Thailand Travel Guide
Atualizado: 1 de jul. de 2018
Thailand is a Southeast Asian country and its capital is Bangkok. Thailand's population is estimated to be about 68 million people with Thai being its official language and it is mainly a Buddhist country. The Baht (THB) is the official currency (1€=38,949 THB as of January 30th 2018).
For stays up to 30 days, Portuguese citizens do not need a visa to enter in Thailand. For longer stays, the visa application should be done in the Thailand Embassy in Portugal.
Regarding weather conditions, Thailand can be described as tropical and humid during most of the year. April and May tend to be the hottest months, while from June to October the heavy rain will occur. For this reason, November to February seems to be the best time to visit Thailand, since the weather will be sunny and mild.
A SIM card may be easily obtained on arrival in Thailand. There are several companies providing telecommunication services, such as AIS, Dtac and True Move. We opted for an AIS pre paid SIM card with unlimited data for 30 days at 6 mbps. The network coverage was always extremely good, even while visiting the southern islands. In fact, Internet is quite good in Thailand comparing to the remaining Asian countries. We paid 649 THB/16,66€.
In what concerns transportation, it will depend significantly on the area you are. From the capital city, Bangkok, to the north or the south part of the country, the plane may be the best option if you book the flight in advance and you are short on time. Air Asia, Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways are the most used airline companies. If that is not the case, you can always use the bus to reach both places from Bangkok. Within Bangkok, you can use the metro or the Sky Train, which works pretty well. However, to reach some parts of the city we had to use a private taxi or a similar service (Uber or Grab) and the prices are quite reasonable. Within Chiang Mai, the private taxi, Uber or Grab are the best alternatives if traveling longer distances. Finally, within the southern islands, the ferrys are the best way to go from one island to the other.
From our experience, Thailand is a very touristic country that knows how to welcome and please its visitors. In general, people are nice and friendly. However, we expected local people to speak better English. The communication is not always so easy, but you will always find a way to make yourself understandable.
We spent 30 days in Thailand, the maximum time we could without a visa. During this time we visited several places:
(A) Koh Phangan
(B) Koh Tao
(C) Koh Samui
(D) Chiang Mai
(F) Island hopping from Phuket (Koh Hong, Chicken Island, Phi Phi Islands)
Only the first part of the trip, visiting the three islands in the Gulf of Thailand, and the last two days in Bangkok, were done on our own. The remaining of our visit to Thailand was with André’s parents. For this reason, the budget and destinations were replanned accordingly. It would be more efficient to visit first Krabi and the surroundings after the Gulf of Thailand, since both are located in the south of the country. However, since we had some booking constraints regarding the island hopping boat trip, we had to visit first the north area in the first place and then come back to the south.
Detail city by city
Koh Phangan (3 days)
Koh Phangan is located in the Gulf of Thailand and it is an island known for the famous Full Moon Party, which occurs once a month based on the lunar calendar.
Arriving time: we arrived in Thailand in the Koh Samui airport. Koh Phangan does not have an airport, so the best way to reach this island is by ferry. It takes about half an hour and the price is 350 THB/8,99€ including the transfer from the airport to the Big Buddha Port. This ferry arrives in a town called Haad Rin in Koh Phangan.
Sleeping time: we decided to stay very close to the Full Moon Party location, which is the Haad Rin Beach. During the party periods the accommodation prices tend to rise significantly, especially if you want to stay at a walking distance to the beach party. We chose Culture Club Backpackers, 5 minutes walking to the beach. The main advantage of this hostel is the nice pool you can use for free that was essential to recover from the party time.
Eating time: there are plenty of restaurants around the area of the party. We were missing Indian food, so we tried the restaurant called “OM Ganesh Indian Restaurant”. We recommend it!
Visiting time: unfortunately, we only explored Haad Rin. The Full Moon Party was our main motivation to visit this island. It is a special beach party, perfect to have a good party time. Every night before the Full Moon Party night, there is another party called Jungle Party, which occurs in the middle of the jungle, about half an hour driving from Haad Rin. The entrance costs 600 THB/15,40€ and transportation from Haad Rin to the party location will be around 200 THB/5,13€ go and return. Although a bit expensive, we also recommend it. It is less crowded than the Full Moon Party and the environment is crazy! We heard there are some other nice places to explore in this island. Renting a bike and visit beaches such as Malibu Beach or Mae Haat Beach seems to be a good plan.
Koh Tao (3 days)
Koh Tao, which means “Turtle Island”, is an island situated in the Gulf of Thailand, known for its tropical coral reefs and therefore the scuba diving destination of choice in Thailand.
Arriving time: we came from Koh Phangan by ferry and we arrived in Mae Haad pier. The ferry takes about 1,5 hours and it costs about 400 THB/10,27€ including the transfer from the Hostel. The departure port was not the same we arrived in, about half an hour driving from Haad Riin.
Sleeping time: we stayed in Hotel Baan Rock Inn. Reasonable price but a bit far from the most touristic areas of the island, such as Sairee Beach, although it was close to the Mae Haad pier. If you have a chance to stay closer to the city center we recommend that option.
Eating time: we discovered a cheap and nice restaurant serving local food. It was called "Yang Restaurant". While visiting some beaches, we also found out a restaurant with the best Pad Thai we ate in Thailand. Its name was Char Bungalow, it is situated on a remote beach but is worth the trip.
Visiting time: Koh Tao is a small island where visitors usually rent a bike and explore the island. However, based on our experience, we advise you to be careful about the place you choose to rent the bike and do it only if you are comfortable in riding it. The roads in Koh Tao are extremely bumpy and there are no proper footpaths. The rental shops work the same way and all of them demand your passport. Given road conditions, accidents are very common and if the bike is damaged in any way, any parts must be replaced new, not just repaired, by the person who rented it. So be careful while signing the rental papers and while driving! Regarding beaches, Sairee Beach west side of the island, is the most popular, while Freedom Beach on the south is a good alternative if you prefer less touristic places. For the perfect sunsets, there are some nice viewpoints in different parts of the islands. Mango Viewpoint or John-Suwan Viewpoint are good examples. We only went to the first one and it was a long walk until the top. We were not that lucky with the weather, since it was really cloudy. Finally, do not miss Koh Nang Yuan, three small islands connected by a sand bar. From Mae Haad Bay we caught a private boat to this beautiful place for 600 THB/15,40€ for the two of us. The entrance fee in the islands is 100 THB/2,57€ per person. Finally, if you are considering diving, Koh Tao is considered one of the best places in the world. If so, you should make sure that you have enough time to take your open water diving course which may be about three days costing around 10000 THB/256,75€ including the accommodation. Unfortunately, we did not do it for budget reasons.
Koh Samui (2 days)
Koh Samui is the second largest island in Thailand, located in the Gulf of Thailand. It is famous for its palm-lined beaches, along the luxury resorts and spas.
Arriving time: we came from Koh Tao by ferry. It takes about 2 hours and tickets cost about 600 THB/15,40€ for the ferry. An additional transfer to an area in Koh Samui would cost 150 THB/3,85€ more.
Sleeping time: we stayed in Palm Coco Mantra. The pool and the private beach were just amazing!
Eating time: we spent most of the time in the hotel to relax. For this reason the only restaurant we really enjoyed was located very close to our hotel and it was called “Uncle Rang Restaurant”.
Visiting time: since we only spent 2 days in Koh Samui and during Sara's birthday, we decided to stay in a resort in Lamai. Unfortunately, we did not have time to explore the rest of the island.
Chiang Mai (6 days)
Chiang Mai, which means “New City”, is the largest city in the north of Thailand and it is the capital of the Chiang Mai Province. Known for the beautiful temples that can be found in every corner of the city, it is also famous for the elephant sanctuaries in the nearby areas.
Arriving time: we arrived in Chiang Mai from Koh Samui, so we had to take a plane. Bangkok Airways is the airline company that flies to and from the Gulf of Thailand.
Sleeping time: we chose Jomkitti Boutique Hotel. Located in the old town, it is a very comfortable hotel with friendly staff. We really enjoyed the time we spent there, but remember that is was with a different budget control.
Eating time: we had some nice food experiences in Chiang Mai. For Thai food we totally recommend Dash Restaurant. For a French experience, try La Fourchette. To have a pleasant dinner in a magic place try the restaurant of Chala Number 6 Hotel.
Visiting time: there are plenty of things to do in Chiang Mai, so make sure you stay long enough to explore the most important attractions. The elephant sanctuaries are quite famous in Thailand, in particular in Chiang Mai. We tried to visit a sanctuary that does not allow the tourists to ride on the elephants. We visited the Jungle Elephant Sanctuary and we enjoyed the experience. We had the chance to feed them with bananas (they eat so much!), to bath them in the river and to stay close to them while they are having a mug bath. They seemed to be very well treated and we could stay close to them without any risk. For a half-day morning visit we paid 1700 THB/43,65€ per person, including lunch and pick up and drop off from/to the Hotel. Cooking classes are also very famous in this city. We tried Orchid Cooking Class and it was the best experience we had in Chiang Mai. The cook was amazing and he spoke very good English. We visited a local market to know more about local fruits, vegetables and curries and after that we had the chance to cook some delicious spring rolls, the famous Pad Thai, a Thai curry and a local dessert. Each class costs 900 THB/23,11€. Chiang Mai is also known for its temples. In every corner you may find a temple. Our advice is to walk around the city and just discover these calm and peaceful places. However, the most famous temple in Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep is located outside the city center, so probably you will need a tour to go there. We decided to go on a night tour to this temple and also the Wat Umong, the Tunnel Temple. The tour costs about 600 THB/15,40€. The last one we did not like so much, but Doi Suthep really worths a visit. At night time the Pagoda is even more shiny. If you enjoy a bit of adventure, the Jungle Flight is your thing! Zipline in the middle of the jungle is a different and unforgettable experience. The basic package costs 2100 THB/53,92€ per person, including 40 platforms, 22 zipline (the longest 400 meters long), 3 abseil and 3 sky bridges. If you enjoy different museums, Chiang Mai Art in Paradise is a a 3-D museum that you should not miss. The entrance fee is of 300 THB/7,70€. Last but not the least, do not miss the opportunity to have a cheap foot massage. The shops are everywhere. We opted for Lila’s Massage and we did not regret it. Only 250 THB/6,42€ for a 1-hour foot massage.
Krabi (4 days)
Krabi is located on the west coast of southern Thailand and it is a very touristic destination for the beautiful beaches and islands in the surrounding area.
Arriving time: we flew from Chiang Mai to Krabi in Air Asia airlines.
Sleeping time: we stayed in a resort called Centara Grand Beach Resort, a beautiful hotel located in a private beach between Ao Nang Beach and Railay Beach.
Eating time: most of the meals were taken in the resort, which offers different restaurants (a Thai restaurant, a Japanese restaurant and a western restaurant).
Visiting time: Railay Beach is the most famous beach of Krabi and the access can only be made by boat. Ao Nang Beach is also nice and can be accessed by car. The area around this beach is also very nice, full of restaurants, bars and small shops.
Island hopping (5 days)
Thailand is home to an impressive group of islands offering diving, swimming and sunbathing experiences. Island hopping in the southern island is a great way to explore this touristic area of Thailand.
Arriving time: we started our island hopping from Phuket. From Krabi to Phuket it is possible to go by car. It takes about 2 hours, but with traffic it can be much longer than that.
Sleeping time: we slept on the boat in small cabin rooms with toilet. Basic but enough for four nights!
Eating time: all the meals were prepared by the cook that accompanied us during the whole boat trip. Both local and western food we could try during those days.
Visiting time: during 5 days, we visited different islands and beaches. The ones we enjoyed the most were, of course, the Phi Phi Islands. There we recommend the visit to the Viewpoint which allows a breathtaking view from the top. It takes about half an hour to reach the top and the entrance fee is of 50 THB/1,28€ per person. Maya Bay and the Monkey Beach (if you like monkeys) are also mandatory stops. Chicken Island and Koh Hong, in particular the Bat Cave, are also nice stops you can do during island hopping.
Bangkok (4 days)
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and it is the largest city in Thailand and one of the most visited places in the world. It is a city of contrasts. Apart from the high buildings, the heavy traffic, the intense heat and the famous nightlife, Bangkok is also a place where you can find beautiful temples, palaces and canals and unique local markets.
Arriving time: we flew from Phuket to Bangkok, a 1,5-hour flight.
Sleeping time: we stayed in Warm White Hostel. Its location is perfect, 5-minutes walking to the famous Khao San Road.
Visiting time: Bangkok is a wonderful city, with a lot of attractions not only in the center, but also in its surroundings. During our stay in the city we spent one whole day visiting Ayutthaya, the previous capital city of Thailand. The Wat Chaiwatthanaram, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and the mother of the tree, in Wat Mahathat, should not be missed during this visit. During the same tour we also the chance to visit the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, a peaceful place. The cost of a tour to Ayutthaya from Bangkok will depend if it is a private or group tour, including a guide or not. Another interesting tour is the one focused on the markets, both the train market and floating markets. The train market is unique in the world and it offers a different experience. The floating markets are also interesting to observe local daily life and culture. Again the price of a tour from Bangkok will vary depending on the conditions. Khao San Road is the most famous street in Bangkok and the nights are crazy there. A lot of people wandering in the street, drinking and listening to the loud music coming from the various bars. You can also find beautiful temples in city center. Wat Phra Kaew, built within the grounds of the Grand Palace, Wat Pho (also with a reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun are very touristic places. We only visited Wat Arun and we highly recommend it. The easiest way to go reach the temple is to cross the river by boat at the port near the Reclining Buddha. It takes to minutes to make the trip and it costs 4 THB/0,10€ per person!
Best of Thailand
In case we had to choose our top 3 in Thailand, according to our experience in this country, we would vote for:
Cooking class in Chiang Mai - it was, for sure, the highlight of our stay in the north of Thailand. The traditional food we cooked was really delicious and in the end we were given a small recipe book that will allow us to try to cook Thai food back home;
Island hopping around Phuket and Krabi - for us the best way to explore the beautiful islands of Southern Thailand. More than the beaches, the sea is amazing and in a 5-day island hopping you can certainly avoid the most crowded hours or places and plan accordingly;
Visiting local markets near Bangkok - for the possibility of getting in touch with local life and traditions.
What we will not miss next time
Thailand has some much to explore. We spent one month there and unfortunately we could not see everything we wished. Actually, we are thinking about coming back to the north of Thailand during this long trip.
Chiang Rai - a northern city famous for the beautiful White Temple. Unfortunately, for food poisoning reasons of some of us, we were unable to visit Chiang Rai at the time. Our initial plan was to spend 2 days in this area after visiting Chiang Mai. We will certainly not miss it next time;
Chiang Pai - a small and hippie town located around 80 kilometers from Chiang Mai. Surrounded by mountains, it is considered a must visit for most of the backpackers we have met along the way;
Koh Lanta - an island in the Krabi Province, known for its coral beaches, mangroves and rainforests.
Hope you enjoy this guide we created based on our experience in Thailand. In case you have any questions, please contact us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).