Thailand has become an ever increasing popular holiday destination for good reasons; the friendly locals, fabulous beaches, lush forests, exquisite temples and delicious food, to name but a few. Whether you are a back packer, a single traveller, a family or a honeymoon couple, Thailand offers something for everyone as a first class holiday destination.
What you should know before you go to Thailand
Bangkok is the hub of Southeast Asia so there are many flights in and out of Bangkok from all over the world. If you look carefully and book in advance, even during peak season, there are bargains to be had.
There are many travel companies offering all-inclusive packages to Thailand and these can be convenient and affordable. However, they come with restrictions in terms of travel dates and time and flexibility. For independent travel, flights are easy to arrange and some great deals can be had for families and groups, especially if you choose a villa holiday.
Direct flights are more expensive but if you are short on time, they are probably the best option as you’ll want to maximise your time on the ground. The flight takes about 13 hours.
Many of the cheaper flights go via the Middle East with a couple of hours layover. Many people prefer this option as it breaks up the journey.
- A good site for checking and comparing flights is https://www.skyscanner.net/
A 30 day visa on arrival is available for most nationalities. A form needs to be completed before going through immigration and you may be asked to show a return ticket. If you are planning to stay longer, you can apply for a 3 month visa through the Thai Embassy in your country.
For more information see http://www.thaiembassy.com/thailand/visa-on-arrival.php
Check with your GP to make sure your vaccinations are up to date and seek professional advice about what jabs and medication you should take. Pharmacies in Thailand are good and helpful and many medications for minor ailments can be brought over the counter. Although, in general, Thailand is a clean and hygienic country, it is best to avoid drinking tap water and ice in drinks. Restaurants generally wash fruit and vegetables in bottled water.
What you should know once you’re in Thailand
Travel and accommodation within Thailand is easy, efficient and relatively cheap and can be booked through local travel agents or online.
It’s worth factoring in a few days in Bangkok as there’s plenty to see and do before you set off for the hills or the beaches. Flights, buses and trains service all the major tourist destinations so depending on time restrictions and preference, travel in country is easy.
There are now a range of budget local and regional airlines which offer cheap flights around Thailand if you book in advance. If you are travelling in the high season, be aware they do fill up quickly so best to plan in advance. From Bangkok, there are many flights a day to the resort islands of Koh Samui and Phuket. Check out these websites for details:
Travelling by train in Thailand is a great way to see the country and meet the locals. Second class a/c sleepers are the best option for long trips for example to Chiang Mai or Koh Samui. You get a bunk, freshly made up for you with cotton sheets, pillows and blankets and food can be ordered on board.
- Check out this website for more information about train travel and timetables https://12go.asia/en
If you are on a budget, buses are the best option, but they are slower. Again they cover all the major routes, are comfortable and reliable. The best bus companies in Thailand are the ones that operate out of the BKS stations – Baw Khaw Saw.
- Beware of using the private companies that run out of tourist centres like Khao San road as they don’t have a good reputation and many scams have been reported.
One of the great things about travelling and holidaying in Thailand is the accommodation as there is a range to suit all budgets. Whether you are looking for a local homestay or a five star luxury villa, you’ll find it in Thailand and for a reasonable rate.
All the big brand hotels figure in the main tourist resorts and offer some good deals if you shop around. There are also a plethora of 3 and 4 star and boutique hotels which are comfortable, clean and affordable.
Most of the key holiday destinations have small, simple, family run guest houses which are perfect for budget travellers. The often have a communal area and or café so they are perfect places for meeting other travellers.
Recently, more people have seen the advantages of renting a villa, especially for families and group travel. Again, there is a huge range on offer from 8 bed palatial beach side properties to smaller family homes. Many have their own or shared swimming pool and all the amenities necessary for a great stay. Whet your appetite by looking at the Koh Samui villa options here https://www.barefootluxuryvillas.com/
The highlight of travelling in Thailand is of course the food, whether it’s delicious satay from a street vendor or fine dining on fresh seafood platters.
For budget local Thai dishes, a trip to a night market is a must with mouth-watering smells of herbs and spices you’ll be spoilt for choice. Try a freshly made Pad Thai, BBQ pork ribs or an oyster omelette and wash it down with a bottle of Singha beer – all for about £5! If you are looking for more fine dining Thai options, then it’s all available, freshly cooked whole fish in lemon and ginger, creamy coconut curries or spicy papaya salad and sticky rice at a price that won’t break the bank. If you are afraid of the spicy level of the food, ask for Mai Phet (not spicy) and the chef will make it to your taste. International food for example Italian, Lebanese and Spanish are readily available and of course the ubiquitous fast food chains are in all the main tourist spots.
If you are staying in a villa and self-catering, then fresh food markets and supermarkets are never far away. Many of the supermarkets now stock imported international goods and special dietary foods like gluten free products are available. When staying at a villa, it is often possible to arrange a professional private chef to cook up a fabulous bespoke Thai menu leaving you free to enjoy the day and relax in the evening.
Safety in Thailand
Thailand is one of the safest countries in the world to travel despite recent political upheavals. As with any country, as you are a guest and new to the place, keep your wits about you, be polite and respectful and you’ll have a great time.
Travelling alone in Thailand
Many people worry about travelling in Thailand alone, especially female travellers but in general they don’t receive any more attention than men. To be honest, the Thais do think it’s odd and worry that you’ll be lonely and therefore take you under their wing and look after you! As there are so many holiday makers and travellers in the main tourist spots it’s not difficult to meet new friends whether it’s by the pool, on the beach or a sunset bar. As a lone female, dress respectfully, be street wise when meeting people and don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice if needed.
Travelling with kids
Thais love kids so they’ll be safe and secure! If you are travelling with babies and small children, they’ll receive a lot of attention in the form of smiles and hugs and Thais will even ask if they can take them for a walk while you eat your dinner!
Kid friendly menus
If you are worried that the small ones won’t take to Thai food, don’t worry, many restaurants have kid friendly menus where the staple favourites like fish fingers, pasta and sandwiches are available.
Kid friendly attractions
In all the resort areas of Thailand there are plenty of things to keep children of all ages happy and engaged. There is often a baby sitter service available at hotels and villas so the adults can enjoy some me time.
Avoid the heat of the day
The heat can be a struggle for children so make sure they are out of the sun in the heat of the day, covered up and doused in sun cream. Having an a/c room to retire to or a pool to cool off in is an obvious bonus.
Keeping valuables safe
Petty theft is not rife in Thailand but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Keep your passport and valuables in the hotel or villa safe and only take out the cards and money you need. Be sensible about inviting ‘strangers’ back to your room, many establishments don’t allow visitors anyway without checking them in.
What to do and not do in Thailand
Thai is culturally very different from the west and what we may perceive to considerate behaviour doesn’t always apply in Thailand. Please take heed of the cultural notes below and you’ll be sure not to offend anyone.
- Be patient – the pace of life is slower in Thailand so things make take a little longer than you are used to. Thai people can be shy, especially when speaking English so give them time to process and answer your questions.
- Dress respectfully – Thais generally dress fairly formally and can look down on foreigners wandering around in short shorts, bare chested or in bikini tops. Dress politely- this applies to anywhere off the beach but especially when you are visiting temples. Make sure you cover your shoulders and knees and avoid wandering towns and cities topless – this applies to men and women!
- Respect the monarchy – The monarchy is hugely revered by Thai people and there is zero tolerance in terms criticism or discussion about the royal family.
- Take off your shoes – if you are invited into a Thai‘s house or visiting a temple, leave your shoes on the doorstep. Some shops even prefer you take your shoes off – just look for the pile of shoes out front or take them off just to be sure.
- Respect Buddha images – if you are buying Buddha states and ornaments be aware that they may be confiscated at customs as it’s technically illegal to take them out of the country.
- Respect monks – if you are a female be advised that it is forbidden for monks to touch or sit next to women.
- Check out reviews about attractions which involve animals so you can make an informed choice before visiting them.
- Smile and have fun with the Thais- they are a fun loving, warm culture and love to share a giggle.
- Don’t put your feet up – showing the soles of your feet in Thailand is considered incredibly rude so keep them firmly on the ground.
- Don’t touch Thais on the head – the Thais see the head as the most important part of the body so avoiding touching it – even ruffling kid’s hair can be seen as impolite.
- Don’t sunbathe topless or naked – respect the Thais etiquette of a polite dress code.
- Raise your voice or lose your temper – Thai people think this shows loss of face and they won’t respond well to you. Be firm but polite and smile.
The best time to travel in Thailand.
Every time! Thailand has three seasons: rainy (roughly May–Oct), cool (Nov–Feb); and hot (March–May). As with everywhere the weather can be unpredictable but even in the rainy season there’ll be rain most days, but often only for a few hours in the afternoon or at night. Generally, the cool season is the best time to visit Thailand: with its more manageable temperatures and less rain. However, it also coincides with the peak tourist season so prices and rates tend to be higher.
Cash or cards?
The answer is both as you don’t want to be carrying around large amounts of cash. There are ATM machines everywhere in Thailand and all major credit cards and debit cards are accepted in a lot of shops. The main thing to be aware of is that there is a Thai charge for using the ATM and this can be as high as £1.50 per transaction. This coupled with your banks own fee can add up over the holiday.
- A prepaid cash card is often a good way to avoid your own bank charges and they offer a good rate of exchange. See https://www.caxtonfx.com/ as an example.