It seemed like almost everyone had the same response when I would tell them that I was going to Thailand: “Oh my gosh! I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go there!” It looks stunning all over Pinterest and on Travel Channel’s website, because it is.
But there are some Thailand travel tips that you should know before embarking on your Thai journey.
As it is one of the world’s most popular tourist country destinations, it is still so different than anything I had ever experienced. Without the extensive planning done by Luke, I would not have known where to visit or what to do since there are so many popular places that people travel to.
Never really thought about going to Thailand? Maybe this video I made will make you reconsider:
If you’re a a first-timer, these 7 Thailand travel tips are critical to know beforehand:
1. To get to Thailand, all you’ve got to do is save up for the plane ticket.
Traveling around in Thailand is SO much cheaper than traveling in Europe. Luke and I only flew one way, but his friends who did round trip spent around $1,600 on the flight ticket. Ours was $800. I was surprised that it was in the ball park of a flight across the pond to Europe because it seems like it is exactly across the globe. But once you actually get to Thailand, food and activities are significantly less expensive than anywhere else I have traveled, including South America.
The currency is called Baht, and around 32 Baht is $1.00 USD. There were multiple days that we had meals for only $3 USD, where stay was only $30-50 USD a night at remarkably nice hotels and resorts, and coming back from markets with both hands completely full of treasures was under $100 USD.
2. Don’t go to Thailand without visiting the islands.
Bangkok was super neat, and I’m sure if I had gotten to explore more areas within it I would have more to say about it, but since I spent most of my time at Koh Phi Phi, I must inform that this location made it beyond worthwhile to come.
Koh Samui was not nearly as impressive. Six of us stayed at a fairly nice villa for $30 a night per person, but the location was difficult to work with. Luke and I arrived last, and our mini bus driver had to stop multiple times to ask for directions of where it is. When we reunited with our friends once we got there, they all said they had the same issue.
Driving through the main areas of the island, I did not see anything that was truly worth experiencing. One of our friends mentioned that the Go Karting and Mini Golf places are the top recommended sights on the island (which says a lot). The beach was beautiful, but very touristy. There were vendors with jet skis constantly pushing you to rent one, and more vendors walking along the beaches trying to sell clothes and food to you while you try to relax.
Koh Phi Phi, on the other hand, is the scenic Thailand you imagine. There is so much to do and see. You can take all kinds of long boat excursions around the island, take snorkeling certification classes and even get fully certified through their program, snorkel, go on party boats, and more. The scenery alone is worth seeing. Bottom line: you must visit the islands if you are coming to Thailand.
We barely missed the last of the tourist season during our trip, which was May 18-May 29. Koh Samui did not have many people out on the beach, which is always a plus, and Koh Phi Phi still had a considerable amount of people there but not enough to feel crowded at all. I can’t imagine what the island would’ve felt like during tourist season. It was a nice and quiet trip with still a lot of activities available to do.
4. Know how you’re getting where at what time on what day.
Migrating between the mainland and the island is not difficult if you just know what to do. They have plenty of resources for getting around, you just need to plan ahead of time which means of transportation you will occupy.
We would fly to the nearest airport of the island – for example when traveling to Koh Phi Phi we had to fly to Krabi first – and then take a ferry to the pier, where there are countless options to chose from for a long boat ride to where you are staying on the island. People at the “Information” booths at the airports were very helpful to buy tickets for ferries or buses, but you can also book most of it online ahead of time.
5. Pick and choose what you want to see in Bangkok.
There are so many cool things to see in this city. When we were driving to our first destination in a cab after landing, I could not believe how entirely ginormous this city is! It’s easily the biggest I’ve ever seen.
That being said, it’s a little difficult to get around because your only option is a taxi. You can plan on what you’d like to see to make sure you stay near by that area. I regret not seeing any of the big Buddha temples, but we were just too far. I did enjoy the shopping district and experiencing the markets, luckily. But you can plan this ahead to get the most out of your visit.
6. The Thai definition of spicy is not a joke.
I learned this the hard way. Those little red chili peppers look harmless, but they are instantly potent. My tongue went numb and I couldn’t taste the rest of my soup after accidentally biting into one!
Of course, many people love super spicy food and will enjoy tasting the spiciness of Thailand. If you are not one of those individuals, be sure to order everything in any restaurant “without spicy.” The menus often will let you know how spicy the meals are, but you can never be too careful!
7. Bring lots of sunscreen and light clothing.
You can expect to be sweating nearly instantly when you peruse the streets of Bangkok or hang by the beach at an island. The sun was very strong and some friends among us turned into lobsters after a snorkeling excursion in Koh Phi Phi. Have plenty of sunscreen on deck to protect yourself from these radiating rays and pack light clothes to stay cool.
What did you find helpful when traveling in Thailand?