Thai Bhat (TB) is the only legal currency used throughout the country. Wait until you arrive to exchange money as the rates will be better. Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted at most hotels and tourist locations. ATMs and exchange venues are very common throughout the country.
Thai is the country's official language, however, English is widely spoken with varying degrees of fluency. Similar to Chinese, Thai is a tonal language making it difficult for foreigners to learn. However, Thai people enjoy helping travellers with their pronunciation of the Thai language, so try learning some basic sayings before you travel.
Best time to go
The best time to travel to most of Thailand is from October, to the end of March, but it’s important to note that the coastal regions follow a slightly different weather pattern. For the gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui region), the best time to visit is between January and August. If visiting the Andaman Sea area (Phuket and Krabi), November to April is the optimal time.
Thailand has a tropical climate and experiences high temperatures and humidity throughout the year. Between March and May, temperatures can exceed 30C making them the hottest months. January to March tend to be the milder months where temperatures hover around 27C. Monsoon season runs from May/June to October, when hot temperatures are mixed with humidity and torrential rains.
Thailand has a rich and diverse landscape that appeals to many kinds of travellers looking to explore its hill-tribe villages, well-preserved temples, and fragrant cuisines. This welcoming destination is great for foodies, those looking to escape the beaten path and hike, or culture-seeking travellers.
Getting There From North America
Thailand has many major and international airports throughout the country allowing convenient travel from most cities including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, Koh Samui, and Krabi.
There are currently no direct flights from any North American gateway to Thailand. The most popular routes, to optimize travel time, will connect somewhere in Asia, before continuing to Bangkok or another international gateway. Some common airlines and connection cities are Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong), EVA Air (Taipei), China Eastern (Shanghai), China Southern (Guangzhou), Qatar Airways (Doha), and Emirates (Dubai).
Thailand has a variety of ports and piers throughout the country allowing for entry by boat into various areas and to many of the country’s islands, but most cruise ships will dock at either Laem Chabang, located 25km north of Pattaya, or Klong Toei Port, a smaller port near Bangkok’s city center.
Essential Sights of Thailand
The capital of Thailand, this bright and vibrant city is home to many famous temples, markets, and busy street life. In the old city sprawls the opulent Grand Palace. High above the west bank of the Chao Phraya River is Wat Arun, a uniquely designed temple made up of colourfully decorated spires. Its position along the river also provides stunning views and is a great spot for Instagram-worthy photos.
A mountainous city in northern Thailand, whose old city still retains parts of walls and moats dating back to the 14th Century. when the Lanna Kingdom ruled the region. Also home to
Doi Ithanon National Park, one of Thailand’s most famous national parks, and a preserved forest that provides sanctuary to a variety of birds and animals.
The northernmost city in Thailand, where you can explore Wat Rong Khun – also known to tourists as “White Temple.” A privately-owned art exhibit designed to resemble a Buddhist temple, it features Buddhist symbols and icons from modern culture. Here, you can explore the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet. The area is historically known for producing Opium but today draws travellers looking to explore its lush jungles and hilltops.
The capital of Phuket Province, the region draws travellers to its beaches, old town, and Sililan Islands. The 3 kilometre stretch of beach on the west coast of Phuket island is where you’ll find Patong, an area that has a variety of entertainment and attraction options for all ages and travellers, including water activities, shopping, dining, and nightlife. Located just outside Phuket Town, is Old Phuket Town and Phuket Elephant Sanctuary. Alongside Elephant Hills, this is considered one of the most ethical sanctuaries in Southern Thailand.
Located along the Krabi River, this market town offers two night markets and numerous cafes. Travellers looking to escape the beach for the day can head to Thung Teao Forest Natural Park and Emerald Pool, a tranquil rainforest with trails, a variety of plants, animals, limestone foothills, and a crystal pond.
Phi Phi Islands
A group of islands located between Phuket and Krabi. Great for beaches, water coves and the natural beauty of limestone cliffs.
An ideal location for those looking to explore coconut groves, mountainous rainforests, pristine beaches, and luxurious resorts. Spend the day exploring Ang Thong National Park, a group of 42 islands featuring jungles, beaches, waterfalls, caves, and limestone mountains. The best time to visit is between March and October.
Other Highlights of Thailand Off the Beaten Path
Located in the Mae Hong Soon province of northern Thailand. Experience the natural beauty of waterfalls, gorges, and hot springs.
Khao Sok National Park
Located in southern Thailand, this nature reserve contains jungles, limestone formations, and rare animals and plants. A great area for hiking, canoeing, and elephant visits.
Located in west Thailand and known for the Death Railway during WWII. Also home to the River Kwai and many museums and cemeteries.
Located north of Phuket and along the coast, this area features many beaches, villages, forests and waterfalls.
Top Activities and Experiences in Thailand
Those travellers looking to escape the cityscapes and endless temples to soak up the sun on one of Thailand’s many islands can arrange for an island-hopping adventure. Southern Thailand offers many opportunities to visit surrounding islands for either day or multi-day travel.
Rooted deep in Thai culture, temples are an important part of Thai daily life. The temples offer a place of worship but also an opportunity for travellers to experience the beauty of their architecture. Thailand is known for its abundance of temples and these can be visited in every area of the country.
If you’re looking to expand your culinary skill then try one of many cooking classes and schools available in most tourist areas of Thailand. They’re a great way to learn about traditional Thai cuisine and show your family some new skills when you get home.
Elephant Sanctuary Visit
Located in both northern and southern Thailand, elephant sanctuaries provide an up-close and educational experience for travellers to observe these majestic creatures in a natural setting. Travellers have the opportunity to feed, bathe, and play with the elephants all while providing a non-invasive atmosphere for the elephants. Not all elephant reserves/sanctuaries are operated to the same ethical standards however, so please consult with Goway before booking this experience.
If you are looking to experience firsthand Thailand’s hill tribe culture, then arrange for a tour through one of their villages. WIth communities in Chaing Mai and Chiang Rai, you can add a day trip to either city.
Spa & Wellness
You don’t have to go off the beaten path to find a good Thai massage, but if you do opt to explore Thailand by bike or any other physical activity, you’ll want some down time to rejuvenate your inner self with spa treatments, whether it’s the essential Thai massage or a full treatment at a dedicated wellness resort.
Essential Thai Foods to Try
One of the most popular dishes throughout the country, these Thai style fried noodles are made with shrimp or chicken, but can also be vegetarian. You’ll find this dish served up as street food or while dining at a local restaurant.
Tom Yum Goong
A Thai favourite, this Thai soup is primarily made with shrimp, lemongrass and often has a hot and sour broth. If seafood isn’t your thing, you can also substitute the shrimp with tofu, chicken, pork etc. If you’re not into spicy food, be sure to ask for a ‘milder’ option.
A milder take on the traditional green, red and yellow curries, Massaman Curry can be found almost anywhere throughout Thailand. Influenced by the Middle East, most of the spices used in this dish are not native to Thailand but have become part of their culinary tradition.
Most Popular Itineraries for Thailand
Classic Thailand featuring Phuket is ideal for those looking for a great introduction to Thailand with a mix of city and beach. Travelling through Bangkok and Chiang Mai you’ll see some of the most popular sights like The Grand Palace, Wat Po, and the Klong canals, ending with a relaxing stay at one of Phuket’s world-renowned beaches. East Thai Island Hopper spends more time exploring the different island hot spots such as Koh Samui, Ko Pha Nga, and Koh Tao.
Tips for Sustainable Travel
Bring a refillable water bottle, if possible. Tap water is not safe to drink but many places will have filtered water that you can use to fill your own bottle, rather than purchasing bottled water.
Bring reusable or bamboo straws to avoid the use of plastic straws when ordering drinks. Say no to plastic bags, instead bringing your own reusable one for things you buy.
Keep the reefs clean and use a natural sunscreen. Most sunscreens are made with oxybenzone, a harmful ingredient that kills and bleaches coral reefs.
Where to Go Next
With airlines flying to and from Thailand via other Asian cities, adding another destination during your travels is easy. If you’d like to experience more of South East Asia’s beaches, religious monuments, and culture, Hanoi, Bali, and Cebu are great choices. Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City, and Taipei are also options to add on a city break. Consider visiting Dubai or Doha to spend a few days in the fast-paced Middle East.