Thailand Travel Guide Contents
Places To Go | Things To Do | Hotels & Resorts | Tours | Weather & When To Go | Getting There | Getting Around | Thai Visas | See & Do | Activities & Day Trips | Travel Planning | Gear & Packing | Typical Costs | Money Saving Tips | Thai Language | Thai Culture | Safety Tips | Recommended Resources | Transport | Travel Blog
Welcome to the Thailand Travel Hub's ultimate guide to Thailand. If you are considering a trip to Thailand, you have chosen well; Thailand is an amazing and fascinating country with something for everyone. From the astonishing skyscrapers of the chaotic capital Bangkok to the stunning beaches of Phuket and Samui, combined with year-round great weather, delicious food and friendly locals, you can't fail to have the trip of a lifetime.
For information about the amazing Kingdom of Thailand, you are in the right place; here we have all you need to know about the best cities and islands to visit, places to go, attractions to visit, plus information about tours and excursions. Also, we have all the latest travel tips for traveling in Thailand, such as up to date travel advice, travel resources, travel planning, booking information and money-saving tips to ensure that you get the most out of your trip to south-east Asia's tropical paradise.
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Thailand Travel Tips & Information
Thailand, formally known as Siam is located in the Southeast Asia, bordered by Myanmar and Laos to the north, Cambodia and Laos to the East, Malaysia to the south and Andaman Sea to the west. Thailand can be reached in just over 11 hrs from the UK, 19.25 hrs from New York and 9.20 hrs from Sydney. 38 million tourists are traveling to Thailand every year.
Bangkok, known to Thai's as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon is the nations capital city. This vibrant, modern and rapidly changing metropolis is located in central Thailand and surrounds the Mekong Delta River. It is home to 8 Million people, with a further 14 million people in the greater Bangkok Metropolitan Region.
Thai, also know as Siamese is the official language spoken in Thailand, it is a member of the Tai group of the Kra-Dai Family and the majority of the language has been derived from Pali, Sanskrit, Mon and Old Khmer. There are various dialects spoken in different regions of Thailand. Try to learn the basics, it will go a long way and can be fun.
The official currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht, currency sign: ฿; currency code: THB. It has a sub-unit called Satang of which 1 baht is divisible into 100 Satang. It is advisable to wait to you get to Thailand to exchange money, to receive a better exchange rate than at home and there are plenty of ATM's at the Airport.
The standard electricity in Thailand is 220V AC and frequency is 50 Hz. Power sockets are usually 2 prong round or 2 prong flat sockets, however some newer sockets will have 3rd prong for earthing. So to power your devices and appliances be sure to take a universal power adapter with you while traveling in Thailand.
Thailand's main Airport is Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK), also referred to a Bangkok Airport. Suvarnabhumi serves most international flights as well as some internal flights. Bangkok's old Airport called Don Mueang (DMK) now handles the majority of domestic flights.
Citizens from 55 countries including the UK, US, AU and EU are issued a free 30 Day visa on arrival. Airlines may provide you with an Immigration Card to fill in before you land, or you can get one when you arrive. Passports need to be valid for 6 months, if you overstay you'll be fined 500 baht per day. Read more about Thailand travel visas.
It is recommended that people traveling to Thailand have jabs for both tetanus and hepatitis A. However the only mandatory vaccine is the yellow fever which applies to people over nine months old and have been to any countries in a yellow-fever zone, even if you have been in transit (12+ hrs) in the airport.
Weather In Thailand & When To Go
Thailand is a tropical country with hot and humid weather all year round, with daily highs usually in the range of 28°C-35°C. The north of the country can feel a little cooler and the south can feel a little hotter, and although the country does have three seasons, the difference between them is not very pronounced.
Thailand's Seasons - Technically, Thailand has three seasons: cool, hot and monsoon. Although if you're coming from somewhere like the UK, they should be considered as hot, very hot, and hot and wet.
High Season (cool/dry) - The cool season (the closest Thailand ever gets to a winter) is from November to February, with temperatures a little lower, although it can still get to over 30°C during the middle of the day in places like Bangkok or Phuket. The cool season is high season for the Thai tourism industry, it covers Christmas, New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year, with the added demand for flights and accommodation pushing up prices to a degree.
Hot Season (hot/dry) - The hot season runs from March to June when afternoon temperatures can reach over 40°C as the country basks in the tropical sunshine. If you're coming to spend most of your time on the beach intending to go home with a suntan, then this could be a good time for you to visit. Also, as it is not considered the high season, you should get a better deal on your flights and accommodation.
Low Season (wet/rainy) - The monsoon season runs from July to October with downpours on a seemingly daily basis. The monsoon rains are not like European rain, they are torrential and extremely intense, with flooding often occurring as the deluge overloads the Thai sanitation system. It doesn't rain every day during the monsoon season, but downpours seem to be common in the early afternoons and can last for a few minutes or a few hours. Most tourists prefer not to visit during this season, and as a result, this is when you will find the lowest prices for flights and hotels. Rain can often continue in southern Thailand throughout November and into early December, so you may want to consider this is you are planning to visit Koh Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Koh Tao, Krabi and Phuket during this time.
Climate - In the north of Thailand (such as Chiang Mai), the higher latitude combined with higher elevations and gusts of cold air from China can mean temperatures dip well below 20°C in the cool season (especially during the night), and you might find it amusing to see the locals breaking out their winter jackets. The lower-lying central region including Bangkok is usually a few degrees hotter and is hot all year round with intense heat during the hot season. In the southern region which includes the islands, like the central region it is hot all year round, with intense downpours during the monsoon season. The differences between the northern, central and southern climates are fairly subtle unless of course, you are camping at the top of Thailand's highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, which can see nightly temperatures below 10°C during the cool season.
Getting to Thailand
Thailand sits at the centre of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia and shares a number of borders with Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Myanmar. International flights arrive from every corner of the world to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, while international train connections are available from many South East Asian countries including Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia – some of which combine ferry and rail travel.
International Flights - Bangkok is the major travel hub for the region, therefore there are dozens of carriers offering low-cost tickets to Thailand. Almost every major airline which flies to Asia will have flights to Bangkok which means there is lots of competition, which has traditionally kept the cost of tickets down. However, as of late 2019, the decline of many Western currencies against the baht means that prices have crept back up, although it is still possible to get a return ticket from London for $550 and from Los Angeles for $720 if you fly with a budget carrier.
Thailand has 12 international airports, but the majority of tourists will be arriving in either Bangkok or Phuket. Bangkok has the modern and impressive Suvarnabhumi (pronounced soo-wan-na-poom) airport about 25km east of the city centre, which is where many foreign visitors will arrive. It is well organised with excellent facilities and numerous transport options to get you into Bangkok or to other destinations. Plus, unusually for an international airport, it even has good value money exchangers, although these are the ones in the basement near the Skytrain link, not the ones in the arrival halls (where you will get a much worse rate). For more information checkout our travelers guide to Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Phuket international airport is much, much smaller than Suvarnabhumi, but offers fantastic convenience for those holidaying on the island as they don't need to change to a connecting domestic flight in Bangkok. However, as you'd expect you have to pay for this privilege with ticket prices being markedly higher for international arrivals.
Getting to Thailand from Cambodia – From Cambodia, you can take domestic flights into Thailand from the airports at Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, which are quick, convenient and cheap. Flights are currently available from Siem Reap into the older airport in Bangkok, Don Mueang, for under $50. There are also six international border crossings into Thailand where you can travel by bus or taxi, but make sure to allow plenty of time to deal with immigration as the queues can be long and slow, especially at the Aranyaprathet/Poipet crossing.
Getting to Thailand from Laos – There are several border crossings into Thailand from Laos, the busiest ones being Vientiane/Nong Khai and Savannakhet/Mukdahan. These tend to be a bit more organised and hassle-free than the Cambodian border crossing at Poipet, you just get stamped out of Laos, hop on a bus which takes you across the bridge, and get stamped into Thailand, all done in under 30 minutes. You can also fly into Don Mueang airport in Bangkok from either Vientiane or Luang Prabang for 1800-2500 baht ($60-$83).
Getting to Thailand from Malaysia – Again you have the option of flying in from Malaysia, from either Kuala Lumpur or Penang, a one-way ticket into Bangkok will cost you as little as 800 baht ($26) from Penang or 2000 baht ($66) from KL. Or you can take a bus or taxi to one of the border crossings into southern Thailand, and then travel to Hat Yai, although be warned that many countries advise against all but essential travel to the southernmost provinces due to the activities of Muslim separatists. You also have the option of catching the Singapore to Bangkok sleeper train, which stops in KL and Butterworth. The cost from Butterworth to Bangkok is around 140 Ringgit ($33.50), but be warned, it takes around 19 hours and the trains are not particularly comfortable.
Thailand Visas & Requirements
Thai immigration has become increasingly strict recently, and it is therefore very important to consider whether you will require a visa or not.
Visa on arrival - The most important thing to note is that if this is your first visit to Thailand, and you are staying less than 30 days, visitors from most western countries will not require a visa and have nothing to worry about. You can enter on what is known as a visa exemption or visa on arrival, which allows 30 days, but this can also be extended at an immigration office to give you another 30 days at a cost of 1900 baht ($63). Occasional, short-stay visitors to Thailand have nothing to worry about regarding being allowed into the country.
Visa extensions - If you want to stay longer, you can apply for a tourist visa in your home country. This can be done in person or via mail and will allow you to stay for up to 60 days, plus it can also be extended for an additional 30 days for a cost of 1900 baht ($63).
Visa runs - In the past, visitors who wanted to stay considerably longer could do a "visa run" to a neighbouring country, to exit and re-enter getting them a new 30-day stamp. This is no longer acceptable to the Thai authorities, and although you may get away with it once or twice, you will eventually be denied entry as they will wonder what you are doing in Thailand for so long.
Longer stays - Another thing to consider is that you may well be denied entry to Thailand if you are visiting regularly or for long periods using either tourist visas or visa-exempt entries. They will assume that you are working in the country illegally and advise you, quite rightly, to obtain a long-stay "non-O" type visa. If you visit Thailand regularly it is crucial to obtain the correct visa for your visit to avoid being questioned or even being denied entry at the airport.
If you are in any doubt, check your local Thai embassy’s website for further details.
Transport & How To Get Around
Once you have arrived in Thailand, there are plenty of public transport options available to you, from local buses, taxis and tuk tuk's, trains and flights. Public transport is still very cheap in Thailand, non-air conditioned buses start from 8 baht, a journey on the BTS Skytrain starts at 16 baht, up to 59 baht per journey and an MRT (Metro/Subway) trip costs 16 baht plus 2-3 baht for each stop after the first stop. If you are going into the city from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport a metered taxi to Khao San Road costs roughly 400 baht. There are always long queues at the meter taxi rank, so to skip the queue pre-book a private transfer to meet and greet you and take you to your hotel with minimum hassle.
Traveling By Taxi Or Tuk Tuk
When taking a taxi try to get a metered one, or it's possible you could get over charged. A typical taxi journey in Bangkok of 3km will cost 45 baht, 5km will cost 55 baht and a 10km journey will cost 80 baht. These prices do not include surcharges such as express-way tolls, Airport surcharges and being stationary in traffic. If you can't find a metered taxi, be sure to agree a price before you go. Cruising across the city in a tuk tuk can be great fun, again just remember when taking a tuk tuk to always agree a price before you set off.
Traveling By Bus
The bus network in Thailand is awesome, you can pretty much get a bus to any town, city or island with ease. There are many different grades of comfort for every budget, from cheap government run buses to privately run VIP buses and minibuses. We recommend 12go Asia to search and book bus tickets, they cover all the major routes and have an easy-to-use booking system, as well as offer travel insurance for the journey. Checkout our 12go Asia review to find out more about this awesome transport booking service.
Traveling By Train
When taking a longer journey, from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for example you may want to opt for taking the train. Trains can be slow but are often much more relaxing and allow you to take in the scenery and see a different side to Thailand. If your traveling around Thailand for the first time or if you've never taken the train before this really is a true Thailand experience in itself. A 2nd Class AC seat journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai cost 891 Baht and for a 2nd Class Sleeper AC journey, where you get a bed will cost around 1,011 baht.
Traveling By Plane
Thailand's main international airport is called Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, this caters for most international flights as well as some domestic flights. Don Mueang Airport (Thailand's old main Airport) now serves most domestic flights to the many other Airports in Thailand including Chiang Mai Airport, Koh Samui Airport, Phuket Airport, Krabi Airport plus many more. Flights are also very cheap, a typical flight from Bangkok to Phuket costs as little as 700 baht if your flexible with times and dates.
Traveling By Minivan
Thailand has a very well developed network of minibuses which travel all around the country and at very reasonable prices. You can catch one at one of the bus stations or make a booking through your hotel or a local travel agent, where they will usually pick you up at an agreed time. They are quick and convenient and will usually have a stop for refreshments on longer routes.
Traveling By Songtaew
Songtaews offer the best compromise between price and convenience. Much cheaper than metered taxis, they drive around on set routes, picking up and dropping off passengers as they go. They are very popular with the locals because they are cheap and convenient. The drivers won't speak much English, but the routes are usually painted on the side of the vehicle.
Best Things To See & What To Do In Thailand
Experience The Hustle & Bussle Of Bangkok
More than likely you’ll arrive in Bangkok, which can be daunting for people traveling to Thailand for the first time, but think of it as a baptism by fire and jump straight into the culture.
Hail a tuk tuk and swoon at the sight of the Golden Temple and the enchanting Wat Phra Kaew, stroll through China Town and grab lunch at a street food stand and then make your way to towering skyscrapers and malls in modern central Siam.
To really get to grips with the city – jump on the Skytrain, take a Chao Phraya Cruise along the river, and eat at every food stall that you walk past.
Wine and dine at the top of skyscrapers and observe panoramic views of the Bangkok skyline one night and then switch to the buzzing bars and clubs of Sukhumvit or Khao San Road the next. Indulge and explore.
Explore Thailand's Amazing Marine Life
Thailand is known as one of the best places to dive in the world, and for good reason too. Thailand's wide array of dive sites offer some of the most diverse marine life and scuba diving experiences in the world, boasting some amazing undersea features including caves, tunnels, pinnacles, swim-throughs and shelves as well as beautiful coral reefs.
You can expect to see a wide range of amazing marine life, from a plethora of beautiful macro life, scorpion fish, yellowtail barracudas, manta rays and sea turtles, blacktip reef sharks, whale sharks and so much more.
Thailand is also one of the best places to learn how to scuba dive and get your PADI qualification. It is also one of the cheapest places to learn.
If you are an experienced diver, checkout some of the best dive sites Thailand has to offer or consider a longer liveaboard diving trip for that unforgettable diving experience of a lifetime.
Explore Thailand's Beautiful Temples
Thailand is a temple explorer’s heaven on earth and you can pretty much pick a point on the map and be able to rest assured that you’ll find something to see. Start though in the gorgeous city of Ayuttaya, exploring Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Lokkasuthawas and Wat Chaiwatthanaram – before taking a stroll on the banks of the Chao Phraya River bank to look at the Bang Pa-In Palace reflected in its waters.
Travel north to the province of Sukhothai and explore the magical Sukhothai Historical Park, home to the Royal Palace and no less than twenty six temples. Head further north to explore the temples of idyllic Chiang Mai, trek into the jungles close to Chiang Rai and Myanmar and see rice paddies, hill tribes and stunning, almost entirely unspoiled nature – filled with waterfalls, elephants and lush forestry. Spend a few days in Chiang Rai eating delicious Northern Thai cuisine and getting to know the monks at a local Wat.
Visit The Beautiful Islands & Beaches
Beach lovers should head instead to the southern island of Phuket to explore its divine white sand beaches and luxury beach resorts. Get deeper into nature in the enchanting Phang Nga Bay, which is a veritable jewellery box filled with the most beguiling of emerald islands.
Choose Koh Samui if you want to practice your water sports, Ko Phangan for the parties, or Koh Chang, Koh Mak & Koh Kood if you don’t want to venture too far from Bangkok.
To see "The Beach", go to the now ridiculously busy Hat Maya on Phi Phi Leh Island, or for something more authentic try the sandy beaches of Ko Phayam, which while rising in popularity every day, still retains much of the charm of a few years past. There's no doubt Thailand is home to some of the best beaches in the world, to find out more take a look at our 15 best beaches in Thailand.
Explore Thailand's Culture & Heritage
Thai people do many things very well. For example, they smile as we all know, but they also throw great parties and festivals, such as the famous Thai New Year ‘Songkran’ festival which runs from 13th-15th April, where it’s entirely normal to watch (and be victim of) drive by soakings and thousand-people strong water fights on the streets through the whole of Thailand.
Another annual festival, celebrated throughout Thailand and across South East Asia is the enchanting Loi Krathong festival, when people float candlelit lotus flowers on the river, and let hundreds of lanterns off into the night sky.
Loi Krathong does not take place on the same date each year, instead it is begins on the evening of the full moon during the 12th month of Thailand's lunar calendar, usually in November. The name Loi Krathong literally means 'to float a basket'.
To find out more about Thai culture checkout A Travelers Guide To Thai Culture: Do's & Dont's.
Eat Authentic Thai Food & Learn To Cook
Thai's cook probably better than any other country in the region and Thai cuisine, much like Thai culture is a phenomenal mix of fiery, sweet, sour, light, heavy, delicious, confusing and inspiring dishes. Expect sour soups, spicy curries, marinated meats, bugs, lemongrass sausages, fried noodles, papaya salads, seafood, fragrant Thai basil, dried chillies, tamarind, so many different bananas, dragon fruit, durian, pancakes, coconut broths, fried rice, and so very much more.
Be sure to try the delightful Tom Yum Soup, Pad Krapow Gai, Kai Jeow Moo Sab, Som Tum and Kao Niew Ma Muang just to get you started. Checkout our article on what to eat in Thailand to see some of the dishes your guaranteed to love and need to try.
A fantastic way taste and learn about Thai cuisine is to take a cooking class or tour. There are many excellent cooking schools throughout Thailand and can be a lot of fun, a chance to meet like minded people and very rewarding.
Visit Thailand’s Stunning National Parks
Thailand has some stunning national parks that will take your breath away. From untouched jungle, mountains, amazing cave formations, waterfalls and crystal-clear lakes, to a vast range of indigenous flora and fauna, there's a huge amount to discover; you'll need a full day at the very least. If you are staying in one of Thailand's tourist hotspots, then you will inevitably be not too far from a national park, and there are many tour packages available which can be tailored to your individual needs. If you go as part of a group then it can be very cheap, even with transport, entrance, meals and insurance included.
The most famous national park in Thailand is Khao Yai, which is accessible from Bangkok as a day trip so very convenient for most travelers. It covers 300km2 and is home to the 1351m tall Khao Rom mountain. You can expect to see wild elephants, deer, monkeys and possibly even crocodiles as well as a bewildering array of tropical bird species. Thailand's national parks are amazing and well worth a day of every visitor's time.
Go Trekking In Northern Thailand
Northern Thailand is well-known locally for its densely forested, rugged and mountainous terrain, which is home to several local hill tribes who choose to eschew urban life to stick with their traditional lifestyle and culture. Using the beautiful old city of Chiang Mai as a base, you can explore the surrounding jungles and incorporate any number of different activities for a day trip or even longer.
In addition to the hill tribe villages, there are stunning waterfalls, ancient temples and caves to explore, trekking in Thailand is an amazing experience and a great way to squeeze in some exercise after all those Thai curries. You will almost certainly get a chance to spot a diverse range of wildlife, including elephants, deer, monkeys and a multitude of tropical butterflies, insects and birds, and maybe even some hungry fish in the rivers. Northern Thailand has some stunning scenery with mountains, paddy fields and jungles and some amazing vistas from the viewpoints, after which you can retreat to the sleepy town of Pai.
Activities, Day-Trips & Excursions
Thailand has been a popular holiday destination for decades now, so is well geared towards tourism, and as such offers a multitude of tours, classes, day-trips, excursions and adventures to suit all tastes. Most larger guest houses and hotels will have a booking desk where you can find out what is available and then go ahead and book after making your choice. Particularly on the islands such as Phuket and Samui, you will see billboards by the side of the road advertising tours and packages outside the travel agents. In cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, you will spot small travel agents as you walk around, and the staff are generally very helpful and can usually speak passable English. Don’t be afraid to shop around, prices will vary from one shop to the next, and don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, especially if you are booking for several people or spending a lot of money.
Nowadays, like with many things in life, you can even book your activities online. Popular cooking classes, dive shops, and trekking companies will even have their own websites where you can book directly, or alternatively, you can book through third-party websites such as Viator and Get your Guide which brings a multiple activities together in one place.
The list of activities available to tourists is almost endless. Some of the most popular ones are boat trips, which can be tailored to include remote beach trips, various water sports, snorkelling at coral reefs or fishing trips. Jungle trekking and national park tours are also very popular and offer the chance of a lifetime, allowing you to see wild elephants, visit beautiful, secluded waterfalls, explore the jungle and be amazed by the many different species that live there. Cooking classes in Thailand are great value and fun (often including a visit to a local market), and arm you with the know-how to wow your friends and family when you get back home. There are also numerous city day-trips, temple tours, quad bike tours, waterfall excursions, cave exploring trips; there is a huge amount of choice and something for everyone.
Travel Planning & Booking
The rise of the internet has made everything so much easier. In only a few minutes you can compare prices for flights, hotels, guest-houses, transport, entertainment, tours and activities, with most of Thailand now embracing the internet as a way to boost their business. If you've decided to visit Thailand and know what dates you intend to visit, the first thing to get out of the way is to book your flights.
With modern websites such as Skyscanner, Expedia, Kayak, Agoda and dozens more, comparing flight prices has never been easier. The absolute cheapest flights will often include a stopover somewhere (such as Helsinki, Shanghai or Bombay), and may offer a good deal if you don't mind the extra time and inconvenience. For many, direct flights are worth the small premium, getting there faster and with less hassle, instead of arriving exhausted. EVA Air, in particular, offer some very good prices on flights to Bangkok from around the world and have fantastic customer service.
Booking your accommodation is a little more complex. You might not yet have planned your Thailand itinerary or even thought about where you want to go. You can, of course, arrive at Bangkok airport with no hotel booked and find one when you get there (it's easy to do so), however, if you at least book your first night online, you won't have to rush around when you arrive and you will have something to put on your arrivals card. The vast majority of accommodation can be booked online, often at great prices, and booking online almost always gets you a better price than the walk-up rate. There are lot's of excellent websites to book accommodation, our favourites are Booking.com, Agoda.com and Hotels.com.
Travel Gear & Packing
The first thing to mention here is that packing too much is a common mistake people make when going to Thailand for the first time. Lugging around multiple heavy suitcases will be annoying at best and could become a real headache fast, particularly if you plan to travel around the country. Almost anything that you need for your holiday can be bought in Thailand and usually much cheaper than at home. Particularly things like clothes, shoes, toiletries, first aid supplies and such like can be bought very cheaply and easily in Thailand. Plus, you will need plenty of room in your suitcase for all the bargains you pick up during your stay. It's completely feasible to turn up at Bangkok airport with little more than your passport and wallet and buy everything you need here, including a new suitcase, for a fraction of what you would spend back home.
One thing to note for backpackers is that rucksacks bought in Thailand are not as good quality as in the west, so consider buying something a bit more durable, especially if you are planning to travel a lot or stay for several months. Amazon’s basic range offers some very good quality packs at excellent prices, but if you want to spend a bit more, a bag from Deuter, North Face, Osprey or Berghaus are all excellent choices.
Things like towels, suntan lotion, sunglasses, flip flops, bikinis and swimming shorts can all be bought in Thailand cheaply and easily. Something to consider, however, is that Thai sizes are small, so if you are larger or taller than average in your home country you should bring you own clothes as your size may only be available in certain places such as Platinum mall or MBK in Bangkok, for example.
Another key thing to consider is medication. Not all western medications and brands will be available in Thai pharmacies, however, the pharmacists are very professional and helpful. If you rely on regular medication, make sure you bring enough for your entire trip. Certain medications are viewed with contempt by the Thai authorities, including sleeping tablets, anti-anxiety medication, and any stronger pain relief than paracetamol or ibuprofen. Such medications may be confiscated at the airport unless you provide a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor, these medications are highly controlled in Thailand and possession could get you into trouble.
Prices & Expenses (Typical costs)
Thailand has a huge choice of hotels, restaurants and nightlife, meaning that different visitors can spend wildly different amounts. At the extreme-budget end of the scale, it can be possible to survive on under 450 baht ($15) a day, however, if you want the best hotel in Bangkok and insist on only the finest restaurants, it would be possible to drop 60,000 baht ($2000) per day or even more. Thailand caters for all travelers, but let's break things down to get a better understanding of how much things cost here.
Accommodation - A bed in a dorm room in a touristy area can be found from around 200 baht ($6.65) a night and up, but these are popular with budget backpackers so you’d need to book in advance. A basic but comfortable guesthouse can be found in most parts of Thailand for 600 baht ($20) a night, although it may not be to western standards. At 1000-1500 baht ($33-$50) per night, you will be able to book a very modern, clean and comfortable boutique-style guesthouse or a more basic hotel. Once you get over 3000 baht ($99) a night, you will be able to find very nice 4-star hotels and resorts in most areas. For the super-luxury hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental, The Peninsula or The Sukhothai, the sky is the limit but you can find 5-star hotel rooms from as little as 4000 baht ($132) per night if you look online.
Location drastically affects the price of your accommodation. Some of the more expensive places are Patong in Phuket, Lower Sukhumvit (Nana/Asoke) in Bangkok, Silom-Sathon, and some of the super-luxury resorts on the islands. Quieter places such as Kanchanaburi, Koh Lanta or Chiang Rai will be noticeably cheaper. Many places will offer a small discount if you book for several nights and pay upfront, but don't expect a refund if you change your mind. Most places now ask for a 1000 baht deposit for the key or key-card, to reclaim this you must present the key and the receipt on checkout. If you lose your deposit receipt or forget to ask for the money on checkout, the money is likely gone forever.
Transportation - If you plan your day carefully, in some areas (especially the smaller islands) you may be able to see a few temples or attractions and have lunch on foot. If you need to use a taxi, always make sure he uses the meter; a short journey should be 40-80 baht ($1.32-$2.64). Motorcycle taxis will cost a bit less, tuk-tuks will be a bit more, and tuk-tuks never have meters so agree your price beforehand. If you're brave enough and can understand a little bit of Thai, songtaews and public buses offer the cheapest way to get around. The MRT and BTS in Bangkok offer a very clean and comfortable way to get around the city and are exceptionally good value. Be warned, however, that they don't cover large parts of the city. Some people will travel more than others, but if you want to travel around Bangkok all day in an air-conditioned taxi, you're probably going to spend 600 baht ($20) or more. Look at the canal boat taxis to save money, checkout our article on getting around Bangkok by boat.
Food and Drink - Again, Thailand caters to everyone in this regard. In Bangkok you can eat a bowl of roast pork noodle soup for 35 baht ($1.16), only a stone's throw from a restaurant where an imported Argentinian steak can cost you 11000 baht ($364) – and that doesn't include side dishes, service charge or tip! Street food is delicious and is the cheapest way to eat with pad Thai from 30 baht ($1) in most places. Then there are the little Thai-style family-run restaurants where a meal for two would probably run to about 150 baht ($5) with soft drinks. Western-style restaurants aimed at tourists will be a bit more expensive typical prices for a pizza or burger might be around 200 baht ($6.60) or Thai dishes with rice or noodles around 150 baht ($5). The usual international fast-food joints are ubiquitous in the big cities and cost about the same as back home (which means they are expensive for the locals). If you want to have a cooked breakfast, a Thai lunch and dinner in a good restaurant, you'd need to budget around 500 baht ($16.50) a day, and that would give you three very decent meals a day.
Soft drinks and drinking water in Thailand are very cheap, alcoholic drinks are not. A 330ml bottle of local beer such as Leo, Singha or Chang can cost up to 90 baht ($3) in a restaurant but around 32 baht ($1.06) at 7-Eleven. Cocktails generally cost around 200 baht ($6.60), shots of imported spirits around the same. Local spirits are much cheaper, but you are likely to find them unpalatable unless drunk with enough mixer. Many bars in Bangkok and other places have promotions on draught beer at 100 baht ($3.31) per pint, but this doesn't include service charge or tax. Imported draught beers and craft beers can reach as much as 400 baht ($13.24) per pint in some instances. Imported wine is taxed into oblivion in Thailand and even a mediocre bottle can cost more than 1000 baht ($33) in a restaurant. Thai wine is much cheaper, but is light years away from real wine and will likely be a disappointment.
Recommended Overall Budgets - For the budget backpacker who doesn't drink alcohol, you could survive on 800 baht ($26.50) per day. A more realistic budget for someone who wants a private room and 2-3 beers in the evening would be 1800 baht ($59.50) per day. Taking a step up, a traveler who wants to stay in a boutique hotel, maybe have a western-style meal for lunch and explore the nightlife in the evening, then you'd need a budget of 3500 baht ($115) per day. Any shopping would be on top of these budgets.
If you insist on that 5-star hotel room, eating at the best restaurants, nightclubs, and traveling everywhere by taxi, you could easily burn through 10000 baht ($331) per day. An average family of four could get a great family suite at a resort, eat well throughout the day, and use taxis for around 5000 baht ($165) per day.
Money Saving Tips
Thailand has traditionally been a great value holiday destination, and many things such as accommodation and eating out are still remarkably cheap. However, with the unstoppable strength of the Thai baht in recent years, combined with price rises and weakness of many other foreign currencies around the world, you may be surprised to find that Thailand is no longer that much of a bargain, with many items being more expensive than in your home country. So, to help you get the most out of your travel cash, here are some great money-saving tips to make your money go further.
First of all, never buy Thai baht in your home country. Bring your home currency to Thailand and change it here, the rates in Thailand are excellent and can easily be 10-15% better, which should make a huge difference to your budget.
Next, try to avoid using your foreign bank card in a Thai ATM, it will costs you a small fortune if you make several withdrawals. There is an unavoidable 220 baht ($7.28) charge per transaction, plus whatever your home bank charges, and you may get a less favourable rate. Expect to lose $20-$30 per ATM withdrawal. Other options include accounts with no foreign transaction fees, travel money cards and travelers cheques. But the best option is to bring as much as you feel comfortable with and change in when you arrive (but not in the arrivals hall!).
Only use taxis which will use the meter to avoid paying double or even more for each journey. Don't be afraid to try the street food vendors, the food is invariably clean and tasty and starts from $1. Don't use your hotel laundry services as they will usually charge exorbitant fees, find a local laundromat where they will do everything for you or just buy some new clothes at the market, it will be cheaper! And last but not least, don’t be afraid to haggle in Thailand, particularly at the local markets and when choosing accommodation.
Thai Language & Basic Phrases
The Thai language is tonal, and as such can be hard for westerners to master. However, any attempts to learn a few Thai words and phrases for your trip will be very much appreciated. Something to note is that when Thai is transliterated into English script, it is rarely pronounced as you would expect. As an example, the name of Bangkok's largest airport is officially Suvarnabhumi, however, it is pronounced "soo-wan-na-poom", which you would never have been able to guess. Also, Thais often end sentences with a polite particle. This is "khrap" (often pronounced as "cap") for men and "ka" for women. Don't worry if you don't get it right first time (you won't), just give it a try and improve as you go. Here are some basic Thai phrases with English transliterations first, followed by phonetic pronunciation:
Hello. – Sawasdee khrap (M), Sawasdee ka (F).
Pronounced as: Sa-wat-dee cap/Sa-wat-dee car
How are you? - Sabaidee mai?
Pronounced as: Sa-bye-dee my?
I am fine, thank you. - Sabaidee khrap (M), Sabaidee ka (F).
Pronounced as: Sa-bye-dee cap/Sa-bye-dee car.
Thank you. - Kawp khun khrap (M), kawp khun ka (F).
Pronounced as: Corp coon cap/corp coon car.
For plenty more useful phrases, checkout our in-depth Thai language guide.
Thai Culture & Etiquette
Thai people are generally kind, polite and reserved, but have some deeply ingrained ways of thinking and cultural quirks which you should be aware of to avoid causing offence. Never speak badly of the Thai royal family, Thai politics or Thai culture, in the worst-case scenario you could even find yourself behind bars. This includes not defacing in any way pictures of the royal family, which includes banknotes and coins.
In Buddhism, the top of the head is the most sacred part of the body and the soles of the feet are the lowest, dirtiest part. This means you should never touch or pat someone on the top of the head, likewise, you should never point the soles of your feet at anybody as this can offend quickly. In the same vein, never step over someone lying down as this exposes them to the soles of your feet.
Always remove your shoes before entering someone's home or a temple, and remember that at temples, attire must be conservative, which means that ladies must cover both their shoulders and their knees and men should not wear sleeveless vests. Don't point with your finger, point with an open hand, and use your right hand, and certainly don't point at people.
And no matter what happens to you, always remain calm. In Thai culture, getting visibly angry is a huge loss of face and will get you nowhere fast. You will resolve any problems much easier by being calm and polite, that is the Thai way. Foreigners getting angry at petty issues such as poor service in a restaurant or a cancelled train are a never-ending source of amusement to the Thais, here they have a much more relaxed attitude to life, and unfortunately, this also includes timekeeping, which with most Thais is simply atrocious. Don't be surprised if your Thai friend turns up an hour late, it's just how things work here. To find out more about Thai culture, take a look at our travelers guide to Thai culture & do's and dont's.
How To Stay Safe In Thailand
Thailand is in general very safe and most visitors should have nothing to worry about. You should avoid the southernmost provinces bordering Malaysia, however, as there is Muslim separatist activity with a (small) risk of indiscriminate bombings and shootings.
Driving motorbikes - The biggest danger to young travelers is riding a poorly maintained motorcycle on Thailand's notoriously dangerous roads. If you do not hold a full motorcycle license or are not experienced riding on 2 wheels, never hire a bike in Thailand. Some of Thailand's roads are treacherous, particularly on the island of Koh Phangan, and many young people injure themselves on Thai roads whilst holidaying. Also, some Thai drivers can be very aggressive and inconsiderate, and often drive too fast.
Violent crime & theft - Violent crime against foreigners is very rare. However petty theft, pickpocketing and drink spikings do take place, particularly in areas where there are lots of tourists. Be aware of your surroundings, especially if you are out late at night and with a bit of common sense you can avoid most risks. Use the hotel safe for your valuables, or even better, leave your valuables at home. Thieves can't steal what you don't bring.
Waterfalls - There have been some deaths of visitors at waterfall sites across the country. The walkways and rocks around most waterfalls in Thailand can be very slippery and dangerous, be especially careful if you are trying to take selfies close to the waterfalls. Even a short drop on to the rocks below can be fatal, as it has been in several cases over recent years.
Drugs - This is just simple common sense, but stay well clear of any illegal drug use in Thailand. Thailand has some of the most draconian drug laws in the world and still has the death penalty. Traces of drugs in your blood or urine does count as possession here, so you could even be locked up after testing positive for marijuana after having smoked a joint in Amsterdam a few days or weeks before. Any drug use at all in Thailand is asking for trouble.
Scams - Thai people are friendly and welcoming, however, there are scammers in the country who prey on tourists which they see as rich pickings. Some of the scams can be very elaborate, but just remember if something seems too good to be true, it almost always is. Gold and precious gems are never sold at a discount, tuk-tuk drivers will not work all day for 20 baht unless they are planning to scam you, and you should always decline an invitation to go somewhere unfamiliar with someone you just met. To find out more about the latest scams, checkout our in-depth scams guide.