Thailand Travel Guide: Places to Visit
Thailand is one of those dreamy yet mysterious destinations that is on almost every traveler’s bucket list.
And for a damn good reason!
Thailand offers lush mountains in the North, a bustling city in Bangkok, white sandy beaches in the South, unique & vibrant street food, famous weekend markets, nature at your fingertips, scuba diving and snorkeling, monumental and ornate temples ALL with a down to earth, friendly vibe.
What more could you ask for?
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
I had the amazing opportunity to visit Thailand and Bali during the summer of 2013.
My boyfriend’s new company gave him a killer signing bonus and voila – we were in Asia for a month! The timing of the trip was totally unexpected but the actual trip was something we’d been planning on for years.
We have always dreamed of traveling Asia together – eating pad thai & curry, lounging on the beaches & scuba diving, getting $8 an hour massages, and this list could never end (it’s that awesome)! When given the opportunity to actually go, it was actually quite difficult to choose our travel route because there are so many unique cities with different experiences.
We settled on a very popular route to take which went like this:
Bangkok – Ao Nang (Krabi Province) – Phi Phi Islands – Karon (Phuket) and then to Bali. In total, we spent 2 weeks gallivanting around Thailand.
Below are all the travel tips I learned along the way + some extras to help plan the best Thailand trip you can 🙂
- The people are very friendly – don’t be hesitant to ask for help!
- Currency – Thai Baht ($1 is approx. 32 bahts). This is definitely in our favor!
- Weather consists of 2 seasons – WET & DRY! For more information, read Asia 101 to get a full breakdown of the weather.
- Transportation – a mix of flying, trains, buses, ferries, walking, taxis, tuk tuks, and motorbikes. For more information, read Asia 101.
- Average nightly rate can range from $7 – $60 with anything over $50 comparing to a 4 star hotel in the USA. This range is based on your travel budget and falls into the budget / average travel range. There are plenty of “very” expensive resorts if that’s in the cards for you!
- MAJOR DESTINATION = TOURIST TRAPS! Add in the confusion of being in a completely foreign land and you are now a target. My boyfriend and I totally fell for this tourist trap, we didn’t mind too much BUT looking back it was a waste of a day! Read this article to get the full story and what to look out for.
- Be ready to take off your shoes before entering an establishment as a sign of respect. This is true for all temples, most guesthouses, and some places of business (restaurants & shops). Either wear flip flops or easy slip on shoes to avoid the hassle of taking them on & off all the time.
- Learn to say hello and thank you – quickly! I was embarrassingly bad at pronouncing the correct words but the effort was still appreciated by the locals.
Popular Travel Routes:
- Bangkok → Ao Nang (Krabi Province) → Railay Beach → Koh Lanta → Phi Phi Islands → Phuket → Bangkok
- Bangkok → Chiang Mai → Pai → Lampang → Sukhothai → Bangkok (northern trip)
- Bangkok → Gulf of Thailand (Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan) → Ao Nang (Krabi Province) → Bangkok
- This is usually the first stop on traveler’s itineraries because of the major international airport located here. Unless entering Thailand from a neighboring country via bus or train, most flights will arrive here. Bangkok’s highlights are:
- A ton of accommodation options ranging from $5 hostels on party central Koh San Road, $20 guesthouses tucked away but close enough to the action, to luxurious 5 star hotels in the center of the city.
- With over 50,000 restaurants, Bangkok is the place to eat well and for cheap! The city is known for it’s authentic street food fare which will keep your belly and wallet happy. Traveler’s can indulge in pad thai and a fresh fruit smoothie for under $3 (insert happy dance here)! Sit down restaurants are plentiful too with a range of options – check out Tripadvisor’s reviews here.
- Bangkok is full of gorgeous temples that will keep you mesmerized for hours. The craftsmanship and detail is absolutely beautiful, it’s like none other. Make sure to wear respectful clothing, be camera ready, bring bottled water, and maybe snap a yoga photo or two 🙂
- SHOPPING! I am warning all women (and some men too) pack lightly. The shopping opportunities are endless with inexpensive clothing, jewelry, handbags, and trinkets that will fill your suitcase to the brim. I over packed and had to under shop as a result – big mistake.
- Known as the “Gateway to the North” – the city is surrounded by lush mountains and greenery with an overall sense of wellness and spirituality.
- The city is an important Buddhist center dating back to the 14th century and home to more than 300 temples!
- Well-known for holistic and natural schooling, travelers can participate in cooking courses, meditation and yoga retreats, and massage certification courses. If interested in this type of experience – click here.
- How to get there from Bangkok? Travel either via plane, train, or bus.
- Plane travel is inexpensive and quick – average roundtrip flight is $40.
- Bus travel is the cheapest and the most uncomfortable. Buses depart from Bangkok almost every hour starting from 5:30 am to 10 pm. The trip is roughly 10 hours.
- Train travel is a great option as the trip can be made overnight. It is a popular method so be sure to plan and purchase tickets in advance. The trip is 12 -15 hours.
Ko Phi Phi Islands:
- The Phi Phi islands(pronounced pee pee) are famous for the movie The Beach, located in the Andaman Sea and in between the Krabi Province and the Phuket region.
- The island is a small strip of developed land nestled between two mountain tops with a beach on one side and a bay on the other. There are no vehicles (aside from government and emergency) and the people rely solely on importing goods from neighboring towns.
- Known for beach lounging and scuba diving by day, the island turns into an energetic party by night with fire shows, beer pong, and wrestling matches. Be ready for dancing, loud crowds, and music playing till right before sunrise.
- The islands can only be reached via ferry and are typically accessed from either Phuket or Ao Nang. Depending on the season and crowds, tickets may need to be purchased in advance. We purchased our tickets the morning of BUT we were visiting during the rainy season.
- Located in the North Thailand, Pai is described as taking a step back in time and known as a hippie or rasta town. It is located in a lush valley surrounded by mountains and nature. The city has become increasingly popular over the last decade amongst travelers and locals while keeping it’s charm and original roots!
- Busy season is October – February with accommodations often booking up so plan ahead!
- To get here from Chiang Mai – travel is accessible by flight, bus, car, or motorbike. For more detailed information – click here.
- Flights from Chiang Mai are a quick 30 minutes and cost $50 for a one-way.
- Public bus is a 4 hour trip depending on traffic and costs $3 for a one-way.
- Driving yourself is another option and based on information, quite easy! The trip takes 3 hours on average.
The Gulf of Thailand:
(Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Koh Tao)
All located in the Gulf of Thailand, these three islands have become increasingly popular for both recreation and social activities. Travelers can easily experience all three during one trip using a ferry as a means of travel between them. Because of the rising popularity, these islands are generally developed catering to tourists.
- Koh Phangan is widely known for the Full Moon Party it hosts every month on the full moon. The party attracts thousands of visitors so be prepared for all out shenanigans.
- Koh Samui can become whatever adventure you’re looking for! The island can transform into a luxury private villa with golf courses and butlers, a tranquil retreat for people looking to practice yoga and meditate, or an inexpensive destination with white sand beaches by day and all night parties.
- Koh Tao has become the destination for nature junkies – whether looking to scuba dive and snorkel, rock climb, or hike, this island has it all!
What do you love about Thailand?
Where should I venture to next time, because there will definitely be a next time!
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