Thailand Travel Tips
Thailand is the travel hub of Southeast Asia. Most people coming into the region fly into Bangkok and make that their base for doing the circuit around the region. With its lush jungles, famed beaches, world class diving, amazing food, and cheap prices, Thailand attracts visitors from all walks of life. You can find cheap guesthouses and 10,000 dollar a night resorts in this country – sometimes even next to each other.
Travel through Thailand is really easy. The country is a well worn destination on the backpacking trail and everything is convenient and easy. Though well on the map, there are still good destinations to visit away from the tourist masses and prices. Overall, Thailand speaks for itself. It’s so well known around the world that when you hear the word, you already think about beaches, beauty, jungles, and food. And your thoughts are dead on.
|Bangkok||Chiang Mai||Ko Lipe||Ko Phi Phi||Ko Phangan||Phuket|
- Accommodation: Thailand is very cheap, though the north is far cheaper than Bangkok and the islands. You can find cheap guest houses for as little $7 per night in cities and $4 per night in the countryside. On the islands or for a nicer room with air-con, expect to pay $17 and up per night. Basic bungalows cost the same. Hotels start at around $33 USD per night and go up from there. Big resorts on the islands start at $50 per night for a bungalow on the beach.
- Food: Food is really cheap in Thailand. Street food costs as little as $.65 USD per meal and if you eat local food you can eat for around $3.50-5 USD a day! Western dishes cost between $5-10 USD upwards.
- Transportation: Like everything in Thailand, transportation is also cheap. Local buses cost as little as $.25 USD per trip, the Metro and Skytrain in Bangkok cost $.25-1.50 USD per trip, and cab rides are usually $1.75-3 USD. Tuk-tuks are more expensive and cost $3-7 USD. Train service around the country is cheap – day trains cost as little as $7 USD. Night trains start around $17 USD for second-class without air-con. Boats to the islands cost $7-14 USD. It’s often better to get a bus/boat package then pay for them separately.
- Activities: Day tours cost $17-35 USD per day. Trekking costs $30-50 USD per day. A PADI dive certification course (very popular in Thailand) costs around $300.
Money Saving Tips
- Go local - The easiest way to save money in Thailand is to simply live like a local. Take local buses, eat street food, and drink local beer. The average Thai lives on a less than $230 USD per month in Bangkok, even less in the country side. If you stay at cheap guesthouses and eat the street food, you can spend as little as $10 USD per day.
- Eat the street food - Speaking of street food, don’t be afraid to eat it. It’s safe- even safer than a restaurant. If it wasn’t, the Thais wouldn’t be packing the stalls each day. You’ll find the best of Thailand’s food on the street and it will cost you a fraction of what you pay at a restaurant.
- Take advantage of Happy Hour – Thailand’s many happy hours have half-priced drinks and 2-for-1 specials.
- Buy beer at 7-Eleven – Buying beer at Thailand’s ubiquitous 7-Elevens and drinking outside will save you quite a bit on your bar tab.
Top Things to See and Do
- Bangkok – The heart of Thailand, this crazy city is a must see. Most travelers don’t like it right away but it grows on you. Explore temples, palaces, amazing markets, shops, one of the craziest nightlife scenes in the world, and of course, amazing Thai food. At first, I didn’t like this place but it grew on me. Now, I love this city and return frequently.
- Chiang Mai – Chiang Mai is an old city ringed with temples and surrounded by jungle. It’s a good launching pad for jungle treks into the area, there is a nearby elephant sanctuary, and the Chiang Mai night market is a place for some of the best deals in the country.
- Khao Yai National Park – Located 3 hours north of Bangkok, this park is an excellent place to hike, swim, and find wild elephants. It’s not very crowded so you’ll have the jungle to yourself. Stay at the Greenleaf Guesthouse for the best tour/accommodation deals in the area.
- Khao Sok National Park – Located down south, this is considered one of the best parks in the world and the best in Thailand. You’ll find caves, jungles, rivers, lakes, and tall limestone kyrsts here. It’s not a common stop but if you are in Thailand for awhile, you should make the effort to go.
- Visit the Ancient Capitals - Between Chiang Mai and Bangkok are Thailand’s three ancient capitals: Sukhothai, Lopburi, and Ayutthaya. Visiting them on your way north makes for a unique way head from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. You’ll get to learn about ancient Thailand and see rural life at its best. My favorite capital is Ayutthaya.
- Tropical Islands – Thailand has a million and one beautiful tropical islands. Some are overdeveloped, some only have a bungalow on them. You’ll find everything here. Some of the best islands here are: Ko Samet, Ko Taruato, Ko Lanta, Ko Chang, Ko Tao, Ko Jum, the Similian Islands, and Ko Samui.
- Full Moon Party – If you like partying, there’s no better party in the world than the famous Full Moon Party. It’s 20,000 people partying until sunrise on a beach on Haat Rin, Koh Phangan. Sure, it is super touristy but that doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of fun and it’s as much a part of Thailand as anything else.
- Jungle Trekking – There is some great jungle trekking in northern Thailand. Be sure to go on a multi day hike. The shorter hikes aren’t as good and the hill tribes you visit are like visiting Disney world. The biggest leaving points are Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
- Scuba Diving – Scuba diving here is a popular activity. The cheapest place to learn is on the island of Kao Tao, which caters specifically for dive trips. Most people don’t go there if they aren’t diving. While you can dive all over the country, Ko Lanta, the Surin Islands, and the Similian Islands offer the best diving.
- Learn to Cook – Thai food is one of the most delicious types of food in the world and its relatively easy to cook. All over the country you’ll find places to teach you though the best are in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Even if you don’t plan to cook back home, at least you get to spend a day making and eating food.
- Get off the Beaten Path - If you really want to see what life in Thailand is like outside the big cities, visit Isaan. Isaan is the name for the northeastern part of Thailand and is extremely rural. This area contains small farming villages that hardly see any tourists. Life here hasn’t changed much in a long time. Often considered a “backwater”, I think it’s one of the most interesting places in the country.
- Take the day train - Taking the day train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is not only cheaper but a much better way to see the countryside than the night train. Sure, you waste a day but you see the countryside, you experience how Thais take the train, and your treated to vendors coming off and on every stop selling meals for 50 cents. The day trip remains one of my favorite experiences in Thailand. Just make sure you have a good book!
My Top Companies
Here are the best companies to use when you visit Thailand:
- Accommodation: Suk 11 Guesthouse (Bangkok), Chada Guesthouse (Bangkok), Julies (Chiang Mai), Kodchasri B&B (Chiang Mai), Pooh’s (Ko Lipe), Greenhouse (Khao Yai)
- Restaurants: Isao Sushi (Bangkok), Catalana Tapas (Bangkok), Om Ganesh Indian (Ko Phangan)
- Tour Companies: Elephant Nature Park (Chiang Mai), Sairee Hut Diving (Ko Tao), World Divers (Ko Tao)