If you’re looking for guaranteed sun, the UK winter months are the ideal time to go to Thailand for the best weather. Between November and April, when it’s coldest and darkest in the UK, Thailand is neither too hot nor too rainy. During UK summer months, Thailand is experiencing its hot, humid and rainy season, but it is rarely raining all day and as “low season”, it has the added benefit of being quieter for tourists.
Top Thailand travelling tips
Thailand is a very popular long-haul holiday destination and justifiably so; the landscape, the food, the people, the beaches, the water – everything about “the land of smiles” is glorious. Here are our top tips on how to get the best out of your time there.
A holiday in Thailand is truly a feast for the senses; the water is as clear as any you will find in the world, the vegetation lush, and the people and culture truly welcoming. While Club Med’s resort in Phuket is all-inclusive, why not take the opportunity to explore nearby islands, beaches and temples and perhaps stopover in Bangkok or incorporate another destination during your time in Thailand. It’s a long way to travel, so to help you make the best of your time there, we’ve put together some top Thailand travel tips to help you plan your holiday.
Thailand is the home of paradise beaches – with the warm, azure waters of the Andaman Sea on the east and the Gulf of Thailand on the west. Whether you’re looking for palm-fringed, hidden coves on which to sunbathe and snorkel, livelier beaches with bars and water sports or clear waters in which to learn to dive, there are hundreds of amazing destinations waiting to be discovered. Here’s our pick of the best:
On the east coast, the Phi Phi islands – a short boat-ride from Club Med Phuket – are home to extraordinary wildlife and beaches so beautiful you’ll have to pinch yourself. Bamboo Island is an unspoiled white sand ring around a tree-covered island without any bars or holiday accommodation in sight. Leam Sing is a quiet, hidden spot in upmarket Phuket – found between Surin and Kamala – and considered one of the island’s best beaches.
The large island of Koh Chang is the furthest east of all Thai islands and offers a quiet escape from the hustle of the mainland resorts, with unspoilt beaches and small, family-run guesthouses to stay in. The island is dominated by the Mu Koh Chang national park, which gives it a rugged, adventurous nature, making it ideal for treks into the jungle. Check out the Khlong Neung and Khiri Phet waterfalls for dramatic views and a cooling freshwater swim.
Koh Lanta is famous for its wide stretches of white sand and fantastic array of coral reefs to snorkel and dive. There’s also a calm, laid-back atmosphere across the island, which makes it ideal for families. A dozen beaches, each with its own charm and crystal clear waters, provide plenty of places to relax, while the Koh Lanta national park has a wide variety of trails to follow (and monkeys to spot too).
Located towards the Malaysian border, Koh Lipe is Thailand’s southern-most island and has three main beaches: Sunset Beach in the west, Sunrise Beach in the east and Pattaya Beach in the south. All three are tropical paradises that are Instagram-ready, with bright white sand and turquoise waters ideal for snorkelling or paddling a kayak on. This is also the place to go if you love diving, with top dive spots including the 8 Mile Rock pinnacle and the Yong Hua shipwreck.
Over on the west coast, Koh Tao, one of the most popular spots in Thailand to learn to dive, has extraordinarily clear waters and paradise beaches. And on Koh Phangan, Thong Nai Pan Noi and Thong Nai Pan Yai are twin bays with a bohemian vibe — amazing coves from which to watch the sunrise.
If you prefer people watching and a little livelier atmosphere, Chaweng beach on Koh Samui is lively, fun and fringed by palms – or contrast that with Mae Nam, a 5km stretch of golden sand where the pace is more sedate and relaxed.
The official currency in Thailand is called Baht (pronounced ‘Baaaht’) or THB, with coins and notes in a huge variety of denominations. A good rule of thumb is that £1 is equivalent to just under 50THB, but check before you go on xe.com. In Thailand money goes a relatively long way – souvenirs, drinks and snacks outside the resort, boat travel to local islands or temple visits will all be inexpensive. ATMs are easily found and it’s a good idea to have small change in different pockets or places within your wallet so when paying for something, especially if you have haggled down the price – you don’t want to pull out a big wad of cash.
Haggling is an art in itself; most markets and stallholders are willing to do a deal, but ask with a smile and don’t be confrontational. Don’t expect to be able to barter in a shop (unless the item is very expensive, and you would consider bartering for the same piece in the UK) and when haggling, be reasonable. Remember how much you’d pay for that same item back home.
Thailand is a deeply religious country, where almost the entire population is Theraveda Buddhist. This means Thai people are gentle and calm, display great self-control and are respectful and non-confrontational. So while it is extremely popular with tourists, even in the most ‘westernised’ areas it is important to respect local traditions and customs.
Top of the Thailand tourism tips must be to always remove your shoes when going into a private home or temple. Always ask for permission before you take photographs of people – and a smile will go a long way; smile and be friendly even if people stare at you.
When you’re not at the beach, and especially if you intend to visit a temple or local festival, dress modestly, which means covering your shoulders and wearing shorts or a skirt that falls to or below the knee. As anywhere in the world, don’t litter and respect the environment.
It’s important to avoid the inevitable Thailand “tourist traps” so do your research. Things like taxis with “broken meters”, pushy tuk tuk drivers and overly friendly, smartly dressed strangers asking too many questions are all to be avoided. If you’re using a taxi, only take one with a meter and be firm about your destination, and if you can, have an idea of the route; similarly with a tuktuk, don’t fall into the ‘flat day rate’ offer for a tour — the driver is likely to take you to gem stone dealers and tailor shops with which he is in cahoots, instead of a genuine sightseeing itinerary.
Elephant rides and animal cruelty is sadly rife in Thailand, even some animal “sanctuaries” exploit elephants and make them perform tricks. Instead learn about sustainable tourism and visit the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, one of the best-known elephant conservation projects in the country, and a home to dogs, cats and other rescued animals. Green Thailand offers more advice on how to travel this beautiful country in a sustainable and eco-friendly way.
When you book your holiday to Thailand, pop in to your nearest chemist or travel clinic to ask a pharmacist what basic first-aid items you should carry, and what vaccinations are needed. You need to do this at least four, preferably six weeks, before travel. Mosquitos are prevalent (though few areas present a danger of malaria) so insect repellent is a must, as is sunscreen of a minimum SPF30 (SPR50 if you are travelling with children) – the sun is very, very strong. Only drink and clean your teeth in bottled water and eat foods that have been peeled or cooked first; salads might seem tempting but be extra careful. For more health information, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
Finally, to enter Thailand, you must have a minimum six months validity on your passport, and British travellers can spend 30 days in Thailand on a “visa exemption”. If you wish to stay longer you must get a visa before you travel. The Foreign Office website has more information on entry requirements and travelling in Thailand.
Take a long-tail boat ride and island hop — for example if you are staying in Club Med Phuket explore the Phi Phi islands.
Visit the Grand Temple, a series of gold-tipped buildings and probably Bangkok’s most famous destination.
Have a massage: If you need to de-stress after your flight, Thailand is one of the best places to enjoy a reasonably priced massage.
Take a cooking class — Thai food is delicious, fresh and local cooking classes are commonplace and a fun memento of your holiday.
Ride a tuk tuk — if you haven’t been to Asia before, a tuk tuk ride is a must-do experience. Just be sure to know where you are going and be firm on the price with your driver.
Have some clothes made. Thailand is home to amazing tailors who can make suits, dresses and beautiful silk clothing in a matter of days.
The elephant is Thailand’s national symbol, but these beautiful creatures are so often abused and exploited by tourist touts so visit the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand — or another elephant sanctuary — to learn about protecting these majestic creatures.
Visit The Golden Triangle — the point where the Mekong River meets the Ruak River and where Thailand meets Laos and Burma/Myanmar.
Experience one of Thailand’s iconic floating markets. The most famous is Damnoen Saduak, Ratchaburi, 100km south-west of Bangkok.
Explore beyond the beaches and cities; visit Thailand’s ancient ruins and go hiking in national parks. Three of the best are Doi Inthanon National Park, home to Thailand’s highest peak; Khao Yai National Park, one of Asia’s largest monsoon forests and a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Phimai Historical Park, home to 12th Century Khmer ruins.
For more inspiration to start your planning for a trip to Thailand, take a look at Club Med’s all-inclusive resort in Phuket.