It’s no secret that Thailand is achingly beautiful – but you already knew that, right?
What you may not know is that Thailand can accommodate a range of travel styles and extends itself beyond the infamous backpacker route. If you’re looking to explore the vast continent of Asia but don’t know where to start, Thailand is the clear winner. Your first real Pad Thai (not from your local takeaway joint) will shock your taste buds, and your first tuk-tuk ride may cause your knuckles to turn white as you weave through traffic but it’s all part of the grand adventure that this country offers.
|Population||68.86 million (2016)|
Read on to find out if Thailand is the right destination for you.
Travel to: Thailand
Should I travel to Thailand?
What kind of traveller is Thailand suited for?
Thailand has it all and is an incredibly popular destination for first-time travellers. From sacred temples to idyllic beaches and activities such as whitewater rafting or ziplining, the diverse terrain of Thailand can accommodate to everyone. What’s more, Thailand is incredibly inexpensive; which only adds to the attraction.
While a trip to Thailand is a must-do for almost every young traveller, even the most seasoned traveller will find Thailand exciting. It might be a small country but it is packed with unique, local experiences for you to discover.
See Also: 2 Weeks in Thailand for Every Budget
How do I get around Thailand?
- Bus: An extensive bus network operates across the country varying from slow local buses to larger air-conditioned buses; some of which may or may not host an onboard toilet. This is the most affordable and convenient way to travel.
- Air: There are a number of airlines that service domestic routes including Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, and Thai Airways, just to name a few. Most of these flights are frequent and inexpensive.
- Train: One of the best ways to see the remote areas of Thailand is via one of the many local trains from Bangkok travelling to the north or south.
- Boat: Possibly one of the most authentic ways to explore Thailand is by water transport including local ferries or traditional longtail boats.
What to eat in Thailand
You’ll find street food, night markets, pop-up-restaurants and luxury buffets to fill your belly at any given moment when travelling in Thailand.
These are the foods you need to try:
- Pad Thai: This is a no-brainer, but in case you’ve been living under a rock your entire life, Pad Thai is the quintessential Thai noodle dish.
- Som Tam: You won’t regret ordering this fresh green papaya salad.
- Tom Yum Goong: A clear, spicy soup that is characterised by a unique hot and sour flavour.
- Spring Rolls: Super cheap and are great to eat when you’re on the go exploring. Need we say more?
- Pad Kra Pao: Possibly one of the best dishes you will ever eat. Minced chicken or pork is stir-fried with basil and chilli to create a simple dish with a serious kick. To combat the spiciness, wash it down with a Singha beer for good measure.
- Kai Jeow: This is not your regular omelette. This is a THAI-style omelette filled with a mix of egg, chilli, fish sauce and served on a bed of rice. Easy to find on the streets of Thailand, this is a great dish to grab when you’re on the move.
- Pad See Ew: The more exciting twin sister to Pad Thai, Pad See Ew differs in that it is cooked with flat rice noodles, egg, mixed meat and a generous dose of soy sauce.
An important note for anyone travelling with allergies: Peanuts, cashews and other nuts are popular in many Thai dishes. In most restaurants, you can bet there will be a safe option for you to eat however always best to use your own judgement to reduce the chance of any allergic reactions. Try stocking up with snacks from the supermarket just in case there is a shortage of options.
You can get cheap yet delicious meals not just at the markets but also on the streets and food stalls found below the train stations. I love the Thai-style pork barbecue, particularly the ones being sold near the Saphan Taksin station in Bangkok, and I usually wash it down with a bottle of freshly squeezed lime juice.
Khao San Road in Bangkok is another highlight. I just love the vibe over there –locals hanging out with backpackers drinking Singha and partying all night under the stars. Thailand can be a little lax when it comes to foreigners but it’s still your duty to know and respect customs and tradition. – Rica, Rica’s Rucksack
The highlight for me when I travel to Thailand is definitely the Buddhist temples and its people. There are so many Buddhist temples and each one is very significant and unique in their own way. They are beautifully decorated with golden Buddhas and Buddhist relics, I have even been to one inside a mountain and it was incredible. The people of Thailand is also what makes it an amazing place to travel, I found them really friendly and always willing to help.
My advice to first timers visiting Thailand would be to not go in the busy season, this country has become extremely popular with tourists and can become very congested, you will see a lot more at your own pace if you go a few weeks before or after the December holidays. – Liza, Soul Drifters Travel
Do I need a visa for Thailand?
For most visitors, visas are generally not required for stays under 90 days however this will depend on your nationality and whether you arrive by land or air. Make sure you check with your local embassy before you travel.
How much time do I need in Thailand?
In most cases, you can enjoy a short visit to Thailand in just 5-10 days. If you’re looking for a more in-depth cultural experience, we suggest spending 10-20 days in Thailand and focus on either the north (including Chiang Mai and surrounding areas) or south (beautiful beaches and luscious landscapes). Or, do both! If you have an infinite amount of time, you could easily spend at least six weeks in Thailand and enjoy the country at a gentle pace.
The sunsets in Thailand are spectacular! They were so incredible that every night I found myself thinking “there is no way this will top last nights”. And then it would. If you are in Thailand, and especially the islands, make sure you find a place for sunset every single night. Do not miss even one.
If you are looking to travel to Thailand for the first time, and specifically the islands, research a bit about what island is known for what before you arrive. If you aren’t a huge partier make sure you stay away from Koh Phi-Phi. If you are a huge diver you may want to check out Koh Lanta. Each island has its own highlights and reason to travel there. – Tessa, Where to Next?
What do I need to know before I go?
- Thailand is an inherently spiritual place, meaning you will need to pack a long skirt or pants, and something to cover your shoulders out of respect when visiting temples and sacred monuments.
- English is widely spoken, but it doesn’t hurt to learn a few key phrases.
- Hand sanitizer and a small packet of tissues are essential if you’re not comfortable using a spray hose or squat toilet.
Is Thailand safe to visit?
In short, yes, Thailand is a safe place to visit. As with any country, basic safety measures such as keeping an eye on your belongings and being aware of your surroundings when you’re alone won’t hurt.
Top experiences you can find in Thailand
Cruise above the rugged forests attached to a thin wire for an adrenaline rush like no other.
Eat your first bug
If you have a strong stomach, then go for it – eat an insect! If you have a weak stomach, still go for it but just be prepared with a glass of water on standby. You can sample anything from grasshoppers, crickets and worms when in Thailand. Once you get over any initial reservations, you might be surprised to find you actually enjoy deep-fried bugs.
Cook up a storm
Flex your best cooking skills and learn a thing or two about authentic Thai cuisine. Take a look at the Best Thai Cooking School in Chiang Mai while you’re there.
We have visited Thailand a couple of times already and every trip has something special. One of the most memorable moments was learning how to cook Pad Thai from a 85 years old grandma. Her grandson took us to a fresh market to buy the ingredients and then off to her house, by the river, to cook a delicious Pad Thai.
Be respectful to their culture. If something is different from your culture it doesn’t mean that is wrong. – Rob & Nat, Love & Road
Explore the local markets
Visit the likes of the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, Krabi, Pai and Chiang Mai for the best souvenirs, handmade paintings and other goods. Before you purchase any large wooden items, fur or animal bones make sure you check for any customs or border control restrictions before you arrive back home.
Jump in a tuk-tuk
In Thailand, there is no better way to explore a city than to jump in a tuk-tuk and ferociously move through traffic.
Take a trip to Ayutthaya
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya will treat you with its magnificent ruins and historic temples.
Explore the canyons of Pai
Though they are not quite as impressive as the Grand Canyon, Pai’s canyons are a mesmerizing sight to behold.
Visit the Reclining Buddha
As the name suggests, here you will find a statue of Buddha lying down at the Wat Pho temple in Bangkok.
Top places in Thailand you need to visit
Escape the madness of Bangkok and head north to Chiang Mai for an immediate change of pace and explore dozens of beautiful temples. While you’re up north, there are plenty of local operators that can help you to organise a hill-tribe trek.
Existing as one of the oldest cities in Thailand; Lamphun is rich in history and is full of places to explore.
Up in the northernmost part of the country, Chiang Khong boasts an important history as a town that previously shared trading ties across the border with Laos.
Some would say a trip to Thailand is not complete without a stop in the buzzing city of Bangkok. See for yourself why what makes the capital tick. Explore Khao San Road, get a taste of the nightlife or cruise along the Chao Phraya River in a longtail boat.
Just around the corner from Krabi, Railay is much less developed than its neighbouring islands but a haven for rock-climbers or those who love exploring the jungle.
Koh Phi Phi
An iconic of Thailand, the beaches of Koh Phi Phi are even more stunning in real life. Accessible only by boat from the mainland, there are no cars and everywhere can be reached on foot.
A haven for divers (and anyone who loves the beach), Koh Tao is the smallest of the Samui Islands and famous for its vibrant coral reef. If you’re new to snorkelling or scuba diving, Koh Tao is the perfect place to start.
If you’re travelling upwards through Thailand, you won’t want to miss the relaxed town of Pai.
Is Thailand next on your list?