A journey to Southeast Asia would not be complete without a stop in tantalizing Thailand. Its capital city, Bangkok, displays a backdrop of ancient tradition and cultural heritage against a vibrant and modern city life while the quieter Chiang Mai in the mountainous region of northern Thailand has a peaceful atmosphere with its lush green surroundings and plethora of cultural immersion activities. Marvel at the ruins of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, once powerful ancient capitals of the Kingdom of Siam but now rightfully UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Indulge in tasty Thai dishes of Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong before chasing the sun to Phuket and Krabi, some of the world’s most beautiful beach paradises.
The inviting tropical climate of Thailand creates an all-year-round travel destination with few exceptions. There are three distinct seasons characterized by The hot season from March to mid-May The rainy, monsoon season from mid-May to October The dry, “cool” season from November to February. The peak season for visiting begins at the end of October and stretches until the end of February to catch the pleasant temperatures of the dry season before the hot season begins. The rains start to come in May across the country and last anywhere from October and late November depending on the region, ensuring vibrant green landscapes, rushing waterfalls, and flooded islands and beaches. One of the most popular times to visit for locals and foreigners alike is during Songkran, celebrated between the 12th and 15th of April. Welcome in the Thai New Year by cleaning images of Buddha, visiting pagodas, and soaking family and friends with water guns and buckets of waters lying around to help wash away sins and bad luck.
It’s no surprise that Thailand’s level of accommodation and service is top-notch when the capital of Bangkok is 2017’s number 1 most-visited city in the world. With a variety of different hotel categories from quaint homestays and bed and breakfasts at $5 – $20 per night to chic modern city hotels, charming bungalows by the sea and upmarket “barefoot luxury” resorts starting at $100 per night, there is something for every type of traveller in Thailand. Our favourite stays in the land of smiles include the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, Six Senses Koh Samui, Four Seasons Tented Camp Chiang Rai, and the 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai.
Thai dishes are renowned throughout the world for the exquisite quality of ingredients used and the interplay of spicy, sour, bitter, salty, and sweet flavours. In fact, gorgeous curries and the iconic tom yum goon consistently rank in the top 50 of the world’s best foods – in 2017 alone, Thailand had 7 dishes on the list, more than any other country. From the country’s big culinary centres of Bangkok and Chiang Mai to provincial towns and regional specialties, Thailand truly is a foodie’s paradise with its cooking classes, night market food courts, street stalls, and acclaimed restaurants. Inexpensive Thai restaurants and cafes usually have dishes priced around $1 – $2 each, while a sit-down restaurant can range in price from $5 – $20 per person depending on its quality. Make sure to try the night markets where you can fill your belly with an assortment of snacks for less than $5! Chopsticks are only used for noodles as Thai people use a fork in their left hand and the spoon in the right hand to eat most dishes.
Wi-fi is standard in restaurants, cafés, guesthouses, and hotels. All Thai telephone numbers have a 0 at the beginning unless you are calling from overseas. The provincial area code, the following three numbers, also must be dialed to complete the call. Mobile numbers can be identified if the number following the zero is a 6, 8, or 9. A SIM card for mobile phone runs around $6 with internet data and talk time for one month at $15 per month. You can buy a SIM Card at 7/11, shopping malls or phone stores. In case of emergency, dial 1155 for the tourist police, 191 for the general police, 1554 for ambulance and rescue, and 199 for a fire. Thailand also has very reliable and cheap local and international postal services, open from 8:30 – 4:30 during the week and until noon on Saturdays. Regardless of its efficiency, protect yourself and do not send cash or valuables through the mail.
Thailand is an easy country to navigate due to its well-managed infrastructure and transportation options. Full-serviced airlines like Thai and Bangkok Airways with tickets starting from $120 one-way and budget airlines like Air Asia, Nok Air, and Thai Smile starting at $30 one-way fly to many destinations. Air-conditioned mini-vans and buses traverse the country with comfy and clean seats from $12 – $20 depending on class and distance. Bangkok is notorious for traffic jams due to the surplus of affordable taxis, cars, tuk-tuks, and motorbikes filling the streets, so when it all becomes too much, take the BTS or underground MRT to get where you need to go quickly. Islands can usually be reached by plane, or a combination of bus plus ferry around $12 can get you where you need to go. Songthaews, a type of pick-up truck outfitted with two benches in the hub, operate either independently or on fixed routes taking passengers from point to point, especially in Chiang Mai. Lastly, when trying a ride in the iconic tuk-tuk, make sure to negotiate your price beforehand!
Visa exemption Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa for tourism purposes as long as they stay less than the period listed below. 90 days—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, South Korea, and Peru 30 days—Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Laos, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Macau, Monaco, Mongolia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UAE, UK, USA, and Vietnam. Visa on arrival and e-visa If your country is not listed in the visa exemption, it’s possible to visit Thailand by attaining a visa on arrival or e-visa. Please see your country’s consular page for more information.