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Thailand - Travel Guide

 

Type of Thailand Holiday

Deciding what to include on a tour of Thailand depends of course on your interests, time and budget. We can tailor make any itinerary to suit your exact requirements.

Our tailor made Thailand Tours and holidays can include just flights, hotels and transfers without any excursions or your trip can be tailored to include a mix of guided excursions with time to explore independently (which we think is usually the best mix).

Typically many people combine a week long tour of Thailand with some time in one of Thailand's many great boutique beach resorts.

Family Holidays

Thailand is one of the best destinations in Asia for Family Holidays, with great beach destinations, plenty of activities, lots of variety and a local population where children are adored.

Thailand offers many great activities for families including Elephant experiences, cycling and trekking in the north of Thailand and adventurous activities such as the Flight of Gibbon zipwire in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Cultural Tours

Thailand of course is full of cultural interest, including the hilltribes of the Golden Triangle, Bangkok's majestic temples and the historic capitals of Ayuthaya and Sukhothai in central Thailand.

A great trip to include the cultural highlights of Thailand is to travel from Bangkok on an overnight cruise to Ayuthaya and then on to the Sukhothai, the former capital of Thailand.

From here, journey north to Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city and on to explore the hilltribe region and the Golden Triangle.

River Cruises

The Chao Phraya River runs through Bangkok and an overnight upstream cruise on a luxury converted rice barge connects Bangkok with Thailand's former capital city Ayuthaya, a very relaxing and fascinating journey.

The infamous River Kwai is full of interest and many people enjoy a 2 or 3 night cruise on a Paddle Steamer cruise on the River Kwai.

Nature & Wildlife Holidays

Thailand is a great destination for nature and wildlife enthusiasts, with stunning limestone seascapes and beautiful beaches in the south, a mountainous north, plenty of jungle everywhere and a couple of great National Parks offering trekking opportunities.

The Khao Sok National Park is a great place to get familiar with Thailand's elephants and to see some jungle wildlife. Gibbons are

Active Holidays

Thailand offers plenty of opportunities for a more active style of holiday, with trekking in the north of Thailand, Sea Kayaking amongst the limestone Hongs of southern Thailand or even rock climbing in Krabi.

Trekking in the Golden Triangle is one of the most popular activities in Thailand and more and more people are also taking to two wheels for guided cycling tours around Chiang Mai and even Bangkok.

Undiscovered Thailand

Getting off the beaten track in Thailand isn't that easy as so much of Thailand is now fairly well trodden.

The Northeast is a great region to explore for those looking for the least visited area of Thailand and can be easily combined with a tour into Southern Laos.

There are many islands in the south of Thailand which are off the radar, such as Koh Mook or Koh Lipe which offer an alternative beach holiday experience to the more well-known islands such as Phuket and Koh Samui.

Bangkok

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand is an assault on all the senses and is a must on any holiday to Thailand.

Bangkok is a metropolis of over 9 million people, situated on the Chao Phraya River offering shimmering and lavish temples, world class shopping, vibrant local areas and an increasingly interesting range of boutique, luxury and trendy hotels.

Bangkok highlights include the Grand Palace, Jim Thompson’s House, Bangkok's floating market and Chattuchak Market. A stopover in Bangkok is easily combined with a Thailand beach holiday and a stay in the north of Thailand.

Phuket

Phuket is Thailand’s most developed beach resort destination and offers the iconic southern Thai scenery of tall limestone cliffs and palm fringed beaches.

Phuket has seen a big move of late away from larger resort style hotels towards more boutique hotels, romantic hideaways and pool villas. Phuket has some of Thailand's best beaches and offers plenty to see and do.

We avoid Phuket's over-developed areas and feature only the best beach resorts in Phuket. A holiday to Phuket can offer a great combination of Thailand beach holiday with great sightseeing.

Koh Samui

Tourism, coconuts and fishing are the mainstays of the economy on Koh Samui, a small and scenic island in the Gulf of Thailand.

Resorts on Koh Samui can't be built higher than the tallest palm tree which has kept Koh Samui's resort development more low key than in Phuket.

Boutique hotels and pool villas are blossoming in Koh Samui, making it an excellent choice for a romantic holiday or honeymoon to Thailand.

Koh Samui's best luxury & boutique hotels include Sala Samui, The Akaryn, Bophut Resort & Spa and the lovely Zazen Resort & Spa.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is Thailand's second biggest city and a great starting point for touring the north of Thailand. Highlights of a stay in Chiang Mai include Chiang Mai's Night Bazaar and beautiful Wat Doi Suthep Temple.

Chiang Mai is a great base for touring the hilltribe region of Thailand and for soft adventure activities such as trekking and elephant riding in the north of Thailand.

There are some wonderful boutique hotels in Chiang Mai where it is easy to linger for lazy days on end. We recommend at least a 3 night stay in Chiang Mai to experience Thailand's second city.

Chiang Rai & the Golden Triangle

Thailand's Golden Triangle region is an enigmatic and scenic corner of Thailand, where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos all meet.

Thailand's Golden Triangle is home to numerous hilltribes, each with their own unique cultures. Travel to the Golden Triangle offers the chance to stay in a hilltribe lodge or to enjoy elephant riding, bamboo rafting or jungle trekking.

A day trip to the Golden Triangle region can be made from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai, but an overnight stay at the Anantara Golden Triangle Resort is highly recommended.

Krabi

On the mainland, bordering magnificent Phang Nga Bay, Krabi is a low key and scenic part of southern Thailand with a handful of luxury and boutique hotels.

Krabi is not the place to head to for nightlife or shopping and most visitors choose Krabi for some of Thailand's best beaches, dramatic scenery and for day trips to Phi Phi Island or Phang Nga Bay.

We highly recommend The Tubkaak Resort & Spa as a wonderful romantic boutique resort in Krabi. Luxury Resorts in Krabi come in the form of the Ritz Carlton Phulay Bay and the exclusive Rayavadee.

Koh Lanta

One of Thailand’s lesser developed islands, Koh Lanta is a little more difficult to reach than other Thailand holiday islands, but is well worth the small extra effort in getting there.

A lush rainforest interior and white sand beaches are the key features of Koh Lanta, along with the absence of much nightlife and large resorts.

Koh Lanta is ideal for couples looking for a quieter escape and we highly recommend the Pimalai Resort & Spa and Layana Resort as two wonderful boutique Thailand beach resorts. Koh Lanta can easily be combined with nearby Phuket or Krabi.

Koh Yao

Koh Yao, consisting of Koy Yao Noi (little Koh Yao) and Koh Yao Yai (large Koh Yao) is just a short speedboat ride from Phuket (about 40 minutes).

This is the heart of picturesque Phang Nga Bay, iconic southern Thailand scenery. We offer two wonderful resorts on Koh Yao Noi, the eco-chic luxury of Six Senses Koh Yao Noi Resort & Spa and the less luxurious but equally lovely Paradise Koh Yao Noi Resort.

On Koh Yao Yai is the brand new Santhiya Koh Yao Yai Resort which is the sister hotel to the Santhiya Koh Phangan and offers luxury villas, ideal for Thailand honeymooners.

Phi Phi Island

Phi Phi Island is famous for its white sand beaches and dramatic limestone scenery and is set in one of the most beautiful areas of Thailand.

Divers are drawn here for the sheer variety of world class dive sites, whilst others simply enjoy Phi Phi Island's beaches, amongst the best in Thailand.

The Outrigger Phi Phi Island Resort offers a range of accommodation including luxury pool villas, whilst Zeavola offers the most charming boutique resort on Phi Phi Island. Phi Phi can easily be combined with Phuket for a great two-centre Thailand holiday or honeymoon.

Khao Lak

Khao Lak, just one hour north of Phuket is an emerging Thailand beach resort area. Much less developed than Phuket itself, the beaches at Khao Lak are lovely, with long stretches of palm fringed sand interrupted by the occasional beach restaurant or resort.

A holiday in Khao Lak is for those looking for peace and quiet and a romantic Thailand holiday. We highly recommend 'The Sarojin' for a luxurious Thailand honeymoon. Khao Lak can easily be combined with Phuket, Krabi or a stay at Elephant Hills in Khao Sok National Park.

Hua Hin

Hua Hin is only a couple of hours drive south from Bangkok and is a low-key Thailand resort area popular with the Thai Royal Family. Hua Hin is famous for its golf courses and there are a few historic and scenic attractions as well near Hua Hin.

Boutique Hotels have popped up in recent years in Hua Hin, making a beach holiday in Hua Hin even more attractive. Cha Am is a beach resort area about 20 minutes north of Hua Hin, whilst the same distance to the south is the laid back beach resort area of Pranburi and the lovely Aleenta Resort & Spa.

Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is the fourth largest island in Thailand and offers a quiet and relaxing island style Thailand holiday. Koh Phangan is just 30 minutes by resort boat from Koh Samui - more accessible than many people imagine.

We offer two lovely resorts on Koh Phangan, both of which are ideal for honeymooners. Santhiya offers charming Thai style villas, whilst Anantara Rasananda is more luxurious and trendy.

Many people combine a holiday in Koh Phangan with Koh Samui which makes a great two centre Thailand holiday. Koh Phangan also offers some of the best beaches in Thailand.

Koh Samet

Koh Samet is a small Thai island in the Gulf of Thailand offering some of the best beaches in Thailand. Koh Samet is normally reached overland from Bangkok (in about 3 hours).

Koh Samet hasn’t had the same level of development as other Thai islands, though there are now a couple of great luxury boutique hotels in Koh Samet.

We highly recommend the Paradee, which is undoubtedly Koh Samet's most luxurious boutique resort. Koh Samet is ideal as a relaxing getaway for those looking for a quieter Thai island holiday or honeymoon.

Koh Kood

Koh Kood is the fourth largest Thai island. Close to Trat on the mainland, Koh Kood, also known as Koh Kut, is 330km and about 3 hours from Bangkok on the way to Cambodia.

We recommend the brand new Away Resort Koh Kood as a great value resort on Koh Kood. There are less than 2,000 people residing on Koh Kood, where tourism aside, the main industries are fishing and coconut harvesting. Koh Kood is a flat island with some great beaches and a wild jungle interior.

Getting There

There are daily flights to Bangkok with Thai Airways, EVA Air and British Airways. Flying time is approximately 12 hours. Onward flights to destinations within Thailand are frequent and take around one hour to most destinations.

Several Airlines offer indirect flights to Thailand including Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui.

Getting Around

Internal flights are the most efficient way to get around Thailand. Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways and Air Asia between them connect almost all areas within Thailand.

Those possessing a valid International Driving License will be able to rent and drive a car. Road signs and maps are commonly displayed in the English language and international car hire companies such as Avis and Hertz also operate in major tourist destinations such as Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket and Samui Island. It is also easy to rent a car with a driver.

Getting around town there are several options. The ubiquitious three-wheeled Tuk Tuks are fun for short transfers while metered taxis offer a nice (and cheap) air-conditioned ride. In Bangkok, the public transportation includes River Boat, a Skytrain and Underground Metro which are easy to use, reasonably priced and link most major tourist areas! A great way to avoid the city's infamous traffic jams.

Visas

Visas are not required for Thailand for UK passport holders.

Please note that visa information is subject to change at any time, so please check you have the correct documents for travel.

Costs & Money

A typical 10 day Thailand touring itinerary including flights from the UK will cost between £1,500 and £2,500 pp depending on the choice of accommodation

Costs within Thailand are low, but higher than neighbouring countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia. Please find some sample costs below to help with an indication of costs within Thailand.

Meal out in a local restaurant: £2-5

One hour spa treatment: £7 (locally), £20 (hotel)

The currency in Thailand is the Baht. Banks, which are open Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 15:30, give the best exchange rates. You will receive a better exchange rate in country than overseas so it is advisable to wait until reaching Thailand to exchange your money.

At the Bangkok airport arrival area there are banks offering the same rate as you will find in the city centre. In tourist areas, there are also currency exchange outlets that stay open later, usually until around 8pm.

ATM machines are found throughout the country and most will accept foreign ATM cards. ATM's for withdrawing Thai Baht are widely available in major airports, shopping malls, hotels and almost all provincial banks in Thailand. You will also find ATM's in most 7-11 convenience stores.

For most banks there is a maximum withdrawal of 20,000 THB per transaction (about £400); however several withdrawals may be made in a single day. Ask your tour guide for help when you need to locate an ATM.

Your bank may also put a hold on card use until they are notified that the transaction is genuine so bear this in mind if relying on cash withdrawals.

Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted, but most other major credit cards are also accepted in Thailand. Not all shops and restaurants will accept credit cards, so do check with the cashier before making any purchases.

Bear in mind that some places may pass onto you the fee imposed on them by the credit card company (approximately 2.25% to 3.5%, depending on card type), so you may want to pay by cash instead of credit card in some instances.

Health & Safety

Thailand is a very safe country for travelling if you follow the usual precautions. As a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags.

Do beware of scams and touts that remain fairly common in popular tourist destinations. As in any country, demonstrations do occasionally take place however they are usually in isolated areas away from the major tourist sites and has little, if any, affect on travelers.

To see the latest travel advice we recommend the Foreign Office Travel Advisory website. Bear in mind that the FCO advice does tend to err on the side of caution, but nevertheless is a good guide to health and safety considerations if taken within context.

For several years there have been some local problems in the border areas of the deep south near Malaysia. Please note that this is an area well away from the beach resort areas.

The standard of medical facilities is generally good and Thailand has a growing medical tourism industry. It is advisable to take out a good medical insurance policy before traveling in case evacuation is needed.

It is not advisable to drink tap water in Thailand but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. Ice in drinks is generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas.

Vaccinations

We aren't medical experts and prefer to leave medical advice to those more qualified. Some GP's will offer very good advice, but many will not be as up to date on travel health issues. The main vaccinations for travellers are usually available at GP surgeries.

We find MASTA Travel Clinic extremely good and very thorough and those looking at doing any amount of travelling in South East Asia would do very well to contact the nearest MASTA clinic.

Bear in mind that many vaccinations need to be planned well in advance of travel.

Thai Cuisine

The basis of a Thai meal is rice, usually steamed although it can be made into noodles, while glutinous or sticky rice is preferred with some specialties.

Accompanying the rice are main dishes featuring vegetables, meat, seafood, egg, fish and soup.

Although Thais generally prefer hot, spicy food, not all dishes are so intense and there are grades of hotness as Thai food can be modulated to suit most tastes.

Thailand is also the perfect place for a large choice of tropical fruits such as mangoes, pineapple, bananas, longan, mangosteen, jack fruit, as well as the famous durian, dubbed 'the fruit of the gods' for its very special smell and taste.

Clothing

Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for traveling in Thailand.

The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects.

A lightweight raincoat is a good idea in the rainy season. During the winter months from November to February, warm clothing is needed for visiting northern Thailand.

Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings and shoes should be removed before entering a private home.

Shopping

Textiles are possibly the best buy in Thailand and Thai silk, considered the best in the world, is very inexpensive. The Thai shoulder bags known as yâam are generally well made and come in many varieties, some woven by hill tribes.

Other items to look out for include gems and jewellery, silverware, bronze ware, woodcarvings, lacquerware, celadon pottery, leather goods and tailoring.

Communication

Most hotels have Wi-Fi now, usually in-room and usually but not always free of charge. Wi-Fi hotspots are becoming increasingly available in hotels and public spaces in Bangkok.

Internet cafes are widely available everywhere and are easily found in major towns and cities.

Most hotels have offer international dialing although be warned that these services are expensive in Thailand. The best way to stay in touch is to buy a local SIM Card for your mobile phone at a convenience store.

They cost approximately 150 THB and offer international dialing rates as low as 5 THB per minute and free incoming international calls. Internet cafes usually offer cheap web-phone call systems as well, however the quality is often poor.

Insurance

We highly recommend that all travelers to Southeast Asia purchase Travel Insurance which covers medical evacuation by air.

In case of an emergency, be sure to collect all receipts and invoices, as well as a copy of the medical report, for your insurance company.

We also recommend carrying your medical insurance registration number to speed up the insurance process in case of emergency.

Cultural Considerations

Visitors to Thailand should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings and shoes should be removed before entering a private home.

What's the food like?

The basis of a Thai meal is rice, usually steamed although it can be made into noodles, while glutinous or sticky rice is preferred with some specialties. Accompanying the rice are main dishes featuring vegetables, meat, seafood, egg, fish and soup.

Although Thais generally prefer hot, spicy food, not all dishes are so intense and there are grades of hotness as Thai food can be modulated to suit most tastes.

Thailand is also the perfect place for a large choice of tropical fruits such as mangoes, pineapple, bananas, longan, mangosteen, jack fruit, as well as the famous durian, dubbed 'the fruit of the gods' for its very special smell and taste.

What are the domestic airlines like?

Internal flights are the best way to get around Thailand. Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia and Nok Air all serve the main destinations, operating Airbus, Boeing and ATR aircraft. Fares are great value and service on these airlines is efficient and reliable.

Nok Air is the budget subsiduary of Thai Airways and Air Asia is Asia's largest airline (the equivalent of Ryan Air in Asia).

Bangkok Airways offer a higher level of in-flight service. We do not recommend flying with Orient Thai Airlines and will not book flights for you with this airline.

Do I need to tip?

Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in a country where the average annual income is very low compared to Europe.

It is customary to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters also expect to be tipped.

Do not let a guide talk you into tipping more than you plan to. It is totally up to you who you tip, when and how much.

Currency

The currency in Thailand is the Baht.

Electricity

Thailand uses 220V (50 cycles per second) but the plugs are not standardized. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.

Time Zone

Thailand is 7 hours ahead of GMT.

Capital City

Bangkok

Population

Thailand has 70 million people.

Language

The most widely spoken language in Thailand is Thai, a complicated language with a unique alphabet.

Beside the numerous hill tribe dialects, other languages spoken include Lao, Khmer and Chinese.

Most Thai people, especially in the major cities, speak English and tourists should have no troubles with communication in these areas.

Religion

Theravada Buddhism is practiced by about 95% of Thais. Every Thai male is expected to become a monk for a short period in his life.

There is also a large Muslim minority in Thailand’s four southernmost provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and Satun.