Thailand Travel Guide

By Admin | Last Updated August 30, 2019

Thailand in south-east Asia is between Myanmar and Laos in the north, Cambodia and Laos in the east, the Andaman Sea and Myanmar in the west, and Malaysia and the Gulf of Thailand in the south. Once the heaven for backpackers, Thailand is now one of the world’s most visited countries. 32.6 million tourists visited Thailand in 2017, according to World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), making Thailand the 9th most popular country. France ranked top with 82.6 million visitors, followed by the United States with 75.6 million. Spain was ranked 3rd.

Thailand offers virtually everything – beautiful beaches, stunning little coves, tropical islands, coral reefs, rich marine life, world-class diving, lush jungles, ancient monasteries, Buddhist monks, temples, ruined cities, rave parties, floating markets, massage, spa treatments, colorful hill tribes, street food, Thai boxing, and more. From billionaires to backpackers – there is something for everyone in Thailand.

Thailand is an easy country to travel. Bangkok, the capital, is well connected with all parts of the world. The tourist infrastructure is well developed here. It is safe. There is even tourist police in the country.

Thailand – Quick Facts

  1. Thai is the official language of Thailand
  2. Baht is the currency of Thailand
  3. 94.5% of the citizens are Buddhists
  4. Thailand was formerly called Siam
  5. It is the world’s 21st most populous country and the 20th largest by area
  6. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy
  7. It is the only country in south-east Asia that was never colonized by a European country.
  8. Bangkok is the largest city, followed by Nonthaburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Chiang Mai, and Hat Yai. 10% of the country’s population lives in Bangkok.
  9. There are about 35,000 temples in the country.
  10. There are approximately 1,430 islands.
  11. There are 7 international airports in Thailand – Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hat Yai, Chiang Rai, and Samui.
  12. About 10% of the world’s animal and bird species in the world can be found in the country. There are more than 1,500 species of orchids.
  13. Thailand is the world’s #1 rice and orchid exporter.
  14. Bumblebee bat, the smallest mammal is in Thailand. Whale shark, the largest fish, can also be found here.
  15. Tiger Woods, the famous golfer, has a Thai mother and American father.

In Thai language, Thailand is called ‘Prathet Thai’, which stands for ‘Land of the Free’, as this is the only southeast Asian country that has never been colonized by a European nation.

Top 12 Reasons For Visiting Thailand

  1. Beautiful beaches and islands. Thailand has some of the most scenic islands and beaches in the world.
  2. Snorkeling and scuba diving. Warm clear water offers very good visibility.
  3. Coral reefs and rich marine life.
  4. Temples and monasteries. There are approximately 35,000 temples in Thailand.
  5. The rich Thai culture.
  6. Hill tribes, unique customs, dress.
  7. Cheap prices. Thailand is one of the cheapest countries to visit.
  8. Shopping.
  9. Nightlife and partying.
  10. Thai food.
  11. Adventures, hiking, wildlife.
  12. Bangkok, one of the most popular cities with tourists.

Thailand Photo Gallery

Thai Visa

There is ‘visa on arrival’ for 30 days for visitors from many countries. But this period can be extended in many ways. Multiple entries are also allowed. Residents of a few countries are allowed ‘visa exemption’ too. But your passport needs to be valid for 6 months at least from the date of entry into Thailand. Entry will be refused if there are pages missing or if the passport is damaged.

  • 30-day visa on arrival
  • The stay can be extended for up to 30 days.
  • Those who want to stay longer, work in the country, or use land borders regularly need to get a visa before arriving.
  • The visa is issued by Thai Embassy or Consulate.
  • Visa exemption for citizens of many countries.
  • Dual nationals must have a valid passport of the country shown while entering Thailand.
  • You will have to pay a fine of 500 baht every day for overstaying, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. There is also risk of deportation or detention. Such people can be blacklisted from re-entering the country.
  • For onward travel, the immigration officers can ask for proof – onward or return air ticket. They can also ask for proof of adequate finances - 20,000 baht for each family, or 10,000 baht per person.

Countries that do not need a visa for up to 90 days – South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Chile.

Countries that do not need a visa for up to 30 days – United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Japan, Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia, Denmark, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, France, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Germany, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic, Iceland, Ireland, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, South Africa, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Bahrain, Brunei, Israel, Kuwait, Mongolia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Philippines, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg.

Countries that do not need a visa up to 14 days – Cambodia and Ukraine.

Customs

You may bring these items into Thailand without paying customs duty:

  • 200 cigarettes, or no more than 500 grams of smoking tobacco
  • One liter of spirits / wine / malt liquor.
  • Up to 10,000 Baht worth of cosmetics, perfume, soaps, toothpaste, and other personal effects – assuming these are for personal use only
  • Film: a reasonable amount for personal use

The official Thai Customs Department page can fill you in on what you can and can’t bring in. Drug trafficking in Thailand carries the death penalty – under no circumstances should you ever get caught carrying any on your way in!

Airport Tax

You will be charged an airport tax of 500 Baht upon departure on any international flight. Passengers of domestic flights will be charged 40 Baht.

Health & Immunizations

You’ll only be asked to show health certificates of vaccination against smallpox, cholera, and yellow fever if you’re coming from known infected areas.

What To See In Thailand

There are a lot of things to see and activities to enjoy in Thailand. The country can be divided into three regions,

  • North Thailand
  • Central Thailand
  • South Thailand

The north offers hills, forests, cultural experiences, and indigenous tribes. Central Thailand is about Bangkok, rivers, the country’s border with Myanmar, the beaches of Pattaya and Ko Samet. Southern Thailand has islands, beaches, and coral reefs.

Top 8 Places To Visit In North Thailand

The north is cooler, hillier, and has lush valleys, forests, waterfalls, and caves. Visit the indigenous hill tribes. Learn about their culture, dresses, and food habits. There are beautiful temples and a lot of history too. This is also a popular region for jungle trekking, and hiking.

  1. Chiang Mai – For its temples, night markets and elephants.
  2. Pai – For outdoor recreation, trekking, white-water rafting, waterfalls, canyons, elephant safaris, open-air bars, live music. Laid-back destination.
  3. Chiang Rai – For beautiful hill views, forests, trekking, the white temple.
  4. Sukhothai – The heart of Thailand in the 13th century. For the ruins, historical park, bridges, big Buddha statues.
  5. Mae Hong Son – For its distinctive culture, trekking, waterfalls, caves, picturesque bamboo bridges. Bordering Myanmar, many of the locals are of Shan descent.
  6. Doi Inthanon National Park – The tallest mountain in Thailand. For hiking trips, beautiful waterfalls, tribal tours, markets.
  7. Lampang – To see the ancient city that is more than 1,000 years old, emerald Buddha, the house of many pillars, 19th century murals, and markets.
  8. Chiang Dao – For the beautiful limestone cliffs, bamboo forests, see the third highest mountain in Thailand, bird watching, caving, hill trines, hot springs.

Top 7 Places To Visit In Central Thailand

The central regions of the country include the capital Bangkok, the archeological sites of Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, the Erawan National Park, beaches of Pattaya and Koh Larn, the vineyards of Hua Hin, and the monkeys of Lopburi.

  1. Ayutthaya – For its temples and ruins, like Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, and Wat Yai Chai Mongkon.
  2. Mae Klong – For the Amphawa floating market, the railway market.
  3. Lopburi – For its monkeys, and the Buddhist temples, ruins, and shrines.
  4. Kanchanaburi – To see the River Kwai and its famous bridge, Death Railway and the Hellfire Pass, war cemetery, and the tiger temple. Read our kanchanaburi trip guide here.
  5. Erawan National Park – For the verdant rainforest, the famous seven-tiered waterfall, and chance to see wild elephants, tigers, gibbons, cobras, and birds.
  6. Bangkok – The capital of Thailand. Read our Bangkok travel guide here.
  7. Ko Chang, Pattaya, Ko Samet – For the beaches and beautiful islands.

Top 11 Places To Visit In South Thailand

The southern part of the country between the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea is the country’s most popular region, apart from Bangkok. Here you will find some of the best beaches of Asia, most stunning islands, coral reefs, and lush forests. There is a lot of entertainment and nightlife too.

There are fewer islands in the eastern part of the south – Gulf of Thailand. But you can enjoy them almost throughout the year, thanks to a shorter monsoon. You will find some of the most developed resorts of Thailand in the south. There are airports at Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui.

  1. Phuket – The busiest. For its spectacular beaches, islands, snorkeling, scuba diving, boat trips, kayaking, food, nightlife, and wild parties. Read our Phuket travel guide here.
  2. Koh Phi Phi – Limestone cliffs, hidden beaches and coves, snorkeling, parties, watching a glorious sunset over the Arabian Sea.
  3. Phang Nga Bay – For the many limestone formations over sea, national park, the famous James Bond Island.
  4. Krabi – For its rugged coastline and soaring limestone pinnacles. Beautiful beaches and islands, sea caves, lagoons, sea kayaking.
  5. Railay – Between Ao Nang and Krabi. Hills on one side, and sea on the other. Limestone cliffs, islands, beaches, swimming, and snorkeling.
  6. Koh Phangan – Beaches, full moon parties, scuba diving, Muay Thai training, exploring the many forest trails. Popular with backpackers.
  7. Mu Koh Ang Thong – Group of 42 islands, now a marine national park. Beautiful beaches, caves, boat tours.
  8. Khao Sok National Park – Great place away from the beach. Dense forest and beautiful waterfalls! Elephant hill, gibbons, monkeys, deer.
  9. Ko Tao - In the Gulf of Thailand, a favorite with the divers. Coral formations, rich marine life, bull sharks, beaches.
  10. Similan Islands – North of Phuket. Famous for diving and coral formations. Serene beauty, fewer tourists, stunning beaches.
  11. Koh Samui – The third largest island after Phuket and Koh Chang. Beaches, islands, lagoons, night markets, nightlife, full moon parties.

Highlights of Thailand

Bangkok – The capital and largest city. Big city on the Chao Phraya River! Temples, street food, shopping, massage, entertainment, nightlife!

Historic Ruins – There are three places between Bangkok and Chiang Mai in the north, which have important historic ruins that date back to the 13th century. Visit Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, and Kamphaeng Phet. There are also Khmer ruins in the northeast at Phimai and Phanom Rung.

Tropical Islands – Can be divided into eastern and southern Gulf islands, north and the south Andaman Islands.

  • Eastern Gulf Islands - Koh Chang, which is full of forests, the beautiful Koh Kut, and Koh Samet, which is close to Bangkok. They are all close to Thailand’s border with Cambodia.
  • Southern Gulf Islands – Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Samui, and Koh Tao, which is famous for diving.
  • Northern Andaman Islands – On the Andaman coast, Koh Chang Noi, Koh Phayam, and the Similan Islands, north of Phuket.
  • Southern Andaman Islands - Koh Lanta, Koh Yao Yai, Koh Yao Noi, Koh Phi Phi, the laidback Koh Jum, and the islands off Krabi.

Rivers – The islands and beaches attract thousands of tourists, but there are some beautiful rivers in Thailand as well. There is the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, then there is the Kok River in the north, Mekong River, Salween, Ruak, Tapi, and the beautiful Kwai and Pai rivers. There are many hangout towns along the rivers.

National Parks – There are many national parks to visit in Thailand as well, including the huge Khao Yai National Park, the Kaeng Krachan National Park, Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Khao Sok National Park, and the Pha Taem National Park in the northeast.

Marine Parks – Marine nature lovers will have plenty of choices. There is the Mu Ko Lanta National Park, and the Mu Ko Phetra National Park in the south, the Ao Phang Nga National Marine Park, and on the Gulf side there is the popular Ang Thong National Marine Park.

Money Saving Tips

Go Local Live like a local and you will be able to save a lot of money. Eat street food, which is very good, take local buses and the tuk tuk, drink locally made beer. An average Thai can live on less than 7,800 baht per month in Bangkok, which is about $242. It is cheaper in the countryside. You will spend less than 350 baht a day by eating street food, and staying at cheap guesthouses.
Eat Street Food The street food of Bangkok and Thailand is famous. You have to try it. The food is safe, delicious and very cheap. In fact, some of the best foods are available on the streets.
Happy Hour There are happy hours everywhere. Drinks are available at half price. There are also 2-for-1 specials.
Where To Buy Beer 7-Eleven is the place to save money. These small shops are located throughout the country. In Bangkok, you will find a 7-Eleven store in every second lane – they are so common. Beer here will cost just 35 baht. In a bar or restaurant, the same beer is available between 100 and 170 baht. So buy at 7-Eleven and drink outside.
Traveling Taxis will cost a lot of money. In Bangkok and other places, take the train or the tuk tup instead to save money. Train travel is also the best way of avoiding traffic.
Save On Accommodation There are plenty of accommodation options. Thailand is cheap compared to Singapore. You will find good hotels in Bangkok and other places in the country, hostels, apartments, and home stays at very affordable prices.

Top 10 Festivals In Thailand

1. Songkran or the Water Festival – A 3-day water fight in April throughout the country. The most important Thai festival is held usually between 13th and 15th April. There are wild scenes of water splashing with hose pipes, water guns, and buckets. There are other events too like Songkran processions, beauty contests, and culture shows.

2. Phi Ta Khon or the Ghost Festival – This 3-day festival is held in northeast Thailand’s Dan Sai in June or July. It combines religious traditions, handicraft displays in a fun party atmosphere. The locals are decorated in gaudy colors and wear colorful masks.

3. Yi Peng or the Lantern Festival – This is held at Chiang Mai in November. Thousands of lanterns made with paper are released into the sky in the evening. There are fireworks, parades, and religious ceremonies.

4.  Chinese New Year – The narrow and busy streets of Chinatown, Bangkok are transformed by exploding firecrackers, lion and dragon dancing, and red Chinese lanterns. There are also plenty of worshippers. The locals gather to enjoy the festivities. Enjoy the delicious street food of Bangkok.

5.  Wing Kwai or Buffalo Racing – The race takes place in a 100-meter long race course at Chonburi in October. Crowds gather to cheer the jockeys as they ride the beasts. See the buffalo decorations, buffalo beauty contests, and the Muay Thai (Thai boxing) demonstrations. It is held in October.

6. Lopburi Monkey Banquet – Held in November, a huge banquet is offered to the approximately 3000 monkeys here. 4 tons of vegetables, fruits, and other treats are on offer. A sight to see.

7. Vegetarian Festival – This is famous for the extreme acts performed by the locals. There is body mortification with spiked objects and swords, walking over hot coal. It is held at six Chinese temples at Phuket in October.

8. Boon Bang Fai or the Rocket Festival – Celebrated by the farming community in Issan, northeastern Thailand. Rockets are built and launched into the air so that the Gods bring down rain, which will give a good harvest. There is folk music, rice wine drinking, and beauty contests.

9. Candle Festival – This is held at Ubon Ratchathani, close to Thailand’s border with Laos in the month of July. Huge was sculptures are created and paraded along with folk music and dancing.

10. Wonderfruit Music and Arts Festival – This is the most important arts and music festival in Thailand, held at Pattaya in December. There are local bands, and also those from the US and Europe. There is yoga and meditation. Food prepared by some of the most famous chefs from Bangkok.

The Best Time To Visit Thailand

Thailand has hot and humid climate almost throughout the year. It is fairly consistent. The best time to visit Thailand is between November and February when it is relatively cooler and there is little rain. This is a good time to spend time on the beach, visit the islands, snorkel and scuba dive, also go on a hiking trip in the north.

There are three seasons in the country,

  • Summer
  • Monsoon
  • Winter

Summer in Thailand – The summer season in Thailand is between the month of March and June. The average temperature ranges between 33C and 36C this time of the year. The days are hot and humid. April is usually the hottest month. However, the hilly areas will be cooler.

There is little rain in March, just 2 days. The chance of rain goes up as the summer progresses, with May receiving 14 days of rain in an average year.

Monsoon in Thailand – The rainy season begins in the middle of June, but officially, it is not till July when the southwest monsoon arrives. The showers are sporadic in the beginning, with clear sky after a downpour. It picks up gradually and is more constant. Officially, the rainy season lasts till November.

But in the south, along the coast of the Andaman Sea, the monsoon rains begin from April, and it lasts till October. Along the Gulf of Thailand, the monsoon is between September and December. There is chance of thundershowers. Fewer tourists visit the country in the summer and monsoon.

Winter in Thailand – The winter season is between November and February when the average temperature ranges between 29C and 32C. The days are relatively cooler. Evenings are very pleasant. There is little humidity this time of the year.

This is the best time of the year to spend time at the beaches or go island hopping. The sun won’t be scorching. With clear weather and almost no rain, you can go scuba diving or enjoy snorkeling. Northern Thailand is hilly, but it never gets too cold.

How Many Days Should You Stay In Thailand?

If you are visiting Thailand for the first time, then make sure that you plan your trip for at least 7 to 10 days. Most first time visitors arrive at Bangkok, spend 4-5 days in the city, and then head to one of the beach resorts, Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, or Krabi. Of course, there are those who will also visit Kanchanaburi.

Repeat visitors will want to immerse themselves into Thai culture and learn more about the customs. A trip to Ayutthaya or North Thailand can be planned. If you are planning to travel around a bit instead of just relaxing at one island or beach, then 4 weeks is a popular choice, as this will fit within the visa regulations for many tourists.

In about a month, you should be able to see Bangkok, another city like Phuket, and visit some of the beaches and islands, and will have some time for relaxation as well. This will also give you time to spend a week in the north.