Most people find travel in Thailand to be relatively easy and economical. Of course, a little preparation will go a long way towards making your trip hassle-free and fun.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit most of Thailand is between November and February, primarily because it rains the least and is not too hot during these months. This period is also Thailand’s main season for both national and regional festivals. If you plan to focus on the mountains of the northern provinces, the hot season (March to May) and early rainy season (June to July) are not bad either, as temperatures are moderate at higher elevations. Haze from the burning-off of agricultural fields during these months, however, does obscure visibility in the north. Northeastern and central Thailand, on the other hand, are best avoided from March to May, when temperatures may climb over 40°C during the day and aren’t much lower at night. Because temperatures are more even year-round in the south (because it’s closer to the equator), the beaches and islands of southern Thailand are a good choice for respite when the rest of Thailand is miserably hot. Thailand’s peak – and we mean peak – tourist season runs from November to late March, with secondary peaks in July and August. If your main objective is to avoid crowds and to take advantage of discounted rooms and low-season rates, you should consider travelling during the least crowded months (typically April to June, September and October).
COSTS & MONEY
Thailand is an inexpensive country to visit by almost any standards. Those on a budget should be able to get by on about 500B per day outside Bangkok and the major beach towns and islands. This amount covers basic food, guesthouse accommodation and local transport but excludes all-night beer binges, tours, long-distance transport or vehicle hire. Travellers with more money to spend will find that for around 600B to 1000B per day, life can be quite comfortable. In Bangkok there’s almost no limit to the amount you could spend. Because there are so many hotel options, Bangkok is a good place to splurge for recovery from a long flight or as a reward for reentering ‘civilization’. For under US$100 you can get a river-view room with all the starred trimmings; try finding that in London or New York. In the provinces, guesthouses tend to be better value than the mid-range hotels (which are rarely well maintained). Guesthouses also have a built-in community of travellers and lots of tale swapping. ATMs are widespread and are the easiest ways to get Thai baht. Have a supply of US dollars in cash on hand, just in case. Credit cards are accepted in big cities and resort hotels but not in family-run guesthouses or restaurants.
Beyond the girlie-bar genre of literature, pickings are slim for English readers looking for travelling paperbacks. Here are a few standouts. Sightseeing (2005) is a debut collection of short stories by Rattawut Lapcharoensap that hops between Thai households and tourist cafés. The stories give visitors a ‘sightseeing’ tour of Thai life and coming-of-age moments.