Thailand Travel Guide
Updated: Mar 30, 2021
Sawatdi! (pronounced: sah-wah-dee) Means HELLO in Thai
Thailand is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world right now. Thailand offers so many unique landscapes, from jungle trekking to emerald waters overlooking rock formations. And to top it off, Thailand is where you find James Bond Island (cool, right?) AND Maya Bay from the movie "The Beach" with young Leonardo DiCaprio. This Thailand Travel Guide is your ultimate guide to all things Thailand!
My favorite part about Thailand? Anyone can travel here, no matter your budget. It is one of the most budget-friendly travel destinations in the world. You can travel to Thailand on a very limited budget, without feeling like you are completely slumming it. Or you can live the life of luxury in 5 star resorts, without breaking the bank! It's truly incredible, and unbelievably inexpensive. Get ready to explore beautiful Thailand and bask in the raw culture of Chiang Mai, beach bungalows in Koh Sumai, and stunning Kata Rocks in Phuket.
Language and currency - The native language in Thailand is Thai. However, English is widely spoken as well, and a majority of Thai people working in the tourism industry will be able to communicate with you. The currency is Thai Baht. Although credit cards are widely accepted, it is always smart to have some Thai Baht cash on you at all times.
Thailand Travel Guide - Here's what we'll cover:
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1. Getting There - Airlines and Costs
Airlines - Getting to Thailand can be quite the trek if traveling from the United States. Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is where you more than likely will fly into first. A ton of airlines fly in to Bangkok, so be sure to shop around to find the best deals. You can also choose airlines based on their country of origin where they most likely will have the layover (like UAE for instance), and take advantage of it by spending a half or full day in that country. Thailand is located directly on the opposite side of the globe from the U.S., so depending on what side of the country you live and airline you take, you'll either be flying over Europe and parts of Asia, or flying the opposite direction, directly over the Pacific Ocean and parts of Asia before landing in Thailand. Either route, the shortest flight will be anywhere from 19-24 hours. That's a LONG flight. Here's an example: First leg leaving New York, flying for 14 hours and landing in Taiwan (5 hour layover here). Then the second leg of the flight is from Taiwan to Bangkok, a 5 hour flight. My recommendation? Splurge and get comfortable seats, you'll thank me later.
Local Airlines - Once you arrive in Bangkok, there are a few airlines to fly to other cities in Thailand. The cost is relatively cheap, between $25-$100 per flight. The most popular domestic airlines include: Bangkok Airways, Thai Smile, Thai Airways, Thai VietJet Air, and Thai Lion Air.
Cost - Flying from the U.S. to Thailand will start at around $600 roundtrip. That's pretty inexpensive considering the long haul, plus 3-4 meals, unlimited wine/beer, and options for more comfortable seating. I was able to score a roundtrip flight on EVA Air for $540 using skyscanner. Domestic flights throughout Thailand are cheap, and usually include a meal as well.
Thailand offers just about every type of accommodation you can think of. Hostels, private rooms, Airbnb, budget hotels, luxury hotels, you name it. You can backpack, stay in hostels, and eat from local food spots for around $30/day, maybe even less. On the flip side, you can stay in five star luxury resorts, take private cars everywhere, and enjoy fine dining. The options are endless.
For middle of the road travelers, like myself, I found that staying at a 4 to 5 star hotel that includes a breakfast buffet and drink vouchers at the on-site restaurant for $100/night was a great deal. There are so many high end hotels with budget-friendly nightly rates throughout Bangkok and Chiang Mai. When you venture out closer to the island/beach areas of Thailand, like Phuket, prices increase due to tourist demand, so be aware of that. Airbnbs can be found in just about every city. Choose this option if you are looking for the most affordable housing for a larger group of people, 4 or more. Be aware that not everyone speaks English, although it is widely spoken in the tourist areas. Hostels and budget hotels are also found in most cities, and can be as low as $5 USD per night. Some even include breakfast and coffee for that price!
3. When To Go
The great part about Thailand is that you can visit any time of year and the experience will be pretty similar in terms of tourism, weather, and deals. Due to Thailand's location close to the equator, the weather is consistently warm, with average highs in the 80s and 90s, and average lows in the 60s and 70s year round, depending on how far north or south you are. The sea temperature averages between 82°F to 86°F, which is enjoyable year round. Monsoon season is June through September, but doesn't seem to stop travelers. Expect more rain showers during this time.
Thailand boasts culture, including multiple festivals throughout the year. Here are the biggest festivals and dates if you wish to plan travel around them:
Songkran Festival - Thailand's New Year Celebration. Country-wide. April 13-15
Loi Krathong - Festival of Light/Lantern Festival. Country-wide. November
Big Mountain Music Festival - Phetchaburi. December
Chiang Mai Flower Festival - Chiang Mai. February
Koh Samui Reggata - Yacht Party, Koh Samui. May
4. Top 10 Cities to Visit
1. Bangkok - Full of culture and history. Bangkok is a busy city, similar to NYC. Public transportation is widely available and the capital city boasts vibrant shrines, temples, monuments, canals, and unique landscapes.
2. Koh Samui - Thailand's second largest island attracts both budget travelers and wealthy vacationers. This tropical island is filled with beautiful palm trees, sandy beaches, and has retained its sensible charm. Visit Koh Samui to experience the beauty of Thailand's beaches without the touristy crowds.
3. Hua Hin - Just a short distance from Bangkok, Hua Hin rests on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. Enjoy the laid back lifestyle, waterfront villas, and less visitors. Hua Hin offers wineries, sheep farms, and mangrove forests. Great location for families and travelers who desire a less crazy night scene.
4. Chiang Mai - An old city full of historic temples and mountainous landscape. Be sure to visit an Elephant Park and attend a Night Market (Chiang Mai Night Bazaar), and eat a bug! There is also a James Bond themed restaurant. Stay in old Chiang Mai, within the square of the city to easily walk to all points of interest. If you are an avid hiker, Chiang Mai offers the most amazing guided treks in the mountains, across rivers, and through native villages. 5. Khao Lak - Just north of Phuket, Khao Lak sits on the coast of the Andaman Sea and is one of Thailand's peaceful resort destinations. Three national parks surround the small city leading down to endless coastline. A rare oasis for relaxation, and newly re-constructed resorts offering top notch accommodations.
6. Phuket - A southeast Asian paradise, and a very busy, touristy area. Although Phuket can get very busy, there is plenty of coastline and city life to accommodate everyone! With more than 30 amazing beaches to choose from, Phuket offers the most pristine, beautiful coastlines in all of Thailand. In addition, the night life is something you have to experience once in your life. Dining options galore, and many markets to explore.
7. Pattaya - Just south of Bangkok, Pattaya is a vibrant coastal city. The days are filled with watersports and beach goers, and the evenings light up with a electrified nightlife scene. Pattaya has grown tremendously in the past decade and offers something for every traveler.
8. Railay Beach - A small peninsula on the east side of the straits of Malacca. Just a short drive to Krabi, Railay beach boasts its own culture surrounded by four beautiful beaches. Railay beach has become one of Thailand's most sought after travel destinations. Railay beach is tranquil, remote, and only accessible by boat.
9. Phi Phi Islands - A short 45 minute speed boat or 1.5 hour ferry ride from Phuket, the Phi Phi islands are absolutely breathtaking. The two main islands are Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh. This is also where you will find Monkey Beach and the world famous Maya Bay (from the movie The Beach). Phi Phi Don offers many accommodations for visitors to stay, and it is worth it. Take a longtail boat around the islands for the most beautiful standing rocks and cliffs overlooking emerald waters.
10. Krabi - A perfect vacation destination for travelers who love the island vibe! Over 150 islands off its coastline, Krabi is an islanders paradise. Many day tours leave from Krabi to visit Phang Nga Bay, including trips to famous James Bond Island and Hong Island. Krabi is becoming more popular, but still retains its charm.
5. Top TEN Beaches to Visit
Donald Duck Bay (Similan Islands)
Kata Beach (Phuket)
Railay Beach (Krabi)
Thong Nai Pan Noi & Yai Beaches (Koh Phangan)
Lamai Beach (Koh Samui)
Buffalo Bay (Koh Phayan)
White Sand Beach (Koh Chang)
Laem Thong Beach (Phi Phi Islands)
Koh Nang Yuan (Koh Tao)
Klong Dao Beach (Koh Lanta)
6. TEN Biggest Buddha Statues
Wat Muang (Ang Thong Province) - 92 meters tall. Phra Buddha Nawamin is one of the tallest Buddha Statues in the World
Wat Bhurapha Piram (Roi Et Province) - 59.2 meters. Phra Phuttha Rattana Mongkhon Mahamuni
Wat Pho (Bangkok) - 46 meters. Famous reclining Buddha, Phra Buddhasaiyas
Phuket Big Buddha - 45 meters. Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri
Wat Lokayasutharam (Ayutthaya) - 37 meters. Phra Noon reclining Buddha
Wat Intharawiham (Phra Nakhon, Bangkok) - 32 meters. Phra Si Ariyamettrai (also known as Luang Pho To) Buddha with a begging bowl
Wat Thipsukhontharam (Kanchanaburi) - 32 meters. Phra Buddha Metta Pracha Thai Trailokanath Gandhararath Anusorn is Thailand’s tallest bronze standing Buddha statue
Wat Srisoonthorn (Phuket) - 29 meters. Phuket’s reclining Buddha on the roof of Wat Srisoonthorn's main building
Phra Buddha Mongkol Maharaj (Hat Yai) - 19.9 meters. One of the tallest standing Buddha's in southern Thailand
Wat Phanan Choeng Worawihan (Ayutthaya) - 19 meters. Thailand's oldest big Buddha statue, housed indoors
7. Vineyards & Wineries
GranMonte Vineyard & Winery (Asoke Valley, Khao Yai) - northeast of Bangkok, GranMonte offers guided tours and guesthouses as well
Village Farm & Winery (Wang Nam Khiao) - family-run vineyard with a restaurant, hotel, and spa, as well as guided tours
Silverlake Vineyard (Pattaya) - southeast of Pattaya city, includes a restaurant, movie house B&B, and situated next to the Buddha Mountain (pictured above)
Monsoon Valley Vineyard (Hua Hin) - Monsoon Valley operates 3 Vineyards, with Hua Hin Hills Vineyard being the largest
PB Valley Winery (Khao Yai) - Two hour drive northeast of Bangkok, PB Valley Winery was the first vineyard and winery to open in Thailand in 1989
8. TEN Best Tours in Thailand
Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai - Elephant Nature Park offers a full or half day tour from Chiang Mai. Includes a delicious lunch and ample time to spend with the elephants. Elephant nature park is a sanctuary and rescue park, and therefore, one of the few Elephant excursions where you are helping the injured elephants vs. adding to the problem of destressed elephants in Thailand (like riding on the backs of these highly intelligent animals for fun). HIGHLY RECOMMEND
Mike's Authentic Trekking, Chiang Mai - Mike is a local who grew up in a Karen Village. His authentic hill tribe trekking tours consist of full day and multi-day trekking. Lunch in a Karen village is included in the full day trek, as well as water and snacks. The trek includes waterfalls, hiking, visiting a Karen village and hanging out with the local villagers, and bamboo rafting. Amazing experience, HIGHLY RECOMMEND
Self Guided Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha Tour, Bangkok - no need to pay for a guided tour, as the Grand Palace, temples, and statues are easy to see and learn about via self-guided. Simply enter the Grand Palace for a $5 USD fee, and explore the gorgeous temples, see the exquisite gardens, and marvel over the historic statues that represent Thailand's history. Spend as much, or as little time as you'd like.
Follow Me Bangkok Bike Tour, Bangkok - Siam Boran Culture Tour, a half day tour on bike through the streets of Bangkok. The tour includes hidden street, Chow Sue Kong Shrine, Chinatown, Pak Khlong Talat, Chao Phraya River, Wat Prayoon, Wat Kalayanamit, River Cycle Path, River Ferry, and more. An awesome experience to see Bangkok this way!
Captain Bob's Booze Cruise, Phi Phi Islands - Not suitable for children, but a heck of a lot of fun for adults! Half day tour including a pre-party as the beachside bar. Once you are on the boat, the drinks continue to flow. The boat takes you to the top destination throughout the Phi Phi islands, including Monkey Beach, Maya Bay, and Loh Sama Bay. The boat stops in Wang Long Cove to play in the water and watch the most magnificent sunset. Includes lunch, snacks, fruit, and unlimited alcohol. What more could you want?!
Longtail Boat Rental, Phi Phi Islands - 2 hour + options for a private longtail boat excursion. These are available by the dock when you enter the Phi Phi Islands. Barter with the locals for rates and ask them to take you around the islands and stop by hidden destinations. We did this and snorkeled in emerald waters, found a private beach to have lunch (we were the only ones there!) and got to boat through the famous rock formations around the islands. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
Similan Islands Snorkeling Excursion, from Phuket - Hop on a boat from Phuket and boat into the Andaman Sea until you reach the picturesque Similan Islands on this full day tour. The excursion takes you to different islands and multiple bays where you can snorkel and explore the marine life. Lunch is included on the gorgeous beach of Princess Bay. Finish the afternoon by snorkeling at a few more destinations before heading back to Phuket.
John Gray's Cave Canoeing Tour, Phang Nga Bay - off the coast of Phuket, explore the breathtaking limestone caves throughout Phang Nga Bay with a guided canoe tour. A large boat takes you into Phang Nga Bay. Inflatable canoes are put together, and the amazing tour begins. Watch your head as you duck under low hanging ledges, and look for the local monkeys that call this area home. Includes a delicious Thai lunch and dinner on the boat before heading back to Phuket.
Flight of the Gibbon Zipline Adventure, Pattaya - Take a zipline over the lush, tropical rainforest just outside of Pattaya City. If one zipline wasn't fun enough, Flight of the Gibbon includes 17 unique ziplines, wobbly sky bridges, wooden stairs, and an adrenaline rush you won't forget. This adventure also includes a stop at the Khao Kheow Zoo to see unique animals. Before heading back to Pattaya, refuel with a yummy Thai lunch that is also included!
Any cooking class in any city, Thailand - I highly recommend booking a cooking class anywhere in Thailand. The classes are usually between 2-3 hours long at the most, and some of them are even private classes. Although all of the food throughout Thailand was delicious, the best meal we had was from the Kata Thai Cooking Class near Kata Noi Beach in Phuket. We took our skills (and recipes) hope with us and have been able to replicate the most delicious Tom Yum Soup, Pad Thai, and Thai Green Curry.
I hope this comprehensive Thailand Travel Guide helps you when planning your trip! Thailand is a beautiful country, boasting with unique landscapes. There is something to do for every person, and adventures galore. In addition, Thailand is inexpensive, making it a popular destination for budget travelers. Enjoy your time in Thailand, just as we did!
If you have any questions about this Thailand Travel Guide, or general questions about our trip, please send me an email at email@example.com.
Lastly, check out this Ultimate Thailand Itinerary to see what our day to day looked like!