• Culture, beaches and food

    For a unique culture, tropical beaches, delicious food and friendly smiles, look no further than Thailand.

    Whether you’re looking for a party destination, to get great bargains or relax in the sun, Thailand has something for everyone.

    In this travel guide we share our best practical tips, top Thailand experiences, how to get around, the best places to visit and how you can stay safe on your journey.

    To get started, here's some useful vocabulary

  • Useful vocabulary

    • Sà-wàt-dee kráp: Hello or good evening/morning for males
    • Sà-wàt-dee kâ: Hello or good evening/morning for females
    • Baai baai: Goodbye
    • Chai-yoh: Cheers! (formal)
    • Kòp kun: Thank you
    • Mai pen rai: No worries!

Travel tips

  • Getting around

    Tuk tuks are available throughout the country, starting at 30 baht for shorter trips, but the rate should always be negotiated before you get in. Taxis are cheaper for longer trips, but often take longer due to the traffic. In Bangkok you can also use the public transport network, while there are bus and rail links between cities.

  • Visas

    Yes, you’ll need a 30-day tourist visa, but you can get this on arrival when arriving by air. For longer stays, you can apply for a visa in advance. Just keep in mind that if you overstay your visa, the penalties get tougher the longer you overstay.

  • When to visit

    The best time, climate-wise, is from November to February – this is when the rainy season has finished, but the temperature is still cool and the forests are lush.

  • Tipping

    Tipping isn’t traditional in Thailand, but it is becoming more widespread. Aim for 10% on food and drinks and 20 baht for porters/concierge. Note that larger tips may offend.

Top experiences

Thailand is one of the most popular overseas destinations for Aussies, and it’s easy to see why. With great deals to be had at the local markets, the hustle and bustle of the cities, and the tranquillity of the beaches and rainforests, there’s something for everyone.

  • Best places to visit

    • Chiang Mai: Chiang Mai is encompassed by mountains and rich countryside, and is known by locals as the ‘Rose of the North’.
    • Kanchanaburi: If you love nature, Kanchanaburi is for you with its beautiful waterfalls and national parks open to the public.
    • Bangkok: Bangkok is a metropolis with no shortage of hidden gems for the keen tourist, including palaces and temples, malls, food, markets, and night life.
    • Phuket: Phuket is one of the largest islands in Thailand, and is home of the party spot Patong, as well as many stunning beaches.
    • Ko Samui: Known for its natural beauty, in Ko Samui there is plenty of variety to keep you stimulated if you don’t fancy sitting on a beach with a cold drink all day.
  • Festivals

    • Songkran (April): A celebration of the Thai New Year, tourists love joining in as you see people armed with water guns and buckets splashing water on everyone.
    • Loy Krathong (November): When the sun sets on the day of Loy Krathong, people float flowers in the waters and lantern balloons float up into the night.
    • Phi Ta Khon: Also known as the Ghost Festival, locals in the Dan Sai district don costumes and masks and dance all night.
  • The locals

    Beyond the Thais themselves, there’s a large variety of wildlife in this tropical oasis. One experience is visiting an elephant sanctuary in the north, where you can meet orphaned and rescued elephants who are getting a second chance. You can also see the Giant Mekong catfish play cat and mouse with the fisherman on the Mekong river, or the monkeys in Lopburi thrive in the November Monkey Festival, which features banquets of food presented to honour them.

  • Thai street food

    You can’t visit Thailand without enjoying the incredibly tasty (and incredibly cheap) street food on offer).

    Feeling adventurous? Then try Larb Mote Daeng, which is prepared with red ants and their eggs. Other choices are Durian, a fruit so well known for its strong smell that many hotels ban it, and fried crickets, grasshoppers, and scorpions on skewers.

  • Thai massage

    If you love being pampered, a Thai massage in Thailand is a must. A traditional Thai massage involves deep pressure applied by hands, elbows and even feet! Your masseuse will also pull you into a number of stretches, after which you’ll feel relaxed with loose muscles and improved energy.

  • Muay Thai boxing

    Muay Thai boxing is the most popular spectator sport in the country, and in the cities you’ll often encounter small vans topped with speakers advertising that night’s matches. Keen to take part? Check if you're covered before participating in any potentially dangerous activity.

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Staying safe

Being such a popular travel destination, Thailand is a reasonably safe country to visit. However, it’s important to be aware of potential risks and to keep yourself safe.

Before you go, remember to organise your travel insurance. While we hope there aren’t any unexpected mishaps on your trip, having the right travel insurance in place will keep you and your valuables protected just in case. Make sure you keep your policy details on you at all times as well, as some hospitals won’t treat you without proof on insurance.

Also remember the number 1155 – this is an English-speaking number you can use to contact the ‘Tourist Police’ and ambulance services.

On your trip, here are some considerations to keep in mind.

  • Crime

    Petty crime is common in Thailand, especially in tourist areas, and may include theft from hotel rooms, pickpockets, and bag snatchers in crowded areas. It’s also important to check your travel insurance inclusions as, depending on your travel insurance policy, unsupervised items may not be covered.

    With this in mind, keep your valuables on you and regularly check on them, or lock them in the hotel safe.

  • Food and drink

    Tap water isn’t always safe in Thailand, so stick to bottled water, and check that the bottle is sealed before drinking.

    While Thai food is delicious, some meals can be prone to food poisoning and gastro issues. When choosing your dish, avoid raw fish, meat, salads and cut fruit as they’re not always washed, or may have been washed in unsafe water. A general rule is that if a stall or shop is packed, it’s a good sign.

  • Water activities

    Be wary of scams and safety issues. There have been cases where hire operators demand cash for damage that wasn’t caused by tourists, and safety standards aren’t as tight as in Australia.

    Also keep in mind that some adventure activities may not be covered by certain insurance policies, so if you have adventure in mind, it’s best to check your policy to see if those activities are included.

  • On the road

    When crossing the road, look everywhere – left, right, front and back, even if you have a green light – hazards can come from anywhere.

    If you’d like to rent a motorbike, be wary as many rental companies can be lax on safety. If you have a valid licence, choose a bike and helmet you’re comfortable in and wear protective clothing, keep to the speed limit and don't drink and drive. Read some more tips about driving overseas.

    If you don’t have a valid licence, note that you might not be covered by your insurance policy if you have an accident. In this case, it’s best to leave the driving to the locals. 

  • Party safe

    Thailand is known for its party scene, especially Koh Phangan's large-scale Full Moon party. However, at large parties, the risk of assault, arrest, theft and injuries increases, so don’t get carried away.

    Homemade cocktail buckets may seem like a good deal, but they are best to avoid as they may contain insecticides and narcotics. Buy your own drinks and keep an eye on them being prepared to avoid spiked drinks. If you do attend the Full Moon party, arrivals often involve a boat so make sure you’re comfortable with its safety standards.

  • Animal safety

    Like most tropical destinations, Thailand is a mosquito hot spot, so make sure you have your travel vaccinations for common diseases like malaria and Dengue fever, use a strong insect repellent (and top up regularly), cover your skin in loose fitting clothing, and ensure your accommodation has fly-wire screens or mosquito nets (or air conditioning, so you can leave the windows closed).

    Also be careful around larger animals, like dogs, bats and monkeys, as they might carry rabies and other fatal diseases that can spread through bites and scratches.

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