Thailand Holiday Planning Guide
Offering a rich culinary heritage, sun-kissed beaches, exotic culture, tropical climate, and stunning landscapes, a Thailand vacation remains one of the world's greatest magnets for curious travelers. In between the busy and crowded cities, the Asian nation features a quiet countryside: a blend of lush rice paddies, flourishing tropical forests, and tiny villages living according to an age-old agricultural clock that continues to play a major role in the locals' lifestyle. A tour of Thailand reveals a deep devotion to Buddhism, exemplified by eye-catching temples lavishly decorated with golden Buddha statues, simple shrines, and lively religious festivals celebrated throughout the country.
Places to Visit in Thailand
Regions of ThailandChiang Mai Province
: The verdant hills of this province reveal a world of elephants, lush forests, historic temples, and boundless hiking trails.Krabi Province
: Topping many Thailand itineraries, Krabi enchants travelers with its tropical islands and scenery, complete with picture-perfect beaches, caves, and striking limestone formations rising from the waters.Phang Nga Province
: Hidden jungle temples and world-class snorkeling await in this coastal region, mostly populated by quiet fishing villages.Phuket
: From secluded lagoons to booming party destinations, the large island of Phuket has everything you need for a beachside Thailand vacation.Kanchanaburi Province
: A nature lover's paradise, this lush province is chock-full of ancient ruins, cultural sights, and pristine protected areas.Surat Thani Province
: Often overlooked on tours of Thailand, Surat Thani's pristine nature and isolated islands provide endless exploration opportunities for adventurous visitors.
Cities in ThailandBangkok
: Straddling the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Thailand's vivacious capital offers a wide array of historic sites and leisure activities to suit every taste and budget.Chiang Mai
: Embodying the best of a tranquil Thailand vacation, Chiang Mai is home to ancient temples and a vibrant culinary scene, while also serving as gateway to the province's lush rainforests and wildlife sanctuaries.Khao Lak
: A series of coastal villages, Khao Lak promises a laid-back beach holiday with plenty of day trip options.Pattaya
: Nestled on a crescent-shaped bay, Pattaya has earned its reputation as a party hotspot, and boasts abundant nightclubs, restaurants, and shopping opportunities.Krabi Town
: A hub of Thailand tourism, Krabi Town provides a wide range of amenities while serving as the gateway to the dramatic scenery of Krabi Province and the Andaman Islands.Patong
: Patong's picturesque beaches, plethora of bars and nightclubs, and varied activities appeal to the Western party crowds.
Popular Thailand Tourist AttractionsWat Pho
: Rich in history and heritage, this popular temple is best known for its large statue of a reclining Buddha.The Grand Palace
: A symbol of Bangkok and highlight of many Thailand tours, this former royal palace still awes with its emblematic architecture, grandiose halls, and immaculate grounds.Bangla Road
: Patong's main strip comes to life at night, with open-air bars and restaurants on every corner, offering affordable beer, loud music, and adult entertainment.Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun)
: This Buddhist temple originated in the 17th century but later became a Bangkok landmark, known for its characteristic spires.Phuket Big Buddha
: Perched atop a lush green hill, this massive marble Buddha can be seen from miles away and offers expansive vistas of the island's scenery.Chao Phraya River
: Flowing through Bangkok and into the Gulf of Thailand, a trip along this river will take you past scenic villages and recognizable city attractions.Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew)
: This sprawling, ornate temple complex is home to the iconic Emerald Buddha, revered as the protector of Thailand.Maya Bay
: This secluded alcove remains famous for its scenic appearance, with vivid turquoise waters surrounded by towering limestone hills.Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
: Make the strenuous climb of more than 300 steps or ascend by cable car to the temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which awards you with panoramic views of Chiang Mai below.Patong Beach
: As the main beach of Thailand's party capital, this stretch of sand offers endless entertainment, from lively bars and restaurants to spas and water sports.
Planning a Thailand Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Thailand with Kids
There's plenty for kids to enjoy on a tour of Thailand--whether you're looking for a relaxing beach holiday, majestic wildlife, delicious food, or historic sights, Thailand has it all. Large cities such as Bangkok
and Chiang Mai
offer a treasure trove of vibrant night markets, cultural attractions, and culinary experiences. Head to Phuket
and Ko Samui
for resorts, entertainment, and plenty of fun on the sand; visit the hill tribes of the north for a fascinating glimpse of traditional life; or frolic with the elephants on the island of Ko Chang
Things to Do in Thailand with Kids
Along with endless beaches and resorts, you'll find plenty of family-friendly things to do in Thailand, especially for outdoorsy types. Day tours, safaris, and recreational activities abound, while kids can partake in hours of fun at parks, such as Surf House Phuket - Kata Beach
, Safari World
, and Coco Splash
. Bond with the elephants at Ban Kwan Chang
, or visit one of the many zoos
and get to know the diverse local wildlife. When in Bangkok, you can tour the colorful night markets for a scrumptious snack, or enjoy a cruise along Chao Phraya River
Tips for a Family Vacation in Thailand
Thais are known for their love of children, and your kids, especially toddlers, will receive plenty of attention from the locals. Although safe, large cities can get very crowded and congested, so try not to lug a large stroller--instead, opt for a small, collapsible model or a baby carrier. Affordable, quality food and resort accommodations are virtually ubiquitous, making it easy to put together a comfortable, convenient Thailand itinerary. Do bring plenty of mosquito repellent and remember that most places you visit won't have diaper-changing stations, high chairs, and other childcare amenities.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Thailand
Cuisine of Thailand
Often spicy and served with generous amounts of fragrant herbs, the bold, complex fusion of flavors in Thai dishes have made them a staple in restaurants worldwide. Rice and noodle dishes prevail in Thai cooking, often combined with fish, meat, or fresh vegetables. Ingredients and preparation styles vary by region, with the southern areas known for their curries and use of coconut milk, while the northeastern cuisine exhibits influences from Laos and is famed for its spicy chili sauces. A culinary tour of Thailand has endless possibilities, but no tourist should miss out on representative dishes, such as green curry, khao phad (fried rice), phad Thai (a dish with rice noodles), or the hot and sour tom yum soup. Popular desserts in Thailand include fresh fruit and sweet, often coconut-based custards and puddings.
You'll certainly notice that Thais eat a lot of street food, which is of especially high quality. For example, in Bangkok--hailed by some as the food capital of the world--street vendors cover a dizzying array of dishes, while mobile stalls and night markets keep locals and tourists well fed after dark.
Shopping in Thailand
You'll have no lack of shopping opportunities on holiday in Thailand, a country known for its affordable tailored clothing, teak furniture, delicate handicrafts, and numerous other goods. Sprawling Bangkok boasts everything from glitzy malls
to vibrant marketplaces
. Head to Chiang Mai Province
for the finest arts and crafts, browse the specialty shops of Old Phuket Town
, or experience the floating markets of Damnoen Saduak
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Thailand
Interesting Facts About Thailand
● Thailand means "Land of the Free" in the native language.
● Thailand's national flower is the orchid.
● A number of cat breeds originated in Thailand, including the sleek gray Korat, and the elegant Siamese--which bear the country's former name, Siam.
● Thailand draws in around six million foreign tourists every year.
● Thailand has never been colonized by a European country.
Things You Should NOT Do in Thailand
On a tour of Thailand, keep in mind not to disrespect the king, other members of the royal family, and especially the late and hugely popular King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Due to a strict "lese majeste" law, it is dangerous to talk badly of the royal family or even to step on a banknote if it bears the likeness of the king. Pointing at people, gesturing with your feet, or patting people on the head is considered disrespectful in Thailand, as is shouting and arguing loudly in public. Although there are no strict clothing rules, you should dress modestly when visiting temples and remove your footwear before you enter them. In fact, Thais almost never wear shoes indoors, including in some businesses, shops, and restaurants; pack simple footwear that you can easily slip off if you see the tell-tale collection of shoes at an entrance.
Holidays & Festivals in Thailand
In addition to public holidays, which usually commemorate dates related to Buddhism or the royal family, Thailand observes numerous festivals and celebrations each year. The largest of the festivities is Songkran, a celebration of the Thai New Year in April, when people take to the streets all over the country and stage large water fights, a symbol of cleansing. The Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai and the feeding of the monkeys in Lop Buri
, both in November, draw large crowds as well. A vacation in Thailand wouldn't be complete without attending a full moon party, organized on beaches across the country every month, along with half-moon and quarter-moon bashes.
Useful Thailand Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Thailand
On a trip to Thailand, you're sure to encounter the local way of greeting, known as "wai." When greeting each other, Thais will often raise their hands in a prayer gesture and bow slightly. The hands are raised to anywhere from the chest area to under the nose, depending on the level of respect you're attempting to convey. This greeting is connected to the Thai concept of "saving face" and thus follows a distinct hierarchy system. Locals do not expect foreigners to know the complexities of the wai, but it is considered polite to return the gesture. Saying hello in Thai depends on your gender: women say "sawatdee-kah" and men "sawatdee-krap."
Climate of Thailand
Although weather in Thailand is almost always humid and hot, with temperatures regularly climbing over 30 C (86 F), it does have distinct seasons. The southern regions generally experience a wet and dry season, with rainy months lasting from April to October in the west, and September to December in the east. Thailand does have a (relatively) cool season, which lasts from November to February, when temperatures in the north can get as low as 8 C (46 F) at night and hover around 20 C (68 F) during the day, while in Bangkok they range from 18-32 C (64-89.6 F). Three months of dry, hot weather follow, while the rest of the months are rainy. To avoid monsoons and extreme temperatures, consider planning your Thailand vacation during the cooler period, which, though still hot, brings chilly nights and refreshing breeze.
Transportation in Thailand
You won't have trouble getting from one place to another on your tour of Thailand, thanks to an affordable transportation system that connects most destinations. Buses are the most popular form of transport in Thailand and usually the most convenient, while other options include trains, ferries, and minibuses. Whichever you choose, you can opt to pay extra for an air-conditioned vehicle. Traversing long distances can get exhausting, however, with journeys between two opposite parts of the country taking days. If your Thailand itinerary includes big jumps in location, consider flying with one of the domestic airlines. Renting a car or motorbike also presents a good option, since the roads are fairly safe. Larger cities boast a variety of transportation options, from buses and taxis to the iconic "tuk-tuk" three-wheelers.
Tipping in Thailand
Although it is not a custom to tip in Thailand, and Thais themselves don't tip regularly, service workers earn low wages and will appreciate even a small amount. Beyond rounding up the bill and leaving small change, tipping won't be expected of you on a Thailand holiday and is regarded as a personal choice. That said, some mid-range restaurants may include a 10-percent service charge to your bill, while leaving an extra 5-10 percent in fancy upmarket establishments shows gratitude for outstanding service. At hotels, you can choose to award a small amount to hotel cleaning staff or porters, and in taxis round up the fare. If you get a massage, do consider giving something more substantial, since masseuses usually earn especially meagre wages.