Thailand has it all, from tropical beaches in the south to charming mountains in the north, from crazy railways to ancient tribe villages and elephant sanctuaries. It is a huge country and places to see are countless, here we try to list the most important ones.
Thailand was our first country in Southeast Asia we stepped in, as many first time goers we landed in Bangkok. Describing this city would need more than 1,000 adjectives, and same goes for the country as well. Let’s just stick to the popular tag to keep it simple: “The land of smiles”!
WHERE&HOW TO GO AROUND THAILAND
You’ll need at least 15-20 days if you want to experience both northern and southern Thailand, if you have just one week you’ll have to choose between them.
SOUTH – BEACHES&ISLANDS
Southern Thailand is home to some of the most beautiful islands in Asia.
KOH SAMUI – KOH TAO – KOH PHANGAN
This archipelago in the Gulf of Thailand is one of the first images you find when you type Thailand on Google. Beaches, sun, hot weather, diving&snorkeling, partying… What else would you need? One could spend easily one week on each of these 3 islands and never get bored. Koh Samui is the biggest and easier to reach due to its International Airport. Koh Tao and Koh Phangan are smaller with the former being tiny and with less capacity, arguably the most beautiful naturally speaking (our favourite), and the latter standing halfway in size and number of visitors.
Ways to get here are many, by plane, by train or bus+ferry, read our experience here to have a better idea.
Phuket is the other main destination in the south. Despite not being in the Gulf of Thailand, but in the Andaman Sea instead, landscapes are similar with scenic beaches and lovely sunsets. Known for its crazy parties, the island is very big and offers natural reserves and tranquil areas too, other than the worldwide famous Phi Phi island being at day trip distance. Flights from Bangkok to Phuket are multiple everyday.
CENTRE – MAINLAND&HISTORY
The centre of Thailand is rich in history, present and old capital cities rise here.
As said before, Bangkok is hard to describe in few words, and today it’s so much extended that every neighbourhood is a different city in the city. If you have time, stay at least 3 days to get a glimpse of it. We’ve been there many times already, the sacred temples area is for example so different from the modern Sukhumvit where we stayed last time!
Ayutthaya is one of the former capitals of the Kingdom of Siam. Its open air temples are astonishing, our recommendation is to get a bike and wander around freely! Being at an enjoyable 1h30 train ride away, it is possible to get here on a day trip from Bangkok.
Another historic city is Sukhothai, deep in the centre of Thailand. It’s similar to Ayutthaya in some ways but way further from Bangkok, we had to choose between them for time issues. Do both if you are not in a hurry.
Running towards the western border with Myanmar, this famous railway is a must if you fancy scenic train rides. The bridge on river Kwai is its most famous section. Get to Bangkok Hua Lamphong Station and hop on train direction Kanchanaburi.
NORTH – MOUNTAINS&TRIBES
Northern Thailand is where Buddhism has its stronger roots.
CHIANG RAI/GOLDEN TRIANGLE
Chiang Rai is the closest city to the border with Myanmar and Laos, known as the Golden Triangle where tons of drugs are said to be traded. A good starting point to go and see the elephants and the tribe villages where long necked women live.
Chiang Mai is probably the most spiritual city of Thailand, hundreds of temples rise in and outside its beautiful walls. Songkran Festival (Thai New Year) is celebrated at its best up here, with wild water fights. Activities to undertake are numerous around Chiang Mai, don’t miss the iconic Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, and pay a visit to one of the many elephant sanctuaries.
Pai is a small town west to Chiang Mai that has become famous thanks to the many natural wonders surrounding it. During the day you can visit the unusual Pai Canyon, relax into some hot spring waters, or head to Pai Memorial Bridge. If you are up for adventure, read our story on how to complete the wonderful Chiang Mai/Pai/Mae Hong Son loop in the northwest of Thailand.
Some good-to-know info about Thailand:
HOTELS – WHERE TO STAY IN THAILAND?
You can pre book all of your Thai accomodation with free cancellation here.
Check out our favourite place in Bangkok: modern, cheap, close to BTS subway and with a great rooftop swimming pool! We loved watching sunset while chilling in the pool!
Busaba Hostel Ayutthaya: this brand new stylish hostel is the perfect base to visit Ayutthaya and its dozens of temples. The dorms are clean and spacious and it is conveniently located along the river in the town centre. Plus they have a cool coffee shop with AirCon, ideal to take a break during a hot sunny day in Ayutthaya.
Tanwa Hostel Chiang Mai: one of the best hostels in town, with modern facilities and very helpful staff. Walking distance from the night bazaar.
Last but not least, our gorgeous stay on top of a hill in Koh Tao, with private swimming pool and delightful sunsets: Viking House Villa Koh Tao.
WEATHER – WHEN TO GO TO THAILAND?
Thailand is subject to a tropical climate, with rainy season from June to September, warmer weather from January to May. From October to December the season is normally dry and not too hot.
DO I NEED A TRAVEL INSURANCE?
Yes you do. Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.
VISA – HOW TO GET A VISA TO THAILAND?
Not only Thai people are friendly, but its visa policy is tourist welcoming too. Most of the countries have 30 to 90 days visa free stay. If you are not sure, click here to double check if you need a visa to Thailand.
FLIGHTS – WHERE TO START YOUR TRIP?
As said, there’s a good chance Bangkok will be your first landing point in Thailand. However, tourist destinations as Phuket and Koh Samui have international airports connected to nearest hubs as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City. Also, Chiang Mai airport in the north of the country provides many connections to all Southeast Asia main cities.
TRAIN, BUS, FERRY – HOW TO BOOK TICKETS IN THAILAND?
Train tickets can be bought at any station the same or previous day of traveling. You can order Thai train, bus, ferry and also flight tickets easily online from reliable agency amt.12go.asia.
We also recently used baolau.com, a new online booking platform operating in Southeast Asia. Follow our step-by-step guide to make sure you get your ticket delivered straight to your e-mail address.
So now you should know more about Thailand, but if you need more info, just let us know in the comments below.
We will be happy to tell you more details and provide our personal experience!
ENJOY THE LAND OF SMILES!