Thailand

Thailand has the full package - in buzzing Bangkok, indulge in mouth-watering food, visit nightclubs and explore street markets; in the north, meet hilltribes, see elephants and explore ancient temples; and in the south, relax on beaches, discover underwater worlds and hangout in jungles.

Thailand Tours & Travel

Top holiday deals in Thailand

Departing Days Price AUD
5 Sep 2015 Sail Ko Samui to Ko Tao 4 $672
5 Sep 2015 Ko Samui Sailing Adventure 7 $1347
6 Sep 2015 Bangkok to Singapore 15 $1717
8 Sep 2015 Sail Ko Tao to Ko Samui 4 $672
12 Sep 2015 Highlights of Thailand 10 $1570

All our Thailand trips

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Thailand trip reviews

Our Thailand trips score an average of 4.75 out of 5 based on 508 reviews in the last year.

Thailand - Hike, Bike & Kayak, July 2015

Bangkok to Singapore, August 2015

Video

Articles on Thailand

US chef Andy Ricker shares his favourite Thai-style herb salad

Posted on Wed, 1 Jul 2015

Everyone knows you don't make friends with salad. But everyone also knows rules were made to be broken.

Read more

Chef and author Andy Ricker gives us a crash course in Northern Thai cuisine

Posted on Wed, 1 Jul 2015

American chef Andy Ricker has built his reputation on dishes with names like laap pet issan, muu paa kham waan, khao soi. This is northern Thai food at its best.

Read more

Sandsational: our pick of the world’s 7 most beautiful beaches

Posted on Sat, 2 May 2015

Picking the world’s best beach is a bit like arguing why your favourite colour should dominate the rainbow.

Read more

Life’s a beach: why are we so drawn to the ocean?

Posted on Sat, 2 May 2015

The beach is the salty engine that drives global tourism. But why? What draws us to the ocean?

Read more

Transport

Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.

Depending on which trip you're on, you may find yourself travelling by:

Accommodation

Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.

When travelling with us in Thailand you may find yourself staying in a:

About Thailand

At a glance

Capital city: Bangkok (population 5.8 million)
Population: 67 million
Language: Thai
Currency: THB
Time zone: (GMT+07:00) Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta
Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin)
Dialing code: +66

Best time to visit Thailand

Thailand's climate is generally hot, humid and at times (like other South-East Asian countries) monsoonal. The seasons differ from coast to coast, so depending on which areas you're visiting, the weather can vary.

Thailand's north, east and west are great to visit from November to February, when the weather is cooler and dryer. If heading south, it's best to travel from January to April as these months provide conditions optimal for diving and snorkelling. This is peak time however, so be aware that popular places like Chiang Mai, Ko Samui and Phuket can get particularly busy. It can also get quite busy from July to August as it's northern hemisphere school holidays.

The monsoon season is from July to November, so it can get quite wet and the weather may be uncomfortably hot and humid for those who aren't accustomed to it. Yet travelling during this time can provide a different picture of Thailand, and is generally a less crowded time of year. March to June is less wet but is the hottest time in terms of temperatures. If you don't mind the heat then this can be a good time to go on holiday to Thailand to avoid the crowds.

Bangkok weather chart

Culture and customs

Thai woman of akha in traditional headress
Most Thai people are Buddhist and live a conservative way of life. Monks are treated with great respect. Respect for the king is also paramount in Thailand, and as the world's longest serving monarch, this respect seems to grow with each year of his epic reign. Known for his efforts to improve the living standards of disadvantaged communities and preserving the Thai way of life, pictures of the King adorn many homes, restaurants and businesses in Thailand.

'Saving face' is also an important part of being Thai, and this involves remaining calm, not losing your temper and avoiding confrontation in general. As the younger generation of Thais become more westernised with the infiltration of western ideas via the internet and other forms of media, some of the traditional ways of life appear to be dying out, particularly in larger cities.

Eating and drinking

Array of Thai noodles for sale on the streets of Bangkok Barbecued street food in Bangkok, Thailand

Intrepid believes that one of the best ways to experience a country is by eating! Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.

Thailand has some of the best cuisine in the world, with everything from spicy dishes packed with chilli to milder coconut-based curries. With street stalls and night markets all over the country, it's really easy to pick up a snack wherever you are in Thailand. On many Intrepid trips you'll be given the opportunity to dine with a local family - this offers a great chance to see how meals are prepared and learn more about the ingredients.

Things to try in Thailand

1. Pad Thai (Phat Thai)

A well-known dish but for good reason. This delicious plate of stir-fried rice noodles garnished with peanuts is full of flavour and can be served with fresh prawns, chicken, tofu or vegetables.

2. Tom Yum (Tom Yam)

Usually prepared with stock, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and chilli, this soup is widely available in Thailand and has been popularised around the world

3. Massaman Curry (Kaeng Matsaman)

A dish with Muslim origins, this filling curry traditionally features coconut milk, potatoes, beef, bay leaves and peanuts

4. Seafood

If staying on the coast or on one of the islands, be sure to make the most of the abundance of fresh seafood on offer. Seafood-based stir fries and fragrant curries, crab cakes, grilled fish and prawns are all great choices.

5. Spirits & Beer

Local spirits Mekhong (whisky) and Sang Som (rum) are popular, and an icy bottle of the local Singha beer is refreshing on a hot, humid day. Please note the legal drinking age in Thailand is 20.

6. Coconut Milk

For a super fresh thirst-quencher, try coconut milk straight from the husk

7. Tropical Fruit

Fruit shakes and fresh fruit juices are widely available from markets and restaurants - make the most of all the tropical fruits of Thailand.

Geography and environment

Longtail boat tied up on the shores of Thailand
Sharing borders with South-East Asian neighbours Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar (Burma), Thailand's natural environment varies greatly from region to region. From the steamy jungles and misty highlands in the north to the white sand beaches and picturesque islands of the south, Thailand's everchanging landscape has been fascinating and entertaining travellers for centuries.

The capital, Bangkok is a heaving, urban jungle with skyscrapers, street vendors, markets, cars, tuk tuks, bicycles and masses of people all competing for space. Despite this there are pockets of quiet beauty to be found with parks, temples and traditional shop fronts scattered throughout the city.

Rural areas in the north are typically quieter, with locals living a more traditional way of life; the frenetic pace of the city giving way to a more slow-paced, agricultural-based lifestyle. Houses are simple, there's more space and less of the modern conveniences. Jungles, rivers, bamboo huts and teak houses are more commonly seen here, and birds and other animal life are more abundant.

History and government

Robed Buddha statues of Ayutthaya stretching across temple in Thailand Rice fields of Thailand

Early History

Communities based on agriculture (such as rice growing) inhabited Siam (Thailand) as early as the 6th century. In the following centuries, Siam came under the influence of the Khmer, Dvaravati and Malay cultures, with some temples and monuments in modern-day Thailand showing evidence of this influence. In the 13th century, the city of Sukhothai in northern Thailand became an important capital. The ruins of the Sukhothai Historical Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site) feature remnants of the royal palace, temples and other buildings, and highlight the artistic and architectural features of the era.

Ayutthaya rose to prominence as the new capital in the 14th century, and was considered a powerhouse of South-East Asia as one of the most important centres of trade in the world. Enduring many battles, invasions, overthrows and coups, Ayutthaya's far-reaching trade with other regions ensured a flourishing influence of art, weaponry, religion and cuisine. Much wealth was generated by this enormous empire, with grand palaces, ornate buildings and huge temples featured throughout the city. All this came to an end when the Burmese invaded in the 18th century, bringing the kingdom to ruin and resulting in the loss of many artistic and cultural treasures. Despite this, the ruins of the city are still standing, have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and are a great day trip from Bangkok.

Recent History

Thonburi was established as the capital of Siam by General Taksin in the late 18th century, yet this didn't last long with Taksim being deposed and executed not long after. Bangkok was then named capital by General Chakri, who became Rama I - the first king of the Rama Dynasty.

Over the years, Siam (Thailand) remained the only South-East Asian country to remain free from European colonisation. In 1932, the Siamese Revolution resulted in a constitutional monarchy being formed, and in 1941, Thailand invaded French Indochina, overpowered the French and claimed Laos.

In the last thirty years, Thailand has seen political power change hands many times, often due to coups, revolutions and protests. Despite this, Thailand’s economy continues to grow due to its strong tourist industry. Enduring all this, the much-loved King Rama IX has reigned as the Head of State since 1946 - claiming the title of the longest reigning monarch in the world and providing Thai people with a stable figure to rely upon.

Top Picks

Fresh local cuisine available on floating markets of Bangkok Landscape view of Ancient Ayutthaya Hilltribe women in traditional clothing, Thailand

Top 10 Iconic Thai Landscapes

1. Bangkok

Whether you're travelling by tuk-tuk through the crazy streets, cycling along backroads or taking a longtail through the khlongs, the journey in Bangkok is definitely half the fun. Drop in to the stunning Grand Palace, see the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho and wind your way through floating markets.

2. Chiang Mai

This northern capital is overflowing with experiences. Temple-hop through some - or all - of its 300 temples, take a cooking class to learn the secrets of Thai cuisine and explore the Night Bazaar for delicious food, designer goods and a foot massage to die for.

3. Ko Tao

If you ever wondered what was below Thailand's turquoise waters, this is the place to look. Learn to dive or pull on snorkelling gear to discover the fish and reefs that call this coastline home. Shark Island is close by for adrenaline seekers.

4. Hilltribe Country

Thailand's north is home to many of the country's minority groups. A hike along buffalo tracks will take you through colourful H'mong, Karen and Lisu villages. Spend a night as their guest for a unique insight into their life.

5. Ayuthaya

Modern meets ancient in Ayuthaya. The current city intertwines itself with the remnants of what was once one of Asia's great capitals. Walk the streets in search of clues to its imperial past and hire a bike to ride through the countryside, exploring the area's ruins.

6. Sukhothai

This former capital is a history buff's heaven. Nicknamed the 'Dawn of Happiness', Sukhothai still recalls Siam's golden age with its superb statues, marvellous monuments and lotus flowers in full bloom. A trip to the night market is a real eye-opener. Try everything from fried rice to fried bugs.

7. Krabi

The waters surrounding Krabi are dotted with hundreds of limestone karst islands. Kayakers and rock-climbers will love exploring them, while others can travel to the nearby floating villages or just relax on one of the region's perfect beaches.

8. Golden Triangle

The area where the Thai, Laotian and Burmese borders meet has long been associated with colourful cultures and an illicit opium trade. The opium may have gone but the colour hasn't and the markets offer all sorts of amazing local handicrafts.

9. Khao Sok National Park

For a real jungle experience, spend a couple of days in Khao Sok National Park. Thick rainforest, limestone cliffs, waterfalls and mountains make a wild playground. Hike, swim, explore caves and sleep to the sounds of exotic birds and animals.

10. Kanchanaburi

This tranquil town is the jumping off point for visits to the infamous Hell Fire Pass and River Kwai. Be sure to take a ride along the tracks of the Death Railway and reflect on the atrocities of war at the Jeath War Museum.

Shopping

thailand parasols market handmade market local product umbrella

Thailand offers great shopping - from lively street markets to huge shopping malls. Cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai have interesting night markets that are worth a visit. Bangkok's massive Chatuchak Market is an unforgettable metropolis filled with bizarre sights and smells. Selling everything from curious antiques and modern clothing to unique jewellery and colourful homewares, you'll need to dedicate a lot of time to navigate through this sometimes confusing market.

Most importantly, have fun and don’t forget to haggle for a good price. It's also a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.

Things to buy in Thailand

1. Vibrant fabric cushions, table cloths and hammocks
2. Silver jewellery
3. Handcrafted umbrellas or parasols
4. Thai silk scarves, ties, wraps and other clothing
5. Colourful Celadon ceramics
6. Tailor-made clothes are inexpensive and can be made quickly, usually within a couple of days

Festivals and Events in Thailand

Songkran

Thai New Year is celebrated nationwide and is traditionally viewed as a time for cleansing and renewal. Locals make visits to Wats with offerings for Buddha and food for monks. More recently, emphasis has been placed on having fun and people being drenched with water are a common sight - from buckets, hoses and water pistols. Water is symbolically meant to purify and cleanse but with April being one of Thailand's hottest months, it also brings sweet relief from the heat.

Loi Krathong

Celebrated annually throughout Thailand, this 'Festival of Lights' sees thousands of biodegradable, homemade lanterns travel down the waterways of Thailand. Lakes, rivers and seas light up as the beautiful lanterns carry bad luck away and bring happiness and prosperity to the lantern bearer.

FAQs on Thailand

THAILAND:
Australia: No - not required
Belgium: No - not required
Canada: No - not required
Germany No - not required
Ireland: No - not required
Netherlands: No - not required
New Zealand: No - not required
South Africa: No - not required
Switzerland: No - not required
United Kingdom: No - not required
USA: No - not required

If entering by air you will be granted a 30 day stay on arrival.

If entering by a land border, you will be granted a 15 day stay only (exceptions are citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan who are eligible for 30 day visa at land borders). A visa extension can be obtained in Thailand at an immigration office for approx. 2000THB or alternatively you can apply for a Thailand visa in advance from your embassy or consulate that will allow a 30 day stay when entering at an overland border.
If planning to enter Thailand via a land border multiple times during your travels, we recommend you pre-obtain a 60 day multiple entry visa from you embassy or consulate before you travel rather than attempting to obtain a visa at the border on multiple occasions which may result in being denied re-entry into the country.
Tipping isn't mandatory or customary in Thailand, but a tip of spare change or another small amount would be appreciated by restaurants, drivers and other service workers, especially if the service has been particularly good.
Internet access is widely available in tourist areas like Bangkok and Phuket, which have many internet cafes and Wi-Fi hot-spots. Internet access is less frequent in rural and remote areas.
You'll be able to use your mobile phone in most urban areas of Thailand, although some of the islands or more remote areas may not have network coverage. Ensure you have global roaming activated with your mobile carrier before you leave home if you wish to use your mobile while in Thailand.
You'll have to adjust to different standards of hygiene and sanitation while in Thailand. The standard toilet is of the squat variety and this may take some getting used to, although western-style toilets can be found in large hotels and some tourist areas.
Thailand is one of the world's favourite budget travel destinations. Here's what you can roughly expect to pay for a:

Bottle of beer = 80-100 TBH
Street food snack = 25 TBH
Short tuk tuk ride = 50 TBH
Metered taxi to city from Bangkok Airport = 300-400 TBH
Drinking tap water isn't recommended in Thailand. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water. Ask your leader where filtered water can be found; some hotels we stay in may have drinking water available. It's also advisable to avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
Major credit cards are widely accepted by large shops, hotels and restaurants in Thailand. However, they may not be accepted by smaller vendors such as small family restaurants, market stalls or in remote towns and rural areas. Make sure you carry enough cash for purchases, since credit cards aren't always an option everywhere in Thailand.
ATMs are found widely throughout Thailand, so withdrawing cash shouldn't be problematic in most areas. Some smaller villages and rural areas may not have ATM access, so prepare for this before venturing too far from a city or major town.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 1 New Year's Day
Feb 25 Magha Bucha Day
Apr 6 Chakri Day
Apr 13 Songkran (Thai New Year)
May 1 Labour Day
May 5 Coronation Day
May 25 Visakha Bucha
Jul 1 Mid Year Bank Holiday
Jul 22 Asarna Bucha Day
Aug 12 HM the Queen's Birthday
Oct 23 Chulalongkorn Day
Dec 5 HM the King's Birthday
Dec 10 Constitution Day
Dec 31 New Year's Eve

Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays in Thailand go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/thailand/public-holidays

Health and Safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From US?

Go to: http://travel.state.gov/

From UK?

Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/

Responsible Travel

Thailand Travel Tips

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Top responsible travel tips for Thailand

1. Be considerate of Thailand's customs, traditions, religion and culture.

2. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.

3. Ask permission, remove your shoes and cover your shoulders with a jacket or wrap before entering a place of worship.

4. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

5. Choose to not support businesses that promote cruelty towards or exploitation of endangered species.

6. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.

7. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!

8. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.

9. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.

10. Be respectful of Buddhist monks, this includes refraining from taking photos of them. Women should also avoid touching or handing items directly to monks.

11. Thai people have a flexible approach to time and may not always be punctual. Accept this graciously and enjoy the ride.

12. Thai people adore their King and highly respect the Royal Family. Knowing this, try to avoid disrespecting or criticising the monarch.

The Intrepid Foundation

The Intrepid Foundation provides travellers with an opportunity to give something back to the many wonderful communities we travel to. By donating to The Intrepid Foundation you can make a difference in local communities - in health care, education, human rights, child welfare and the protection of wildlife and the environment.

In Thailand, The Intrepid Foundation proudly supports:

Baan Unrak Children's Village

Baan Unrak (House of Happiness) is a grassroots organisation located in the Kanchanaburi province that provides shelter, food, clothing, education, employment, love and support for women and children in need.

Image supplied by Janine de Krester.

Friends of the Asian Elephant

This non-government organisation aims to protect and conserve the welfare of elephants - both domesticated and wild. Providing treatment and rehabilitation to injured and mistreated elephants as well as education programs to vets, mahouts and carers, this organisation is dedicated to the elephants cause in many ways.

Image supplied by Friends of the Asian Elephant.

To learn more or donate, go to: www.theintrepidfoundation.org

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
One Fourteenth of an Elephant: A Memoir of Life and Death on the Thai-Burma Railway Ian Denys Peek
FieldworkMischa Berlinski
SightseeingRattawut Lapcharoensap
Siam Becomes Thailand: A Story of IntrigueJudith A Stowe
The BeachAlex Garland