Mikhail Koninin Railay Beach
Thailand is the most popular destination for tourists in South East Asia with around 20 million visitors every single year! But don’t let the massive amounts of “farang”
who go there put you off. With the exception of a few places this country somehow manages to keep its magic, and you don’t need to be a high budget honeymooner to enjoy it.
Thailand was one of the first places I really started to live a true budget life, mostly because I found it so easy there! Outside of Bangkok and the main tourists areas like Phuket you can easily find hotel/hostel rooms for around 100baht per night, decent meals in a local restaurant for 30baht, beer in a shop for 25-30baht per 500ml, or if you are really on a budget or just wanna enjoy life like a local you can get bottles of delicious sangsom rum for around 110baht per 700ml! Thailand has a strong couchsurfing community of both locals and expats so finding a host should be easy. OR you can even stay in a temple! While travelling with my tent I often carry a note in the local language asking permission to camp on their property for safety, when asking in temples I have NEVER been turned down, and 9 times out of 10 been offered a room, some free food and shown where the shower is. It may not be the most comfortable place to crash but what it lacks on comfort it makes up with a unique cultural experience.
If you are travelling for a while and want to pick up some good, cheap books; Thailand is also a great place to find book exchanges and second hand shops. Khaosan area of Bangkok is great for this, you can also ask in many small expat bars in Phuket, Chiangmai, Pai, etc.
If you are flying to Thailand it could often be worth actually flying to Malaysia first. It obviously depends on where you are coming from but flights to Kuala Lumpur can be up to 100 euros cheaper than flights to Thailand which can go a long way in this country.
Intercity buses can be very cheap if you book at the bus station, as little as 500baht for a 850km journey from Phuket to Bangkok. BUT getting this Thai price can be hard without a local friend to help you out, and I found the buses to be slow and incredibly unreliable, several times I had to wait hours because of a broken down bus! Luckily though Thailand is my no1 favourite country in the entire world for hitchhiking! In other parts of Asia I had waited up to 4 hours for a ride, in Thailand I usually never wait 4 minutes!
If you are travelling around the greater Bangkok area trains are also a very good option, the 2 hour train to Ayutthaya costs just 45baht per person and follows a beautiful scenic route. When hitchhiking out of Bangkok I once took the 4 hour train for 90baht down to Hua Hin, one of the most naturally beautiful beaches in the country, and started my hitch from there.
Food & Drink
J Aaron FarrThai street food
The Thais have a saying: “Mai phet, mai aroy”, which literally means : “if it’s not spicy, it’s not delicious”.
And it is often very true. Pretty much everyone I have met who likes their food hot seems to absolutely LOVE Thai food, but if you ask the restaurant to lay back on the spice you might find the food a little bland. There are however some non-spicy dishes that you can still enjoy! Fried rice (khao pad
) and fried noodles (pad thai
) can be found in almost every Thai restaurant, big or small and usually come with their chilli separate. To be safe though make sure you say “mai phet” at least 5 times to your waiter! Another of my favourites is the Thai BBQ, an all you can eat buffet of meat and seafood which you cook yourself at your table! Usually these cost just 100-200baht per person and leave you feeling full for a week!
Now time for a drink! It’s hard to say no to such delicious and cheap beer in huge 660ml bottles 🙂 Everyone has a different favourite, mine was the 6.4% Chiang, usually purchased from a 7/11 or Family Mart. Or maybe grab a bottle of Sangsom, some lime soda, red bull, a load of ice and make our own bucket cocktails.... ahhh I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it! Don’t leave Thailand without having at least one ice cold beer on a hot sunny beach.
Dan NorrisFoam party in Phuket
Apart from the culture, the history and the beaches, a lot of people also go to Thailand to party! And rightly so! With huge amounts of bars and clubs in every major city, and everything from live music cafes to rooftop nightclubs with helipads. Entrance is usually free or very affordable, and drinks are usually around 80-150baht in normal places.
And then there is the full moon party! Arguably the most famous beach party in the world, located on Koh Phangan island, once a month around 30,000 people from all over the world gather to dance drink and go crazy till the sun comes up. Sounds fun but..... It kills me to say it but my advice is to avoid the main party and join one of the smaller half-moon or black moon parties. During the full moon main event not only do prices of almost everything soar, there is simply just too many people there, and the beach can’t handle it. The locals have no respect for the safety of their cash cattle and on average 1 tourist dies each month. I’ve been twice now, and both times been sadly disappointed.
Roberto TrmVegetarian festival in Phuket
Thai people love a good festival, the 2 main ones are Songkran in the Spring and Loy Krathon in the Autumn. During Songkran the entire country has a massive water fight for 5 days straight! Literally no one is staying dry, even the police will get shot at by water guns! And don’t think you are safe because you are riding a motorbike with a giant backpack on... no, people line up on both sides of a narrow road waiting with buckets of water just for people just like you and your stuff to come riding through!! For Loy Krathon people write their wishes on lanterns which they send off into the sky in the thousands, or on candles which they float on the river. Both these festivals are once in a life time experiences to take part in, and with the nonstop fireworks, parades, and parties you are sure to have a great time.
Lindz GrayhamErawan Falls
Thailand is famous for its beaches, but there are also many national parks, mountains, waterfalls and of course wildlife. Try to avoid tours to these places because they can be ridiculously expensive, the best way is by motorbike or hitchhiking.
There are basically 2 seasons in Thailand. Dry season (peak season), and wet season (low season). The dry season starts from November and continues until around May, this is of course the best time to go to Thailand, especially while most of the Northern Hemisphere is freezing cold! But don’t overlook the low season. While it might rain A LOT during these times, when the sun does come out you will generally have the beaches to yourself! Flights, accommodation, and even food is much cheaper. Especially you can enjoy some of the luxury tours like elephant trekking for less than half the price you would have paid in the peak season.
In my opinion the best time to go to Thailand is around May/June, when there is a small transition between the tourists leaving and the rains arriving. Definitely avoid New Year’s/Christmas in Phuket and other famous places, the parties are great but hotel prices go up by around 500% and it is almost impossible to find a couch. Last year I was living there during that time and I literally had 30 couch requests to sleep on my floor........
According to the FCO Thailand is rated in the top 10 most dangerous countries for tourists. BUT, before you cancel your flights, most of these deaths were completely avoidable. Most deaths occur from motorcycle accidents where the rider was either drunk or not wearing a helmet, so... don’t drive drunk, and ALWAYS
wear your helmet, duh! There are also a lot of recorded deaths or serious injuries relating to alcohol, drugs, or tourists who pick fights with Thai people. DO NOT EVER PICK A FIGHT WITH A THAI PERSON! Especially in tourist areas like Phuket where the rich tourist money flows, almost everyone and their grandmother is connected to some sort of “Thai Mafia”. So just stay calm, and avoid conflict.
If you are aware of these things Thailand is in my opinion one of the safest countries in South East Asia, especially when you enter into the local areas you will find some of the nicest and most honest people you could ever imagine!