Read this guide before you travel to Thailand! Thailand is much more than just beaches and islands, so get ready for an incredibly diverse and exotic escape. This post covers all the vital Thailand travel advice you’ll need for an amazing trip!
- Best Places to Visit in Thailand
- Recommended Thailand Tours
- How Long Do You Need in Thailand?
- Thailand Itinerary 2 Weeks
- Best Time to Visit Thailand
- Cost of Travel in Thailand
- Food & Drink in Thailand
- Mindful and Responsible Travel in Thailand
- Practical Travel Advice for Thailand
- Dangers, Scams, and Cautions for Thailand Travel
- Getting around in Thailand
- What to Pack for Thailand
- More Thailand Posts
Our first time in Thailand, we cycled across the northern border with Laos, from Huay Xai to Chiang Khong. Then we explored Chiang Rai, The White Temple, Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park and other northern Thai delights. Then, we rode through the less-touristed central Thailand and, after visiting Ayutthaya, we veered east to enter Cambodia.
Later that year, we cycled back to Thailand’s southeast corner, into Mae Rut, past Trat, and along the little-visited south coast. Finally, we cycled to Bangkok and took an overnight train south, all the way to the Malaysia border.
A few years later, Jane returned to Thailand because she had caught malaria in Laos and wanted to go to the hospital in relatively developed Thailand. To erase that bad memory, we visited one more time to cycle Thailand’s southern peninsula and island hop our way back to Malaysia.
Transform in Thailand
Get your FREE don’t-miss list for Thailand to discover the 12 best transformational experiences in the country!
Phew, that’s a lot of time in Thailand! And we still haven’t seen half of what we’d like to see.
Thailand truly has activities to suit almost any traveller, whether you’re backpacking, looking for luxury, want tropical relaxation, or jungle adventures. We’re so excited for you to see it!
Read on to discover our best…
Thailand Travel Advice — Everything You Need to Know Before You Go
Best Places to Visit in Thailand
Choosing the best places to visit in Thailand really depends on your travel style.
Do you like big cities or do you want a tranquil beach escape? Are you into trekking through jungles or would you rather meditate and practice yoga? Or perhaps you love to visit ancient temples and other historical sights.
Whatever you want, or if you want to taste a bit of everything, Thailand is right there with you.
City Life at its Most Vibrant
If you want to be truly knocked out by a city, Bangkok is unbeatable. It’s overwhelmingly huge, hot and crowded, with endless experiences on offer, from meditation courses to wild nightclubs and everything in between.
If you’re a city slicker, and love having the stories of millions of people happening all around you, Bangkok will set your heart pounding and your blood pumping.
(Don’t miss: Our 2-day itinerary for Bangkok) →
For those of us who prefer a laid-back city, head north to Chiang Mai instead. The city still retains an old-world charm, with narrow alleys and streets winding their way past glittering wats.
Chiang Mai is an expat hotspot, too, so expect lots of cool cafes, great breakfast joints, and other modern amenities around every corner.
Ancient Temples and Modern Wats
It seems like Thailand’s ancient temples are the country’s best-kept secret. Perhaps they get overshadowed by Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, or perhaps they are just ignored by the hordes of beach bums who flock south to Thailand’s islands.
Whatever the reason, if you can’t get enough of the mystique of ancient crumbling temples, Thailand is ideal. Don’t miss the spectacular grounds of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, just a few hours out of Bangkok.
You’ll also have the chance to visit your fill of modern wats, all glittering in the bright Thai sunshine. If you’re in the north, don’t miss the weird and wonderful White Temple, and in Bangkok, visitors should start their trip at Wat Pho.
Beaches & Islands You’ll Never Forget
It’s probably not news to you that Thailand is home to some of the world’s most spectacular beaches and incredible islands.
Most of these are clustered along the two coasts of the southern peninsula and offer something for everyone. You can take your pick of party islands, family friendly beaches, local favourites, or secluded bays where you’re the only person for miles around.
Awesome Animal Experiences
If you love animals, Thailand offers lots of tempting wildlife experiences. But please please please do your homework before you visit.
There are few legitimate animal sanctuaries in Thailand. Most animal attractions are tourist traps where caring for the animals is far less important than turning a big profit.
Avoid any animal activity where you ride an animal, cuddle with it, or have extended contact with the animal. Daily crowds of people feeding, bathing, and touching wild animals stresses them out, so think carefully about what you want to put an animal through for that one great Instagram shot.
Currently, our favourite animal experience in Thailand is at Elephant Valley Thailand, where they focus on hands-off visits where the elephants are treated like the wild animals they are. They are also pioneering efforts to help captive animals return to the wild.
There is no shortage of yoga, meditation, and wellness retreats in Thailand.
Many yoga retreats are clustered in and around Chiang Mai in the north and Koh Phangan, Krabi and Phuket in the south. For meditation retreats, also take a look at Pai, in a secluded area in the far north. No matter what style or length of retreat you want to do, you should be able to find something suitable in Thailand.
Recommended Thailand Tours
It’s easy to travel independently in Thailand, but tours can open doors to places and experiences that you might never get on your own.
If you’re thinking of visiting Thailand on a tour or taking a shorter tour while you’re there, we recommend going with one of these companies.
Intrepid Adventures in Thailand
Being an eco-friendly and socially responsible tour company, who run small group tours around the world, Intrepid Travel is one of our favourites. In Thailand, they offer a huge range of options, from family holidays to sailing adventures to weeks-long excursions taking you to the best sights Thailand has to offer.
Our top pick is their 8-day vegan food adventure!
Grasshopper Bike & Boat Adventures
There’s nothing like seeing Thailand from the seat of a bike!
If you’re a newer cyclist, you can join a Grasshopper 1-day tour in places like Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai, to see the cities the way most tourists never do.
If you want to spend multiple days on two wheels, Grasshopper also offers multi-day cycling adventures both in the north and the south. Or combine bikes, boats, and beaches for 8 fantastic days in Thailand.
Of course, if you want to do like we did, you can try a self-guided cycle tour on Thailand’s southern peninsula.
Get Tickets, Transfers, and Day Tours on GetYourGuide
If you’re looking for an easy way to find the most popular experiences in each destination in Thailand, explore GetYourGuide. It helps you book everything from spa treatments, to airport transfers, to boat tours.
How Long Do You Need in Thailand?
If you read the intro to this guide, you’ll know we’ve spent months and months in Thailand and have never run out of new things to see and do. It would take years to thoroughly explore everything Thailand has to offer.
But, you probably don’t have years, so here’s a more realistic idea of how long you need in Thailand.
One Week in Thailand?
With one week in Thailand, you will have to prioritize what experience you want to have. You can have some quality beach time, explore the city, or visit ancient temples, but combining these activities will feel rushed.
In one week, I’d suggest sticking to the south of Thailand — getting up to Chiang Mai is just going to waste your travel time.
Two Weeks in Thailand?
Two weeks in Thailand will give you time to see a little more. I’d still choose either visiting the north, south, or central Thailand, and leave the other regions for a different trip.
Lucky for you, we created a guide which offers three detailed options for a two-week Thailand itinerary.
Three or Four Weeks, or More?
With three or four weeks in Thailand, you can really cover a lot of ground, getting to island-hop one week and explore jungle paradise the next.
If you have six weeks in Thailand, you’ll have a chance to cover all the main regions and sights, and leave with a deeper understanding and appreciation for Thai culture, too.
Thailand Itinerary 2 Weeks
If you’re taking your first trip to Thailand, we think 2 weeks is just about right, so we created three itinerary options for three various travel styles. Of course you can combine the itineraries to create a fantastic 4– or 6–week trip.
1. Adventure Itinerary – 2 Weeks in Northern Thailand
This itinerary is perfect for travellers who want to visit northern Thailand and get a whole lot of excitement and adventure during their stay in Thailand.
2. History & Culture Itinerary – 2 Weeks in Central Thailand
For history buffs and culture vultures, central Thailand can’t be beat. This Thailand travel route takes you to some of Thailand’s most important historical sights.
3. Beaches & Islands Itinerary – 2 Weeks in Southern Thailand
This South Thailand itinerary is for those of us who need a good dose of sunshine, cocktails, and beach therapy. It is also a good first time in Thailand itinerary because it gives you the chance to see the most picturesque Thailand tourist attractions.
Best Time to Visit Thailand
Because of its long, narrow shape and diversity of landscape — landlocked mountains in the north and unlimited coastline in the south — there really is no bad time to visit Thailand. But you’ll have to shape your itinerary around the regional weather patterns.
For Northern Thailand
Best time to go: September–October, May–June
Winter in northern Thailand, from November to February, is the most popular time to go. The weather is slightly cooler, while still being dry, perfect for travel. However, that means that these months are also the most crowded, so you’ll have to plan ahead further and deal with other tourists.
May to September is the rainy season in northern Thailand, and we’d argue it’s probably the best time to visit. The rain usually falls hard and fast, leaving most of the day bright and sunny. There are fewer tourists around at this time and the landscape is at its greenest.
You can visit northern Thailand in summer, which is March and April in the region. We did, and it was fine.
However, it is the time when farmers burn off the old crops from their fields, often leaving a thick, unpleasant smog blanketing Chiang Mai and the rural areas. It’s also brutally hot at this time, so if you can’t stand the heat, this is not the time to visit!
For Southern Thailand East Coast
Best time to go: February–April
The rainy season on Thailand’s east coast is from September to December, so it’s best to avoid going then, especially if you want to lie on the beach. However, we were just there in November and December and only saw one rainy day in three weeks, so who knows?
The best time to go for beach bumming is in the hot season, which is from February to the middle of May.
From late May onwards, rainy season starts, which means more wet weather, but it will still be hot, no matter when you go.
For Southern Thailand West Coast
Best time to go: November–December
The rainy season on the west coast, or Andaman Coast, is from May to October, so will be the least pleasant time of year to lounge around on the beach. You’ll also find that many remote places and ferry services will be closed during the rainy season.
We visited in November and early December and thought it was the perfect time to go. We were there too early for the biggest tourist season, yet there were lots of people around and everything was up and running. The weather was hot and sunny almost every single day.
The weather on the Andaman Coast is best for travellers all the way from November to April.
Cost of Travel in Thailand
There is such a range of accommodation, food, and travel styles in Thailand, that it’s very hard to predict exactly what your trip will cost.
If you have a tight-budget and will stay in hostels and eat mostly at night markets, plan for $30–40 per day. Prices can rise indefinitely from there, with cocktails in some bars in Bangkok costing as much as your hotel room.
Here are a few sample prices:
- A decent meal in a casual restaurant will cost around $10.
- Pad Thai from a street stall is less than $5.
- A clean and comfortable double hotel room in Bangkok is at least $40 per night.
- In other parts of the country, you can get a decent hotel room for $12–30 per night.
- Hostel beds, in nice hostels with lots of amenities, will cost around $10 per night.
- A luxury resort in Chiang Mai can cost around $300.
- A Michelin-starred meal in Bangkok can cost hundreds.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can travel in Thailand for $30 per day. If you like a little more comfort, budget about $60 per day. If you want the ultimate in luxury the whole way, bring your gold bars.
Tipping in Thailand will generally only cost you a few dollars per day unless you are travelling in luxury, in which case, you’d better bring a pile of cash.
Transform in Thailand
Get your FREE don’t-miss list for Thailand to discover the 12 best transformational experiences in the country!
In Thailand, accommodation tends to be of pretty high standard, though it’s not the best or the cheapest in Southeast Asia (that honour goes to Vietnam). You can find beds in Thailand for less than $5 per night, or you can spend hundreds per night, depending on your travel style.
Price usually accurately reflects the quality of the accommodation.
Location is a major factor when it comes to hotel prices in Thailand. A hotel on an exotic southern island is going to cost you more than a similar place in a small town in central or northern Thailand. Bangkok can be extremely expensive, but there are so many options you can find a decent budget place, too.
If you stray away from tourist towns, quality of accommodation will dip, but so will the prices. In Central Thailand there are lots of “resorts” with small cabins arranged around a central pool, that are there for Thai tourists but are perfect places to stay if you have your own transportation.
Seasons also have a major effect on prices and travelling in off-season can cut your accommodation budget in half. Beware though, that in some places, especially on the southern peninsula, everything closes down in off-season! Do your homework before you go.
Hostels, Home Stays & Beach Huts $5–$15/night
Hostels in Thailand tend to be clean and safe, with air-conditioned rooms and extras like bed curtains, lockers, and personal bed lights. You can find hostel beds for less than $5 per night, but I suggest spending a little more ($10–15) if you want to be comfortable and feel rested in the morning.
There are also lots of super-cheap, super-simple beach huts in southern Thailand when all you want is a bed, a mosquito net, and a fan to cool you. These huts are usually made from concrete blocks, creaky bamboo, and bricks. Some offer a bare bones private bathroom, too. They won’t win any style awards but they’re perfect if you’re going to spend the day lying on the beach anyway.
Budget Hotels $15–$40/night
We usually choose budget hotels when we travel in Thailand. They tend to offer excellent value for money, and as long as you don’t care about having a fancy swimming pool or an Instagrammable bedroom, they’re perfect for independent travellers. You’ll get a private room and private bathroom, in a good, but not necessarily prime, location for this price.
Boutique Hotels $60 & up
This is where Thailand really excels. There are plenty of small, independently owned boutique hotels dotted around Thailand’s most popular destinations, from Pai in the north, all the way to the islands on the Andaman Coast in the south. If you have the money, it’s easy to find class, charm, and comfort in perfect locations. Just be aware that the quality in this price range also varies a lot, so be sure to check reviews before you book.
In Bangkok, we loved our stay at Volve Hotel, a boutique design hotel centrally location in Thonglor.
Luxury Resorts $150 & up
For luxury travellers, Thailand rolls out the red carpet, and will fulfill all your Instagram-inspired dreams. The sky is the limit on luxury in Thailand.
However, it’s not a great place for finding luxurious accommodation at low prices (like Cambodia is). Because so many wealthy tourists come to Thailand, costs are in line with similar places around the world.
When you’re booking luxury accommodation in Thailand, look for eco-friendly hotels that are conscious of their impact.
Food & Drink in Thailand
Try an Authentic Thai Cooking Class
Famous for its fragrant and fresh food the world over, Thailand is a food-lover’s paradise. Learning to cook Thai food early on in your trip will give you extra appreciation for everything you eat as you travel. It will also open a window into Thai culture, which revolves around food.
We did a cooking class in Bangkok, where the chef taught us how to cook vegan versions of Thai favourites like Pad Thai, green curry from scratch, Tom Yum soup, and the incredibly delicious mango sticky rice.
It was the best food we ate in Thailand!
What You Need to Know About Thai Food
If you have a favourite Thai restaurant back home, then you’ll be familiar with some of the most popular Thai dishes already, like spicy green and red curry, pad Thai, pad See Ew, mango sticky rice, and fried bananas with coconut ice cream (yum).
Adventurous eaters should come hungry to Thailand, though, because there is a lot more to Thai cuisine than that.
Thai meals almost always start with some form of clear or coconut-based soup, like the famous Tom Yum or the slightly lesser known Tom Kha Gai. There are about 100 kinds of curry to try, plus porridge, barbecued everything, plenty of egg-based dishes, and pretty much anything you want on a bed of fragrant Thai rice.
Thai people love to eat, and you will find food on every corner, so there’s no question of going hungry. Just bring a sense of adventure!.
Thailand for Vegans & Vegetarians
Disappointingly, Thailand is not a very friendly place for vegans and vegetarians. The cuisine revolves around meat, rice, and noodles and, usually, vegetables are just used for a little decoration. This makes it tough for animal-friendly eaters to find a decent meal in night markets or hawker courts.
However, don’t be too discouraged. Most restaurants understand the concept of vegan and vegetarian because most Thai Buddhists eat meat-free a couple of times per month.
Make sure to read our vegan guide to Thailand, prepare a few phrases, and you’ll be able to eat very well!
Alcohol in Thailand
Since Thailand has a law that basically prohibits independent beer brewing, you won’t find much of a craft beer scene in Thailand — though there are some bottle shops and underground breweries in Bangkok.
Beer drinkers are usually stuck with the flavourless state brands of beers, Singha, Chang, and Leo. They are not great beers but they are good for drinking on hot nights and with spicy food. Still, your trip to Thailand might be a good time to lose some of that beer weight.
You can, of course, find every kind of spirit and mixed drink you might want in Thailand, from $5 bucket drinks on party beaches, to $20 artisanal cocktails in chi chi Bangkok bars.
If you want to get down with the locals, almost every village has its own supply of locally made fermented rice whisky. It’s fiery going down and fiery coming back up, so pace yourself!
Mindful and Responsible Travel in Thailand
Responsible Travel in Thailand
It’s not exaggerating to say that Thailand is overrun with tourists. If they haven’t reached their maximum tourist capacity yet, they are getting close. Authorities have even had to close Maya Bay, where The Beach was filmed, because of environmental destruction caused by tourists.
What can you do to prevent mass tourism from ruining Thailand?
- Choose eco-friendly businesses, from hotels, to tour companies, to transportation options.
- Obey all rules and stay away from closed or protected areas.
- Visit less popular spots. There are lots of incredibly beautiful areas in Thailand that hardly anyone visits. Get out of the mass-touristed areas and bring your tourism dollars where they’re needed.
What to Wear in Thailand
Compared with much of Asia, Thailand is relaxed when it comes to clothing. Plus, they get so many tourists that you can wear just about anything you want and you won’t look out of place. Especially in the beach communities, you can get away with wearing whatever you choose.
However, there is still a conservative root to Thai culture and you’ll see that most Thai people dress modestly, usually not wearing tiny tank tops, short shorts, or revealing clothing of any kind.
If you want to be respectful of that culture, avoid:
- Short skirts and short shorts
- Spaghetti strap tank tops
- Yoga pants or other leggings
- Muscle tops that show off your nipples (for both guys and girls!)
Instead, we suggest you wear:
- Shirts that cover your shoulders and upper arms
- Long loose skirts or pants that cover your knees
- Longish shorts, that reach your knees
Also, keep in mind that it gets extremely hot in Thailand and the sun can be ferocious. Bring light clothes with long loose sleeves and long pants to protect your skin from the sun.
What Shoes are Right for Thailand?
For shoes, it makes sense to bring a pair that will work on the beach but are also good for long walks on uneven pavement and potholed roads. Flip flops can also be extremely useful if you plan to hang around on the beach a lot.
Check out our guide to lightweight travel shoes for more ideas.
Walking around barefoot, as we see people do in Thailand a lot, is not a good choice.
For a start, the soles of your feet should not be seen in public in Thailand — it is considered offensive.
Second, when you enter a Thai home or guest house, you should take off your shoes, to keep the inside clean. If you’ve been walking around in bare feet, you’ll track outside dirt into the house.
Finally, Thai roads are far from clean and the chances of stepping on something gross / infectious is too great to risk it!
Meditation and Yoga in Thailand
At its heart, Thailand is a very spiritual country. You can’t walk 50 metres without stumbling into a sparkling wat or a tiny temple to Buddha. This makes it easy for the mindful traveller to find quiet spaces for contemplation or meditation — and the local people will totally understand what you’re doing!
There are also plenty of yoga and meditation retreats in Thailand, where you can enjoy the incredible scenery while doing some work on your inner self.
Most of the yoga retreats in Thailand are clustered around Krabi and Phuket, on the west coast of the southern peninsula. There are also lots on the islands of the east coast. In Chiang Mai, you should have no trouble finding a resort with yoga and there are a couple of great studios in town too. We love Wild Rose Yoga and have heard Hidden House Yoga is great too.
Head even further north to Pai for a meditation retreat in a spectacular setting.
Animal Attractions in Thailand
Though it’s tempting to jump at every opportunity to see wild animals in Thailand, Thai animal attractions don’t have a great record when it comes to avoiding animal cruelty, wildlife poaching, and illegal breeding.
It should go without saying by now, but when you’re in Thailand please:
Do not visit any tiger temples. Tigers are not, by nature, docile creatures. So if you’ve visiting a place where you can get cuddly with a sleepy tiger, you better start asking questions around why that tiger is so friendly and sleepy.
Also, where did that tiger come from? Why isn’t it still in the wild? Who is breeding tiger cubs for you to play with? Is this how you feel wild animals should be treated? Sadly, people keep coming to these places in droves, perpetuating the mistreatment and poaching of tigers.
As far as we know, there are no legitimate tiger sanctuaries in Thailand, where the animals are more important than profits.
Do not ride elephants. Like tigers, elephants are wild animals. They shouldn’t be confused with domesticated animals, like horses and cows, that have been bred to have a symbiotic relationship with humans. Their spines were not designed to carry the weight of a human and certainly not designed to carry humans all day every day.
Elephants can be easily stressed when forced to interact with humans all day long and they have to be cruelly broken in to be tame enough for extended contact with strangers. Because of this, we prefer elephant sanctuaries where tourists don’t bathe or feed the elephants. The only one we know of in Thailand is the Elephant Valley Project near Chiang Rai.
Do not give money to street performers with animals. Though it’s getting less common, you can still see men on the street in Thailand who have a “pet” elephant or monkey in tow. These guys will ask for money so you can pose for a picture with their animals.
As you can imagine, these animals are usually horribly mistreated — not fed, housed, or cared for properly. Please don’t give money to the people that keep them.
Thai Tourist Sex Trade
While the red light districts in Bangkok and the easy access to prostitutes in Thailand might appear to be just a bit of fun, there’s an extremely dark side to sex tourism in Thailand. In fact, the problems have gotten so bad that even the Thai government is asking tourists to help stop it.
Here are a few of the potential pitfalls:
- How old is that girl/boy? Do the women in the sex show bars look suspiciously young? That’s because many of them are not yet women. Young girls and boys in Thailand are being sold or forced into the sex trade far below the age of majority.
- Are the workers there voluntarily? Indentured slavery is a big problem in Thailand. Lots of girls come from poor minority regions in Thailand and are promised good money for their work. Instead, they end up “owing” the bosses money for food and rent and spend a lifetime working off their debt while their owners get rich.
- Are they all Thai? Human trafficking is also a huge problem in Thailand. The birth rate in the country is low, so women are trafficked from poor neighbouring countries and brought to Thailand as sex workers.
- Are you going to get scammed? Even if you don’t care about points 1–3 above, be aware that sex tourists are prime targets for scamming. Even if you’re just going out of curiosity, you could get involved in some nasty business that you’ll have trouble getting out of.
Thai Charities & Social Enterprises to Support
Though Thailand is generally more affluent than its neighbours and has a wealthy upper class and large middle class, there are still plenty of underserved members of the community.
We discourage travellers from getting involved in the often shady world of voluntourism — which usually benefits the tourists more than the locals.
Instead, we encourage everyone who travels to put a percentage of their travel budget towards helping solve the most difficult problems in their destination country.
Here are some non-profits you could support in Thailand:
- Help protect children in Thailand from human trafficking, child labor, and other exploitation by supporting Safe Child Thailand.
- Support World Wildlife Fund Thailand to protect elephants and tigers and to preserve habitats for all animals in Thailand.
- To help stray dogs and cats in Thailand, support Four Paws International or Soi Dog.
If none of these charities appeals to you, find one that does here.
Practical Travel Advice for Thailand
Getting a Visa for Thailand
If you’re from Europe, North America, or one of the ASEAN countries and going to Thailand for less than 30 days, chances are you won’t need a visa. Thailand offers a 30-day visa exemption for 51 countries, including Canada, the US, and most European countries.
If you’re from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, or Korea, you can visit Thailand for 90 days as a tourist on the visa waiver program.
Travellers from India can get a visa on arrival for 15 days.
Thai visa rules are known to change quickly, so double-check before you book your ticket.
Vaccinations for Thailand
You don’t need a lot of travel vaccinations for Thailand, but there are a few that the CDC recommends for all travellers:
All routine vaccinations. Includes MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella), diphtheria, tetanus, and polio.
Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Can be contracted through contaminated food or water in Thailand.
Some other travellers will need more, depending on the type of activity they plan to do.
Hepatitis B. Can be contracted from needles or sexual contact, so if you plan to get a tattoo or piercing, or get jiggy with a stranger, this one’s for you.
Malaria. There’s not a huge malaria risk in Thailand and most travellers won’t need anti-malarials. If you plan to spend a lot of time in certain areas, especially (but not limited to) the northern border areas, then ask at your local vaccination clinic.
Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies. You probably won’t need these unless you’re planning on taking up residence in the countryside or will be working with animals during your visit.
As always, with any medical concerns, you should check with a specialist — in this case, you local travel vaccination clinic or your doctor — to make sure your specific situation is covered.
Dangers, Scams, and Cautions for Thailand Travel
Is Thailand safe for tourists?
While it’s a relatively safe country to travel in, certain areas in Thailand have an alarmingly high number of tourist deaths. It’s worth keeping this in mind and remembering that just because you’re in Thailand, doesn’t mean you should behave recklessly or do things that you’d be afraid to do back home.
Alcohol, drugs, and nightlife
Use caution when going to bars and clubs by yourself — watch your drinks, don’t get so wasted you don’t know what you’re doing, and try to find someone you trust to walk you back to your hotel at the end of the night. Also, avoid taking lots of drugs and then going swimming in the hotel pool or the sea — mysterious drownings are a very common occurrence among tourists in Thailand.
Scooter and Motorbike Safety
Did you know that the WHO ranks Thailand’s roads as second most lethal in the world? (Libya is first.) We’ve spent a lot of time riding bicycles on the roads in Thailand, and can attest first-hand to the complete insanity of the traffic. Lots of Thais, especially those in trucks, drive fast and recklessly.
If you’re going to drive a scooter around Thailand — every backpacker’s holiday dream — make sure you know how to drive one safely. Be twice as cautious on the roads and you might just be OK.
You’re required by law to have a driver’s license and wear a helmet while driving or riding a motorbike in Thailand. If you do not and have an accident, your travel insurance will be void and you’ll be paying your medical expenses out of pocket.
Travel insurance for Thailand
I wouldn’t go anywhere without travel insurance, but Thailand seems to offer lots of extra ways tourists can get in trouble. If anything happens, from motorbike accidents, to losing your luggage, or getting an unexpected illness, you’ll be happy to be covered. For the average traveller, insurance only costs a few dollars per day. It’s worth every penny for the peace of mind alone.
One of the most popular travel insurance companies for adventurous travellers — because it is affordable, reliable, and easy to apply for — is World Nomads. Their guide to how travel insurance works is very useful.
Getting around in Thailand
Transportation is very easy in Thailand, though there are some less-traveled routes that you might have to do by taxi or private minibus.
Busses in Thailand
Thailand has a well developed bus network that will take you almost anywhere you want to go. Thai roads are extremely dangerous, so make sure you book with a reliable bus company.
To stay safe, opt for a VIP bus, where you’ll pay a little more, but you’ll get a lot in return. VIP busses have air-conditioning, safety standards, comfortable seats, and even WiFi (though if I ever get WiFi to work properly on a bus I will be amazed!). If you’re on a tight budget, the bus is a great way to get around in Thailand — as long as you can handle the frenzy of speeding traffic on Thai motorways!
Trains in Thailand
If the idea of Thai traffic freaks you out, or if you want to travel in a little more comfort, take the train in Thailand.
Though there are relatively few train lines, the network is developed enough to deliver you to the most popular destinations, as long as you’re planning on going through Bangkok.
From Bangkok, you can take the train to Chiang Mai in the north, or to Nong Khiaw for transfers to Laos, and Aranyaprathet to head to Cambodia.
Heading south from Bangkok, the train goes past the famous destination islands of Ko Phangan and Ko Samui, right to the Malaysian border town of Hat Yai.
Actually, you can keep going right through Malaysia and all the way to Singapore by train.
Though not as cheap as busses, trains in Thailand are a better bet for overnight rides, as you can get a relatively inexpensive (and usually pretty modern & comfy) sleeper bunk.
Flying in Thailand
If you want to visit the north and the south of Thailand, and you can’t stand the thought of an overnight train ride, flying between the two is your best option. Of course, we never recommend flying because it’s terrible for the environment and you miss out on so much!
But if you must fly, Air Asia is usually the most reliable and budget-friendly option to get between Thai airports.
What to Pack for Thailand
Light loose clothing. It’s not always hot in Thailand but it usually is! Loose light clothing is a must. Even though tourists wear whatever they want in Thailand, it’s best to cover up a little, out of respect for the more traditional culture — and to protect your skin from the sun.
For men, we have a whole guide to men’s travel pants. So go take your pick.
Bathing suit. There are ample beautiful pools and beaches in Thailand, where you can jump into warm, clear water any time. Don’t forget your suit.
Mosquito bite zapper & repellent. You should, of course, always use mosquito repellent in Thailand. Effective mosquito spray – the kind with lots of Deet — is easy to find in any shop. I got dengue fever in Koh Lanta, which had me bed-ridden for a week, and that was while being super-cautious about mosquitos. So wear repellent.
But, you will probably get bitten a few times anyway. To take away the itch and the bite quickly, I use a Zap-It mosquito bite zapper. It sounds like totally fake science but it works!
Watch this travel tips video below to see how.
Coral-friendly sunscreen. The Thai sun can scorch, so make sure you protect your skin by slapping on some UV protection! If you plan on going swimming or hiking, you will want to reapply sunblock more regularly than the recommended 2–4 hours. Especially for kids, a waterproof version is best. To protect the fragile reefs, make sure to use coral-friendly sunscreen.
Slip-on shoes. Shoes you can slip on and off are essential for Thailand if you plan to do any beach-hopping at all. They’re also great because Thai custom means that you must take off your shoes when you enter any house. This rule often extends to hotels, guest houses, home stays and sometimes restaurants and shops — so you’ll want to avoid messing with your laces every time you go inside.
Sarong or beach cover-up. No matter where I go, I always pack a sarong. It’s the most versatile item in my suitcase. I wear it as a skirt, a dress, or a scarf, depending on the weather. I also use it as a beach towel and sometimes a regular towel if the hostel doesn’t provide them. On the plane, I put it over my head to keep me warm and keep the light out while I’m trying to sleep.
Most useful item ever!
Walking shoes. There’s a lot of lush rain-forest and jungle in Thailand. There are also plenty of times when you just need to walk a distance to get dinner or to the next great beach. In cities, open-toed shoes leave you open to broken sidewalks and other hazards. Bring comfortable walking shoes. You can thank me later.
(Don’t miss: Our guide to the best walking shoes for travel) →
Travel yoga mat. If you’re going to practice yoga in Thailand, a great travel yoga mat is a must. We use ours almost every day when we travel, rolling out the mat to stretch out sore walking muscles after a long day of being a tourist. When we visit a studio, we’ll roll our travel mats out over the studio mats to get extra cushioning while still getting to practice on our own mats.
(Don’t miss: Our guide to our favourite travel yoga mats) →
The Best Tools & Companies for Your Trip
These are our favourite tools and companies for planning and booking your travels in Asia. We have used all of them and recommend them for their dedication to providing you great travel experiences.
- Best travel gear: Minimalist Packing Guide →
- Cheap flights: Kiwi.com →
- Hotel savings: Booking.com →
- Small group adventures: Intrepid Travel →
- Incredible bike tours: Grasshopper Adventures →
- Best cooking classes: Cookly →
- Bus & train: 12go.asia →
- Tours, tickets & transfers: Get Your Guide →
- Mindful journeys: BookYogaRetreats & BookMeditationRetreats →
- Convenient travel insurance: World Nomads →
More Thailand Posts
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen
We’re not going to lie, it takes a LOT of work to create travel guides like this. But it’s easy to help us out! If you book or buy something using one of our personal links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J