travel. For citizens of countries not listed in this category or for travellers staying more than 30 days in Thailand will need to apply for a Thailand visa prior to arrival in the country.
For visa processing, you need to provide a duly filled and signed application form, photographs with proper specifications as required, travel details and return flight tickets, visa fees, and financial statements as proof of your financial sufficiency to cover the travel costs of your Thailand holiday.
Thailand Travel Tips and Etiquettes
People in Thailand are for the most part both courteous and friendly. Nevertheless, it is in your best interest to follow certain norms and etiquettes to make your Thailand holiday comfortable and stress-free.
- Thailand has a great level of admiration and loyalty towards the royal family. Never speak anything disrespectful about the monarchy of Thailand as it is illegal. Even money and other things which feature the royal emblem or pictures should be treated with respect.
- Always opt for modest dressing. Temples and royal places require decent dressing where clothing should cover elbows and knees. These places also require visitors to remove their footwear before entering. If you are visiting a monastery, respect the space and do not touch a monk or their belongings. Though there is no special dressing code on the beach, it is still recommended to avoid nudity or revealing swimwear which may offend the locals. If you are not sure about whether a place requires conservative dressing, carry a cardigan or shawl with you if you need to cover up.
- Greet the locals with a smile and gesture of Wai – holding hands in prayer position and bowing towards them. Thai locals take offense to touching on the head, pointing on feet, signaling with hand to call someone and pointing at someone.
- Though English is widely spoken, locals prefer the Thai language to communicate. Carrying a Thai travel phrasebook and learning few Thai phrases just enough to get around in Thailand comes very handy on your Thai trip.
- Always be alert and vigilant while travelling. Do not entertain stranger’s requests as Thailand is notoriously known for its mugging and scamming experiences. Always opt to hire private taxis or cars from the hotel concierge. If you are travelling in a local taxi, make sure to note down the vehicle number.
- Make sure all your documents are valid and in order. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of your arrival into Thailand. You should possess a valid visa, travel insurance, driving license and international driving permit if you plan to drive a car or ride a bike on your own in Thailand.
- Cash in Thai Baht is expected to be used for cash purchases and transactions. Though international debit cards and credit cards are widely accepted, the same cannot be expected to be used for small transactions, street shopping, and public transports.
- Tipping is not expected in Thailand, though it is recommended. It is not necessary at upscale hotels and restaurants where a service charge is already included in your bill.