Thailand is one of the world’s most renowned holiday destinations, with a wide variety of things to see and do, from culture, religion, food, nature, water, adventure, sports and also relaxing activities. Thailand also growing as a health and wellness destination, with a huge number of healing and detox centres. Muay Thai is rapidly expanding world-wide, now with many Muay Thai camps and competitions held across Thailand. There are thousands of temples and cultural centres promoting the unique Thai culture, as well as Royal Thai palaces to witness. Thai food plays an integral role in the Thai way of life, and with Thai food growing in popularity worldwide, authentic Thai food from the streets or in fine dining restaurants will certainly not disappoint anyone.
Of course, Thailand’s beaches and islands are unmissable as their beauty and uniqueness are breathtaking. With a huge range of water activities including snorkelling, scuba diving, parasailing and jet skiing… there is something for everyone to do in Thailand!
Travelling to Thailand is a breeze, as the country has a tourist-friendly policy as well as a vast network of infrastructure and hotels that cater to a diverse array of business and leisure travellers. But before planning your next trip to Thailand, it’s good to know all the essential information about the country, such as when is the best time to go, what to bring, getting around, cultural etiquettes, numbers to call in case of emergencies and all the facts that will help make your journey as pleasant as it can be.
Get to know the Four Regions of Thailand
Thailand covers the area of 514,000 sq km (2/3 the size of NSW) 5 regions, 77 provinces
Central Thailand is known for its fertile alluvial plains of Chao Phraya River. This region is the agricultural heartland of the country with a network of rivers and canals. It comprises of 17 provinces including the capital – Bangkok, the former capital & UNESCO World Heritage Site – Ayutthaya and the WW II historical site – Kanchanaburi. This region is the centre of Thailand’s history and is full of ancient temples and ruins.
Northern Thailand is well known for its lush mountains full of forests and waterfalls and is home to many ethnic hill tribes. The region comprises of 17 provinces including Thailand’s second largest city – Chiang Mai. The home to the notorious Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai is on the border of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, the former capital & a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Sukhothai, the city of fog – Mae Hong Son and the hidden gem – Nan.
Northeastern Thailand (Isan) is on a large plateau that borders Laos and Cambodia. The region comprises of 20 provinces and is famous for its intercultural influence of Thai, Laotian and Khmer cultures, from the same era as Angkor Wat. Lower Isan is most notable for its Khmer influenced ruins whereas upper Isan is full of ideal peaks perfect for trekking. It is the most populated region but the least popular among tourists from overseas. This region is home to Thailand’s first national park & UNESCO World Heritage – Khao Yai in Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchathani where Thailand’s most elaborate Candle Procession Festival is held every year to mark the beginning of the Buddhist Lent and Loei which is home to one of Thailand’s best trekking sites where the grand merit making event Phi Ta Khon Festival is held.
Eastern Thailand is the smallest region comprises of 9 provinces including the bustling resort city – Pattaya in Chonburi, Ko Samet in Rayong and Ko Chang in Trat.
Southern Thailand is famous for its long coastlines with several small islands. On the west is the Andaman Sea with its rugged and strange limestone rock formations and on the east is the Gulf of Thailand with its wide bays and more flat beach. The region comprises of 14 provinces including the famous holiday destinations – Ko Samui, Ko Phangan and Khao Sok in Surat Thani, Mu Ko Similan in Phang – Nga, Mu Ko Phi Phi in Krabi and Thailand’s most popular tourist destination – Phuket.
When to Go to Thailand
The best time to visit Thailand is between November and February, when the climate is relatively cool and dry (25-32°C). While Bangkok usually sees insignificant temperature drop, the northern and northeastern provinces can be rather cold. And if you plan to take a trip into the mountains, be sure to bring a sweater or warm jacket. December is the festive season, like in the West. Some of the most colourful festivals, such as Loy Krathong, Trooping of the Colours and New Year’s, fall in this period. Major shopping districts, particularly those in Bangkok, add to the year-end spirit by sporting decorative lights and Christmas-theme décors. The only drawback for arriving during this period is that popular destinations are crowded, and hotel rooms are in short supply. Prices for accommodation, tours, transportation and certain goods are usually bumped up to take advantage of the tourist influx. Arriving between March and May will put you right through Thailand’s summer, when temperatures can climb above 40°C. Coupled with high humidity, it may feel more like you are actually in a giant heated oven with no escape route, except occasional visits to air-conditioned shopping malls and dining establishments. The monsoon season (June-September) is usually very wet and humid. But the good news is that you can always hide out in a mall, spa or restaurant to escape the heavy downpours which usually don’t last more than a couple hours. Also, the rain breathes new life in the countryside, abundant with rice fields and trees. National parks and waterfalls are usually at their best.
Weather & Climate
Thailand is relatively hot all year round, although officially it has three main seasons. In Summer (March – June), temperatures can soar above 40 degrees, particularly in the northeast and Bangkok. Thai New Year, or Songkran, falls in April, the hottest month. To relieve themselves from the heat, Thais throw water at each other during the three-day Songkran festival. The rainy season (July – October) brings lots of downpours and heavy rainfall, usually in the late afternoons or early mornings. Temperatures are moderately high, but it can feel very uncomfortable due to high humidity level. The most welcomed season is the cool season (November – February), which brings a relatively dry and pleasant climate. Temperatures rarely rise above 35 degrees during the day.
Tourist Visas Tourists from many countries (including the US, UK, Germany, France and Singapore) do not require a visa when entering Thailand and can stay for a duration of 30-days. In many of these countries (including the US, UK, Australia, Germany, France and Singapore) you can apply for a 60-day tourist visa before you leave. If you hold a Brazilian, Peruvian or South Korean passport, you are exempted from visa requirements and are permitted to enter and stay in Thailand for a period of not exceeding 90 days. Citizens of some other countries are required to apply for a 15-day visa at immigration checkpoints on arrival, while others must apply for one before they leave. It all depends on the particular visa arrangement Thailand has with your home country. The best way to find out is to check with either the Thai Immigration Bureau or the Thai Embassy or Consulate in your home country. Coming to Thailand for business is a whole different story. Check out the Legalities section of our Business Essentials Guide for information about the visas necessary for those looking to work or gain employment here.
Visas to Thailand
Holders of Australian, New Zealand and EU passports do not require a visa when staying in Thailand for no longer than 30 days. (Thai authority requires at least 6 month validity remaining on the passport.)