Last updated on May 3rd, 2021 at 09:10 am
They don’t call Thailand Land of Smiles for no reason.
Thailand has everything you could think of—islands, waterfalls, tasty food, welcoming people, affordable prices, and warm weather.
The list could go on, but I encourage you to discover for yourself.
I 100% RECOMMEND VISITING, I lived there for over a year and loved it!
Thailand’s beauty can only be fathomed in person, but as you’re planning your adventure these are some tips to know beforehand:
If you’re American, you can stay visa free for 30-days. Now if you want to extend that time, you can apply ahead of time for a 60-day tourist visa through the Royal Thai Embassy in DC. Or you can do it once you’re in Thailand at the immigration office, it’s about $60.
To avoid being turned away at the ticket counter, I recommend purchasing a return ticket, or an outbound ticket.
Thai food is some of the best cuisine in the world and these are 23 dishes you try once there.
You can taste the fresh ingredients, herbs, and spices. Most dishes consists of sweet, sour, savory, and spicy flavors, so expect palm sugar, coconut milk, (kaffir) lime, garlic, galangal, lemongrass and chilis.
If you are someone who thinks you can handle spicy—Thai food is on a different level. Just know it will be hotter than you think, so it’s better to ask for a little spice by saying “Nit Noy. (you can always add more).
Most restaurants or food stalls have a condiment tray where you can add sugar, ground chilis, fish sauce, and pickled jalapeños.
Don’t worry it’s not offensive to add more seasonings, it’s actual standard.
You can get various Thai dishes, no matter the region, but certain areas are known for their dishes like mango and sticky rice (northern Thailand), Green Curry (central) so it’s better in those places.
Oh, if you’re a vegan/vegetarian and want a certain dish without animal products, you can say “Je” pronounced like “Jaay.”
If you visit Chiang Mai, here are some yummy vegan spots to check out.
The dishes are delightful, but I’ve never had such tasty fruit until I came to Thailand. You might as well go to a local market to get fresh fruit.
I’m sure you’ll see things you’ve never even heard of. Try as much as you can. There’s mangosteen, rambutan, durian (it stinks so much), mangos, dragon fruit, pineapples, coconuts, and lychee (just to name a few).
Weather (best time to come)
The weather is hot all year around, but that doesn’t mean you should visit any and every season. You totally can, but some months are better than others.
You have monsoon season which can start as early as June, but typically is from July–September, and sometimes into October.
Mostly it rains for a little, then stops. If you come during those months—be sure to pack a poncho. Since most activities involve being outdoors like eating, going to markets, transportation (motorbikes). The rain can make it less enjoyable.
If that doesn’t bother you, come! Everything is cheaper during rainy season because it’s less touristy. And besides the rain, it’s still fairly hot—I’m talking, in the high 80s/low 90s.
Cool Season (best time)
After the rainy season, it cools down in Thailand.
This lasts from November-January which is the BEST time to come. The temperature is warm besides the chilly nights, but the downside is, it’s more touristy. I can see why—the weather is perfect, skies are clear, air is crisp. It’s for sure my favorite time.
Smoky/Dry Hot Season
The weather in February and March is pleasant, but that’s the start of burning season. Basically, in Northern Thailand farmers burn crops in the mountains. So, it becomes very smoky and the air quality rapidly decreases. By the time April hits, the weather is the hottest and the air quality is the WORST!
I’ve lived through and managed it, but it can cause drowsiness, lung problems, etc. The only reason you should go to Thailand in April is for the New Year—Songkran. A celebration, and basically an enormous water fight for everyone. I mean, NO ONE will be safe. You’ll get water thrown on you.
May is like April, where it’s hot (I’ve experienced 106° for 2 weeks straight) and it felt like my skin was melting. Dramatic, I know—but Thai heat is something serious!
These are the seasons to think about before booking your trip.
Respect is huge in Thailand, so much that it is normal to greet people with “hello” — “Sawadee Kha” if you’re a woman, “Sawadee Krap” if you’re a man.
When greeting, not only is it standard to say hello—it’s also common to Wai (bow and put your hands together) while you’re doing so. Or Wai when you are saying “thank you” which is Khob Khun Kha/Krap.
Thailand is mostly Buddhist, meaning people worship Buddha images and statues. You should NOT try to get any tattoos of Buddha or do anything remotely disrespectful. When you enter a temple under NO circumstances should the bottom of your feet be point towards the Buddha statues.
Oh yeah, speaking of feet—it’s considered the dirtiest part of you. It’s rude to point the bottom of your feet towards anyone, but especially Buddha. More times than not, you must take your shoes off before entering an establishment like a temple or someone’s home. Be mindful of this.
They consider your head to be the most sacred part of your body, and it’s insulting to touch someone’s head—just don’t.
As far as clothing, you can get away with what you want—but there’s a time and place for everything. If you’re going to the beach, wear your bikini, but if you’re just walking around a place like Chiang Mai, that wouldn’t be as acceptable. No one will scold you though.
You can easily wear shorts and t-shirts in most spaces, but NOT TEMPLES. If you’re planning to go to temples, make sure your knees and your shoulders are covered. No exceptions.
You’ll need cash for just about everything. People don’t use credit cards as much, unless you’re going to a Western restaurant or a chain store—expect to pay for things in cash.
You can exchange money at the airport, places on the street, or by withdrawing from the ATM. Just know that every ATM takes a 200-baht ($6) fee per transaction, but you’ll get a direct rate.
The Uber of Southeast Asia, download it before coming in case your WIFI is limited. You can use cash or card and it’s convenient because you’ll get the best set rate.
Songthaews aka Red Trucks
The red pickup trucks you’ll see driving around with a bunch of people in the back—it’s basically a shared truck. You tell the driver where you’re going (can show on a map) then hop on. Songthaews are the cheapest option when traveling within a city, ranging from 100-200 baht ($3-6).
Many tourists want to experience driving a motorbike—hey, I don’t blame them. It’s super fun, but you have to be careful! Driving in Thailand can be dangerous, and there’s a certain flow to the traffic.
I’d recommend doing it in cities like Pai, or some of the islands where there’s less traffic.
If you want to drive, get your international permit (about $20). Police love to pull tourist over for tickets, without a permit, and it can cost up to $30. If they ask you for your passport, say you don’t have it on you because this is a common tactic to get the maximum money out of you.
It’s super easy to find any place to rent motorbikes from when you’re walking around on the street in Chiang Mai or Pai.
NEGOTIATE YOUR RATE BEFOREHAND! Tuk Tuk drivers tend to overcharge tourist.
Say a number you think is reasonable and see if the driver agrees—if not, don’t be afraid to walk away. Another driver will accept your rate. Stand firm.
I can honestly say I enjoy the overnight bus. If you’re traveling from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, it’s a relaxing way to travel.
The bus leaves around 8 pm and gets into the other city around 6 am. Believe it or not, it’s easy to fall asleep and wind down on there. Plus, they give you snacks and water.
It’s not like taking the greyhound, it’s much better. Fewer stops, more comfortable, and not smelly lol.
You can fly in between domestic cities inexpensively. I’m talking $30 from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Look up flights on budget airlines like Thai Lion, Air Asia, Nok Air, Viet Jet.
Just do a quick Google flight search and you’ll see.
What To Bring
Generally it’s hard to find skincare products without whitening agents in there. The sunscreen, soap, lotion, and even deodorant in Thailand have whitening effects. Make sure you bring your own.
You can find bug spray everywhere, but you’ll most definitely need it. Mosquitos in Thailand do not play.
How Much Is It?
Before I moved to Thailand, I came as a tourist and spent an average of $30/day (a little over 900 baht). Some things I could pay for in advance, like the Elephant sanctuary. But I paid most activities the day of.
1 USD = 30 BAHT (rate may vary)
- Taxi from the BKK to the city — 200-300 baht
- Airbnb in Chiang Mai — 500 baht/night
- Elephant Jungle Sanctuary — starting at 1700 baht
- Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai — 40 baht (most temples in CM are 40 baht)
- Mango Sticky Rice — 50 baht
- Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha in Bangkok) — 100 baht
- Bua Thong (Sticky Waterfall) — free
- Thai Milk Tea — 30–50 baht
- Overnight bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai — 681 baht
- Motorbike rental — 200 baht/day (I’d say pay no more than that)
- Island hopping tour from Ao Nang — starting at 500 baht
- Street Pad Thai — 30-60 baht
- Chiang Mai to Krabi flight — 2000 baht
- Thai Massage — 150-200 baht
- Ferry to Phi Phi islands — 400 baht
- Western meal — 200-300 baht
- Hostel by the beach in Ao Nang — 350 baht/night
If Thailand is on your bucket list, let us know in the comments below.