Koh Samui is Thailand's most dynamic chameleon, a cosmopolitan melting pot of experiences and sensations. Palm-fringed shorelines and granite peaks cloaked in virgin rainforest offset cultural sights and delicious, varied cuisine. From relaxing to active, spiritual to lively, we love the choices Koh Samui has on offer. Experience the serenity of Wat Khunaram, busy beaches throbbing with activity, or isolated stretches of peaceful white sand; Koh Samui has a little something for everyone.
Chaweng Beach is Koh Samui's most popular stretch of sand. The central section is more crowded, lined with four and five star hotels, restaurants, pubs, clubs, and tourist shops, while the northern end of the beach is quieter and more relaxed. Relax on the powdery white sand, fringed with blue-green waters and a colourful coral reef.
The famous Big Buddha shrine is one of Samui's most well known landmarks. The 12-metre high golden Buddha is located in the north-eastern corner of Koh Samui above the famous temple Wat Phra Yai, where Buddhists make daily offerings and perform rituals and prayer. During important festivals such as Loi Kratong (The Festival of Light) and Songkran (Thai New Year), the Big Buddha plays host to numerous performances, concerts, and festivities.
Waiting at the southern end of Lamai beach are the odd but historic rock formations of Hin Ta and Hin Yai (Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks). Shaped over millions of years, they are famous for bearing a passing resemblance to male and female sexual organs (although you may have to use your imagination). Follow the short alley lined with souvenir stalls to Grandmother's smooth rock belly, where a crevice has been worn over the years. Phallic shaped Grandfather Rock is located about 25 metres to the south of Grandmother rock.
The Samui Butterfly Garden, located at the south end of Koh Samui, is set in a beautifully landscaped, netted garden with tropical plants, man-made waterfalls and pools, and a kaleidoscope of butterfly species. The butterflies fly freely throughout the garden, landing and feeding on the sweet treats the keepers have left out for them. A display of rare insects from Thailand includes scorpions, spiders, stick and leaf insects, and caterpillars. Walk the 50 steps to the hillside observatory for a breathtaking view over the coast or take a trip on the glass-bottomed boat to see the coral reefs at Wang Bay.
There are a number of carriers offering flights to Thailand from the UK.
Direct Carriers: Thai Airways, Eva Air and British Airways offer a direct service from the UK.
Indirect Carriers: Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas 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.
British Passport holders are not required a visa to enter Thailand for tourist stays up to 30 days only, more than sufficient for most holidays to Thailand. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in Thailand. Please contact the Thai Embassy for up to date country and visa information on 0207 589 2944.
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.
THB - Thai Baht
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
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:
Trousers for wearing in the evenings as well as into temples and palaces
where trousers are required;
Lightweight jacket if you are heading to the north;
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);
plastic rain poncho.
Hiking sandals (shoes are too hot for hiking in);
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:
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.