Use this list of resources to help plan your trip to Thailand. This page includes ideas on where to go, when to go and what to see. You can also find practical advice on flights to Thailand and essential information you need to know for visas and health matters. Scroll down or click on the links below for more information on each category.
Accommodation | Arrival | Departure | Etiquette | Flights | Food & Drink | Health | Help | Insurance | Language | Money | Nightlife & Entertainment | Precautions | Shopping | Tours | Transport | Visas | Weather | What to Bring | What to See & Do | Where to Go
1. How to get the best rates for accommodation in Thailand. Online booking sites Agoda* and Booking.com* often have the best rates for hotels and guest-houses in Thailand. They also offer a best-price guarantee and these are the two companies I use myself when booking hotels on my travels around Thailand.
2. City or province. When booking accommodation be careful to check the location is where you want. In Thailand, the name of the city is often the name of the province. This means, for example, that a hotel described as being in Chiang Mai may actually be in the Chiang Mai countryside rather than in Chiang Mai city centre.
3. Thaizer recommendations. Over the years I’ve travelled to just about every province in Thailand and stayed in hundreds of hotels and guest-houses. Some have been fabulous, some OK and a few have been terrible. Whether you’re looking for the best place to stay in Bangkok or advice on where to stay in Chiang Mai, each destination page on this site has suggestions for accommodation. To compare hotels in Thailand, use the search box below.
4. Fill out your arrival card. Thailand uses an old-fashioned system of arrival and departure cards. You will need to fill the card out before joining the queue for immigration/passport control. Carrying a pen with you will make things easier.
5. Two airports in Bangkok. Most international visitors to Thailand will arrive at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport (BKK), but be aware that some flights (e.g. with Air Asia) arrive at Bangkok Don Mueang (DMK).
Hotels near Bangkok airport
Connecting bus service between Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang
6. Onward travel. If you are travelling into Bangkok the most comfortable option is usually to take a taxi or arrange a private transfer*. There are also some handy alternatives if you are travelling light or are on your own, with the airport rail link and airport buses providing a cheap service into the city.
7. Fill out your departure card. When departing Thailand by air, land or sea you will still need to complete your departure card before clearing immigration/passport control.
8. Allow plenty of time. The queues at immigration/security can be long and the walk to the departure gate can also add time. If you are flying on an international flight from Bangkok it is advisable to arrive at the airport three hours before your scheduled departure time. For domestic flights within Thailand, two hours should be sufficient.
9. VAT refunds. Tourists are able to obtain VAT refunds on some goods although you need to make sure you have the correct paperwork from the point of purchase.
10. Thailand do’s and don’ts. Although many minor indiscretions in Thailand will be overlooked, there are some important cultural do’s and don’ts to be aware of.
Read more about how to be polite in Thailand »
11. Booking flights to Thailand. Skyscanner is a good place to start researching for flights to Thailand. There can also be advantages in booking directly with the airline.
12. Domestic flights in Thailand. For internal flights within Thailand, I find it easier to book directly with the airline. Many will have promotion fares if you can book far enough in advance. Look too for seasonal offers which can be excellent value.
Food & drink
13. Food, glorious food. Thailand is justifiably famous for its food. Whether it’s a tasty green curry in Bangkok, a spicy tom yam kung in Ko Samui or a satisfying bowl of khao soi in Chiang Mai, food is at the heart of Thai culture.
14. Hygiene. Eating at a street food stall for the first time can be intimidating, but these nondescript little stalls can be wonderful places to eat. If Thai people are eating there it’s a reasonable bet that the food is good. Iced drinks are generally safe although you should use bottled water and avoid drinking tap water.
15. The importance of keeping hydrated. Stomach upsets and illness that are sometimes attributed to food are often the result of not drinking enough water. Don’t underestimate the effects of the heat and humidity in Thailand. If you are out and about sightseeing, take regular breaks for drinks and keep a bottle of water with you.
17. Pharmacies & hospitals in Thailand. If you do have the misfortune to be ill during your trip, pharmacies are a good place to start. Pharmacists in most areas are able to speak English and an over the counter treatment is often all that most people need. Should you require more serious treatment, the pharmacist or your hotel will be able to suggest nearby hospitals. Medical staff, especially in tourist areas, usually speak good English.
18. Bringing prescribed drugs into Thailand. In most cases, bringing prescribed drugs into Thailand isn’t a problem. However, issues can arise if you travel via another country (e.g. Dubai) where regulations are stricter.
19. Tourist police. If you run into problems in Thailand, there is a tourist police service which can be a useful first point of contact. The telephone line is free to call and is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1155 for assistance.
20. Consular assistance. If you have more serious issues, you can contact your home country’s embassy or consulate in Bangkok.
21. Is travel insurance really necessary? Travel insurance is an essential part of your pre-trip planning. If you require hospital treatment in Thailand you need to pay for it. There is no National Health Service or free Medicare for tourists. Make sure you are covered and be aware that there are some activities e.g riding a motorbike, which may be excluded from your insurance policy.
22. Useful Thai phrases. The Thai language can be difficult to grasp, but do try to learn at least a few words during your visit. Trying out your Thai language skills can be the perfect ice-breaker and establishes good intent. If you get the pronunciation wrong, mai pen rai! Smile and embrace the Thai concept of sanuk.
Read more Thai language tips »
23. Where is the best place to change money into Thai Baht? In most cases you will get a better exchange rate in Thailand compared to your home country. Read the tips here for the best place to change your money into Thai Baht.
24. Do I need to tip? Tipping isn’t as common in Thailand as some other countries and is at your discretion. However, there are times when a small tip is a good idea. Find out more about tipping in Thailand here.
25. Should I take cash or credit/debit cards? Credit cards or debit cards are ideal for booking flights or hotels online. But for day-to-day transactions, Thailand is predominantly a cash culture. Although that is slowly starting to change, if you are eating at small restaurants or street stalls you will need to pay by cash.
26. Are there any fees to use an ATM/cash machine? There is a fee for using overseas bank cards at Thai ATMs. The standard fee is currently 220 Baht.
Nightlife & entertainment
27. Paying the bill. Many visitors to Thailand are able to enjoy nightlife and entertainment venues without any problems. Be aware that many rooftop bars in Bangkok add on a service charge plus VAT to prices and this isn’t always clearly displayed. Elsewhere, bars and pubs often use a system where the price of each drink you order is hand-written on a receipt which is then placed in a small container in front of you. If you order more drinks, more receipts are added and you pay the total when you are ready to leave. Deliberate padding of bills does happen in some venues as do genuine mistakes. Keep an eye on your receipts or you can also opt to pay each time you order.
28. Thai attitudes towards safety. Thailand has a very different safety culture compared to most Western countries. The apparent lack of rules and regulations is part of what makes Thailand so different. But behind this seemingly carefree lifestyle there are some grim statistics. Thailand’s roads have been ranked as the second most dangerous in the world. If you’ve never ridden a motorbike before, Thailand is not the place to learn.
29. Carrying your passport. When booking into hotels or checking in for domestic flights you will need to show your passport. Thai people are required to show their ID card. Some foreign embassies advise their citizens to carry their passport with them at all times in Thailand.
30. Avoid common scams. Con-artists do operate in some tourist locations in Thailand. One of the most common scams is around the Grand Palace in Bangkok. If an English-speaking Thai person approaches you to say the Grand Palace is closed for the day, politely ignore them. If you engage in conversation the next step will be them telling you about a ‘lucky’ Buddha temple nearby or a special government sale. It’s a scam. For the most part, Thai people are reserved and will not normally approach foreign tourists and engage in conversation. If you are in a tourist area be wary about scams, but don’t be paranoid.
31. Stray dogs. In some locations in Thailand stray dogs can be a nuisance. Although many are harmless they can sometimes be aggressive if you walk past them.
32. Vaping and smoking. Please be aware that vaping and electronic cigarettes are banned in Thailand. And at some beaches in Thailand, smoking is also banned.
33. How to haggle in Thailand. Haggling is part of the Thai shopping experience, but there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. Find out more here.
34. Bangkok shopping guide. If you’re heading to Bangkok, take a look at this guide to shopping in the Thai capital.
35. Tax refunds. Tourists are able to take advantage of tax savings on some goods by claiming a VAT refund. This involves filling out some paperwork and won’t always be worth the hassle, but if you have made a major purchase such as a camera or laptop, the money you can claim back can be significant.
36. Organised tours. Throughout this site you will find information about various tourist attractions around Thailand with advice on how to visit them independently. If you would prefer to take an organised tour, check out the Thailand page from specialist tour company Klook*. And for tours with a special focus on Thai food and local experiences, Take Me Tour* is an excellent option.
37. Trains. Train tickets can be purchased at any Thai railway station. For long-distance journeys it can sometimes be advisable to book in advance. The State Railway of Thailand’s (SRT) website isn’t the most modern or the easiest to use, but it is possible to book train tickets online. You can also use the services of an online agent such as 12Go Asia* whose website is far more user-friendly than the SRT’s.
38. Buses. Not all bus companies in Thailand operate to the same safety standards. The best companies to use are the government regulated services and those of reputable operators including, The Transport Company Ltd., Green Bus Company and Nakhon Chai Air.
39. Taxis and tuk-tuks. In Bangkok, taxis are supposed to charge fares according to the meter rate. In most cases there isn’t any issue, but some drivers may claim ‘meter broken’ in the hope of getting an inflated fare. Official taxis operating from both Bangkok airports should charge the meter rate plus the standard airport surcharge.
There has been an ongoing battle over the legality of ride-hailing apps, Uber and Grab. At the time of writing, Uber is illegal in Thailand, but Grab is still operating. However, there is plenty of animosity from registered taxi drivers in various parts of the country. Be discreet if you use Grab cars to avoid unwanted attention from disgruntled taxi drivers .
Tuk-tuks can be fun to ride in, but are often more expensive than a taxi-meter. To get a better rate, try to flag one down that is moving instead of one parked up outside tourist attractions. The same principle also applies to taxis.
In many locations in Thailand, open-sided trucks known as songthaews offer a shared taxi service at reasonable rates. These vehicles can usually be hired privately too.
40. Cars and motorbikes. As mentioned in the precaution section above, Thailand is not a place for inexperienced motorbike riders. Even experienced riders and car drivers should be extra careful on Thailand’s roads.
Hiring a car
Hiring a motorbike
41. Boats. Boat and ferry tickets can normally be bought on the day of travel. If you prefer to have the security of a ticket in advance, you can book online with 12Go Asia*. Try to stick to registered boat services and make sure the vessel has life jackets.
42. Bangkok transport. Bangkok has a handy Skytrain and Metro service. Although they can be good for getting around parts of the city during off-peak periods, these services are often packed during the morning and evening rush-hours. Travelling with large luggage on the Skytrain or Metro during rush-hour is not a pleasant experience and you will find it easier and more comfortable to take a taxi.
Read more articles on travel and transport in Thailand »
43. Do I need a visa? There is no one-size fits all policy when it comes to visas for Thailand. Whether you need a visa or not depends on a number of factors including your nationality and how long you will be staying. Some tourists are eligible for a visa exemption while others may be able to obtain a visa on arrival. Please note, you may also be asked to show proof of funds when arriving in Thailand. Visa rules in Thailand have a habit of changing and regulations can be applied differently depending on the border crossing used. You can read more information in the visa category here, but if you are in any doubt you should contact the Thai embassy or consulate in your home country.
44. When is the best time to visit Thailand? Check the month-by-month guides here to find out what weather you can expect during your trip. Any month can be a good month to visit Thailand and with different weather patterns on the Gulf Coast and Andaman Coast there is plenty of scope for a beach holiday.
What to bring
45. Packing lists. To keep comfortable in the heat, lightweight cotton and linen clothing are good choices. Laundry services are plentiful and inexpensive in Thailand so there is no need to bring bundles of clothes. At least one pair of trousers and smart casual shoes are a good idea for men if you are planning to visit a rooftop bar or restaurant in Bangkok. Women should bring an outfit that covers the knees and shoulders if you are planning to visit temples or royal palaces during your stay.
The strength of the air conditioning on buses, trains and at airports can catch travellers by surprise and a sweater or light jacket can be a welcome addition. A folding umbrella with a UV lining is a handy item to have and offers protection from strong sun and rain. These umbrellas can be bought for around 100 Baht in cities and resorts around Thailand. Although brand name sun lotions (e.g. Nivea) can be purchased at branches of Boots and Watsons in Thailand, you may find it is cheaper to buy in your home country.
What to see & do
46. Must-see attractions. If you are visiting Thailand for the first time, the must-see attractions in Bangkok include the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. For ideas on what to see and do in each city or region, take a look at the destination pages.
Where to go
48. Destinations. The best place to go during your trip is down to individual preference. You may want to hit the islands and beaches of the south for a few weeks or spend time exploring the mountain scenery in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces in the north. Take a look at the destination pages to see what appeals to you:
More destinations »
49. Itineraries. For more inspiration on where to go, check out the suggestions in the itineraries section of this site.
50. Thaizer planning service. In response to readers’ requests, I am working on a trip planning service. Watch this space!