Thailand is an absolute gem of a destination in South-East Asia, with mesmerizing islands, paradise white-sand beaches, and one of the most vibrant capital cities in the world. The fantastic people, weather, and food add to the magic of what will undoubtedly be one of your most memorable vacations ever.
Visitors from some 59 countries can stay in Thailand for up to 30 days with a visa-on-arrival. There is also a 60-day tourist visa, with multiple-entries, available prior to travel at a fee. This can be extended for a further 30 days within Thailand for a fee. Visitors from certain specified countries can stay for just 15 days and others can stay for 90 days without a visa.
The rules, regulations, and visa-on-arrival country eligibilities are subject to change, and it is always advisable to check any visa requirements prior to making a booking and certainly before you travel.
The high season, when the climate is cooler, runs from November to April in Thailand, with the low season between June-October covering the rainiest months. Some tourists prefer the quieter months when prices for stays and trips can be significantly lower and sunny days are only interrupted by rainy spells.
The climate in Thailand is tropical; hot and humid with a monsoon season starting in May in Phuket and September in Samui. The dry season is from November to February in Phuket and starts in December in Samui. The hot season runs from March, with April and May the hottest months.
There is plenty of accommodation to suit all budgets in Thailand, from high-end, internationally renowned hotels to mom-and-pop guesthouses. As well as backpackers, Thailand attracts so-called flashpackers looking for a quality stay, with bungalow and villa resorts popular with these travelers.
There are also many high-net-worth visitors who flock to the country, often choosing to rent luxury villas in Phuket and villas in Koh Samui, the two of the largest and most popular islands for vacationers. Most private luxury villas come complete with swimming pools, private cinemas, personal butlers and even chefs.
Often local searches can find the most budget-friendly options that are not featured on the main booking engines and don’t necessarily have their own website. However, Thailand is a leader in social media and even individually owned properties usually have a presence online.
On the islands, paying more for an infinity pool, amazing facilities, privacy, and a fantastic location such as beachfront can be worth it especially for families on holiday and couples looking for a romantic destination. Decide what your accommodation wish-list is and go from there.
Most visitors to Thailand spend a few days in Bangkok, either end of a beach holiday. However, the capital is a dynamic metropolis with amazing cultural attractions, fabulous restaurants, and lots for families to see and do, as well as non-stop nightlife. A less busy, yet still bustling destination, is Chiang Mai, where visitors can explore the northern hill tribe regions and also enjoy cooler temperatures.
Pattaya is the closest big-beach resort to Bangkok, and the Eastern Seaboard is visitor-friendly yet not as picturesque as Thailand’s islands in the South. Further down this coastline is Koh Samet for a weekend getaway and Koh Chang. Also close to the capital is Hua Hin, popular for a weekend getaway by the beach.
The biggest island in Thailand is Phuket, in the Andaman Sea, and attracts the most visitors due to its winning combination of tropical-island beauty and plenty of activities and attractions, including Old Town Phuket. The island has become a gourmet-dining destination too and its west coast, known as ‘Millionaire’s Mile’, is home to some spectacular stays.
Koh Samui, in the Gulf of Thailand, is less well-developed, managing to also combine the castaway-beach vibe with shops, restaurants, and entertainment. Meanwhile, there are also lively pockets such as Chaweng with its beach-party atmosphere.
Krabi, on the south-western mainland, is an iconic destination with Railay Beach being named one of the most beautiful in the world. This beauty spot is renowned for its dramatic limestone karsts and mangrove forests, with great island-hopping adventures to be had, as well as being a diver’s paradise. The nearby island of Phi Phi has changed dramatically over the years and is far more tourist-driven today.
Away from the beach, Issan in North-East Thailand and Khao Yai just a couple of hours’ drive from Bangkok are popular rural retreats.
Aside from year-round sunshine, delicious food, and friendly people, Thailand offers great value-for-money, meaning you can do more for less. If you’re looking for variety and unforgettable moments, Thailand promises incredible experiential travel opportunities.
Each destination boasts its own unique character, attractions, and activities to suit travelers of all ages and interests. Shop at night markets, enjoy al fresco dining and watch the sunset with a breathtaking view whether coastal vistas or cityscapes.
On the must-visit list is Thailand’s glittering temples which are stunningly beautiful and give an insight into the importance of Buddhism in Thai culture. Inspiring mindfulness, Thailand’s temples are not symbols of what has been, so expect to see saffron-robed monks in many temple grounds. It is important to follow the dress code and if you know a day-out may include a visit to a ‘wat’ then bring clothes to cover legs and arms.
There are several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Thailand and a trip that takes in Bangkok alone is a whirlwind of adventures in itself. During your time in the capital visit Wat Pho with its reclining Buddha, one of the cities many sky bars, including the newly opened skywalk, and dine on the Chao Phraya River with a dinner cruise. Outside of the city, Thailand boasts national parkland and marine parks too.
On a beach holiday, enjoy cave kayaking, and island-hopping such as exploring the 42 islands of Ang Thong National Marine Park, many of which are uninhabited. Snorkeling and scuba diving, as well as fishing and water sports, draw tourists to Thailand with PADI courses available too. There are also many international-standard golf courses in Thailand, including eight on Phuket and several on Koh Samui.
Meanwhile, one of the best ways to experience Thailand is to step away from the well-trodden tourist trail.
Thailand not only offers an abundance of topographic wonders, but it is also a treasure-hold of unique cultural richness. And there is no better way to experience this than to participate in the country’s numerous festivals.
The most important event and arguably the most popular is the Songkran or the Thai New Year which takes place every 13th of April. People, both Thais, and tourists, both young and old, soak each other with water in child-like fun.
Another must-experience festival is the Loi Krathong which is celebrated by the casting of floating baskets decorated with flowers into the water. Coinciding with this is the Yi Peng wherein instead of on water, hundreds of floating lanterns are released into the sky in one spectacular display. These two festivals take place in November, during the eve of the full moon.
Learn more about Thailand’s festivals and events.
Thailand’s currency is the Thai Baht and there are plenty of ATMs in cities and tourist areas. Compared with many countries, taxis and public transport are reasonably priced. However, as with any capital city, staying, dining, and entertainment in Bangkok can be expensive, although mid-budget and budget travel are possible too, especially if you eat at street and market stalls.
Tip at least 50 Thai Baht for a one-hour massage, with many people leaving 100. Give taxi drivers a small tip and follow your instinct in bars and restaurants. Service is often included, and tipping rules are much more relaxed.
Learn how we can help you open a bank account in Thailand.
In the tourist areas of Bangkok you will find English speakers, but don’t expect most people working in bars, restaurants, shops, and banks, including taxi drivers, to speak anything but the basics. Once you leave the main tourist areas you’ll definitely find knowing a few words of Thai really useful.
Learn some of the most basic Thai words and phrases.
Follow etiquette rules in Thailand by respecting Buddhist cultures and tradition and dressing appropriately when visiting temples. Losing your temper in Thailand is a big no-no and regarded in Thai culture as ‘losing face’ which embarrasses other people.
It is customary to ‘wai’ as a greeting and farewell by placing your palms together and nodding your head. There are complex rules with this, but the general rule-of-thumb is not to ‘wai’ at children or people in the service industry. Thailand is known as the ‘land of smiles’ and a smile gets you a long way with the friendly Thai people.
Learn the do’s and don’ts of Thai customs.
Some of the best Thai foods are found at street stalls and night markets. Must-try dishes include som tam, a spicy papaya salad freshly made by vendors in a big pestle and mortar. Eat with grilled chicken and sticky rice. Cut down spice by requesting ‘mai pet’ when ordering dishes.
Pack light to bring home clothes, souvenirs, and handicrafts. Chatuchak Weekend Market is the perfect retail spot with companies shipping goods for you too. Beware laws on exporting Buddha images as written permission is required as are permits for statues over 12cm with the Buddha’s head, hands or feet banned.
Environmental awareness is growing in Thailand and today there is a greater focus on sustainable travel with an emphasis on tourist pursuits that appreciate the country’s natural beauty without spoiling it. However, tourist activities do still harm the county’s rich ecosystem, wildlife, and cultural preservation, therefore, it is important that individual visitors make a genuine commitment to the ethics of responsible travel.
Avoid taking tours that exploit and/or are invasive to minority cultures such as hill tribe village tours and visits to the sea gypsies. Only visit elephant sanctuaries that have an established reputation and only dive and snorkel where it is permitted to support coral regeneration.