Thailand is the perfect introduction to travel in Asia with its rich culture, some of the best food on the planet, fantastic nature, and well worn tourist industry. It is a large and complex country, if you plan on exploring it without a tour company a great deal of research is necessary to make the most of the trip.
Where to visit
Tackling an entire nation in a limited amount of time can be difficult, but there are three regions of Thailand every first time visitor should strive to experience:
+Bangkok – the capital and largest city filled with exquisite temples, street food, malls and markets, museums, and interesting attractions. It is fast paced and the air is dirty, but it is a must see.
+The islands of the south all have different vibes, we fell in love with the laid back province of Krabi – impeccable scenery, wildlife, warm turquoise water, and traveling by the infamous longtail boats.
+Chiang Mai – of the northern region has the benefit of being a small city – still has great culture and food, but a more relaxed atmosphere. From here you can visit an elephant sanctuary.
To get from one region to another, short flights are your best option. They are often cheaper and always quicker. If you want the experience – there are overnight trains, or if you are on an extreme budget there are buses. With two weeks to spend exploring, and adjusting to jetlag, four days in each location was a perfect fit.
A key role on your trip, be sure to research carefully. Most notable weather situations in the country are monsoon season (July to October) and extreme heat (February to May). Even in the cool and dry season (November and December), weather on the islands can differ so choose where you stay wisely.
Food in Thailand is heavenly. Most famous of all, the delicious noodle dish pad-thai has made its way to all corners of the world, don’t leave without trying it. Suck the juices out of the heads of prawns. Devour all of the curries. Slurp up the Tom Yum soup. Eat a refreshing papaya salad. Live on street food – meat on a stick, insects, anything that grabs your eye. Don’t skimp on fresh fruit – best of all you have to try controversial durian, which I loved! For dessert eat mango sticky rice, and drink Thai iced tea. This is just cracking the surface on the culinary wonders in this country.
Baht is much weaker than USD, exploring the country on a limited budget is feasible as accommodations and street food are plentiful and cheap. Cash is king, small bills are helpful. Tipping isn’t always practiced in Thailand, it is common courtesy to round up in taxis and sit down restaurants.
My favorite apps for traveling in Thailand were AirBNB to find hotels and Uber to get around. They are both technically illegal in the country – but everyone uses them. Grab is another taxi app used in South East Asia. A simple currency converter app is always helpful for quickly calculating the exchange rate. Google Translates is great for the language barrier, many Thais in the tourist industry speak some English, but this makes life very simple. Maps.me is super helpful to conserve wifi, download maps of the cities you are going to before hand and voila, walk directions are concise.
+Learn a few words such as hello, ‘sawa dee’ and thank you ‘khob khun krab’ for men, ‘khob khun ka’ for women, just to be polite.
+Don’t say anything negative about the royal family.
+Dress conservatively when entering a place of worship, cover shoulders and legs.
+Always request meter for taxis
+Driving is on the left hand side
+Most places use US style power converters, 1 out of 4 of our locations did not – so you may want to buy an adapter just in case.
+Be prepared to haggle at the markets, with any day tours you’d like to take, and potentially your taxi drivers.
+Monkeys can get aggressive when it comes to food, think carefully if you want to feed them.
+Scams are prevalent, but if you are informed upon the basic ones and use common sense – you have nothing to worry about. Don’t take the all day tuk-tuk tours, and the Grand Palace is not closed.
+Please don’t ride the elephants. Consider visiting an elephant sanctuary instead to have a more personal experience and pamper these incredible creatures who are severely mistreated throughout the country for touristic and industrial reasons.