Thailand now reopens. Have you been dreaming about a Thailand trip? If so, this article is for you!
Thailand, No. 1 for travel in Southeast Asia, is rich in culture and history, filled with golden temples, radiant beaches, cuisine that is adored around the world, and friendly smiling people.
Thailand is a wonderful country to explore independently, but if you are unsure where to visit in Thailand and how to travel around, you may prefer to take a guided tour instead. No matter which way you choose, our seven simple steps to planning your first trip will help you.
1. Check Thailand's Visa Policy and COVID-19 Entry Restrictions
Now, Thailand is open to international tourists from all over the world and has continued its relaxed policy.
Visa policy: Nationals of many countries are exempt from needing a tourist visa to enter the Kingdom of Thailand, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Most travelers can travel to Thailand without a visa for 30 days. Learn detailed information about Thailand visa.
Entry policy: From May 1, vaccinated visitors will no longer be required to undergo an arrival test. Insurance is reduced to $10,000. See detailed information about the requirements and what documents you need to prepare.
2. Choose Where to Go — 4 Recommendations
Thailand can be divided into three main regions for travelers: Northern Thailand for nature, elephants, and local villages; the Central Plains for Bangkok and city gateways; and Southern Thailand for great beaches.
With our knowledge of Thailand and feedback from our customers, we suggest you visit Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and one or two southern beaches for your first trip, extending it to Chiang Rai and/or a national park if you have the time.
1) Bangkok — Thailand’s Dynamic Capital
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital and the top gateway city. It boasts plenty of attractions to keep you busy.
For those interested in learning more about the Thailand's splendid architecture and temples, the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, and Wat Pho are must-see attractions.
Those who want to enjoy colorful nightlife should not miss Khao San Road. If you are a foodie, leave some time to check out Bangkok's over 300,000 street food stalls. You can also take a boat trip along the Chao Phraya River to experience local life.
No matter whether you like shopping or not, you should pay a visit to explore a local market, such as Chatuchak Market, Amphawa Floating Market, or Mae Klong Railway Market.
With more time, you could enjoy day trips to Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi.
2) Chiang Mai — Picturesque Scenery and Elephants
Chiang Mai, the second largest city of Thailand after Bangkok, is one of the Thailand's most visited destinations. Known as the ‘Rose of the North’, the city is the hub for visitors traveling to northern Thailand. It is popular for misty, jungly mountains, lush rainforest, elephants, and a relaxed vibe.
The most famous attraction in all of Chiang Mai is Doi Suthep, a mountain that has a fantastic view over the city and that houses a temple named Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Also worth seeing are the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar (one of Thailand's oldest and most well-known night bazaars) and the city's Old Town area — another must, where you'll find many historical temples, such as Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Lok Molee.
There are more interesting activities that can be added to your itinerary, such as an experience at Elephant Nature Park, Thai cooking classes, zip-lining in a virgin forest, a Thai massage, or a spa experience. If you visit in November, don’t miss Chiang Mai's Yi Peng Lantern Festival.
If your schedule allows, extend your tour to nearby cities, Chiang Rai and Pai.
3) The Thai Islands: Pristine Beaches and Divine Diving
Your Thailand trip would not be complete without visiting at least one or two of the beautiful islands. The only question is which island you should choose from so many islands on both west and east coasts of Thailand.
Phuket is well-known for its numerous hotels and various exciting activities. Ko Samui is home to luxury resorts! Can’t make a decision yet? Read our article How to Choose a Beach Destination for Your Trip to Thailand.
4) A National Park: Nature & Wildlife
If you are a nature lover, you should consider including a national park in your trip, such as Kao Yai or Khao Sok.
Khao Sok National Park in the south is highly recommended for plantlife. You could enjoy jungle trekking and canoeing on its lake. For animals, Khao Yai National Park near Bangkok is the best place for an animal safari and bird watching. Here is a guide to Thailand's national parks.
3. Decide How Many Days to Stay
After a long journey to get to Thailand, you probably won't want to just scratch the surface of Thailand and just take snapshots with the landmark attractions.
We suggest you take at least a week for your first trip to see a spectrum of the highlights in the top three cities.
- 7–10 days: Bangkok (2–3 days), Chiang Mai (2–3 days), and a southern island like Phuket or Koh Samui (3–4 days). See our sample itinerary for inspiration: 10-Day Classic Thailand Tour.
To discover more of Thailand, like charming Chiang Rai and a national park, you will need a few more days.
If you are lucky enough to have more time to tour Thailand, say 4, 8, or even 12 weeks then you have a lot more options! >>>Thailand Honeymoons: 8 Best Places for Romantic Stays, Itineraries
You might want to contact a travel specialist to have your requirements, including the length of your holiday, designed into a fulfilling tour uniquely planned for you.
4. Consider When to Travel to Thailand
In general, the best time to visit most of Thailand is during the dry season between November and early April. The rainy season is not as comfortable and convenient, but fewer crowds and cheaper prices are its benefits.
If you are going to the southern islands, you need to be particularly careful of the rainy seasons. The rainy season differs between the eastern and western coasts. The west coast is popular during the driest months (December–March) when diving and snorkeling are at their best. The east coast enjoys moderate/low rainfall for more of the year, with the bulk of the torrential rainfall in October, November, and December.
You can get more detailed tips on Best Times to Travel to Thailand.
5. Getting to and Around Thailand
Getting to Thailand
Thailand's capital city Bangkok is the biggest and busiest transportation hub in Thailand, with two international airports (BKK and DMK). Most travelers chose this city to enter Thailand.
Travelers from the USA are suggested to go via Japan, South Korea, Mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan as stopover places before flying to Bangkok. It takes about 20 hours from NY and 18 hours from LA.
Direct flights operate between Bangkok and the main cities in Europe and Oceania. From Frankfurt, Paris, and London, it is about 11 or 12 hours, from New Zealand 12 hours, and from Australia 9 to 10 hours.
Getting around Thailand
When you arrive in Thailand, it might be best to break up your trip into regions you want to explore. You can catch a flight or train into a hub in that region and book a local tour or rent a car to go to the spots you want to visit. Learn more about the Best 8 Domestic Airlines in Thailand for Tourists.
Connecting to Other SE Asian Countries
Bangkok is the top gateway city for travel to Southeast Asian countries. From there you will find frequent flights to other major cities in Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos. This makes Thailand not only a popular destination stop but also a gateway to its neighboring SE Asian countries.
6. Consider Your Budget for a Thailand Trip
In general, Thailand is surprisingly affordable, and therefore it is particularly popular to visit. Airfares for your international flights are the largest upfront cost. On arrival in Thailand, your costs will vary greatly depending on the kind of traveler you want to be.
Thailand is a country that covers all budgets! From cheap homestays to top-class resorts, street food for pennies to gourmet dinners for hundreds, free beaches to expensive tours, Thailand has it all!
If you’re backpacking across Thailand, plan to budget around $30 USD/day. This is assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating all the delicious street food, not drinking too much, and using the local transportation.
On a budget of around $50 USD per day, you would be able to stay in air-conditioned private rooms, enjoy meals at sit-down restaurants, eat some Western food, do more activities, and fly between some destinations.
If you’re going to stay in Western hotels or expensive resorts, eat delicacy food, drink a lot, do a lot of tours, and fly a lot, you should budget US$100–150 per day. After that, the sky is the limit.
Learn more about how much money you need when visiting Thailand.
7. Consider Traveling Independently or Taking a Guided Tour
As a backpackers’ heaven, Thailand is a friendly country for traveling independently. However, the low-budget option does have its downsides, as it requires travelers to plan well to satisfy their interests and sort out hotels and transport, and even then, it is not very efficient time-wise.
A private guided tour is a great way to maximize your time spent on planning and traveling and to ensure a smoother and more enjoyable journey.
Accompanied by a local tour guide, you can learn more of the culture’s secrets and stories behind the attractions, eat authentic Thai food, etc. With private transport, you can save your time on the road. You can also effortlessly focus on the things that interest you, as a trip (with us) is tailor-made based on your tastes and requirements.
Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, an experienced travel consultant and well-informed local guide can help you travel safely and solve any problems — expected or unexpected.
The thing is a private tour is an affordable luxury in Thailand! Private service is value for money. For a 4-star hotel and a private day trip including a guide and car, the starting rate is about US$130 to 200 in Thailand. Check out some private Thailand tours to get a general idea of the cost.
You're in Good Hands with Asia Highlights
At Asia Highlights we have lots of experience with creating the perfect trip for any traveler. We understand what makes traveling special and are dedicated to providing a unique and special experience.
Read comments from our clients on TrustPilot, for example:
- “Everything went better that we'd expected! Our guides were local people who knew about the city, the people, and how to solve problems. They were really punctual and had the best attitudes!
- “Traveling with Asia Highlights is a guaranteed wonderful experience in Asia! I highly recommend them!”
Get a wonderful Thailand vacation by sending us a message. Or check out our sample itineraries for inspiration:
- 10-Day Classic Thailand Tour: First Touch of Thailand
- 9-Day Thailand Family Tour
- 2-Week Thailand Getaway Tour for Couples
- 14-Day Classic Vietnam and Thailand Tour
Why Travel with Asia Highlights During the Pandemic
- Tailor-made experience: All of your ideas/needs will be carefully considered to create your ideal trip.
- Worry-free planning: Your 1:1 travel consultant in Asia will take all the uncertainty out of your planning, helping you navigate any travel restrictions.
- No-risk booking: 100% refund policy! (up to 14 days before departure)
More Travel Ideas and Inspiration
Get Inspired with Our Sample Itineraries
At Asia Highlights, we create your kind of journey — your dates, your destinations, at your pace. You can have any trip tailor made for your travel.