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Travel Guide: Thailand

In Travel by Continental StaffLeave a Comment

While one of the world’s most exciting major cities, Bangkok, might be enough to entice visitors, Thailand also offers historic temples, rugged mountains, and idyllic islands that just about steal the show.

When to go to Thailand

In Thailand, the seasons generally come in three varieties. There’s rainy (June-November), cool (November-February), and hot (March-May). Keep in mind that ‘cool’ is a relative term and temperatures will rarely fall below 20 Celsius (except in the north where it may get cold at night). The rainy season is the one you need to watch out for, as flooding can make some rural regions impassable. The cool season is often the busiest for islands and beaches, so keep that in mind when booking accommodation.

thailand map southeast asia indochina

How to get around Thailand

You have a variety of options when it comes to getting around Thailand. Bus service is comprehensive and affordable while trains offer slower but scenic routes between some major destinations. You can always rent a car to explore at your own pace, while taxis and tuk-tuks can get you around cities like Bangkok (although you should be prepared to haggle).

Visit Thailand

Bangkok | Chiang Mai | Chiang Rai | The Islands | Kanchanaburi | Khao Sok National Park

Bangkok

bangkok city thailand river cityscape dusk

We’ll get the elephant in the room out of the way first: Bangkok. The biggest city in Thailand offers so much to see and do (and then some) that we can’t even come close to covering it all here. Bustling markets, some of the world’s best food, a renowned and infamous nightlife, and a sizable selection of famous tourist sights will greet you upon arrival – ensuring that you’ll be entertained through the duration of your stay. Bangkok can be overwhelming when it comes to crowds, pollution, and traffic – but if you can get past that you’ll get to experience one of the most exciting and authentic major cities in the world.

Chiang Mai

chiang mai temple festival eating people night

The most important city in Northern Thailand (and the region around it) serves as a multi-faceted destination for anyone who makes the trek up here. Considering it is a popular tourist destination, the city is miraculously laid back and relaxed – serving as a great counterpoint to anyone who wants an escape from the sometimes overwhelming bustle of Bangkok. There is still quite a bit to see here – not least the many temples found throughout the city. That being said, Chiang Mai still isn’t the most exciting of cities – but that’s part of the appeal. The mountainous setting is home to a great selection of trails that will appeal to budding adventures of all skills and ages.

Chiang Rai

chiang rai temple rural country fields mountains

Not to be confused with its fellow northern city above, Chiang Rai (and once again, the area around it) does more than enough to earn a spot for itself on this list. Much like Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northernmost city offers a healthy, if not overwhelming amount of sights and sounds. Stunning temples, local food, cheap accommodation, and a relaxed vibe all come together to make Chiang Rai what it is. Again like Chiang Mai however, it’s the setting that is arguably the star of the show – with the city a great base of operations from which to explore the surrounding mountains and countryside.

Kanchanaburi

kanchanaburi bridge river kwai thailand WWII

This western town may not offer much to rival Thailand’s other locales at first glance. However, for history buffs (especially when it comes to World War II), Kanchanaburi is a must-see. Here, during the early 1940’s, Allied POW’s were forced by the Japanese to construct a rail route to Myanmar (also known as the Burma or Death Railway). It was a brutal undertaking, and one that resulted in many casualties. Kanchanaburi was made famous by the book and movie The Bridge over the River Kwai – which chronicles these harsh events of yesteryear. The bridge can still be seen today and is the standout amongst the WWII remembrances and memorials found in Kanchanaburi.

Khao Sok National Park

khao sok national park karst water boat nature wilderness

While Thailand is home to many nature and wildlife reserves, no park can quite beat Khao Sok for sheer magnificence. The setting is truly something else, with a rainforest to rival the diversity of the Amazon, limestone formations unique to the country, and a wide selection of trails from which to see it all. There’s also a huge amount of wildlife found here – with everything from bears and boars to wild cats (perhaps even tigers) and elephants. Visiting between December and April will help you avoid monsoons, however you can still visit during the wet months as long as you’re careful.

The Islands

island phi phi thailand beach cliffs water

If there’s one thing besides Bangkok that brings in visitors to Thailand – it’s the idyllic islands and plentiful beaches. These world-renowned coastal islands are famous for white sand beaches, stunning karst formations, and clear waters. You have quite a few options to choose from if sun and sand are what you seek. Phuket is highly developed, Ko Samui welcomes visitors with luxury and elegance, Ko Chang remains rugged with a striking and beautiful interior, Ko Tao is renowned for diving, while the Phi Phi islands offer late night parties and an absolutely beautiful, otherworldly setting – and all this only scratches the surface of what the Thai islands and coasts offer. So get out there, explore, and spend your days relaxing (or living it up) in places that truly deserve the moniker ‘heaven on earth’.

How much does visiting Thailand cost?

Flying to Thailand can take quite a while, and with that comes a relatively high price point. Round trip flights between Pearson and Bangkok generally start around the $1400 Canadian mark but can be found for slightly less or more. Be sure to shop around, as you will have a lot of options when it comes to connecting flights.

Prices in Thailand are relatively affordable, with average costs about $72 a day. This includes a budget of $38 for accommodation and $15 for food. If you’re thrifty, you can drive the price all way down towards $26 a day while gravitating towards the luxurious lifestyle will cost you closer to $212 a day.

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Staying safe in Thailand

While there is no nationwide advisory for Thailand, a high degree of caution is recommended throughout the country. This is largely due to the tense political situation, which can result in sporadic demonstrations. Despite the majority of the country being safe to visit, travel is not recommended to the southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Songkhla.

While martial law is no longer in effect, the military presence throughout the country is still high, and checkpoints, searches, and other operations may take place. Demonstrations can sometimes turn violent so, as always, avoid them.

Other security concerns to be wary of include terrorism (which is an issue throughout Southeast Asia), crime (mainly of the petty variety, but also violent), assaults and drink spiking (particularly in nightlife areas), as well as the general security situation in border regions.

If driving, remember that traffic stays on the left. You should not rent motorcycles in Thailand as accidents happen often due to rough road conditions. Be very alert when driving, especially during the rainy season.

While this all may sound like a lot to keep in mind, know that tons of people visit Thailand every year – and most have nothing but good stories to tell!

For more on travel safety in Thailand, check out the Canadian Travel Advisory website.

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These are just a few examples of where to go in Thailand, there’s tons more to see and do. If you think somewhere else should be on the list, let us know in the comments.

Check out our Country of the Week for more general information about Thai history and culture. Planning a trip right now? Buy your Thai baht HERE.

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