Planning a Thailand Trip: 8 Expert Tips for Beginners

Planning a Thailand Trip: 8 Expert Tips for Beginners

By Chris QuanUpdated Jan. 25, 2022

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.

5 Reasons to Visit Thailand

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:

1. Visa-free stay

Thailand welcomes global travelers by offering visa-free stay for 2 weeks or even 3 months to citizens from 64 countries. No wonder Thailand has become one of the easiest destinations to visit!

2. Aromatic Thai Food and Luscious Tropical Fruits

Thai Food

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.Learn more about 30 Best Thai Dishes and 20 Best Thai Street Snacks.

3. Warm weather and exotic beach destinations

Phuket Beach at Sunset

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.

4. Ancient Culture and Religion

Temples in ThailandWat Arun in Bangkok - Temple of Dawn

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.

5. Unspoiled Natural Attractions and Wildlife Interaction

Chiang Mai Elephants

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).

13-Day Essence of Thailand Tour:

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Getting a Tourist Visa in Thailand

Thai Visa Policy Updates during the COVID-19 Outbreak

  • Thailand cancels visa on arrival for 18 countries and regions, including Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Vanuatu.
  • Thailand cancels visa exemptions for three countries and regions, including Italy, Korea and Hong Kong.

Visa Exemption: Tourists Who Aren't Required to Have a Visa in Thailand

apply thailand visa

Citizens of 64 countries (listed below) can enter Thailand without a visa. You are granted, at most, to stay for a maximum of 30 days twice in a calendar year if arriving via an international airport or entering through a land border checkpoint from neighboring countries.

30 days: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritius, Monaco, Mongolia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam.

90 days: Argentina, Chile

30 and 90 days: Brazil, Korea, Peru

14 days: Cambodia, Myanmar

Read our ultimate guide about how to apply for a Thai visa step-by-step.

To meet the visa exemption, you have to meet the following criteria

1. The visit is strictly for tourism purposes.

2. This is the most important point - you must have a confirmed return ticket to fly out of Thailand within 30 days of entry. Open tickets do not qualify. Traveling over land out of Thailand, such as by train or bus, to Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia (including traveling en route to Singapore), and Myanmar may be accepted as proof of exiting Thailand.

3. You need funds of at least 10,000 baht per person during your stay in Thailand.

4. A fee of US$30 per entry can be charged and is subject to change without prior notice.

Visa on Arrival in Thailand

At present (as of August, 2019), if you are a passport holder in one of these 19 countries/areas, you are eligible to get a Visa on Arrival in Thailand: Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, and Vanuatu.

To apply for a Visa on Arrival     

1. Your passport must be genuine and should be valid for at least 30 days.

2. You must have a valid address in Thailand, whether it's a hotel or apartment, which can be verified.

3. You must have a confirmed return ticket to fly out of Thailand within 15 days of entry. Open tickets do not qualify. Traveling overland out of Thailand by train, bus, or similar transportation to Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia (including traveling en route to Singapore), and Myanmar is not accepted as proof of exiting Thailand.

4. You need funds of at least 10,000 baht per person and 20,000 baht per family during your stay in Thailand. (The immigration officers rarely check this, though.)

5. A fee of 2,000 baht is payable for your Visa on Arrival. It is subject to change without notice and must be paid in cash and Thai currency only.

Most Airports Issue Visas on Arrival to Tourists for Entry into Thailand

There are 24 airports and immigration checkpoints in Thailand providing facilities for the issuance of Visas on Arrival, including both Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Chiang Mai International Airport, Chiang Rai International Airport, Phuket Airport, and Samui Airport. For a complete checkpoints list, you can check

Essential tips for getting your VOA at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok:

Make sure to queue in the right area and line. People applying for a Visa on Arrival do not queue in the same area or line as tourists who are eligible for a Visa Exemption. The signboard directing you to the Visa on Arrival area can suddenly become hidden if there is a big tourist crowd moving around in the immigration area.

Discover the Top Destinations and Best Things to Do in Thailand

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.

1. The Dynamic Central Plains - Bangkok and Nearby

Floating market in Bangkok Floating market in Bangkok

Bangkok and the nearby areas are the most popular ones in this region for city tours, exotic food, and cultural experiences.

Top attractions in Bangkok: the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Arun, Jim Thompson House, a floating market, and Chatuchak Weekend Market.

Top things to do in Bangkok:Take a cruise on the Chao Phraya River, explore Bangkok's food streets in a gourmet tour, go wild on Khao San Road, drink at Sky Bar, cycle around Bangkok's Green Lung - Bang Krachao, get a cute fish spa, and experience the city's transportation system such as ferry taxies, tuk-tuk and BTS sky train.

Best side trip options near Bangkok: Enjoy day trips to Ayutthaya and the River Kwai, Khao Yai National Park, Kanchanaburi, the Maeklong Railway Market, Koh Samet, Hua Hin, and the big party city, Pattaya.

Check out our most-read related articles: Best Time to Visit Bangkok, Top Hotels in Bangkok, How to Get to Bangkok, and How to Get Around Bangkok.

2. Northern Thailand - Nature & Wildlife

Chiang Mai Jungles

The diversity of people, rugged mountains, lush rainforests and wildlife are a gem for many travelers.

What to do in Chiang Mai: Visit temples, such as Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh, markets including Talat Warorot and a lively night bazaar in Chiang Mai's Old City, museums, and national parks, such as Doi Suthep-Pui National Park and Doi Inthanon National Park.

Once in a lifetime experiences: Participate in Chiang Mai's lantern festivals - Loi Krathong and Yi Peng.

Fun activities: an experience at Elephant Nature Park, Thai cooking classes, zip-lining in a virgin Chiang Mai forest, a Thai massage or spa experience

Chiang Rai White Temple Chiang Rai White Temple

Check out our most-read related articles: Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai, How to Choose a Hotel in Chiang Rai, Top Attractions in Chiang Mai, Top Things to Do in Chiang Mai, Best Ways to Get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, and 10 Off-the-Beaten-Path Places to Visit in Northern Thailand Before They Get Too Crowded

What to do in Chiang Rai: 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.

Check out our most-read related articles: Best Time to Visit Chiang Rai, Nightlife in Chiang Rai, Top Attractions in Chiang Rai, Top Things to Do in Chiang Rai, and How to Get to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai

3. Pristine Beaches and Diving Islands in the South

Phuket Boat

The highlights for Southern Thailand are its 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's national parks: Thailand National Parks.

Check out our most-read related articles: How to Choose a Beach Destination for Your Thailand Trip, Top Beaches in Thailand, Beach Guide in Phuket, and Beach Guide in Koh Samui.

Best Time to Visit Thailand

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.

How can you plan your Thailand trip well during the monsoon season? 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 the rainy season. The best part of traveling in the 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.

Check out our most-read related articles: How to Plan Your Thailand Trip During the High Season and How to Avoid Tourist Crowds in Thailand.

7-Day Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Yi Peng Festival:

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How Long to Stay in Thailand For - Our Best Sample Itineraries and Stopover Ideas

When traveling in Thailand, you are generally advised to stay for at least one week.

  • 1 week: 2 days in Bangkok city + 2 days in Chiang Mai + 3 days on a southern island
  • 2 weeks: 2 days in Bangkok + 2 days doing Bangkok side trips (Ayutthaya + a floating market) + 3 days in both Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai + 4 days on a southern island
  • 2 weeks: 3 days in Bangkok + 3 days in Koh Samui + 3 days in Phuket + 2 days in Chiang Mai+ 1 day in Chiang Rai+ 1 day back to Bangkok
  • 2 weeks or longer: 5-7 days in Thailand + Vietnam/Laos/Myanmar/Cambodia/Japan/
    Hong Kong/China/Taiwan

Check out our local expert's Thailand itinerary guide:

Where to Stay in Thailand

Finding the right area and decent resorts or hotels to stay in Thailand can be a challenge sometimes, especially in this massive tourism destination. Accommodation options are simply too abundant to choose from, including youth hostels, family-friendly boutiques, stylish beach bungalows, camping in tree houses, and international high-end luxury resorts. Here are some tips to help you choose:

1.The prices of boutique hotels and local 4- or 5-star hotels are very competitive compared with similar standards of hotels in the West.

2. Nice accommodation is always fully booked at least 6 months in advance so make your decision wisely and quickly.

3. For high-end travelers, check out the best hotels in Thailand.

4. Read about the Best Hotels in Phuket, the Best Hotels in Chiang Mai, the Best Hotels in Koh Samui, and the Best Hotels in Bangkok.

5. Learn more about Accommodation in Thailand.

What to Eat in Thailand

Thai food

When it comes to dining out, Thailand is a food paradise. Eating some Thai curry is a must and we recommend red and green curries. Read about the Top 30 Dishes in Thailand, which include tom yum goong (spicy shrimp soup), Thai chicken coconut soup, pad Thai, khao soi (Northern Thai coconut curry noodle soup), and spicy green papaya salad.

Apart from the must-order dishes, Thailand offers a variety of exotic street food options and exploration tours.

Check out the Top Restaurants in Thailand and the Best Street Food Areas in Bangkok.

How to Get Around in Thailand

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 to take a flight or train journey. Learn more about Domestic Flights in Thailand and the Best 8 Domestic Airlines in Thailand for Tourists.

9-Day Thailand Family Tour:

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How Much Does it Cost for a Thailand Trip

Private Guide and Car

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 compared 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. Learn more about how much money you need when visiting Thailand.

Top Scams and Traps for Tourists in Thailand

Tuk tuk in Thailand Tuk tuk in Thailand

Unfortunately, like any other popular tourist destination in the world, there are always some scams and traps aimed at tourists. Thailand is not an exception and typical scams include: an attraction supposedly being closed, fake notes, being given the wrong change, gem tricks, Jet Ski and motorbike rentals, fake police, fake car accidents, unmetered taxis at Bangkok's airport, and double menus. Learn more about how they work and how to avoid them.

8-Day Thailand West Coast Island Hopping Tour:

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Create a Tour with a Travel Agent or Travel Independently in Thailand

Creating a private tour is an affordable luxury in Thailand. A private tour when traveling in Asia is strongly recommended. There are many benefits to getting an expert travel consultant to design your trip for you:

1. Save your time by not having to deal with massive amounts of travel information and having to compare various tour packages online, which could be outdated and misleading.

2. Visit the right places at the right times: Get recommendations about the right places to visit in the right seasons for your dream holiday.

3. Discover the best hotels, authentic food, and special occasions to create unforgettable memories: Have everything arranged from private transfers and hand-selected luxury hotels to authentic Thai food to suit your preferences and cater to special occasions, such as a honeymoon, an anniversary, and birthdays.

4. Have a money-back guarantee, unlimited time to discuss and change your itineraries, and free cancellation 30 days before your departure when you create a tour with Asia Highlights.

5. Receive a professional service: The service you'll receive from decent travel agencies is as good as the service you'd receive in the West and their hospitality, as commented on by many of our clients, is unexpectedly professional, sincere, and from the heart.

Read some of the comments from our clients below and here

  • Daniel Ponce: 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!
  • We couldn't ask for a better person than our tour planner, Leo. He is so amazing. First, he helped us to change our flights 1 month before our vacation due to my job. Then when we were in Guilin (the city where Leo lives), he invited us to dinner at a very special place in his city. There are no words to explain how grateful we are with this travel company, all thanks to Leo and the guides.
  • Rosangela Campos: Traveling with Asia Highlights is a guaranteed wonderful experience in Asia! I highly recommend them!

Further Reading: Travel Tips from Travel Experts in Thailand

1. Thailand is a family-friendly destination: 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. Learn more about traveling with kids in Thailand.

2. Getting the Best SIM Card in Thailand is essential when traveling in Thailand to stay in touch with friends.

3. Read about Health and Safety When Traveling in Thailand and How to Choose the Best Travel Insurance.

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 to 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.

4. Top Things to Buy in Thailand

5. How to Pack for Your Thailand Trip

6. Keep your personal documents safe

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.

Explore Asia with Asia Highlights

At Asia Highlights we offer tailor-made tours through Asia, where you can enjoy all highlights as well as amazing cultural experiences. To get started, send us an email.

Why Travel with Asia Highlights

  • Tailor-made experience: All of your ideas/needs will be carefully considered to create your ideal trip.
  • Worry-free planning: Every step of your trip, you will be looked after by your 1:1 travel consultant based in Asia.
  • No-risk booking: We refund as much as we can and adapt flexibly to unexpected changes.

More Travel Ideas and Inspiration

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