We traveled for 4 weeks through Thailand, from south to north; we went to the islands, Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai. We are backpackers, so this is primarily a Thailand backpacking guide, but with some further information and many tips.
We always traveled overland and only used public transportation, so we met many people and observed even more.
Now, we decided to compile everything we learned about Thailand and everything we found interesting, different, or just funny to make this travel guide of everything you need to know before traveling to Thailand!
After reading this, you are more than ready to have some fun!
Things to know about Thailand and the Thai people
You can find almost everything in Thailand, the greenest jungles, crystal blue waters, and the tastiest foods.
#2 Thais are known to be very welcoming and always smiling. We felt this to be generally true, although with the usual exceptions. It is, after all, the land of smiles!
A few times, people got out of their way to help us with something we needed, even with being asked. They just saw we were having problems with something or understanding something and asked if they could help.
#3 We learned that their English is tough to understand. Some clichés are just true.
However, you should note that you won’t have that many problems being understood. One way or another, the Thais will help you and make themselves understood.
#4 Thai women are very pretty, but they seem a little vain… We guess it comes with the territory;
#5 Thai people seem to have a special love for Laos… Every time we said we were going to Laos, their faces seemed to light up, smile, and say how Laos is nice.
#6 Thai people are very fast-paced and expect you to be too. When we took a little more time making up our minds in the restaurants, 7-Eleven, or wherever, we could feel their despair. It was kind of embarrassing :).
#7 When is the best time to go to Thailand? Although the weather varies during the year and along the country, the best time to travel to Thailand is during the cool and dry season between November and early March.
In general, you should take this into consideration:
- Thailand has a tropical climate, i.e., it can be very humid.
- The South gets substantially more rain compared to the North;
- The rainy season is between May and November, and this includes the monsoon season, so when it rains, it rains a lot;
- May and June are the hottest months and should be avoided if you don’t handle heat too well;
Traveling in Thailand and the tourists
#8 There’s way too many tourists! The north is full of French and the islands of Russians! We would have never guessed these two… and of course, the Chinese, American, British, Australians, and other westerners are everywhere…
#9 In Thailand, everything is a tourist attraction, and some are (or have become) only tourist traps!
Thailand’s main attractions can be really crowded…Grand Palace, Doi Suthep, or the Phi Phi Islands, we are looking at you! And we didn’t even mention Patong!
#10 Surprisingly, we found Bangkok‘s financial district fascinating! The people, the huge buildings, the monorail… We loved our stay there and even overstayed two more nights to rest a bit.
#11 Maybe even more surprising, Kanchanaburi was our favorite part of Thailand! It has waterfalls, hikes, and a fascinating history of WW2.
#12 But the most surprising of all is that we didn’t love the islands we visited that much! We were actually disappointed by them…
In general, the Thai islands are all about drinking and wild partying, which aren’t our main goals in traveling. But if that’s what you are looking for, we still have you covered… Check this one-month guide to partying in Thailand!
#13 Patong is a wild mess. Phi Phi is full of hippies and parties. Anyway, most of its beauty has been ruined… Koh Lanta was our favorite island. It’s calm and relaxed, with fewer tourists (or at least they are much more spread), but the beaches aren’t as beautiful as one would expect.
#14 In Thailand (and Laos and Cambodia), every hostel is a travel agency. It’s another way of them earning a little more. And most of them a restaurants too… They are a true one-stop shop!
#15 Ayutthaya is a great day trip option for anyone in Bangkok and looking for a little history on their trip.
#16 You can find massage parlors everywhere! On the beaches, in the street, day and night… and they are very cheap… In some places, 5 Euros for a 60-minute Thai massage.
#17 Activities are usually very far away from the cities. For example, we loved Kanchanaburi, but all its attractions are at least 50 km from the city! Even on the islands, we had to take transport to go to the “best part”…
#18 You will never understand how many temples (Wat) exist in Thailand unless you go there … From the amazing ones in Bangkok and Chiang Mai to the crazy …
How’s the food and what to eat in Thailand
#19 Thais have taken street food to a whole new level! We have never seen such diversity, quality, and quantity. Bangkok’s street food is incredible;
#20 In general, food is spicy, very spicy! Sometimes our Portuguese palate didn’t fancy it…On the other hand, Thai cuisine doesn’t use salt. They use fish sauce if they want to give a salty flavor.
#21 Thai cuisine is heavily influenced by other Asian countries (China, India, Korea, Japan, Laos, Cambodia)… and, of course, also influenced them a lot!
#22 Fruit in Thailand is sooooo good. From the usual pineapple or mango to others, we had never heard before like durian, wax apple, pomelo, gac…
#23 If you like cooking or eating, you should try a cooking class. You will understand better what you are eating and how it is made…
#24 Oh, and don’t get us started on those fruit shakes! Mango, Pineapple, dragon fruit, banana, coconut, we have tried them all, and they were always good, and some were just heavenly!
#25 In Thailand’s night markets, you will see the craziest desserts you can think about. Sometimes it seems they just put every sweet ingredient in the same dish 🙂 Anyway, they were almost all yummy… very yummy!
#26 Thais don’t really use bread. Even in supermarkets, there are few, and it’s quite expensive.
#27 Breakfasts are comparatively expensive and are tourist-oriented. We got used to paying more for breakfast than lunch or dinner.
#28 Thai people don’t have breakfast. They seem to eat a normal meal early in the morning as breakfast.
#29 Thai food is also healthy, and there’s a variety of vegan Thai food for those who follow a vegan diet!
Money and expenses when traveling to Thailand
#30 Thailand is very cheap to travel in. Our cost was 26 Euros per person in 2018, including everything we spent in Thailand: food, activities, visas, hostels, transportation, bank, foreign exchange charges, etc…
We even include here the price of the flight…
#31 The official currency of Thailand is Baht (you say baahh), and the current (2023) exchange rate is 1 Euro to +- 37 Baht. You can easily withdraw money from ATMs or exchange it. But we always recommend you have some USD or Eur with you for an emergency.
#32 Although banks charge 200 baht (+5 Euros) for each and every withdrawal using foreign cards. The amount doesn’t matter, so withdraw the maximum amount to save some money. And stores surcharge 3% on payments made with foreign cards. Plus, many of them don’t even accept cards. Cash is King!
#33 Food and particularly street food, is unbelievably cheap. And this is why traveling in Thailand is so cheap. Moreover, value-for-money is astonishing. Probably the best in the world.
#34 Accommodation can also be inexpensive, but you get what you pay. Be aware that sometimes and in some places, they are quite bad…, particularly in the islands… we wouldn’t recommend our hostel in Patong to anyone, and our most expensive night was in the Phi Phi islands.
#35 On the other hand, activities (Tours, trekking, rafting, snorkeling) are expensive. More than in Laos, Cambodia, or even Malaysia, sometimes similar to European prices. This made our overall price in Thailand higher than it could have been.
#36 The Islands are much more expensive than the rest of Thailand. Some things are almost double the price. However, that’s expected, wasn’t it?
How to travel in Thailand
#37 Ridding a motorbike or a moped is fundamental. Without a bike, you will be stranded and dependent on tuk-tuks to get around; Tip: learn how to ride a mopped before going to Thailand!
#38 Long haul bus services are good, very good! You are better off in those buses than in a plane or even most trains!
#39 However, they almost always leave you 5 – 15 km away from the city center. It’s not close enough that you can walk.., so you’ll need to take tuk-tuks or taxis…
#40 Only Bangkok has an actual urban public transport system. In every other place, we have relied only on tuk-tuks and similars. We don’t like taxis and don’t really care for tuk-tuks, so it was nice to return to something we are comfortable with!
#41 Don’t be surprised if the local bus drives with the doors open!
#42 Local buses stop everywhere you need! You just need to ask the driver, and he will let you leave; it’s very easy and useful. 🙂
#43 Thais drive very badly. We would even say they are reckless; however, later, we learned that Cambodians are much worse.
Other travel information about Thailand
#44 Always bring toilet paper with you. Most bathrooms won’t have, and sometimes even hostels lack toilet paper…
#45 Beds are tough. So hard that once we actually checked if it had a mattress!
#46 We never expected Thailand to be unsafe, but it is even safer than we imagined. We walked everywhere and went everywhere without ever feeling unsafe;
#47 There are way too many street dogs, but they seem to be somehow taken care of… We couldn’t figure out how exactly it works nor the relationship between Thais and the dogs…
#48 Mobile data is fast and cheap. Travel Tip: buy at the airport, and they’ll configure it in your phone.
If you don’t want to, there’s Wi-Fi everywhere. Every restaurant, bar, and hostel we went to had free Wi-fi.
#49 In Thailand, the power plugs and sockets are of type A (as in North America, China, and Japan), B, C (the European socket), F, and O. The standard voltage is 220 V, and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
If you need to buy an adapter, we suggest this one.
#50 Besides the temples, almost every place expects you to take off your shoes when coming in. Even hostels and sometimes restaurants.
Bonus Travel Tip
As said above, Thailand is pretty safe! Though, You don’t want to risk having a problem and not being insured! So, always Remember to Buy Travel Insurance Before Your Trip!
We have learned much about Thailand, about the country, people, and culture. But we also learned about travelers, tourists, and even ourselves.
Our Recommended Travel Guide Books For Thailand
Lonely Planet Thailand – if you are only traveling to Thailand!
Alternatively, Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a shoestring (Travel Guide) – in case you are planning to travel to more than one country in South East Asia.
Planning a trip to Thailand? Have a look at our other Thailand articles: