Thailand has everything. The list of attractions and reasons to visit is well-documented, with its beaches, jungles, ruined cities, exotic islands, superb cuisine and dramatic cities all rightly feted. Whether you’re after rest and relaxation, a dose of culture, adrenaline adventure or a little bit of everything, Thailand won’t disappoint. Away from the clichés of the Khao San Road, the country is a vibrant, friendly place to spend time that welcomes and accommodates everyone.
What to see
Hectic, humid and a hundred miles an hour, Bangkok is a place you have to throw yourself into. Absorb the sights, smells and sensations of street life then take refuge in the stunning Wat Po to see the giant reclining Buddha, the opulent Grand Palace to admire the golden stupas or Jim Thompson’s House to encounter traditional textiles and carvings.
Historic walled city that’s a world away from the hurly burly of Bangkok, featuring more then 300 beautiful wats, including the ancient Wat Phra That Doi Suthep overlooking the city, and a vibrant night market where you can pick up handicrafts and street food.
Scenic riverside town that draws wildlife enthusiasts and history fans aware of its role in the Bridge over the River Kwai story. You can now kayak the famous river or explore the surrounding jungle on the back of an elephant.
Phuket The country’s most famous beach resort with accommodation and attractions to suit all.
Scenically sited town close to the Myanmar border home to various ethnic groups and a great base for trekking and cycling trips in the region.
Historic southern town popular with Thais that has tree-fringed beaches and boasts the country’s best Hokkein coffee.
Remnants of a once great city that has 200 ruins full of devotional art, sculpture and carvings spread over a vast area of jungle, that is still off the beaten path and blissfully quiet.
A stunning playground where karst limestone cliffs rear out of the sea and all sorts of adventure activities are on offer. Climbers flock here for the ascents with special views.
Top experiences / sites of particular interest
World Heritage Site dotted with historic ruins from a golden era that is all that are left of the kingdom that once ruled the central plains.
Khao Yai National Park
A reasonably accessible monsoon wilderness, home to elephants and several species of monkey as well as spectacular waterfalls.
Khao Sok National Park
Dense jungle area offering otherworldly treks and some decent wildlife spotting opportunities.
Koh Phi Phi
Idyllic islands off the west coast that starred in The Beach but are even better in the flesh. Limestone cliffs loom above clear waters providing the perfect place to relax.
Koh Pha Ngan
Home of the legendary Full Moon party, bohemian revellers descend on Haad Rin Beach to party hard.
Less-visited island that’s worth the extra effort to get to in order to savour the white sand beaches, mangroves, coral gardens and slower pace of life as well as dive off the famous Hin Daeng and Hin Muang pinnacles.
Launch point for live-aboard and dive boats bound for the Similan and Surin Islands.
When to go
Weather & Seasons: Thailand has a changeable climate with monsoon rains lashing the country from June to October. From March to May it is particularly hot and humid, making the months November to February the best times to visit.
Important Dates and Festivals: There are countless festivals and events to coincide your visit with. Thai New Year, Songkhran, held in April, is the most exuberant festival with water fights and partying. The ten night River Kwai Bridge Festival in Kanchanaburi features moving sound and light shows that recount the dramatic events and Japanese wartime atrocities.
Getting there / around
Flights:There are international airports close to Bangkok (BKK), Chiang Mai (CNX) and Phuket (HKT). The internal network of domestic flights is widespread and efficient.
Road: There is also a reliable and extensive road and rail network that means accessing all parts of the country is reasonably straightforward.
Bus: Buses run regularly, car hire is available in all major towns and there are a host of tuk tuk and moto-taxi options for exploring urban areas.
Short Trips: With so much to see and do, if you’ve only got a short amount of time you’ll have to be selective. Cram in a little more by flying between destinations. This way, in two weeks you can check out Bangkok, hop to Ko Samui or Phuket for the tropical beach resorts before flying up to Chiang Mai to explore the calmer, culture-filled north.
3 Weeks: In three weeks you can take in a host of the country’s best beaches, exploring both sides of the peninsula by setting off for the Gulf Islands of Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui from Surat Thani, then bussing across to Phuket in order to sail to Koh Phi Phi. Another bus will take you to Krabi, the jumping off point for Koh Lanta.
Longer Trips: In four weeks you can combine most of these experiences, travelling overland and stopping more frequently to take in the highlights such as Ayuthaya, Khao Yai and Sukothai in the north and Khao Sok in the south as well.
Off the Beaten Track: To get away from all the crowds give yourself three weeks and use Chiang Mai as a base to explore the mountains, jungle and hill tribes that line the border between Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
Overall Country Guides: Backpackers and people looking to put together an itinerary from scratch should pick up theRough Guide or Footprint Handbook. People looking for a more visual introduction or more in the way of inspiration should try the Eyewitness or Insight Guides, the Lonely Planet Thailand Discover Guide, Footprint's Thematic Guide to Thailand. Berlitz produces a Thailand Pocket Guide.
Islands: Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and Eyewitness also have guidebooks to Thailand’s Islands and Beaches.
City Guides: There are comprehensive Bangkok city guides available from Time Out, Rough Guides and Lonely Planet, whilst Time Out, Eyewitness, Insight, Frommer's and Thomas Cook produce pocket-sized condensed guidebooks.
Other Areas:Luxe have a guide to Chiang Mai. Phuket is covered by Lonely Planet and Insight.
Country Maps: There are good whole country maps of Thailand available from Reise Know-How and Insight.
Sectional Maps: There are sectional maps of Thailand Southern, Thailand Northern and Thailand North Eastern and Thailand Central and Eastern available from ThinkNet, who also produce Chiang Mai and Nearby Provinces and Phuket and Nearby Provinces. ITMB produces Thailand South & Phuket.
Street Maps: Street plans of Bangkok are available from Nancy Chandler,Berlitz , Borch and Insight . Chiang Mai is mapped as a street plan by Periplus.
Thailand, A Short History is a good general introduction to the country. Bangkok, A Cultural and Literary History from Signal Books is a decent overview of this overwhelming, confusing capital.
The Backpacker by John Harris reads like a high octane novel but is based on the author’s own experiences of travelling.
Thai food is excellent and varied – try tom yam , coconut-milk soup with ginger, lemon grass and either chicken or prawns, gang pet , hot red curry, or kaeng dhiaw , a milder green curry.
Big bottles of Singha or Chang beer are good value and both Mekhong and SamSong whiskey are palatable, if potent.
Sight & Sound
Music: Throughout Thailand you’ll encounter a wide selection of sounds, from the serene court music that accompanies classical dance to the rib-rattling beats of the big dance clubs. Look tung is Thailand’s version of country and western and mor lam equates to the blues.
Film: Most people’s cinematic introduction to Thailand is The Beach, which showcases the country’s beaches and scenery before taking a twist. The Bridge over the River Kwai is the haunting film adaptation of Pierre Boulle’s book.
ThaiLanguage Books:Pick up Lonely Planet’s Thai Phrasebookor Berlitz’s Thai Phrase Bookto get by.
Thai bhat (BT).
UK and US citizens do not require a visa to enter the country.
Cholera, Diptheria, Hep A, Rabies, Typhoid and Yellow Fever vaccinations are recommended. Malaria is also present in parts of the country.
Safety, FO travel advice
Generally safe apart from opportunistic scams. The border territory with Myanmar can be less stable though. Political disruption in 2010 caused Bangkok to become the scene of street battles for a while but the situation is now stable and things have returned to normal.
Useful Telephone Numbers
Thai country representatives can be found at
in the UK 29-30 Queen’s Gate, London, SW7 5JB. Tel:- 020 7589 2944.
and in the US at1024 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 401, NW, Washington, DC 20007, Tel:- 202 944 3600.
There is a tourist board in the UK at Brook House, Third Floor, 98-99 Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6EE. Tel:- 0207925 2512
and in the US at 61 Broadway, Suite 2810, New York, NY 10006. Tel:- 212 432 0433.
For more information visit www.britishembassy.gov.uk/thailand, www.tourismthailand.org, www.onestopthailand.com, or www.bangkok.thailandtoday.com.
Choose from Stanfords' specially selected range of destination-led fiction from around the world, where the country or city the story is set in plays a major role or appears almost as a character, allowing you to get a vivid impression of what it is like whilst getting caught up in a riveting read. Visit Graham Greene's Vietnam, Haruki Murakami's Japan, Ian McEwan's England or Salman Rushdie's India and allow these novelists to bring a place to life for you.
As well as destination guidebooks for all parts of the world, search here to see Stanfords' wider selection of titles, including accommodation guides, sporting and activity books, food and drink guides and other thematic material that will add to your trip, whatever your interest or hobby.
The range of maps and atlases from Stanfords is unrivalled across the world. We have maps to every destination imaginable, for every kind of trip you’re planning to make – from cycling routes and hiking maps to city street plans and road atlases. Or maybe you prefer them as decoration – we have a wide variety of wall maps too.
Choose from our selection of road maps and atlases for your regional or cross country route planning or arm chair travelling from Kent to Kansas and Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. We have a large amount of stock from overseas suppliers which is not readily available elsewhere in the U.K.
Find your way around town and get from A to B on those city breaks with our choice of street maps and atlases to the four metropolitan corners of the world. An extensive range of our stock is sourced from overseas, offering you a wider choice of street maps and atlases to choose from.
Whether you're travelling to Afghanistan or Zimbabwe, Aachen or Zurich, Stanfords has the destination covered. Choose from the wide selection of publishers we stock to ensure that you select the guidebook most appropriate for your requirements, whether you are after comprehensive coverage from a big name brand or a specialist title from an expert in that area.
Be inspired by Stanfords' substantial selection of travel writing and classic literature books. From early epic adventures to contemporary tales, from personal anecdotes and memoirs to historical accounts, humorous tales and journeys of discovery, we have hundreds of titles covering almost all the world, which make fascinating reading.
Our range of flat wall maps encompasses world physical and political maps in a variety of presentations; country, continent and region and city wide cartography in a range of formats; as well as thematic, panoramic, specialised, scientific and stylised presentations alongside children’s maps and novelty products such as wall paper. .