Complete Guide to Planning Your Dream Trip to Thailand

written by local expert Anna Faustino

Anna is a co-founder of Adventure in You and has been traveling the world for the last 9 years. She has spent time living in Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, and Spain and is our local expert in these areas. Her expertise on travel, gear, and building businesses have been featured on Foundr, Business Insider, Yahoo Travel, and more.

Thinking of traveling to Thailand but not sure how to start planning? Planning a getaway to Thailand is easier than you think. First, imagine yourself lying on a hammock set in between palm trees with a coconut in hand. The sun is blazing and the water is crystal clear.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, between its many beautiful beaches, delicious local food, and the warm friendly people, Thailand has a lot to offer. Here are some tips on how to plan your next holiday to Thailand.

Thai Visas… What You Need to Know

Thai Visas are relatively easy to obtain. Most of it is available upon arrival, or if coming from an ASEAN country, you get a free 30-day visa. For those that are planning to stay longer, consider applying for a 6 month visa in the Thai embassy in your home country before leaving.

This will save you from having to leave the country every 30 days. Most countries nowadays will ask for proof of an onwards flight exiting the country to consider this as the airport staff can refuse your entry.

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Travel Insurance

Coming from someone who has been traveling the world for the last 8 years AND has been in the hospital 2x, travel insurance is something everyone NEEDS to get. Get a quote below!

What to Pack

Take a look at our tried and tested Thailand packing list featuring everything that we recommend taking with you during your trip.

Travel Insurance

Obviously not required but we recommend it. Thailand is home to some of the best scuba diving in the south and best motorbike rides in the north, so travel insurance is generally a good idea.

World Nomads cover a lot of adventure activities while Safety Wing is great for frequent travelers as they have monthly plans.

Whatever you do, make sure that you have the right insurance policy that will cover you for all the activities that you decide to do. Most insurance policies won’t cover you for motorcycle accidents if you don’t have a valid bike license at home so be cautious of that clause.

Editor’s Note: Check out our Full Thailand Travel Guide featuring our top tips

Where to Go and What to See in Thailand

When traveling on a limited time, do your research beforehand and plan which places you really want to see during your holiday. Book your flights in advance to get the best deals and make a list based on things you want to do.

Interested in island hopping? Possibly doing your scuba diving certification? Or maybe immersing yourself in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok’s organized chaos. For a relatively small country, there are loads of activities and things to do. Make a shortlist and plan your route according to what you want to see and do.

Insider Tip: Look into the schedule of holidays and big celebrations such as Songkran (a really awesome water festival) and Loy Krathong and try to fit it in your trip. There are also the monthly full moon festivals to look out for.

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This crazy city is bound to be your first destination upon arrival in Thailand. Bangkok is loud, busy, vibrant, and full of energy. There are temples, shopping areas, and pretty much everything that you can imagine under the sun. Visit the famous Wat Pho and the Grand Palace.

Shop in the widely diverse Chatuchak weekend market or many malls and eat some delicious street food available all over the city. As for street food, our general rule of thumb, the more local the better! Be wary though as food in Thailand can get spicy! Not sure what to eat? Check out our guide on what to eat in Thailand.

Read: 32 Incredible Things to do in Bangkok

temple in Bankok

Northern Thailand- Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Pai!

If the hustle and bustle of Bangkok is getting to be too much for you, move on over to cities in the Northern part of Thailand. Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Pai are a few of my favorite destinations. Make the most out of the mountains in Northern Thailand and indulge in a few days of epic Chiang Rai, and Pai are a few of my favorite destinations.

Make the most out of the mountains in Northern Thailand and indulge in a few days of epic trekking, white water rafting, and other adventurous activities. Just plan ahead and avoid doing this during Thailand’s burning season!

The White Temple in Chiang Rai is a sight to see while Chiang Mai is a big cultural hub for wanders and digital nomads alike. A lot of tourists flock to the Tiger temple in Chiang Mai, an activity we strongly discourage as tTigersers are often drugged up and mistreated.

Be warned that even if these places have the words sanctuary or rescue center on it, a lot of them are still exploiting the animals, which is the case for a lot of elephant “sanctuaries” in Thailand. Do your research if you really must see them, or better yet-just avoid any activity which involves animals.

Insider Tip: Rent a motorbike and ride the Mae Hong Son Loop for a scenic drive around Northern Thailand. This trip may take a couple of days depending on how fast or slow you want to go. The scenery is amazing and is definitely worth doing if you have time.

temples in northern Thailand

The Thai Islands

Between the many islands to choose from, there is no shortage of beautiful beaches and underwater life in Thailand. Head over to Koh Tao to do your Open Water Scuba Diving Course or even better, why not go diving with Bull Sharks in Koh Phangan.

Popular places to visit are Koh Samui, Koh Lanta and of course, Koh Phangan for the full moon parties- just remember to party responsibly and clean up after yourselves. We personally prefer the quieter islands without the many crowds which is still possible to find! The Similan Islands are supposed to be a haven for divers and is a place to check out if you want to get your underwater fix.

The Thai Islands are also well-known for some of the best yoga retreats in Thailand.

A boat moored at the Thai Islands

Looking for Adventurous Things to do while on the Thai Islands? Check out these adventure reviews!

Food in Thailand

Thailand is the holy grail of good food where everywhere you go serves delicious cheap meals! If you are in large cities like Bangkok or Chiang Mai, you also have access to a ton of Western meals so you are spoilt for choice.

If you want to learn more about Thai cuisine, you can also take cooking classes all over Thailand. Here are some of our top picks!

View Cooking Classes in Thailand

Getting Around Thailand 

Transportation is one thing that you don’t need to worry about in Thailand as getting from point A to point B is easily arranged through your hostel, hotel, or neighborhood travel agent…and believe me, there is no shortage of them in Thailand!

Buses are cheap and convenient with many routes to different places while train travel is also a good way to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Remember book your flights in advance to get the best deals!

Transportation: We recommend downloading the Skyscanner App and using Bookaway or 12Go website to view bus, boat, and train schedules ahead of time. We’ve used these websites all over Asia and it saves us the hassle of lining up in travel agencies or bus stations.

A tuk tuk parked on the side of the road

Sa Wat Dee What?

Do yourself a favor and learn some basic Thai while you’re there. Although English is widely spoken, especially since Thailand is built up for tourists, it still won’t hurt to learn some basic phrases. Learn how to say hello, thank you, and other salutations will not only bring a smile to your trusty Pad Thai vendor but is also a sure way to earn some extra street cred.

Related: Basic Thai for Travelers: Essential Phrases You Need to Know

Hello & Good Bye Sa-wat dee (kha,krab)
Thank you Khorb koon
How much? Gee baht
Where is ……? ……. yoo tee nai
I don’t want Mai tong gaan
Sorry Khor toat
Not Spicy Mai Ped

Cost of Traveling Thailand

Budget Backpacking is at its best in Thailand as there are so many reasonably priced, if not cheap accommodations available everywhere. You can generally easily survive on $25-30 a day, which covers your accommodation, food, and one or two beers at night.

The food in Thailand is delicious and cheap and is one of my favorites in the entire South East Asia! (One dollar Pad Thai’s for the win!)

So there it is! Whether you plan on spending your time sitting on a beach sipping cocktails, going on hikes, or exploring temples, Thailand has a little bit of everything for everybody. 

Traditional Thai food

Read on about other exciting activities to do in Thailand

Inspired? Pin it! Here is the complete guide on how to plan your dream trip to Thailand. Tips on where to go, what to do, and where to stay!

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27 thoughts on “Complete Guide to Planning Your Dream Trip to Thailand”

  1. This is amazing! I have been twice before years ago. Never in Sept/Oct and have some questions for anyone who has lived there or been to Andaman islands- I really wanna go to ko Chang, krabi, and koh lanta, but nervous about heavy rain, monsoon, and ruff water. I will be there very end of sept /first 12 days Oct. Any advice??

    • Hi @alissabennett:disqus tbh, the weather keeps changing month on month. Even the locals are a bit perplexed with the weather conditions. October to November are the wettest months but since you’re heading there early Oct. I think it should be fine. Sorry, I know that wasn’t much help! Those islands are BEAUTIFUL btw. 🙂

      • Oh wow, thought Sept was the wettest. I guess weather is always unpredictable, just want to plan accordingly and be safe. One forum I read said not to come to koh Chang Sept oct but all the others describe it epicly with no mention of the seasons. Also heard long boats in krabi may not go out if rainy. Guess what id love to hear from people with experience or locals, is can/should I still go to those particular islands on top of my bucket list and take my chances, or adjust and research some other parts of the country to go (already planning a week in chaing mai/pai ), not as enticed to go to koh tao or samui or phangan, thx!

  2. I am obsessed with Thailand. Obsessed. The food is amazing, the people are incredibly friendly, the landscapes are unreal – what’s not to love? This is a great guide for anyone thinking about traveling to Thailand – if you’re considering it, GO!!!

  3. Well I love thai fool so I would already be off to a great start. Those picture with the turquoise water looks unreal. Wow. I love the architecture too, so different. Thailand is high on my to go to list…

  4. This is a brilliant article! I love that you’ve included useful words and a budget. Do you think after the recent death of the King travelling in Thailand will change?

  5. You are so right about learning a few phrases. They go a long way in making you feel welcome. The food is not expensive and delicious!! Love Bangkok, a great city and one that we will be going back to visit. Indeed, there is lot’s to do in Thailand!!!

  6. I like that you included some language tips. It’s always wise to learn a few phrases, but I thought it was especially important in Thailand. It’ll get you far.

  7. The best thing we did in Thailand was take a Thai cooking class. Now we have recipes and can make some of our favorite delicious Thai dishes at home. I’d definitely recommend that is an activity you do, especially if you’re a foodie or enjoy cooking!

  8. This is a handy planning guide. I’m heading to Phuket for 12 days in March – I usually go to Koh Samui but I thought I’d revisit Phuket and maybe some islands around there. I can’t wait.

  9. Awwww we miss Thailand a lot. Bangkok is one of our favourite places on the planet – best gay scene ever. Can’t wait to return. Have pinned to one of our fav Southeast Asia boards.

  10. I’ve been to Thailand once and no immediate plans to go back but if I ever make it back, I want to visit the islands for sure. There was poor weather when we were there so I’d just have to schedule better than last time 🙂

  11. The islands were always my favorite. Most are so peaceful and absolutely gorgeous! I definitely need to go back asap!

  12. Somehow, I missed the White Temple in Chiang Rai on my way to Chiang Mai and I keep seeing these great pictures show up so I definitely need to go back to Thailand. Great article that covers all the bases!

  13. I love love love Thailand – can’t wait to return one day! it’s such an easy country to travel within – my favourite was the beautiful beaches but I also enjoyed my time in Bangkok and Chiang Mai! Great guide for Thailand newbies 🙂

  14. What a great post full of all the essential information any person going to Thailand would need. Being Australian i know plenty of people who have been to thailand its like our most popular destination. My sister in law is even Thai. Hence for that reason i have not been to Thailand too many Aussie but it looks beautiful

  15. Oh my! I want to go back to Thailand right away! I loved the mountains in Chaing Mai and the beaches of the islands in the south – and the hubub of Bangkok in the middle! And don’t even get me started on the food. YUM! Great guide and awesome summary for first timers – thanks guys!

  16. Great info about visiting Thailand. We are planning on visiting the region later in the year. Looking forward to the delicious food and attractions. Thanks for the heads up about the tigers and elephants! Great tips. Thanks 🙂

  17. Wow, I’d love to do be able to do that! Rent a motorbike and go around to discover Thailand. The only thing is that I’m not so good discovering new places by myself. I’d feel more comfortable having a guide. I’ve never been to Asia and this culture seems so strange to me, I don’t think I could go around by myself.

  18. Great basic info on traveling around Thailand. I certainly long for the bowls of delicious, rice noodle stir fries We loved the street food in Bangkok and never had any health issues. Perfect meals for around $1. Hard to beat that. Certainly can’t find those kind of deals here in Europe, that’s for sure!

  19. Nicely laid out. I am glad that you discourage folks from the tiger and elephant attractions, what a cruel thing to do to animals. It has been quite a few years since we visited Thailand, we hit all of the popular places that you mention and I found knowing a few basic phrases helped out immensely. Our favorite area was up in the north around Chiang Mai, although the islands and the beaches are wonderful!


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