Thailand holidays

Experience Thailand

Best Places to Visit

Thailand offers visitors the best of Southeast Asia. From the mountains and jungles in the north to the most beautiful of tropical beaches in the south, it’s highly unlikely that a visitor will leave Thailand without having had some great travel experiences.

The first stop for Thailand package holidays has got to be Bangkok. With its bustling streets jammed to the brim with cars, tuk-tuk (open-air, three-wheeled taxis) and motorbikes, as well as its sprawling markets and vast malls, Bangkok gives visitors a first-hand look into the modern, urban Thai culture.

Heading south from Bangkok, you and millions of other tourists that come to Thailand each year will find the beautiful Thai islands. You can choose to go to the most developed of beach destinations such as Phuket, bordering the Andaman Sea, or Pattaya and Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand. Many mid-range to high-end luxury resort hotels are located at these beach destinations.

One popular island destination is Ko Phi Phi. The beaches here were made famous by the film The Beach. You can join the throngs of revellers at Thailand's biggest party, the monthly Full Moon Party, at Koh Pha Ngan. Or if you're looking for a more laid-back island vibe, you can head to Koh Chang in Trat province.

A trip to Thailand is incomplete without a taste of the cultures of the north. Not only do Thai northerners have their own unique identity, but the mountains in northern Thailand are also home to Thailand's hill tribes. First stop in northern Thailand is Chiang Mai, the capital of the region. Here, various activities can be arranged such as jungle trekking, zip lining, elephant riding, game fishing and river rafting.

Go further north and you will find yourself in the Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai province, famous in the old days for its opium trade. This is where the countries of Thailand, Burma (Myanmar) and Laos meet, separated only by the great Mekong River.

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Top Landmarks

Because of its rich history and culture, Thailand boasts some of the top landmarks in Southeast Asia. Within Bangkok's historic centre is Thailand's most significant Buddhist temple. Located within Bangkok's Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, its ornate royal architecture is a sight to behold.

Just two hours' drive north of Bangkok is the ancient Siam capital of Ayutthaya. At its height, this UNESCO World Heritage site was the flourishing trade capital of Asia, with merchants from India, China and the Malay islands passing through here. After being pillaged by Burmese invaders, however, Ayutthaya is now only an archaeological site full of ancient stone temples and towers.

Similar to Ayutthaya is Sukhothai, also an archaeological UNESCO World Heritage site, located further to the north. This is the first capital of the Kingdom of Siam. Found here are the ruins of the old Thai capital and other historical monuments.

To explore Thailand's more recent history, a stop at Kanchanaburi province is a must. Here, you can find many sites and museums depicting Thailand's involvement in WWII. The main thing to see here is the incarnation of the Bridge on the River Kwai, the start of the infamous Japanese railway connecting Thailand and Burma.

Adventurous travellers will want to visit two of Thailand's most beautiful jungle reserves: Khao Yai National Park in Isaan and Khao Sok National Park in southern Thailand. Found here are ancient rainforests, pristine waterfalls and a rich diversity of plants and animals.

Entertainment

Because of Thailand's popularity with western tourists and its relatively liberal attitude, its entertainment scene has grown to be legendary in Southeast Asia. The liveliest and most exciting, not to mention the grittiest nightlife, can be found in Bangkok.

The financial district of Silom is the capital's business centre by day, but the place to party by night. The area close to Sala Daeng station is where most of the party venues are found. Also located in Silom is the infamous Patpong Night Market, a collection of bars and clubs that are popular with Western travellers.

The backpacker centre of Khao San Road is another place to find some lively entertainment. Young, western tourists on a jaunt around Southeast Asia usually make this their first and final stop. Bars and clubs here start early in the evening and carry on well into the morning.

Meanwhile, in the north, Chiang Mai boasts some of the best nightlife in Thailand. Apart from the party venues at trendy Nimmanhaemin Road, the city also has some of the best night markets. The Saturday Walking Street and Sunday Walking Street are the places to be at the weekend for locals and tourists alike.

Finally, when at the islands it doesn't get any better than the Full Moon Party at Koh Pha Ngan. The beach village of Haad Rin in the southern part of the island is where the biggest party in Thailand happens every month. Bars and clubs here blast loud music and hand out cheap buckets of booze throughout the night – perfect for partygoers on Thailand holidays.

Dining Out

There is a good reason why Thai cuisine is known the world over. It is rich and characterised by the balancing of intense flavours. Be it street food, a seven-course meal at a five-star hotel or an elegant banquet of royal Thai food, package holidays to Thailand aren’t complete without trying its local cuisine.

Delicate western stomachs need not worry as most Thai street food is clean and safe. The most famous of these street foods is the quintessential pad Thai, thin rice noodles fried with bean sprouts, spring onions, shrimp, pork, chicken and tofu. Fruit juices and shakes made from the freshest tropical fruits are also popular, with fruit stalls found at every street corner.

In the north, Thai cuisine takes influences from Burma and northern Laos. One such dish with varying versions in each of these three countries is khao soi. The recipe consists of boiled egg noodles, with a thick, coconut milk-based curry as its broth, topped with crispy fried egg noodles. The curry can be served with pork, beef or chicken.

Rice is almost always eaten at every meal and consumed with various meat dishes and curries. This is especially true in southern Thailand, whose cuisine takes influence from its Malay neighbours. Massaman curry, considered one of the most delicious dishes in the world, is an Indian curry developed by Thai Muslims in the South, and is a must-try on holidays to Thailand.

Beach

Some of the best beach destinations in Southeast Asia can be found on holidays to Thailand. They are, in fact, the country’s top tourist attractions. There are quite a number of choices for travellers on package holidays to Thailand. Foremost is Phuket on the Andaman Sea coast. Found here are some of the best beach destinations and luxury beach resorts. Also bordering the Andaman is Krabi province with its famous Koh Phi Phi Island. Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Thailand, the best party beach destination is Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui. Closer to Bangkok, Pattaya and the island of Koh Samet are top picks.

Romance

A stay on a secluded Thai island or in some of Thailand's top luxury resorts are the perfect way to spend a romantic getaway. Even in destinations overrun with tourists, such as Koh Pha Ngan and Krabi, it’s possible to hire a local boatman to take you and your significant other to a quiet island with no one around. If money isn’t an issue, then a stay at a top luxury resort in Phuket is one of the most romantic experiences on Thailand holidays.

Family

Families won’t run out of things to do on holidays to Thailand. In Bangkok, try taking a visit to Dreamworld, Bangkok's largest amusement park, or the Floating Market, as both are sure to keep children active all day. Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, is particularly popular with families, as the animal wildlife on offer is truly mesmerising. Reserves such as the Mae Sa Elephant Camp and Tiger Kingdom have to been seen to be believed.

Adventure

There are a number of adventure destinations in Thailand, stretching from north to the south. With some of the most beautiful and best preserved coral reefs in the world, it’s no wonder Thailand has become a top diving destination. The reefs of Koh Tao, Koh Samui and the Similan Islands are particularly popular with diving enthusiasts. In the north, adrenaline junkies will have the mountains close to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai as their playgrounds. Activities here include jungle trekking, mountain biking, zip lining and river rafting.

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Need to know

Language

Thai is the official language of Thailand. There are many dialects of Thai, with variations in both the north and south of the country. However, it’s Central Thai, the version spoken in Bangkok, which serves as the common language. Signs and maps are mostly bilingual in Thai and English. However, because there isn't a standard for Thai to English transliteration, English spellings of Thai names vary. English is widely spoken by locals working in the tourism industry, although not always very well.

Currency

The official currency is the Thai baht. Most items are priced in multiples of 10, so small change isn’t always necessary. Twenty and 100 baht notes are most useful for small purchases. ATMs are available throughout the country. Thai banks charge foreign cards a 200 baht fee on top of the cardholder's bank charges for withdrawals. Most mid-range to high-end establishments accept credit cards, but it is best to have cash for small shops and markets on package holidays to Thailand.

Visas

Most visitors flying into Thailand, including British nationals, automatically get granted 30 days of travel time and won't need a tourist visa. However, when entering Thailand overland from the neighbouring countries of Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia, most nationals only get a 15-day visa-free stay. A word of warning, entry to Thailand is normally refused if you have a passport which is damaged or has pages missing.

Climate

The climate of Thailand is mainly tropical, with warm weather all year round. During the winter months, from November to February, some cooler weather is experienced in the north, particularly in the mountains where the temperature can dip to 5°C. The same cannot be said of central and southern Thailand, as hot weather prevails for most of the year. March to June is the swelteringly hot season while monsoon rains and storms prevail throughout the months of July to October.

Main Airports

Bangkok is a hub not only for flights to destinations throughout Southeast Asia but also intercontinental flights servicing Europe, the Middle East and the rest of Asia. Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), located about 20 miles east of Bangkok's downtown, is where most flights land. Authorities are slowly reviving Bangkok's older airport, Don Muang (DMK), with more and more airlines scheduled to make it their Bangkok stopover.

Flight Options

Thailand's national carrier serves connections all over the world, including a direct route to London Heathrow. Other airlines service the direct UK to Thailand route. Carriers with hubs in the Middle East are usually cheaper options for those who don’t mind longer times in transit. The total direct flight time from London to Bangkok is around 11 hours.

Travel Advice

As Thailand is a popular travel destination and Bangkok a hub for flight routes in the region and internationally, competition is stiff among airlines. Travellers will be able to find great deals on fares throughout the year. However, it is during the high season of November to February when ticket prices, not to mention hotels rates, go up. It is best to book ahead of time to get a real bargain.

Other Transport Options

If coming from other countries in Southeast Asia and long overland journeys are not an issue, Thailand can be accessed via bus and train. There is a train route connecting Singapore, Malaysia, southern Thailand, Bangkok and Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. This is an especially good option for travellers planning to make a lot of stopovers. Buses are a good option when coming from Laos or Cambodia.

Getting Around

Getting around Thailand is relatively easy, not to mention inexpensive. The more you are willing to endure long overland journeys, the cheaper your holiday will be, but most visitors prefer the comfort of short and cheap domestic flights. Roads and highways, especially those that connect major cities, are good. The main train line runs from south to north, connecting the border with Malaysia and Chiang Mai.

Car

Accidents are very common due to reckless drivers, thus night-time driving is highly inadvisable. National and local car hire companies, as well as motorbike hire companies, are available in all the key cities and common tourist stops.

Train

The State Railway of Thailand covers around 2,500 miles (4,000km) of train track in the country. While trains can be slow and are prone to delays, they are safer than buses. Pre-booking tickets is highly advisable, especially when booking the sleeper train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. First class ticket prices are comparable to flight prices, but second class tickets offer savings for those on a budget.

Air

With relatively cheap discounted fares throughout the year, flying is a good option to get around Thailand. For a very reasonable outlay, you can travel almost anywhere in the country. Those on a budget can utilise low-cost carriers. These airlines connect most major destinations in Thailand, north, east and south.

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AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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FACTS

  1. Possibly the world's smallest mammal, Kitti's hog-nosed bat, is native to Thailand.
  2. At the annual Monkey Buffet at the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple, more than 600 monkeys gather to feast on two tonnes of food, including ice cream, given by locals as a thank you to them.
  3. Buddhism is the country's main religion and is practised by around 95 per cent of the population.
  4. Elephant Polo is a popular sport, with The King's Cup a major event on the sporting calendar.

FACTS

  1. Possibly the world's smallest mammal, Kitti's hog-nosed bat, is native to Thailand.
  2. At the annual Monkey Buffet at the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple, more than 600 monkeys gather to feast on two tonnes of food, including ice cream, given by locals as a thank you to them.
  3. Buddhism is the country's main religion and is practised by around 95 per cent of the population.
  4. Elephant Polo is a popular sport, with The King's Cup a major event on the sporting calendar.

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