A beginner’s guide to planning a trip to Thailand for the first time? Tips on booking flights, seasons, accommodation, tours, experiences, and hidden gems.
Nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand is a tropical paradise that is a popular holiday destination. And for a good reason! Home to friendly locals, delicious street food, stunning temples, beautiful beaches, and bustling cities, Thailand really has it all.
Visiting Thailand for the first time is so exciting! It’s a place to discover Thai culture, try new local cuisine, and experience natural wonders like the Wat Pho! Whether you’re heading there for a beach, city, or adventure holiday, this guide has everything you need to know from when to go, where to stay, and more.
I’ve explored Thailand extensively, with over five visits and counting. In fact, it’s one of my favorite countries! This guide draws on my first-hand experiences which offer real logistical advice including optimal times to visit, the top recommended activities, where to stay, and the best destinations to visit.
Are you ready to learn how to plan a trip to Thailand? Let’s get started!
- In a Rush? Here’s Your Easy 9-Step Thai Trip Planning Guide
- In a Rush? Here’s Your Thailand Trip Planning Cheatsheet
- 9 Steps to Planning a Trip to Thailand
- Step 1: Choose the Best Time to Visit Thailand
- Step 2: Choose Where in Thailand to Visit
- Step 3: Plan Your Budget, Trip Length, & Itinerary
- Step 4: Consider Your Thailand Visa Requirements
- Step 5: Book Your Flights to Thailand
- Step 6: Plan & Book Your Accommodation in Thailand
- Step 7: Book Your Tours & Travel Experiences in Thailand
- Step 8: Organize Your Thailand Travel Insurance
- Step 9: Pack Your Bags!
- More Thailand Travel Guides & Inspiration For Your Trip!
I'm Olly, a full-time traveler for the past 5 years. I visit every destination I write about & handpick all recommendations.
In a Rush? Here's Your Easy 9-Step Thai Trip Planning Guide
Don't have time to read the entire blog post with all the tips and insights? No problem.
If you want to plan a trip by yourself to Thailand in South East Asia here are the 9 steps I recommend you to follow.
- Step 1: Choose the Best Time to Visit Thailand - November to early April for sunny weather; consider festival seasons for cultural experiences like Yi Peng and Songkran.
- Step 2: Choose Where in Thailand to Visit - Decide between vibrant Bangkok, tranquil beaches in Phuket, or cultural treasures in Northern Thailand.
- Step 3: Plan Your Budget, Trip Length, & Itinerary - Tailor your budget for beach, city, or hiking holidays; expect higher prices than other Southeast Asian countries.
- Step 4: Consider Your Thailand Visa Requirements - Check official sources for visa requirements or exemptions depending on your nationality, with visas on arrival available.
- Step 5: Book Your Flights to Thailand - Utilize tools like Skyscanner for budget-friendly options; Bangkok is a primary entry point.
- Step 6: Plan & Book Your Accommodation in Thailand - Explore a range of options from hostels to luxury resorts throughout Thailand, tailored to your budget and location (tips below).
- Step 7: Book Your Tours & Travel Experiences in Thailand - From island hopping to temple tours, book in advance for popular experiences.
- Step 8: Organize Your Thailand Travel Insurance - Ensure coverage for unforeseen incidents on your trip to Thailand.
- Step 9: Pack Your Bags! - Focus on light clothing suitable for warm weather, and don't forget essential travel items.
Read on below for a more detailed breakdown of these steps to get you planning your first trip to Thailand today.
In a Rush? Here's Your Thailand Trip Planning Cheatsheet
Are you organizing your trip to Thailand? If you prefer independent travel like me, read my guide on planning a trip to Thailand. Alternatively, check out the useful resources below that I use to plan all my trips around the world for the past 5 years of non-stop travel.
Tip: Bookmark these pages for the future.
Flights: Find & compare flight deals to Thailand using Skyscanner. Use the "search by month" feature to discover the cheapest day to fly.
Hostels: When it comes to scoring epic deals on hostels and cheap stays your secret weapon is Hostelworld. If you're traveling to Thailand to meet people, use the “See Who's Going” function to see who's staying in your room.
Travel Insurance: HeyMondo is my top recommendation for travel insurance for Thailand. They've got your back with comprehensive coverage, from unexpected flight hiccups to those "oops" moments. Click the link to get 5% OFF your policy.
Internet & Connectivity: Stay connected as soon as you land in Thailand with Airalo's eSIMS. Download their app and grab an eSIM from the comfort of your own home, even before you set foot on foreign soil. No more frantic searches for local SIM cards when you arrive.
Car Rental: Don't overpay for a rental at the airport. Compare rental car prices across all dealerships in Thailand. Use DiscoverCars to choose the perfect ride for your journey.
Transportation: Busses run throughout Thailand making it cheap and easy to reach your destination. Check out the bus timetables or plan your trip with 12Go.
To learn more about independent travel to anywhere else in the world, read my ultimate step-by-step guide on how to plan a trip.
9 Steps to Planning a Trip to Thailand
It's your first time visiting Thailand, so planning the trip can be a little daunting! However, I'm here to make your travel planning a whole lot easier.
From the best time of year to visit, things to do, Thai visa requirements, and more, below you'll find the nine steps to planning your epic Thailand vacation.
Step 1: Choose the Best Time to Visit Thailand
For your first trip to Thailand, you want it to be amazing! So, the first thing you need to do is find out the best time of year to visit for the type of holiday you want to experience.
For warm, dry, sunny weather, the best time to visit Thailand is between November and early April. While this time may be the high season and prices may be a little higher, it's the best time to go to enjoy warm, sunny days.
Best Time to Visit for Different Holiday Experiences
You really can visit Thailand any time of year, depending on what you want to do! Here are the best times to visit for various holiday experiences:
- Beach holiday: December to March or July to September. December to March is the perfect time to spend your days on the beaches of the West Coast, including, Khao Lak, Phi Phi Islands, Railay, and Phuket. However, Thailand's East Coast experiences its dry season from July to September, making those months ideal for a holiday on Koh Tao, Koh Samui, or Koh Phangan.
- Festival season: Late November to late February. If you'd like to experience the magic and wonder of the Thailand festival season, these months are the best time to go. Thailand's most famous lantern festivals, Yi Peng and Loy Krathong, are held in late November. Late January to late February is the best time to head to Bangkok for the Chinese New Year festival, which sees the streets of Bangkok filled with lanterns, fireworks, dragons, worshippers, and tourists. Songkran is Thailand's most famous festival and usually falls in April.
- Low prices: Year-round. Like most countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand experiences not one, but two monsoon seasons. The South-West monsoon season runs from May to October, affecting the West Coast. The North-East monsoon season runs from November to March, affecting the East Coast. Due to the humidity and rain, during these months you can save big on domestic and international flights, accommodation, and activities.
- Scuba diving: November to April. Thailand has some of the most beautiful diving sites in all of Asia, attracting divers from around the world. The Andaman Sea is one of the best places to go scuba diving in Thailand. Perfect diving conditions are found between the months of November and April. Keep in Mind that the Surin and Similan marine parks are closed from mid-May to mid-October
Tip: Understanding the best time to travel to Thailand can be based on different holiday experiences. Anne Bauso from Travel + Leisure explains why you might want to avoid planning a trip to Thailand during the heaviest monsoons.
Step 2: Choose Where in Thailand to Visit
After five visits to Thailand, I've explored the hiking trails in the north and the famous beaches of Koh Tao. In all honesty, there's still so much to discover.
Below is a useful map followed by a breakdown of each main area to visit in Thailand.
- Bangkok: You can experience the past and present in Thailand's capital. Home to ancient Buddhist temples and modern-day shopping centers, Bangkok is a must-visit. If you're looking for a city break with a mix of things to do, Bangkok is the place to be. Remember, that Bangkok is a big city, so you can expect it to be crowded, but that's part of its charm!
- Phuket & Southern Thailand: If you're planning a beach holiday, then Phuket and Southern Thailand are where you need to be. Located off the west coast of the country, the Krabi province is home to the country's most visited beaches, including Freedom Beach, Patong Beach, Phra Nang Beach, and Ao Nang Beach.
- Northern Thailand: Instead of hitting the beaches, if you're more of a mountain-lover, then Northern Thailand is your paradise! Popular for hiking, waterfalls, Buddhist temples, and national parks, some of the best places to visit in Northern Thailand include Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Pai.
- Thai Islands: Fancy a taste of island life? Koh Tao and the Phi Phi Islands are some of the best places to stay where you have everything on your doorstep! Koh Tao is known for its incredible diving spots that are home to eagle rays, whale sharks, blacktop reef sharks and so much more! The Phi Phi Islands are known for their amazing snorkeling and swimming spots such as the popular Phileh Lagoon.
I have added the main areas to visit in Thailand based on my own visits and those recommended to me by other travelers.
Don't Know Where to Go? - Consider an Organized Group Trip
If you aren't sure where to go on your first trip to Thailand, why not join an organized group trip? One of the best things about group trips is that everything is planned for you. This includes accommodation (subject to tour), transport, activities, etc. All you need to do is show up!
Group trips are a fantastic way to see the best of what Thailand has to offer while making new friends and memories along the way.
1. Cheow Lan Lake and Wildlife Tour 2 Days
If staying in a raft house in the middle of Khao Sok National Park interests you then this tour will blow your mind. From floating down crystal clear rivers to kayaking to your room on a lake it really doesn't get much better!
2. Northern Thailand Tuk Tuk Adventure 11 Days
An incredible way to explore Northern Thailand. Filled with many great stops such as Doi Inthanon National Park and Pai. This unique experience will be one to remember.
3. Private White Temple & Golden Triangle 2 Days
2 days filled with exploration. Visiting the incredible Chiang Rai and its mindblowing temples and then heading to the Golden Circle. You'll want to have your camera here!
Step 3: Plan Your Budget, Trip Length, & Itinerary
For your first trip to Thailand, I recommend a minimum one-week stay if you plan on visiting one to two places. However, it all depends on what you want to see! Below are some example itineraries for a beach holiday, a hiking holiday, and a city/party holiday!
Beach holiday - one week
- Day 1: Fly to Bangkok
- Days 2-4: Phuket or Krabi
- Days 4-7: Phi Phi Islands or Koh Tao
Hiking holiday - one week
- Day 1: Fly to Bangkok
- Days 2-4: Chiang Rai
- Days 4-7: Chiang Mai
City/party holiday - one week
- Days 1-2: Fly to and stay in Bangkok
- Days 2-4: Krabi (Ao Nang or Railay)
- Days 4-7: Phuket
Island Holiday- One week
- Days 1-2: Fly to Koh Samui
- Days 2-4: Koh Phangan
- Days 4-7: Koh Tao
Thailand is known for being a cheap country to travel to. However from my experience prices have gone up recently and I consider it one of the pricier countries in Southeast Asia. So, here's what you can expect to pay each day:
- Budget traveler: 20-40 USD
- Mid-range traveler: 50-100 USD
- Luxury traveler: 200-400 USD
Step 4: Consider Your Thailand Visa Requirements
Before booking your flights to Thailand, you must check if you need a visa to enter the country. There are two ways to get a traveler's visa (for tourism stays up to 30 days), which include getting a visa on arrival (valid for only 15 days) or applying for one in your country before your trip.
While the fee for a tourist visa varies depending on your country, the average price is between 30-50 USD.
However, the visa exemption rule allows tourists from 64 countries to enter Thailand as a tourist without applying for a visa. Some of the countries exempt from needing a visa include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
Step 5: Book Your Flights to Thailand
Once you've decided when you'd like to go to Thailand, the first thing to do is book your flight! Skyscanner is the best tool for flights as it gathers prices from various airlines, allowing you to choose the best one based on your budget!
The capital city, Bangkok, is the best place to fly into Thailand and it has many direct flights and is a cheap option for domestic flights. Keep that in mind when searching for your flights!
Step 6: Plan & Book Your Accommodation in Thailand
Since Thailand is a popular holiday destination, you can expect there to be a range of accommodation types. From backpacker hostels in Ao Nang to luxury resorts on Koh Tao, there is something to suit every budget.
To find the perfect accommodation for you, use Booking.com. The website showcases all types of accommodation in the area and you can even filter them to suit your budget and preferences.
Step 7: Book Your Tours & Travel Experiences in Thailand
From boating around the Phi Phi Islands to checking out the floating markets in Bangkok, Thailand boasts a number of fun experiences and tours to book on your holiday.
Whether it's relaxing on Hong Island, visiting the temples in Chiang Rai, a day trip to the Phi Phi Islands from Ao Nang, or joining a food tour in Chiang Mai, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Thailand. I personally enjoyed the Phi Phi Island day trip on my last visit as it visited the most incredible locations and I even spotted some small reef sharks which was an added bonus.
Not sure where you can book your tours or experiences in Thailand? Look no further than GetYourGuide or Viator. I always use these two sites for booking activities as they showcase a range of tours, activities, and experiences from different local operators.
Need more inspiration? Here are some of the best tours to do in Thailand.
Spend less time in transit & more time snorkeling among coral gardens and lazing on white sand beaches at the incredible Phi Phi Islands. Visits Maya Bay, Lohsamah, and Monkey Bay.
A day full of exploration of the incredible nearby Chiang Rai and its mindblowing temples. You'll want to have your camera here!
Float around the incredible Damnoen Saduak Market tasting delicious Thai treats while taking in the unique surroundings. Get the camera ready at the Maeklong Railway Market.
Step 8: Organize Your Thailand Travel Insurance
When planning a trip to Thailand, make sure to safeguard yourself from unforeseen travel mishaps like accidents, cancellations, delays, and loss of your personal items.
HeyMondo offers peace of mind travel insurance for Thailand at super affordable rates and has an excellent, easy-to-use app to manage claims.
Tip: We Seek Travel readers get 5% OFF
Step 9: Pack Your Bags!
So, you've decided when you're going to Thailand, where you'll stay and what amazing activities you'll experience, but what should you pack?
Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand is a warm country year-round, so you won't need to pack any sweaters, jeans, or long-sleeved shirts!
To make your first trip to Thailand easier, check out the photo below for a packing list you can save which has everything you need to take to ensure your trip goes smoothly!
More Thailand Travel Guides & Inspiration For Your Trip!
Home to jaw-dropping beaches, stunning Buddhist temples, waterfalls, islands, and more, it's no wonder Thailand is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Southeast Asia. Personally, it is one of my favorite countries to visit as it has such a wide range of things to do and different landscapes.
From the best time of year to visit, to where to stay and how to apply for a visa, I hope this guide explains everything you need to know when planning a trip to Thailand.
If you'd like more information on the country and other places to visit, check out my other Thailand travel guides.