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Thailand – the travel hub of South-East Asia is rich in culture and history, filled with golden temples, radiant beaches, cuisine that is adored around the world, and friendly people with a smile.
For first-timers to Thailand, a 7-day itinerary is good taste by visiting Bangkok and one beach destination. We recommend travelers spend two weeks in Thailand to enjoy the essence of the three main regions. Start from Bangkok and its side trips, stretch to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, then end the trip at two beach destinations.
Here we provide practical information and tips to help make your plans easy.
A better question would be: Why Thailand is the No.1 destination in Asia for western travelers? In 2017 it attracted 35.38 million visitors compared to 32.59 million in 2016. Most travelers were from USA, UK, Australia and Germany. Here we have 5 reasons why you should make Thailand one of your destinations:
Thailand welcomes global travelers by offering visa-free stay for 2 weeks or even 3 months to citizens from 58 countries. No wonder Thailand has become one of the easiest destinations to visit!
Thai food is known around the world and its cuisine relies on fresh, local ingredients – from the sweet smell of lemongrass, to searing chillies. A variety of mouth-watering dishes have 4 distinct flavors of: spicy, sweet, salty and sour. Food lovers can join a cookery class to learn the simplicity of what seems a complex dish, or can go on a food tour to explore and taste the variety of food and flavors from south to north.
Thailand’s tropical climate throughout the year makes it a great place to visit at any time! Diverse culture and stunning natural scenery are the themes of Northern Thailand and the Central Plains. In the south, both Phuket on the western coast and Ko Samui on the eastern coast have exotic beaches to enjoy the amazing sunsets.
Thailand is a Buddhist country and there is a saying that ‘to be Thai is to be Buddhist’. Buddhism is deeply ingrained in their culture and it is important to respect their religious customs and belief when visiting. Travelers can visit stunning golden temples, watch people worship and give alms, or chat with monks. It is important when you visit a temple modest dress is essential or you would be denied entry.
Thailand has been doing lots of work to preserve the environment. There are over 90 national parks with dozens that protect plants and wildlife. Just a few of these parks are available for travelers, such as the world’s oldest being Khao Sok National Park and Khao Yai National Park for wild elephants.
Travelers have an opportunity to engage with them – see them bathe in a river, gain a deeper insight into their life and how they are protected (no elephant riding).
Although the climate varies throughout the country, you can visit all year round. The best time to visit Thailand is during the cool and dry season between November and early April. The landscape is lush and temperatures comfortable.
In the south, the climate differs between the eastern and western coasts. The west coast is popular during the winter months, when diving and snorkeling will be at its best. The weather on the east coast is good for most of the year, with the lowest rainfall in January and February and the highest in November.
Monsoons season is from July to October with frequent short afternoon downpours. However, beach destinations around Gulf of Thailand and Ko Samui are at their best between May and September during rainy season. The best part of travelling in rainy season is that the costs could be 3 times less than that of peak season. Be flexible with travel plans as some boat services may be limited during stormy weather.
Thailand can be divided into three main regions for travelers: Northern Thailand for culture and elephants; Central Plains for Bangkok and city gateways; and Southern Thailand for great beaches.
Bangkok and its nearby areas is the most popular one in this region for city tour, exotic food and historical culture experience.
In Bangkok, it is highly suggested to visit temples like Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha); check out local markets such as the famous floating market; experience the city’s transportation system such as ferries, tuk-tuk and BTS sky train. Day trips to Ayutthaya and River Kwai are definitely worth a visit.
The diversity of people, rugged mountains, lush rainforests and wildlife are a gem for many travelers. Centered in Chiang Mai there you can visit temples and markets in an ancient town, museums, and national parks like Doi Suthep-Pui National Park and Doi Inthanon National Park. Fun activities are important highlights: Elephant Nature Park experience, cooking classes and Thai massage/Thai SPA.
Chiang Rai is an ideal extension option if you want to discover beyond Chiang Mai. To enrich your travel in Chiang Rai: Golden Triangle, White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) and Black House (Baan Dam Museum), Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Doi Mae Salong near the border with Myanmar and trekking in the hills are just some of the popular things to do.
The highlights for Southern Thailand are their beaches on both coasts! Phuket on the Andaman Sea is the busiest one on the western coast while Ko Samui, Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Tao give eastern coast a great fame.
Phuket Island is well-known for its numerous hotels and various exciting activities. Water activities like Kayaking, surfing, snorkeling or scuba diving are easy to book with hotels and local travel agents. Soft adventures are also popular, especially exploring the island by bikes or motorbike.
Ko Samui is home to luxury resorts! It is quiet and most activities on the island are about SPA, cooking classes, Muay Thai, Yoga and kite surfing, which are very different from Phuket.
Khao Sok National Park in the south is highly recommended for plants. Travelers can enjoy jungle trekking and canoeing on the lake. For animals, Khao Yai National Park near Bangkok is the best place for animal Safari and bird watching. Here is a guide to Thailand national parks: Thailand National Parks.
Citizens of 58 countries do not require a visa to enter Thailand, if arriving by air and staying for less than 30 days. These include: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the USA.
Visa upon arrival is provided to some countries as well. Read our Thailand Visa article for more details.
Thailand’s capital city Bangkok is one of the biggest and busiest transportation hubs in Asia with two international airports (BKK and DMK). It connects travelers to most Southeast Asian destinations.
Travelers from USA are suggested to go via Japan, Mainland China, Hong Kong or Taiwan as stopover places before flying to Bangkok. It takes about 20 hours from NYC and 18 hours from LA.
Direct flights are operated between Bangkok and main cities in Europe and Oceania. From Frankfurt, Paris and London, it is about 11 or 12 hours; from New Zealand 12 hours while from Australia 9 to 10 hours.
To get around Thailand, it is easy and comfortable by flight or train.
Most people that travel to the region fly into Bangkok. From there you will find frequent flights to other major cities in Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. This makes Thailand a major destination stop and gateway to their neighboring Asian countries.
Thailand is surprisingly affordable and therefore a popular to visit. From cheap home-stay to top-class resorts, Thailand has it all!
A private guided service is value for money when comparing with its neighboring countries like Vietnam, Myanmar and China. For a 4-star hotel night and a private day trip including guide and car, the starting rate is about $200 to $300 per day in China, $160 to $220 in Vietnam but only $130 to $200 in Thailand. Check out some private Thailand tours to get a general idea of the cost.
However, a variety of choices have it downsides as it requires travelers to plan well to select their interests and hotels, ensuring an enjoyable journey.
An exotic and great place for a family to enjoy and relax. When you think of beaches, mountains, elephants and bustling bright markets; there’s something for everyone of all ages. Read our article traveling with kids in Thailand to get more information.
Always keep your passport on you. We do not recommend taking activities that require travelers’ surrendering their passports as a guarantee for renting motorcycles.
When staying out late at night, avoid alleyways that are off the main roads.
No matter where you travel, it is always advised that you be vigilant when traveling around the city and across the country. It is encouraged you use licensed taxis from official taxi stands or arrange pick up by hotel shuttle services when arriving by air.
If you are wanting to rent scooters and motorcycles, these can be poorly maintained, making them unsafe to their riders and others on the road. Helmets are mandatory for motorcycle riders including passengers, however many helmets do not meet international safety standards.
Overall, when you hear of Thailand you already think about the breath-taking beaches, lush forests, exotic food, the golden temples and the smile of the people, makes this a great get-away for a relaxing vacation.
Continue to read on Stay Safe and Healthy in Thailand.
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