Thailand remains one of the first ports of call for first-time backpackers. But don’t be fooled though travelling here means following a well-beaten tourist trail, there’s no denying that this beguiling country can take a while to get to grips with. To make sure you hit the ground running on your first visit, follow our top ten Thailand travel tips.
Don’t try to fit in too much. You’re almost certain to start in Bangkok and we recommend you don’t rush off. Instead, allow a few days to soak up the vibrant capital’s up-for-it atmosphere, including at least one night on the notorious Khao San Road, before heading south to the islands, or north to Thailand’s second city Chiang Mai. To do both you’ll need at least two weeks; if you’ve got three add Kanchanaburi and the infamous Bridge Over the River Kwai to your itinerary.
Thailand is a country of temples, from the magnificent to the miniature, but try to visit them all and you’ll soon find yourself fatigued. Narrow it down to the big-hitters instead like Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok, and Wat Phra Si Sanphet in Ayutthaya. Remember that Thailand is about more than architectural splendour, the street-life and beach-life are just as much a part of the experience.
Savvy street food
Thai street food is abundant, high quality and astoundingly cheap. But it can also be a fast track to food poisoning. Take sensible precautions such as washing hands before and afterwards, and above all: eat where there are crowds; a faster turnover means fresher food. And don’t drink the tap water.
Repel the enemy
Mosquitoes are everywhere, but that doesn’t mean resigning yourself to being bitten. Use a spray-on repellent with at least 50% deet during the day (100% at night) and treat clothes with a permethrin spray as soon as you arrive in the country. Be sure to do this outside though and leave for a while to dry – it’s nasty stuff.
Visiting an open-air market is a must-do and it is here that you will find the best prices and often the best goods. Thailand is a mecca for counterfeit products though, so be aware that what you’re buying is unlikely to be genuine, and never forget to haggle – the first price you’re quoted should come down by at least a third. Some of the best markets are Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, Tha Kha Floating Market near Samut Songkhram and Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar.