travel to Thailand?
Land of Smiles' offers a massive variety of assets at a minimal
price - a staggering variety of incredible cuisine often served in gorgeous outdoor
settings; an vibrant collection of sights, from glittering, elegant
temples to colourful floating markets to lunatic festivals; local
people who are more relaxed and charming than they should be under
seige by a planeloads of impolite, drunk foreigners, but they keep
on smiling, as the sun keeps on shining.
Thailand's beaches are huge, well serviced and in settings that
are often strange but always comfortable, busy but relaxed.
The country has all kinds of holidays for all kinds of people
on all kinds of budgets, from huts on a beach or a mountain to the
best hotel in the world, Bangkok's Oriental.
And the shopping is sensational - silks, tailor-made outfits in
a couple of days, jewelry, wood carvings...
This is one of Asia's most varied and interesting countries and a perfect base to visit other Asian destinations too.
- Bangkok is infamous for traffic chaos (tho' the river boats
and the Skytrain are brilliant alternatives, so try to stay
near a train stop)
- It has a reputation for petty thievery, but usually without
violence, so just be alert.
- Avoid unmarked taxis and maybe tuk-tuks. Official taxis are
safe, have aircon and are metered so you avoid mad tuk-tuk driving,
air pollution and money squabbles - and will probably pay less
for the trip anyway.
November-February, except in the northern mountains.
Worst: April-May due to excessive heat, and long rains at east side beaches November-early
December, west side beaches May-October.
Air Pollution January-April, northern Thai:
North Thailand half way down to Bangkok and including Chiang Mai has been suffering severe air pollution over the last few years from January to April due to uncontrolled burning of vegetation by farmers, both in Thailand and Burma.
An email extract April 2012: "By mid February we had sore streaming eyes, sore throats and a persistent cough and had to take anti histamines every day to control the symptoms. Some days the smog was so bad that people were advised to stay indoors and even just walking a couple of Kms to the restaurant brought ona coughing fit". Don't go there at that time!
Min. worthwhile stay, not incl. flights : 6 days (2days in Bangkok,
1 day trip to Ayutthaya, 3 days in Chiang Mai or on a beach).
Recommended: 10 days - 6 weeks!
***Bangkok, noisy, chaotic city with great sights, temples, canals, fabulous foods, incredible shopping and wild night life. Don't miss Khao San Road, its colourful offerings, tours and good-value services for backpackers such as visa acquisition; a long-tail boat ride on the river; a few glorious, dazzling temples; eating off
a food stall; Patpong nightlife and maybe Thai boxing at the stadium? But don't book a long-distance bus there unless you want thieves along for the ride. Go to the government-run bus station instead. Bangkok Pictures
and more information.
Bangkok's best cheap hotels, from the Telegraph newspaper 2012.
**Ayutthaya, atmospheric ruins,
once the Orient's most magnificent capital.
*Sukhotai, an historic park
with ancient ruined capital surrounded by lakes and woods.
**Chiang Mai, a lively
city with beautiful temples and shrines, famous for night markets
and as a base to explore further north. Also Chang Rai, more north,
less developed (but not January-April due to appaling air pollution).
***Beaches - the country has
many superb beaches and quite a few horribly overdeveloped ones.
See Thailand Beaches information, Beach
Pictures for a visual idea of what to expect or Vacation Club Thailand for somewhere upmarket to stay.
Canals: Around Bangkok waterways on noisy but unique
Shopping: Bangkok, Chiang Mai.
Trekking: into the mountains in north
Thailand to visit hill tribes. The best bases are Chiang Mai, Chiang
Rai, and Mae Hong Son.
Driving: either bike or car hire easily
available, good value and safe, with great sights and guest houses
en route - especially of cultural interest is the area west of Chang
Mai, towards Burma.
Island excursions: Ang Thong National
Marine Park from Na Thon port in Ko Samui, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi
Ley island from Phuket.
Scuba & Snorkelling: all around the southwest, especially off Phi Phi or Similan Islands.
Elephant rides: Mostly from Chiang
Motorbiking: trail bike hire is available
all over, as is gravel rash! Take care on wiggly, slippery roads and especially when wearing little more than shorts and T shirt.
Beaches: see our Beaches guide, Beach Pictures or Beaches Map.
(dates are based on the lunar calendar so vary year-by-year)
April, Songkran (New Year's Water festival), nationwide (especialy
lively in Chiang Mai, 2 day+.
May, Bun Bang Fai (Rocket festival), Northeast region
June, Phi Ta Khon, Loei.
Mid Oct, Vrgetarian Festival, Phuket.
Late Oct, Buffalo Races, Chon Buri.
Nov, Loi Krathong, nationwide, 3days.
Late Nov, Surin Elephant Roundup, Surin.
Late Nov-early Dec, Banquet for Monkeys, Lop Buri, 1day.
220v, 2 flat pins, occasionally 2 round pins.
- Petty thievery is common in Bangkok, bigger resorts and small
cheap hotels, so look out for your valuables, especially if you're
busy getting wrecked so secure your goodies before a night on the rampage.
- Private long-distance buses have a bad reputation. Thievery is rife on board especially during overnight trips and actively supported by many bus operators, including stowing a lad with a light and lock-picks in the luggage hold during the entire journey! Locks are no protection, keep all valuables on your body and beware when the lights go out! And/or take a bus from a government bus station.
- Also use a little common sense about going off to lonely places
with friendly Thais, and do not take unmarked taxis, particularly
- Ensure hotel rooms are secured at night, sneak in thievery is
common, especially in cheap hotels where locks are inefficient.
Stick a chair or wedge under the door.
- Hill trekking is terrific but beware border areas with Myanmar
and Cambodia where well-armed banditry is rife. The sensible approach
would be to take a knowledgeable Thai guide along. See Bugbog's Safety page.
finally don't be rude about Thailand's royal family or Buddhism
as Thais take these very seriously.
where Brits have most chance of getting into trouble or sick (and asking help from the British Embassy), according to the UK
Foreign Office: Thailand,
India, Greece, Spain.