Travel tips for visiting Thailand                                                          

Thailand is one of the most interesting and easy going countries in the world and can make for the perfect holiday destination. However, it pays to learn a little about the country before traveling here as there are certain cultural nuances to be aware of so as not to upset the locals and to ensure a more enjoyable time.

Getting there and around

Bangkok is the main gateway to Thailand, receiving flights from around the world to the shiny new Suvarnabhumi International Airport (pronounced locally as ‘Suwanapoom’). Taxis, minivans and buses provide transport to the city centre and farther afield. Ensure you use a metered taxi from the designated desks outside of the Arrivals halls.

Low-cost carriers such as AirAsia and Nok Air provide the fastest versus cost-effective travel in the country, yet always route through Bangkok, even if traveling from Chiang Mai to Phuket. The exception is the national airline, Thai Airways, which operates direct flights on this route.

Trains and buses provide extensive routings around the country, although there is only one main rail line running from Chiang Mai through Bangkok to the south. First to third-class carriages are available, and it pays to book a sleeper if on a long journey like Hat Yai to Bangkok or Chiang Mai to Bangkok. Second-class air-conditioned sleepers are the most comfortable and cost-effective.

Buses go everywhere and are the mainstay of transport around Thailand. They offer the cheapest form of transport and go from basic, non air-conditioned coaches up to super VIP buses with only 20 or so seats.

More on transport and timetables in Thailand

Thailand weather - tips on when to come.

Thailand has a tropical climate which sees two monsoons in the south and one in the north – ultimately meaning wet and dry seasons. The north of Thailand sees the longest dry season, and the best time to visit is between October and January December when temperatures are cooler and rainfall is at a minimum. At all other times of the year the weather tends to be humid, with Bangkok seeing the highest humidity. March and April are the hottest months throughout the country and best avoided. Dressing for the weather is essential when visiting Thailand, with lightweight, slack cotton clothing being the best bet. The Northern highlands get chilly in the winter, but otherwise it’s usually warm across Thailand.

The busiest season is from December to April, when people are escaping the Northern winters, thus prices are higher and demand greater – especially over the Christmas period. Although the rainy season extends from May to October it consists of tropical showers interspersed with sunshine. During this time the heat disappears under clouds but humidity can be extreme. However, it’s the prettiest time of the year to witness the countryside.

Thailand health and safety

Thailand is one of the world’s safest tourist destinations despite recent high-profile crimes. A generally respectful, pacifist Buddhist nature among genuine smiling people is the main reason and most Thais will do anything to avoid flare-ups. Women find Thailand safe to travel alone, although being vigilant at night is a must. Gays will also find the society easy going.

Malaria and dengue fever are major tropical diseases to be aware of while visiting Thailand, although they are mainly restricted to remote border regions that tourists seldom visit. In any case, talking with your doctor about the options for preventative treatment is a good idea, bearing in mind that courses of anti-malaria medication may need to be started several weeks before visiting.

The main threats to one’s health when visiting Thailand are from the food, the water and the heat. If you are not used to spicy food, try not to go over the top and always be wary when eating from a hawker stall. While street vendor food is generally fine, the chance of getting an upset stomach is higher than when eating at a reputable restaurant. Tap water is not potable in Thailand, despite what local Bangkok authorities may say, and you should always drink bottled water, which is cheap and readily available. Brushing your teeth with tap water is fine, however.

Thailand is hot and if you’re not used to the tropics, spend several days acclimatizing to the heat by minimizing sun time and keeping in the shade around midday. Not drinking alcohol during the day is also a good idea and you should always wear sun block, a hat, and sunglasses when on the beach.

Thailand visas and immigration

Tourists from most countries don’t need a visa to enter Thailand for less than 30 days stay. A visa on arrival (VOA) will be stamped in your passport and is extendable for 10 days in some cases. Should you require more time, apply for a 60-day tourist visa before you travel. Alternatively, simply leave the country and re-enter to get another 30 days free. You can only do this twice within a six-month period.

Thailand costs

Thailand is still one of the most value for money destinations in the world, where hotels, travel, food and drink are all very reasonable. The exception is Bangkok and Phuket, although they still compare favourably to other world destinations and major cities. Typically a three star hotel room could be had for as little as 1000 baht (about 20 euros), a Thai meal costs 100 baht in a mid-market Tourist restaurant and a quart of beer roughly the same.  Airport taxi rides cost about 200 baht for a 20 minute ride, a full day tour up-to 2000 baht. Prices can vary wildly from tourist traps to local markets.

Thailand etiquette tips

Whatever you may have heard about Thailand, it is quite a conservative country, bar the obvious red light districts, and people tend to dress well and remain spotlessly clean. Leave beachwear for the beach, cover up while visiting temples and always take your shoes off before entering a temple or someone’s house.

Two useful tips on social conventions when visiting Thailand are to not criticize the royal family and to always keep your cool. The king is deeply loved by all in Thailand and it’s a good idea to refrain from discussing the monarchy when out and about for fear of inadvertently upsetting the locals. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, try and keep cool no matter how much you feel like bursting.

Other etiquette tips include not touching people on the head and not pointing with your feet or your finger (use your thumb instead), and women should never touch monks.