Know when to travel, the best Thailand beaches and food tips for your vacation
Thailand has always been a backpacker’s paradise and has now evolved into one of the world’s most popular tourist haven for adventurers, digital nomads, honeymooners, hikers and more. From lush rainforests and miles of unspoiled coastline to floating markets, historic temples, and the bustling city of Bangkok, there’s lots to see and do in the Land of Smiles.
Geography and Currency
Thailand is located in southeast Asia and shares borders with four countries, including Burma, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Its capital city is Bangkok.
The Thai people use Baht (THB) as their currency. One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, the country welcomed more than 34 million visitors in 2018, and those numbers are only predicted to grow in 2019.
No wonder – when you’re nicknamed the ‘Land of Smiles’, you’re bound to attract tens of millions.
Thailand is an incredibly budget-friendly destination – your Baht gets you a lot here! We’ll give you some tips on how to save on activities, places to stay, transportation, food and more.
Travel between November and April; avoid monsoon season
Your dream vacation in Thailand probably depends a lot on the weather; you’ll want to relax on idyllic beaches, shop the floating market, explore temples and spend lots of time outdoors. Travel + Leisure says the best time to visit is between the end of November and the end of April. Rainy season usually runs from July through October, but it’s possible to see a major storm as early as May.
That said, there are pluses to booking between December and the end of February; for beach goers and island explorers, the air will be less humid, you won’t get scorched by the sun, and you’ll enjoy the light evening breeze.
Tip: Avoid planning your trip during monsoon season, between July and the end of October. – Travel + Leisure.
Stick to local neighbourhoods for accommodations
When it comes to finding a place to stay, when and where you travel matter. TripSavvy has some good tips for the budget-conscious:
You can also scope out local neighbourhoods far away from tourist spots. Khao San Road and Soi Rambuttri are in Bangkok’s Banglamphu area. Though some “weirdness” still exists, many of Khao San Road’s surrounding streets are now lined with chic, boutique guesthouses.
Using smart budget travel techniques, TripSavvy says backpackers can travel Thailand for $25 to $30 US (that’s about $32 to $40 CDN) per day.
Looking to stay in Bangkok? The Pinay Solo Backpacker suggests booking your room early at one of the budget hotels in the city’s financial district. In Silom, you’ll find the Lub d Bangkok Silom Hostel, HQ Hostel, and Hostel Na Nara, while Tara Place is in Khao San Road. You can also check out Lumphini Park, which is packed with affordable rooms.
Of course, although accommodations will cost more in Bangkok, you’ll have more access to transportation and other amenities, notes Helen, who visited Thailand in 2016:
The Grand Palace is amazing and worth a visit.”
Accommodation budgets vary – travel budget website Budget Your Trip says Canadians can expect to pay about $42 per person per night for a hotel or hostel.
Airbnb is a hot-button issue in Thailand
In January 2018, a court ruled that owners of two condominiums violated the Hotels Act of 2004 by renting their rooms out daily and weekly. It remains to be seen what impact this will have on the popular vacation/home rental website. Regardless, if you want to check out Airbnb spaces for rent, you can do so on their site.
Safety, Visa and passport info
Check risk levels and stay safe
If you choose to visit Thailand, stay safe: As of January 2019, the Canadian government published a travel advisory on its website, saying Canadians should use a high degree of caution in Thailand because of ongoing political tensions and sporadic demonstrations in Bangkok and around the country. Check the current risk level for any destination, read about safety and security measures you should take and find other useful information at travel.gc.ca.
Have a valid passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after you leave Thailand. Also, make sure it’s in good condition – Thai immigration is strict on the physical condition of passports and if they find defects, you could be refused entry.
Tourist visas are not required for stays of up to 30 days. If you’re traveling with a regular Canadian passport, you can obtain a 30-day visa upon arrival. With a multiple entry tourist visa, you can stay for up to 60 days. The visa is valid for 6 months and you must get it before traveling.
Get an entry stamp from an immigration officer when you enter Thailand.
Hop on a train, busm or tuk tuk
Flying into Thailand, you’ll land in one of eight international airports:
- Suvarnabhumi International Airport (the new Bangkok International Airport)
- Don Mueang International Airport
- Chiang Mai International Airport
- Phuket International Airport
- Hat Yai International Airport
- Krabi International Airport
- Samui International Airport
TripZilla, a southeast Asian online travel magazine, has a comprehensive guide to the busiest airports in Thailand – check it out for information on airport locations, terminals, transportation and more.
There’s no shortage of ways to get from point A to point B in Thailand, from hopping on a train, tuk tuk, or rickshaw to hailing a taxi or even jumping on a boat .
If you’re looking for the cheapest way to travel long distances and are not in a rush, Travelhappy.info recommends taking the train. An overnight third class train from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani on the border of Laos (a 12-hour trip) cost him only 205 THB ($6.77 US, or $8.90 CDN). Riding from Bangkok to Chiang Mai will cost you 271 THB ($8.94 US, or $11.75 CDN).
Tuk tuks are a well-known form of transport in Thailand and can be found in most parts of the country. The small, three-wheel vehicles are a good option if you’re going door-to-door. Although a ride isn’t the cheapest, this is an iconic experience to try, Culture Trip notes in its helpful guide to navigating transport in Thailand.
The country also has an extensive bus network, minivans (always take the local ones to save time and money), songthaews (a cheap, cheerful bus for traveling short distances locally), skylabs (which look like motorbikes from the front), samlors (motorbikes with sidecars), rickshaws, taxis, motorbike taxis, rental vehicles, ferries and boats, and finally, domestic flights.
Head to Bangkok for authentic Thai dishes
Looking for an authentic Thai experience? Head to Bangkok, where you can find delicious street food straight out of roadside push-carts or hidden among the maze of Bangkok night bazaars, says food and travel blogger Seth Lu. From Thai Wanton Mee (Ba Mee), a noodles-and-pork dish, to the freshest raw oysters (Hoi Nang Rom Song Kreung) you’ll find, there’s a good chance you’ll find a new favourite.
You can also eat ‘Thai style’, which means you order several dishes and share with everyone in your group (be prepared to chow down on a lot of food!), notes Tasty Thailand <https://tastythailand.com/how-to-eat-cheaply-in-bangkok-thailand-eat-like-a-thai-and-have-delicious-food/. Just like in Canada, there are also food courts in shopping malls or areas here, and you can easily get a typical Thai meal for two for $5 (about $6.57 CDN).
Tip: Keep your food expenses down by avoiding western restaurants, the more high-society Thai restaurants, and hotels. – Tasty Thailand
Explore parks, beaches, markets, and temples
Explore Prasat Hin Phimai (Phimai Historical Park)
In northeastern Thailand, Prasat Hin Phimai holds one of Thailand’s finest ancient Khmer temple ruins.
Take the trip to escape the crowds and you’ll be rewarded – this UNESCO World Heritage Site is worth the travel time, but beware: “Getting here involved several hours of road travel with multiple transfers,” says travel blog I Wander.
Relax on Koh Lanta’s beaches
Koh Lanta is a beautiful Thai island – ideal for holiday makers and digital nomads, notes Never Ending Voyage, a blog about travel tips from a digital nomad couple. Zip around on a moped or bicycle, and head to Long Beach, where golden sand, pine trees and swim-worthy, clear blue water await.
We also travelled to Koh Sumai and Koh Lanta. Koh Lanta is accessible via Krabi and is a trek but very much worth it. We wished we stayed on that side of Thailand and explored other islands instead. Koh Lanta is very much untouched and really beautiful and special. Koh Samai is nice but more touristy. I would say flying to Koh Samai is the only way as the boat and bus take much longer than advertised as we found out. We spent 17 hours on a bus with breaks and it was tough. – Helen
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of Chiang Mai’s most famous wats (temples). Overlooking the old city, it comprises many intricate and important statues, along with a golden Buddha statue, says travel blog Photo Katha’s guide to temples in Thailand.
If you’re ready to see some lush tropical islands, sign up for a tour and hop in a speedboat or longtail to visit secluded beaches, snorkel and potentially even see monkeys and other wildlife. This was on NOMADasaurus’ list of 10 of the best things to do in Ao Nang, Thailand.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Thailand’s most popular floating market is located in Ratchaburi’s Damnoen Saduak district. Arrange a trip to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market or rent a longtail boat from the village to the market, which features local vendors selling art, cheap and delicious Thai food (for 25 to 50 Baht), and more. Say Sawasdee Ka, or Good Morning, and you’ll probably get a smile, mentions Lady Anne, a Filipino expat blogger who wrote about the market over at Lady and Her Sweet Escapes.
Tip: You will need to wear something on your shoulders and to the knees to any religious location in Thailand or you won’t be allow in.” – Helen
Thailand is a perfect place to visit if you’re looking to immerse yourself in local culture, relax on clean, picturesque sandy beaches, explore nature, indulge your taste buds in authentic Thai dishes, and much more. You can absolutely travel the Land of Smiles on a budget – if you stay in local neighbourhoods, make use of the public transportation system and various ridesharing apps, and hunt down some deliciously cheap street food while on adventure in Bangkok.
Are you travelling to Thailand for the first time? Returning to a favourite destination? What are your best tips when it comes to saving for vacations? We’d love to hear what you’ve planned, or any trips we missed! Share your story in the comments and tell us what destinations are on your wish list. Our team love saving for holidays and we hope to inspire our members with exciting suggestions to spend your Caddle money.
Learn more about traveling on a budget in Thailand