Planning a trip to Thailand

Flower BuddaAlong with other questions I get asked a lot, one of the big recurring types of question is where to start when planning a trip to Thailand? So I’ve made this page to at least get people thinking about some key points for planning a trip to Thailand. While this page is not an exhaustive guide to planning a trip to Thailand it will hopefully serve as a starting point for you.

Here to help

One of the two reasons for starting this site was to help people plan their holidays to Thailand, especially for people with young families. Before I started this site I was constantly getting asked by people I knew for advice and assistance. So now I offer a service to help you plan, book and organise your holiday to Thailand. For a small hourly fee (depending on the complexity of your request) I can assist you in selecting destinations, planning and arranging itineraries and making bookings for holidays for any group of travellers, and in particular those with young children.

Having been to Thailand many times I can lend you the benefit of my experience. From what different hotels are like, to estimating the costs and time required for what you want to do, to providing recommendations and referring you to service providers I have used and trusted before, I am happy to use and share my knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your trip to Thailand! This will save you time, and cut down on stress.

An initial consultation is free, and I am happy to answer one off questions or provide a starting point free of charge as well. So if you want to talk to me about your next holiday to Thailand then please go to our Contact page.

What to think about…

Keen to do it by yourself but not sure where to start? Like any vacation, the key things to think about when you want to go, and where you want to go. Depending on your priorities, these could be interlinked. If you have a particular place in Thailand you want to go then certain times of year may be better. And consequently if you’re aiming to go to a certain time of year then particular places might be better.

The Where

Thailand has a wide range of places to go, from islands to beaches, to historic cultural centers, cities and more. Most people have some idea about Thailand, and what it has to offer but for those that don’t here’s a brief rundown of the more popular options:

  • Bangkok: great shopping, great nightlife, lots to see, lots of day trips. A huge city,
  • Chiang Mai: an old traveller favourite, full of culture and history. Great base for exploring the north
  • Pattayya: Famous for its sex industry, has been developing a lot more attractions for tourists, especially for families
  • Ayutthayya: Old capital, full of ancient ruins and history.
  • Phuket: Beautiful island in the Andaman Sea, full of great beaches and beach resorts.
  • Koh Samui: Another great beach destination

The When

As mentioned before, ideally this is driven by where you wish to go. Thailand’s weather varies little throughout the year, but it is not the same everywhere at any given time. If you’re not sure then here’s a couple of tips to help:

Generally, the best time to go is in the “winter” when temperatures are a bit cooler (although not so much in the south). This time falls between November and February.

The best time to avoid is the rainy season between July to October. This is, unsurprisingly, the quietest and cheapest time to go, and the shoulder periods either side tend to be quieter than the peak during winter. If you do end up going to Thailand during the rainy season it doesn’t mean you’ll get rained out, though! Like many tropical places the rain tends to fall heavily during a certain period of the day, with the rest of the day generally dry.

See this page for more advice on the best time to go throughout Thailand.

How Long?

The answer to this is really down to you. How long do you have? You can comfortably spend any amount of time in seeing Thailand’s many attractions, if you are happy to travel around within the country. If you’re planning on spending it in one spot then any time from a few days to a few weeks can easily be soaked up, depending on your pace.

People happy to relax by the beach or pool, especially in a resort, without the need for other activities can easily do this for as long as they want.

For people who like to see or do a bit more then it obviously depends on where you are going. Bangkok has enough to see and do to occupy you for weeks. Most other tourist welcoming/oriented places, like Chiang Mai, Phuket or Pattaya can easily absorb a week or more. Smaller places like Ayutthaya may only need a couple of days.

A good idea to determine how long to spend in a place is to identify how many activities you might like to do, When planning, especially with (young) kids, our approach is to have one activity per day, allowing a rest day now and then. We find doing something in the morning then resting up at the beach/pool/in our room after lunch works well. So if we go to a place that has five attractions we allow six or more days (five activity days plus one or two rest days). More active travellers may need less as they can do more in one day and/or need less rest days.

Travelling around

If you are spending a bit longer in Thailand then you will probably want to travel around the country. Between most places tourists want to go there is regular transportation links:

Planes: Flying is an easy way to get from Bangkok to the north (Chiang Mai) or south (for example, Phuket) quickly. In addition to Thai Airlines, there are numerous budget carriers that fly regularly all around the country like Nok Air and Air Asia, two I have used regularly.

Trains: Mostly useful for people wishing to go between Chiang Mai or other places in the north and Bangkok. Trains do not run directly to most of the beach places in the south but can connect with buses and ferries. The train is cheaper than flying but slower. It’s 12+ hours to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, for example. See The Man from Seat 61’s Thailand page for more info.

Buses: I have not taken many longer distance buses and so can’t say much, other than they are a good option for places Ayautthaya or Pattaya from Bangkok, cheaper than alternatives, but with some hassle. Buses on more touristy routes look modern and comfortable, and could work for families, too.

Private transfers: For day trips or shorter journeys (of up to a few hours) private transfers in a car or van are a very comfortable and practical option. It does not need to be expensive either. Such transfers are arrange-able from airports, most hotels and travel agencies. In some areas, like Phuket or from airports, the price from once place to another is mainly fixed, and there’s little point in bargaining. For other places competition helps keep prices lower and bargaining is possible.

Prices vary widely based on the distance, size and quality of the vehicle, tolls on the way, and where you are going from.

By way of example, last year my family of four went from Pattaya to Bangkok (roughly two hours) in a spacious, modern (a couple of years old at most), four wheel drive with room enough for our luggage, for 1000 baht including tolls. I was able to get 300 baht off by shopping around and bargaining. In Phuket I’d almost expect to pay that for the same vehicle from the airport to somewhere else on the island, which would be an hour at most (and no tolls).

Read my full article about getting around.

What to take

Most people know what they like to take on holiday, so I won’t say much here. Clothing wise clothes for warmer weather are obviously recommended. If you are planning to visit places of religious worship then make sure you are wearing tops with shoulders and some sort of sleeves, and long pants or skirts/dresses past the knees as well. Other than that you do not need to take too many clothes as laundry in many places is readily available and quite cheap at approximately 50 baht a kilo (depending on where).

Other things I find people often overlook:

  • Travel insurance – a must really
  • Sunscreen. Quality sunscreen is easy to find, and is very cheap in Bangkok and other places with big chain pharmacies or supermarkets, but can be expensive in smaller shops. Bring a little bit so you have some when you first arrive.
  • And for families with young kids, a good lightweight umbrella stroller is a big help in getting round.

All too much?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about planning your trip to Thailand and need some help, then please feel free to Contact usto take advantage of our Thailand holiday planning service. An initial discussion is free of charge.

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