Probably this article won´t be much of a use to experienced travelers as traveling around Thailand (or at least part of this country) isn´t big deal. But there are also many of you – especially families that are thinking about their first world travel – that I believe this article can be useful and offers some help.
How easy and safe it is traveling around Thailand?
Traveling around Thailand is logistically quite easy and the country is great choice for first time travelers. However some caution is needed and no one guarantees that everything will be OK … but that is impossible no matter where we go – even if we go only to the sea to our neighbors. But Thailand is safe country and simple for travel. That also means it is very touristic and it is harder to find places without tourists. Harder, but not impossible. Besides simple local transporters and basic accommodations there are also more luxury offers for tourists. Everybody can find something for them – on quite simple way.
We were relaxing on Koh Lipe Island for a week and visited Singapore, Bangkok and former Thailand´s capital – Ayutthaya.
It is recommended to have insurance assistance for all travels outside Slovenia, for Thailand as well. We have Coris family insurance for all year long and we have good experiences with them (but luckily we don´t have a lot of experience, I knock on the wood ).
Beside that we always insure risk of cancelation for plane tickets and the more expansive accommodations that we pay before our trip and cannot be canceled. This insurance must be made in 48 hours since the tickets (or accommodations) were bought and it is valid until the first day of the trip, so when leaving Slovenia. There are two levels of that insurance – basic one covers inability to travel of one family member because of illness or injury, and the expanded one covers other reasons for inability to travel, but is much more expansive.
When to travel?
Thailand has tropical climate and no seasons. You should prepare yourself for moist and wet T-shirts, no matter when you go. But don´t worry – after a few days, bodies get used to the moisture and it becomes easier. What is more important are dry and rainy season as in most tropical countries, but are not at the same time all around Thailand, so there are a few general standpoints:
– Islands on the West (Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe…) are best to visit from November to March, when there is dry season without rain and lower moisture. From April to October there is monsoon and rain is more common and the moisture is higher.
– Islands on the East (Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao) have dry season from January to August, and monsoon between September and December.
– North part of Thailand has dry season from November and May, but spring months are much warmer. There is higher possibility of rain from May to October because of monsoon.
Generally speaking the best time to visit Thailand is from December to March, but also there are a lot of tourists in that time. If you intend to avoid the biggest crowd, you should go a month or so before high season or immediately after.
We went to Koh Lipe on south west edge of Thailand at the end of October and in the beginning of November and then went further to Bangkok and Ayutthaya. Even though it was still monsoon (it began late this year) it rained only two times in our 14 days long trip – once in the evening for two hours (and it was pouring big time) and once during the night. Otherwise the weather was nice and warm – not too hot, with moisture that was bearable and some clouds on the sky. Sea was unbelievably warm – a little too much for us. There were tourists, but not that much – at least not at Koh Lipe and in Ayutthayina, with exception on must see locations in Bangkok, but that is different story 🙂 .
Which part of Thailand should you choose?
There are millions of islands in Thailand, almost literally 🙂 . If you don´t like crowded places it is best to go leave out Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi… We decided to go to little island Koh Lipe, which is also named Maldives of Thailand. I will write more about it in separate article. It was very nice and we highly recommend it. Travelers and families also speak highly of Koh Tao, an island on east part of Thailand. It would be (and maybe will be) our next choice. But as I already said, everyone can find something for himself; you just have to know what you want and when you can travel. In any case, there is Bangkok worth visiting (I will write about that in separate article) maybe Ayutthaya (which is wonderful) and north part of Thailand, which you should visit if you have enough time for that (Chiang Mai, Lampang). We left it for another occasion, because we didn´t have enough time.
It is not hard to find quite cheap plane tickets for Thailand, but we recommend that you buy them a few months prior your trip as it is easier to get a good price. You should watch regularly web site Po svetu, where they announce special offers. If you don´t want your airport to be far away, it is best to fly with Turkish Airlines from Brnik (officially Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, I know) and Istanbul to Asia. It is for reasonable price, easy and good quality. That´s why Turkish Airlines is our favorite airline and many times our first choice (and no, that isn´t paid add 🙂 ).
You can fly directly to Bangkok, but we wanted to see Singapore, so our trip was Ljubljana – Istanbul – Singapore and back Bangkok – Istanbul – Ljubljana. That kind of ticket is called multi-city cart and is no more expansive because of different destinations. The price for plane ticket was 470 € with short waiting time in Istanbul and night flight to Singapore (the same when we were going back home). When you consider that we departure from Slovenia – that was great price! If you want to see main attractions of Istanbul for free, you should buy such tickets at Turkish Airlines, that you will be waiting for your connected flight more than six hours at day time. In that case Turkish gives you free city tour and lunch (http://www.istanbulinhours.com).
Transport in Thailand
We started our trip in Singapore. If you have only half of a day or a day to see the city, you can leave your luggage at the airport (link) as we did. From the airport to the city you can go by train/ underground train or you can hire taxi. We used both. Underground train is cheaper, but 15€ price for taxi is reasonable for Sigapore.
From Singapore we went to Koh Lipe throgh Langkawi, Malaysia. We bought tickets from Singapore to Langkawi at Airasia (which is quality low price airline in Asia) for 40€ with luggage included. Langkawi is nothing special, but great starting point to Koh Lipe.
You can go to Koh Lipe with speedboat from two harbors in Langkawi, Telago and Kuah Jetty. Speedboats drive only in season (http://kohlipethailand.com) but it is recommended to buy tickets prior (especially if you travel in high season). There is special regime because you cross country border. While you are on boat, your passport will be with the captain and when you land on Koh Lipe, you will get it back. But don´t worry – for Asia it is great organized.
When you land on Koh Lipe, you have to pay entrance fee for national park (200 Thai baht per person in cash, kids have 50% discount). There is no cash machine or money exchange office nearby so you have to bring cash with you. The easiest way to exchange money is in money exchange office in harbor Kuah Jetty. You should keep the ticket for national park at all times, as you will be needing it, if you leave the island when going on trips to other islands (islands hopping that we highly recommend).
Besides Langkawi you can go from Koh Lipe:
– to Pak Bar Harbor with a speedboat and then with bus or van to the airport Hat Yai
– to islands on the north, to Pukhet for example, with a boat
– with combined ticket for boat, van and plane (Nokair company)
We bought tickets for speedboat and van transfer to Hatyai airport in advance (1.000 baht = 25 euros per person), but we could easily bought them there and even for a lower price.
Inner Thailand air connections are cheap and frequent. We paid 25 euros for a ticket from Hat Yai to Bangkok.
There are two big airports in Bangkok: Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK). There is direct local railway conecction from Don Mueang airport to Ayuthaya and center of Bangkok. Suvarnabhumi has modern railway station to Phaya Thai, where you have to change train or take a taxi to center of Bangkok.
We went to Don Mueang Airport and after landing went on a train to Ayutthaya which took about an hour and cost only 1 euro for all four tickets. It is best to explore Ayutthaya by bikes, that you can borrow almost everywhere for a cheap price 🙂 .
When in Bangkok you can travel around by trains (underground or above the ground), tuktuk, taxi or buses. Train isn´t expansive, bus is even cheaper (but we didn´t travel with buses), the price for tuktuk drive depends on your ability to negotiate. The first price is much more expansive than the real price. You should lower it on 1/5 of what tuktuk driver suggests (not for 1/5 but ON 1/5 of the first price!). Besides formal traffic you can also use Uber and Grab in Bangkok. To use them you just order transfer from A to B in phone application and first interested driver picks you up. This kind of transport is very cheap and in our case it was comfortable as well.
Slovenes don´t need visa for Singapore and Malaysia. Visa for Thailand is VOA (Visa on Arrival) and you can get it for free on the border and it lasts 30 days. All you have to have is valid passport for additional six months.
We were withdrawal money mostly with Maestro card on cash machines. It was said that the provision for a withdrawal is 200 baht (5 eur), it was really 2,5 eur (on Sparkasse bank). For 1 eur we got 37,60 baht when withdrawing with Maestro card, but in exchange offices you can get a little more – 38,20 baht for bank notes lower than 50 eur, for bigger even one decimal higher. So overall, exchange offices offer better exchange.
It is common to pay in cash, but some restaurant and hotels except credit cards as well, but thay can charge some provision.
Thailand is suitable for beginner travelers, but also for experienced travelers who just want to relax a bit after more difficult travel. Because of delicious food, wonderful beaches, great underwater world, still (mostly) kind and nice locals, cheap and high quality massages, market places, temples, waterfalls and trekking on the north with genuine Asia vibe, it is a destination that can´t be wrong choice.
Go and check for yourself