First-Timer’s Guide to Thailand

by Catherine Bodry

by Catherine Bodry | March 25th, 2011  

Planning your first-ever trip to Thailand? Hooray! You’re about to have a fabulous vacation. Thailand is small but varied enough to warrant a holiday solely in that country.

If this will be your first trip to Thailand, you probably have a lot of questions. We’re here to answer them – following is a list of some of the concerns many people have before visiting Thailand for the first time.

First time to Thailand

When is the best time to visit Thailand?

Thailand has clearly defined high and low seasons; the former runs from mid-November through February, while the latter begins in April and runs through September. Shoulder seasons buffer the two. The weather in Thailand is obviously best during high season, but there are benefits to traveling during the low season: lower prices, no crowds, and weather that’s not as bad as you might think.

»More about when to go to Thailand and Thailand in August

What do I need to do before I leave for a trip to Thailand?

Thailand doesn’t require as much planning as does a less-developed country, but you’ll still want to do some pre-trip planning. A complete list of information is here, but following is a list of a few things to consider:

Immunizations
There are a couple of other vaccines you’ll need to consider: Hepatitis A and Typhoid are good ones. If you’ll be working around animals, consider a rabies vaccine, if anything because you have a very limited time to get to Bangkok for treatment if bitten without a vaccination. Japanese encephalitis is another one to consider if you’ll be spending a lot time around farm animals.

Visas
Travelers from the United States, Canada, European Union countries, Australia and New Zealand do not need visas to enter the country. Those arriving by air will receive a 30-day entry stamp, while travelers coming by land will only receive 15 days. You can apply for visas for longer stays through your nearest Thai embassy or consulate before you go.

Money
ATMS in Thailand are spread throughout the country, save for the smallest towns and islands. Credit cards are widely accepted in larger cities, though you’ll make most of your transactions in cash. Be sure to let your bank know you’ll be traveling to avoid a hold being put on your card after you arrive.
»More about costs for a Thailand trip

Language
English is widely spoken throughout Thailand, and you shouldn’t have a problem communicating with anyone who works in the travel industry. That includes hotel staff, private bus and car drivers, most Bangkok taxi drivers, and restaurant staff at places that see a lot of tourists. Still, it’s a good idea (and very polite) to learn a few words of Thai; we have a few Thai language tips that you can check out.

Where should I go in Thailand?

You have a lot of choices! Are you looking for a laid-back beach vacation? A cultural experience? Jungle trekking? A culinary tour? A family-friendly holiday? Thailand caters to all travelers, so you just need to decide what kind of trip you want to have, and then do a little research. Click on the following links for more destination-specific information.

Bangkok
Chiang Mai
Phuket
Ko Chang
Temples
Beaches and islands
Best beach towns in Thailand

What is the accommodation like?

The accommodation in Thailand is as varied as the country’s destinations. From super cheap hostels to 5-star resorts, every budget is catered to. Guest houses usually offer a bit more of a personal touch than hotels, while vacation rentals allow you the privacy and freedom of your own home. Read our accommodation page for more information.

How can I get to and around Thailand?

Good news! Bangkok is a Southeast Asian hub, which means that it’s very possible to find cheap airfare to Thailand. You can use our booking widget to search for the best prices. Budget airlines fly into the country, and also serve domestic airports. If you’re short on time, traveling around Thailand by air is an affordable and easy option for hitting the major sites.

Public transportation around the country is prolific, with an excellent bus and rail system:
Bus travel in Thailand
Train travel in Thailand
Cheap flights to Bangkok
Cheap flights to Phuket
Cheap flights to Chiang Mai
Getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Getting from Bangkok to Pattaya
Getting from Bangkok to Ko Samui

What will I eat in Thailand?

Well, hopefully you’ll eat Thai food! But if you’re nervous about experimenting with a new cuisine, all tourists towns will have restaurants and cafes that offer Western food. Though I’m a huge Thai food fan, I usually like a Western breakfast and have only had to go without when traveling in tiny towns.

Thai dishes vary according to regions; obviously you can expect excellent seafood along the beaches and islands. In the northern provinces, pork is the favored meat. Vegetarians should have no problem finding food to eat, though fish sauce is often added to “vegetarian” dishes. Often Thai cooks will make food less spicy for foreign travelers, but if you’re concerned tell your server “mai pet.” “Mai” means “no,” while “pet” means “spicy.” If you like it Thai spicy, tell them “pet pet!”

»More about about How to eat Thai food and Thai menu tips

Happy planning! If you have any questions about your trip, be sure to leave us a comment.

{ 5 comments }

Ksv March 29, 2011 at 9:00 am
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A very extensive and well written guide here!

I would also add, as a very minor point, it’s worth reading up on Thai customs and social traditions before heading along to any Buddhist tourist attractions.

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Catherine Bodry March 29, 2011 at 12:22 pm
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Thanks for the comment! You’re totally correct; reading up on Thai customs is very important, especially if you’re planning on visiting temples. I’ll work on a post that addresses that – thanks again for the suggestion.

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mark April 4, 2011 at 8:25 am
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It’s a good idea to read some of the travel forums about long haul bus trips in Thailand. Lots of scams, including some really unexpected ones like people hiding in the luggage compartment and stealing contents of bags during the night. I like the buses for short trips but long haul take a flight as they are usually pretty cheap.

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becky October 20, 2011 at 10:22 am
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This is a great guide with some very useful information. My three month trip to Thailand was the best time of my life and I would recommend it to anyone!

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Chakra March 3, 2012 at 12:41 am
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Thanks for the tips in a nutshell! it was really informative. just bought a plane ticket to chiang mai outta a spur-of-the-moment decision, and I’m nervous about it!

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