So you are planning a holiday to the “Land of Smiles” or more commonly known as Thailand. Thailand is the most popular travel hub of South-East Asia, and has long been renowned for its incredible food, kind and friendly people, warm culture and of course, some of the most beautiful beaches, some could argue, in the world. A trip to Thailand is always an incredible experience, however when coming for the first time there are some things you should get clued-up on before you leave… We have included our Top Travel Tips for you, to get an idea of what you will need and perhaps want to do coming to Thailand.
When is it best to go?
Thailand is a lucky country that is usually sunny all year round. It is definitely warm throughout the year! Keep in mind if you plan to travel to the North of Thailand (Chang Mai or Chang Rai etc.) due to its location further up the mountains you may want to take a light jacket with you as the evenings and early mornings can be a bit cooler.
February to September is the best time for the most part of Thailand, especially the East coast islands (Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao). The East side’s wet season starts around Novemeber to late January.
October to January is the best time to visit the West coast of Thailand (Phuket, Krabi, Koh PhiPhi, Koh Lanta). The West side’s wet season is around June-September.
So as you can see, depending on the area you are choosing to go to, the weather can change slightly.
If it’s raining in the West it is usually sunny in the East, and vice versa. However, the worlds climate being what it is, it is always going to be best to check a weather forecast before booking where at all possible.
(RELATED: When is a good time to visit Thailand?)
Duration and Affordability
Thailand is wonderfully cheap compared to a lot of Western or Eastern countries. You can always find great deals around for food and accommodation and usually traveling between places. Whether you are looking to save a bit more money for activities or looking to splash out a bit more on a nicer hotel or mehal, all the options you could want are at your fingertips and just around the corner. No matter where you go whether it be Bangkok, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Krabi… you will be able to find great deals going everywhere.
We highly recommend coming over for a minimum of 1 week – 10days to get the full experience and atmosphere of Thailand. A popular itinerary is to spend a couple of nights in Bangkok, travel up to the north of Thailand (Chiang Mai) and spend a couple of nights there, and then head back South to spend the remainder of your holiday on the gorgeous white beaches of Koh Samui or one of the other beautiful islands Thailand has to offer. This way you get to see a lot more of Thailand and get a full experience of everything the country has to offer.
Whether you are traveling on a Gap Year, Family holiday, Honeymoon or as a Group of friends, Thailand has an incredible variety and choice of accommodations anywhere you choose to go. Whether in need of budget hostels, or the 5* hotels tickles your fancy, you can choose from a wide variety of places to stay.
There are also a lot of Air BnB and Villa options available. Some even include food services and laundry etc. Sometimes when booking a villa you may not want the ‘Self catering’ option, but a lot of the villas (on the islands in particular) can offer you a 5*+ service which would include private chefs etc. A lot of people never think about renting a villa when they come on holiday, but usually, especially when sharing between families or friends, it can actually work out a lot cheaper than hotels sometimes. Pretty much all will have their own swimming pool also, and some even with beach access (there are no private beaches in Thailand, but still gets your toes in the sand and your home stay is just a stone throw away!)
Thailand has endless opportunities for you activity wise. Whether you are looking to go to some gorgeous National Parks (Khao Sok on the west side of the mainland, and Angthong National Marine Park, a grouping of small islands off the East coast of Thailand, are highly recommended).
Rock climbing, White Water Rafting, Jungle Treks, Elephant Sancturies (please DO NOT ride any elephants while you are here. There are many places that will still offer you to do this, but please try to restrain as the more people that do not ride them the less likely it will continue. There are plenty of amazing Sancturies around to visit where they are not chained at the ankle and free to go about their day as they please.) Thai Cooking Classes, 4×4 adventures, Safari’s and a whole load more awaits you in Thailand.
(RELATED: Top 5 Adventurous Things to Do in Thailand)
Thailand also has a number of amazing markets all year round, selling everything from clothes, to food, trinkets and locally made soaps etc. An absolute must when visiting for the first time. You can find out where your local market where you will be staying is, and what days they are on (some move around the areas). A wonderful experience for all the family.
If you are heading to any of the islands off the East coast or West coast, we urge you to dip your toes in the water and try some Snorkeling or Scuba Diving!
Scuba Diving is a mind-blowing revelation and no prior experience is necessary. A chance to see a completely different world and open yourself up to a whole new adventure. Thailand is famous for its gorgeous coral reefs and abundance of fish and colour.
A whole life waits just under the water, all you have to do is try. Hearing nothing but the bubbles you are breathing out and the fish clicking around you (yes the fish do makes noises!!) floating in the blue serenity, watching your own live Blue Planet show before your very eyes.
Discovery Divers is the biggest Diving Center in Koh Samui, Thailand. Being in the business for over 20+ years and with a whole world of knowledge and experience when it comes to beginner divers and experienced divers, it is a favourite choice for many people coming over to check out what the underwater world has to offer. PADI Diving in Thailand has never been so easy, being able to do a 1 day taster course (Discover Scuba Diving) to see if you enjoy it, and then if you decide to trade your feet for fins permanently, you can upgrade to a certification level where the successful retain a license to dive anywhere in the world… forever.
Just think how many Oceans and Sea’s there are in the world, and once you see the vast variety in the Gulf of Thailand alone, there is a whole other universe of fish and marine life out there to discover. Discovery, having some of the most experienced Instructors and Divemasters on the island, and we cater to your every need.
We know it can be an anxious time before your first dive, in equipment you have never used, in an environment you may never have been in, doing something you have never done before. RELAX! We are here to help you and want you to get the most out of your day. Scuba diving is meant to be FUN! But we are not having fun if we are not being safe, and being the leading Diving company on Koh Samui we pride ourselves in our knowledge, instructors and very importantly, safety. Now every company in the world, probably says the same… so please feel free to check out our Trip Advisor page and see for yourself!
As we said, being your first time in the water it can be intimidating, but we only put 2:1 (student:instructor) in a group (most companies will go to the full ratio of 4:1), so it is a very personable experience with Discovery. If you are a group of friends, no problem!! We will still be in group of 2:1 but you can still dive with your friends or family and the instructors will take you on a magical journey you will never forget. You don’t even need to know how to swim, however it is obviously advantageous. The best part about it is you can do your Discover Scuba Diver (DSD) from the age of 10+. So you can even come and try with the kids, or if they are unfortunately just missing the age for diving, they can come on the boat and do some snorkeling to see if they can spot any of their friends from Finding Nemo!
The price for the DSD is 5,980 THB which might be slightly higher than other companies, however the 5* service we provide really has proven the test of time and we are praised for our patient, safe and fun instructors and the encyclopedia of knowledge the staff bring to the day. Unlike most companies, we also always have a Photographer on board, taking photos of your group on the boat AND underwater. We will also then send these to you at the end of the day through a Dropbox link, and you download everything FOR FREE. Our photographers always do their best to capture the best underwater moments possible for you and your partner/friends/family, and are very accustomed to taking group photos underwater. Lot’s of people treasure these photos, and have mentioned that years down the line, they still look at these photos and are in awe that they did such an incredible life changing activity. Even if you only do it once, you never forget it! Whether it be a once in a lifetime opportunity, or the birth of a new “tank fish”, we welcome everyone from every background and ability to come and try! So if you’re coming to Koh Samui, come and give it a go! You never know until you try and it is truly an experience you will remember for your whole life.
Discovery Divers also offer an online booking discount if you book 10 days before you dive, you will receive a 10% discount on your dives. Wonderbubble!! Book now!
Feel free to get in contact with our shop for anymore information you might need, our staff are available to chat via email, phone, or on our website the ‘zendesk’ chat which is a live chat available throughout the office working hours 10am-5pm, Thai time.
This way you can discover what trips are best for you, to start your underwater adventures rolling. We very much look forward to SEA-ing you soon in the Gulf and even better underwater on your next holiday!
Now this is usually where people’s eyes start to glaze over, but try to stay with me now! To get the most out of your money when traveling to Thailand, we highly recommend getting some INR (Indian Rupees) exchanged for USD (US Dollars) in your home country of India BEFORE coming to Thailand.
Indian Rupees are not widely available to exchange at many establishments in Thailand and you don’t want to end up not being able to exchange it when you get here. You will get a much better rate, exchanging the INR to USD in India and then exchanging the USD into THB (Thai Baht) also in India. This will give you cash ready to use as soon as you get here. The minimum cash you should take with you is 10,000THB.
Sometimes immigration or other avenues may ask for proof of money, whether a bank statement etc. however it is much easier, and faster to be able to show 10,000THB cash on arrival if they ask (they do not always, only show if asked as you don’t want to flash that much cash around no matter where you are!)
You can also use Debit, Credit or Forex cards at pretty much every ATM in Thailand, however be warned, they will charge you a minimum of 200 thb every time you withdraw money. A lot of restaurants and markets certainly will not accept cards so make sure you have a bit of local walking around cash with you.
If your bank is one that requires you to make a ‘Travel Plan’ before leaving, i highly recommend you do so. I flew straight into Bangkok from Zimbabwe (where i began my travels) and all i had was a (very old version and dirty $50 note), i had no local cash on me, i tried 8 different ATM’s at the airport, every one spitting my card back out saying i could not withdraw money (my bank had a security plan in place which i was not aware of and stopped my card being used as it looked like unusual activity.) Luckily, nearly in tears, a Currency exchange cashier took pity on me and exchanged the old and dirty note (Zimbabwe only use very old version US notes so you will not have this problem traveling from India.) But heed the warning and double check with your bank so they know you are planning a trip to Thailand, just in case.
The most commonly spoken language in Thailand is Thai, obviously. Mandarin is a close second. English is also very widely spoken, especially by a lot of the younger generation. Most street sellers and restaurants and most certainly hotels will be able to communicate in English to you. bear in mind most street sellers and restaurants etc. their English may not be 100% so be patient and say everything with a smile and you cannot go wrong! Always good to try and learn a couple of words or phrases before you come over. Greetings are met with two hands placed together at the center of your chest, and Sawa-dee-ka (for ladies to everyone) and Sawa-dee-krup (for men to everyone), this is for Hello and Goodbye. Thank you is Khap-khun-ka (for ladies to everyone) and Khap-khun-krap (for men to everyone.) This will always go down well when speaking to the locals!
A lot of people may ask why i didn’t start with this one, as it’s clearly one of the best parts about coming to Thailand!! Thai food is renowned for its spices and flavours, fragrances and colour. Very similar to India actually!! You can find Thai delights around every corner of Thailand, from seafood to noodles and soups to sweets and treats. Thailand is famous for its “Street Food” scene and is widely popular whether in Bangkok or further afield. Meat and Seafood is seemingly endless, and Thailand being one of the biggest seafood and shrimp exporters in the world, where better to get a salty fix than here!
However, never fear, if you are Vegan or Vegetarian there are more and more options opening up EVERYDAY around the corners of Thailand. Your hotel or villa will usually have someone you can ask or brochures show casing some of the best places to eat. Trip Advisor is also our best friend now days when it comes to traveling and food. Absolutely try the street food when you are here as it is probably what Thailand is most famous for…. Do be careful, food poisoning is possible, use your common sense when choosing a place, usually if the locals are queuing up outside, that’s usually a safe bet!! Below are a few ideas we suggest for you to try, get those taste buds tingling in anticipation….
Khao Soi – Fresh egg noodles, chicken or beef in a rich broth of coconut, herbs and spices and crispy wanton noodles on top. It is usually served with pickled cabbage, red onion and lime which you can add to your taste.
Kai Jeow – Thai Omlette, can be plain or with other goodies added into it. Some of the best omelets i have every had!!
Tom Kha Gai – Is a Coconut and chicken soup, rich in flavour and absolutely delicious!
Laab – A Thai minced meat salad, usually can be very spicy so not for the faint hearted!
Pak Boong – “Morning Glory” consists of water spinach and garlic and usually chilies and sauces also. A fried vegetable dish which will most certainly get you salivating when you smell it!!!
Massaman Curry – An absolute favourite in Thailand, a mild red coloured curry with coconut and rich flavours that is usually served with steamed rice. An absolute must for anyone new to Thailand.
Mango Sticky Rice – Hugely popular for locals and foreigners, sticky rice with sliced mango and crispies on top, and coconut milk poured over, an absolute must if you are needing a sweet fix!
For all the vegetarians/vegans out there, most places even if you ask for no meat, or not spicy etc. they may or may not understand you. Even if they nod and smile in agreement, sometimes this is just a polite courtesy. See below the words you will need to communicate this in Thai. Feel free to take a photo of these and keep in your phone so you can show anyone you might need to communicate this to. Same for any food allergies or dietary requirements, find the word in Thai on google and take a photo in your phone so you have it with you at all times. Thailand is not a country for diets!
Vegetarian/Vegan = มังสวิรัติ
(Prounounciation) – Mạngs̄wirạti
Not Spicy = ไม่เผ็ด
(Prounounciation) – Mị̀ p̄hĕd
No Sugar = ไม่มีน้ำตาล
(Prounounciation) – Mị̀mī n̂ảtāl
No Meat = ไม่มีเนื้อ
(Prounounciation) – Mị̀mī neụ̄̂x
No Fish Sauce = ไม่มีน้ำปลา
(Prounounciation) – Mị̀mī n̂ảplā
Other than the amazing curries and soups and noodles galore, Thailand is also famous for its fried insects… most people will run for the hills, but if you’re adventurous and fancy trying a new culinary delight, give it a go… we dare you! Perfectly safe to eat and is considered a genuinely loved snack in the whole of Thailand, by the locals. Thailand is home to some of the most delicious fruits in the world.
Fresh coconuts can be found everywhere in Thailand and Koh Samui in particular has a vast coconut farm. If you see a green coconut on the beach that has fallen, feel free to pick it up and take it to any hotel or restaurant and they will open up for you to drink. Also home to the Rambutan and Mangosteen, divine taste and colours and full of flavour.
Also famous for it’s Durian. Be warned a lot of hotels etc. will not allow you to consume or even bring one into the hotel a lot of the time (the smell!!!) but it is very much like marmite. You either love it or you hate it! And you don’t know until you try!
Now don’t worry if you are missing that taste from home. Thailand is also home to many wonderful Indian restaurants (many people have described it as close to the real thing as it gets!) So if you are looking to fix a craving, you will be able to find it here no problem
Traveling around Thailand has never been easier. In Bangkok you have the Sky Train which is actually considered one of Bangkoks “point of interest” and something you should definitely experience. Easy to use and and incredibly faster than getting taxi’s or tuk tuk’s around Bangkok.
If you do choose to get a taxi or Tuk Tuk (smaller open air vehicles and cheaper than taxi’s) it is a great way to see the life and culture flowing all around you, you will definitely have time to observe whilst sat waiting to move!
On the smaller islands on the East and West coast you can find a “Songthaew” also, which are two benches parallel to each other and open at the sides and back, one of the cheapest ways to travel, you need only flag one down and tell them where you are going.
You can also download the app Grab which is the Uber of Thailand and just as easy to use. On the island of Koh Samui you can use NaviGo which is exactly the same concept. Usually cheaper than the local taxis.
Motorbike taxis are the cheapest transportation, recommended for short traveling trips around the local areas.
You can rent motorbikes everywhere in Thailand, but please, please wear a helmet. Go slow and take your time. Similar to India you will have people riding out of every lane and corner and not everyone will be abiding by the road rules. If you have never been on a motorbike before, we highly recommend you rent a car (available from any airport or tourist location). You will see mountains of people with white bandages around their arms or legs, this is ALWAYS from motorbikes, so be warned, you don’t want to ruin your holiday.
Generally, Thailand is a very safe place to come. However, whether you are in Mumbai, London, Paris, New York or Bangkok, there is always a chance, so be smart! Carry your cash on your person and inside a jacket pocket if possible. Do not flash your cash around and be particularly careful if you are taking money out of the ATM. If you are renting a car or bike you will need your passport with you, otherwise we highly recommend leaving it at your hotel in the safe. Try not to carry all your cash in one wad… split it separately, that way if the worst should happen and you have to lose some, chances are they will not get it all. You will see signs around warning of bag grabbing and jewelry, and it is not recommend to take your best jewels with you. Anytime my Mum goes on holiday she always buys cheap Cubic Zirconian or un-precious rings that look good but have absolutely no value. Always a good idea when traveling to any country. Thailand also has a dedicated Tourist Police force for any foreigners, they will speak better English than the normal police and should be your first point of call if anything goes askew. Thailand is a beautiful country with some of the kindest and most giving people I have ever met, but like every country you always get a few bad eggs so use your instinct and stay aware.
Tourist Police Phone Number:- 1155
Emergency Services Phone Number:- 191 or 123.
Whether you are looking for big clubs, small bars or a quiet drink, Thailand has everything you could want and more. Whether you are heading to party island (Koh PhiPhi famous for its beach and late night parties) or staying in Bangkok there are hundreds of great bars and clubs to visit.
Again, Trip Advisor is your friend here or ask the hotel for recommendations. Now Thailand is also very famous for its FULL MOON PARTY held on the Haad Rin beach of Koh Phangan. A few islands may offer you this party, but the original is on the East coast of Koh Phangan.
Also hosting a HALF MOON PARTY held in the Jungle of Koh Phangan. Koh Phangan is easily accessible by flying directly into Koh Samui and getting a ferry over, or getting a ferry from the Mainland (Surat Thani/Donsak). One of the best party experiences you can hope for! Fireshows, body paint, never ending beers and cocktails. A truly once in a lifetime experience.
A great way to communicate would be to get a Thai sim card. This will give you the local rates for calling or texting and you can then avoid any roaming charges. You can get a sim card from any Family Mart or 7/11.
Don’t panic when they ask for your passport. This is absolutely standard when getting a Thai sim card, so don’t worry about handing it over to the cashier, you will get it back! Top ups to the sim can be made from Family Mart or 7/11.
A popular tourist sim is TrueMove which you can easily top up at 7/11(only) by saying to the cashier “I would like “x amount of baht” with TrueMove Online. You will then need to type your phone number into the credit card keypad and then it is all sent straight away to your phone, so you don’t have to worry about calling up and not understanding Thai to top up your phone.
Thailand does have mosquitoes. They do not carry malaria, however they can sometimes carry Dengue. Not as dangerous as malaria, but still no fun. Mosquitoe spray and natural citronella works very well. You can buy mosquito coils or candles, sprays etc. from pretty much everywhere, and make sure you have closed your fly screen windows and doors or have the mosquito net down so you don’t get any nasty surprises. The higher in altitude you go, there less there will be, so keep that in mind when booking your accommodation.
You will most definitely need sun cream when coming to Thailand. We highly recommend buying sun cream before coming to Thailand. Especailly on the islands, the price for a very small bottle is very high, so this will be cheaper to buy before you come over.
Please also be aware, Thailand is home to some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, and it doesn’t matter from where you enter the Ocean (if you choose to do so) if you have just applied your sun cream it will 100% wash off and leave you unprotected and then damage the corals (sun cream is the biggest cause of coral killing and bleaching in the world!) We suggest finding a sun cream that contains no harmful toxins to the marine life (zinc based products are usually good for this.)
Please make sure you apply your sun cream 45minutes BEFORE getting into the water.
There are usually toilets to be found anywhere you go, sometimes public toilets may ask you to pay 10thb or less to use the facility. Bear in mind Thailand is home to the “Bum Spritzer” and toilet paper is not widely used in a lot of places in Thailand. Pretty much all hotels will have the availability but not all restaurants and bars will. Keep this in mind if you are going on any nights out etc. Please also keep in mind that even if there is toilet paper available you must NOT FLUSH THE PAPER DOWN THE TOILET!!
Very important to remember…. Thailand’s pipes are incredibly small, and designed for organic waste only, so please dispose of any toilet paper, tissues, baby wipes, feminine products into the bin that will be provided in the bathroom. Some places do not also have the ability to flush, so there might be a large bin filled with water and a small bowl inside. Fill the bowl with water and throw into the toilet and everything will wash away like you were never there.
The water is not safe to drink from the taps in Thailand, however you are usually ok to brush your teeth with the water etc. but just try to remember not to swallow. Water is easily available from everywhere, and for cheap prices (maximum 20thb). If you have your own metal or plastic water bottle you can find stations to fill up, or Reverse Osmosis machines that will fill your bottle for even cheaper than the shops.
If you are looking to be a bit more green, we also recommend keeping any bottles you buy and re-filling at these stations to avoid more single use plastics. The water is perfectly safe to shower or bathe in. Please do make sure you are drinking lot’s of water when you are here. Thailand is very hot and it is very easy to become dehydrated here. Even if you are not thirsty…. drink up!!
Smoking is widely permitted in Thailand, in many of the restaurants and bars you will be able to smoke no problem at all, but do be considerate to any non-smokers that may be around. Some places may have certain restrictions, and shopping centers in particular will have restrictions in place (usually a fine of 2000thb if you are found smoking where you should not be.)
A lot of the beaches have also been putting in restrictions, so you may not smoke on the beach. Please note, Electronic Cigarettes are illegal here in Thailand, and are not recommend to bring with you, no matter how sneaky you think you can be! Please also remember, never throw your cigarette butts on the floor or into drains. These go straight to the Oceans and believe me, if you’re sitting on the beach or enjoying a nice swim, the last thing you want to see is the skeletons of cigarettes.
Again, anywhere you go you will be able to find a laundry service. Whether through the hotel or hostel you are staying at, or down the road there will be washing machines available for use. The washing machines are usually 20-40thb per load, and you can normally buy the powder etc. at the washing station. If not you can easily buy from any Family Mart or 7/11. Be aware, this is the same as your washing machine back home, so keep track of the time and how long your load will be. Otherwise you might find it in a basket off to the side as someone else has taken the machine once your load finished. Some places also offer a service per kg, where they will wash and iron and fold your clothes for you. Normally you can pick this up the next day. So no matter what area you are going to, you will be able to clean your clothes as you go if you need to.
Thailand is known for its magnificent temples and you can organize a driver or a trip to take you to a few in the area. Completely breathtaking and absolutely a must coming to Thailand for the first time. Please be respectful and cover your shoulders and knees when entering any temple.
A good idea is to take a scarf or jacket with you in your bag so you can cover yourself at anytime you might need. Most temples will have a “loan rack’ where you can borrow a robe or a scarf if you have forgotten these. It is also quite disrespectful to walk around topless or in bikinis etc. on the streets, even on the islands where it is more accepted due to the high level of tourists that come through, it is always nicer to cover up when wandering around. Bear it all at the beach!
So hopefully this gives you a better idea of what to plan and expect from your first holiday to Thailand. I never heard anyone say they won’t come back, usually as soon as you’re home you are planning your next trip out. And being just a stone throw across the pond, why wouldn’t you!Paradise islands a mere 3 hours away!
We wish you safe travels and look forward to welcoming you to the Land of Smiles soon!