Traveling to Thailand? – Read This Helpful Guide First!
Welcome back to the Young, Dumb, and NOT Broke?! traveling in Thailand series part two! If you missed part one, then go take a look before (or after) you read this article. Last time I talked about when to go to Thailand, where to go in Thailand, and how to get around once you’re there. The purpose of that article is to help you get a feel for how your trip might look and help you decide where in Thailand you want to go. Today’s article will focus more on where we stayed and what we did once we got to Thailand, and I will touch on the following topics:
- How we booked awesome hotels/resorts
- Our favorite Thai foods
- Which excursions and activities we enjoyed
- Some miscellaneous tips
For those of you who are going to go back to part one later, let me quickly re-introduce myself before I get started. My name is Kendall, and I’m a Young, Dumb, and NOT Broke?! reader and a good friend of Shelby’s. This past July my wife and I took a two-week trip to Thailand, and we had such a great time that I decided to write a couple of articles to help you do the same! We also found out just how cheap Thailand is compared to the United States, and I know you’re on this website because you like to keep your hard-earned money, so I’ll also give some examples of prices we paid on our trip.
As I mentioned last time, the first step we took was to book all of our flights. This firmed up our itinerary and allowed us to begin looking at where we wanted to stay while visiting our selected destinations.
My wife and I have both been known to be pretty frugal. However, since this trip was our honeymoon we decided we would splurge a little bit and we did not take the cheapest route on everything. For example, when we both lived in Europe for a semester in college we backpacked through several cities and stayed in inexpensive hostels and AirBnBs (as many young travelers do), but when traveling to Thailand, we opted for hotels and resorts. While we didn’t stay in any Thai hostels, these cheaper alternatives did appear throughout my research and planning of this trip, so I can provide a little bit of information about them.
We booked all of our hotels using Hotels.com, and we feel like we found some really good deals on this website. It also didn’t hurt that we got 10% back on our bookings through this website with our new Capital One Venture credit card. If you are traveling in a group, then you should definitely look at splitting hotel rooms as an option while traveling because dividing the cost would be very comparable to a hostel, and you will be allowed a little more privacy amongst your group. On the other hand, I will say that hostels are a great way to meet other young travelers and they often have some fun organized events that can help you get to know some of the strangers in your room!
The cheapest hotel room we stayed in while traveling to Thailand was $20 per night, and the cheapest resort we booked was $35 per night. We didn’t stay anywhere that had less than a three-star rating, and two of the places we stayed were rated as four-star resorts that were only $45-$55 per night! We loved all of the places we stayed, and we thought they were all worth the prices we paid. Overall we booked a total of 12 hotel nights in Thailand, and for this, we paid only $254 per person (and if we had lowered our standards we could have gone even cheaper)!
Our 3-Star Phi Phi Resort (We Stayed In The Top Left Bungalow)
As I mentioned, I am able to provide you with a little bit of pricing information about hostels for comparison. You don’t have to look very hard to find hostels in Thailand for as cheap as $6 per night, and in general, I found several options between $10 and $20 per night (depending on the location)! As a solo traveler or someone traveling in a small group, I think that booking hostels along your travel route would be a solid option that should definitely be considered.
One last note: you don’t need to stress too much about booking your lodging far in advance. My wife and I booked 75% of our hotel nights the night before our international flight and we even booked two nights once we were a couple of days into our trip. Once you finally arrive in Thailand, you will probably set your bags down in your hotel/hostel and you’ll be ready to start looking for something to eat after your long journey. Well lucky for you, when traveling to Thailand you have the options of some delicious cuisine, and you can find it almost everywhere!
Our Favorite Thai Foods
If you only know one thing about Thai cuisine, it is probably that Thai people love spicy food. While this is true, don’t worry if you don’t like spicy food because you can often specify the level of spiciness you want when ordering. You might also know that one of the most popular Thai dishes is Pad Thai. We learned that this is actually more of a tourist favorite than a local favorite, but it is one of many delicious stir-fry options that are available in Thailand.
While traveling in Thailand, the two most common types of foods we ate were stir-fry and curry. I am a huge fan of Thai curry, which is typically served with rice, and I couldn’t get enough of the stuff on our trip. My favorite type of curry is Massaman (a yellow curry typically with chicken, potatoes, and peanuts), and my wife’s favorite curry is Panang (a red curry infused with crushed peanuts). There is also red curry and green curry, and I suggest you try it all! As you may have guessed, the food is very cheap and we found meals from as low as $1 with a typical meal being about $3-$5 per person.
Another great way to learn about Thai food is to take a cooking class. We did this in Chiang Mai for about $26 per person, and we cooked a four-course Thai meal (including curry paste from scratch). This was a fun way to spend an evening, and our teacher gave us some cultural insight into several types of food and some tips on dishes to try on our trip.
Top Chef: Thailand Edition
Thailand also has some pretty incredible street food (and yes, you can eat bugs and scorpions if you would like)! We walked through several marketplaces in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, and there are so many different foods available to try. This is a great place to be adventurous with food, but just know that you can get sick from eating anything that was prepared using tap water. It is also good to be cautious about ice in Thailand because it must be made with clean water. On that note, make sure you’ve got the right vaccinations before your trip to prevent the chance of getting sick from street food. With that being said, we drank a lot of fruit smoothies that were made with ice and we ate a lot of street food. We didn’t have any problems with getting sick from food or drinks, but I just want to make you aware.
The last thing you might be wondering about is the drinks in Thailand. I love to try all kinds of different beers, and there were four main beers we tried on our trip: Singha, Chang, Leo, and Tiger. These beers were all golden colored lagers, and they are all brewed in Thailand or other nearby countries. We liked Singha and Chang the most, but I recommend you try them all to decide which one you like best. Beer prices typically ranged from $2-$3 for a small can/bottle, and in some places, you could find a big bottle for as little as $3. There were also several places offering cocktails for around $3-$5 each, and we found that the prices for alcohol were generally higher in the Southern part of the country than they were in the North.
Thai food is our new favorite type of cuisine, but we didn’t just eat the entire time we were in the country. Next, I will talk about some of the activities and excursions we did while traveling in Thailand.
Activities and Excursions
There are so many things you can do for fun all across Thailand. In my first article, The Best Way To Travel Around Thailand – Flights, Grab App, and More!, I touched on some of the things that we did, but I want to give you a few more ideas of what the country has to offer. If you are into hiking and the outdoors, there are several places all over the country where you can go hiking or rock climbing. Neither I or my wife had ever gone rock climbing before, but the vertical sheets of rock surrounding Railay Beach provided us an incredible opportunity to embark on our first climbs. We hiked to a couple of viewpoints in Ko Phi Phi and Railay Beach, and there were some hiking opportunities in Chiang Mai and other Northern cities as well that we didn’t take advantage of.
If the options above aren’t enough, then you can also go hiking with elephants in one of the many elephant sanctuaries across the country. We went to an elephant sanctuary called Into The Wild Elephant Camp in the north of Thailand. The camp staff picked us up from our hotel Chiang Mai and drove us a couple of hours to their camp where we started the day learning about the history of elephants in Southeast Asia. Next, we got to feed, hike with, and swim with a few of these gentle giants. One concern that you will sometimes hear with these types of places is that some of them do not treat the elephants very well, or they do not provide the elephants with a natural place to live. I definitely believe that Into The Wild is ethical and a place that treats their animals very well.
Not Your Everyday Hiking Partner
Once you have wandered through the cities to your heart’s content and you venture down to the islands, there are several opportunities to bask in the beauty of these island paradises. You will have the opportunity to go on boat cruises around some of the islands, and you can go snorkeling, kayaking, and scuba diving. We went on a party boat cruise around Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh where we fed wild monkeys, snorkeled in Maya Bay, swam with a shark (allegedly), and floated in Phi Leh Lagoon. This cruise was my favorite part of the trip because the Phi Phi islands are unbelievably beautiful, and we made multiple stops which allowed us to spend a lot of time in the ocean.
The Bigger Monkeys Were All Distracted (See Tip #3 Below)
If you’ve done any research about the Thai islands, you may have heard about the recent history surrounding Maya Beach and Maya Bay (both a part of Phi Phi Leh). This beautiful beach was made extremely popular by the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach” in 2000. This attracted swarms of tourists to Phi Phi Leh, and the beach and nearby water soon became polluted, crowded, and devoid of sea-life. For this reason, the beach was closed in 2018 to begin cleanup efforts, and you will face a huge fine and possible jail time if you venture too close to the beach.
Our trip traveling to Thailand was obviously after the beach was closed, and some think the beach could be closed indefinitely. If this is the case, then I support the decision. I think it was much more enjoyable to view the empty beach from the bay if the alternative is fighting for elbow room on a crowded and polluted beach.
If you use our good friend Google, you will find that there is so much more to do in Thailand in addition to the things we were able to fit into our trip. No matter what you like to do for fun or what interests you, I guarantee that there is something in Thailand for you. Before I bring this second article to a close I want to give you a few small tips that we learned before or during our trip.
Ten Final Tips For Traveling To Thailand
- Bottled Water: as I mentioned, the water in Thailand is not safe to drink, and the locals do not even drink the tap water.
- Make sure you drink plenty of water because it is hot in Thailand.
- We often went to convenience stores and stocked up on cheap bottled water ($0.20-$0.50 per bottle) instead of paying for more expensive bottled water on the resorts or in other “touristy” places. Even the “expensive” water is relatively cheap, but it can really add up!
- Go to 7-Eleven: you will find that there are A LOT of 7-Eleven convenience stores in Thailand.
- This is a great place for bottled water, drinks, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, or a SIM card for your phone.
- We found that things tended to be cheaper here than in other places.
- Always Feed the Big Monkey First: or the small monkey you just fed will get beat up.
- You actually aren’t supposed to feed the monkeys, but if your boat driver tells you to then you probably won’t say no ????
Pop Quiz: Who Eats First? (Answer: Top Right Monkey)
- Get a Massage: you will see many places offering massages all around Thailand, and they are CHEAP compared to the U.S.A.!
- We each got a thirty-minute foot massage one night for less than $3 per person!
- We also each got a one-hour traditional Thai massage at our resort for about $10 each, but you can find them even cheaper than this.
- Many Prices Are Negotiable: if you are buying a souvenir or just trying to catch a ride somewhere, don’t be afraid to haggle a little bit.
- Street markets are good places for this.
- Need a Suit?
- We learned that Thailand is known for making very high-quality tailored suits, and they are much cheaper than most other places (especially the U.S.A.)
- This would still be a relatively expensive “souvenir,” but if you need a new suit then don’t be afraid to get one in Thailand!
- Thailand is a Buddhist country: be respectful and conscious of behavior and dress code in temples and state buildings.
- If you visit The Grand Palace in Bangkok, men must wear pants and women must wear pants or a long skirt/dress, and your shoulders must also be covered.
- Flip flops may be frowned upon in certain religious areas, and you may be required to remove your shoes before entering some places.
- Beware of Some Tuk-Tuk Drivers: I’m not telling you to avoid them completely, but just know that they may try to hijack your agenda for the day.
- We learned from a local Thai man that their gas is subsidized by the fashion and souvenir industries, so they may take you several places where you’ll feel pressured to buy something.
- We fell prey to one of these unknowingly, but we stood our ground and got a small tour of the city for $1.
- Most People Speak English: this one doesn’t require much elaboration, but don’t worry about not being able to communicate because most people we talked with spoke English pretty well.
- We thought everyone in Thailand was very nice, so just do your best if you come across any language barriers.
- Learn to Say Thank You in Thai: you may stick out as a tourist, and sometimes tourists can be a little obnoxious to locals of a country.
- Hearing kind words like this in your own language can show that you are trying a little extra to be considerate and grateful.
- If you are a man, say “Kob Khun Krup” (pronounced like Cob Coon Cup)
- If you are a woman, say “Kob Khun Ka” (pronounced like Cob Coon Kaw)
I could go on, but I’ve given more than enough information about planning a trip to Thailand, and half of the fun is figuring things out for yourself in a new country. Thailand may be very different from your home country, but I assure you that there is nothing to be nervous about and you will have the time of your life if you get the chance to travel there. If you have any questions about any specific part of our trip or would like some tips other than what is listed above, reach out to Shelby or leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these articles and that you are more excited than ever to take a trip to Thailand. Cheers!