Thailand is a country best known for its harmonious food dishes, quaint rice paddies, sprawling jungle forests, idyllic villages, stunning coastline, and devout connection to Buddhism. The country is located in Southeast Asia and boasts a unique mix of the past and modernity.
Tourists can visit the country’s ancient ruins and extravagant temples, or step into its busy urban landscapes. Thailand’s also a place where you can transcend into nature and relax on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
Livin’ La Vida Thailand
ยินดีต้อนรับสู่ประเทศไทย – Welcome to Thailand!
A modern city that still honors tradition, Bangkok is the capital. Home to a few large temples and the Grand Palace, across the city’s skyline, you will see a mix of buildings and historic landmarks.
While contrast is abundant in the streets, you can easily slip into different worlds by just turning a corner. Hidden markets are a unique experience, and they are where you’ll taste some of the best street food. With its bright lights and bold colors, Bangkok is a must-see destination.
- Culture and Language
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
Once known as Siam, Thailand has a long history that starts back in prehistoric times. Easily seen throughout the country, as there are over 40,000 temples scattered across the country, visitors can see Thailand’s past proudly displayed while exploring.
Ruled by the Khmer during the classical period, which went from the 10th to 14th century, ancient civilizations began to bloom across in Thailand. Towards the end of the classical period, Tai tribes began to travel southwards, before the Burmese wars started in the 16th century. After the war is when Siam began to unify and restore itself.
Thailand has had its dark days too. The fight for democracy and the power of the military has led to multiple coups throughout the years, and they have had issues with dictators. Since the early 1900s, Thailand has experienced periods of democracy and military rule, with the military once again in power and the political struggle returning to a deadlock.
With every challenge, Thailand has become stronger, and today, its culture revolves around religion, language, and monarchy. Often called the “Land of a Thousand Smiles,” Thai people are happy and eager to welcome visitors to their country and share their culture.
Visitors to Thailand will find that the majority of the country’s 69.8 million people (as of 2020) follow Theravada Buddhism, which teaches people to have a deep respect and connection to their families. National pride is also displayed, from playing the national anthem to displaying the national flag.
For visitors, the best way to honor Thai culture and immerse yourself is to show respect. Thai people are forgiving and understand that foreigners may make mistakes and mean no offense. Every mistake is an opportunity for tourists to learn to practice proper Thai culture.
Thai is the official language of Thailand. Most of the nationals will speak Thai, and English is not common throughout the country. In touristy areas, you may encounter people speaking it, but at the infamous street food stalls, don’t expect to converse in English.
The language barrier is only part of the experience, and with Thai people being very welcoming toward visitors, they are more than willing to do their best to accommodate tourists.
It’s crucial that you think about your spending budget for the time that you are in Thailand. Thailand is an affordable country to visit, and you can make it even more affordable if you are willing to travel on a backpacker’s budget.
The most important parts of your budget will include airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
It takes a lot of energy and time to fly to Thailand because it’s so far away, which also means that tickets are expensive. Plus, depending on where you live in the United States, multiple connections can increase or decrease your ticket price.
Normally, the more connections you make, the less expensive the ticket is going to be, but you’ll have to sacrifice time with long layovers and deal with airport stress for longer.
The tourist high season for Thailand runs from November to March, so you’ll likely see an increase in airline ticket prices during that time. In the off-season, from April to June or September to October, the weather can be just as nice but have fewer tourists and more affordable airline ticket prices.
Planning ahead is also better, and booking your airline ticket in advance can save you money. Airlines may also run special deals, which will lower the price of a ticket.
While airline tickets can be quite expensive, you’ll find that Thailand is a world of extremes when it comes to accommodation. You can stay in affordable locations or go all out and stay in expensive resorts.
Hostels will be your best option as they will be the least costly. A nice hotel, particularly in major cities, will be double if not triple the price.
Hotels may be your typical block style, or there are plenty of jungle bungalows too. Nice hotels are expensive, though they shouldn’t break the bank. Luxury resorts and accommodations will drastically increase your budget as they can cost hundreds of dollars per night, if not thousands.
Airbnb is another option to find private accommodations and houses in Thailand, and prices can be affordable. Apartments or private rooms may be rented for rates similar to a hostel, but expect houses to cost more.
However, keep in mind that Airbnb is “illegal” in Thailand. While the law has ruled against the company, it won’t stop you from finding plenty of locations. It’ll be up to you to decide if you want to use Airbnb.
Once you’ve decided on your flight and accommodation, the next most important considerations of your budget are food and drink. Thai food is famous around the world but having authentic Thai food definitely thrills tourists.
Similar to the country as a whole, you can experience inexpensive but delicious meals sold by street vendors or stick to pricey, 5-star dining establishments.
Thai food is normally divided by region, and most people will say that Northern and Southern Thai food differs from each other. Rice is eaten throughout the country, but in the south Jasmine rice is preferred. In the north, sticky rice is the go-to.
Southern food tends to be spicier with thicker curries and seafood. In the north, seafood is less common because of the geographic location, and they tend to use plenty of vegetables and herbs that are unique to the cooler climate. Most Thai food is also categorized into four parts: boiled dishes (tom), spicy salads (yam), curries (gaeng), and pounded food (tam).
Deep-fried dishes are popular, as are meats or seafood with noodles and vegetables. Tom yum goong is a spicy shrimp soup, while a milder soup would be tom kha kai or chicken coconut soup. Khao pad is fried rice, while pad thai is a world-famous noodle dish.
Good food doesn’t have to be expensive, and one of the most unique experiences is dining at street food stalls. The tastiest dishes in Thailand will cost a few dollars if you’re sticking to the streets.
Restaurants will be more expensive, especially at prestigious establishments, which can cost hundreds of dollars. While you don’t need to break the bank to enjoy a great meal, unless luxury is your style, you can easily budget when it comes to dining.
Depending on whether you’re in a city or the countryside, prices will vary, with resorts and hotels being more costly. You should also take into account that if you want to drink during your trip, you will need to increase your budget. While most drinks are cheap, cocktail bars and clubs will always cost more than if you grab something from a local store.
In nicer places, the prices will be higher, but most people are happy with spending a few extra dollars. Sky Bar in Bangkok is a world-famous establishment that gives you an amazing view of the city. However, with the reputation, expect to pay a lot for a drink.
A completely unique bar that is half the price would be The Iron Fairies, which promises a rustic feel. Finally, HOBS is one of Bangkok’s most popular bars where they serve 30 varieties of beer from all over the world.
How to Get Around
Thailand isn’t enormous, but it’s still big enough that it takes a little planning for you to travel around. Most people will want to travel between destinations, and how you travel will affect your overall budget.
For those who are looking to explore more in less time, domestic flights are the way to go. There are 6 international airports in the country, alongside 23 domestic ones, so you can always find a close connection. Domestic flights are also affordable.
Buses and Trains
If you are willing you take more time to travel to save some money, buses and trains are the best way to go. Train prices vary depending on how far you’re traveling as well as which class you choose.
Buses can also transport you throughout the country, and tickets will cost anywhere from a few cents to a couple of dollars for a journey. While local buses are abundant in big cities, some of the smaller islands may lack public transportation.
When you can’t find a bus, it may be better to look at renting a scooter. Most scooters are very affordable and can be rented for a few dollars a day.
Taxis and Tuk-Tuks
If you are traveling within one city from destination to destination, your best transportation options would be a taxi or tuk-tuk. Taxis are fairly affordable, however, if you want to see the city from a different perspective a tuk-tuk is highly recommended. They can be less safe though, so ride at your own risk.
In Bangkok, they have the Metro and Sky Train, which are the best options to get around. With inexpensive tickets, you can explore all the street corners with an affordable budget. Walking is also great because it’s free and gets you out onto the streets to experience the culture and local lifestyle.
Top Cities to Visit
While most think of Bangkok, there are plenty of other cities to visit in Thailand. Offering a range of attractions, and suiting different visitors’ needs, here is a brief overview of the top city destinations for tourists in the country.
Bangkok is crowded, but it’s always at the top of the list for tourists visiting Thailand. The city is known for its temples, modernity, and food. The Grand Palace and Wat Arun Ratchavararam are two infamous buildings that are a must-see. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha holds a sacred shrine, and they worship a reclining Buddha statue.
Into the new world, Khaosan Road is popular for shopping and backpacker accommodation. From the street food to the markets, there’s always something new to encounter in Bangkok.
Closer to nature and located in the northern mountains, Chiang Mai is the perfect area for you to hike, eat, and visit ornate temples. The city is a mix of thrilling sports, night markets, and religious serenity making Chiang Mai a top destination where tourists can get a taste of everything.
Pattaya City rests on the eastern Gulf coast of Thailand and was once a small fishing village. Discovering the area’s natural beauty, tourists quickly flocked to eh city making it a top destination.
Today, the beach is lined with high rises, resorts, shopping malls, restaurants, and busy clubs. Often considered to be the Sin City of Thailand, tourists can indulge in fun or relax in nature and dip into the blue water.
The clear waters of Phuket make it a stunning location where tourists flock to get the perfect snapshot. Although an island, it does belong to Thailand and stands as one of the country’s most popular beach areas.
While the island is filled with luxury accommodations, resorts, spas, and restaurants, you can see a glimpse of the past and explore markets in Phuket City.
Located in southern Thailand, Hua Hin has become a resort destination for adventurous tourists. Like Pattaya City, the area was once a small fishing village that became a popular location for the Thai royal family to spend their summers. Now, the beach is a large draw for people who want to indulge in watersports and luxury vacations.
The emerald green waters make this Thailand island a huge hit for tourists. Koh Tao is known for being laid back and a perfect place to go scuba diving. With beautiful views and relaxation, you’ll fall in love with this little spot of land.
Pai is the best place to relax in nature and where the hustle and bustle of the city fade away. The area is filled with mountains, the Pai Canyon, and the Pai hot springs, so you can have the best of everything. The night market is also a great place to fill a hungry belly where you’ll find local and international snacks.
Points of Interest
While cities are always fun to explore, you may find that there is a specific point of interest that draws you in for a peek. Home to plenty of famous tourist destinations, Thailand is great for nature lovers, foodies, and history buffs.
Discover the best of Thailand’s hot springs to add to your itinerary, on our sister site, Top Hot Springs.
Phi Phi Islands
Located in the Krabi Province, the Phi Phi Islands are one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand. The sheer cliffs and vibrant greenery rise out of pristine water, which only enhances the natural beauty.
There are plenty of hotels, resorts, shops, and restaurants to explore, so be prepared to spend some time exploring the area.
Close to Phi Phi and within the same area, Railay Beach is less crowded but just as beautiful. The same limestone cliffs and jungle backdrop make this beach an absolute stunner. Rock climbers love the area, while animal lovers will enjoy observing the monkeys. For a little relaxation, Railay Beach is perfect.
Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park is in central Thailand, and it’s famous for being depicted in the movie, The Beach. The park is filled with waterfalls, grasslands, and forests.
Diverse wildlife includes bears, gibbons, elephants, and a variety of birds. With plenty of hikes, you can disappear into nature and experience this World Heritage Site with your own eyes.
Sukhothai Old City
Sukhothai Old City is a small town north of Bangkok that was once the capital of the country. The land will take visitors back to the past with ruins of ancient temples that can be explored, along with other historical sites.
The Chao Phraya River only makes the landscape more beautiful and peaceful so you can relax in the “Dawn of Happiness.”
Ayutthaya is the place to go if you want to see sprawling ancient ruins. The park is filled with old temples, monasteries, and statues, which all lay within 3 rivers. Once the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, visitors can now explore Thailand’s old world and dramatic past.
Throughout Thailand, you can find floating markets, which are truly a sight to behold. With small boats and vibrant colors of goods, the markets are a great way to experience the local lifestyle.
Plus, you can indulge in fresh fruit, vegetables, spices, and authentic goods. The floating markets near Bangkok, Amphawa, and Damnoen Saduak are the most popular locations to visit.
“The Land of Smiles”
Thailand is a country with stunning beauty and strong contrast. The modernity of Bangkok clashes with the quaint villages, while the pristine beaches are a tranquil backdrop. With plenty to do, see, and explore, Thailand is a top destination that will surely take your breath away.