Thailand Travel Guide for first-timers

Thailand Travel Guide for first-timers
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Thailand travel guide for The Land of Smiles.
One of the most visited destinations in South-East Asia is Thailand, and not in vain!
Thailand offers almost everything – Fascinating culture along with the local tradition that is hard not to admire. Old temples, colorful markets, wild nature, breathtaking beaches, and 24/7 cities bringing modern life to the Thai people and the tourists who keep coming every year to experience this unique place.
Thailand is a large country. Plan your trip properly and learning about it would help you to enjoy better all the abundance it has to offer.

Just before you take off.. here is a Thailand travel guide for beginners.
providing you with the necessary information you should know before boarding the flight.

Weather and best time to visit Thailand

Thailand is divided into different regions, with each region being characterized by different weather conditions. it is important to be aware of this parameter when planning your trip. Your decision of which sites to stop at, and how long to stay anywhere may be affected accordingly.
Although Thailand has many tourists all year round, the most touristy season (Dry Season) begins around mid-October and ends up in February.
During these months, the weather in most areas is pleasant, and you can fully enjoy everything it has to offer. The average temperature then is 20C-25C degrees (Celsius) 68F – 77F (Fahrenheit)

Northern Thailand

The weather in the North region of Thailand is a bit different. The dry season is from November to May, with heavy rains falling between June and October. The cooler months are between October and January.

The southern region of Thailand is divided into two:

Southern-West-Coast
where The Wet Season begins in April and ends in October.
Southern-East-Coast
where The Wet Season begins in September and ends in December. The rest of the year the weather is dry and very pleasant.
That means you can actually visit Thailand throughout the year, but keep in mind that during the wet season some countryside regions are difficult to travel to, and sometimes the access is not so easy.

Currency and Money

The official currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht when 1 US dollar is worth about 30 Thai Bahts, features in 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1000 baht banknotes, along with 1, 2, 5, and 10 coins.
The 20, 50, and 100 bills + coins, are most useful for everyday payment. Taxis, markets, tips, and food stalls, are where it’s very worthwhile to pay accurately, as not always the accurate change is to be found..
ATMs are all over Thailand, from which you can withdraw money (you can withdraw up to 20,000 baht in one withdrawal). Transaction fees will be added automatically, while the amount varies between banks and credit companies.

Try to arrive with some money
It would be smart to arrive with enough cash for the first few days as well as with an international credit card with which you can pay in many places. It is possible to convert US dollars as well as Euros in Thailand while the priority is for US dollars that get a better conversion rate. Anyhow, it’s good to shop around for the best rate.

Culture and Holidays

The kingdom of Thailand is located in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Myanmar (Burma) which affects quite a bit its local culture and the various symbols that take part in it.
The dominant religion in Thailand is Buddhism. It reflects in many of the temples throughout the country, while Chiang Mai is probably the most traditional one to preserve the religious tradition.
Buddhist monks are highly respected in Thailand and can be seen in most monasteries and temples scattered throughout the country.
As mentioned earlier, Thailand is a kingdom, and as such is ruled by a king and queen. Visiting their palaces is a unique experience while in Bangkok.

The Thai Culture

Thai culture is very rich and ancient. At its very core is a strong emphasis on respecting adults and others. For the Thai people, obedience is an integral part of life as well as peace of mind that characterizes the Thais themselves. Voice raising, shouting, or outbursts are considered disrespectful.
In a way, bargaining is part of the local culture, although a great deal of respect is given to vendors and the goods they offer. Traditionally, any first sale of a day is considered good luck. Local Markets vendors in big cities or little villages are offering their merchandise while consistently bargaining politely with a big smile.
Sports takes a significant part of the Thai culture as well. The famous Thai Boxing, which well known all over the world is being an integral part of Thai culture. It is very popular among Thai people and considered the most valued sport.

Thai Holidays

The Thai holidays and special events in Thailand are absolutely worth taking them into cosideration while planning your trip. Some important dates involve quite a few beautiful and colorful festivals and celebrations, which are highly recommended to take part in.

  • April 6th – Chakri Day. Celebrated in honor of the founder of the Chakri Dynasty – Rama I
  • April 13 – Songkran, The water holiday is a major festival across the country, in which many locals take an active part
  • May 5th – Coronation day of the King and Queen
  • July 12 – Asarnha Puja, an important holiday for the Buddhists
  • August 12 – The Queen’s birthday celebration
  • October 23rd – King Rama V’s birthday
  • November 5th – Loy Krathong, a lights festival celebrated in Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, and Sukhothai
  • November 24th – Bridge Festival on the Kwai River. A dazzling light-and-sound show with various cultural performances.

The Delicious Thai Food

The Thai food, with the unbeatable local cuisine, is a stand-alone cultural concept. The special seasoning with all unique ingredients, brings the exotic flavors as one of the most exciting and beloved cuisines in the world.
The capital Bangkok, and the Northern city Chiang Mai, considered culinary centers. You can find there a variety of local restaurants, some extremely successful which considered gourmet restaurants.
But not only the gourmet ones are available with great Thai food.
When traveling through some small villages, you’ll always find quite good places to eat. Not a gourmet but these will definitely be authentic with their own charm. In those places, you can usually ask to taste before ordering, DO it and make sure it is not too spicy!!

Food Stalls

The food stalls are great opportunity to get to know the REAL local cuisine. These stalls can be found almost everywhere, both in the big-crowded cities as well as in small and remote towns. The great advantage of local dishes is the very fact that they can be prepared in just a few minutes, on a Wok most often. So, no long wait is required, and in about 5-10 minutes the dish is received directly to the table or as a take-away.

The Most Popular Thai Food

Thai cuisine is mostly famous for the combinations of different flavors: Sweet, Salty, Spicy, and Sour may all blend into each other perfectly and create a rich and delicious dish.
Just as for other Asian countries, Thailand has its own typical cuisine for each of the country’s regions.
For example: in the southern part of Thailand, fresh coconut milk and turmeric are more common in many dishes, while in the north-eastern part of Thailand, lime juice and salt are also given a place of honor.
Thai food has a huge variety of spices and herbs put into rice and noodles of all kinds.
Check out the most popular dishes in our Thailand Travel guide

  • Pad Thai – Rice Noodles with Peanuts, Chicken, Egg, Seafood (sometimes), and Tofu
  • Tom Yum Soup
  • Tom Ka Gai Soup – Chicken with Coconut Milk
  • Rad Na – Rice Noodles with Beef / Pork / Chicken
  • Red Curry / Green Curry Satay – Roast Chicken or Pork along with a Cucumber Salad seasoned with a Rich Peanut Sauce

Tourist Visa to Thailand, Do I Need One?

Before Covid-19 came into our lives, most of the nationalities received a tourist visa automatically upon landing in Thailand. This visa used to be valid for a period of 30 days but only with a confirmed flight out presented within the 30-day visa period.
Check out the Nationalities Chart
At the same time, those who chose to travel in Thailand for a longer period must have issued a relevant visa in advance, a visa for a period of 60 days, which was counted from the day of entry. This visa can be obtained and pre-paid for at the Thai Embassy in your country. This visa along with the 60-day stay in Thailand, includes 3 more entries within this time, in case you wish to travel to neighboring countries.

Extension of visa while already there
Visa holders for a period of 30 days, who wish to extend, are required to do so through the immigration offices located in Bangkok. These offices also exist in other cities in Thailand, and you should check this out in advance.
* During The Covid Pandemic, All nationalities require a visa

Moving Around the Country

Thailand offers its visitors a wide range of options to move around in the country.
The country has an extensive train network as well as a network of buses, which reach many places, from north to south and of course ferries connecting the various islands to the mainland.
Other than that, if you happen to think of renting a car, a good system of highways, covering the whole country while most of them are free and some are not.

Tuk-Tuk

One of the options to get around, and to avoid some of the traffic jams is by tuk-tuk. The tuk-tuk is a small and rather narrow motorized tricycle, the ride of which is very popular even in the big cities. However, note that the local driver drives it very quickly and not always obey the traffic laws.

Taxi

Taxis are another option, which is very common in all big cities, it’s a bit slower than Tuk Tuk due to traffic but safer in a way. Many travelers use taxis to get from the airport to the city and back. It provides a continuous and comfortable ride.

Train

The train can get you to various places around the country, usually used for the more distant places, like the northern cities of Thailand. These are innovative and developed trains, with carriages, some also have comfortable sleeping beds. If you are about to take a 12 hours train ride Taking, take the night one with a sleeper. It’s inexpensive, comfortable, and quick (you sleep it off)

Ferry

Getting from the mainland to any island is only possible by Ferries as well as moving between the islands themselves. There are different types of ferries; small, fast, large, or very large – many kinds. Not all kinds of ferries may be found on each pier though, but during the daytime, there will always be found one ready to take you.

Few More Important Tips

For some travelers in Thailand, this may be their first trip, while others probably have experienced and visited other destinations. In any case, this Thailand travel guide follows one simple principle: Proper Preparation is the Secret to a Successful Trip.

Here are some MORE important tips to keep in mind before embarking on your trip:

Take some cash with you

International credit cards are accepted in many places in Thailand. However, you might find yourself in places around the country where cash would be the only way to pay.
Markets, food stalls, taxi, tuk-tuk, and even some attractions, will most probably receive cash only. Make sure you carry bills as well as coins and especially if you are planning to get to remote places.

Beware of Local Scams

Just as in other places in the world, as a tourist, you are likely to encounter some of the local ‘tricks’ and scams. These, can ruin a great day of vacation and cause great heartache. Therefore, it is recommended to be fairly careful.
Treat locals with respect on one hand, and some limited trust on the other. It is not as if you should be more careful here than elsewhere. But since you are a tourist, it is important to understand your touristic position, particularly in touristy places or any vibrant markets.

Scooter Rental

Many tourists rent a scooter to get around in the big cities or smaller places- it is very popular on the islands. While this is fast and efficient, allowing you to avoid traffic jams, it also has a downside. For those who are not experienced in riding a scooter, it may not be the safest way to move. Therefore, if you are not an experienced rider, better give up on this idea and look for other transportation solutions.
* Note that only those who hold a scooter driver’s license can be locally insured.

Keep Yourself Healthy and Safe

It’s quite easy to forget the importance of our health when we’re enjoying ourselves. Especially on a trip with all pleasures and beauty that accompany our vacation. However, it is extremely important to take good care of yourself to avoid unpleasant situations that may interrupt your vacation.

Sunscreen
If you plan to spend time on the beach, on one of the islands – DO NOT forget Sunscreen even if the sky is not completely blue. If it’s hot AND sunny days, you might want to stay in the shade. Avoid too much exposure to the sun.
Mosquitoes
The mosquitoes in Thailand can be annoying quite a bit, especially in the wet season. They can also carry some diseases, which better be avoided. Be sure to have mosquito repellent with you. Spray it on you when you go out to nature and trekking in the jungles. Long clothes can help a lot in protecting you from bites.
Dogs
Rabies is a common disease in Thailand, so even if you are a dog lover, avoid petting them, especially in remote areas such as Northern Thailand Tribes.
Vaccines
Before leaving home, find out with your local doctor what are vaccines he/she reccommend mostly as for your own country and make sure to get the right vaccines for you. And of course don’t forget to purchase travel insurance at home, before you take off.

Take your time, why hurry?

There is quite a bit to see and do in Thailand and most likely can’t all be covered in one trip. Try not to treat your trip or vacation as a ‘to-do checklist’ by only pass through the sites and spots. Take your time, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment. Try not to run from one place to another and really soak the local atmosphere in. If your time in Thailand is limited, focus on specific areas rather than trying to squeeze it all into one trip.
Simply Enjoy where you are!

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