Thailand Travel Guide

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.

What’s Cool

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.

What’s Not

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!

When to Go

Best: March-April
High season: November to February
Low season: May to October

Visas

US/Can: on-arrival (30 / 15 days)
EU: on-arrival (30 / 15 days)
Aus/NZ: on-arrival (30 / 15 days)

Essential Info

Time: GMT+7
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.

Travel To Thailand - Getting There

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.

Thailand Things to Do

Grand Palace
Beautiful temples, gilded chedis and throngs of tourists; a must-see. Wat Po and Wat Arun are brilliant nearby temples.
Ayutthaya and Sukhothai
17th and 15th century ruined former capitals of Siam kingdoms, north of Bangkok.
Chiang Mai
A living museum with a beautifully maintained moat, bastions and restored gates protecting a square-mile old town. Relaxed Northern capital.
Phuket
Thailand’s jet-set destination, with its fantastic beaches and world-class hotels, an ideal location near Phi Phi Island and Pha Nga Bay.
Krabi and Phi Phi Island
typified by incredible jaw-dropping karst seascapes, azure waters and pristine beaches, along with Pha Nga Bay.
Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao islands
three popular islands on the Gulf side of the isthmus, famous for boutique villas, Full Moon parties and diving respectively.
Pattaya
naughtiest venue in Thailand, 2 hours drive from Bangkok and loaded with weekender condos, go-go bars and numerous golf courses.
Kanchanaburi
an overnight trip from Bangkok and the site of the famous Bridge Over the River Kwai, and WWII death railway.
Cultural Sightseeing
Is a must, with all the lovely temples and landmarks, beautiful scenery and intriguing 1,000-year old culture.
Trekking and elephant rides
Best done in the mountainous north, a quintessential Asian experience through the jungle visiting unique hill tribe villages.
Spas and health treatments
Get pampered Thai style at prices everyone can afford, available in all tourist areas.
Diving
Fantastic on both coasts, with numerous sites, excellent reefs, clear waters and plenty of courses to learn. Koh Tao is the centre for this.
Climbing
Highly rated on the karst cliffs of Krabi province and attracts plenty of enthusiasts.
Kayaking
Is an ideal way to explore the lagoons and caves of the karst covered Krabi coast.
Shopping
Unbeatable value for clothes, handicrafts, antiques, furniture, d├ęcor, electronics and jewellery.
Eating
Thai food is famous and tastes far more authentic in the oodles of restaurants.
Partying
Is a favourite pastime among locals and visitors alike, with cheap grog, numerous bars and plenty of friendly company.

Thais love having fun and their calendar is packed with excuses to avoid work. Here are some of the best to attend.

January
Chinese New Year is widely celebrated by those of Chinese ethnic origin.
April
Songkran is the biggest festival of the year, a massive country-wide, three-day water fight.
June
Rocket festival in remote Yasathon is a bizarre tradition with some alarming results.
October
Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival is an island highlight.
November
Loi Kratong is an enchanting religious festival of lights and the second most important on the Thai calendar.
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