There are many guides online for backpackers looking to travel around Thailand but having a 2-week holiday in Thailand can be slightly different, so we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to read before you go to ensure you have the best time and are able to explore this exotic country to its fullest!
We have run through everything – from accommodation booking tips and how to get from A to B, to what you should and shouldn’t eat.
Before you visit
- Check that your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your date of arrival in Thailand.
- If you’re visiting for 30 days or less, your UK passport allows you entry without a visa. For anything longer, you can apply for an extended Visa at a tourist office when you’re in Thailand.
- Visit your doctor a few months before your trip to check that your vaccinations are up to date.
- Throughout Thailand, hotels, villas and hostels are much cheaper than in the west. You can stay in luxurious 5 star hotels for less than £60 a night or a basic hotel room for less than £20 a night. Take advantage of this and travel in style – you’re only visiting for a short time.
- Location is everything; do your research on the best areas to stay at a destination.
- Book everything in advance and plan your trip. Wandering off to Thailand with an open mind but with nothing booked is great if you’re there for a long time, but being a short holiday, time is valuable and you want to pack as much into your trip as you possibly can. Plan, plan, plan!
- As with any country you’ll find some places that aren’t up to the standards you’d expect. Avoid hotels from hell by researching before you visit and checking out the TripAdvisor reviews.
- Some excellent hotel booking sites for Thailand are:
For more information on booking accommodation for the best prices, check out our hotel booking guide here.
- You’ll find Thai culture to be slow and relaxed, just like the transport. Plan your travel options with extra time to allow traffic delays, flight delays and train delays. Don’t leave transfers and connecting flights too close together.
- The best way to get around in big cities such as Bangkok is using the fast and accessible metro system. Beat the Bangkok traffic and get more done in a day!
- Although there are exceptions, we’d recommend catching a taxi over a Tuk Tuk as some drivers will take advantage of tourists and charge more or take a detour to a place you didn’t ask to visit.
- Always ask for the meter on in taxis.
- If you’re island hopping in the south, opt for faster Catamarans over ferries. You’ll get to your destination faster and they’re less ‘choppy’, ideal if you get sea-sick easily. It only costs slightly more.
- As you’re only visiting for a short holiday, we recommend taking the quickest route possible, even if it costs more. Time is everything.
Food and drink
- Thai food is renowned to be delicious. Take advantage of the amazing cuisine and try as much local food as possible. We recommend Pad Thai, green curry, papaya salad and Tom Yum soup. We also couldn’t get enough of the peanut satay chicken skewers.
- If you like spicy food, be warned! The spice in Thailand is on another level. Start with a less spicy dish and work your way up.
- As with a lot of Asian countries, food bacteria may be different to your home country and food safety standards aren’t as strict. Be cautious when eating out. Our advice:
- Eat in restaurants or street stalls with lots of locals
- No buffets unless in a hotel
- No food that may have potentially been washed in tap water – check at restaurants and avoid salad and uncooked food if you’re not sure
- Never drink or brush your teeth with tap water – only bottled
- Ask for no ice cubes
- Late night pizza and other snacks may be tempting but stay away. Food is often left out for a while. Only eat where you know food is being cooked fresh
- You should 100% try street food. Contrary to popular belief, street food is cooked fresh everyday (in most cases) and you can see it being cooked, thus reducing the risk of food poisoning.
- Chang and Singha are the beers of choice in Thailand. It’s cheap, the alcohol percentage varies (so watch out!) and you’ll see them in almost every bar and street food stall. They’re actually world-class lagers and well worth trying. The famous Thai buckets on the other hand; they’re strong, full of cheap alcohol and only worth trying once.
- Expect to pay more than locals for museums and other attractions. You’ll see a ‘Farang’ price which is the price that foreigners have to pay. Don’t worry though – it’s still cheap!
- As a tourist, it is likely that you may be overcharged at some point. Negotiate prices at markets and aim for 60% of the original price given. It’s expected. Don’t bother trying to negotiate prices in shopping malls, restaurants (except MBK) and supermarkets – they’re all set.
- At the time of writing, £1 is worth 43 Thai Baht (THB). Take note of larger notes which look similar to higher value notes. Work out the exchange calculation for the first few days of your holiday and you’ll gradually start to grasp how much you should be paying for things such as food and drink.
- Don’t take too much money with you at the start of your holiday (we’d recommend around £300 – 400 per person). Cash goes a long way; many places accept credit cards and you’ll find ATM’s on most street corners in major towns and cities. Withdraw extra cash if you’re visiting more rural areas as you may not see a cash point for a while (although this is quite unlikely).
- Only take a proportion of your money with you and leave the rest in the hotel safe.
- Always try to pay using a credit card for large purchases including tours and hotels. If there are any problems, you’re covered by your credit card providers insurance and can quickly claim the money back. Be wary of places which don’t accept credit card or push you to pay with cash.
- Take advantage of a credit/debit card that has no exchange rate fees. We recommend Revolut or the ever popular Monzo. What’s better, you can use it time and time again for future holidays.
- In Bangkok and some beach resorts in the south, take note of the following scams. Most people avoid them completely without knowing but it’s worth keeping in mind just in case:
- Stay away from Tuk Tuk’s in Bangkok. Drivers have deals with travel agents, suit shops and other stores, where they’ll pressure you to go and spend money on the way to your destination. They get a commission for everything you buy and there’s a strong chance that those stores will overcharge you/rip you off.
- There are quite a few tailor shops throughout Thailand, some of which are poor quality, unprofessional and will rip you off. Always look for online reviews before visiting a suit shop/tailors.
- In coastal areas, only rent jet skis from reputable vendors such as hotels. There are a number of known ‘jet ski scams’ where locals will rent you a damaged or rigged jet ski, accuse you of damaging it and then demand money. Look around the jet skis and point out/photograph any existing damage before you ride.
- When renting a moped, take lots of pictures of it beforehand so you can’t be accused of damage you didn’t cause. Always wear a helmet, stay to the side of the road so other vehicles can overtake and practice stay away from busy roads if you’re less confident.
- We’ve covered the main scams but there are a few other area specific scams that have been noted. The Culture Trip does a great job at explaining these. Check it out.
- Thai culture is rather conservative. Take note of local customs when visiting religious places such as temples, such as covering up shoulders and legs.
- Thai people are non-confrontational and are all about ‘keeping face’, but will give you a lot of trouble if you go looking for it. Don’t get too drunk and stay calm in any hostile situations.
- Don’t touch people on the head.
- The Thai Royal Family is adored and you’ll see people paying their respects and commemorations everywhere. Don’t talk about the royal family and be respectful of any traditions. For example, when visiting a cinema, everyone is required to stand and listen to the Thai national anthem before the movie starts. Even stepping on money by accident can offend Thai people, as you’re stepping on an image of the King.
A note on bad tourism
- Tourism brings a lot of income to the country and unfortunately, this brings with it pollution, damage to the beaches and some areas have lost their authentic Thai charm. We’d recommend staying away from ultra-touristy areas of Phuket and Patong and opting for more ‘off-the’beaten-track’ areas. Although, you’ll undoubtedly want to visit some tourist areas as well (such as Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui). There’s a reason why they’re so popular!
- Unfortunately, animal cruelty is a thing in some areas of Thailand. Fully research attractions such as zoo’s, animal sanctuaries and conversation projects. TripAdvisor is your best friend. Contrary to what they’ll tell you, many of these animal ‘meet and greet’ centres treat the animals poorly and drug them. Tiger Temple in the Chiang Mai area is a particular attraction that should be avoided.
- Traffic is crazy in Bangkok. You’ll see 6 lanes of cars interweaving and mopeds flying left and right. This can be the same in other areas of Thailand but on a smaller scale. Always use crossings and take extra care when crossing a road. Just because the green man light is on it doesn’t mean drivers will stop.
- Never go out alone on a night in quite urban or rural areas and always stick to populated and lit up streets.
- Keep a small first aid kit in your luggage with all of the holiday essentials.
- Mosquitos are apparent throughout Thailand, although you only need Malaria tablets if you’re visiting the far north near the Laos border. Always wear a tropical strength mosquito repellent on an evening or when visiting areas such as jungles and rivers. If you’re staying in outdoor style accommodation such as beach huts, bring your own mosquito net just to be safe.
- If you get into trouble, the Thai Tourist Police are the best people to contact. The police are specific to each area of Thailand so take note of their contact details at the tourist office when you arrive at your destination.
The UK government is another excellent source for visitor information for those visiting Thailand. View their guide here.
Top tips for making your holiday a one to remember:
- Learn some words and phrases of the Thai language.
- Places in Thailand are vastly different. Bangkok is loud and a bit dirty on first glance, but it’s charming once you discover the city properly. Open your mind and take time to fully explore each place you visit. You may be pleasantly surprised.
- Thai’s love to shop and you will too. Shop on street markets for gifts or treat yourself to a custom-made suit. The main thing to remember is that you should always negotiate for a better price. It’s actually expected in Thai culture.
- There are so many places to visit in Thailand that it can be difficult to narrow it down to just a few areas for your holiday. Do plenty of research and consider what you’re looking forward in a holiday.
Thailand is a unique holiday destination and is waiting to be explored. Our advice – try and do as much as you can (even things you would never usually do), visit at least 2 different places and take into account all of the above advice.