Last Updated: 8/30/2022 | August 30th, 2022
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, as I 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, floating 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.
My favorite islands in Thailand are Ko Lipe, Ko Lanta, Ko Samet, Ko Phangan (where you’ll find the famous Full Moon Party), Ko Jam, and Ko Maak.
- 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
Thailand is awash with tropical jungles filled with wildlife, great views, and incredible landscapes. These jungles make for great day trips or multi-day trekking excursions that can give you a sense of the country’s rich biodiversity. There’s nothing like trekking through a tropical jungle to nurture your inner explorer!
Some of the best trekking can be found 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
Most people visit Thailand to go diving and see the brightly colored fish and gorgeous underwater sights, but there are plenty of amazing creatures to see on land — including elephants!
Elephants have been used for tourism and work for centuries in Thailand, with many elephants suffering in the process. Elephant riding has led to a lot of abuse and exploitation. Fortunately, 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. There is a conservation park near Chiang Mai where you can help these wonderful creatures during a single-day or multi-day volunteer experience.
But whatever you do, never ride an elephant!
- 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 better 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 or Italy without pasta. I highly recommend trying some pork noodle soup. It’s one of the few Thai dishes you won’t find elsewhere in the world (though I did find it at Berlin’s Thaipark market, which has the best Thai food outside of Thailand).
Other awesome dishes to try: khao soi, pad kra pao, som tam, laab, and endless amounts of mango sticky rice. In short, you can’t really go wrong with the street food here. It’s tasty and it’s cheap!
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 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. A PADI dive certification course (very popular in Thailand) costs around 10,000 THB. A two-dive boat trip costs around 2,500 THB.
The diving near Phuket, Ko Tao, the Similan Islands, and the Surin Islands are all 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). If you want to get off the beaten path, this is the place!
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. Prices generally range from 1,000-1,300 THB per person.
Thailand has a never-ending list of things to see and do — this is really just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of great reasons to visit Thailand and tons of things to do here no matter your interest or budget.
I never get tired of visiting and I’m sure you won’t either!
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Book Your Trip to Thailand: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my 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 as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
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. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- Safety Wing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
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’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Thailand?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Thailand for even more planning tips!