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Lonely Planet Thailand

Lonely Planet Thailand

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Lonely Planet Thailand

4.5/5 (3 оценки)
2,156 pages
22 hours
Jul 1, 2018


Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet's Thailand is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Learn to cook authentic Thai dishes in Chiang Mai, rock-climb the limestone karsts (or watch from the sugar-white beaches) of Railay, and trek through dense jungle and stay in tree-top bungalows in Kanchanaburi - all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Thailand and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Thailand:

  • Colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sightseeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights provide a richer, more rewarding travel experience - covering history, people, music, landscapes, wildlife, cuisine, politics
  • Covers Bangkok, Central Thailand, Ko Chang, Chiang Mai Province, Northern Thailand, Hua Hin, Southern Gulf, Ko Samui, Lower Gulf, Phuket, Andaman Coast

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet's Thailand is our most comprehensive guide to Thailand, and is perfect for discovering both popular and offbeat experiences.

  • Looking for just the highlights? Check out Pocket Bangkok and Pocket Phuket, our handy-sized guides featuring the best sights and experiences for a short visit.
  • Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Thailand's Islands & Beaches and Bangkok guides for an in-depth look at all these regions have to offer.

About Lonely Planet: Lonely Planet is a leading travel media company and the world's number one travel guidebook brand, providing both inspiring and trustworthy information for every kind of traveller since 1973. Over the past four decades, we've printed over 145 million guidebooks and grown a dedicated, passionate global community of travellers. You'll also find our content online, and in mobile apps, video, 14 languages, nine international magazines, armchair and lifestyle books, ebooks, and more.

'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times

'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves, it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

Important Notice: The digital edition of this book may not contain all of the images found in the physical edition.

Jul 1, 2018

Об авторе

Lonely Planet has gone on to become the world’s most successful travel publisher, printing over 100 million books. The guides are printed in nine different languages; English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Korean. Lonely Planet enables curious travellers to experience the world and get to the heart of a place via guidebooks and eBooks to almost every destination on the planet, an award-winning website and magazine, a range of mobile and digital travel products and a dedicated traveller community.

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Lonely Planet Thailand - Lonely Planet



Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Thailand

Thailand’s Top 20

Need to Know

First Time Thailand

What’s New

If You Like…

Month by Month



Eat & Drink Like a Local

Choose Your Beach

Travel With Children

Regions at a Glance

On The Road






Festivals & Events





Around Bangkok

Ko Kret


Nakhon Pathom


Ayuthaya Province


Around Ayuthaya

Lopburi Province


Kanchanaburi Province


Around Kanchanaburi

Nam Tok

Sai Yok National Park

Thong Pha Phum National Park




Chiang Rai Province

Chiang Rai

Ban Ruam Mit & Around

Doi Mae Salong (Santikhiri)

Mae Sai

Chiang Saen

Sop Ruak

Chiang Khong

Phayao Province


Nan Province


Around Nan

Phrae Province


Lamphun Province


Doi Khun Tan National Park

Lampang Province


Around Lampang

Sukhothai Province


Si Satchanalai-Chaliang Historical Park

Phitsanulok Province


Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park

Kamphaeng Phet Province

Kamphaeng Phe

Tak Province

Mae Sot

Mae Sot to Um Phang

Um Phang & Around

Mae Sot to Mae Sariang

Mae Hong Son Province



Around Soppong

Mae Hong Son

Around Mae Hong Son

Khun Yuam

Mae Sariang


Chiang Mai

Northern Chiang Mai Province

Mae Rim

Chiang Dao

Doi Ang Khang

Tha Ton

Southern Chiang Mai Province

San Kamphaeng & Bo Sang

San Kamphaeng Hot Springs

Hang Dong

Doi Inthanon National Park

Mae Kampong


Loei Province


Chiang Khan

Pak Chom

Phu Ruea National Park

Phu Kradueng National Park

Nong Khai Province

Nong Khai


Udon Thani Province

Udon Thani

Ban Chiang

Red Lotus Sea

Ban Na Kha

Phu Phrabat Historical Park

Bueng Kan Province

Bueng Kan

Phu Wua Wildlife Sanctuary

Nakhon Phanom Province

Nakhon Phanom

That Phanom

Mukdahan Province


Phu Pha Thoep National Park

Nakhon Ratchasima Province

Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat)

Around Nakhon Ratchasima


Khao Yai National Park

Buriram Province

Nang Rong

Phanom Rung Historical Park

Around Phanom Rung

Surin & Si Saket Provinces


Around Surin

Ubon Ratchathani Province

Ubon Ratchathani

Ban Pa-Ao

Phibun Mangsahan

Kaeng Tana National Park

Khong Jiam

Pha Taem National Park

Khon Kaen Province

Khon Kaen


Phu Wiang National Park

Nam Nao National Park

Roi Et



Si Racha

Ko Si Chang

Bang Saen


Rayong & Ban Phe

Ko Samet



Ko Chang

Ko Kut

Ko Mak



Kaeng Krachan National Park


Hua Hin

Pranburi & Around

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Prachuap Khiri Khan

Ban Krut & Bang Saphan Yai



Gulf Islands

Ko Samui

Ko Pha-Ngan

Ko Tao

Ang Thong Marine National Park

Surat Thani Province

Surat Thani

Nakhon Si Thammarat Province

Ao Khanom

Nakhon Si Thammarat

Songkhla Province

Songkhla & Around

Hat Yai

Deep South





Ranong Province

Ranong Town

Ko Chang

Ko Phayam

Laem Son National Park

Phang-Nga Province


Surin Islands Marine National Park

Khao Sok National Park

Ko Phra Thong & Ko Ra

Khao Lak & Around

Similan Islands Marine National Park


Ao Phang-Nga

Phuket Province

Phuket Town

Laem Phanwa

Ko Sireh


Hat Patong

Hat Kata

Hat Karon

Hat Kamala

Hat Surin

Ao Bang Thao

Sirinat National Park

Thalang District

Krabi Province

Krabi Town


Ao Nang

Hat Noppharat Thara

Ko Phi-Phi

Ko Lanta

Ko Jum & Ko Si Boya

Trang Province


Trang Beaches

Trang Islands

Satun Province


Pak Bara

Ko Tarutao Marine National Park

Ko Bulon Leh


Understand Thailand

Thailand Today


People & Culture

Arts & Architecture

Environment & Wildlife


Responsible Travel

Directory A–Z



Customs Regulations



Embassies & Consulates



Internet Access

LGBT Travellers

Legal Matters


Opening Hours



Public Holidays

Safe Travel





Tourist Information

Travellers with Disabilities



Women Travellers



Getting There & Away

Getting Around



Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Welcome to Thailand

Friendly and fun-loving, cultured and historic, Thailand radiates a golden hue, from its glittering temples and tropical beaches through to the ever-comforting Thai smile.

Sand Between Your Toes

With a long coastline (actually, two coastlines) and jungle-topped islands anchored in azure waters, Thailand is a tropical getaway for the hedonist and the hermit, the prince and the pauper. This paradise offers a varied menu: playing in the gentle surf of Ko Lipe, diving with whale sharks off Ko Tao, scaling the sea cliffs of Krabi, kiteboarding in Hua Hin, partying on Ko Phi-Phi, recuperating at a health resort on Ko Samui and feasting on the beach wherever sand meets sea.

A Bountiful Table

Adored around the world, Thai cuisine expresses fundamental aspects of Thai culture: it is generous, warm, refreshing and relaxed. Thai dishes rely on fresh, local ingredients – pungent lemongrass, searing chillies and plump seafood. A varied national menu is built around the four fundamental flavours: spicy, sweet, salty and sour. Roving appetites go on eating tours of Bangkok noodle shacks, seafood pavilions in Phuket, and Burmese market stalls in Mae Sot. Cooking classes reveal the simplicity behind the seemingly complicated dishes, and mastering the market is an important survival skill.

Sacred Spaces

The celestial world is a close confidant in this Buddhist nation, and religious devotion is colourful and ubiquitous. Gleaming temples and golden Buddhas frame both the rural and the modern landscape. Ancient banyan trees are ceremoniously wrapped in sacred cloth to honour the resident spirits, fortune-bringing shrines decorate humble homes as well as monumental malls, while garland-festooned dashboards ward off traffic accidents. Visitors can join the conversation through meditation retreats in Chiang Mai, religious festivals in northeastern Thailand, underground cave shrines in Kanchanaburi and Phetchaburi and hilltop temples in northern Thailand.

Fields & Forests

In between the cluttered cities and towns is the rural heartland, which is a mix of rice paddies, tropical forests and squat villages tied to the agricultural clock. In the north, the forests and fields bump up against toothy blue mountains decorated with silvery waterfalls. In the south, scraggy limestone cliffs poke out of the cultivated landscape like prehistoric skyscrapers. The usually arid northeast emits an emerald hue during the rainy season when tender green rice shoots carpet the landscape.

Stupas at Doi Inthanon National Park | APIGUIDE / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Why I Love Thailand

By Austin Bush, Writer

I’m tempted to say that the thing I love most about Thailand is the food. But then I’m reminded of that feeling of freedom when on a motorcycle trip upcountry. And of the sensory overload of a busy morning market or a wild night out in Bangkok. And of encounters with history and culture, the new and the old, at just about every turn. Did I mention the white-sand beaches, jungles, ancient ruins and Buddhist temples? Indeed, the food satisfies, but on second thought Thailand offers so much more.

For more, see Our Writers

Thailand’s Top 20


Glittering temples, towering skyscrapers, a dynamic nightlife and, oh – the food! What’s not to love about Bangkok? Traffic jams, humidity and political instability aside, the Thai capital is now tidier and easier to navigate than ever. Zip between golden shrines, colourful markets, glitzy mega-malls and fascinating museums, stopping to refuel at sizzling street-side food stands and some of Asia’s best restaurants. Head up to one of the city’s famous rooftop bars on your first night to get your bearings in this heaving, twinkling metropolis, and prepare to dive straight in.


Top Experiences

Chiang Mai

The cultural capital of the north, Chiang Mai is beloved by culture geeks, temple-spotters and families. The old city is jam-packed with temples born during the time of the once independent Lanna kingdom. These and the area’s winding side roads are best explored on bicycle. Cooking schools teach visitors the art of Thai food, while the scenic countryside boasts jungle treks, elephant encounters and minority villages. The city enjoys fantastic dining thanks to imports such as Japanese sushi and Burmese curries, plus home-grown northern specialities and vegetarian fare. The surrounding areas are rich with traditional handicraft outlets.

Royal Park Rajapruek | APIGUIDE / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences


At the tip of the Krabi peninsula are some of Thailand’s most famous natural features: the soaring limestone karsts of Railay, anchored in the ocean. The beaches are sugar-white and the forested interior is traversed by foot traffic, not cars. No traffic jams, no transport hassles. Visitors come and go by long-tail boats. Come to lounge, swim, dive or rock-climb. Beginners can learn basic skills, and some stay so long they get good enough to do a free solo on a pinnacle then fall harmlessly into a cobalt sea.


Top Experiences

Chiang Rai Province

The days of the Golden Triangle opium trade are over, but Chiang Rai still packs intrigue in the form of fresh-air fun such as hiking and self-guided exploration. It is also a great destination for unique cultural experiences, ranging from a visit to an Akha village to a stay at the Yunnanese hamlet of Doi Mae Salong. From the Mekong River to the mountains, Chiang Rai is arguably Thailand’s most beautiful province, and if you’ve set your sights further, it’s a convenient gateway to Myanmar and Laos.

Tea plantation, Doi Mae Salong | PEERAPONG W.AUSSAWA / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences


A once vibrant, glittering capital packed with hundreds of temples, the Ayuthaya of today retains ample hints of its erstwhile glory. Cycle around the brick-and-stucco ruins, which form part of a Unesco World Heritage Site, and try to imagine how the city must have looked in its prime, when it greeted merchants from around the globe. On the outskirts of the city sit several more attractions, including an enormous handicraft centre and the most eclectic royal palace you will ever see.


Top Experiences


Once you’ve explored this western province’s wartime past – the infamous Bridge Over the River Kwai is here – get ready to walk on the wild side in Kanchanaburi, where dragon-scaled limestone mountains gaze down upon dense jungle. Activities from kayaking to rock-climbing are all on offer at this popular adventure-traveller hub. Trek past silvery waterfalls, clamber into caves, then spend the night in lavish riverside resorts, tree-top bungalows or traditional village homestays.


Top Experiences

Similan Islands Marine National Park

The world-renowned dive sites off the Similan Islands have anchored Thailand as a global diving destination. Live-aboard trips set out from Khao Lak, allowing for more time hanging out with aquatic residents, including manta rays and whale sharks, as well as soft corals. Above the water line, the islands are an attraction in their own right, with jungle-filled interiors and smooth white beaches surrounded by coral reefs, and national park accommodation on Ko Miang (also known as Island 4).


Top Experiences


Combine a beautiful mountain valley, a party scene reminiscent of a Thai island, an old-school hippie vibe and laid-back northern Thai roots and you have Pai, still northern Thailand’s coolest destination. Its popularity means it can get crowded, especially at the peak of Thailand’s ‘winter’ in December and January. But a huge spread of accommodation that caters to every budget, and a host of outdoor and laid-back activities mean that your visit won’t be quite like anybody else’s.

Hot springs, Mae Hong Son | PHOTO ONE / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Sukhothai Historical Park

Step back some 800 years in time at one of Thailand’s most impressive historical parks. Exploring the ruins of this former capital by bicycle is a leisurely way to wind through the crumbling temples, graceful Buddha statues and fish-filled ponds. Worthwhile museums and some of the country’s best-value accommodation round out the package. Sukhothai rarely feels crowded, but for something off the beaten track head to nearby Si Satchanalai-Chaliang Historical Park, where you might be the only person scaling an ancient stairway.


Top Experiences

Mekong River

From the historic timber shophouses of Chiang Khan to the waterfalls of Pha Taem National Park, northeast Thailand’s glorious arc of the Mekong River offers a smorgasbord of culture and beauty. Chase the meandering river aboard a rickety bus, long-tail boat or even a bicycle. View the cross-pollination of Thai-Lao culture in local fishing villages, Nong Khai’s bizarre sculpture park, and prehistoric rock paintings in Ubon Ratchathani. Those who follow this little-visited trail are rewarded with true travellers’ tales to tell.


Top Experiences

Ko Pha-Ngan

Famous for its techno-fuelled Full Moon Parties, Ko Pha-Ngan has long since graduated from a sleepy bohemian island to an Asian Ibiza. Comfort-seekers have an alternative to Ko Samui thanks to a bevy of boutique bungalows. On the northern and eastern coasts, ascetic hammock-hangers can still find castaway bliss. Just offshore is Sail Rock, one of the Gulf of Thailand’s best dive sites, while much of the island’s interior is spectacular, unspoiled forest.


Top Experiences


A delightful mix of culture and nature combine in this provincial capital, which some call a living Ayuthaya. Explore an antique hilltop palace, sacred cave shrines and bustling temples. Wander the old shophouse neighbourhood filled with DIY businesses run by Thai aunties and grannies. Then head off to the wilds of Kaeng Krachan National Park to spot wild gibbons and exotic birds. Phetchaburi is also a clever layover for travellers returning from the south.


Top Experiences

Ko Lipe

Where creature comforts meet laid-back island escape, Ko Lipe takes work to reach but the ever-growing band of devotees agree that it’s worth it. The days of solitude are over, especially in the high season when the island is overrun, but it is still a wonderful blend of white-sand beaches, authentic Thai kitchens, groovy guesthouses, boutique resorts and nature adventures in the national park. The diving and living are best here during the early wet season (mid-April to June). But keep that hush-hush.


Top Experiences

Khao Sok National Park

A deep, dark jungle hugs the midsection of southern Thailand. This ancient rainforest is filled with long, sweaty hiking routes up dramatic limestone formations that pay off with postcard-perfect views. Birds and bats call this forest home, as does the rare Rafflesia kerrii, one of the largest and stinkiest flowers on the planet. After trying out tubing, kayaking and rafting, you can reward your outdoor work with riverside camping or sleep on the floating lake-top huts at Chiaw Lan.


Top Experiences

Khao Yai National Park

This park is home to elephants, monkeys, gibbons, hornbills, pythons, bears, a million bats and even a few wily tigers. Wildlife sightings are mostly at the mercy of chance, but your odds are excellent at this vast Unesco-listed reserve, just a few hours out of Bangkok. And even if you don’t meet many big animals, the orchids, birds, waterfalls and sense of adventure that inevitably arises when hiking in the jungle guarantee a good day out. Khao Yai’s mix of scenery and accessibility is hard to beat.

Pig-tailed macaques | TAE208 / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Ko Kut

Still looking for that paradise island where the crowds are thin, the water aquamarine and clear, and the beaches wide and long? Try Ko Kut. There is Hat Khlong Chao, one of the most beautiful stretches of sand anywhere in Thailand, fine snorkelling and hidden waterfalls to hike to. Best of all, Ko Kut retains a supremely unhurried pace of life that visitors soon find themselves imitating. There is nothing in the way of nightlife, apart from listening to the ocean. But that’s why you’re here.


Top Experiences

Mae Hong Son Province

Tucked away in the country’s northwest corner, this province has a lot more in common with Myanmar than anywhere else in Thailand. With its remote location, soaring mountains and unique culture and cuisine, Mae Hong Son can seem like an entirely different country. Exploration is the reason to make the journey here, and can involve tramping through one of the province’s many caves, taking a hairpin turn on your motorcycle or doing a self-guided trek from Mae La-Na to Soppong.


Top Experiences

Phanom Rung Historical Park

Perched high atop an extinct volcano, Thailand’s most impressive Khmer ruin is something special. As you amble along the promenade, up the stairs and over the naga-flanked bridges, the sense of anticipation builds. And when you enter the temple, completely restored and still rich with Hindu sculpture, you experience a moment of timelessness. While Phanom Rung is not as awe-inspiring as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, the experience here is unique enough that you should definitely consider visiting both.


Top Experiences


An international beach resort, Phuket is an easy destination for all ages. You can fly in from Bangkok (or even Dubai), and then retreat into a five-star resort or arty boutique hotel for a trouble-free tropical vacation. There are slinky stretches of sand, hedonistic party pits and world-class spas. Culture capital Phuket Town is now an attraction in its own right, plus there are day trips to mangrove forests, an elephant rescue sanctuary and a ton of water sports to take part in, from diving to surfing.


Top Experiences

Ko Lanta

A beach bum’s best friend, Ko Lanta sports a mellow island vibe and a parade of peachy sand. Social butterflies alight on the northern beaches for the party scene. Solitude-seekers migrate southwards to low-key beach huts and a sleepy village ambience. Activities abound, from hiking through limestone caves to diving off Hin Muang and Hin Daeng, with the chance to glimpse rays and even whale sharks. Sprinkle in some culture by visiting the east coast’s charismatic Old Town, home to a Muslim community and charming seafront coffee shops.


Need to Know

For more information, see Survival Guide


Thai baht (B)




For visitors from most countries, visas are generally not required for stays of up to 30 days.


Most places in Thailand deal only with cash. Some foreign credit cards are accepted in high-end establishments.

Mobile Phones

Buying a pre-paid SIM card is the simplest option for travellers – they are widely available and sold at 7-Eleven stores. They usually include both talk and data packages.


GMT plus seven hours

When to Go

High Season (Nov–Mar)

A A cool and dry season follows the monsoons, meaning the landscape is lush and temperatures are comfortable.

A Western Christmas and New Year’s holidays bring crowds and inflated rates.

Shoulder Season (Apr–Jun, Sep & Oct)

A April to June is generally very hot and dry, with an average Bangkok temperature of 30°C. Sea breezes make coastal areas more bearable.

A September and October are ideal for the north and the gulf coast.

Low Season (Jul–Oct)

A Monsoon season ranges from afternoon showers to major flooding. Rain is usually in short, intense bursts.

A Some islands shut down; boat service is limited during stormy weather. Be flexible with travel plans.

Useful Websites

Thaivisa (www.thaivisa.com) Expat site for news and discussions.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/thailand) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

Richard Barrow (www.richardbarrow.com) Prolific blogger and tweeter focusing on Thai travel.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT; www.tourismthailand.org) National tourism department covering info and special events.

Thai Language (www.thai-language.com) Online dictionary and Thai tutorials.

Important Numbers

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than 1000B

A Basic guesthouse room: 600–1000B

A Market/street stall meal: 40–100B

A Small bottle of beer: 100B

A Public transport around town: 20–50B

Midrange: 1000–4000B

A Flashpacker guesthouse or midrange hotel room: 1000–4000B

A Western lunches and seafood dinner: 150–350B

A Organised tour or activity: 1000–1500B

A Motorbike hire: 150–250B

Top end: More than 4000B

A Boutique hotel room: 4000B

A Meal at fine-dining restaurant: 350–1000B

A Private tours: 2000B

A Car hire: from 800B per day

Opening Hours

Banks and government offices close for national holidays. Some bars and clubs close during elections and certain holidays when alcohol sales are banned. Shopping centres have banks that open late.

Banks 8.30am–4.30pm; 24hr ATMs

Bars 6pm–midnight or 1am

Clubs 8pm–2am

Government Offices 8.30am–4.30pm Mon–Fri; some close for lunch

Restaurants 8am–10pm

Shops 10am–7pm

Arriving in Thailand

Suvarnabhumi International Airport (Bangkok) The Airport Rail Link runs from Phaya Thai station to Suvarnabhumi, a new bus line runs from Suvarnabhumi to Th Khao San, and meter taxis run 24 hours.

Don Mueang International Airport (Bangkok) There are four bus lines from Bangkok’s de facto budget airport, meter taxis run 24 hours, and a free shuttle bus runs to Suvarnabhumi.

Chiang Mai International Airport Taxis to the city centre charge a flat fare.

Phuket International Airport Metered taxis run to the beaches and Phuket Town for a flat fare, buses connect with Phuket Town, and minivans run to Phuket Town and the beaches.

Getting Around

Air Cheap and frequent domestic connections on budget airlines.

Bus Extensive and affordable for travel between towns.

Car & motorcycle Easy to hire for local touring.

Local transport Shared and chartered taxis and motorcycles are widely available.

Train Slow but scenic between Bangkok, the north, the northeast and the south.

For much more on getting around, see Transport

First Time Thailand

For more information, see Survival Guide


A Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months.

A Apply for a tourist visa from a Thai consulate for visits longer than 30 days.

A Organise travel insurance, diver’s insurance and international driving permit.

A Visit your doctor for a check-up and medical clearance if intending to dive.

A Inform your bank and credit-card company of your travel plans.

What to Pack

A Driving licence and international driving permit (IDP)

A Thai phrasebook

A GSM mobile phone and charger

A Hat and sunglasses

A Sandals

A Earplugs

A Rain-gear and dry bag if travelling in the rainy season

Top Tips for Your Trip

A Eat at markets or street stalls for true Thai flavour.

A Hop aboard local transport – it’s cheap and sociable.

A Learn a few Thai phrases and always smile.

A Hire a bicycle to tour towns and neighbourhoods.

A Avoid the first-timer scams : one-day gem sales in Bangkok, insanely low (or high) transport prices, dodgy tailors etc.

A Learn how to bargain without being a jerk.

A Don’t touch the Thais on the head and don’t point with your feet.

A Dress conservatively (don’t expose shoulders or too much leg) and remove your shoes when visiting Buddhist temples.

A Don’t make any disparaging remarks about any member of Thailand’s royal family; it’s illegal.

What to Wear

In general, light, loose-fitting clothes will prove the most comfortable in the tropical heat. It’s worth bringing one jacket that can double as a raincoat and keep you warm in higher elevations and on air-conditioned buses (or in movie theatres). When you visit temples, wear clothes that cover to your elbows and knees. Bring a smart outfit if you plan on fine-dining or clubbing in Bangkok or Phuket.


For peace of mind, book a room for your arrival night. After that, you can wing it – except during certain holidays and peak travel periods when vacancies are scarce.

A Guesthouses Family-run options are the best. Rooms run from basic (bed and fan) to plush (private bathroom and air-con).

A Hotels Comfortable, mostly modern rooms, with extra services like breakfast included in the rate.

A Hostels As the cost and standard of Thailand’s guesthouses have increased, dorms have become better value.


Most places in Thailand deal only with cash. Some foreign credit cards are accepted in high-end establishments.

For more information, see Directory.


Thais respect a good haggler. Always let the vendor make the first offer, then ask ‘Can you lower the price?’. This usually results in a discount. Now it’s your turn to make a counter-offer. Always start low, but don’t bargain unless you’re serious about buying. If you’re buying several of an item, you have much more leverage to request and receive a lower price. It helps immeasurably to keep the negotiations relaxed and friendly.


Tipping is not generally expected in Thailand, though it is appreciated. The exception is loose change from a large restaurant bill – if a meal costs 488B and you pay with a 500B note, some Thais will leave the change. It’s a way of saying ‘I’m not so money-grubbing as to grab every last baht’. At many hotel restaurants and upmarket eateries, a 10% service charge will be added to your bill.

Bangkok market | AUSTIN BUSH / LONELY PLANET ©


Thais are generally very understanding and hospitable, but there are some important taboos and social conventions.

A Monarchy It is a criminal offence to disrespect the royal family; treat objects depicting the king (like money) with respect.

A Temples Wear clothing that covers to your knees and elbows. Remove all footwear before entering. Sit with your feet tucked behind you, so they are not facing the Buddha image. Women should never touch a monk or a monk’s belongings; step out of the way on footpaths and don’t sit next to them on public transport.

A Modesty At the beach, avoid public nudity or topless sunbathing.

A Body language Avoid touching anyone on the head and be careful where you point your feet.

A Saving face The best way to win over the Thais is to smile – visible anger or arguing is embarrassing.


Tourist towns have plenty of English speakers, though bus drivers, market vendors and taxi drivers are less fluent so it helps to know how to order food and count in Thai. Learn more in the language chapter.

Thailand has its own script. Street signs are transliterated into English, but there is no standard system so spellings vary widely. Not all letters are pronounced as they appear (‘Ph’ is an aspirated ‘p’ not an ‘f’).

What’s New

Chang Chui

This tough-to-pin-down venue, which spans everything from bars to performance spaces to an abandoned airplane, is one of the most eclectic openings Bangkok has seen in years.

Hua Hin to Pattaya Ferry

This new link across the sometimes-choppy waters of the Gulf of Thailand links the beaches and islands of Thailand’s south and east, saving a long haul through Bangkok.

Craft Beer

Thailand seems to be in the midst of a beer renaissance, and good ol’ Singha and Chang are being crowded out by craft beers, both imported and domestic. Bangkok heads the way, with fun bars such as Hair of the Dog, but Chiang Mai and Ko Samui also have their own craft beer scenes.


Great coffee shops, numerous welcoming homestays and a relaxing vibe are increasingly luring Thai city dwellers for weekends in this forest-fringed border outpost in Kanchanaburi Province. Now, if only they’d fix that road…

New Trains

The State Railway of Thailand has upgraded some of its rolling stock, introducing shiny new train cars on routes linking Bangkok with Chiang Mai and destinations in the northeast.


Want to delve deeper into Thai culture than a typical hotel stay might allow? Consider a stint in one of the growing number of homestay programs in just about every corner of the country; the operation in charming Muang Pon, in Mae Hong Son Province, is one of our favourites.


There’s little new about this town in eastern Thailand, but its charming waterfront district is becoming trendy, with hipster coffee bars and handcraft boutiques making an interesting contrast with the historic ambience.

Bangkok Nightlife

A host of new speakeasy-influenced drinkeries such as Ku Bar, offering progressive cocktails and craft beers, are quickly shifting the perception of Bangkok’s drinking scene from sketchy to sophisticated.

Hip Hostels

Hostels continue to be the one of the fastest-growing sectors of accommodation in Thailand, and fresh design and fun amenities at places like Fin Hostel, in Phuket, mean that sharing a bathroom is no longer a compromise.

For more recommendations and reviews, see lonelyplanet.com/thailand

If You Like…

Fabulous Food

Curries Thai curry is pungent, fiery and colourful. Bangkok, southern Thailand and northern Thailand all whip up their own variations.

Isan cuisine The northeast’s triumvirate dishes – gài yâhng (grilled chicken), sôm·đam (spicy green papaya salad) and kôw nĕe·o (sticky rice) – have converts across the country.

Seafood Grilled prawns, spicy squid stir-fries, crab curries, fried mussels – get thee to the coast and dine on the fruits of the sea.

Fruit Luscious, dessert-like tropical fruits are piled into pyramid displays at day markets or arranged like precious jewels in vendors’ glass cases.

Cooking courses Learn how to replicate the tricks of the trade at cooking schools in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ko Chang or Ko Samui.

Green pork curry | MUSICPHONE1 / GETTY IMAGES ©

Temples & Ruins

Bangkok The city’s most exalted Buddha figure resides comfortably in Wat Phra Kaew, the seat of Thai Buddhism.

Ayuthaya The ruins of this fabled city stand testament to Thailand’s formative years.

Sukhothai This ancient city is the capital of one of Thailand’s first home-grown kingdoms.

Chiang Mai Chiang Mai’s old walled city is filled with antique teak temples.

Phanom Rung This Khmer outpost built in the Angkor style has surveyed the rural landscape for centuries.

Lopburi Leaders from the Khmer and Dvaravati empires used to rule here; today hundreds of monkeys scamper around the ruins.


Railay Adrenaline junkies scale the limestone crags while sun-seekers bask on the powder-soft sands.

Ko Phi-Phi The laid-back vibe on visually stunning Phi-Phi is hard to resist.

Ko Lanta The jumping-off spot for some stellar dive sites, and more character than most due to a strong Muslim community.

Ko Tarutao So far south it’s almost in Malaysia, Tarutao has wide, open beaches and almost no facilities – precisely the appeal.

Ko Chang Top-notch resorts and spas, several escape-from-it-all guesthouses where the only facility is a hammock, and jaw-droppingly good sunsets.

Ko Samet Favoured by flashpackers, some of Samet’s beaches are lively affairs, while those further south are far more tranquil.

Wildlife Encounters

Khao Yai National Park Spot elephants, monkeys, snakes and creepy-crawlies in Thailand’s oldest national park.

Kaeng Krachan National Park Wake up to dense morning mists, then go trekking to spot elephants and gibbons in this little-visited park, south of Bangkok.

Ao Khanom A lovely and un-touristy bay south of Surat Thani that hosts pink dolphins, a rare albino breed.

Kui Buri National Park Take a Thai safari for virtually guaranteed wild elephant encounters.

Nam Nao National Park One of the best spots for ornithologists, this park is also home to elephants, leopards and tigers.

Thong Pha Phum National Park The elephants, tigers and bears may be elusive, but overnight park visitors will likely see serow, barking deer and a plethora of bird life.


Songkran Thailand’s biggest festival is about using water to show respect. Once that’s done, water fights erupt in every town.

Music festivals With a jazz festival in Hua Hin and international DJs in Bangkok and Ko Samui, music fans are well catered for.

Loi Krathong Every November, Thais pray for their sins to be forgiven by creating lanterns and setting them afloat in waterways.

Fruit festivals Rural towns honour their agricultural produce with a range of festivals. In Chiang Rai the lychee is revered, while Chanthaburi takes time to honour the world’s stinkiest fruit, the durian.


Escaping the Crowds

Ko Tarutao A wild jungle interior and vast empty beaches mean you can really get away from it all here.

Phu Wua Wildlife Sanctuary A wild outpost in Thailand’s northeast.

Ko Ngai One of the quieter southern islands, Ko Ngai has superb snorkelling and top beaches.

Si Satchanalai-Chaliang Historical Park The ruins nobody seems to know about.

Diving & Snorkelling

Surin & Similan Islands National Marine Parks These Andaman islands have dramatic rocky gorges, hard and soft coral reefs and myriad marine life.

Ko Lanta A smorgasbord of dive sites surrounds this Andaman island; look out for manta rays, whale sharks and other large pelagic fish.

Ko Tao Cheap dive schools, shallow waters and year-round conditions, Ko Tao remains the country’s dive-training headquarters.

Ko Lipe Dive sites with healthy coral, a deep pinnacle and good visibility in the early rainy season.

World-Class Pampering

Ko Samui Get lean, aligned and beautified on this wellness retreat island.

Bangkok Massages in the City of Angels are an everyday treat, not unlike picking up dry cleaning or going to the post office.

Phuket Five-star spas make pampering an all-day affair on this resort island.

Chiang Mai This low-key city does massages for the masses without the painful ‘spa’ price tag.

Ko Chang As if lounging on the beach isn’t enough, Ko Chang boasts top-class spas for that extra level of de-stressing.

Shopping & Markets

Bangkok Pick from the capital’s mega-malls packed with designer gear, sprawling markets like Chatuchak or chic independent shops.

Chiang Mai The bustling Night Bazaar is filled with souvenirs and antiques. Outside the city, handicraft centres offer silk garments and colourful umbrellas.

Phuket Town Check out the boutiques, galleries and weekend market in Phuket’s hipster heart.

Mae Sot Myanmar or Thailand? It’s hard to tell in what is one of the country’s most exotic fresh markets.

Khon Kaen Gleefully deplete your baht at one of this northeastern city’s many night markets.

Hill-Tribe Culture

Chiang Mai The Karen, Lahu, Hmong and several other hill tribes live around Chiang Mai.

Chiang Rai The Akha, who live in the mountains surrounding Chiang Rai, have distinct traditions, including a giant swing festival.

Sangkhlaburi Volunteer at one of several charities in this border town that look after displaced hill tribes from Myanmar.

Mae Sot A fascinatingly diverse city, where Hmong, Karen and Burmese folk stroll the streets.


Bangkok International DJs regularly hold court in the capital’s clubs, while a more chilled clientele sip mojitos from the city’s sky bars. Th Khao San remains the backpackers’ favourite haunt.

Phuket Clubs, live-music bars and cabaret shows ensure there’s plenty of post-beach action to be had.

Pattaya Mega-clubs aimed largely at foreign visitors have arrived, and an increasing number of five-star venues have their own fancy bars with live music.

Ko Pha-Ngan Home of the Full Moon Party, buckets of whisky and almighty hangovers.

Outdoor Adventure

Kanchanaburi Waterfall spotting, rafting and ziplining are just a short journey from Bangkok.

Mae Hong Son Hike into the mountainous frontier between Thailand and Myanmar to visit hill-tribe villages.

Ko Chang When you tire of the sea, plunge into the jungle-covered hills with local guides.

Khao Sok National Park Canoe and hike through Thailand’s ancient rainforest studded with limestone mountains.

Railay Claw your way up the limestone cliffs in Krabi Province for a breathtaking and breathless ocean view.

Chiang Mai Every known activity – mountain biking, kayaking, abseiling, trekking, ziplining etc – has a following in this nature-loving city.

Month by Month


Songkran, April

Loi Krathong, November

Ubon Ratchathani’s Khao Phansaa, July

Vegetarian Festival, September/October


The weather is cool and dry, ushering in the peak tourist season.

z Chinese New Year

Thais with Chinese ancestry celebrate the Chinese lunar new year (đrùđ jeen) with a week of house-cleaning and fireworks.


Still in the high season, Thailand is sun and fun for anyone snowed out.

z Makha Bucha

One of three holy days marking significant moments of Buddha’s life, Makha Bucha (mah·ká boo·chah) commemorates the day when 1250 arhant (Buddhists who had achieved enlightenment) assembled to visit Buddha and received the principles of Buddhism; the festival falls on the full moon of the third lunar month. It is a public holiday.

z Flower Festival

Chiang Mai displays its floral beauty during a three-day period. The festival highlight is the flower-decorated floats that parade through town.

Flower Festival, Chiang Mai. | 501ROOM / SHUTTERSTOCK ©


The hot and dry season approaches and the beaches start to empty out.

3 Pattaya International Music Festival

Pattaya showcases pop and rock bands from across Asia at this free music event, attracting bus-loads of Bangkok uni students.

1 Kite-Flying Festivals

During the windy season, colourful kites battle it out over the skies of Sanam Luang in Bangkok and elsewhere in the country.

5 Mango Season

Luscious ripe mangoes come into season from March to June and are sliced before your eyes, packed in a container with sticky rice and accompanied with a coconut-milk-based dressing.


Hot, dry weather sweeps across the land. Though the main tourist season is winding down, make reservations well in advance – the whole country is on the move for Songkran.

z Songkran

Thailand’s traditional new year (13–15 April) starts out as a respectful affair then degenerates into a water war. Morning visits to the temple involve colourful processions and water-sprinkling ceremonies of sacred Buddha images. Afterwards, Thais load up their water guns and head out to the streets for combat. Chiang Mai and Bangkok are the epicentres.

z Poy Sang Long

This Buddhist novice ordination festival held in late March/early April in Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai sees young Shan (Tai Yai) boys between the ages of seven and 14 parading in festive costumes, headdresses and make up.


Leading up to the rainy season, festivals encourage plentiful rains and bountiful harvests. Prices are low and tourists are few but it is still remorselessly hot.

z Rocket Festival

In the northeast, where rain can be scarce, villagers craft painted bamboo rockets (bâng fai) that are fired into the sky to encourage precipitation. This festival is celebrated in Yasothon, Ubon Ratchathani and Nong Khai.

z Visakha Bucha

The holy day of Visakha Bucha (wí·săh·kà boo·chah) falls on the 15th day of the waxing moon in the sixth lunar month and commemorates the date of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinibbana (passing away).


In some parts of the country, the rainy season is merely an afternoon shower, leaving the rest of the day for music and merriment. This month is a shoulder season.

5 Chanthaburi Fruit Festival

Held at the end of May or the start of June, this festival in Chanthaburi is an opportunity to enjoy an abundance of fruit: mangosteen, rambutan, longkong, longan, salak and the pungent durian.

z Phi Ta Khon

The Buddhist holy day of Bun Phra Wet is given a carnival makeover in Dan Sai village in northeast Thailand. Revellers disguise themselves in garish ‘spirit’ costumes and parade through the streets wielding wooden phalluses and downing rice whisky. Dates vary between June and July.


The start of the rainy season ushers in Buddhist Lent, a period of reflection and meditation. Summer holidays bring tourists.

z Asahna Bucha

The full moon of the eighth lunar month commemorates Buddha’s first sermon, in which he described the religion’s four noble truths. It is considered one of Buddhism’s holiest days.

z Khao Phansaa

The day after Asahna Bucha marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent (the first day of the waning moon in the eighth lunar month), the traditional time for men to enter the monastery. In Ubon Ratchathani, traditional candle offerings have grown into a festival of elaborately carved wax sculptures.

z HM the King’s Birthday

The king’s birthday is a public holiday on 28 July.


Overcast skies and daily showers mark the middle of the rainy season.

z HM the Queen’s Birthday

The Queen Mother’s birthday (12 August) is a public holiday and national Mother’s Day.


September is the wettest month in and around Bangkok, and tourist numbers are correspondingly low.


Religious preparations for the end of the rainy season and the end of Buddhist Lent begin. The monsoons are reaching the finish line (in most of the country).

z Vegetarian Festival

A holiday from meat is taken for nine days in adherence with Chinese beliefs of mind and body purification. In Phuket the festival gets extreme, with entranced marchers turning themselves into human shish kebabs. Generally held late September/early October.

z King Chulalongkorn Day

Rama V is honoured on the anniversary of his death at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok’s Dusit neighbourhood. Held on 23 October.


The cool, dry season has arrived, and if you get here early enough, you’ll beat the tourist crowds.

z Loi Krathong

One of Thailand’s most beloved festivals, Loi Krathong is celebrated on the first full moon of the 12th lunar month. Small origami-like boats (called kràthong or grà·tong) festooned with flowers and candles are sent adrift in the waterways.

z Lopburi Monkey Festival

During the last week of November, the town’s troublesome macaques get pampered with their very own banquet, while merit-makers watch on.

Lopburi Monkey Festival | TOPTEN22PHOTO / SHUTTERSTOCK ©


The peak of the tourist season has returned with fair skies, busy beach resorts and a holiday mood.

z Chiang Mai Red Cross & Winter Fair

A 10-day festival that displays Chiang Mai’s cultural heritage with a country-fair atmosphere; expect food (lots of it) and traditional performances.

z Rama IX’s Birthday

Honouring the late king’s birthday on 5 December, this public holiday hosts parades and merit-making events, and is combined with Father’s Day.


Bangkok & Around


If time is not on your side, you can still explore jungles, temples and Thai culture – all of which are within easy reach of Bangkok.

After a quick look around the major temples and markets in the capital, and hitting its top restaurants, embark on the wonderfully scenic train ride to Kanchanaburi. Here, enjoy a dip in the seven-tiered Erawan waterfall before visiting the Hellfire Pass Memorial, a poignant tribute to the thousands of prisoners of war who died making the Death Railway during WWII. The nearby forests are ideal for adventure activities or outdoor excursions, such as ziplining over the forest canopies or cruising along the River Kwai.

Next, jump in a minivan bound for Ayuthaya and cycle around the impressive ruins of this erstwhile capital. Finally, head over to Khao Yai National Park, transiting through Pak Chong. Spend a day hiking through the jungle in search of elephants and tigers, and a night camping under the stars before winding your way back to Bangkok.


Thailand’s Highlights


Thanks to expanded domestic air travel in the kingdom, you can zip from the mountains to the city to the beach with ease.

Start off in Bangkok, where you can master the public transit system, visit the gleaming temples of Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho, explore the shopping centres and party like a rock star. Getting lost in Bangkok is an under-appreciated pastime, and neighbourhoods like Chinatown have people-packed streets where you’ll see the weird and the wonderful.

Fly (or take the scenic train) to Chiang Mai, which can keep you busy for several days with its Thai cooking classes, temples, monk chats, markets and fabulous food. Take a road trip to the surrounding countryside, where you can hike to hill-tribe villages and zipline through the forest. Don’t forget to visit the cool highlands of Doi Suthep or Doi Inthanon, two famous northern mountains.

Ready for the beach? Take a direct flight from Chiang Mai south to the tropical island of Ko Samui, where you can choose to live it up in a five-star resort or villa, or relax in a low-key beach bungalow in one of the island’s quieter corners (yes, some still exist).

Make a day trip to uninhabited Ang Thong Marine National Marine Park before a stop at Ko Pha-Ngan, an easy boat trip from Ko Samui. Head to one of its famous Full Moon Parties, or time your visit to miss the crowds and enjoy laid-back hammock hanging instead. Virtually next door is tiny Ko Tao, Thailand’s diving-certification headquarters; there are plenty of shallow reefs near the shore for snorkellers, too.

Head back to Samui to fly on to your next destination, or make your way back to Bangkok for some last-minute shopping.

Ang Thong National Marine Park | LKUNL / SHUTTERSTOCK ©


Southern Islands & Beaches


Hitting all of Thailand’s top beaches in one trip isn’t easy, but some serious island-hopping means you can do it and still have bags of hammock time. This trip takes you there by land and sea, but if you need to hurry up, hop on a flight along the way.

From Bangkok, dip south into Hua Hin, an upmarket resort town where all the top hotel chains have a spot on the beach. Then on to Prachuap Khiri Khan, where you can hire a bike and check out the undulating coast, bays and laid-back beach scene.

Now for some island time, first stop Ko Tao (via Chumphon). Sign up for a dive course or enjoy a few days of snorkelling before island-hopping to Ko Pha-Ngan for Full Moon Party fun or an other-side-of-the-island escape. Retire to the resort island of Ko Samui for some pampering (or, if you have the energy, more partying), from where it’s a short ferry ride to transport hub Surat Thani. Buses leave hourly for Khao Sok National Park, where you can enjoy some jungle time in one of the world’s oldest rainforests before making the short transfer to Khao Lak, a sleepy beach resort that serves as the perfect base for dive trips to the world-famous Similan Islands and, to the north, the Surin Islands. Consider spending a few days on a live-aboard to linger in the underwater world full of rays, sharks and seahorses. Once you surface, go south to Phuket – Thailand’s largest island – and gulp down the numerous attractions and activities on offer here (don’t miss a day trip to Ao Phang-Nga).

From Phuket, jump on a boat bound for Ko Phi-Phi, a party island that stays up all night and still looks fantastic in the morning. From here you can head back to the mainland and explore the gorgeous coastline of Krabi (be sure to take a long-boat to Railay beach, regarded as one of the finest in Thailand) or ferry straight to Ko Lanta to collapse in a hammock and drink in the bucolic island life. Continue south by ferry past the beautiful Trang Islands to increasingly popular but still relatively undeveloped Ko Lipe, and catch a speedboat back to the mainland when you’re ready to begin your journey home.



The Grand Tour


A fully rounded trip to Thailand meanders through almost every corner of the kingdom. If you need to save time, hop on a flight – planes go everywhere these days.

Start off in Bangkok, and then take a train north to the ancient capital of Ayuthaya. Make a detour to the monkey town of Lopburi. From here, follow the culture trail north to Sukhothai, where you can cycle through the historic and crumbling ruins of another ancient capital. Hightail it to Chiang Mai, the ‘rose of the north’, and cycle around the old temples. Then switch back into the mountains to the party scene of Pai. Climb deeper into the hills to the Myanmar-influenced town of Mae Hong Son. Loop back to Chiang Mai.

By now the beach should be calling. Fly to the Gulf of Thailand and stop by Ko Samui for its resort-island trappings, Ko Pha-Ngan for beach bumming and partying, and Ko Tao for diving and snorkelling.

Next, get over to the Andaman Coast and its limestone mountains jutting out of the sea. Ko Phi-Phi is the prettiest, priciest and most party-fuelled of them all. Little Ko Jum holds tight to a fast-disappearing beach-shack, hippie vibe. the dive scene is the real attraction at gentrified Ko Lanta. Rock-climbers opt for mainland Krabi, particularly Railay.

If you’ve got the itch for more sand then continue down the peninsula to the Trang Islands, another collection of limestone sea mountains lapped by clear waters. Or opt for the idyllic islands offshore from Satun. There’s also emerging and midrange Ko Bulon Leh, rustic Ko Tarutao and laid-back Ko Lipe.

Or, you could skip the beaches south of Krabi and instead take a cultural antidote to the northeast, Thailand’s agricultural heartland. Transit through Bangkok and then crawl through the jungles of Khao Yai National Park. From here, head to Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), a transit point for trips to the Angkor ruins at Phimai. Follow the Khmer trail east to Phanom Rung, the most important and visually impressive of the Angkor temples in Thailand. Surrounding Phanom Rung are a handful of smaller, more remote and forgotten temples with regal ambience.

Plan Your Trip


With oceans and islands to explore, jungles and mountains to discover and a rich and varied culture to embrace, Thailand overflows with activities. For adventure-seekers, there are canopy-skimming ziplines, hard-kicking moo·ay tai (Thai boxing) lessons and world-class dive sites. Alternatively, chill out on spiritual retreats and massage courses.

When to Go

January to March

What is laughingly known locally as the cold season is a great time to focus on outdoor pursuits, as the temperatures are warm but bearable. Trekking in the northern provinces is particularly good around this time.

November to April

The Andaman displays its best features, when diving visibility can be incredible. Between May and October resorts tend to grind to a halt or close due to the rainy season.

January to September

Dive capital Ko Tao is primed for diving nearly all year round, but many resorts here and on nearby islands close between October and December when the rains come.

Diving & Snorkelling

The waters off Thailand are filled with myriad marine life. Nearly all the signature dive sites are in the south, though the eastern seaboard has some good coral and wreck dives. Always go with a responsible operator that enforces sustainable practices.

Snorkelling off Ao Phang-Nga | JIRAPHOTO / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Where to Go

Surin & Similan Islands Both the Surin and Similan islands are stunning national parks. Their dive sites are regularly named as being among the finest in the world due to the visiting pelagics, superb visibility (up to 35m) and the array of canyons. Dive trips and live-aboards, for all levels, can be arranged from Phuket or Hat Khao Lak.

Hin Daeng & Hin Muang Accessible from Ko Lanta, sightings below these two remote rocks often include manta rays and barracuda. With depths of up to 40m and strong currents, divers should have some experience.

Ko Tao New to diving? Check out Ko Tao, the cheapest and best place to get your open-water certification. For non-divers, there are plenty of simple snorkelling coves.

Hiking & Trekking

Northern Thailand has excellent hiking routes filled with cascading waterfalls, dense jungle and soaring mountain ranges. Stay overnight with hill tribes or pitch a tent with nature as your only neighbour. Along with treks, guides can arrange cycling, kayaking and rafting excursions. Choose environmentally responsible operators.

Where to Go

Chiang Mai is the main jumping-off point for treks, such as day trips to Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain. Hard-core trekkers head to more remote spots such as Um Phang Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the kingdom’s largest waterfall, or learn survival skills from guides who grew up near the jungles.

Loei has some spectacular trekking options. Among them is Phu Kradueng National Park, where you can take the 5.5km trail to the plateau, or experience the relatively cooler climes of the pine forests and savannah.

Hiking in Doi Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary | HORIZONMAN / SHUTTERSTOCK

Meditation & Spiritual Retreats

Thais often go on spiritual retreats to rejuvenate themselves. You can join them at temples or meditation centres.

Where to Go

Bangkok Some of the city’s temples offer day courses in meditation for English-speaking beginners.

Chiang Mai The monk chats offered at several temples can function as informal introductions to Buddhism. Several temples also offer meditation lessons.

Ubon Ratchathani The northeast is the heartland of Thailand’s forest meditation temples. For those with a bit more experience, consider Wat Pa Nanachat.

Moo·ay Tai (Thai Boxing)

Ever dreamed of becoming a Thai boxing champ? Moo·ay tai (also spelt muay thai) training camp packages include general fitness and ring work.

Where to Go

Bangkok Thailand’s capital is home to a number of schools spanning every level. Beginners are particularly well catered for at gyms such as Jaroenthong Muay Thai Gym and Eight Limbs.

Pattaya Fairtex Sports Club %038 253888; www.fairtexpattaya.com; 179/185-212 Mu 5, Th Pattaya Neua; sessions 800B) has excellent facilities aimed at training foreign visitors with any level of fitness or fighting experience. National champions and MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters also drop in to spar.

Chiang Mai The northern capital has several top moo·ay tai gyms, including Lanna Muay Thai Boxing Camp and Chai Yai Muay Thai, where everyone – from national champions to total beginners – comes to train.


Thailand has a range of climbing options, ranging in skill from total beginner to those who rival Spiderman. Most climbs are in the south, but the north has several challenging peaks.

Where to Go

Railay Scaling these limestone crags while surrounded by azure seas and a fabulous beach makes Railay the number-one climbing site in Thailand. More than 700 bolted routes can be assaulted on your own or with the help of guides.

Lopburi Khao Chin Lae is a 240m-high limestone peak surrounded by sunflower fields. Guides in Lopburi can arrange transport and explain the routes.

Surfing & Kiteboarding

The monsoon’s mid-year swell creates surfable barrels off Phuket, while almost year-round gusty winds lure kiteboarders to the east coast.

Where to Go

Phuket The best waves arrive between June and September, when annual surfing competitions are held on Hat Kata Yai, the most popular surf spot on Phuket, and Hat Kalim, just north of Patong.

Hua Hin Thailand’s kiteboarding, or kitesurfing, capital Hua Hin is blessed with strong, gusty winds, shallow water and a long beach off which to practise your moves.

Plan Your Trip

Eat & Drink Like a Local

Incendiary curries, oodles of noodles, fresh seafood and the tropical fruit you’ve been dreaming about – Thailand has it all. To experience the true flavours of Thailand, you need to familiarise yourself with the dishes of Thailand’s various regions and ethnic groups.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Bangkok | BUBBERS BB / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

The Year in Food

Summer (March to June)

Thailand’s hot season is the best time of year for fruit. Durian, mangoes, mangosteen and lychees are all at their juicy peak during these months.

Rainy Season (July to October)

One event to look out for during the rainy season is Thailand’s annual Vegetarian Festival, typically held in late September or early October. The festival is celebrated particularly in places with large Chinese populations, such as Bangkok, Phuket Town and Trang.

Winter (November to January)

During Thailand’s brief cool season, open-air beer halls, many serving spicy Thai drinking snacks, spring up in the larger cities.

The Four Flavours

Simply put, sweet, sour, salty and spicy are the parameters that define Thai food, and although many associate the cuisine with fiery heat, virtually every dish is an exercise in balancing these four tastes. This balance might be obtained by a squeeze of lime juice, a spoonful of sugar and a glug of fish sauce, or a tablespoon of fermented soybeans and a strategic splash of vinegar. Bitter also factors into many Thai dishes, and often comes from the addition

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