I arrived in Thailand via train from Northern Malaysia. I opted to skip the southern Thai beaches and head straight into Bangkok. I've been back several times using Thailand as a travel hub to explore the rest of South East Asia. Expect this guide to Thailand to grow each time I return ... see the right sidebar for regional guides to Thailand ...
updated: (September 2014)
(click on a topic heading to skip to that section)
There's a reason Thailand is one the most visited countries in the world: it's got something for everyone no matter your budget.
With lush mountains filled with hill tribes and wildlife in the north to ancient ruined cities in the mid-north area. Bangkok vibrancy is backed up with world class shopping centers, places and sighting galore. Meanwhile to south tropical paradise awaits with heaps of sandy coastline, tropical blue waters and idyllic islands.
Tourism is something that is done well in the land of a thousand smiles. Thai people are friendly to all and offer you a chance to experience the wonders of Thailand at your own pace. Whether it's soaking up the sun, enjoying Thai food, shopping or seeking adventure Thailand is sure to have something for you!
The capital, a bustle of traffic, temples, rail networks, cheap eats and many a travelers first stop in Thailand.
Read more in my Bangkok city guide or learn about my first impressions of Bangkok
- It's big and broken up into many districts which are reasonably accessible to tourists. It can get very hot and humid though. So doing some Thailand travel guide research on how to get around will save you in the long run. This guide will help you out on getting around Bangkok.
- A wide fast flowing river that runs through Bangkok. While not a visually stunning sight in itself the river is a key transport hub for getting around Bangkok. Use it to travel to the main temple areas below.
- Built for the current royal dynasty in 1782 this is one Bangkok's main highlights. Wear long pants and sleeves and avoid the touts outside selling tickets, buy them at the main gate.
- A stunning multi-tiered temple along the Thonburi side of Chao Phraya River. Also names The Temple of the Dawn as the light reflects beautifully off this temple in the morning. Read more about Wat Arun
- On the opposite side of the river is Bangkok's largest temple complete Wat Pho. This includes the over 3 meter long reclining Buddha. A few hours spent in this complex is just about right. Read my guide to Wat Pho.
- With 37 spires Wat Ratchanatdaram is one of the more impressive temples in Bangkok. On the streets outside are many tables set up selling Amulets that are said to protect the people that wear them.
- As short walk from Mo Chit BTS stations is huge sprawling open market. Everything is for sale here form tourist souvenirs to carpets, cookers, and food. All stalls are open at the weekends, but during weekdays there are also many open stores.
Make not mistake about it Bangkok is a shoppers paradise. Everything from designer to budget clothes, handbags, cosmetics, shoes and perfumes are on
all offer here in easily connected shopping centers. Likes wise for electronics such as phones, cameras, laptops and gadgets. Here's a guide to learn about where to go shopping in Bangkok.
: If you would like more information on things to do in Bangkok plus free maps, entrance fees, ratings and much more then check out my links in the right hand side bar or go straight to my guide to Bangkok.
Kanchanaburi lies to the west of Bangkok and makes for a great short overnight stay, or a full day out. Famous for limestone caves and infamous for the Burma Death Railway. Kanchanaburi is also a very peaceful pleasant town to stay in if looking to get out of the capital. Here's how to get to Kanchanaburi.
- A series of grotto shrines within a large limestone cave hillside. Each small grotto contains a statue of The Buddha at a different stage of his life. While not overly spectacular if you have time in Kanchanaburi it's certainly worth checking out
- This railway is also accessible via a day trip at weekends via Bangkok's main rail station. During WWII both Asian and Allied POWs built the infamous Burma Railway. Including a bridge that was immortalized in the film Bridge on the River Kwai. Read more about the Bridge on the River Kwai's real history.
- Almost half of the prisoners working on the Burma Death Railway died from disease, maltreatment and accidents. There is a well kept cemetery close to the new railway station marking the graves of the POW's. Read more about my visit to Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
Take a train north to Thailand's first capital and either tour or cycle around the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya.
Another of Thailand's ancient capitals is located halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai making it a great stopover. This huge area of ancient temples and city ruins could take a few days to fully explore
The cool climate makes the northern capital Chiang mai one of the best places to stay a few days with oodles to see and do.
Chiang Mai is positively brimming with temples like the incredible Silver temple to visit or to meet with monks and teach them English. Take a day trip out to visit hill tribes in northern Thailand, ride with elephants or visit the controversial Tiger Kingdom.
Or simply plan a holiday around the November to visit during the amazing sky lantern festival Yi Ping.
Visit the stunning white temple in Chiang Rai or take a car/bus/motorbike up further to hangout towns like Pai or the resort mountains in Chiang Dao. Go further north again to the Mae Sai border with Burma / Myanmar or better yet visit the Golden Triangle were three countries join together.
Take a bus or train south of Bangkok and experience everything from vibrant nightlife beaches in Haad Rin and Phuket to the more adventuresome activities of Railey Beach.
If you just want to stick close to Bangkok with a trip to Hua Hin or for divers head straight to Sairee Beach in Koh Tao.
Lastly for for those seeking overland adventure south Thailand shares an ease border with Malaysia that can be cross by boat, train, bus or car.
Thailand's main airports are located in Bangkok and Phuket. Other international airports include Hat Yai, Krabi, Koh Samui and Chiang Mai but mainly cater to South East Asian destinations.
Visas are offered for many nationalities on arrival for 30 days (though they often change). A flight out of the country is often requested by the airline and not immigration. The queues are quite long at Bangkok's international airport.
Thailand has overland borders with Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar.
There are six crossings. However the most popular is to Siem Reap (temples of Angkor Wat) via Poipet & Aranyaprathet. Journey time is about 3-6 hours by bus.
There are several crossing here however the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong between Nong Khai and the Lao capital Vientiane is the most popular. It's also possible to cross the Mekong at Chiang Khong / Huay Xai, Nakhon Phanom / Tha Khaek and Mukdahan / Savannakhet. A popular bus cross is Udon Thani (North Thailand -10+ hours from Bangkok) to Vientiane it takes about 3 hours.
Visa and entry restrictions are currently changing rapidly here. As of writing full visas to access the whole country are only allowed via embassies. By land you will only have access to the immediate border. To visit all of Myanmar you will need a flight in and out.
From Bangkok there is an overnight sleeper train arrivqing in Butterworth Penang the next morning. From Penang there is a change over and the train continues on to Kuala Lumpur and then to Singapore. The entire trip can be pre booked from Hua Lamphong
Read more about my train journey from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok here and from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore by train.
Or try my dedicated guide to traveling from Thailand to Malaysia.
|Try my custom flight search for the lowest priced flights to and from Thailand!
I am probably one of the very few people in the world that is not a big fan of Thai food. I simply find the soup side to it not very filling. That said if you do find good Thai food it can be very flavorsome.
Throughout Thailand are many street food stalls selling everything from grilled hotdog's, seafood balls to bananas and an assortment of fried meats of various kinds. For those worried about street food I advise you to seek out the very clean Food Courts in Thailand. They are clean and safe while still being great.
To get a head start do check out my Thai food section for individual Thai dishes I've enjoyed.
For the most part I found Thai's to be quite friendly. Though there is a language barrier that's at often times difficult to overcome. There is also the problem of "over tourism" whereby those in the tourist sector only think inside the tour box. Having a conversation outside of tourism takes more effort.
Like many countries outside of the big cities people are more inclined to open up with conversation. Chiang Mai can be a good place to look for good Thai conversation. Learning some Thai can really be of benefit to you if this is something you relish.
Difficult to say the least. At least for me. Don't worry as a tourist though as Thailand is well used to dealing with tourists from all parts of the world. English is spoken in many hotels and guesthouses. There are several Thai language schools in both cities and towns throughout Thailand.
|Where I stayed
||Try my custom search for the lowest priced hotels in Thailand
About 600 baht for a double with fan. Very clean, friendly staff, WIFI though they have an annoying shoe removal policy. 83 Sri-Ayutthaya Rd Soi 14. T: (02) 280 1447, (02) 282 5983
Moving up in price but good value for couples.
147 Soi Rambutree Chakrapong Rd., Phanakorn, Khaosan / Grand Palace, Bangkok.
Near BTS, WIFI, bathroom is shared. Booking online can get you cheaper rooms. 15, Soi Sribumphen,Rama4 Rd.,off Soi.Ngam Duphli, Nearly the end of Soi.Saphan Khu, Thung Maha Mek, Silom / Sathorn, Bangkok. Tel: 02-287-1436.
Near BTS, WIFI, clean, popular but often crowded. 23, Soi Sukhumvit 38, Phra Khanong, Khlong Toei,
Bangkok 10110, Thailand.
Tel: +66 (0) 2391 9338 to 9
Bangkok accommodation has risen in price quite a lot in the past few years. Outside of Bangkok prices are a lot cheaper.
However if you are staying in Bangkok and want to avoid the Kao San Road backpacker area or want to be near public transport try my page on hotels near Bangkok's main railway station Hua Lamphong
Thailand is home to many expats throughout the country. From retirees to people working there. Personally Thailand does not appeal to me as a place to live. I can understand why it would to so many people put to me it does not.
One of the biggest factors is work and visas. While you can work in Thailand do keep in mind that many Thai's are well educated and jobs outside of teaching English are limited.
Visa's are a whole other story. While it is possible to get a long-term visa to Thailand it won't come keep. Meanwhile the Thai authorities are cracking down on people doing regular visa runs.
Couple the above with actually settling down without a marriage visa and things get a lot harder. It's by no means impossible but it's certainly something to consider.
How much is a daily budget in Thailand?
Parts of Thailand are cheap and to travel long distances can also be cheap. Flights, trains and buses are all reasonably affordable as is accommodation.
Accommodation in Bangkok is expensive compared to the rest of Thailand. A private room for 600 baht is not that easy to find. While 1000+ plus baht gives you something nice. Outside of Bangkok getting a room for 300 baht is quite easy.
Thai food is quite cheap. 150 baht for a traveler's appetite buys you a lot. After that, the costs go up, but it's still relatively cheap.
It's very hard to give a daily costing due to travel and tours however USD $30 is a safe low end bet not including a ferry or flight. Living in one place with no travel can be as low as $8- per day. If you can find an apartment for under $200 pm, which is doable.
How to save money in Thailand?
Do not buy an expensive package tours from touts. Most of Thailand is accessible from public transport hubs with ease.
If you are staying more than one night, ask for a discount. It will often work in the off season.
.Eating at night market stalls is very cheap. Likewise in many malls with buffets. Just beware of the more pricey options and surcharges listed on menus.
Go Public. BTS / Monorail is fast though crowded during rush hour. Long distance buses are cheap. Trains run all over the country and often have English speaking counters.
What are the Banks/ATM's like in Thailand?
Plentiful with Debit, Visa and Mastercards all accepted. Unfortunately many banks have begun charging foreign ATM and credit cards an additional 200 baht ($5) per transaction. There are international banks in large cities though. Check with your own bank or card to see if they have an office in Thailand.
What Thailand travel guide book?
Travel in Thailand is so well documented online you barely need a guide book. Not much has changed over the years either aside from costs. An old Lonely Planet is perfectly adequate. .
Is Thailand full of backpackers?
Yes. There are very few. Thailand is a hub for travelers from all categories so don't think you'll be visiting a country and not see anyone from your own part of the world. In fact giant multilevel buses moving tourists around if a frequent sight. My advice is to simply not think about it that much. Thailand is a popular country for tourists. Go to remoter northern towns to avoid not too many of them.
How to deal with stomach problems in Thailand
Seafood, bbq's and all day rice or noodle stands can eventually catch up with you. If it happens, be prepared with some oral rehydration sachets. That said, it doesn't happen that often if you stay with clean eating establishments.
I've seen quite a lot of massage parlors in Bangkok compared to other big cities. And there are a number of people outside calling you to enter for a "Maaaaassssge". Most actually appear to be offering genuine services. However there are also numerous not so official services on offer. If you are looking for a genuine massage services I would suggest you ask you hotel or guesthouse for a recommendation of a place nearby.
Important points to remember:
- Do not ever speak or write badly about the Thai Royal family. It is a criminal offence and carries harsh penalties from prison to fines for all - including tourists.
- Do stand up whenever the Thai national anthem is played.
- Do be aware of pickpockets. They often work in teams.
- Do not pay for anything unless it's from an official ticket office.
For more do read my article on Scams to avoid in Bangkok