Updated: 2/2/2020 | February 2nd, 2020
Thailand is one of my favorite countries in the world. Going to Thailand is like going home. That sense of energy, of adventure, of hectic cities. I love it. I love the sense of wonder. The knowing that anything can happen.
I’ve been visiting for over a decade, and I’m always amazed by it. Every visit reminds me how much I love it, lets me learn more about the culture and discover new and exciting things to do. The country is so big that it would take a lifetime to really see it in depth.
I want to share with you what makes Thailand so special to me and give you a little overview of the best things to do and see there — no matter how long your visit is!
1. Bangkok’s Chaotic Nature
The capital of Thailand, Bangkok, is a crazy city that moves at a lightning-fast pace. I didn’t like it when I first visited: the noise, crowds, heat, pollution, and seemingly endless number of people — it was all too much. But after living there, I saw how wonderful the city really is.
Bangkok is like an onion. There are lots of layers, and the best are far from the tourist haunts. They are the little places you only find if you live there (or read this blog!). In Bangkok, there is always some event being held; the food is incredible whether it’s from a street stall, market, or high-end restaurant; the parties…well, one night in Bangkok is like nothing else; the locals are very friendly; and, because of all the travelers and expats living here, it’s a very international city. You’ll never be bored here.
2. Amazing Beaches
Thailand’s beaches and islands are some of the best, most photographed, and most beautiful in the world. A picture’s worth a thousand words, and this photo proves why you should visit Thailand better than any words I could say. There are islands for all needs: party islands, resort islands, dive islands, chill islands, empty islands filled with a few huts and not much else… islands with resorts, yoga retreats, or waterfalls, and some that mix a little bit of everything! With more than a thousand islands to choose from, you are going to find something that suits your needs.
- Ko Lipe: The Greatest Month in All My Travels
- Ko Lanta: The Thai Island That Remains Paradise
- I Still Hate Ko Phi Phi
3. Epic Tropical Jungles
Trekking in northern Thailand offers wildlife, hill tribes, great views of the lush tropical jungles, and an appreciation for the landscape. Thailand is awash with tropical jungles filled with wildlife; these make for great day trip or multi-day trekking opportunity that will give you a sense of the rich biodiversity of Thailand! There’s nothing like trekking through a tropical jungle to nurture your inner explorer. Some of the best trekking can be found way up north near Chiang Rai, in Khao Yai Park (where you can see wild elephants), and in Khao Sok, which is famous for its caves and limestone.
4. Volunteering with Elephants
From fish in the sea to elephants on the ground to birds in the air, Thailand has a wide variety of animals. Most people come here to go diving and see tropical fish, but there are plenty of great creatures to see on land and in the air, too, especially if you like birds. Exploring the jungles in parks like Khao Yai or by diving in Ko Tao is a great way to see all the main species. Another thing you can do is help save elephants from abuse by working at the conservation camp near Chiang Mai. Elephant riding has led to a lot of abuse, and now there are a number of animal-friendly sanctuaries where you can see the elephants up close, feed them, and take care of them in a manner that’s a win for everyone involved.
- How to Play, Feed, Bathe, and Protect the Elephants in Thailand
- How to Ethically Volunteer Anywhere in the World
5. Delicious Thai Food
Thai food is known around the world to be delicious, and you can bet it’s even more delicious in Thailand. The best food comes from the street vendors, who serve up the tastiest, spiciest food in the country. Just find the stalls where the locals are crowding around to get the best of the best.
Thailand without the food would be like France without the wine. I highly recommend the pork noodle soup. It’s one of the few Thai dishes you won’t find elsewhere in the world. Other awesome dishes to try: khao soi, pad kra pao, som tam, laab, and endless amounts of mango sticky rice.
6. Ancient Historical Sites
The massive archaeological sites of Sukothai, Lopburi, and Ayutthaya are windows into Thailand’s historic past, with ruins dating back centuries. These ancients cities were Thailand’s capitals during Khmer, Burmese, and local Thai kingdoms. These cities dot the center of Thailand, so they’re a perfect way to hop, skip, and jump your way to Chiang Mai and see the rural countryside. Additionally, you can find smaller ruins in Isaan on the way to Cambodia, also built in Khmer style.
7. World-Class Diving
Thailand has some of the best dive sites in the world, and it’s also one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to dive. The diving near Phuket, Ko Tao, the Similan Islands, and the Surin Islands is famous for brightly colored fish and coral. I find the diving near Ko Lanta and the Similan Islands to be the best as the reefs are better preserved.
- The Complete Guide to Diving in Ko Tao
- Learning How to Scuba Dive
- The Best Places to Go Diving in the World
8. Rural Isaan
If you really want to see what Thai life is like outside the big cities, visit Isaan, the northeastern part of Thailand. It is extremely rural and contains small villages, parks, and ruins that hardly see any tourists. There were entire days I never saw another foreigner. I think it’s one of the most interesting areas in the country and gives you a true sense of Thailand away from the crowds. Isaan food is also a regional version of Thai food that is probably the best (and spiciest).
9. Incredible Cooking Classes
You’ll find cooking classes all over Thailand, though Chiang Mai is the most popular place for them. Typically, you begin your class by going to the market and learning about Thai produce before heading to the kitchen. These hands-on classes teach you how to make your favorite Thai dishes; at the end, you’ll be able to eat your creations, so come hungry! (Just don’t try to eat my food. My curry never came out right.) Any guesthouse or tour agency can help you arrange a class.
And this is really just the tip of the iceberg. Thailand has a lot to offer travelers. There are plenty of good reasons to visit Thailand now and tons of things to do here.
Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Thailand!
My detailed, 350+ page guidebook is made for budget travelers like you! It cuts out the fluff found in other guidebooks and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel and save money while in Thailand, a country I used to call home (so I know it really well!). You’ll find suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, and bars, and much more!! Click here to learn more and get started.
Book Your Trip to Thailand: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time. My favorite places to stay are:
- Chada Guesthouse (Bangkok) – This is my favorite hostel on Khao San Road as it is one of the few places not run-down or overpriced. The staff is friendly and helpful and the beds are soft enough for a decent night’s sleep.
- Julie Guesthouse (Chiang Mai) – This is one of the most popular backpacker guesthouses in the city so if you want to stay here make sure you reserve a spot early. It’s a fun hostel and they serve food and drinks, and have an in-house travel agency.
- Samui Hostel (Koh Samui) – Located a short walk from Chaweng Beach, this budget hostel has air-conditioned rooms with en suite bathrooms. The dorms are a bit cramped, but it’s one of the cheapest places to stay on the island.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!
Looking for more information on visiting Thailand?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to Thailand with more tips on what to see, do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!
Photo credit: 10