Time and time again you’ve seen friends return from their travels wearing baggy elephant pants you wouldn’t dream of wearing in the US, with arms full of rope bracelets and a great tan, musing about their fabulous trip to Thailand. They tell you how much they’ve learned about themselves, the culture and most importantly, how inexpensive it is. It’s all strangely endearing isn’t it? So, if you’re thinking about traveling to Thailand and experiencing this amazing country for yourself, you might want to arm yourself with our cheat sheet – highlighting everything you need to know about this Southeast Asian paradise.
When to go | Phrases | Food | Where to go | Packing tips | Transport | Top tips
• March – June is the hot season (highs of 32C – 40C / 89F-104F). Towards May and June, clouds will begin to roll in as the rainy season approaches.
• July – November is the wet/green season. The first few months see sporadic showers throughout the day, whereas the latter months see heavier rains.
• November – February is the cooler season (average is still around 25C/77F)
It totally depends what kind of weather you’re looking for while traveling. If you are someone who can tolerate the heat and does not mind crowds, then the hot season could be right for you. Alternatively, if you’d rather be at a more comfortable temperature, where costs of hostels and hotels could be cheaper as the tourists aren’t pouring in (excluding the high season holiday rates around Christmas and New Year) then go for the cooler season.
Having good manners is important, so if you want to sound politer when greeting someone in Thai, be sure to add ‘khrap’ to the end of the greeting if you’re male, and ‘kha’ if you’re a female. Here are five phrases you should nail before you explore the country:
Sa-wad-dee khrap/kha (hello)
Used for both hello and goodbye accompanied with “wai” gesture (two hands places together over the chest with a slight bow of the head)
Khop koon khrap/kha (thank you)
How to show your appreciation once you’ve been handed your Singha beer and pad Thai.
Gee baht khrap/kha? (how much)
Essential for all the shopping you’ll be doing, or when haggling with tuk-tuk drivers.
Yoo tee nai khrap/kha…? (where is…)
Invaluable when lost! Just point at a place on your map or in your guidebook and say ‘yoo tee nai’. It is also good to have a general idea of where you’re going. Having a Thai sim or an international data plan for your phone that allows you to use your map application is also very useful.
Mai ow khrap/kha (don’t want)
Useful for fending off persistent street vendors or simply saying no thank you.
Pad thai: A tasty stir fried rice noodle dish with egg, bean sprouts, and your choice of meat (if you want it) and topped off with peanuts and garnishing herbs. You can find this dish absolutely everywhere, but you can snag great ones from street vendors from as little as 30 baht (approx. 90c / 1 US dollar).
Thai curry: Where else should you try this spicy creamy curry than in its native land?! The more popular curries include green and red curries of course, but the recipes are virtually the same. They use different types of chilis that will give either a green or red tint. You’ll never be able to buy the sauce in a jar again.
Massaman curry: If you sweat at a korma then maybe a Thai green curry isn’t the choice for you, however the Massaman curry is a mild but equally delicious local curry made with potatoes, coconut milk and peanuts. The dish is traditionally Indian Malaysian in origin but is now integrated into Thai cuisine.
Mango and sticky rice: On a hot day, there’s nothing like a ripe and juicy mango to cool you down. These delicious mangoes are paired with sticky rice mixed with coconut milk for an ideal dessert after any (read: every) meal.
Som Tam: Papaya salad is traditionally from Isan (Northeast Thailand). Thinly sliced green papaya are mixed in a motar and pestle with chili, tomatoes, dried shrimp, peanuts, fish sauce, and lime. There are different variations of the dish but is meant to wake up your taste buds.
Bangkok: The cosmopolitan side of Thailand, Bangkok mixes the modern with the ‘authentic’ Thailand. In some places, like Koh San Road, you’ll find a lot of tourist traps, but go for a wander and you’ll find temples, landmarks and markets dotted along the streets. Take a taxi to a floating market, visit Wat Arun temple or the Grand Palace, or walk through the Ratchada Train Market to fill your bags with goodies to take home. Want to find out more? Check out our Bangkok city guide.
Chiang Mai: Chiang Mai is about a 9 hour bus ride or a 1 hour flight north of Bangkok and is well-known for its elephant sanctuaries. Stay for a little longer and you’ll discover temples and shrines around every corner, a famous night market in the Old Town, and lush jungle and waterfalls as part of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. To get more inspiration, visit our Chiang Mai destination guide.
Pai: A perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, Pai is located about an hour north of Chiang Mai in the province of Mae Hong Son, with accommodations nestled into fields, nightly food markets, beautiful natural surroundings and calming hippy vibes.
Koh Phangan: A little slice of heaven by day, a crazy party scene by night – at least when the Full Moon Party is happening. If you enjoy chilling on a beach but also appreciate a good party, Koh Phangan is the place to go. When there isn’t a full moon party, the island is quaint and serves as the perfect getaway for health and wellness seekers. You can find out more about Koh Phangan here.
Railay Beach: Tucked away in the Krabi province, Railay beach is only accessible by long tail boat. It is well-travelled by backpackers, probably due to the diverse lifestyle that you can enjoy while being there. Renowned for rock climbing and cave exploration, Railay beach has epic rock formations along the beach is a must for those who just want to have a bit of adventure in paradise.
Not at lot – It’s so hot you’ll barely end up wearing much, plus you’ll need all the space in your case to stock up on all the elephant pants and beer-branded vests your heart desires. Don’t forget your plug adaptor though!
A good pair of flip flops or sandals – You’ll walk, a lot. So, get a decent pair of shoes to do it in – none of this $1 nonsense.
Camera with waterproof casing/GoPro
Thailand will turn you into a mermaid with all its swimming, snorkeling, waterfalling and diving activities. You want to make sure you capture the footage!
A good book – you’ll tally up a good number of hours on coaches/trains/planes or just chilling on a beach – pack a good book to pass the time, then look out for the book swaps around Thailand so you can switch it out for free when it’s done!
Taxi or tuktuk: Uber is becoming more and more popular in Asia, but GrabTaxi is just as good – essentially it does the same as Uber, but it hooks you up with registered taxi drivers who don’t rob you blind. Download both apps and use as you want.
Of course, there will often be times when you don’t have access to any internet or data to order a taxi on and therefore, you can resort to the traditional Thai tuktuk. These are cheap, zippy and hella fun – just make sure you ask the driver to use the meter to avoid being ripped off.
A great way of saving on a night’s accommodation, and one of the most fun ways to travel – you’ll get a little bunk with your travel buddies as opposed to busses where you’re constantly struggling to find a comfortable position.
Although it might not always be the most comfortable, it’s often the cheapest way to travel the country and they’re really regular. Plus, you get to see a lot more of rural Thailand this way.
The only option of getting about when it comes to the islands in the south of Thailand.
You can fly domestically at cheap prices in Thailand – sometimes you just don’t fancy a 6-hour coach when you can get a 1-hour flight!
Or if you’re feeling up to it, go to a local scooter shop (you’ll find them everywhere) and rent a scooter for however long you want! They’re super affordable, and a fun way of getting around – just make sure to take photos of the scooter when you get it so that you don’t get fooled into paying any money for existing damages.
Don’t go crazy just because it’s affordable
We’ve all been there – completely disregarding how much money you have because you think you don’t need to worry… food is like, 40c right?! Sure, you can go a little crazier in Thailand due to their insanely low prices, but it’s still handy to give yourself a daily budget.
Thailand is the perfect place to practice your haggling skills – almost everywhere the prices are negotiable. Please be mindful of what ideal and not over-barter. The local vendors still need to live!
Get a travel money card
Get rid of those annoying bank fees and avoid getting screwed over by commission and exchange rates by getting a travel money card. Loads of them don’t charge you for using your card/withdrawing money from an ATM.
Hostels are a great value
You can find some amazing hostels in Thailand for as little as $10 night – no joke. Do some digging around, read the reviews and you could be saving tons of money, which means extra for eating your body weight in delicious food/diving activities/buying a ridiculous amount of elephant pants/volunteer projects with elephants.
Eat like a local
Everywhere you go you’ll find street food stalls lining the pavements selling everything from banana and Nutella roti to mouth-watering curry, usually less than half the price of what you’d pay in a restaurant and it’s usually just as good, if not better.
Thailand is a really great place to decide things last minute, whether that’s a tour, a hostel, a coach journey or a totally new destination! Don’t get bogged down sorting everything out before you go – just sort out what you need for the first week and give yourself the chance to travel spontaneously.
If you want to see elephants, be responsible and do your research
Elephants are beautiful and majestic creatures, so it’s no wonder that most tourists want to see them when they go to Thailand. But just double check the place you’re going to first – if they let you ride them, they’re a no-go. Make sure no elephant suffers for the sake of your enjoyment. Sanctuaries are the way to go.
Travel as much of it as you can
Thailand is so diverse, one moment you could be relaxing in paradise, the next you could be trekking in the jungle – if you’ve got the time, travel the length of the country, you could find somewhere you’d never even heard of before (and they usually end up being your favorite!)
Download maps.me – it’s amazing anywhere you go!
Maps.me is an app which allows you to download the map of the area you’re currently in and then use it offline – no pesky data charges for you!
Now we’ve armed you with your survival guide to Thailand are you ready to book your flight? Head over to our flights page now, or if you’re just looking for some more destination inspiration have a look at our Thailand travel guide.
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