Updated: December 27, 2017
On This Page
- The 13 Best Beaches in Thailand
- The 19 Best Hotels in Thailand
- What are the best months to visit Thailand?
- What are the best places in Thailand for kids?
- What’s the best way to get around Thailand?
- What are the trains like and how do I buy tickets?
- Do I need a visa for Thailand?
- How much does it cost to travel in Thailand?
- Do I need vaccinations to travel to Thailand?
- Should I get travel insurance for Thailand?
Photo Galleries (on Flickr)
The 13 Best Beaches in Thailand
1. Railay Beach – Krabi
2. Phra Nang Beach – Krabi
3. Karon Beach – Phuket
4. Kata Beach – Phuket
5. Khao Lak
6. Kantiang Beach – Koh Lanta
7. Phi Phi Don – Koh Phi Phi
8. Chaweng – Koh Samui
9. Bophut – Koh Samui
10. Thongtakian Beach – Koh Samui
11. Bottle Beach – Koh Phangan
12. Bang Bao – Koh Chang
13. Koh Samet
More Thailand Beaches
Mae Nam, Koh Samui
Choeng Mon, Koh Samui
Haad Rin, Koh Phangan
Haad Yao, Koh Phangan
Haad Salad, Koh Phangan
Thong Nai Pan, Koh Phangan
Mai Khao, Phuket
Kata Beach vs Karon Beach
Above you can see the layout of Kata and Karon Beaches. Kata Noi beach is closest, then Kata Beach, and the farthest cove (from the camera) is Karon Beach. Beyond that is Patong (not visible).
The 19 Best Hotels & Resorts in Thailand
Anantara Riverside Resort & Spa – Bangkok
(Hotel phone: +66 2 476 0022)
Mandarin Oriental – Bangkok
(Hotel phone: +66 2 659 9000)
Anantara Chiang Mai Resort and Spa – Chiang Mai
(Hotel phone: +66 53 253 333)
Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai – north of Chiang Mai
(Hotel phone: +66 53 298 181)
Centara Grand Beach Resort – Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui
(Hotel phone: +66 77 230 500)
Hansar Samui Resort & Spa – Bophut, Koh Samui
(Hotels phone: +66 77 245 511)
Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui – west of Mae Nam
(Hotel phone: +66 77 243 000)
The Library – Chaweng, Koh Samui
(Hotel phone: +66 77 422 767)
Tongsai Bay Resort – near Choeng Mon, Koh Samui
(Hotel phone: +66 7724 5480)
Six Senses Samui – near Choeng Mon, Koh Samui
(Hotel phone: +66 77 245 678)
Sala Samui – Choeng Mon, Koh Samui
(Hotel phone: +66 77 245 888)
The Sarojin – Khao Lak
(Hotel phone: +66 76 427 902)
The Shore at Katathani – Kata Beach, Phuket
(Hotel phone: +66 76 330 124)
Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort – Karon Beach, Phuket
(Hotel phone: +66 76 370 100)
The Pavilions Phuket – Bang Tao Beach, Phuket
(Hotel phone: +66 76 317 600)
Six Senses Yao Noi – Koh Yao Noi (near Phuket)
(Hotel phone: +66 2631 9777)
Holiday Inn Resort Phi Phi Island – Koh Phi Phi
(Hotel phone: +66 75 627 300)
Outrigger Resort & Spa – Koh Phi Phi
(Hotel phone: +66 75 628 900)
Zeavola Resort – Koh Phi Phi
(Hotel phone: +66 7562 7000 )
What are the best months to visit Thailand’s beaches?
December, January, and February are the months with the best weather throughout most of the country. If your plan is to tour the entire country then these are the best months to visit. Regional difference can be large however.
March, April, and May get increasingly hot. The skies are still clear but the heat can be hard to take especially in northern Thailand and anywhere not near the beach.
The rains come from June through November in most of southern Thailand (where most of the islands and beaches are). Phuket, in particular, gets rough seas and dangerous undertows from July to October. Koh Samui gets most of its rain in October and November. The eastern coast tends to have more hospitable weather through the rainy months (though it can still get some big storms.) Often the rains won’t last for long (just a few hours a day) followed by sun – but the water will be murky and the beaches can be littered by debris during the monsoon season.
September and October are the least attractive months to visit – though you’ll find some remarkable discounts on accommodations.
If you’re in Thailand during September and October and need some beach time Koh Samet is a great choice as it doesn’t get the heavy rain like the rest of the country.
- Bangkok – December and January are the coolest driest months. The weather gets warmer through March and April when the rains start. The wet weather continues until October with the rainiest month being September. During September, October and November there can be flooding throughout the city.
- Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand – January and February are the best months here – especially if you’re trekking (any earlier and paths will be muddy and flooded, any later and you’ll be in the burning season and then the hot season). Farmers start burning their fields in March and by April the air can be smokey and unhealthy. The hot and then rainy season start soon after with the rains stretching into November.
- Phuket, Krabi, and the Andaman Coast – The best months to visit for a beach holiday stretch from late November until May. The weather is wet, humid, and hot from June through October. During these months the sea is often too rough to swim and visibility for snorkeling and diving is not good. But even in the rainy season you can get wonderful stretches of sun that are great for sitting by the pool.
- Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, and Koh Tao – The best time to visit is from late December to April. The rains start in May but are never as intense as on the west coast so Samui makes a better choice (than Phuket) for June, July, and August. It’s rainy here from late September until early December.
- Hua Hin, Pattaya, and Koh Samet – The best year-round weather of any region of Thailand. If you’re visiting during September and October and want to avoid the rains then this is the place to be.
What are the best places in Thailand for kids?
Thailand is a very family-friendly country. My top destinations in Thailand for families are Phuket, Railay, Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai.
Bangkok is more challenging than the others but it has so much to offer kids and so many great attractions that if you have a little patience you and your kids will love it as much as my family.
- Best beaches for kids: Railay, Kata Beach (Phuket), Choeng Mon (Koh Samui), Haad Salad (Koh Pha Ngan), Jomtien (much better than nearby Pattaya)
- Best Family Hotels: These are my favorite hotels for families in Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Railay, Pattaya, and Chiang Mai.
- Rainy Season: No one likes the rain when on holidays but it can be a bigger disappointment to kids. Phuket, in particular, gets rough seas that make swimming unsafe for kids from July to October (July and August can be fine as long as you don’t mind swimming in the pool instead of the ocean). In Koh Samui October and November are the rainiest months.
- Car Seats: Some car rental companies will have them but if it’s a necessity bring your own. Most cars (and taxis) only have seat belts in the front seats (where car seats should never be placed). So even when you have a car seat finding a car that will allow its use is an effort.
- Kid-friendly Food: Western food, from pasta to hamburgers, is widely available at all the beach resorts and in the larger cities. Fried rice and pad thai are 2 thai dishes that kids usually love.
What’s the best way to get around Thailand?
Flying is the fastest and easiest way to get around the country. There are direct flights from Bangkok to Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui. The train is my next favorite way of getting around and taking an overnight train is a fun way to travel as the locals do.
Thailand is a long narrow country. So getting from the Bangkok or Chiang Mia to the southern islands is a good distance. Getting from one coast to the other can be done in a half-day drive (and ferry) – but even then flying is still a big time saver.
- Air – Thailand is well served by several budget airlines. Air Asia has the most flights but NOK Air, Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways, and Orient Thai have multiple routes as well. Flying is an easy way to get around the country and can be incredibly cheap if booked early. Note to tall people: they have no legroom. I’m 6’6″ and can barely fit into my assigned seat.
- Train – A fun way of getting around the country. Overnight trains with sleeper cars from Bangkok north to Chiang Mai and south to the gulf coast are convenient and authentic ways to get where you’re going. Getting to the islands and beach resorts will almost alway require a bus and/or ferry trip after you get off the train (at Surat Thani for Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan). The buses are timed with the arrival of the train so the extra hassle and planning is usually minimal. Be sure to buy train/bus/ferry combo tickets in Bangkok to make the connection easier.
- Bus – Buses go everywhere around the country. The good news is you can usually jump on a bus within a few hours and be on your way with no need to book tickets days or weeks in advance like air or rail tickets. The bad news is the bus rides can be long and boring without the benefit of walking about as you can on a train. A bus to an island will typically take you right to the ferry terminal and get you on your way. As with the train it’s easier if you buy a bus/ferry combo ticket but it’s not mandatory.
- Hired Car – These are practical and not as expensive as you might think – especially for Bangkok to Hua Hin or Pattaya or between popular tourists destinations like Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui. You can approach any taxi (pick the newer, nicer, and larger ones) and ask how much to get where you’re heading.
What are the trains like and how do I buy tickets?
Trains can be booked up to 60 days in advance. Except for Thai holidays and the period around Christmas and New Years, trains only occasionally sell out so it’s possible to get a sleeper right up to the day of travel and very possible to get a seat anytime (as long as you’re not picky about where you sit or what class of ticket you buy).
There are multiple ways to book your ticket: in person at Hualamphong station; through a travel agent in Bangkok; in advance through thairailticket.com (this is the official Thai Railways website but it’s not terribly user friendly so be patient); or book through ThailandTrainTicket.com (an online booking agency that will charge a small fee).
It’s easiest to book in person in Bangkok. You’ll get the most choices for train times and be able to stipulate the exact setup you want (e.g. for booking multiple sleepers) – but you run the risk of trains being sold out.
Thus, booking in advance might be required – especially if you’re on a tight schedule – but be prepared to make some compromises. Some online agencies only sell tickets for the overnight train that departs Bangkok at 19:30. (This is my favorite train for getting to Samui and has a great connection for getting on the ferry.)
In summary: if you have some flexibility wait until you’re in Thailand to book your train tickets. On your first morning walk into a travel agency and ask about booking your onward train ticket to your destination. They’ll lay out all your options and book your tickets for you. You’ll be able to stop back later that day or the next morning to grab your tickets. You should be able to get tickets that leave Bangkok within 1 day to 3 days – though it can be longer around peak travel periods like Christmas and New Years.
There is a fee for booking through a travel agency. If you’re on a budget then book directly at Hua Lamphong (but remember you’ll need to pay a taxi to get you there which will likely be similar to the travel agent’s booking charge). Once you’re at the station ignore anyone (including your taxi driver) who direct you towards a booking office outside the station. You want to go inside the station to book your tickets.
If you need tickets in advance book the overnight train through ThailandTrainTicket.com. They’ll be delivered to your hotel and be waiting for you upon your arrival.
Do I need a visa for Thailand? And how long should my passport be valid for?
Citizens of Canada, U.S., U.K, Australia, and most of Western Europe can get a 30 day visa on arrival – so you needn’t do anything in advance. Citizens of other countries will need to apply in advance for the 30 day entry visa.
If you want 60 day visa (regardless of your citizenship) you’ll need to apply in advance or get the 30 day visa (as above) and then extend it once inside the country. This can be done at immigration offices in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Krabi, and Phuket.
Pre-applied-for visa’s will (sometimes) begin on the date when your plane takes off for Thailand – so you can lose a day in the math and you’ll be left with 29 days and 28 nights from arrival.
Passports should have 6 months of validity remaining after your departure day. You will hear of exceptions to this rule, but to be safe have a full six months extra. For example, if you’re in Thailand from June 1 to June 15 you’d want your passport to be valid until at least December 15. Failure to have this cushion could result you not be allowed into the country. (Actually you probably wouldn’t even be able to board your flight that is heading to Thailand.)
How much does it cost to travel in Thailand?
Costs vary hugely depending on your travel style, modes of transport, hotel preferences, and how much shopping you do (and where you do it).
Regardless of your budget the more you move around the more you spend. The longer you stay in one spot the more your costs will drop. Not only do you save money on transportation but you tend to find cheaper places to eat and shop and get a better deal on hotels. You can also seek out less touristy accommodations options (e.g. an apartment that rents by the week or month) that can drastically reduce your expenses.
A bare bones budget that include low-end hotels, buses or 2nd class trains without a sleeper, and street food would be about $30/person/day.
A mid-range budget that involved over-night sleeper cabins on the train, the occasional flight, restaurants for most meals, and hotels with western-style standards and maybe a swimming pool, would be in the $80 to $100 per day.
At the top-end it’s skies the limit as Thailand is home to some of Asia’s best restaurants, best hotels, and best shopping. That said, a budget of $500 day would expose you to some of the country’s best food and hotels.
How do I visit Thailand on a budget?
3 Simple tips will save you a big chunk of money in Bangkok
- Eat where the locals eat. It’s easy to get a huge lunch or dinner for just a few dollars if you eat street food or at a small non-touristy restaurants. And the food is better too.
- Bargain when you shop. Making an offer – especially when shopping at one of Bangkok’s wonderful markets – is expected and encouraged. If you look like a tourist you’ll often be quoted an initial price as much as 2 or 3 times what a Thai person would pay so be aggressive as you make a counter offer.
- Book hotels online and early. Except for the cheapest guesthouses the best deals are found through hotel booking sites like Booking.com (my favorite) or Hotelscombined.com (good for last minute deals). For budget hotels in Bangkok walk the streets of the Khao San Road neighborhood popping your head into every guesthouse you see to enquire about rooms and prices.
Do I need vaccinations to travel to Thailand?
The CDC recommends the Hepatitis A vaccine and the Typhoid vaccine for all travelers to Thailand. Other vaccines (Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, and Yellow Fever) may be recommended depending on where, when, and how long you’ll be traveling.
Our son was bit by a dog in Indonesia and had to undergo a series of multiple shots for Rabies over the following 21 days. If you get the rabies vaccine you still need after-the-fact shots but they are far fewer in number. Children are thought to be at higher risk for rabies as they tend to interact with dogs and animals more and may not report a small scratch or bite to their parents.
The CDC estimates the malaria risk in Thailand as low and describes the regions with some malarial risk as “Rural, forested areas that border Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Laos. Rural, forested areas in districts of Phang Nga and Phuket. None in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phang Nga, and Phuket.”
In addition, most adults aren’t up to date on their routine vaccinations so pre-travel doctor’s visits are a good time to get any recommended booster shots.
Is the water safe to drink in Thailand?
Generally, no. Bottled water is available pretty much everywhere. Better hotels and restaurants will often provide previously boiled drinking water that is fine to drink – but you need to ask to be sure.
Should I get travel insurance for Thailand?
Yes, but check to see what your current insurance covers – sometimes it’s more than you think. A big concern is emergency evacuation (typically to Bangkok) as most insurance does not cover this and if you’re seriously hurt or sick regional hospitals will not have the resources to treat you – so a trip to Bangkok is a necessity (and expensive).
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