Most visitors kick off their Thailand adventure in the country’s exhilarating capital, Bangkok, before moving on. The north offers emerald forests, mist-shrouded mountains, and the famously laid-back Chiang Mai. The south contains some of the world’s best beaches and diving, including iconic islands Phuket and Koh Samui. There’s much more to the country than its biggest hitters, though—ask anyone who has trekked through jungle in Mae Hong Son or visited cultural sites in Isaan. Thailand has experienced some political strife in recent times, but continues to capture visitors’ hearts with its beautiful landscapes and friendly people.



When’s the best time to go to Thailand?

There are three distinct seasons in Thailand: relatively cool from November to February, hot from March to June, and rainy from July to October. Generally speaking, it’s best to visit during the cool season. The hot season really is very hot, but this is also a popular time to visit because of Songkran (Thai New Year). Monsoon season is actually surprisingly pleasant, with heavy rains interspersed with long spells of sunshine.

How to get around Thailand

Bangkok is a hub for world travel with direct flights to Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and all the major cities in Asia as well as many secondary cities. There are no direct flights between the United States and Thailand, however: journeys usually involve a stop in another Asian city like Tokyo or Hong Kong. There are also international airports in Chiang Mai and Phuket. Once you’re in the country, it’s easy to get around Thailand. There is a top-class supply of internal flights, the public transport infrastructure is comprehensive, and you can always hire a car.

Food and drink to try in Thailand

Thai is one of the world’s most famous cuisines. From street-side feasts that come in at just a few dollars to full-on five-star blowouts, the dining options for local specialties are breathtaking. The flavors vary widely from region to region. Northern Thai food carries Burmese and Chinese influences. The northeastern Isaan cuisine shares much with Laos and Cambodia, while the spicy coconut milk–infused dishes of southern Thailand carry strong notes of Malay and even Indonesian cuisine. The best introduction to traditional Thai food is in Bangkok, where you can explore every nook and cranny of the country’s abundant larder. The Thai capital is also the best place to experience contemporary cuisine. Venues like Nahm, Bo:Lan, and Gaggan (this latter is molecular Indian) have featured in recent lists of the continent’s best restaurants, and culinary standards are lofty across the board.


It’s worth making the effort to catch Loy Kratong, the November river festival in which Thai people ignite fireworks, release airborne lanterns, and float thousands of offerings to the river spirits on the country’s waterways. Thai New Year (Songkran) in April is a raucous celebration that sees Thais and visitors drench each other with water as the temperatures soar. To better understand the Isaan belief in ghosts and spirits, seek out Phi Ta Khon, a colorful merit-making festival that is held in the village of Dan Sai in Loei Province. It takes place over three days around the first weekend after the sixth full moon of the year. Also look out for the Surin Elephant Round Up, held in late November each year, during which participants prepare enormous buffet spreads for the local pachyderms.

Culture in Thailand

With sacred spiritual sites complemented by modern museums, hip galleries, and other cerebral attractions, Thailand is the perfect place for an injection of culture. Bangkok, especially, is awash with international-class museums and plenty of contemporary art. For the more traditional side of Thai culture, bask in the history and grandeur of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The nation’s long and storied history of majestic Buddhist kingdoms can also be witnessed at sites like Sukhothai and Ayutthaya—both former capitals. Chiang Mai, the northern capital, has an incredible array of wats (Buddhist temples) as well as a youthful and happening art scene centered upon Niemenhaemin Road.

Local travel tips for Thailand

Thailand’s many contemporary clubs, bars, and nightspots belie the fact that most Thais prefer local sounds to foreign imports. Thai country music, which includes luk thung (rowdy and mostly instrumental) and mor lam (a slower, more vocals-orientated sound), is hugely popular around the nation. In Bangkok, venues like Isaan Tawandaeng and Isaan Tur Tur are packed with migrant workers whose level of boisterousness is commensurate with the flow of booze.

Guide Editor

Read Before You Go
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Resources to help plan your trip
Northeastern Thailand, otherwise known as Isaan, is, to tourists at least, the country’s great unknown. The giant drought-prone area is the poorest part of Thailand and banner attractions are fewer here than in other regions. Nevertheless, its fascinating cultural makeup (it has more in common with Laos than other parts of Thailand), fiery cuisine, superb national parks, and entrancing Mekong River scenery make it well worth investigating.
Often bypassed by tourists rushing to the mountains in the north or the beaches in the south, central Thailand is the country’s cultural heartland. Fed by the Chao Phraya River, the fertile plain north of Bangkok births much of the nation’s rice crop while towns such as Ayuthaya and Sukhothai were formerly capitals of once-mighty Thai kingdoms. Steeped in colorful history, the majestic ruins at both towns reward exploration by bike or by foot. Other highlights include the beach town of Hua Hin.
Most travelers kick off their Thai adventure in the country’s capital, Bangkok, an exhilarating place where tradition and modernity collide. Away from the big city, Thailand supplies the whole spectrum of travel experiences. The country’s north offers mist-shrouded mountains, its south some of the world’s best beaches. With beautiful landscapes, amazing food and friendly people, the “Land of Smiles” continues to capture the hearts of visitors.
Whether chowing down on crispy roast pig in Bangkok’s Chinatown or sampling wonderfully spicy khao soi gai (curry noodles with chicken) in the north of the country, dining is one of the true highlights of visiting Thailand. The country’s cuisine is famed throughout the world for its variety and its complexity of flavors and rightly so. You are never far from a great meal in Thailand, but here’s some food for thought to get you started.
A city known for its traditionalism, Chiang Mai is actually home to a wide variety of hotels. Whether you’re seeking colonial charm, East-meets-West vibes, or something more contemporary, you can find it here along with a range of unique amenities.
Whether you wander by boat, bike, or tuk tuk (or, highly recommended, a combo of all three), Bangkok spills over with places both new and very old to explore. Along the way, modern-day wonders rub shoulders with traditional Thai culture. Hop from the floating market to a day cruise on the Chao Phraya River to a cocktail at one of the city’s innovative bars. Make meals of tastes from street food vendors and mix in some table service at some of the city’s most renowned restaurants. Overwhelmed by all the options? Stop for a Thai massage. Need souvenirs? The weekend market awaits.
Thanks to Bangkok’s extraordinary number of things to do and restaurants to try and photos to snap, figuring out how to spend just one day in the city can be ... overwhelming. Consider this your essential one day travel guide. From the Chao Phraya River to the Grand Palace and a shopping mall or two, you’ll take tuk tuks and the train for a sampler platter of Bangkok that will have you reconsidering your decision to leave.
From perfect Japanese ramen to authentic Chinese cuisine, Bangkok’s restaurant scene is one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan, offering dishes to homesick expats and curious locals, too.
Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport, but shopping might be its national pastime. Bangkok has some of Thailand’s best shopping, if not all of Southeast Asia. You’ll find high-end designers, international brands, and Thai labels at megamalls like Siam Paragon. Or enjoy the ever-so-Thai shopping experiences of a floating market or night market. For handicrafts and and a wide range of souvenirs, stroll the thousands of stalls at Chatuchak Weekend Market.
No matter your personality or favorite tipple, Bangkok has your new favorite bar. Step into The Iron Fairies for a cocktail mixed in the muddled light of a steam punk apothecary. Get in on gin at the, shall we say, interestingly named Teens of Thailand. Want something that veers more traditional? Tep Bar is your go-to for the evening. Or perhaps you want jazz or the feel of a James Bond adventure? Yes, it’s all there in Bangkok.
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