Affectionately known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand is one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia. People from all walks of life travel to Thailand, drawn by the nation’s rich culture, deliciously varied cuisine and intense natural beauty.

With exotic culture, fantastic natural scenery and beaches, excellent cuisine and the famous ‘Thai smile’, Thailand attracts over 10 million visitors a year. it boasts lovely coastal areas, cosmopolitan cities, unspoiled countryside, great shopping and plenty of activities.

Why You Should Go

Thailand is the travel hub of Southeast Asia with world-class beaches, fantastic diving, amazing food, friendly people and cheap prices.

  1. Stunning Islands & Beaches: Southern Thailand is where you want to go for world-class tropical beaches, islands and great scuba diving. There are big tourist islands like Phuket and Koh Samui, postcard famous places like Krabi, and Ko Tao which is famous for learning how to scuba dive.
  2. Delicious Food: Hot and Spicy Thai food is world-famous with good reason, but beyond the chilis there is fantastic street-food (you can get a delicious full meal for a couple dollars) and don’t forget the Thai mangoes.
  3. Exotic Fun Culture: Thailand has a rich buddhist culture that feels ‘exotic’ yet is easily accessible. Saffron robed monks, glistening temples and street-food hawkers all add to the allure. Thai’s also love to have fun and know how to party. Going to a Thai club is a great experience, or the world famous festivals like Songkran the Thai water festival.
  4. Great for Budget Travel: While not the cheapest destination in Southeast Asia, Thailand is still very easy on the wallet and you can get some great deals. Food and lodging can be especially cheap if you are trying to stay within a budget.
  5. Easy for Travelers: Thailand has been the tourist hub of Southeast Asia for long time and they are very experienced with taking care and catering to travelers. Almost everyone in tourist areas know English, transportation is generally plentiful and easy to get and there is delicious food everywhere

What’s Cool: Nightlife and shopping in Bangkok, stunning beaches of Phuket and Krabi, history and culture, trekking in the Northern jungle, scuba diving in the Andaman Sea, climbing in Krabi, lots of cheap Thai food, great hotels, friendly people and comfy tourist infrastructure.

What’s Not: Bangkok traffic, overly spicy food, hustling tuk-tuk drivers and bar girls, crowded Patong (Phuket), noisy neighbourhoods, the hot season, reckless driving, riptides, corrupt officials and the occasional coup!

Orientation

Bangkok: The ‘Big Mango’, Bangkok, is a concrete jungle that packs megamalls and cutting-edge nightclubs in among its notorious traffic jams. Bangkok has gleaming temples and palaces and some of the best shopping and nightlife in Asia. The Grand Palace here will take your breath away.

Central Thailand: Central Thailand is the historical heartland of Thailand with grand historical ruins such as Ayutthaya and Sukhothai

South Eastern Thailand: Southeast Thailand stretches from the famous town of Pattaya to the stunning Ko Chang. Visit Pattaya for a vibrant nightlife and beaches that are easy to reach from Bangkok. Chantaburi is a quaint town famous for dealing in gems. The town has influences from a variety of cultures including Chinese, Cambodian and Vietnamese.

Southern Thailand: The islands and beaches of southern and eastern Thailand have many popular destinations and most visitors head straight for the beaches of Phuket, Samui or Krabi, yet up-and-coming hotspots like Phi-Phi, Koh Chang and Koh Lanta are new firm favourites. If you don’t just want to see what’s on land in this nation of spicy papaya salad, you may like to explore the underwater offerings of the remote Similan or Surin islands.

Northern Thailand: Northern Thailand is covered with rugged, jungle-clad mountains that are dotted with hill tribe villages which make for spectacular trekking around Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. The northern city of Chiang Mai offers trekking adventures into hill tribe dotted territory as well as plenty of modern conveniences and is a great launching pad for discovering the smaller tourist spots of Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai.

Isaan: Northeastern Thailand, known as Isaan, is one of the least visited parts of Thailand, which lends it its own down-home Thai-style charm, plus there are some spectacular Khmer-era ruins such as Phi Mai, Phanom Rung and Prasat Khao Phra Wihan to keep things interesting.

When to Go

Three seasons are experienced in the North, Northeastern and Central provinces, while the South only experiences two seasons.

The cool season (November to February) this season is only really experienced in the Northern provinces, with sunny days and refreshingly cool nights making it the best time to come.

The hot season (November to May in the North; February to April in the South) is dry, with temperatures and humidity being uncomfortable. Best to avoid the peak of this season if you want to get any sightseeing done.

The wet season (November to January in the South; July to November in the North) temperatures do not drop much and downpours are interspersed with sunny spells.

Getting There & Away

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport handles 40 million passengers a year and is a major regional hub. Budget flights to all regions of the country are very affordable.

A rail network (with sleeper trains) runs south, not quite to Phuket, and also north as far as Chiang Mai, via Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. VIP buses are quicker and cheaper but less comfy for long journeys, and connect every small town.

Taxis across Thailand are cheap, but insist on the driver using the meter. Bike hire is also popular for pottering around, but beware of reckless driving. Ferries to the islands run regularly year-round.

Health & Safety

Generally, Thailand is a safe place to travel, with the exception of its poor record for road safety. With a high rate of road accidents involving alcohol, it is wise to exercise caution when driving home at night. However, there is probably more chance of you getting scammed by a tuk-tuk driver than running into any real danger. Swimmers and divers need to be careful of dangers of the sea, such as sea creatures and rip tides.

Food hygiene is very good and you are more likely to get a case of Delhi belly from overdosing on spice rather than from any nasty bacteria. Should you get sick, the city hospitals are modern and efficient, with English-speaking staff.

Itineraries

Two weeks is enough to enjoy the highlights of the ‘land of smiles’

  • Two or three days partying in Bangkok and picking up bargains at the city’s modern shopping malls and traditional markets.
  • Head south for a week on the beach, with Ko Pha-Ngan and Samui appealing to the party crowd and Phuket and Krabi attracting all pockets and ages.
  • Fly up north for a taste of hill tribe culture and jungle trekking. Chill out in the northern capital of Chiang Mai for a few days before heading back to the capital.

Extra time

  • Make an overnight trip to Kanchanaburi, where you can visit the Bridge over the River Kwai and some interesting historical museums.
  • Stop off at the ancient capitals of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya to explore the stunning ruins at the World Heritage sites.
  • Check out more idyllic islands, with Phi Phi drawing the crowds with its beauty; Ko Tao being ideal for divers; and Ko Chang for a relaxed break in a natural setting.

Where to Go

Highlights

Grand Palace: Beautiful temples, gilded chedis and throngs of tourists; a must-see. wat po and wat arun are brilliant nearby temples.

Ayutthaya and Sukhothai: 17th and 15th century ruined former capitals of siam kingdoms, north of bangkok.

Chiang Mai: A living museum with a beautifully maintained moat, bastions and restored gates protecting a square-mile old town. relaxed northern capital.

Phuket: Thailand’s jet-set destination, with its fantastic beaches and world-class hotels, an ideal location near phi phi island and pha nga bay.

Krabi and Phi Phi Island: Typified by incredible jaw-dropping karst seascapes, azure waters and pristine beaches, along with pha nga bay.

Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao islands: Three popular islands on the gulf side of the isthmus, famous for boutique villas, full moon parties and diving respectively.

Pattaya: Naughtiest venue in thailand, 2 hours drive from bangkok and loaded with weekender condos, go-go bars and numerous golf courses.

Kanchanaburi: An overnight trip from bangkok and the site of the famous bridge over the river kwai, and wwii death railway.

What to Do

Activities

Cultural Sightseeing: Is a must, with all the lovely temples and landmarks, beautiful scenery and intriguing 1,000-year old culture.

Trekking and elephant rides: Best done in the mountainous north, a quintessential asian experience through the jungle visiting unique hill tribe villages.

Spas and health treatments: Get pampered thai style at prices everyone can afford, available in all tourist areas.

Diving: Fantastic on both coasts, with numerous sites, excellent reefs, clear waters and plenty of courses to learn. koh tao is the centre for this.

Climbing: Highly rated on the karst cliffs of krabi province and attracts plenty of enthusiasts.

Kayaking: Is an ideal way to explore the lagoons and caves of the karst covered krabi coast.

Shopping: Unbeatable value for clothes, handicrafts, antiques, furniture, décor, electronics and jewellery.

Eating: Thai food is famous and tastes far more authentic in the oodles of restaurants.

Partying: Is a favourite pastime among locals and visitors alike, with cheap grog, numerous bars and plenty of friendly company.

Festivals & Events

Thais love having fun and their calendar is packed with excuses to avoid work. Here are some of the best to attend.

January: Chinese new year is widely celebrated by those of chinese ethnic origin.

April: Songkran is the biggest festival of the year, a massive country-wide, three-day water fight.

June: Rocket festival in remote yasathon is a bizarre tradition with some alarming results.

October: Phuket’s vegetarian festival is an island highlight.

November: Loi kratong is an enchanting religious festival of lights and the second most important on the thai calendar.