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Thailand Travel Guide: Best Places to Visit in Thailand for First Timers

Are you planning a trip to Thailand and curious about the best places to visit in Thailand for first-timers? My Thailand travel guide will tell you when to travel to Thailand from USA and more. You must know some things when traveling to Thailand, especially if it’s your first time. I’m sharing my top 11 tips for visiting Thailand in this post.

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 

Best Thailand ToursClick here to check out the top Thailand tours
Best Thailand Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Thailand
Best Thailand Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Thailand

11 Tips for Planning a Trip to Thailand

1. Do Your Research

I read many Thailand travel guides before arriving in Bangkok—I recommend doing the same to make the most of your travel to Thailand. Whether you are an obsessive planner or a go-with-the-flow nomad, knowing what to expect will help you decide when to travel to Thailand.

Buy a reputable guidebook, read it thoroughly, and make notes. While online Thailand travel guides are helpful when you are in your hotel or hostel, having a book to flick through while traveling between places will kill boredom and enhance your experience.

Even if you don’t want to plan your Thailand itinerary to the minute, it’s good to know where you want to go and make a vague plan. Do you want to explore the entire country or opt for a Southern Thailand itinerary?

You should also research when to travel to Thailand based on your preferences and goals. Winter and spring are generally the best seasons for visiting Thailand as the weather is mild and attractions are reasonably priced.

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

2. Get Pinning

Once my travel companion and I booked our flights and ordered some guidebooks, we created a board on Pinterest to store websites, images, and blogs about travel to Thailand from USA. Everything we read online is linked to this board.

3. Book Your Internal Flights Before You Arrive 

If you plan to fly between places, book these flights in advance—it will be much cheaper than waiting until you are there. We flew from Chiang Mai to Phuket for around £20. If you book the day before, it will likely be over £100!

Air travel has pros and cons. It’s typically quicker than trains and buses and not much more expensive when you book in advance. However, you must have a plan for traveling to Thailand to reserve your flights, which can limit opportunities for spontaneity.

This was the main reason we only flew once—since we didn’t want to over-plan our trip, we mainly traveled on trains and buses.

I recommend checking Skyscanner when booking flights.

Koh Samui Thailand 3 week guide

4. Take Some Time in Bangkok on Your Way Back

We spent two days in Bangkok at the start of our trip and covered much ground—so much so that we decided not to return for our return flight until the evening before.

I still regret this a bit. If it’s your first time visiting Thailand, it may take a week or more to settle into daily life and overcome the initial culture shock. Bangkok is lively, and when we returned the night before our flight home, I felt much calmer and more comfortable. Bangkok is one of the best places to visit in Thailand for first timers, so I suggest spending several days there.

I wish I had spent several days exploring without panic and culture shock. You receive many tips and advice from fellow adventurers while you travel to Thailand. My friend and I received lodging recommendations, so we stayed at The Yard on our second visit. I can’t recommend staying there enough!

5. Bring Sunscreen

You will immediately notice that EVERYONE in Thai advertising is very white, as they put bleaching ingredients in almost all of their skincare, including sun cream. While you can find SPF protection without bleach, it’s more challenging to find and expensive. Better safe than sorry— bring your own, and make sure it’s reef-safe!

6. Don’t Overpack Your Backpack

Clothes are cheap in Thailand, and you will want to shop, so don’t overstuff your luggage. You aren’t a true traveler until you rock elephant pants! I had to throw many clothes away to make room for my new ones. The trousers and dresses were cheap and easy to find, but the tops were more difficult.

Quick Tip: View my full Thailand packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Thailand Essentials shopping list here.

Bangkok Thailand ' my 3 week Thailand guide

7. Know Where You Are Going

The most stressful part of visiting Thailand for the first time was navigating between destinations.

Picture this: you are tired, somewhat stressed, hungry, need to use the restroom, and, after sitting on a bus for 16 hours, you probably smell! Once step off the bus, train, or ferry, you’ll encounter about 30 Thai people shouting “Where you going?”

It can be overwhelming, which is usually where people get ripped off. If you already have accommodations, check if you can pre-book a transfer or a car to pick you up. We did this a few times, and booking a vehicle online saved us about 400 Baht compared to a taxi. If you aren’t sure where you are going, try to find a café and hang out there until you have orientated yourself so you can make decisions with a clearer head.

Need Transport in Thailand?

I’m a big fan of using when booking transportation in Thailand. I wrote a whole blog post about using them that you can read here. It makes the entire booking process so much easier, plus they have 24/7 support in case you need it!

8. Check First

Most hostels and hotels are on now. If you are traveling in the peak season (which we did), booking accommodations and traveling to Thailand online can be cheaper. Pre-booking your lodging is potentially tricky. We got things wrong more than we got them right, but many places were fully booked.

The biggest issue was we didn’t know the area, so we often booked places in less than-ideal places located far from town. Several times, we found a place, and the price we were quoted in person was more expensive than we would have paid online. Even if you choose not to pre-book, I would check the price online and in person to save money.

Need somewhere to stay? Check out these options!

CHERN Bangkok
The Moon Night Hotel
Here Hostel Bangkok

9. Practice Driving a Moped

If, like me, you have no experience on a moped and are a scaredy-cat, I recommend doing a one-day CBT course for £70 or having someone show you how to use one. It’s almost impossible to navigate Thailand without one.

Luckily, a kind German man took pity and taught me how to turn the thing on! If you go to Koh Phangan, for example, and you don’t want a bike, taxis will cost you a small fortune, as they’re the only other mode of transport.

things you need to know when traveling to Thailand
Laura after falling off a moped on Christmas Day.

10. Thailand Travel Insurance Advice

If you can’t afford travel insurance, you should reconsider traveling. No one wants to have an accident or to get their stuff stolen, but it happens. Don’t be dumb—get insurance before traveling to Thailand! The only company I use and promote for backpacking travel insurance is Heymondo. If you are a digital nomad like me, I’m all about Safetywing.


11. Stay Away From Elephant Rides

Once, an organized Thailand travel group I booked included an elephant ride, which is common among Thai tour operators. Once I sat on the elephant, I immediately wanted to get off. How the man treated the elephant broke my heart, and I hated every moment.

Most animals in these places are poorly treated. Elephants are not for riding, and tigers are not for selfies. Read the articles below if you don’t believe me. The only way we can stop this is to take a stand and say no.

Why You Shouldn’t Ride Elephants In Thailand

Documentary Uncovers Shocking Secrets of Thailand’s Elephant Tourism

Do You Really Want to Visit an Animal Attraction in Thailand?

Check out this article about 5 Awesome Alternatives to Cruel Animal Attractions in Thailand, or visit Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary.

Chiang Mai Thailand - 3 week Thailand Itinerary

Thailand Travel Guide Planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Thailand?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Thailand which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Thailand on Amazon here.

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance. I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go to flight searching platforms.

🚗 Where can I book rental cars or private transportation?

I strongly recommend using 12Go or Bookaway. There are many transport options available such as train, bus, and ferry.

I would strongly advice against driving a car in Thailand but you can easily rent a scooter locally.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Thailand?

First and foremost check out all of the amazing Thailand tours Where Sidewalks End has. They are a small local company and they have some really special experiences.

For everything else I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using either Airhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are, and Expedia. They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals. However, Agoda is highly recommended in Thailand and it has the most selection.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

Best Places to Visit in Thailand for First Timers: Final Thoughts

I hope this Thailand travel guide is helpful while planning a trip to Thailand! Travel to Thailand from USA is straightforward and easily accessible, so I suggest everyone try it. Planning a trip to Thailand can feel overwhelming, but Thailand travel guides are all you need for a stress-free vacation.

This post was proofread by Grammaly.

Thailand travel guide for first timers: must-know tips when traveling to Thailand.


Wednesday 4th of September 2019

Excellent article, This is very useful for me when I plan for a trip to Thailand. Thanks for sharing.

David from

Thursday 16th of May 2019

Thanks for sharing Claire! Many useful tips for travel in Thailand here. and agree with your last point, sadly elephants you see at tourist locations are simply treated as money making tools.

If we may add some tips to help fellow travellers, do watch out for certain scams such as “place is closed”, khlong scams, private bus scams and some others.

But as long as research is done, you will have an amazing time here. Enjoy Thailand! ?

JetBlue Airlines Number

Friday 5th of October 2018

Such an ideal piece of blog. It’s quite interesting to read content like this. I appreciate your efforts. Keep it up!!!


Sunday 24th of June 2018

Whenever I do my itinerary I usually take a screenshot of the pictures that I want to visit and most of the times I end up searching for the blogs where I got it from again. I never thought of just pinning the photos so I can easily read back the articles and share it to my friends. Your idea really saves my day! :) Will definitely do this for my next trip. THANK YOU, CLAIRE!

Claire Summers

Tuesday 3rd of July 2018

Yes!!! This makes me sooooo happy!!!

Hamid @ Cambodian Private Tours

Saturday 1st of July 2017

Nice post guys, I am personally agree to spend some more days in Bankokg, its not only about visiting tourist sights, this city has a lot to discover. Try to stay with locals or if you have a local mate whom can show you around then it will be a perfect stay.

Claire Summers

Tuesday 4th of July 2017

Having someone show you around Bangkok would be amazing. Hopefully, I'll meet someone who can show me around next time!