Thailand is undoubtedly the most popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia. It attracts travellers from every corner of the world, and it’s easy to see why. Packed with white sand beaches, gorgeous islands, charming villages, cosmopolitan cities, temples, smiling locals, and some of the best food you’ll ever taste – it really has it all! Here are our travel tips for Thailand that will ensure you have the best experience possible.
Travel Guide for Thailand – 26 handy travel tips for Thailand
Buy a local SIM card when you arrive in Thailand, it will make travelling here so much easier. Many hotels and restaurants do offer free WIFI, but if you intend to explore the country, it’s much easier to have data. It’s inexpensive and the data options available are huge.
The convenience to reserve hotels on Booking.com on the go, using Google maps to navigate your way around, and booking a Grab/Uber is fantastic.
There are 3 major suppliers in Thailand: DTAC, True, and AIS. Travellers report that any of these providers is a good choice with good coverage.
You can pick up a SIM card from many of the larger airports in Thailand. The phone companies have small stalls in the arrivals hall and staff will set them up for you in minutes. You may pay a fraction more for your SIM card if buying it from the airport rather than downtown.
We use dtac SIM card in Thailand – good coverage and a good price. This is one of our 26 handy travel tips for Thailand.
If you’re unsure about what an eSIM actually is, this post may help you understand why it’s a good option to stay connected for all international travel.
2. Use filtered water dispensers
This is not only going to save you cash, but it is much better for the planet by reducing plastic waste. And that’s a good reason to add this to our travel tips for Thailand.
If you’re spending more than a few days in one place, look out for filtered water dispensers. Find these along the sides of the road and in front of shops and busy streets.
If you buy a 1.5L (14 baht) or even 5L (42 baht) bottle upon arrival from the convenience store, save them and refill them with filtered water.
NOTE: Living in Thailand long-term? It’s best to get your 20L drinking water delivered from a local water company.
3. Use Grab taxi to get around town
Grab is Asia’s alternative to Uber, and it’s a good way to get around in Thailand. Uber exists in Thailand, but Grab is much more common which means there are many more drivers operating on Grab.
The thing we like the most about Grab is the fixed distance-based fees. Essentially, it means that drivers can’t overcharge you for journeys.
Some busier cities such as Bangkok also have GrabBike. Hail a ride on the back of a scooter/motorbike to get to your destination cheaper and faster in congested traffic.
4. Withdrawal the maximum amount from ATMs to minimise fees
ATM fees in Thailand are ridiculous. Expect to pay no less than 220 THB (6.60 USD) per transaction. That’s some of the highest fees we’ve ever seen! Not to forget that this fee doesn’t include your home bank’s fee either.
We’ve checked ALL of the banks and ATMs in Thailand – it’s hard to avoid this fee unless you have a debit card that refunds these charges to you.
Before you leave home, maybe call your bank and ask for a withdrawal increase. You then have the option to withdraw more cash in one transaction to avoid paying multiple ATM fees – this is one of the best recommendations when it comes to our travel guide for Thailand and these travel tips for Thailand.
See more below…
5. Debit & credit cards
Try and plan ahead and sign up for a debit card that refunds all ATM fees and foreign transaction fees.
We use an ING Direct bank debit card when we travel – the best thing we ever did to save loads of money on international ATM and transaction fees.
We saved over $500 in bank fees last year and it costs us nothing to open a bank account with ING bank.
6. Use a self-service washing machine/dryer
Thailand is one of the best (and most affordable) countries to always have clean laundry.
If you have a little time, look for the self-service washing machines and dryers around every town – they’re super cheap and convenient.
The price is from 30 THB ($0.90c) to do a load of washing, the same for the dryer (or just hang your clothes in the sun on your balcony or in your room).
If you need washing powder, you can generally purchase this for 10 THB in the vending machine at the self-service laundromat.
That’s a good deal – a load of washing cleaned and dried for around USD $2.00.
Alternatively, if you don’t have the time to do your own laundry, you can drop it at many little shops around town and they will do it for you. Prices start from 30 THB per/kg if you go to one of the smaller streets.
Expect to pay around 50 THB per/kg if you drop it at one of the places on any main busy street.
If you drop it off in the morning, you might receive it back at the end of the day, but generally, it’s a 24-hour service. They’ll dry it, fold it and place it in a neat plastic bag for pick up.
Don’t be surprised if you’re missing a few socks or pieces of underwear – it happens.
7. Travel during low season
Thailand’s low season starts from around the beginning of May to the end of October. It may be rainy, hot, or even both, but this time of year is when we like to travel here.
The reason for this? Small hotels, guesthouses, and Airbnb rentals are much lower, with fewer people and crowds and in our experience, the weather still feels perfect for the beach.
We find excellent-priced hotels and apartments on Hotellook.
8. Use landmarks to navigate your way around
It’s better to use landmarks, rather than addresses to get around in Thailand. There are so many small streets and areas that sometimes don’t show up on google maps.
If you need to catch a taxi or tuk-tuk to your hotel, try to remember the name of the nearest temple or major landmark to tell your driver.
We recommend that you pin your accommodation provider’s address on your google map so you can also help your driver get there if need be.
TIP: Another great navigation App to download to your phone is called Maps. Me. It works offline and is a great tool to use all over the world.
9. Travel with carry-on bags and pack light
Our best advice for travel in Thailand is to pack light! The climate here is warm and tropical, so you’ll likely be living in shorts, singlets, and swimwear most of the time. Sure, in the cooler season you will need a light jacket – but that’s about it.
If you intend to explore the country, a carry-on backpack such as Osprey 40L Farpoint (what we use to travel the entire world) is perfect. Alternatively, you can still be a carry-on traveller with a suitcase.
10. Eat from the street food vendor with the longest line
Our best travel tip in Thailand is this one, so here it is. Enjoying the food is one of the best things about a trip to Thailand. Thai people love to eat- and better yet, they love to cook.
The bonus for us is that they’re very good at it, and it’s super affordable! You’ll be told by travellers who have been to Thailand before – that street food is often the best choice.
When you’re trying to find the best street food in Thailand, choose the vendor with the longest queue of locals. This often indicates that the food will be cooked fresh and a safe bet that it tastes delicious too.
The abundance of fresh tropical fruit in Thailand is amazing! You can find fresh fruit smoothies everywhere here. They’re fresh, affordable, and healthy (they often add sugar syrup to make it taste better, but you can ask them to leave it out).
Our favourite is the mango smoothie, the perfect way to cool down on a hot day.
Marty with a mango smoothie
Another one of our favourite drinks in Thailand – is natural coconut water! For less than a dollar, they’ll cut a hole in the top of a large chilled coconut for you – so good!
12. Carry small packets of tissues and hand sanitiser
Restrooms and public bathrooms don’t always provide toilet paper – so it’s best to be prepared and have a small pocket-sized pack of tissues on hand.
As with travelling in many parts of the world, hand sanitiser is always a good choice to have with you. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use sanitiser before eating to kill any bacteria on your hands to avoid getting ill.
13. Use your bargaining skills!
Never take the first price you’re offered in Thailand when shopping at outdoor markets! Like many countries in Asia, shopping often involves a lot of haggling. Many travellers don’t enjoy bargaining for the best price but remember that the vendor won’t sell to you unless they’re making a profit.
A good place to start is to offer around 40-50% less than the asking price.
I recommend checking prices from a few different stalls first. Try not to seem too interested in the item before you start bargaining. Decide what you are willing to pay for something before you make an offer.
Be polite, yet firm – it should be an enjoyable experience. If they don’t want to accept your offer, use the ‘walk-away method. If they don’t call you back to accept your offer, you’ve bargained too hard.
Practice makes perfect, and you can just go to another stall to try again.
14. Book in advance for festivals or popular holidays
If you’re planning on going to a music festival, a famous holiday celebration like Songkran or even a full-moon party, you should reserve your accommodation in advance.
If given the choice, overland travel is how I choose to travel in many countries around the world. This option is often considerably cheaper than taking short flights.
Thailand is a little different – domestic air travel is usually cheap, easy, and convenient.
It can be time-consuming and uncomfortable travelling on overnight freezing buses or trains. Consider that many buses have to stop in Bangkok for longer trips and take into account meals and snacks for the journey.
It really depends on your destination, but checking the cost difference between taking a bus/train or getting a budget flight can save you time and energy.
The cheapest flights can be found on budget airlines – Nok Air, Air Asia, Thai Lion Air, and Thai Viet Jet. We find that the best aggregator site to search all these airlines is Aviasales.
Most of these budget airlines fly from Don Muang (DMK) airport and Viet Jet flies from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) in Bangkok. Be mindful of this when making reservations.
16. Go to smaller side streets for a traditional Thai massage
In my experience, the best and most traditional Thai massages are always better (and cheaper) if you explore the small side streets (soi). I always choose a quiet place or one that doesn’t have the ladies beckoning me to come inside from the steps outside.
A Thai massage is supposed to be a quiet, calming environment with privacy. It’s important to me that the place I’ve chosen offers clothes (loose Thai pants/top) for me to change into before the massage begins. At the completion of the massage, it’s always a nice touch when you’re offered some warm tea.
I hope you’re enjoying these travel tips in Thailand, let’s keep going!
17. Take a sleeper train
If you’re travelling between Chiang Mai and Bangkok, and you can’t find any cheap budget flights on Aviasales– this overnight sleeper train is a great option.
Budget travellers will love that you save on a night of accommodation, and it’s a comfortable journey too.
18. Ladies – bring a light scarf & sarong
If you’re hoping to discover Thai culture during your visit (you should be, it’s beautiful), then you’ll likely be visiting a few temples.
For ladies, it’s important to know that almost all temples require that your legs and shoulders must be covered upon entry.
Thailand has a tropical climate, so it’s not likely that you want to be walking around in long pants/tops all day. No problem, just pack a light scarf to cover your shoulders (over your sleeveless shirt is ok) and a sarong to wrap around your waist (over your shorts is fine) when entering any temple.
Once you exit the temple, you can remove them and put them back into your day bag.
19. Family Mart and 7/11 have everything!
These convenience stores are everywhere, and you’ll quickly learn to love them! You can pick up almost anything here, from small toiletries, cheap beers or whiskey, hot food, instant pot noodles, and snacks to take on travel days.
My favourite snacks are the triangle rice handrolls filled with teriyaki salmon and wrapped in fresh nori (27 baht). The cheese and ham toasted sandwich ((20 baht), which they grill for you on the spot once purchased is good too!
20. Get off the tourist trail
Thailand is definitely a popular tourist destination, but there are still charming villages, small islands, and hidden spots that are still off-the-tourist trails.
You should try and visit some of these places during your visit to get a different perspective of Thailand away from the crowds.
My recommendations are to visit Ko Muk, Ko Ngai and Ko Libong.
21. Buy fresh fruit from the markets
As I mentioned before, tropical fruit is widely available here. It’s so good and very affordable. Keep an eye out for the busiest fruit vendors in town, you know the one where all the locals shop. They know where to buy the freshest fruit at the best prices.
Many fruit shops cut-up fresh fruit packs for take-away, all day long. This is so convenient, and perfect if you want to pick up a freshly cut batch of mangoes to go and eat on the beach for around $2.
22. Pack an umbrella and a poncho
During the rainy season in Thailand – when it rains, it pours! Bring a small collapsable umbrella to pop into your day bag (which will double as sun cover when it’s super strong outside).
You’re likely to hire a scooter during your time here, it’s a great way to get around. You should get a poncho for when that rain will simply not stop and you need to get home. A poncho is very cheap to buy in Thailand and I guarantee it will serve you well.
Sunblock is ridiculously expensive in Thailand, so try and bring some with you. If you must make a purchase, just try and stick to brands that you know (Nivea, Banana Boat, etc) as many other brands often contain whitening agents.
23. Bring a GoPro
Thailand has some amazing marine life and underwater adventures to be had. If you have a GoPro, bring it along to capture it all.
If you don’t own one yet – what are you waiting for? CLICK HERE for the best deal on the latest GoPro.
24. Choose accommodation best suited to you
Booking.com – So many options! A fantastic resource for reserving a place to sleep. What is nice is you can often pay in full, or just reserve your spot without any credit card needed. This can be great for price comparisons. You never know where you’ll find the cheapest deal.
Agoda– When you’re after accommodation that is a little extra special, this is the place you need to check out! Agoda have the best selection and very competitive rates all over the world, particularly in Asia. Another bonus is that their website is very user-friendly.
Hotellook – This is my favourite site for a huge range of accommodation options in Thailand. It searches the best prices from all the major booking websites and gives you the results. You can reserve entire apartments or villas for bargain prices!
25. Lonely Planet guidebook
There are certain destinations that Lonely Planet cover really well in terms of updated information. These Thailand guidebooks are fantastic. This guidebook covers detailed information about the entire country, and this guidebook focuses more on just Thailand’s beaches.
Lonely Planet books are full of practical information on how to get around, where to stay, suggested itineraries, the latest prices and foodie tips for travel in Thailand and its beaches.
You can also purchase the online version if you prefer.
26. Comprehensive travel insurance is important
As the saying goes – If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel. I think this is especially true when traveling in any country in South East Asia.
Things don’t always go to plan and it feels good to have a reputable travel insurance provider have your back.
🚌 Transportation: To book trains,Trainline is the best and cheapest website. To book transport in Europe, USA & Canada, we useOmio & FlixbusUS. For travel in Asia, we use 12Go.For all other countries, we use BookaWay to compare and book Bus, Ferry, or train tickets to get around.
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Rach is a self-confessed travelling foodie. Her passion for food and culture has seen her eat her way through 190 countries. She's currently on a big food adventure to visit EVERY country in the world!
When Rach isn't travelling, you can find her at the beach, drinking coffee or wine with friends or chowing down on the best eats around her home city of Melbourne, Australia.