A First-Timer’s Guide for Planning a Trip to Thailand
Thailand is an amazing country and one of the most popular backpacker destinations worldwide. It has always been on my bucket list for as long as I could remember. My trip to Thailand was so memorable because it was the first time I was traveling to Asia. I couldn’t believe that I was traveling all the way across the globe. My first time on a flight longer than 10 hours. The thought of it was a mixture of excitement and overwhelm.
I would be celebrating my birthday there and wanted to plan the most epic trip. First thing was first, I was wondering how to plan a trip to Thailand from the United States, what would be the important things to know, where would I go, where would I stay, and what things would I need to bring with me. These are all things I thoroughly researched and am happy to share them with you to hopefully make your first to Thailand as amazing as mine was. So here it goes everything you need to know about planning a trip to Thailand
Tips for before you go
Set up flight alerts
I bet one of the first things you’re going to do when you decide to go to Thailand is look up flights. Luckily Thailand is a big hub in Southeast Asia and there are many airlines that fly there no matter where in the world you’re flying from. I recommend not buying your flight right away and instead track flight prices for a few days up to a few weeks to see if they drop. I saved a few hundred dollars by doing this with Skyscanner.
Skyscanner consistently offers the lowest flight prices, but as you probably know airline prices can rise and fall dramatically in the weeks leading up to your departure. Using their flight price tracker will keep an eye on your chosen flight and let you know as soon as the price drops – or if it starts to climb. Skyscanner Price Alerts are free, and you’ll be sent an email informing you of any price changes as soon as they happen so you won’t miss out on a cheap deal.
The new Skyscanner app tracks flight prices for you and notifies you whenever the price drops. It’s super helpful for when you’re trying to get the best flight deal
Check Your Passport Expiration Date
Whenever you travel to a foreign country not only do you need to have a valid passport, but the expiration date cannot be less 6 months from when you’re traveling. For example, let’s say you are going to Thailand in June 2019, your passport cannot have an expiration date earlier than December 2019. If you don’t you might be denied entry into Thailand. I definitely would not risk it.
Check Visa Requirements
Depending on the country you’re from, you might need to get a visa to travel to Thailand. It also depends on how long you’ll be in the country. If you’re from the US, Canada, UK or these other 52 countries, you don’t need a visa if you’ll be in Thailand 30 days or less. Thailand requires that you have a confirmed return ticket to show that they are flying out of Thailand within 30 days of entry. Open tickets or one-way tickets can get you denied.
Traveling over land out of Thailand by train or bus to neighboring countries like Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, or Myanmar may be accepted as proof of exiting Thailand. On the other hand, if you plan to be there for longer than 30 days you’ll need to apply for a visa.
Purchase Travel Insurance
Thailand is a safe, friendly and welcoming country. You do have to keep in mind that no matter what country you travel to there is a level of risk. Anything can happen like getting sick or injured while you’re there. To keep yourself safe, it’s worth purchasing a travel insurance policy before you leave. It’s important to check that your policy covers you for everything you plan to do while in Thailand. Hopefully you won’t have to use it. If you do, you’ll be glad you played it safe.
Although no specific vaccinations are required for Thailand, you should get the general ones that are highly recommended for all international travelers in Asia. Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, and a Tdap (for tetanus) are the most common vaccinations you’ll see recommended across the board and provide protection for many years.
Several weeks before my trip I got the Hepatitis B shot which my insurance covered. Unfortunately, my doctor did not offer Typhoid so I didn’t get that one. Hepatitis A and Tetanus I had already received previously.
You will not need rabies, yellow fever, or Japanese encephalitis vaccinations for a regular vacation in Thailand. The same applies for anti-malarial drugs. There is a relatively low risk of contracting malaria in Thailand, especially if you aren’t spending extended amounts of time in the jungle.
Learn a Few Thai Phrases
While it’s perfectly possible to get by in English in the major tourist areas, learning a few simple phrases in Thai will go a long way in making your trip a more memorable one. No one expects foreigners on vacation to be proficient in the language, but just knowing how to say “how are you” and “thank you” is much appreciated by the Thai people.
I personally learned how to say hello and thank you in Thai and I could tell that the locals really appreciated it. One tuk tuk driver even said he was so impressed with how well my pronunciation was! That made me super happy! Haha! Just in case you’re wondering, The standard Thai greeting is sawasdee (sounds like: “sah-wah-dee”)
Bring Enough Spending Money
The local currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht. Although credit cards are accepted in many places, smaller outlets, including some restaurants, only take cash. My best advice is to bring money and exchange a small amount at the airport or use one of the ATM’s to take local money out.
When to go to Thailand?
One of the most important first questions you should ask yourself is when should you vacation in Thailand. While Thailand can be visited year round, there are times of year where the climate is more pleasant than others. Thailand has various seasons you should consider. December – January will be busy as it is peak season.
The weather is slightly cooler (but still hot) and clear during this time. April is the hottest time in Thailand, and I mean HOT! The rainy season is May to October (mind you it’s mostly just sudden downpours that cool you down.The rainy season is a much cheaper and less crowded time to visit Thailand.
How Long to Go For?
It’s important to decide how long you want to travel within Thailand because that will help you plan out where you’ll go and for how many days. I am not sure what your situation is but I personally only had 10 days I could take off from work. This included travel days so in reality I had 8 days to spend in Thailand. With 8 days I figured I could visit 3 different places which is what I did. But my advice would be if you have more time definitely go for longer. I think you need a minimum of 2 weeks to really enjoy Thailand. Keep in mind that a greater amount of time gives you greater flexibility both in getting from destination to destination and reducing the necessity of flying.
How Much Does a Trip to Thailand Cost?
Thailand really is a country where you can spend as much or as little as you like. It’s not the cheapest of the countries in the region, but it certainly isn’t expensive by any stretch of the imagination. It’s definitely much cheaper than travel in North America or Europe. You can get a private room there for as cheap as $15 – $20 per day and food as cheap as $1 – $3 a meal. The biggest cost you’ll have for your trip will probably be airfare. What I personally enjoyed is being able to stay in a luxury hotel at less than half the cost I would spend at home. So whether you stay in a hostel or at a 4-star hotel the choice is yours.
What Places Should You Visit?
There’s no way you can go to Thailand and not visit their biggest city, Bangkok. It’s also the capital of the country and the biggest airport hub in the region. People had warned me that Bangkok, with a population of 10 million people, was a big and overwhelming city. But I’m from another big and overwhelming city with 8 million people so I wasn’t worried. Let me tell you that they were right! Mix jetlag with surprising smells, the humidity, traffic, new sounds, a different culture you’ve never encountered and it can definitely be a lot to take in. But Bangkok is an amazing city where you’ll find the best street food, markets, temples, nightlife and so much more.
Southern Thailand is where you find the tropical beach paradise you see in photos. From diving off Ko Tao, to climbing in Krabi, partying on Koh Phi Phi or just laying in a hammock pretty much anywhere, the south is not short on choice.
Phuket, Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Tao are the best known of Southern Thailand’s many islands. Phuket is Thailand’s largest and most popular island, with over a third of all tourists to Thailand finding themselves here at some stage during their trips. It’s also the most expensive part of the country. On my trip I flew from Bangkok to Krabi where I visited Koh Phi Phi and Ao Nang and took several day trips to other islands.
I did not get a chance to visit Northern Thailand during my trip because I just did not have enough time. I hope to get the chance on my next visit. Northern Thailand is everything Bangkok and Southern Thailand is not. From dazzling temples to a hippy mountain town and remote hill tribes, the areas of Chiang Mai, Chaing Rai and Pai are idyllic.
There are so many reasons that travelers are charmed by Chiang Mai – the much cooler climate, rich culture, bustling night markets and cooking classes are just a few. Home to over 300 Buddhist temples, Chiang Mai is filled with golden stupas and monks in vibrant orange garments. The most well-known Buddhist temple in Chaing Mai is Doi Suthep, which is reached via 300 challenging steps.
Chiang Rai is the perfect base for a visit to the Golden Triangle, the area where Thailand, Laos and Burma meet and the mighty Mekong merges with the River Ruak. This beautiful area of the country is perfect for hiking and trekking through the hills. It is a good area to come and find a boutique hotel and absolutely relax after an action-packed trip exploring other parts of the country. The city also has a bustling weekend night market that is known for local produce and crafts from around the area.
Pai is a popular hill town with a hippy feel that is a great base for trekkers who want to explore the surrounding mountains and hill tribes.
You can fly direct from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in just over an hour. For a more scenic journey, you can also travel to the north by overnight train from Bangkok. Some of the trains were refurbished in 2016 and offer a more comfortable journey.
How to get around in Thailand?
Thailand is easy and cheap country to travel around. If you have a short amount of time, I suggest flying from place to place. There are so many low-cost budget airlines. It’s easy to hop on a flight from Bangkok and head to the islands or to fly to Chiang Mai. There are a number of options for getting around Thailand.
The easiest way to avoid getting scammed or overcharged on your taxi ride is using Grab. As the prices are fixed, you cannot get overcharged. Grab acquired Uber in SE Asia. It’s still the same service, just a different app. It is much cheaper and you don’t have to barter with the drivers.
Are you currently planning a trip to Thailand? Let me know down in the comments!
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