Thailand travel tips – Things to know before you visit
There are many guides online for backpackers looking to travel around Thailand but having a shorter, 2-week holiday in Thailand can be slightly different. We’ve put together a comprehensive Thailand travel tips guide to read before you go, to ensure you have the best time and are able to explore this beautiful country to its fullest.
Our Thailand travel tips cover everything from accommodation booking and how to get from A to B, to what you should and shouldn’t eat. If you have any of your own advice that you’d like to share, be sure to post a comment at the bottom of our guide. Without further delay, here are our top Thailand travel tips.
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. If you have a non-UK passport, be sure to check visa information on your government travel website before arrival.
- Visit your doctor at least a few weeks before your trip to check that your vaccinations are up to date.
- Make sure you have travel insurance cover for the full duration of your trip. We recommend getting a quote from various companies online and getting the best deal to suit you and your travel needs. We personally use Compare The Market to find the best deal (in the UK).
- Stock up on essential toiletries and medication that you might struggle to find in Thailand. It can be difficult to find a lot of cosmetic and haircare brands outside of the big towns.
- You have enough Thai baht for at least a week. Having spent a long amount of time in Thailand, we wished we brought more money with us. You can only withdraw a certain amount of money per day in Thailand and along with that comes a withdrawal fee. Whilst there are currency exchange booths available, we recommend taking a decent amount of cash with you to Thailand to avoid any unnecessary stress.
- Check your mobile phone plan to see if there are any additional costs for using your phone in Thailand. Some networks offer good value travel bundles, or even inclusive data. If it’s expensive to use your phone in Thailand, consider signing up to an E-sim before departing. We personally use the Airalo E-sim app everywhere we go.
Planning your trip
- Have a think about what type of holiday you want. Do you want to experience lots of Thai culture, countryside and temples? Are you a city explorer, or would you rather spend your whole time in a beach paradise location? Your interests and what you want out of your Thailand holiday will help dictate your trip. It’s then a lot easier to find destinations you’ll like the sound of.
- For a short holiday in Thailand, you’ll want to book everything before arrival. Booking in advance allows you to compare websites for the best prices. You’ll also waste less time figuring out where to go next when abroad.
- Consider spending your Thailand holiday in 2 or 3 different places. A visit to Bangkok and then a tropical island is a good choice. You’ll get a good mix of different experiences. Equally, you might want to skip Bangkok and have a split itinerary of the north and south of Thailand.
- Contrary to the above, don’t pack too much into your itinerary. It’s best to spend a little longer in one place and to experience it fully. You’ll also reduce the chance of travel exhaustion.
- Write down a list of your must-see places and attractions during your time in Thailand. Doing your research in advance will help you discover things you won’t want to miss. Having knowledge of areas before you go will also increase of chances of having an amazing trip!
- Book travel within Thailand in advance. Internal flights can sell out and often increase in price the closer to the date you fly. Some ferries, buses and taxi transfers can also be booked in advance.
- Save attraction, restaurant and hotel pins on your Google Maps app before arrival. This will help you navigate the streets a lot easier whilst in Thailand. Another Thailand travel tip that we use for every holiday we go on is to download an offline version of Google Maps. This will help you find places easier when you don’t have internet access.
When’s the best time to visit Thailand?
There is no good or bad time to visit Thailand. You can visit Thailand year-round and still have an amazing time. However, if you have the flexibility, we recommend visiting during the country’s dry season, from November – April. Temperatures are much cooler and it doesn’t rain as much. If you’re on a budget, visiting during ‘wet season’ from May – October is much more affordable. Just be sure to pack the right clothing and be prepared for some rainy days.
We recommend checking out Selective Asia’s weather guide for Thailand. Different areas of Thailand experience varying weather throughout the year. This guide will help you decide on the best places for weather for each month.
- 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. A central location where everything is within walking distance saves you finding taxis or using public transport. For a short holiday, this will save you a lot of time.
- Book all hotels in advance. 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. Booking hotels and hostels far in advance can save you a lot of money.
- If you’re spending a decent amount of time in a specific area, it might by worthwhile to stay in more than one hotel. This way, you’ll get to explore different areas. For example, if your entire holiday is in Krabi, stay in Ao Nang to be within close proximity to tours and nightlife. You can then stay on the Phi Phi islands or Koh Lanta for a few days.
- As with any country, you’ll find some hotels aren’t up to the standards you’d expect. Avoid hotels from hell by researching before you visit and checking out the TripAdvisor and Google reviews.
- Some excellent hotel booking sites for Thailand are:
- Agoda.com – Our go-to website for finding the best deals and getting room upgrades
- Comparison websites such as Trivago and Kayak.
- Hostelworld is the best website for booking hostels,
- Booking.com has a good selection of apartment and villa rental options. It has similar properties to Airbnb, but without the fees and to-do lists.
- For more information on booking accommodation for the best prices, check out our hotel booking guide here.
How to get around
- You’ll find Thai transport to be slow and relaxed, just like the culture. Plan your travel with extra time to allow traffic, flight 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 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. This is one of our key Thailand travel tips to avoid getting ripped off in Bangkok. Taxis are almost always cheaper than Tuk Tuks.
- Always ask for the meter to be switched 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’. This is especially important if you get sea-sick easily. It only costs slightly more.
- If you’re travelling around multiple places in Thailand, for example from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, we recommend going by plane. It’s the quickest and most convenient option, as opposed to going by sleeper train or bus. Be sure to book in advance for the best value tickets.
- If you’re visiting Thailand for a short amount of time, we recommend taking the quickest route possible, even if it costs more. Time is everything.
- If you’re tech-savvy, we recommend downloading the ‘Grab’ or ‘Bolt’ apps. They’re the equivalent of Uber in Europe and the US and are a great way to get a taxi when and where you want. The prices are generally affordable and the service is reliable.
- Book taxi transfers on https://12go.asia/ It’s reliable and lists most of the local taxi companies. You can also pay online with a credit/debit card.
Food and drink
- Thai food is known 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.
- Thailand does desserts extremely well and they’re super cheap! You don’t need fancy restaurant desserts when the street food snacks taste just as good! Be sure to try their most popular and well-known dessert, mango sticky rice, along with roti. Our personal favourite is roti with Nutella and banana.
- 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. The phrase ‘Mai Pet,’ may come in handy, which means, ‘no spice’ in Thai.
- 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. Here are a few handy Thailand travel tips for decreases your chances of getting sick:
- Eat in restaurants or street stalls with lots of locals
- No buffets unless in a top-rated 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
- 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). You can also 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 are well worth trying. The famous Thai buckets on the other hand… They’re strong, full of cheap alcohol and are only worth trying if you’re prepared for a hangover!
- We suggest bringing a reusable water bottle that you can fill up with bottled water when you need it. Thailand is notorious for using so much plastic, so do your bit for the environment. Oh, and say no to the plastic straws!
- 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 and supermarkets – they’re all set.
- 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. Having a good idea of how much 50, 100 and 500 Thai Baht is in your own currency is a Thailand travel tip that will save you from overspending or overpaying.
- Only keep a little bit of 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 that don’t accept credit card or push you to pay with cash.
- This is one of our Thailand travel tips that applies to anywhere you visit! 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 them in mind just in case:
- Be wary of Tuk Tuk’s in Bangkok. Some 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 beach 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 or car, take lots of pictures of it beforehand so you can’t be accused of damage you didn’t cause. On a moped, 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.
- Be sure to take off your shoes when entering temples, some shops or private homes. If you see some flip flops or slippers outside, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll need to take off your shoes and go in bare foot.
- Service can sometimes be particularly slow in Thailand. If ordering multiple dishes, expect them to come out at different times. Order plenty of side dishes or drinks and have a bit of patience.
- 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.
- Depending on which areas you’re planning on visiting in Thailand, some areas may be more run down than others. Bathroom facilities in particular may not be the best, so be sure to bring your own toilet paper and sanitary products. Many toilets in rural areas aren’t that well-kept, so it’s good to be aware of this.
- Thais are very proud people and will appreciate you taking an interest in their language. Try your best to learn a few useful phrases that you can use whilst travelling around the country. Here are some of our go-to phrases:
- Hello – Sawasdee krap (m) ka (f)
- Thank you – kawp koon krap (m) ka (f)
- Goodbye – Lah gorn
- The bill please – Kep tang krap (m) ka (f)
- Delicious – Aroi
- No spice – Mai pet
- No sugar – Mai sai nam tam
- If you’re no linguist, or often struggle to remember Thai phrases, write them down on the notes app of your phone. You can refer back to it when need be.
- There are many language learning apps you can use to practice the Thai language (if you’re really serious about it). Duolingo, Busuu and Babel are some of the best.
- If you get into a situation with a local, for example at a restaurant; and forget the word for ‘please’ or ‘thank you’, just bow ever so slightly and smile. You’ll often see this bow in Thailand, also known as a ‘Wai.’ It’s the Thai way of showing respect. If you want to become a true Thai, be sure to do this when the occasion is right.
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.
- As with many other places in the world that attracts a lot of tourists, there are scams around, even in Thailand. Be sure to research costs of places you’re planning to visit, attractions you want to see beforehand, to get an idea of how much things costs. Likelihood is if something doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t, and you should walk away.
- Thailand is a very safe place to visit. Crime rates are low and it’s generally safe to be out and about an night. Just take the same precautions you would anywhere else: stick to well-lit areas and travel with someone else on an evening.
- 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 pedestrian crossings and take extra care when near a road. Just because the green man light is on it doesn’t mean drivers will stop.
- Whilst getting around in Thailand is pretty straightforward, some places may be harder to reach. For this reason, a lot of tourists rent scooters. Unless you have a licence, or feel confident driving, we advise against renting one. If you really want to rent a scooter, only do it away from the busy towns and cities. Rural driving is a lot easier.
- Keep a small first aid kit in your luggage with all of the holiday essentials.
- Mosquitoes 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, lakes 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. You can visit their website here.
- The UK government website is another excellent source for visitor information for those visiting Thailand. View their guide here.
- Whilst crimes aren’t common in Thailand, pick pocketing can occur. Be sure not to have any expensive items on show that are easy to reach.
- We recommend wearing a crossbody bag to keep all your essential items close to you.
Essential medication and toiletries to pack for Thailand
As with many other countries in the world, it can often be tricky to find exactly what you need, especially when it comes to medicine and toiletries. Thailand is well developed and you’ll find the majority of medication items with ease. It’s also much cheaper than western countries.
To be on the safe side, we always recommend packing the absolute essentials when travelling, as you never know when you, or someone else may need them. We recommend packing:
- Travel sickness tablets
- Ginger tablets – these are great for jet lag or when you’ve eaten something dodgy. It’s a natural herb that can be taken to sooth the stomach.
- Diarrhoea tablets
- Paracetamol and Ibuprofen
- Wet wipes
- Antibacterial gel
- Any medication you take on a regular basis
- Contact lenses – if you’re travelling for a long period of time, ensure you have enough lenses to cover you for your stay.
- Bug spray – there were so many mosquitos in Chiang Mai when we visited in January. Therefore, bring plenty of bug repellent if you want to reduce your chances of getting bitten!
- Shampoo, hair styling products, moisturisers and other cosmetic and face/body care brands that you prefer. You’ll find these products in Thailand, but the brand you’re used to might not be available. You’ll also pay more for it.
What clothes to pack for Thailand
Depending on when you’re planning to visit Thailand and where you’re heading, you’ll need to ensure you pack the correct clothing. If visiting during dry season (November – April), consider the following:
- Shawls / cover up (for women when entering temples)
- Flip flops
- Hiking shoes/ trainers (if you plan on doing long walks, or for day-day walking)
If visiting during Thailand’s wet season (May – October) you’ll need to pack the above, but also consider the following:
- A rain jacket
- Rain poncho
- Waterproof clothing
Our final Thailand travel tips to make it a holiday to remember
- 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 at 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 for on your trip.
- On the above note of planning, be sure not to over-plan and try to squeeze in absolutely everything. We always think that it’s best to see less but do it well, as opposed to seeing lots but only skimming the surface. Over-doing it will also cause burn out and exhaustion.
- Thailand is a unique holiday destination that 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 Thailand travel tips. It’s a destination that you’ll be eager to return to!
We hope you found our Thailand travel tips guide useful and you are now able to plan your next trip to this magnificent country. Be sure to leave us a comment down below if you have any tips of your own, as we’d love to hear them! If you have any questions, post those too. We’re happy to help you with your trip planning. 😊
Check out our other Thailand travel guides for more inspiration.
By SusieAuthor bio:
I’m a passionate traveller that loves a sunny beach holiday, but also appreciate the cultural side to a trip and checking out undiscovered destinations. I’m the go-to Toucan Traveller for great holiday stories, cool photos and foodie recommendations.