Whether you are planning a trip to Thailand for the beautiful Thai islands or the tropical rainforests of the north, Thailand trip planning doesn’t need to be difficult if you know the basics of this fascinating country.
I have gathered some expertise on Thailand from myself and some of my favorite travel bloggers – and asked them to share some of their biggest and best tips for planning a dream trip to Thailand!
Thailand is home to some world class islands, beautiful beaches, kind people, and a hustling and bustling culture – especially in the larger cities like Bangkok. Head further north to be met with unparalleled jungles, hikes, mountains, and a better look at the Thai Culture.
Further south, you will find some beautiful Thai Islands, snorkelling, water sports, parties, and a slightly heavier tourist mecca.
Whether you decide to visit Northern or Southern Thailand, you will definitely have a life changing trip if you follow these planning tips.
The tips below will help you plan a trip to Thailand (once you get past the jet lag), no matter what sort of trip you are looking to have!
How To Plan A Trip To Thailand
- Think Small: Thailand is a large country that is home to 76 provinces. Don’t plan to see everything, just think about what you hope to get from your trip. Whether you want a big city trip, a jungle trek, or a tropical beach vacation, Thailand will have it. When you are planning a trip to Thailand, really focus on what you want to see! Check out my Thailand Travel Guide to get a better feel for what sort of things you can see while you are in Thailand!
- Book in Advance: When you plan your trip to Thailand, make sure you book your transportation to and from the country in advance. I aim to have my flights booked around 4 months before my trip to find the cheapest flights! I do advise not to book anything else other than your first few days of accommodation until you get there. You will find it so much better to go with the flow and see what you feel like doing while you are backpacking Thailand!
- Meet people: The Thai people are very very kind and welcoming to tourists; there’s a reason Thailand is called the land of smiles! From the time you hit the airport, you will be greeted and welcomed by friendly locals and tourists alike. Make sure you take the time to meet some of them!
- Stay Cheap: Thailand is a very affordable country, so hotels and fancier villas are not always out of the question. I like to stay in cheaper hotels and hostels when I am in Thailand rather than taking tuk tuks and staying in resorts. You won’t be spending much time in your room and it saves you money to enjoy the rest of what Thailand has to offer!
Don’t Forget The Travel Insurance!
As always, it is a very good idea to have travel insurance whenever you plan to leave your county, just incase anything happens to you, your belongings, or your flights. I could not recommend World Nomads for their outstanding insurance plans enough. Click here or check out the link below to get a quote!
Travel Bloggers’ Tips For Planning A Trip To Thailand
Planning a trip to Thailand doesn’t need to be difficult as long as you do your research.
Below are the best tips taken directly from myself and my favorite travel bloggers to help you plan a trip to Thailand! Whether you are backpacking Thailand or staying in a luxury Villa, these tips are definitely going to be useful.
1. Visit During Songkran
Adam from Travels of Adam suggests to visit during Songkran, Thailand’s celebration of the new year. The country turns into a 3 day water fight, and everyone is fair game. Don’t forget a waterproof pack for your valuables!
Besides being one of the best festivals in Thailand, it’s often at the end of the tourist season so you can sometimes get good deals on hotels, tours, and activities.
And bonus: the gCircuit gay festival takes place in Bangkok every year the same weekend as Songkran, which is honestly the highlight of the festival!
2. Avoid Touristy Areas
Andra and Vlad from Our World to Wander suggests to avoid the heavy tourist areas while planning a trip to Thailand.
When they started their research on places to see in Thailand, they realized that the popular places would most likely be crammed with people. But still, they aren’t popular for nothing, so they didn’t want to necessarily skip them. So, they tried looking for quieter alternatives.
For example, everybody was suggesting Phuket and Krabi. And they wanted to visit the Phi Phi Islands and also the Phang Nga Bay. So they looked at the map and saw an island halfway between Phuket and Krabi, Koh Yao Yai Island. It proved to be an incredible island. It spoiled them with great views, and they could easily visit everything that we had planned on day trips.
So you don’t have to go straight to the famous places. Explore more, look on the map, and try to find alternatives that will get you a more peaceful and off the beaten track experience.
3. Choose the Best Time of Year To Travel
Cerise from The Enchanted Vagabond suggests to make sure you check out the best time of year to travel to Thailand.
If you picture yourself lounging on a beach or trekking the mountains of Northern Thailand, you’ll enjoy yourself even more with a little advance planning for weather considerations. Thailand is a diverse country with micro-climates and temperature differences between the mountains and beaches. There are two main seasons in Thailand – wet and dry. Summer is wet season and can bring monsoons and very hot temperatures. The wet and humid season begins in late spring and goes through October. This is also typhoon season in much of coastal Asia which can mean monsoons and tropical rainstorms throughout the region, though sunshine on the beaches is still likely. Expect very hot temperatures during April and May where it can reach 100+ F (38C). During the day, if you’re outdoors visiting temples, hiking or doing a walking tour of the city, bring sunscreen, a hat, hand fan and plenty of water or schedule your activities like a local to fall during the cooler mornings and evenings when people are most active.
Travel during the dry season of November – April is typically full of sunshine on the beaches. This is also peak season for tourism at the beaches. Winters are cooler in the mountains so bring a warm jacket and hat during those months which are perfect for hiking, rafting, and trekking. Thailand’s west coast beaches are best visited in winter months of December – February during the dry season when visibility and conditions are ideal for diving and snorkeling and full sun means excellent weather at the beach. When booking hotels or hostels, ask about whether or not AC is available and turned on. Consider visiting Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand during the wet season for cooler temperatures and Bangkok and the beaches during winter. Check the latest weather and weather trends when planning your trip to have the most awesome trip in Thailand!
4. Try the Regional Food
Allan from Live Less Ordinary suggests to plan trying out some of the regional eats while you are planning a trip to Thailand.
This tip is more for foodies and gastro-tourists, because Thailand is home to many regional cuisines, and is just widely diverse when it comes to eating. While many/most Thai dishes can be tracked down in Bangkok, the prominent regional cuisines are otherwise better and easier to find at their origins.
The favourites would have to include Lanna cuisine, from the Northern regions such as Chiang Mai (in image), where Khao Soi (Curry Noodles) and Sai Oua (Chiang Mai sausage) are essential eating. As well as Isaan food, from Thailand’s Northeastern region, which is known for its fiery salads such as Som Tam (Papaya Salad) and Laab (Minced Pork Salad) know also as the National Dish of neighbouring Laos. And foods will also be influenced along the borders of Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, as well as Chinese influences which are found throughout
5. Visit an Elephant Sanctuary
Jade from Two Tall Travellers recommends checking out an elephant sanctuary while you are planning a trip to Thailand. Thailand is a beautiful country, but if you’re planning to get up close and personal with some animals, it’s important that you research beforehand!
Unknowing tourists will often get conned into riding elephants, watching monkeys play circus tricks and stroking tigers.
That’s why it’s so important to do your research before you pay for any type of animal excursion. Ask yourself some questions before booking – would the animal be doing this in the wild? Will there be babies separated from their mothers? If the answer’s yes, then please don’t go.
Luckily, there ARE ethical animal sanctuaries in Thailand where you can experience some gorgeous animals that are happy and living a good life.
One example is the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. You can feed the elephants, wash them and stroke them, but it’s completely on the elephant’s terms and they lead your day, not the other way round.
I would highly recommend spending two days there – you can even adopt a rescue dog or cat!
6. Take A Cooking Class
Thomas from The Trip Gourmets recommends trying your hand at cooking up some Thai eats while you travel Thailand.
The first time many people come into contact with Thailand is through the delicious food this amazing country has to offer. Almost no other Southeast Asian food is so popular and widely spread throughout the western hemisphere. If you plan to go to Thailand and you love Thai cuisine, then you should definitely plan to visit a cooking class as well. In most of them you will learn now to cook four or more different dishes, which you reproduce at home. You can wow all of your friends and family with your new skills!
Thomas had an amazing experience at the Thai Akha Cooking School in Chiang Mai, where they cooked 11 – yes, 11! – different dishes. Of these, three were traditional recipes from the Thai Akha hill tribe. In his opinion it’s a must to experience a cooking school if you want to bring a part of Thailand back home.
7. Brush Up On The Latest Scams
This is Ben from The Sabbatical Guides’ biggest tip when planning a trip to Thailand, and Bangkok especially: brush up on the latest scams. Now please don’t think the whole country is out to get you, because they’re not. Thailand is filled with friendly and smiley people who are genuinely happy to help you out. But in the big cities you will find a string of fairly similar scams, that are easily avoided if you know about them, and will save you time, money and at the very least, your pride. Ben was caught out by the ‘friendly stranger’ scam, where a smart, local guy approached them in the street and struck up a conversation. He was very knowledgable, and said he was an off duty data-entry clerk for the local police force. He had alot of knowledge about England, and was really easy going. One thing led to another, and he booked them a tuk-tuk in Thai, and we ended up at a tailors! They were strong enough to say no, and left with our money, but maybe not their dignity intact, knowing we’d fallen for a trick. The next day they saw the same guy chatting to the tuk-tuk driver outside the Metro station. There are many other famous scams including ‘the Palace is closed’, taxi drivers who refuse to turn on the meter and boat trips changing the price and refusing to dock until you pay. They are really obvious to spot when you know what you are looking for, and you will end up finding them funny if you do your research. Just type ‘best known Thailand scams’ or ‘latest Thailand scams’ into Google before you leave to keep out of trouble.
8. Use Scooters To Get Around, But Be Safe!
Nathan from Travel Lemming suggests the easiest way to get around Thailand – scooters! Scooters are one of the best ways to get around and explore Thailand. They are widely available for rental at very affordable prices and they allow to you access places you wouldn’t be able to get to otherwise. It’s a great way to explore the far sides of islands, or to get off the beaten path. With that said, be sure you actually know how to safely drive a scooter properly. Always wear a helmet, drive defensively, and never imbibe. Many tourists have found themselves acquainted with the Thai medical system or Thai legal system because they didn’t follow this advice!
9. Don’t Book Your Accommodation in Advance
Megan from Half This World Away reccommends that you don’t book your accomodation in advance when you are planning a trip to Thailand.
When it comes to planning your trip to Thailand then she would highly recommend not booking your accommodation in advance. In general, you can get the room much cheaper on arrival and you can request to see the room before handing over any cash.
This ensures you not only get the best price for your stay, but that your room is worth the money in the first place!
10. Follow The Crowds To Find The Best Street Food
Nicola from KIC Travels suggest the best way to find amazing street food while you are planning a trip to Thailand!
We’ve all heard horror stories about travellers getting ill from Thai street food. One of the best ways to find the safest and most delicious street food is to follow the crowds.
First, if the locals are all eating it then it probably tastes fantastic. Second, if lots of people are eating there then you know that they’ve got a high turnover of food and that your food is being cooked freshly for you. Avoid those vendors half heartedly reheating food they cooked earlier as that’s a sure way to get ill!
Check out my Bangkok street food tour on this blog to find the best street food markets in Bangkok!
11. Don’t Speak Ill of the King
Danniela from No Hurry To Get Home reminds people who are planning a trip to Thailand to not disrespect or insult the King in any way, shape, or form.
Insulting the monarchy of Thailand can land you in jail for several years. The law against slandering the royal family was established in 1908, and it has only toughed up since then. You’re better off keeping your comments to yourself while in the country. Also be aware that stepping on a Thai bill or coin can also get you in trouble – the King’s face is printed on all notes and coins!
12. Make Sure You Visit A Night Market
Audrey and Andrew from Gum Nuts Abroad suggest their best tip while you are planning a trip to Thailand – visiting a night market!
These vibrant and energetic gatherings are found all over the country. From Bangkok to Chang Mai to Phuket they attract locals and tourists alike.
Each market has its own unique atmosphere, and some cater more to tourists than others. But you can expect to find amazing street food, cool cocktails and local handicrafts for sale. With their carnival like atmosphere they are the perfect antidote to the shopping mall culture you find in cities around the world. So check out a night market on your next visit to Thailand, it’s sure to be a highlight of your trip.
13. Use Ridesharing The Right Way
Stephanie from History Fangirl suggests to make sure you are educated in how the ridesharing process works in Thailand, before you plan to use it as a form of transportation.
Be careful when it comes to advice about Uber! The ride sharing app is the number one piece of advice she took with her before arriving in Thailand, and she used it to get between the temples in Bangkok. This saved her a ton of money over what she would have paid to use tuk-tuks, since the tuk-tuk prices over short distances are inflated.
However, the app has now merged with Grab and you’ll need to have that app set up separately. You cannot order a ride through the Uber app in Thailand as of April 2018. Because this change is new, most older articles will tell you to use Uber exclusively, but these articles are now incorrect.
14. While in Bangkok, Choose Accommodation near a BTS Station
Kate from The Wanderlust Chronicles suggests to make sure your accommodation is close to a BTS station while you are planning accommodation in Thailand, and I couldn’t agree more!
When you are booking your accommodation in Bangkok, make sure to choose a location that is within walking distance of a BTS Skytrain. Bangkok’s traffic is terrible, and from experience, what would normally be a 15 minute trip can turn into an hour long trip if you are unlucky.
So, save yourself the time, and exorbitant taxi meter fares, and use the BTS Skytrain which is cheap, convenient, and air-conditioned.
Bonus Etiquette Tips for Thailand
Michael from The Accidental Travel Writer has provided some bonus tips to consider while you are planning a trip to Thailand.
Thailand has an “anything goes” reputation, but it is actually a VERY conservative society. To start with, Thai people revere the monarchy, so never make any negative comments about the King or other members of the Royal Family: it’s actually against the law!
More tips on proper etiquette in Thailand:
- Don’t wear short pants or tank tops when visiting temples.
- Never touch someone on the head, and never point the soles of your feet at someone
- Always offer seats to monks on public transport (not just pregnant women and the elderly)
- Be prepared to take off your shoes when visiting homes or small businesses
You can simplify life by wearing INEXPENSIVE slip-on sandals (shoe theft is not unheard of)!