Miles of tropical, sun-drenched beaches, fascinating culture, exotic wildlife, and modern, bustling cities: we love Thailand because it offers a little bit of everything for everybody. Imagine strolling down a stretch of pristine, white sand beach amid a backdrop of lush, verdant jungles one day, then visiting the sumptuous Thai Buddhist wats (temples), resplendent with ornate, gold decor and ubiquitous, orange-robed monks the next. Thailand, land of friendly smiles, will entice you with its fascinating culture, sumptuous food, tropical climate, and stunning beaches.
It won't take you long to find your own idyllic retreat, with untouched sandy coves and miles of white sandy beaches dotted along the coastline, including Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Krabi Province. Phi Phi Island, famous for inspiring the movie The Beach, is a bona fide tropical paradise.
Lose yourself in the fascinating stories illustrated on the walls of the Grand Palace in Bangkok and the ancient imperial cities of Ayuthaya and Sukhothai. At almost every corner you turn, a shrine with incense sticks depicts the spirituality of the Thai people.
Break from the bustling chaos of Bangkok and experience a different lifestyle in Northern Thailand; one where traditional costumes, languages, and cultures have been preserved. The landscape, language, architecture, even the food and the people are quite distinct. Nestled at the foot of the Himalayas and surrounded by dramatic scenery, travel in Northern Thailand offers opportunities for trekking among rice paddies, encountering elephants, or trying your hand at bamboo rafting.
With its tropical weather, crystal blue seas, and colourful marine life, Thailand is a perfect place to go scuba diving. The best place to experience diving in Thailand is along the west coast, in the Andaman Sea. View coral gardens, undersea rock formation, shipwrecks, and exotic marine animals. Thailand's national marine parks, countless islands, and the coral reefs around Phuket and Khao Lak provide some of the best diving and snorkelling opportunities in the gulf, with a vast array of colourful marine life. Make sure you go between October and April, as heavy rainfall hits the coast from May to September.
Thai markets offer a fascinating insight into local life and provide an excellent opportunity to sample local foods that you won't find in most restaurants. Possibly the most famous, and certainly the largest, market in Bangkok is Chatuchak Weekend Market, which features an endless array of stalls selling local foods, clothes, spices, and more.
There are a number of carriers offering flights to Thailand from the UK.
Direct Carriers: Thai Airways, Eva Air, British Airways, and Qantas offer a direct service from the UK.
Indirect Carriers: Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Etihad all offer indirect services from the UK.
Departure Taxes: Since 2007 international departure taxes have been included in the price of flight tickets, helping to take the hassle out of organising holidays to Thailand.
Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid immunisations and malaria tablets are recommended. All travellers should be up to date on routine immunisations. Yellow fever immunisation is required if arriving from an infected country or area. For full details, please contact your GP.
Packing for your holiday to Thailand is mostly a matter of common sense. It also depends on which season you are travelling in. Although the weather in Thailand is marked by three seasons - rainy (July-October), hot (March-June), and cool (November-February - it is generally hot and humid throughout much of the year. As such, you should pack clothing for hot, tropical weather, including:
Lightweight jacket if you are heading to the north;
Trousers for wearing in the evenings as well as into temples and palaces, where trousers are required;
Cotton T-shirts, shorts and a hat to help keep you cool;
Umbrella in the rainy season;
Converter and adapter (Thailand's power supply is 220 volts at 50 hertz);
Lightweight, plastic rain poncho.
Hiking sandals (shoes are too hot for hiking in);
THB - Thai Baht
You can exchange your UK Pounds for the Thai Baht (pronounced Baaht) prior to leaving the UK, but you will generally save a few Baht if you wait and do it upon arrival. There are several currency exchanges at Bangkok's international airport. FOREX booths are sprinkled throughout the larger cities and post their daily exchange rates on electronic notice boards.
Cash exchanges incur no commissions or fees, so cash is the easiest, and in most cases the cheapest way to go. However, this has obvious risks associated with it, so do be careful carrying excessive amounts. Traveller’s cheques are generally only accepted at banks or foreign exchange shops and you will incur a commission fee. Cash machines are plentiful throughout Thailand. Major credit cards are accepted by most hotels and restaurants. Smaller merchants may not accept cards or will add a fee.
While some people may leave the small change from a large note, tipping isn’t generally expected and is in no way mandatory in Thailand. Many hotels and restaurants include a 10 percent service charge, but if you receive exceptional service then an additional gratuity would be appreciated. In taxis it is customary to just ‘round up’.
April-June and September-October
With explosive flavours drawn from fresh ingredients, Thai food has increased in popularity throughout Western civilisation. Thai cuisine blends several Southeast Asian and Indian elements into a rich amalgamation of distinctive flavours. A typical Thai meal emphasises lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and includes four main seasonings: salty, sweet, sour, and spicy.
Thai Red, Green, and Yellow Curries
Thai curries are heavily influenced by Indian spices, yet still manage to maintain a unique flavour thanks to the addition of local spices and ingredients like Thai holy basil, lemongrass, and galangal (Thai ginger). These full-bodied dishes are usually shared and served over rice.
Chim chum is served in an earthenware pot with meats, vegetables, mushrooms, and noodles cooked in a clear herb broth of galangal (Thai ginger), kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass. Spices such as Thai holy basil and chillies can be added. It is served with nam chim (dipping sauces).
Phad Thai is a noodle dish that has become extremely popular throughout the rest of the world. It combines stir fried rice noodles with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, ground peanuts, egg, spring onion, and bean sprouts, topped with tofu or meat such as pork, chicken, or prawns.
Street stalls are dotted throughout Thailand’s streets, in every city and town. You won’t be able to go a block without seeing at least one portable eatery. Eating from street stalls is cheaper, and often tastier, than going to restaurants. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh, and cooked right in front of you.
The most famous of all Thai street stall dishes, som tom, is made from unripe papaya mixed with shrimp paste, peanuts, tomatoes, and green beans. A few chillies are thrown in to spice it up, but you can ask for it to be mai pet (not spicy).
Salapao are tasty dumplings, similar to Chinese steamed dumplings, filled with pork, red beans, and custard. They are extremely popular in Thailand and are eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Prices in Thailand are fairly inexpensive, particularly compared to what you are used to at home. A plate of Thai food, some noodles, and a soft drink might cost between 40 to 70 Thai Baht, grilled chicken with sticky rice from a street vendor might cost about 20 Thai Baht, one litre of bottled water from a store might cost seven to 12 Thai Baht, a bottle of wine from a supermarket might cost about 450 Thai Baht, and a small Singha beer from a bar might cost 60 to150 Thai Baht.
Most Thai's wear clothes similar to Westerners: suits to work, uniforms to school, jeans and T-shirts at the weekend. This is especially true in cities and tourist areas such as Bangkok. In some rural areas and for special occasions you might find people wearing traditional Thai dress. Chut Thai phra ratcha niyom (Thai dress of royal endorsement) includes several sets of clothing, typically made of silk, used on formal occasions and holidays.
Thai people are shy, polite, and sensitive by nature. Their culture is conservative and ruled by the family structure and the Buddhist religion. Young people respect their elders, teachers, and Buddhist monks, and behaviour is tightly controlled. This is a country where where the rules of saving face apply and explosive displays of emotion are frowned upon.
While parts of Thailand have been westernised in some ways, it is still a traditional Buddhist country, where certain cultures and traditions are revered, including:
• Images of Buddha are held sacred, and as such should be treated with respect.
• Thai women should not be touched without their consent.
• Thais greet each other with a wai, which includes pressing your palms together at the chest. If someone wai’s you, you should wai back, except to children.
• Do not point with your feet or cross your legs when sitting on the ground.
• Thais believe the head is the noblest part of the body and should never be touched. You should apologise immediately if you touch someone’s head unintentionally.
• Control your temper—shouting or displaying strong emotions is frowned upon.
• Use your right hand, as the left is considered dirty.
• Eat with a spoon in your right hand and fork in the left.
• Remove your shoes when you enter a Thai house or temple, and sometimes businesses, restaurants, and shops. Look to see if there is a pile of shoes at the door if you are not sure.
• Wear long trousers, cover your shoulders, and remove your shoes when entering a Buddhist temple. Women must never touch a Buddhist monk.
Due to Thailand's unique and diverse geography the country is home to a rich and varied array of animal species. There are more than 100 national parks in Thailand, with over 20 marine parks. Larger mammals include tigers, Sambar deer, otters, leopards, and Civet Cats. Monkeys, sheep, and wild hogs are prevalent, as are crocodiles, lizards, and turtles. There are more than 900 bird species either indigenous to Thailand or that migrate to Thailand.
The most iconic, and certainly the most famous animal in Thailand is the elephant, of which approximately 1,000 remain in the wild or in Thailand’s national parks. There are many conservation centres, farms, and nature parks that allow you to interact with these majestic creatures for a truly unforgettable holiday experience.
The Tiger Temple is a Buddhist forest temple situated in western Thailand which is home to approximately 90 tigers, as well as many other animals. Every day tigers are led to a nearby quarry where they roam freely and visitors are allowed to pet and interact with them.
Whether you want to take an organised tour or just wander on your own with a pair of binoculars, Thailand is home to nearly 1,000 species of exotic birds. Thailand retains a large number of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to protect diverse habitats, including rainforest and wetlands, where you can view colourful, unusual birds.