Planning a trip to Thailand can be a bit of challenge, as the country has so much to offer. In this article, I guide you through every step you need to take and give you the best possible advice to successfully planning a trip to Thailand, making it an experience you will never forget!
In this article, I shall discuss the following important questions:
- What do I need for travelling to Thailand?
- When is the best time to visit Thailand?
- How to plan your trip to Thailand?
- How to get around in Thailand?
- What are the costs for a Thailand trip?
- What are examples of Thailand itineraries?
- Tips for your trip to Thailand
The reason why you should plan a trip to Thailand!
What do I need for travelling to Thailand?
In order to travel to Thailand, you need to have a tourist visa, a passport that won’t expire in the next six months and proof that you are leaving the country within the tourist visa expiration date. Depending on your nationality, in general, you will most-likely enter Thailand without a visa for 15 or 30 days. If you want to stay longer, you have to apply for a tourist visa.
The so-called Visa Exemption Rule, which allows passport holders of 55 countries to enter the Kingdom of Thailand the first 30 days without a visa, makes it easy for the majority of the visitors to enter Thailand. If you want to know if your country is listed in this Visa Exemption Rule, please check the Official website of the Thai Embassy. If you are planning to stay longer in Thailand, or when your country is not listed in the Visa Exemption Rule list, you have to apply for a Tourist Visa. How to do that, is described in the next paragraph.
How to apply for a Tourist Visa in Thailand?
In order to apply for a tourist visa, the applicant needs to have the following documents:
- A passport that won’t expire within the next six months.
- Visa application form, which can be found at Thai Embassy website.
- One recent photograph of the applicant (4x6 cm).
- Proof of plane ticket and travel plan.
- Proof of financial means (20,000 THB per person or 40,000 THB per family)
With these documents, you apply for a tourist visa at the Thai embassy in your own country. It will cost you around 30 dollars for a single-entry tourist visa, which means you can enter Thailand only once with that visa. You can only stay a maximum of 60 days in the Kingdom of Thailand with a tourist visa. If you want to stay longer in Thailand, you have to leave the country and a so-called visa run. In general, with the correct documents, this is an easy process. But doing multiple visa runs over a long period will raise suspicion and you will most likely get rejected at some point.
Extra information regarding the documents during your stay in Thailand:
When you enter the Kingdom of Thailand, you will receive a visa stamp, as well as the departure side of the TM6 form. The visa stamp in your passport shows you the date when you have to leave the country. It’s important to leave the country on that date (or before), otherwise, you will have an overstay, which you absolutely want to avoid. A TM6 form is a form that you have to fill in before entering the Kingdom of Thailand. This form will be handout during your flight.
The TM6 Form
Make sure that you have a pen in your hand luggage, so you can fill in the form during your flight. Hand over the form during the passport check at the immigration department at one of the international airports. Once you received the visa stamp, you also receive the departure side of the TM6 form. You need to hand over the departure card once you leave Thailand. In case you lost your TM6, you have to request a new one at the immigration department at the airport. This is something you want to avoid, as both the immigration department as the passport control is extremely busy.
When is the best time to visit Thailand?
The best time to visit Thailand is between December and March. During this period, the weather is optimal for travelling as there is no raining season and you avoid the extremely hot month of April. Especially in December, the weather is relatively cool making it perfect to explore Thailand.
It’s very simple, the raining season is called raining season for a reason. Perhaps you might have heard stories from friends that they did not have a bad experience during the raining season, but the fact is that it rains a lot in Thailand during that time. And not having a bad experience is not the same as having the best time of your life under the best circumstances you can get. The weather during raining season is unpredictable and it can ruin complete days by the vast amount of water that falls from the sky. Everyone who visits Thailand imagines themselves sipping ice-cold cocktails at beautiful beaches with the sky as light blue as possible. During raining season, the sky is most of the time grey and clouded, especially in southern parts at the islands of Thailand. I strongly advice planning your trip to Thailand between December and March.
Raining season in Thailand can ruin your holiday completely!
Note: April is the hottest month of the year and I would not immediately recommend visiting Thailand when it’s that hot, especially when you want to explore temples, jungles, cities and national parks. There is one exemption, though, and that is celebrating Songkran. Songkran is the Thai New Year and takes place on the 13th of April. This multi-day festival is commonly known as the largest water fight in the world. If you are a party-minded traveller and you have the chance to attend this amazing festival, I would highly recommend planning your trip around Songkran. The best places to celebrate Songkran are Chiang Mai and Bangkok. For more information, check our Complete Guide to Celebrating Songkran.
Songkran is something you don't want to miss in Thailand!
How to plan your trip to Thailand?
In order to plan your trip, you have to think of the purpose of your visit and the duration of your stay. For example, if you want to see beautiful nature in particular, you should spend a longer time in the North. If you just want to relax at a resort while enjoying the most beautiful sunsets, you should head to the southern part of Thailand. Most importantly, when it comes to planning your trip to Thailand, you should avoid visiting too much in such a short time.
Let’s say you are planning to visit Thailand for two weeks. In your mind, you are already picturing the beautiful temples, the elephant sanctuaries, the wildlife spotted at one of Thailands National Parks, sipping cocktails at the beach, scuba diving in Koh Tao, eating all the street food in Bangkok, standing on top of a rooftop bar, etc. But when you put all of this into practice, you will come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to do all these things in such a short time. You didn’t take all the travelling in between into account. The best practice when it comes to planning a trip to Thailand is by skipping a few things.
I’ll give you a good example of planning. When my family came visiting me, their purpose was to scuba dive in Koh Lipe and exploring Bangkok with me. They had two weeks for all of this. The purpose was clear. Four days in Bangkok first, then seven days in Koh Lipe and another three days in Bangkok. This included a return flight from Bangkok to Koh Lipe. At the end of their stay, their experience was positive, but they would have stayed longer at Koh Lipe. In two weeks they only stayed at two places in Thailand, and that was still not enough. Imagine you are staying in a city for two days, and you have to leave for the next place already. You arrived late as you have to travel from each place to each place. And once you’re finally settled, you have to rush to see some attractions of the city and pack your bags the next day. Do you get my point?
Koh Lipe, beautiful, isn't it?
So, define the purpose of your visit and stay a bit longer at places than you think is needed. This especially applies when you stay in Thailand between two and three weeks. If you stay longer in Thailand, you automatically tend to stay longer at places as you have much more time. To help you choose which cities and areas you want to visit, here are the most popular places for planning your trip to Thailand:
Most likely, you arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport, the international airport of Bangkok. Thailand’s capital is an amazing place and has so much to offer when it comes to culture, food, nightlife and entertainment. For more information, check out our complete guide of things to do in Bangkok. It’s recommended to stay here at least three nights. We also provide itineraries in our article about Bangkok Itineraries.
Bangkok from a rooftop bar.
Ayutthaya is a city North of Bangkok and is known for its ruins and temples. Back in the days, Ayutthaya was the capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and was once one of the richest cities in the world. After being raided by the Burmese, the people fled to what is now known as Bangkok. What is left is a historical park in the middle of the city of Ayutthaya and is absolutely worth the visit. There is a train that goes from Bangkok to Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai. If you are planning to head to the Northern parts of Thailand, you can easily combine this with a day trip to Ayutthaya. In the evening you can take the train to Chiang Mai.
The ruins of Ayutthaya.
Chiang Mai & Pai
Chiang Mai is a hugely popular city in the North of Thailand, thanks to its temples, food and location. From Chiang Mai, you can easily explore jungles or take a scenic motorbike ride known as the Mae Hong Son Loop. If you are planning to stay longer in the North, a great alternative city to visit is Pai, which is known for its laidback vibe. In order to get to Chiang Mai, you can take the night train from Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok. It’s recommended to stay at least three nights in Chiang Mai. If you are planning to do the Have Hong Son loop and stay in Pai, add a few extra nights to your planning.
One of many temples in Chiang Mai
Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Koh Samui
Are you a party-type traveller? Make sure to attend the full moon party at Koh Phangan. Every month, during the full moon, Haad Rin Beach transforms in one crazy beach party with over 20,000 party people covered in fluorescent paint and drinking buckets with liquor. Make sure you book a room at least three months in advance. Most hotels demand you stay at least three nights. The nights before the full moon party, there are several other parties available throughout the small island. Visiting either Koh Samui or Koh Tao before or afterwards is highly recommend as these islands are only an hour away by ferry and have much more to offer than Koh Phangan. Koh Tao is a popular destination to get your PADI license, while Koh Samui is commonly known as the honeymoon island, due to its luxurious resorts perfectly suitable for couples. You can check the dates of the full moon party on the Official website of the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan.
The full moon party at Koh Phangan.
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is an all-time favourite for many tourists when it comes to Thai islands thanks to its beauty. Koh Phi Phi is also known for getting hit by the tsunami back in 2004. Fully rebuild, Koh Phi Phi is popular than ever. Recommended activities are visiting Phi Phi Le National Park, snorkelling in Hat Yao, scuba dive, hike to Ao Lo Dalam, swim at Pileh Bay Lagoon and hike to the Viewpoint.
Koh Phi Phi
Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and due to its location in the south, close to several beautiful islands and national parks, a hugely popular destination. I would highly recommend staying in Phuket for at least five nights. If you haven’t booked your flight yet, you should take into consideration that you can also fly back from Phuket to your home country. This will save you at least one day of travelling. So instead of flying back to Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, you can fly back from Phuket International Airport.
Khao Sok can be visited from Phuket.
Koh Lanta gained a lot of popularity in the last years due to the fact that the island is still a bit undiscovered and not touristy at all. The island is known for its crystal clear waters, white beaches and laid-back atmosphere. Recommended activities are snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, relaxing and explore the island on a motorbike.
For a lot more amazing places, check out the Best Places to Visit in Thailand article.
To summarize: It's highly recommended to stick to two or three places in a period of two weeks. Make a choice, instead of rushing and visiting several places in such a short time. You want to avoid travelling days, so keep that to a minimum. Thailand is a large country and even though the transportation systems are modernized, you still have to accept that travelling takes a lot of time. In the next paragraph, I will dive deeper into how to get around in Thailand. Later on, I will give several itinerary examples for planning a trip to Thailand.
How to get around in Thailand?
The best ways to get around in Thailand are by train, plane, (night) bus and ferries. While there are other ways of transport available as well, including a minivan, I would highly recommend you stick to these four much safer ways of transportation.
Unfortunately, Thailand has one of the highest road traffic deaths in Asia, with 22,000 deaths per year. Taking or renting motorbikes, especially at high-speed traffic zones is incredibly dangerous and should at all times be avoided. The best way to get around in Thailand by train, plane or ferries. If there is no train or plane available, I would suggest you take the (night) bus. Avoid taking the minivan, as these often have reckless drivers and minivans getting into accidents on a regular base.
The most common ways of transportation when travelling through Thailand:
1. In Bangkok, you should use the MRT (subway) and the BTS (Skytrain). More details about traffic in Bangkok and Thailand can be found in our article about Bangkok Public Transport.
2. To get to Chiang Mai, it’s recommended to either take the train from Hua Lamphong to Chiang Mai or take a flight to Chiang Mai. If you are in Bangkok, you most likely you fly from Don Mueang, which is the airport that has the most domestic flights.
3. To get to Koh Samui, Koh Tao or Koh Phangan, you can fly to Koh Samui Airport and take the ferry to one of the other islands. Or, you can take the night train to Surat Thani. From Surat Thani, you take the ferry to the islands.
4. To get to Phuket, Koh Lanta and Phi Phi, I would recommend flying to Phuket. Alternatively, you can take a group minivan or bus from your destination. This all depends on your current location, but nowadays, plane tickets are cheap and save you a lot of time.
Khao Sok National Park is a highly recommended destination during your stay in Thailand. If you booked an accommodation in this national park, you most likely have the option to get picked up from Surat Tani by the accommodation. It’s always a good practice to ask the staff in advance how to get to the accommodation, at any destination.
What are the costs for a Thailand trip?
In general, you will most likely on average spend between 3,000 and 4,000 baht per day, which includes accommodation, transport, entertainment, food and drinks. Obviously, this totally depends on the type of tourist you are. In 2018, the average spending per tourist was around 150 dollars per day.
Accommodation (29% of your expenses on average)
Let’s dig deeper in these numbers. One of the largest expenses, besides the flight, are the accommodations. The cheapest form of accommodation in Thailand is sleeping at hostels. The concept is simple, you pay around 100 - 200 THB per night and you share a dorm and bathroom with a few fellow-travellers. A private room in hostels is in general three times more expensive. Then you have mid-range hotels. You will pay around 1,000 - 2,000 THB per night for a basic room, yet it has all the facilities you need for a good night sleep, such as a king-sized bed, air-conditioning and a private bathroom. Then there are the luxury hotels and the resorts. Especially in places like Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Samui, the sky is the limit, yet I do believe you can find a decent luxurious room for 3,500 THB per night.
- Hostels: 100 - 200 THB per night
- Private rooms at hostels: 300 - 500 THB per night
- Mid-range hotels: 1000 - 2,000 THB
- Luxurious hotels and resorts: 3,500+ THB
Moving around in Thailand is something that is unavoidable. I will summarize the larger expenses when it comes to transport and shall avoid low expenses like BTS-rides, taxis and songthaew-rides.
- Plane ticket from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: 800 - 1,000 THB (One-way)
- Train ticket from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: 1,200 THB (Second-class)
- Bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: 580 THB
- Plane ticket from Bangkok to Koh Samui: 2,500 THB (One-way)
- Plane ticket from Bangkok to Phuket: 800 THB (One-way)
- Ferry from Surat Thani to Koh Phangan: 210 THB
- Ferry from Krabi to Koh Lanta: 350 THB
One-way flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
For bus and train tickets, check 12GO.asia.
For plane tickets, check Skyscanner.com.
*All flight prices are checked at least two months in advance. Koh Samui is more expensive to fly to as Bangkok Airways is the only airline who is allowed to land there.
Entertainment (27% of your expenses on average)
Visiting temples, exploring a national park with a guide, attend a Muay Thai game, visit Thailands impressive show Siam Niramit, drink a cocktail on one of the sky bars Bangkok has to offer, getting your PADI license. All these fun activities come with a price. In order to give you better insight into these expenses, I listed the expenses of the most common activities.
- Visit a Muay Thai game in Bangkok at Rajadamnern Stadium: 1,000 THB
- PADI license in Koh Tao (3-day course): 10,000 THB
- A cocktail at Lebua Skybar in Bangkok: 800 THB
- Khao Sok National Park Day-Tour: 1,500 THB
- Entrance fee of Grand Palace in Bangkok: 500 THB
- Island tour in Koh Phi Phi: 750 THB
- Taking a cooking course: 1,000 THB
- Entrance fee of Wat Pho: 200 THB
- Entrance fee of multiple temples in Ayutthaya: 50 THB
- Entrance fee of Siam Niramit: 1,500 THB
Food and Drinks (20% of your expenses on average)
From street food to fine dining, in Thailand, you can get spoiled with the tremendous Thai cuisine on every budget level. Places such as Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Samui are in general more expensive than places like Chiang Mai or Ayutthaya. The best way to show this is by giving a comparison, which gives you automatically a good indication of the expenses when it comes to food and drinks in restaurants. These are average prices.
- Khao Soi in Bangkok vs. Khao Soi in Chiang Mai: 90 THB vs. 40 THB
- Pad Thai in Bangkok vs. Pad Thai in Chiang Mai: 120 THB vs. 70 THB
- Tom Yum Kung River Prawns in Bangkok vs. Chiang Mai: 350 vs. 290 THB
- Large beer in local restaurants in Bangkok vs. Chiang Mai: 90 THB vs. 75 THB
If you want to explore the local Thai cuisine, we highly recommend you trying our app called TopTravelFoods. The app is completely free. We created this app to let tourists find the best local food during their trip. As the majority of Thailand’s visitors don’t have knowledge about the local cuisine, we recommend the best food local restaurants in Thailand have to offer. The app is available for both iOS and Android. If you are on a strict budget, you can easily set your maximum budget and the app only shows the best dishes near you under your budget.
Our food app, TopTravelFoods
iOS: Download TopTravelFoods for iOS
Android: Download TopTravelFoods for Android
If you want to eat like a local, check out the following articles:
The Best Local Restaurants in Bangkok
The Best Local Restaurants in Ayutthaya
The Best Local Restaurants in Chiang Mai
What are examples of Thailand itineraries?
Assuming you are planning a trip to Thailand from a Western country, I give three examples of Thailand itineraries for a stay of two weeks. If you are planning to stay longer in Thailand, try to mix these itineraries together. I would only recommend you visiting both the North as the South of Thailand if you stay longer than three weeks in Thailand. This to avoid a too-packed schedule.
2-week Thailand itinerary examples:
Thailand itinerary example 1: Bangkok, Temples and Jungle
Day 1-4 Bangkok
Here you will visit the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun. Always keep in mind that you will arrive with a jet lag, or at least you are a bit exhausted from your flight. You will also visit markets such as Ratchada Train Market, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and Chatuchak Weekend Market. Bangkok is an amazing place to explore the Thai cuisine and I would highly recommend you visit one of the restaurants listed in our Best Local Thai Restaurants Article. In the evening, you can experience the crazy nightlife of Bangkok, see a Muay Thai match, explore Chinatown Bangkok or go on a cultural journey at Siam Niramit. Make sure to see Bangkok from one of the skyscrapers, for example at Skybar or visit the Mahanakhon Skywalk. For a full itinerary, check out our article about Bangkok Itineraries.
Day 5 Ayutthaya
Either you plan a day trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya or take the train with all your bags from Bangkok to Ayutthaya. You can store your bags at the train station, where it’s secured. Then, rent a bike and explore the ruins of Ayutthaya. Once you are done, in the late afternoon, take the train to Chiang Mai. If you plan to head back to Bangkok, I would recommend you take a flight to Chiang Mai, as it’s the fastest way and nowadays incredibly cheap. All details can be found in our Ayutthaya Day Trip article.
Day 6-12 Chiang Mai
In Chiang Mai, you can visit the Long Neck Tribe, go on Jungle Trekking, explore Doi Inthanon National Park, ride the Mae Hong Son Loop with a motorbike and visit an Elephant Nature Park. The contrast between Chiang Mai and Bangkok will be enormous, yet you will have plenty of time to explore each city and area. The purpose of your visit is clear, visit the chaotic, always brewing Bangkok and see the beautiful nature of Chiang Mai.
Day 13-14 Bangkok
Depending on your flight back to your home country, it’s always a good practice to stay one extra night in Bangkok. Perhaps you want to explore Bangkok’s crazy nightlife one more time or buy some amazing souvenirs at Chatuchak Weekend Market. Check out our article about Bangkok Nightlife or Khao San Road nightlife to be well-prepared for a night you never forget.
Thailand itinerary example 2: Bangkok, Beach Parties and Scuba Diving
Day 1-4 Exploring Bangkok
Similar to the first itinerary example, visit the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Chinatown, the markets and explore Bangkok’s crazy nightlife. But check the date for the Full Moon Party first. As you are going to Koh Tao, which is close to Koh Phangan, it’s highly recommended to attend this crazy party. Plan your trip around this event, so that you have the craziest beach party you’ve ever experienced. For the best markets, check out our articles about the best night markets in Bangkok and the best floating markets in Bangkok.
Day 5-12: Koh Phangan and Koh Tao
As mentioned earlier in this article, you have to be in Koh Phangan three days before the actual full moon party starts. During these days, there are parties such as the Waterfall Party and the Jungle Party organized on this island. After the full moon party, or before (depending on the date), you visit Koh Tao to get your PADI. Koh Tao is known for it’s laid back atmosphere and at the beach, you can find several bars that are packed with fellow-travellers in the evening.
Day 13-14 Bangkok
Depending on your flight back to your home country, it’s always a good practice to stay one extra night in Bangkok. Perhaps you want to explore Bangkok’s crazy nightlife one more time or buy some amazing souvenirs at Chatuchak Weekend Market.
Thailand itinerary example 3: Bangkok, Beautiful Islands and Phuket
Day 1-4 Exploring Bangkok
Similar to the first itinerary example, visit the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Chinatown, the markets and explore Bangkok’s crazy nightlife. You can take into consideration visiting Ayutthaya on a day trip from Bangkok. This way, you will still have experienced a bit of history of Thailand.
Day 5-14 Phuket, Khao Sok and Island Hopping
Nowadays, the tickets are so cheap that it’s so easy to fly to Phuket. From here, you can take boat trips to beautiful islands such as the James Bond Island or stay at Koh Phi Phi. I would recommend you also visit Khao Sok National Park. This is probably the most beautiful national park in Thailand. You can sleep on the lake or in a treehouse, take a jungle trekking for several days or just simply visit for one day. If you do want to sleep in Khao Sok, make sure to book in advance. As mentioned before in this article, you have the possibility to fly back to your country from Phuket International Airport. This will save you at least one travelling day.
Tips for your trip to Thailand
Take your vaccinations based on your doctor's advice. No need to ask the internet. Ask a specialist and take your shots. Simple as that.
It’s as simple as this: get proper travel insurance. Each year you hear stories in the news about tourists who are not insured and friends have started crowdfunding. You never want to be in this situation. You can get sick from infections or get injured in an accident. Thailand can be dangerous, so make sure you are prepared well. Also, you are usually not insured by your travel insurance when you rent a motorbike. Most of the times, you need an international drivers license for this. Ask your travel insurance agent for details.
Book in advance
Especially when you are on a two or three week trip to Thailand, it’s recommended to plan ahead and book in advance. If you are planning to stay 60 days in Thailand, it’s nearly impossible to make an accurate planning with advanced bookings. But even when you stay that long in Thailand and you want to experience the full moon party or sleep on a lake in Khao Sok National Park, you have to do some in advance bookings. Also, when you are planning to take the night train to Surat Thani to attend the full moon party, make sure that you get your train ticket on time, as this is one of the most popular train rides of the country.
Get a sim card
It’s very easy and cheap to get a 4G sim card in Thailand, which makes your life so much easier for obvious reasons. At Suvarnabhumi Airport, you will find a lot of shops who sell sim cards. But I would recommend buying a sim card at an official shop in one of the shopping centres in Bangkok. In almost every large shopping mall near one of the BTS Stations, you can find an official shop. In my own experience, AIS is the best provider.
Everywhere in the world, where there are tourists, there are scams. When people start to approach you on the streets, especially near tourist attractions, and asking where you are from and where you stay, your alarm bells should go off. Also, when people are offering you free tuk-tuk rides or free taxi rides, you should ignore these rides. Last, when strangers tell you that the attraction is closed and they want to take you somewhere else, again, ignore it. This all might seem very obvious, but scammers trick people every day.
Dress appropriately when visiting temples
When entering a temple, you always need to take off your shoes. Also, there are rules on how to dress: no tank tops, short skirts. Make sure that you cover your shoulders and knees. It is good practice to pack a scarf for women. Also, when you visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok, there are even stricter rules. The dress code and other rules for the Grand Palace can be found on the Offocial Website of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Dresscode at the Grand Palace.
The use of ATM’s
Using the ATM to get some Thai baht can costs you some money as you pay 220 THB per transaction on top of your lower currency rate and your own bank’s commission fee. You want to use the ATM as little as possible. It’s recommended to bring some cash from your home country if your country has a strong currency. The best place to change it into local currency is at a Super Rich Currency Exchange. You can find these exchanges throughout Bangkok, especially near BTS Stations and Shopping Malls. They give you the best rates of all currency exchanges in Bangkok. If you really are an early adopter, you can have look at the cryptocurrency Everex, which is specifically made for tourists in Thailand, claiming to have the friendliest way of foreign money transfers. It allows you get THB for the best rate on your account and you can take it out of the ATM without a card and without withdrawal fee.
There you have it, our complete guide to Planning A Trip To Thailand in 2020. As mentioned before, if you are looking for the best local food during your trip to Thailand, make sure to download our app. It’s completely free and helps you filter, find and navigate to the best food in Thailand.