4 Best Destinations to Combine with a Visit to Thailand

4 Best Destinations to Combine with a Visit to Thailand

By Chris QuanUpdated Jan. 25, 2022

If you are planning to book a long-haul journey to Thailand and have a few extra days on your itinerary, why not book a 2- or 3-day trip to a neighboring country?

For some vacationers, getting to Southeast Asia is a rarity, so fitting another country and whole new culture into the same vacation is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In this guide, we will look at some of Thailand’s most popular neighboring countries. You can choose to visit just one of them, or fit in two or three additional destinations and get a broader perspective of what Southeast Asia has to offer.

1. Cambodia

Angkor Wat Angkor Wat

One of the most obvious destinations for Thailand vacationers, just a quick flight away, is Cambodia. Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are popular destinations, both of which offer unique experiences and a cultural feel that is similar to that of Thailand.

Phnom Penh has tons of temples and river cruise dining options on the Tonlé Sap River as well as along the riverfront itself. The vibrant riverfront is the main tourist area, which has managed to maintain some of the French influence in its architecture. You will be able to relax at riverside cafes, restaurants, and breakfast bars.

Phnom Penh is full of history. A visit to the Royal Palace is a must, and no visit to Phnom Penh is complete without learning about the Khmer Rouge.

The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Both the Killing Fields and S-21 Prison are remnants of a time when Cambodia was overtaken by a malevolent leader, Pol Pot, who ordered the deaths of 2–3 million Cambodians.

Admittedly, visiting these two shocking historic tourist attractions is not a fun day out, but it gives you insight into what happened and the resilience of Cambodian people. Even today, members of the older generation live with memories of the horrors of the Khmer Rouge era.

Siem Reap is most famous by Angkor Wat, which should, arguably, be one of the seven wonders of the world.

It is a Buddhist temple complex that covers 1,626,000 m2 (17,502,000 ft2). It is virtually impossible to see every one of its temples in just a couple of days; nonetheless, it is still well worth the visit.

Its extraordinary size and architecture are breathtaking. If you are interested in archaeology or ancient cultures, include Angkor Wat in your travels. Even if you are not, Angkor Wat is still a “must visit at least once in your lifetime” kind of tourist attraction.

Visa: When you enter Cambodia, you will need to obtain a visa, which will cost USD 30. You will also need a passport-sized photo. Alternatively, you can get a visa online.

Transportation: You can book flights from both international airports in Bangkok to either Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. There are also flights between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, so you can visit both destinations. Buses also run between destinations, but this mode of transport usually takes over 12 hours.

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2. Laos

Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang

Laos is similar to Thailand. The dialect and script are similar, and many Northeastern Thai people, who speak Isan, can converse with Laotians because their languages have only a few subtle differences. It is easy to get to Laos from Thailand.

There are some similarities between Laos and Cambodia, as both countries are former French colonies. Unlike in Thailand, people in Laos and Cambodia include French baguettes and croissants in their morning meals. Along with its French colonial architecture, Laos has a European undercurrent.

Vientiane is the most frequented destination in Laos among those traveling to Thailand. Other popular places to visit in Laos include Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang; however, both of these destinations are only worth visiting if you have a lot of time to spend in the country. For those visiting from Thailand, there is usually only enough time to explore Vientiane.

Places to visit in Vientiane:

  • Tad Moun Waterfall
  • Patuxai or Victory Gate
  • Chinese Night Market
  • Pha That Luang
  • Buddha Park
  • COPE Visitor Centre
  • Mekong Riverfront
  • Ho Phra Keo Temple
  • That Dam Temple
  • The Walking Street

Visa: You can obtain a visa on arrival at the Vientiane Airport for USD 30. Make sure you have a passport-sized photo and the name of a hotel or guesthouse ready.

Transportation: Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Muang (DMK) airports operate flights to Vientiane. You can also take a train to Nong Khai and then take the river crossing into Laos. Buses run from Bangkok to Vientiane; they take around 9–10 hours and cost 500–600 Baht (USD 18–20).

3. Hong Kong

Hong Kong Hong Kong

For those who want to see the Far East in a different light, Hong Kong is just around the corner. The former British colony needs no introduction, as it is famous for its own reasons, including the fact that no fewer than four James Bond movies were shot there.

Despite the fact that Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, the city is an autonomous region of China, with its own economy and culture. It is one of Asia’s financial centers, with many high-rise office and apartment buildings overlooking the South China Sea and Jiangsu Delta.

Shopping and eating are the main activities in Hong Kong. The cuisine in Hong Kong has an Asian influence, particularly in its use of noodles and rice, but it is slightly different from Thai cuisine. There are many places to find good food, such as Causeway Bay. If you fancy up-scale dining and a trendy bar scene, you must visit Lan Kwai Fong.

When you are not indulging in Cantonese culinary delights or shopping, there are several tourist attractions to visit.

The most visited places by tourists in Hong Kong:

  • Disneyland
  • Ocean Park
  • Victoria Peak
  • Repulse Bay and the beaches
  • Big Buddha — Tian Tan Buddha Statue
  • Wong Tai Sin Temple
  • Temple Street Night Market
  • Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Visa: Most nationalities do not require a visa to enter Hong Kong. US citizens get 90 visa-free days and UK citizens are given 180 days.

Transportation: You can fly to Hong Kong from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) or Don Muang (DMK). The journey takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes.

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4. Malaysia

Semporna, Malaysia Semporna, Malaysia

Malaysia is the third country that borders Thailand in this “Best Countries to Combine with Thailand to Visit” guide. However, even though these countries are neighbors, their cultures are very different.

Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country with a mix of Malay, Indian, and Chinese influences. Together, these not-so-similar cultures have established a thriving economy, making Malaysia one of the major economical powers in the region.

If you fancy a quick trip to Malaysia in addition to your Thailand vacation, you have two options: fly to Kuala Lumpur (KL) or Penang. The former is a city getaway and the latter is an island break on one of Malaysia’s most popular islands.

Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s capital and is popular among those who enjoy vacationing in cities. The city is quite different from Bangkok. 

Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur

Although the roads in KL can seem to get as congested as those in Bangkok, the gridlock that so often happens during Bangkok’s notorious rush hour does not occur in KL.

KL is also similar to Bangkok as far as shopping goes, with plenty of fashionable shopping malls, markets, and street food vendors.

Inside the malls and surrounding the shopping districts, you will find an abundance of world-class restaurants and cafes, both local and western, where you can kick back, relax, and experience KL.

The most famous areas to shop, eat, or grab a coffee include China Town, Central Market, Bukit Bintang, and Little India. Aside from shopping and drinking coffee, the city has a buzzing nightlife scene in an area called Bangsar, where you will find a range of discos, dance clubs, pubs, jazz bars, and karaoke lounges.

Alternatively, if you are not into partying, and you have had your fill of shopping, there are several parks, temples, and other tourist attractions.

Places to visit in KL:

  • Petronas Twin Towers
  • National Mosque of Malaysia (Masjid Negara)
  • Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka)
  • Aquaria KLCC
  • KL Lake Gardens
  • Islamic Arts Museum
  • Malay World Gallery
  • National Museum of Malaysia
  • LK Forest Eco-Park (formerly Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve)
  • King’s Palace (Istana Negara)

Penang is the ideal destination if you want sun, sand, sea, and entertainment. Not only is the island popular for its luxury resorts and beachside activities, but it also rich in historical attractions that date back to English colonial times.

Penang Penang

The island is also home to George Town, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, designated as such in 2008.

You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to dining out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can choose between restaurant dining and street food stalls, both of which offer their own charm and flavors.

Top attractions in Penang:

  • Escape Theme Park
  • Adventure Zone Theme Park
  • Penang Hill
  • Penang War Museum
  • Kek Lok Si Temple
  • Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram
  • Cheong Fatt Tze — The Blue Mansion
  • Made in Penang Interactive Museum
  • Fort Cornwallis
  • Penang Khoo Kongsi

Visa: You do not need to pre-arrange a visa to visit Malaysia. When you arrive, your passport will be stamped with a social visit pass, which is valid for 90 days.

Transportation: Both Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) or Don Muang (DMK) airports have flights to both Penang and KL. Flights to Penang take around 1 hour and 45 minutes, while flights to KL take around 2 hours and 20 minutes.

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We offer comprehensive service for every distination you visit, by planning your flights, accommodation, and tours. If you would like to visit Thailand and include any of these other destinations, we can help you at every step.

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