♦Currency: Baht (฿) (THB)
♦Zone: GMT +7
♦Phone Code: +66
♦Best time to visit: December-February
♦Must eat: Pad Thai, Papaya salad
♦Must drink:.Ice tea, Singha/Chang Beer
♦Don't miss: Traditional Thai Massage
♦Number of times visited: 4
Getting there and transportation: Thailand 's main gateway is its capital Bangkok, where two main airports serve the city. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK) serves major airlines and the most international traffic. Don't Muang, (DMK) is closer to the city but serves most domestic and intra-asian destinations.
Also Phuket is the holiday resort most popular in Thailand and it's airport offers direct links to Asian and European capitals during the peak season. However recently it's possible to reach there now making only one transit stop thanks to airlines like Emirates or Qatar Airways which shorten the distance in respect of opting to fly via Bangkok.
Thailand terrain and landmass makes it more popular to travel by air, however you can go by train to the main cities from Bangkok as well as by Bus. Journey times are very cheap but often long and in single lane roads which can make it also more dangerous specially if traveling by night as the absence of street lighting can make it more difficult to drive.
It's not recommended to rent a car in big cities, due to the high volume of traffic and the hot conditions can make it pretty hardeous to drive.
In Thailand you drive on the left hand side like in the UK . Driving in Thailand can be quite a challenge, specially in the big cities, so extra care is advised on the Thai roads when driving or even crossing roads when walking.
Food and drink: Thailand is famous for its rich cuisine, traditional dishes are always served with a kick of spice and you will find plenty of dishes including meat,fish or vegetarian. Main dishes you can find are Pad Thai, ( Fried Noodles Thai style) Papaya Salad, Khao Pad (fried Rice) , Green or Red Curry, Yam Nua ( Spicy Beef salad). Soups are very popular and can you find many vegetable and fish soups.
Eating out in Thailand is always a pleasure, depending on what you are looking for, you can eat indoors in fully air conditioned restaurants or can enjoy a more outdoor type of dinning experience on the street where small businesses put out tables and chairs for locals and tourists alike to enjoy a taste of the real Thailand. Prices are much cheaper naturally and you can only pay in cash.
Drinking in Thailand, is not a major tradition for its locals but it's thanks to the foreigners that Thai beers have become really famous such a Singha Beer or Chan Beer. Luckily, due to the high temperatures, finding cold, refreshing drinks is very easy and you will find stands on every corner of the city centre offering fresh-squeezed juice, Coco-nuts, fruit smoothies, water and general cold drinks.
One Thai drink you can't miss is Thai ice-tea, made from strongly-brewed black tea, spiced with ingredients such as anise, crushed tamarind or cardamom. The brew is then sweetened with sugar and condensed milk, and served over ice.
Transportation: From Bangkok main airport (BKK) you take the City Link Rail which costs 45 baht and gets you into the centre at Phayathai Station in 30min. From here you can then connect to the Skytrain. From the other airport, Don Muang (DMK), there are busses direct to Mo Chit station where you can connect to the Skytrain.
The city has a very convenient transport system called "Skytrain" and together with a traditional Metro system it connects all major points around Bangkok. It operates from 6am to midnight. The fares start from 15 ฿ for a one stop ride and increase depending on the distance. You can buy a smart card, called "Rabbit", which enables you to top up the card and use the system much faster than paying for single tickets all the time. It costs 100฿ for the card and an initial 80 ฿ minimum top up.
Alternatively, you can buy an unlimited day pass for 140฿ for all the Skytrain network.
Busses in Bangkok are very cheap (from 9 or 15 ฿). If you are confident to get busses rather than the metro then its a even cheaper alternative and you will ride like a local. It's a fun thing to do as well in Bangkok, as busses are often open and have that old-fashioned look about them. However when stuck in traffic it can be a very hot and slow ride.Not advisable in the city centre at rush hour.
To follow the busses its enough to know the number, check the route at Bangkok transit. Some busses in Bangkok metropolitan area are free of charge to increase the use of public transport, you can distinguish them by their red colour. Below you can find the map for the Skytrain:
Teak Boats are also a common way of transportation in the city. They are essentially, longboats driven by a converted lorry engine. There are bigger ones in the main river but you can also find thinner ones navigating the many canals in Bangkok. Fares start from 10-20฿ depending on the distance. For more information check, Khlong Boats Transit. Some boats along the river also provide a tourist service taking you to the popular destinations and announcing stops in English and what to see there. You can identify them by a blue flag. Fares are a little higher at 40฿. But they are much faster and less crowded than the commuter boats (Orange flag, which cost 15฿ one way).
Khlong Boat (canal boat)
Tourist boat (blue flag) and Commuter Boat Express (orange flag)
Moving around the city centre is easier by Tuk-tuk. They are a two or more seater bikes which can drive you faster in the traffic than any other transport mean. They are fun to ride and cheap, however due to the pollution in Bangkok you will breath a lot of black smoke so a short trip is more than enough. Prearrange the price with the driver before you get on and don't let them take you to another destination other than what you asked for as they tend to go to Taylor's or jewellery shops where they receive a commission by taking you there.
Some Tuk-tuk offer tours of the Grand Palace, Sleeping Buddha, and the Khao San Road area for 40 ฿ for one hour but these trips will definitely take you to one of previous mentioned shops for the driver to earn more money. If you have not done this before then it would be a good recommendation nevertheless.
Last but not least if you're really want to travel faster in rush hour and don't have access to Metro or Skytrain, it's popular to hire a biker. These driver's a regulated biker's offering a second space on their's scooter's for a paying passenger. Prices are regulated by the government starting at 20฿. Ask the driver for a set price and make sure they provide you with a helmet. They tend to drive fast so hold on tight!
Weather and temperature: Bangkok has an average temperature of around 30C year round so not matter which season you visit make sure you bring plenty of protection, sun glasses, a hat, comfortable walking shoes and drinking lots of water. The best season to arrive in Thailand is at the cool season, December to February when temperatures are in the high 20's. Humidity is always a high factor to consider so no matter when you come it always going to feel hotter.
Another time to travel is at the rainy season, June-September were the sun is overcast by the clouds which act as a protection. It can be pretty wet when it does rain so taking an umbrella is suggested. It's not recommend to travel during the hot season, March to May as temperatures can reach 35C, a constant intense sun light, high humidity and pollution is not a good mix to visit Bangkok!
Nightlife entertainment doesn't stop in the markets, because in Bangkok you can find anything you want, The city is renowned for its open atmosphere, acceptance and laid back attitude for all kinds of sexual orientations. Restaurants, night bars,clubs and dance shows are in abundance in the city's nightlife quarter, Silom.
You can find plenty of venues offering as well adult entertainment, both gay and straight. These clubs are open from the evening to late at night and a pre-entry fee is sometimes required. Shows can range from singing and dancing to complete nudity and sexual intercourse.
Bangkok is a city of limitless entertainment, you can find many possibilities in what to see or do by locals on the street encouraging you to join a venue or show.
Attention!: There are many venues offering adult entertainment which are not licensed. Make sure you go to genuine venues, with adequate safety measures and regulated. Some venues which might be suspicious might be situated in local homes or garages away from the popular bar areas, with inadequate exits in case of fire, and what's more alarming, offering to the public illegal substances and trafficking with under age girls or boys for adult work. If you are offered any of these services it's recommended you report it to the local police.
What to see and do? Going to Thailand is not all about partying and having fun. Bangkok has a very rich and ancient history and it's worth to spend a day or two exploring it's major landmarks, temples and places of culture.To the west of the city you will find many of Bangkok's main buildings, including the Grand Palace, Wat Pho (Sleeping Budha) , Wat Arun (Riverside Temple with a Landmark Spire) , Memorial Bridge, Democracy Monument, Wat Sacket (Golden Temple on the hill), Bangkok national Museum, Wat Traimit (Golden Budha Temple), Jim Thompson House and Khao San Road (Backpacking area full of markets, restaurants and souvenirs) are all worth visiting if you staying more than a few days.
Bangkok sights not to be missed:
Tip: Doing all the culture tourism in one day is pretty impossible, add the hot temperatures and walking around and you will be soon wanting to chill with a beer or cold drink in some bar. So, doing 3 closest sights by foot might be enough and then leave the rest for another occasion or hire a Tuk-tuk to take you there. Often the tuk-tuk will wait for you and take you around if you ask them in advance about your itinerary. In Khao San Road area you can get a city tour for THB 40, (In addition they will take you to some Taylor shops, where the drivers get commission if you spend some time showing interest in the shop).
Tip: Take a Canal boat ride in Bangkok, next to Novotel Hotel at Ratchadamri street, you will find a small pier (Central Pier) where for a modest 10-20฿ you can take a hop on local long-boat to many of Bangkok's tourist attractions and discover the canals which surround the city. (called Khlong).
Take the boats which begin the trip passing under the bridge just next to the pier and get off at the last stop. (Designated by stop W4). From here you can walk to the Golden Mount Temple and for another 10-15 min walk you can reach Khao san Road and the Grand Palace area.Another alternative is to take the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin, from here walk 3min to the river boat pier. You can take a Tourist Boat ride to many of Bangkok's attractions, including the Grand Palace. The trip takes 20min and costs 40฿
Shopping: A trip to Bangkok would not be complete without some shopping, and for those who are determined to find the best deals head for the street markets, both day and night. However the centre for shopping is located at Siam, where you will find all the mega shopping centres all interconnected by high raised pedestrian paths which have access to the Skytrain as well. (Siam Skytrain Station)
The main shopping centres are MBK, Central World, Siam Centre, Gaysorn, Siam Paragon located around Siam. Many more can be found close to Chit Lom and Sala Daeng Skytrain stations.
Souvenirs can be located mostly on the street markets and in Khao San Road area. At night head to Patpong, (Sala Daeng Station), it's night market is thriving with stands which stretch the entire street, finding all kind of products, hand-craft, souvenirs and clothes.
Other popular sites for streets markets not in the city centre are Chatuchak, Rod Fai Night Market, Bangrak Bazaar ( Saphan Taksin BTS), Suan Lum Night
Bazaar Ratchadaphisek or Saphan Phut Night Market.
For more info check the following link on other markets and how to get there: Explore Bangkok Markets
Thai Massage: after a long day walking in the hot sun or having done a tour a good recommendation is too enjoy a Thai massage. They are offered all around the city but the cheapest are offered at Ratchaprarop Road for the traditional Thai Massage. If you are more keen in getting a relaxing massage then you can head to Khao San Road for the Oil Massage. (One hour for 350฿).There are many types of massage: full body massage, foot massage, oil massage but the typical "Thai massage" is based on the pressure which is transmitted to your body by the massageur and concentrates mainly on your limbs. For one hour massage you get a full body massage from toes to head. You can speak to the massageur depending how strong you like the massage to be.
Tip: An interesting curiosity is that when you approach the massageur out of the shop you will choose who will do the actual massage to you, being a man or a woman. At the end of the massage it's common for the massage centre to give you a hot tea and you can decide whether to give your massageur an extra tip. Prices start for a typical Thai Massage from 200฿ for one hour.
Recomendations: After an initial visit to Bangkok why not escape the Hassle and Busle of the city by organising a tour out of the city. Most hotels offer free pick up service and information about tours. Alternatively you can get information in downtown Bangkok for tours. Prices start from €25 per person and the tours last from early morning to 6pm. Lunch buffet, transportation in air conditioned mini vans and entry to sites are always included but be sure to check any extras that can be charged as you are en-route.
Every tour is different and varies constantly depending on time of year, company and number of people, it's likely the same tour taken twice can change in the programme or itinerary. Below you can find a reference of the Tours taken by us:
- Kanchanaburi (River Kwai),located 150 miles from Bangkok, offers a fascinating mix of nature, history and adventure. The tours can include visiting a World War Museum in which the famous bridge over the Kwai river played an important role, a Thailand–Burma Railway Centre, walk around the bridge itself (Death Railway), Kanchanaburi War Cementery, bamboo-boat river rides, lunch and the highlight of the visit is the the two-hour journey along the Thailand–Burma Death Railway from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok, the views are lovely, but it’s the history that makes the ride so special, as this provides a context for the enormous loss of human life and the extraordinary feat of engineering behind the line’s construction.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi, located approximately 105 km from Bangkok. The famous market is a local event which sees hundreds of visitors for it's unique concept of selling produce on little canal boats. Locals who live and work on these interconnected waterways, sell colourful handicrafts, souvenirs and fresh produce. You can watch the bustling activity of female vendors in wooden hats, seen from a platform overlooking the market. The tour can include a boat canal tour around the market, time for shopping, lunch, an animal sanctuary (Elephants, Crocodiles, Monkeys and other exotic animals), Elephant show, and a Thai Culture Show.
Accommodation: staying in Bangkok is very reasonable for a budget conscious traveller! There are plenty of Hotels offering cheap rooms with good service, air conditioning, private bathrooms and located in well known areas. Prices can range from €15-23 a night per room. Sometimes getting a room not directly in the city centre but close to a Sky Train station is cheaper and will have the added benefit of being quieter at night too.
A recommended Hotel is Nantra Hotel Silom, a 3 star Hotel located next to Silom area, close to the main night market of Silom, the Skytrain (Sala Daeng), plenty of restaurants, bars, clubs and entertainment venues. It offers good prices for single, double rooms including WIFI and Free Continental breakfast.
Recommended duration: Bangkok is a city of infinite entertainment, relax, shop, dine and drink. Seeing the main tourist attractions is possible in a couple of days but definitely you will want to relax in this big buzzing city where the heat and humidity can get really intense if you come during the hot Season. However a good duration would be 4 to 5 nights including one or two organised tours.
Getting there and transportation: To get to Hua Hin, the best tip is to go by train. Trains depart in the morning and arrive after midday. The ride itself is an interesting one, with beautiful scenery landscape as you leave Bangkok. The price is very reasonable, the cheapest you can get is at 44฿one way and takes 4 hours on a 3rd class carriage. Some trains offer better service with air conditioning and take about 3 hours, these fares start from 150฿. To return to Bangkok you have one train at 14h and another at 16h. For the exact train times please click on this link: Hua Hin Train TimesAlternatively you can go by Van, the cost is 180฿ and they leave from Victory Monument roundabout every hour. (Sky train station, Victory Monument). However they make numerous stops along the way, picking up locals and often filling the van more than the normal capacity, so expect to be crammed inside. The trip takes about 3 hours and leaves you in central Hua Hin.
Tip: To go around Hua Hin and the places of interest it's a good idea to rent a bike. For only 200฿a day you can ride a small cylinder scooter (Up 2 passengers) and go around at your leisure. Driving with a Foreign license is allowed depending on which country you come from. Check with your country's Thai embassy for more info on driving in Thailand.
What to see and do? Places to visit are: King's Summer Palace (Phra Ratchaniwet Mrigadayavan Palace), Cicada Weekend Night Market, (Market for Food, Handcraft and Arts), Plearn Wan Eco Vintage Village, (alternative shopping center imitating the life of the 1950s), Wat Khao Takiab (aslo known as Monkey Temple from the many that live there and are free to go around) and the Hua Hin Night Market (Situated at the intersection of Pecthkasem Road and Dechanuchit Road).
King's Summer Palace
Cicada Weekend Night Market
Plearn Wan Eco Vintage Village
Wat Khao Takiab
Accommodation: Staying in Hua Hin is a little more expensive due to it's location, popular for locals who come to visit the Palace to pay respects to the Royal Family. Hotels and resorts are good quality if staying near the beaches. Staying near the train station or the centre of the town is better for going out as otherwise will need transport to move around. Prices range from €20-35. Hostels are widely available as well in the centre if you don't mind sharing. Some hotels are well priced if staying around 10-20KM away from the city, though it's not advised to stay so away for the distance involved travelling each time.
Recommended Duration: Going to Hua Hin is ideal for a weekend getaway from Bangkok. You can see everything in one or two days as it doesn't take long to visit. Ideally to see the Cicada Weekend Night Market in your trip. Two nights would be more than enough.
Getting there and Transportation: Arriving in Phuket airport is very straight forward . As soon as you disembark you collect your luggage and you reach the arrivals hall within a few minutes. Here you will find the key to a successfully holiday in the island. There are plenty of little stands offering tours and sport activities on the island.If you don't have much time or are in lack of a car then organising your tours from here is the best option.
Phuket is not connected with a public transport system, therefore you need to make your own way. Taxis are always available but make sure you negotiate the price before getting inside. (If you book your tours from the airport then usually you can get a van to take you to the hotel as well).
Weather and Temperature: As the island is south from Bangkok temperatures are generally hotter year round and more humid. However being by the ocean has its advantage as this cools the atmosphere. Blue skies are more predominant (not as much pollution) and direct sunlight is more intense. So taking good protection is essential. The same seasons occur in Phuket so its advised to visit from October to March.
Food and drink: Phuket is famous for its sea food caught daily and available in many restaurants on the sea front. As Phuket grows in popularity now you can find many different cuisines from Thai to Italian, Chinese, Japanese or even Lebanese.
Going out in Phuket is very easy, hundred of little local bars, restaurants and clubs gather around the Patong area and offer to the public a wide range of entertainment venues. Loud music bars, concerts, Karaoke, Sport bars, Gay Bars and Night show venues are all within the same street of Patpong.
However as the area grows, you can now find plenty of modern facilities and more family style entertainment venues as well. Cinemas, Bowling, Shopping centres, a Zoo, aquatic water sports etc are all at hand.
Suggestions: Staying in Phuket can be a true paradise experience, be sure to join some tours, explore the surroundings of the island and try different beaches away from the Patong area. A good recommendation is to join a tour which will include a speed boat ride to Phi-Phi Island (famous for being the filming site of many movies). Its a beautiful island, hardly unspoilt, bathed by white fine sand beaches, crystal clear waters and surrounded by thick jungle giving it a wild feel.
Accommodation: Generally the closer you are to Patong the more expensive it will be. Phuket prides itself for being an ideal resort for Honeymoon couples so prices tend to be more expensive. However you can get good deals by exploring other locations close by. Tours will always pick you up from your accommodation anyway so its not a big thing to worry about. Don't stay too far south of the island, as its not so pretty and facilities are not as accessible from here. In Phuket its very popular to find Villas, Bungalows or self catering Hotel resorts which offer the traveller with a feel of luxury. Many Hotels have private swimming pools, massage services, airport Shuttle, tour info etc. Be sure to research all the alternatives as prices can be much cheaper if you take away a couple of "luxuries" away. A key is to book something within walking distance to any nearest beach.
Recommended duration: Staying in Phuket can be a very relaxing experience, it's a place to just enjoy and see how the hours pass by just doing "nothing". However if you can't stay still there is always stuff to do and see, water sports, tours, shopping, exploring etc. A nice mix of these activities plus some time to enjoy paradise is advised so an ideal stay duration would be between 3 to 6 nights.
Transportation: Chiang Mai has one main airport (CNX) which handles domestic and international traffic. Main tourists arrive from Bangkok by air, but its possible to get there by train and bus alike. It's infrastructure has improved a lot in the last years, thanks to the tourist boom, and now its much safer to travel on its roads.
When arriving to the airport be sure to check the arrival tourist info stands, as like Phuket, if you don't drive or lack time, arranging your tours from the airport are a good alternative and you will save time immediately as they will often give you the option of transportation to your Hotel.
To get to the city centre it takes about 15 min and you can share a mini-van with other travellers being this a better option than going by taxi.
Weather and Temperature: Expect a warm climate year round, but as Chiang Mai is higher in altitude the evenings and nights can be at times fresher reaching about 15C. Day time can be in the 20-25C except during the hot season reaching up to 30C. It's definitely more comfortable to be in the city walking around and a light protection is sufficient.
Accommodation: Hotels are very cheap and reasonable and on a budget you can expect to find rooms from about £15 per night. Staying around the city centre is advised as Chiang Mai does not have a proper transport network so everywhere you want to go should be in walking distance or a short hop on the tuk-tuks.
What to see and do? Visiting this city is a true representation of the most traditional side of Thailand. Temples are in abundance and visiting them all can be quite daunting. Also can't leave without visiting some famous parks, gardens, wild life sanctuary (Elephants and Tigers) waterfalls and the "long-neck" village.
Arranging a visit by yourself to the Temples in the city is easy but it's advised to organise tours to the rest of the locations due to the distances needed to travel to the remote areas. The most important things to see are: Temples of Wat Prathat Doi Suthep and Wat Prasingh,Night Bazar Market in Chiang Mai, Doi Inthanon (higest park in Thailand), Wat Chedi Luang (Temple Ruins from 1400) and Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls.
Recommended duration: A short but complete visit to Chiang Mai would be ideal, including some tours. 3 nights would be enough time.