The almost palpable aroma of spicy street food, a blur of colourful tuk-tuks and the all-encompassing hubbub of vendors and tourists doing the song-and-dance of a typical Thai barter…Thailand is a feast for the senses. There is simply no destination quite like it. This buzzing country promises an adventure around every corner – whether you’re looking for nightlife in Bangla Road or to escape to a secret cove away from the sociable commotion of the city.
Before you visit and discover the incredible ‘Land of Smiles’ for yourself, we've put together a guide with everything you need to know.
Thailand travel guide
- What you need to know
- The best time to visit
- What to pack for a holiday in Thailand
- Getting around Thailand
- The top tourist attractions in Thailand
What you need to know before you go
- Flight time from the UK: The average direct flight time is 11 hours 30 minutes.
- Currency: Thai baht ฿
- Language: Thai, although English is widely spoken.
- Time difference: Thailand is 6 hours ahead of the UK.
- Visas: Travellers can visit Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa. You can then apply for a 30 day extension. You can use the 30 day visa extension twice a year when entering through a land border but to visit more frequently, or to stay for longer than 30 days you’ll need the appropriate visa before travelling.
The best time to visit Thailand
While Thailand is a year-round destination, it does have a tropical climate and therefore a rainy season.
November to February tends to be the best time to visit Thailand, ideal for some winter sun. During these months the country is warm and sunny without being uncomfortably hot and there is little rain. Thailand is hottest from March to May.
However, you shouldn’t let the rain put you off visiting during the monsoon season. It may be heavy but it will be over as quickly as it started and you’ll be grateful for it when it lowers the humidity and clears the air. Take a look at our full guide on the best time to visit Thailand to help in planning your trip.
What to pack for a holiday in Thailand
It’s no secret that the mercury regularly soars in Thailand, so you’ll want to pack lightweight clothing and swimwear. However, you must dress appropriately when visiting religious sites such as the temples and Buddha statues – as a highly religious country, you can offend people by wearing skimpy clothing here.
Both men and women should cover their knees and shoulders and women should also cover their chest. Make sure you pack a short or long-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of shorts or a skirt that is at least knee-length. Although a pair of light-weight trousers should do the trick too, keeping you covered and cool.
It’s also useful to have a shawl, as this can be wrapped around your waist or used to cover your shoulders and chest if necessary.
Don’t forget insect repellent to ward off those pesky mosquitoes and bite cream to soothe the itch – just in case.
Suncream is a necessity, even during the rainy season. You’ll still need to keep it topped up to avoid getting burned. If you are travelling during monsoon season, however, make sure you also pack a light-weight raincoat.
You may also want to pack some Imodium, just to be on the safe side. If you accidentally drink the water – including potentially eating fruit or vegetables that have been washed in it – then you'll be very grateful for this.
Getting around Thailand
You're unlikely to stay in one place in Thailand because not only is there a mainland to explore, there are also islands scattered just off the coastline in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. Here’s how you can move around the country:
Tuk-tuks – You can’t visit Thailand without taking a ride in a tuk-tuk! You won’t be using these for long journeys, but they are ideal for travelling around once you arrive at each destination. They are a cost-effective way to travel but make sure you ask the price before getting in.
Scooter – If you want to explore at your own pace, then consider hiring a scooter. These are reasonably priced and a great way to discover each place you visit. Just make sure to wear a helmet and if you don’t have much experience with scooting, test drive it somewhere quiet before heading out onto the roads.
Taxi – You can travel by taxi, especially if you are moving between destinations. Again, make sure to check the price before you get in. It’ll be much more comfortable than a tuk-tuk for those slightly longer journeys.
Bus – The Baw Khaw Saw (BKS) is the Thai bus service. These run all day and night, however, the ones used for long-distance journeys tend to leave early in the morning or late at night. Tickets can be purchased from the departure terminal or even onboard the bus.
Train – There are four main rail lines: northern, northeastern, eastern and southern. You’ll find different types of trains and can choose between classes depending on how much you want to pay. These can be used for long journeys and are often more comfortable when travelling through the night.
Songthaews – These are small truck-like vehicles with open backs that are used by both tourists and locals. You’ll find these mainly in towns and while some follow a fixed route others will take you to your destination if it’s roughly in the direction they are heading. These have two rows of benches facing each other in the back and can be flagged down from the side of the road.
Ferries – If you are planning to visit the islands from the mainland or are hopping between them then you’ll there are ferries that can take you between all the major ports.
Planes – You can book internal flights in Thailand and if you are travelling across the country this may be the quickest and easiest way to travel. Airlines that offer internal flights in Thailand include Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways.
What are the top tourist attractions in Thailand?
You don’t want to miss the top tourist attractions while you are in Thailand. So, here are some of the must-see spots to try and squeeze into your itinerary.
Wat Pho: This is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in the capital, Bangkok and is home to the famous reclining buddha. You can’t miss this oversized statue at 46-metres long and 14-metres high.
The Grand Palace: While exploring the sights of Bangkok, plan a visit to The Grand Palace – one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. This impressive structure, which dates back to 1782, is where you’ll find Wat Phra Kaew – the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Ayutthaya Historical Park: Considered to be Thailand's old capital city, here you'll find stone ruins that date back 400 years. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you'll feel like an intrepid explorer discovering a lost world during a visit to this ancient site. The ruins that still stand took more than 150 years to complete and saw the reigns of 33 kings before the city fell after an attack in 1767.
Khao Yai National Park: From hiking to biking trails, there's plenty of ways to stretch your legs and immerse yourself in Thailand's natural beauty. Take a peek through the foliage at elephants splashing around in the many pools around the national park, seek out the glorious waterfalls (the 20-metre tall Haew Suwat waterfall is one of the most impressive) or look up to spot monkeys swinging through the trees overhead.
There’s no doubt that many tourists visit Thailand to unwind on its long stretches of soft sugar-white sand and swim in the warm turquoise water. But, as irresistible as Thailand’s beaches may be, this country’s beauty transcends the sun and sand and can be found in the heart of the jungle, in its local customs and on the city streets that come alive for the bustling night markets. Find out more about this welcoming country in our selection of comprehensive guides:
- When to visit Thailand
- What to Eat and Drink Thailand
- Island hopping guide Thailand
- Best walking tours Thailand
- Best spiritual retreats Thailand
- Best Night Markets Thailand
Ready to jump on a plane to see this spectacular country with your own eyes? Then check out our selection of hotels and flights.