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Top Tips for First Time Visitors to Thailand

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Planning a trip to Thailand? There are some things you need to know when traveling to Thailand. Especially if you are a first time visitor to Thailand. In this post, I’m going to share my 11 top tips for first-time visitors to Thailand.

1. Do your research

I did a LOT of research before arriving in Bangkok. If you want to make the most of your time in Thailand I recommend you do the same. It doesn’t matter if you are an obsessive plan-every-second-of-your-visit or a go-with-the-flow kinda person. Knowing what to expect will only help.

Make sure you buy a good guidebook, read it, and make notes. Although Google will also be your friend when you are in your hotel or hostel, having a book that you can flick through while traveling between places will kill some of the boredom and make the most of your travel time.

Even if you don’t want to plan your Thailand itinerary to the minute. It’s a good idea to have a good idea of where you want to go and make a vague plan. Do you want to explore the whole of Thailand? or do you just want to plan a Southern Thailand Itinerary?

2. Get Pinning

As I traveled with a friend, once we had booked our flights and ordered some guidebooks, we set up a pinboard on Pinterest to store all the websites, images, and blogs we found. Everything we read online is linked to this board and you can take a look by clicking here.

3. Book your internal flights before you arrive 

If you know that you are going to fly between places then book these in advance. It will be a lot cheaper than if you wait until you are there.

We flew from Chiang Mai to Phuket and it cost us around £20.00. If you book the day before it’s likely to be over £100! Air travel comes with pros and cons. It’s quicker than trains and buses and when you book in advance it’s not much more expensive. But you do really need to book in advance, which means planning when you are going to travel, which can be limiting.

This was the main reason we only flew once as we didn’t want to over-plan our trip, so chose to do most of our travel on trains and busses. Make sure you check Skyscanner for your flights.

Koh Samui Thailand 3 week guide
4. Take some time in Bangkok on your way back

We spent 2 days in Bangkok at the start of our trip and we did cover a lot of ground in those 2 days. So much so that we decided not to travel back for our return flight until the evening before.

I still regret this a bit, if you have never been to Thailand it will most likely take you a week or two to settle into life in Thailand and get over the initial culture shock. Bangkok is pretty nuts and when we did get back the night before our flight home I felt so much calmer and more comfortable.

I really wish I’d been able to take a few days to explore without the panic and culture shock. You also get lots of tips and advice from fellow travelers as you are traveling around, like where to stay in Bangkok, so on our second visit we stayed in The Yard and I really can’t recommend staying there enough. I could easily spend a week in Bangkok staying there.

5. Take sunscreen with you to Thailand

You will notice straight away that EVERYONE in Thai advertising is very white. They put skin bleaching ingredients in almost all of their skincare including sun cream. Although you can get sun cream without bleach it’s more difficult to buy and expensive… better to be safe than sorry; just bring your own, and make sure it’s reef safe!

6. Don’t overpack your backpack

As a general rule, don’t bring too much with you. Clothes are so cheap out in Thailand and you will want to shop. You aren’t a true traveler until you are rocking some elephant pants. I ended up having to throw so many clothes away to make room for my new ones. The trousers and dresses are so cheap and easy to come by; tops I found a bit more difficult.

I wrote a whole guide to help you pack that you can read here.

Bangkok Thailand ' my 3 week Thailand guide
7. Know where you are going

Every time we moved on we found the most stressful part was when you actually arrive at your new destination.

Picture this: You are tired, a bit stressed, probably hungry, most likely need to find a toilet, and after sitting on a bus for 16 hours you’re probably stinking. As soon as you step off the bus/ train or ferry you have about 30 Thai people shouting “Where you going?”.

It can be pretty overwhelming and this is normally the point where people get ripped off. If you have booked your accommodation already then see if you can pre-book a transfer or a car to pick you up. We did this a few times and booking a car online actually saved us about 400 Baht compared to the cost of a taxi. If you aren’t sure where you are going then try to find a café close by and hang out there until you have orientated yourself so you can make decisions with a clearer head.

If you have booked your accommodation already then see if you can pre-book a transfer or a car to pick you up. We did this a few times and booking a car online actually saved us about 400 Baht compared to the cost of a taxi. If you aren’t sure where you are going then try to find a café close by and hang out there until you have orientated yourself so you can make decisions with a clearer head.

However, if you aren’t sure where you are going then try to find a café close by and hang out there until you have orientated yourself so you can make decisions with a clearer head.

Search For Tickets On Bookaway

8. Check first

Most hostels and hotels are on now so if you are traveling in peak season (which we did) then booking online can actually be cheaper.

Pre-booking your accommodation is a tricky one. We probably got it wrong more than we got it right BUT it was peak season and some places got booked up.

The biggest issue we found was that we didn’t know the area so more often than not we booked a great place in an area that was too far away from town. A few times we found a place and the price we were quoted in person was more expensive in person that the price we would have paid booking online. So even if you choose not to pre-book I would always check the price online as well as in-person as you might save money.

9. Get some experience driving a moped

If you are like me and have no experience on a moped and are a bit of a scaredy-cat I would seriously recommend either doing your CBT course (1 day and costs about £70) or at least get someone to show you how to use one.

It’s almost impossible to get around Thailand without one. Luckily for me, a kind German guy took pity on me and helped teach me how to turn the thing on! If you go to Koh Phangan for example and you don’t want to go on a bike it will cost you a small fortune in taxis as it’s the only other mode of transport.

Do yourself a favor and before you hop on that moped take a read of my friend Universo Viajero’s post about renting motorbikes in Asia.


Laura after a run-in with a moped

10. Thailand Travel Insurance Advice

Do I even really have to say this? If you can’t afford travel insurance then you really shouldn’t be traveling. No one wants to have an accident or to get their stuff stolen. But it happens. Don’t be dumb and make sure you get insurance. The only company I use and promote for backpacking travel insurance is World Nomads. You can read my guide to travel insurance here. If however, you are a Digital Nomad like me then I’m all about Safetywing. They are who I personally used.



11. Stay away from Elephant Rides

It’s really easy when you are out there to make bad decisions – I did, and I really wish I could take it back.

As part of a pre-organised trip, an elephant ride was included. This is very common with tour operators in Thailand. They include Elephant rides in package tours. As soon as I sat on the elephant I wanted to get off. The way the man was treating the elephant broke my heart. I hated every moment of it.

It’s pretty widely acknowledged that the animals in these places are badly treated. Elephants are not for riding. Tigers are not for selfies. Have a read of these articles if you don’t believe me. The only way we can stop this is to take a stand with the tour operators in Thailand and say no. I wish I had.

Why You Shouldn’t Ride Elephants In Thailand

How to interact ethically with elephants in Thailand

Documentary Uncovers Shocking Secrets of Thailand’s Elephant Tourism

Do you really want to visit an animal attraction in Thailand?

If you want to see some animals while you are out there check out this article  5 Awesome Alternatives to Cruel Animal Attractions in Thailand or the only place you can interact with Elephants in an ethical way is Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary. I have not personally visited there by my friend Chris from Nomad City went and wrote all about it.

Chiang Mai Thailand - 3 week Thailand Itinerary

Final Thoughts on visiting Thailand for the first time

I hope this guide has helped you with some things you need to know when traveling to Thailand. I love Thailand and I’m positive you will too. Don’t forget to let me know about your trip to Thailand in the comments.

Got any other top tips for first time visitors Thailand you would like to share? Comment below.

I never travel anywhere without Travel Insurance. If you are looking for insurance be sure to check World Nomads first.

This post was proofread by Grammarly


Book your trip now

Are you ready to book your trip?  To help you get the best deals and service here are the companies that I personally use to book all of my travel online. I always shop around before booking anything, but these are my tried and tested starting places.

  • Skyscanner – I’m a bit fan of Skyscanner, it is who I use to book all of my flights. I often will check other like Google Flights or Momodo, but I always go here first and it is who I book 99% of my flights with. 
  • – I LOVE especially when I can book and cancel free up until a certain point, mostly because my plans are forever changing. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections. 
  • Airbnb – I’m not a huge user of Airbnb, but sometimes I do like to use it, and I ALWAYS check it before I book anything else. You can get some really cool places to stay here, and it is especially good in places like Cuba. If you don’t have an account and you click on this link then you will get $36 off your first booking.
  • Hostelworld – If you are looking for hostels then this is a great place to check first. They often have additional places that you won’t find on
  • Agoda – Although I don’t use it as much as, Agonda is especially good if you are traveling in Asia as they really do dominate there. 
  • Worldpackers – If you want to travel on the cheap and save money on accommodation then you need Worldpackers in your life. You can read more about it here. If you click this link to sign up and use the code CLAIRESITCHYFEET then you can get a 40% discount on your membership! 
  • Book a Way – If you are traveling in Asia and want to pre-book your transportation then is a fantastic site to do so. They have buses, trains, and cars.
  • RentalCars – Looking to rent a. car while you are away? I always book through Rental Cars as they do a search of all of the big sites and find the best deals. 
  • Welcome Pickups – Very occasionally getting from the airport to my accommodation is a total pain in the butt, or I’m traveling in a group and it makes sense to arrange a pickup. When I do I use Welcome pickups.
  • World Nomads – If you are looking for flexible travel insurance then it’s World Nomads all the way. I wrote all about insurance here if you want a more thorough review. 
  • SafetyWing – AsI’m a Digital Nomad and not moving around quite so much anymore I personally use SafetyWing now for my health insurance. I wrote a full review here
  • Viatour – Sometimes it can be a little expensive, but I like Viatour for somethings, especially if you can get a discount code! It’s also great for inspiration. 
  • Klook – If you are traveling in Asia, then Klook is great! You can book all kinds of tours, activities, and train tickets, plus they even have sim cards and WiFi.

This Post Has 49 Comments

  1. Gee

    I hope to go there next year and this advice is great. Im with you on the animals for attractions industry, breaks my heart. I’d rather go to a sanctuary.

    1. Claire Summers

      Thank you! Yes me too makes me so sad to see them treated so badly

  2. Tanya Korteling

    Good post, especially about Bangkok, I felt the same about Bangkok when I first went (years ago), spending some extra time there at another point is great. Also great advice on the moped, I’ve been travelling for 14 years and am still too wary to rent one which has been pretty limiting in a lot of places! Although I did try a e-bike I’m Myanmar last year which was ok…maybe I’ll graduate to a motorcycle soon!

    1. Claire Summers

      Oh an ebike sounds like fun! I’m with you on the fear thing though, hopefully, one day I’ll be brave!

  3. ramiz

    I like asian culture especially korean and thailand and I like that giving usefull good informations about before go to there.

  4. Cathy

    Great intensive tips. Sunscreen is important to protect our skin. I have read a lot about not riding elephants in Thailand and I absolutely agree on it. They’re abused so the more we ride on them, the more they get hurt. I love Thailand! Can’t wait to go back for the third time around this August! x

    1. Claire Summers

      I know it makes me so sad when I see pictures of people still doing this 🙁

  5. Emily

    You haven’t been to asia if you haven’t crashed a motorbike!! We drove for the first time in Chiang Mai and I really wished I had some experience! 6 months later we are pros now! Some great advice here, especially about booking flights and accommodation in advance.

    1. Claire Summers

      Haha so true! Golden rule of Thailand make sure you always have travel insurance before you even think about sitting on a moped!

  6. Emily

    You haven’t been to Thailand if you haven’t crashed a motorbike!! We drove for the first time in Chiang Mai and I really wished I had some experience! 6 months later we are pros now! Some great advice here, especially about booking flights and accommodation in advance.

  7. Marge

    I don’t really like to overplan a trip, I would ask some friends, google a little and that’s it. I like going where the wind takes me so to speak. I still think though that most of your tips are useful especially the elephant ride. Oh no I am not taking that ride. I think it’s animal cruelty and will not add value to my trip. I haven’t been to Thailand, hopefully I’d get there soon enough.

    1. Claire Summers

      I’m so like you these days! I normally do my planning while sat on a plane or a coach these days. It’s funny how the more you travel the less you plan.

  8. Indrani

    Good introductory post for Thailand visit. I did a tour there sometime back but I want to go there again. Thanks for the info on bookingdotcom. Elephant ride is a strict no for me. So sorry about your fall.

    1. Claire Summers

      I think Thailand is somewhere most people want to go back to…I know I do!

  9. neha

    Great tips. Some of these are applicable to almost all the destinations. And some others like the sunscreen are applicable to most of the beach destinations. I will keep all these in mind when I visit Thailand

  10. Kenneth

    Take sunscreen haha. Yes! Coudnt agree more.

    1. Claire Summers

      haha no skin bleach in my sunscreen thanks! Always take your own…

  11. sophie

    Wonderful tips! Thanks for sharing! Might help me on my trip to Thailand! Cheers!

  12. Suruchi

    Great introductory post for planning a trip to Thailand. I have been to Thailand and tried to follow all these before planning a trip except pinning the pins and making a board. I think that is quite helpful and will try to follow before planning my other trips too.

  13. Stephanie

    Good tip about the sunblock. I always bring my own, but didn’t think about the bleach. I also used uber in Bangkok and it was wonderful! I would never trust myself on a motorbike. I unfortunately didn’t make it out of Bangkok.

    1. Claire Summers

      No neither did I! Someone warned me there and when I started to check it was in everything.

  14. Candy

    The moped course is such an awesome tip! I see so many people on mopeds in Thailand and it really does look like THE transportation of choice. I am definitely a scaredy cat and would need to take the CBT course to feel comfortable driving around on one of those things 🙂

  15. Such great tips. I try to remember most of these tips on any trips abroad. I love getting the lonely planet book and read blogs through pinterest about the destination. It is so useful. I like every details planned. If not I get so stressed. Will definitely remember this when I travel to Thailand. ?

  16. Andrea

    Hubs and I lived/stayed in Thailand for 6 months last year and a lot of this is spot on!! The booking flights in advance especially! I did find all the snail-cream and white skin stuff amusing…it was ironic that tourists are there trying to get tans like the Thai and the Thai just want the white skin of the tourists lol!

    1. Claire Summers

      I know. They must think we are all crazy! Its funny because here in Central America the flight prices are pretty much fixed. You can book 6 months in advance or the day before and the price is the same. I couldn’t believe how much cheaper it was tp book early in Thailand!

  17. Paige W

    These are really great tips! It’s hard to believe just how big Thailand is, so planning things out in advance is key. Otherwise you miss out – I definitely made that mistake! I was going to wait until we got there in a few months to book a flight to Chiang Mai, but I believe I will book in advance now.

    1. Claire Summers

      That’s the one thing I booked and I’m so glad I did. Everything else doesn’t change or can be haggled but those flights skyrocket!

  18. Laura

    These are all great tips! I visited Thailand for the first time last year and while my partner and I didn’t plan anything in advance I am glad we read a bit more about where to stay/see/do so we could prioritize. I definitely agree with the Bangkok notion; it gets a bad rep but I love it!

    1. Claire Summers

      I can’t wait to go back. i still feel sad I didn’t spend more time there.

  19. Jojo

    Your tips are spot on! I was just in Thailand back in January. I wish I was able to spend more time exploring Bangkok. That was a bit difficult being on a tour. We did get to check out a good number of night markets.
    The buying cheap clothes thing is so true! We ended up buying elephants pants <3 and other clothing the first couple of days and I ended up wearing those more than the things I brought.
    Moped .. I wanted to rent one on Koh Samui island where we stayed a bit but was advised against by our tour guide. He said the traffic is a bit hectic. I didn't even bother attempting to rent one in Bangkok haha

    1. Claire Summers

      Oh god a mopen in Bankok would be my worst nightmare haha. I thought I was pretty bad ass renting a bicycle in Chiang Mai haha

  20. Sandy N Vyjay

    Thailand is a vibrant and lovely place and one can have lots of fun and enjoy varied experiences. However to really enjoy, one should be prepared and your pointers are really helpful for first time visitors. I love the tip about avoiding elephant rides. Animal tourism is really sad and one does find this in Thailand.

  21. Janna

    I just came back from Thailand and I miss it already! I agree with most of the things you mentioned here. Especially booking domestic flights early. I made sure I had all of that sorted out before we left the US

  22. Reshma

    Some great tips here! I’m glad to have stayed away from terrible elephant experiences, but I’m heavily guilty of not spending enough time in Bangkok despite my multiple visits to Thailand. Hope to get rid of this soon!

    1. Claire Summers

      I think a lot of people are guilty of that. But it’s so crazy landing there it’s easy to want to get out fast. Now I can’t wait to go back!

  23. Hamid @ Cambodian Private Tours

    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.

    1. Claire Summers

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

  24. HappyLuke

    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!

  25. JetBlue Airlines Number

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

  26. 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! ?

  27. Kiran

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

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