With exotic culture, fantastic natural scenery and beaches, excellent cuisine and the famous 'Thai smile', Thailand attracts over 10 million visitors a year. Voted as the world's best value destination in a recent poll, it boasts lovely coastal areas, cosmopolitan cities, unspoiled countryside, great shopping and plenty of activities.
Nightlife and shopping in Bangkok, stunning beaches of Phuket and Krabi, history and culture, trekking in the Northern jungle, scuba diving in the Andaman Sea, climbing in Krabi, lots of cheap Thai food, great hotels, friendly people and comfy tourist infrastructure.
Bangkok traffic, overly spicy food, hustling tuk-tuk drivers and bar girls, crowded Patong (Phuket), noisy neighbourhoods, the hot season, reckless driving, riptides, corrupt officials and the occasional coup!
High season: November to February
Low season: May to October
US/Can: on-arrival (30 / 15 days)
EU: on-arrival (30 / 15 days)
Aus/NZ: on-arrival (30 / 15 days)
Electricity: 220V 50Hz
Round 2-Pin Plug
Money: Baht: 1US$ = 34 Baht
Phone: ICC (+66) Outgoing: 001
The 'Big Mango', Bangkok, is a concrete jungle that packs megamalls and cutting-edge nightclubs in among its notorious traffic jams. Bangkok has gleaming temples and palaces and some of the best shopping and nightlife in Asia. The Grand Palace here will take your breath away, as will the ancient ruins upriver at Ayutthaya.
The islands and beaches of southern and eastern Thailand have many popular destinations and most visitors head straight for the beaches of Phuket, Samui or Krabi, yet up-and-coming hotspots like Phi-Phi, Koh Chang and Koh Lanta are new firm favourites. If you don't just want to see what's on land in this nation of spicy papaya salad, you may like to explore the underwater offerings of the remote Similan or Surin islands.
Central Thailand is the historical heartland of Thailand with grand historical ruins such as Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, while Northern Thailand is covered with rugged, jungle-clad mountains that are dotted with hill tribe villages which make for spectacular trekking around Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. The northern city of Chiang Mai offers trekking adventures into hill tribe dotted territory as well as plenty of modern conveniences and is a great launching pad for discovering the smaller tourist spots of Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai.
Northeastern Thailand is one of the least visited parts of Thailand, which lends it its own down-home Thai-style charm, plus there are some spectacular Khmer-era ruins such as Phi Mai, Phanom Rung and Prasat Khao Phra Wihan to keep things interesting.
The new Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport handles 40 million passengers a year and is a major regional hub. Budget flights to all regions of the country are very affordable. A rail network (with sleeper trains) runs south, not quite to Phuket, and also north as far as Chiang Mai, via Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. VIP buses are quicker and cheaper but less comfy for long journeys, and connect every small town. Taxis across Thailand are cheap, but insist on the driver using the meter. Bike hire is also popular for pottering around, but beware of reckless driving. Ferries to the islands run regularly year-round.
Thais love having fun and their calendar is packed with excuses to avoid work. Here are some of the best to attend.