When to Go?
If you’re visiting Thailand on a short holiday – choosing the right island or beach destination is a real challenge. You’ll hear conflicting recommendations from friends and might attempt to squeeze in as many stops as you possibly can. Keep in mind that Thailand is huge! Its best islands and beaches are concentrated in the southern Gulf of the Andaman Sea (Railay Beach, Ko Phi Phi, Phuket, Ko Lanta) and in the Bay of Thailand (Ko Tao, Ko Phangan, Ko Samui). The most important factor when choosing your stops is the weather. Here’s a general rule of thumb:
- May – October: the rainy season, expect frequent rain, not the best time to visit the islands if on a short visit.
- Nov – Feb: the cool season, ideal for visiting the islands of the southern Andaman Sea
- Dec – April: the hot season, ideal for visiting the islands of the Bay of Thailand (+ Andaman Sea)
Mass tourism and modern urban development have created many options for getting around Thailand.
- Within Bangkok: for short trips (and laughs), tuk-tuks are fun but you can also use the network of urban trains to quickly cover large ground. Water taxis are also an efficient way to bypass the congested roads if traveling up or down the river makes sense for your itinerary.
- Day trips from cities: trains, organized tours, and large public taxis can be used to reach attractions within a short distance of major cities.
- Between regions: Thailand has a few domestic airlines that offer seriously cheap airfare for traveling from one region to another. If that doesn’t make sense for you, travel agencies can book cheap overland travel by bus or van.
- Island-hopping: ferries connect most major islands with the mainland. Plan your itinerary in a way that allows you to travel from one island to the next without having to connect via the mainland.
Health & Safety
Travel smart in Thailand with a few general safety tips:
- Keep your belongings safe (preferably locked in a safe) and always lock your room. It’s best to also carry padlocks that can be used to lock your luggage.
- Be aware of muggers and scammers, especially over-friendly tuk-tuk drivers in Bangkok that are eager to show you around.
- Do not, joke or even mention the royal family. Don’t even accidentally step on bills as they carry the portrait of the late King Rama IX. Offending the monarchy can get both locals and tourists into some serious trouble!
- I strongly suggest carrying a first aid kit and a ‘small pharmacy’ that includes pills against a headache, fever, food poisoning, diarrhea, etc. We met a handful of tourists who got sick on the outer islands during the weekend when pharmacies were shut.
- Always check Tripadvisor before eating in a restaurant. If somebody recently got sick, there’s a very good chance they posted a review. This trick worked for us and we managed to avoid a few potential mines.
- Fruit shakes are unavoidable in Thailand and you’ll surely be tempted to have one on a daily basis. Be sure that only purified water is used (seriously)!
- On that note, always drink bottled water.
Things to Do
Thailand is a true traveler’s playground, catering to every desire and wish. Not to be missed is its myriad of shrines and temples in the heart of its cities and mountain tops. Elephant riding is a serious business but exercise caution and avoid businesses that exploit elephants, rather than opting for elephant sanctuary visits. Foodies will find Thailand an absolute culinary paradise, not only for the delicious meals but also for the vast opportunities to learn the tricks of the trade-in cooking classes. And of course, Thailand’s beaches and rich marine life are the main attraction, though it’s difficult to find hidden gems that haven’t been overrun by mass tourism. Here’s a list of the top 10 things to do in Thailand that can serve as a thought-starter.