10 Thailand travel tips you need to know before you go

10 Thailand travel tips you need to know before you go

Is enchanting Thailand, with its breathtaking landscapes, rich culture, and vibrant city life, on your bucket list? If so, you’ve found the perfect guide. Whether you want to delve into the bustling streets of Bangkok, unwind on the serene beaches of Phuket, or explore the ancient temples of Chiang Mai, Thailand promises an unforgettable journey. But before you pack your bags and board the plane, there are a few essential tips that can make your trip even smoother and more enjoyable. From practical advice to cultural do’s and don’ts, this blog post reveals 10 crucial Thailand travel tips you need to know before you go. Prepare to maximize your Thai adventure with this essential guide

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About Thailand 

Thailand, located in Southeast Asia, is celebrated for its tropical beaches, lush jungles, and the dynamic city of Bangkok. This nation is steeped in traditions and cultural heritage, featuring a multitude of stunning temples and lively festivals year-round.

Historically, Thailand has been the cradle of significant kingdoms such as Sukhothai in the 13th century and Ayutthaya in the 14th century, which flourished until their fall to the Burmese in the 18th century. Unique among its Southeast Asian neighbors, Thailand, once known as Siam, was never colonized by European powers. This distinct historical background affords Thailand a unique position in the region. During the 20th century, it transitioned from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy and remains a significant power both regionally and globally.

ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya

Thai cuisine is a global favorite, renowned for its bold flavors and vast diversity. From fiery soups and salads to sweet desserts, it draws culinary enthusiasts from around the world in search of authentic and memorable dining experiences.

For adventurers, Thailand is a haven, ideal for jungle exploration and diving in pristine waters. The country also provides tranquil beach relaxation and cultural enrichment through its cities and villages. Catering to a broad spectrum of travelers, from backpackers to luxury resort guests, Thailand attracts a diverse crowd.

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Thailand
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Given Thailand’s rich offerings, thorough preparation is key to maximizing your travel experience. While it’s not necessary to schedule every minute, planning the key components of your trip is crucial. Here are 10 essential Thailand travel tips for a memorable journey.

10 Thailand travel tips you need to know before you go

1. How to travel to Thailand

The most typical way to travel from Belgium to Thailand is by plane, usually requiring a stopover, as direct flights to Bangkok are not available. Upon arriving in Bangkok, you’ll discover a wealth of transportation options, making it a superb hub for further travels within Thailand and to neighboring countries.

A compelling alternative route involves taking a direct flight from Brussels to Singapore with Singapore Airlines. This route transports you to Asia in approximately twelve hours. Renowned for its exceptional service, Singapore’s airport has been consistently ranked among the world’s best, providing a stellar stopover experience. This option also allows for a brief stay in Singapore, enriching your journey to Thailand by incorporating two dynamic destinations in a single trip. This strategy not only offers a refreshing break in your travel but also the chance to immerse yourself in Singapore’s vibrant culture and urban life before you head to Thailand.

Additionally, Thailand is served by international airports in Phuket and Chiang Mai, both easily reachable from Bangkok or Singapore. For those planning to visit multiple spots within Thailand or intending a more extensive tour, the country is equipped with numerous smaller domestic airports scattered across the region. These are perfect for those looking to travel efficiently and reduce time spent in transit between diverse locations.

2. Passport, visa, and vaccinations

When traveling from Belgium to Thailand, Belgian citizens must take note of several essential documents and health precautions.

  • Firstly, ensure your passport is internationally valid and has at least six months remaining beyond your planned return date.
      
  • For tourist visits shorter than 30 days, Belgians do not require a visa. However, for longer stays or for purposes such as work or study, you will need to secure the appropriate visa beforehand.
      
  • Regarding health precautions, it’s strongly advised to ensure that vaccinations such as DTP and hepatitis A and B are current. Additionally, depending on the areas you intend to visit, malaria prevention may be necessary. It’s wise to consult your doctor or a travel health clinic well in advance of your trip for advice on necessary medications and vaccinations.

3. How to get around in Thailand

Although I enjoy driving, I recommend against renting a car in Thailand due to the often chaotic traffic and occasionally poor road conditions.

For quicker travel across regions, consider domestic flights. However, keep in mind that flying means you’ll miss much of the scenic landscapes you could otherwise enjoy.

Fortunately, bus service in Thailand is excellent. Multiple bus companies operate regular routes, and I’ve had positive experiences booking through the website 12togo This platform allows you to view various travel options and reserve seats in advance online, saving time and hassle.

Thailand also offers night trains, a great option for saving daytime hours. You can sleep during the journey, such as on a trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. These trains are bookable via 12togo, streamlining your travel planning.

Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Pho, Bangkok
white temple Chiang Rai, Thailand
White Temple, Chiang Rai

In addition to buses and trains, 12togo also facilitates booking ferry tickets to the islands, providing a comprehensive resource for all your in-country travel needs.

For short urban rides, we used Grab, an app similar to Uber. It’s user-friendly, links directly to your payment card, and allows you to choose your ride type and see prices upfront, eliminating the need to negotiate with taxi drivers or tuk-tuk operators.

4. The best time to travel to Thailand

The best time to visit Thailand varies with the climate and regional weather variations. Thailand experiences three distinct seasons: the rainy season, the cool season, and the hot season.

The rainy season, from June to October, features short but intense downpours, usually in the afternoon. Occasionally, this heavy rainfall can lead to flooding, which might close down local attractions temporarily.

The cool season, spanning November to February, is widely regarded as the optimal time to visit. During these months, the weather is milder and rainfall is minimal, creating ideal conditions for both beach vacations and exploring cultural landmarks.

Beach Hua Hin, Thailand
Hua Hin Beach

The hot season extends from March to May and is marked by extreme heat, with temperatures frequently rising above 35°C. This can be uncomfortable, particularly in densely populated urban areas like Bangkok.

Overall, for the most comfortable weather conditions and an enjoyable travel experience, the period from November to February is considered the best time to visit Thailand.

5. Book an accommodation in Thailand

Thailand offers a diverse array of accommodation options tailored to various budgets and preferences. Whether you’re in search of luxurious five-star hotels and resorts in tourist hotspots like Phuket and Koh Samui, or more economical choices such as guesthouses and hostels in bustling cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand caters to every type of traveler.

For those seeking a more genuine Thai experience, consider staying in a traditional Thai bungalow or opting for a homestay with local residents. These accommodations offer a unique glimpse into the everyday life and culture of the country.

It is advisable to book your accommodation well in advance, particularly during the peak tourist season, to secure the best options and prices.

If you’re planning a road trip across Thailand, Booking.com provides numerous benefits. The site includes a useful map widget that shows all available accommodations and their specific locations, making it easy to find the perfect place to stay. You can also apply filters like ‘free cancellation’ to discover flexible options that allow cancellations up until the day before your arrival. This flexibility is especially useful for adjusting your travel plans if necessary.

Below, you can explore a range of accommodations at your dream destinations in Thailand.

 

6. Paying and tipping in Thailand

In Thailand, the official currency is the Thai Baht (THB). Cash is still widely used, especially at smaller establishments, markets, and with street vendors. There are ATMs available in both urban and tourist areas for convenient cash withdrawals. Most hotels, large stores, and restaurants accept credit cards, but carrying some cash is advisable for minor expenses.

Tipping is not obligatory in Thailand, but it is customary and appreciated across many service sectors. At restaurants, consider leaving a tip of about 5-10% if the bill doesn’t already include a service charge. For taxi services and personal services like massages, rounding up the fare or leaving a small tip can significantly show appreciation for good service. It’s important to recognize that even a small amount can make a significant contribution to the income of the service provider, given the local economic standards.

7. Wifi or 4G in Thailand

In Thailand, you’ll find excellent access to Wi-Fi and 4G networks, particularly in urban and tourist areas. Most hotels, cafes, and restaurants offer their customers free Wi-Fi, which is typically reliable and fast.

Having continuous internet access is handy for using navigation tools or apps like GRAB. Fortunately, obtaining a local SIM card is easy. Various telecom providers offer 4G services, giving you fast and reliable mobile internet. You can find these SIM cards at airports, shopping malls, and specialized stores.

Overall, Thailand offers great connectivity for travelers, making it easy to stay connected and access both Wi-Fi and 4G networks.

Additionally, remember that Thailand uses type A and C electrical sockets and plugs. If you are bringing chargers and electronic devices, it’s wise to carry one or more universal travel adapters to ensure compatibility.

8. Dealing with local culture

Engaging with Thailand’s local culture requires respect and adaptation due to the country’s deep-seated traditions and norms. Central to Thai culture is the high value placed on politeness and respect, particularly towards elders and in religious contexts.

In greetings, Thais use the ‘wai’, where the palms are joined together in front of the face. Men say ‘Sawatdee khap’ and women ‘Sawatdee ka’. Thanking follows a similar pattern, with ‘Khop khun khap’ for men and ‘Khop khun ka’ for women. These polite forms, with ‘khap’ for men and ‘ka’ for women, are essential in Thai language.

Respect for Buddhism is vital. When meeting a monk, it is appropriate to bow slightly, and women should avoid physical contact. Temple visits require you to remove your shoes and ensure you never point your feet at a Buddha image, as feet are considered the lowest part of the body. Additionally, it’s important to cover your shoulders and knees.

Giant Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok
Giant Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok

The head is considered sacred, so touching someone’s head is a gesture to be avoided.

Although locals are understanding of cultural missteps, making an effort to follow these customs is greatly appreciated. A smile plays a crucial role in communication, aiding in smoothing social interactions, and maintaining a non-confrontational attitude and patience is key to avoiding rudeness.

By respecting these cultural details, you can enhance your interactions with the local population and enrich your experience in Thailand.

9. Food you need to try in Thailand

Thai Cuisine

Thailand is globally celebrated for its rich and varied culinary landscape, making a culinary exploration essential for any visit to the country.

Be aware that Thai cuisine is notably spicy. If you prefer milder flavors, it’s helpful to say ‘mai pet’ (not spicy) when ordering.

Pad Thai, an iconic stir-fried noodle dish, is a must-try. It’s typically prepared with shrimp, tofu, peanuts, and a tangy tamarind sauce.

chicken pad thai noodles, Thailand

Som Tam, a vibrant papaya salad, skillfully blends sweet, sour, salty, and spicy elements, offering a perfectly balanced flavor profile.

Som tum or green papaya salad, Thailand

Tom Yum Goong, a zesty shrimp soup infused with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal, offers a flavor explosion with each sip.

Shrimp tom yum soup, Thailand

Massaman Curry, a rich and comparatively mild curry that reflects Persian influences, is another staple dish, often served with beef or chicken.

Thai massaman curry, Thailand

For dessert, Mango Sticky Rice combines ripe mango with sweet sticky rice, drizzled with creamy coconut milk, providing a delightful and sweet end to your meal.

mango and sticky rice, Thailand
Thailand’s street food scene

Thailand is renowned for its dynamic street food culture, which plays a vital role in daily life and local cuisine. As you wander through the streets of cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and even smaller towns, you’ll encounter many street food stalls showcasing a variety of dishes, often cooked right in front of you.

Popular street foods include Satay which are grilled meat skewers served with a spicy peanut sauce. Khao Pad, a fried rice dish available in countless variations, each infused with the unique touch of the individual cook. Pad Krapow, a stir-fry featuring basil with meat or tofu, served over rice topped with a fried egg, stands out as both tasty and hearty. For those eager to sample a distinct local flavor try an Isaan sausage, a spiced Thai sausage from the Northeast, which provides an exquisite taste experience.

For dessert, indulge in Kanom Bueang, a crispy Thai ‘pancake’ filled with a sweet coconut and meringue mixture, or Kanom Krok, delightful coconut milk pancakes.

Kanom Bueang, Thailand

Exploring street food in Thailand offers more than just delicious meals. It’s a window into the local culture and daily life, providing an excellent opportunity to connect with locals, as food truly is a universal language.

10. Discover traces of the past of Thailand

Thailand is a treasure trove of historical riches that span thousands of years, from majestic temples to ancient ruins. One of the most significant historical sites is Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of the Siamese kingdom founded in 1350. Here, you can explore the impressive remnants of temples and palaces that showcase Thailand’s rich historical and architectural legacy.

ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya

Close to Ayutthaya lies Sukhothai, the first capital of Thailand, where renowned historical parks exhibit a collection of Buddhist ruins. These include exquisite Buddha statues and foundational temple structures, offering a vivid glimpse into the past.

Wat Sa Si at Sukhothai National Historical Park, Sukhothai, Thailand
Wat Sa Si at Sukhothai National Historical Park

In Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is celebrated for its Lanna heritage, featuring well-preserved temples such as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This sacred site is known for its golden stupas and provides a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Bangkok itself reveals layers of history through the royal palace complex and the adjoining Wat Phra Kaew, the spiritual core of the Thai kingdom.

Royal Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
Royal Palace, Bangkok
Royal Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
Royal Palace, Bangkok

Each of these locations provides a unique lens through which to view Thailand’s historical and cultural evolution, deepening visitors’ understanding of the country’s rich historical tapestry.

There’s no question that a trip to Thailand is well worth it. This stunning and diverse country makes for an ideal vacation spot, but thorough preparation is essential. These Thailand travel tips will help you plan your trip meticulously, ensuring you can fully enjoy all the wonderful experiences this fantastic country has to offer.

Is a vacation in Thailand on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below.

Thank you for reading. 

Yours truly,  

Sarah 

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10 useful travel tips for Thailand
10 useful travel tips for Thailand

Travel tips and essentials

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