Thailand travel guide, including map of Thailand, top Thai travel experiences, tips for travel in Thailand plus where to learn to dive and trek to hilltribe vil
Long the backpackers’ South-East Asian favourite, it’s easy to see why Thailand creates such a buzz: scores of fabulous, sandy beaches; tongue-tingling cuisine; fascinating culture – and all at great prices.
In Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, explore glittering palaces, peaceful temples and night markets. In the north of Thailand, trek through the jungles and hills to discover tribal villages, then learn to rustle up your own Thai curry at a cooking class in Chiang Mai.
Thailand’s many laid-back islands beckon scuba divers and hammock-snoozers alike – Ko Pha-Ngan is renowned for its full moon parties, while Ko Tao, Ko Lanta and Ko Phi-Phi are hotspots for dive courses.
Take a trail through time – explore Thailand’s ancient sites at Sukhothai, Ayuthaya and Prasat Phanom Rung, or visit a piece of more-recent history at the Bridge on the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi.
Wildlife-watchers head to the dense rainforest of Khao Sok National Park and monkey-inhabited mountains of Khao Yai National Park. Further south, grab a paddle to sea kayak among the karst outcrops around Krabi.
Treat yourself with an authentic and affordable Thai massage in Bangkok’s Wat Pho temple, where practitioners are trained in the fine art of balancing energy and releasing blocks.
The best weather for travel is from November to February. Christmas holidays are a popular time for package tours, when resorts get croeded. It is hot and dry from March to May, whereas monsoon is from June to October. The rainy season is still an enjoyable time to travel, with fewer tourists.
Chinese New Year is celebrated with dragon parades and fireworks, mainly in Chinatowns in Bangkok and Phuket (January or February). Songkhran festivities welcome the Thai New Year with water fights and sandcastle building (April). During Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival Chinese devotees become vegetarian for nine days and parade through town carrying out acts of self-mortification. Excellent vegetarian food is available from most food stalls and restaurants (October or November). One of the most beautiful celebrations is Loy Krathong, Thailand’s Festival of Light (usually in November).
Bangkok (BKK) 22km from the city, Chiang Mai (CNX) 15km from town, Phuket (HKT) 35km from town and Koh Samui (USM) 5km from Chaweng Beach
Thailand has a reasonably good rail system, run by the State Railway of Thailand. Travellers on their way to Koh Phangan or Koh Samui often use the overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani. Bus travel is very cheap, with various classes, some air-con. A good way to explore the countryside is to rent a motorbike – helmets are obligatory. Shared songthaews (open vans with benches) are a cheap way of travelling in rural areas. Thailand’s major islands can be reached by ferry.
There's a wide range of accommodation in Thailand. If travelling on a budget you can choose between guesthouses, homestays and – usually at the beach – simple bungalows. Upmarket hotels and resorts are much cheaper than in Western countries.
With a glorious variety of flavours and ingredients, Thailand’s cuisine is one of the best in the world. Don’t miss out on the excellent snacks on offer at many food stalls in the streets. A classic is Pad Thai, fried noodles with vegetables, eggs, fish sauce and sometimes meat, topped with peanuts and lime juice. Rice is an essential part of the Thai diet. Vegetables, coconut milk, chillies, ginger, fish or oyster sauce, garlic and tamarind are often used, and excellent fresh fish and seafood is available at the coast.
Depending on where you go and how you travel, vaccinations are recommended, as is malaria prophylaxis – consult your GP or travel health clinic. Drink only sterilised or bottled water, and make sure the bottles are sealed. Hygiene at street food stalls is a consideration – but places where lots of locals eat are usually fine.
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