Monday, 4 March 2019

How To Plan A Trip To Thailand

Koh Tao
Koh Tao


Thailand is a great introductory country into South East Asia as it's geared itself more to western visitors while still holding the charm of Asia. You'll probably have heard a fair few people (maybe even people you know) heading to Thailand for weeks strolling on beaches, hitting full moon parties and wearing elephant pants constantly but I promise you it's so much more than this. 

Think peaceful temples, bustling city streets filled with colour and amazing food smells, sanctuaries for rescued elephants, tiny bookshops, drinking Chang's while playing cards by the beach, snorkelling with triggerfish and sharks, dodging monkeys on the streets and climbing through caves for the best views of the coastline. 

If you've already found you've fallen for what Thailand has to offer and have booked your tickets out there, then the next step is to start to plan your trip in more detail. 

Even if you're only just starting to think about heading to this beautiful country, hopefully, this guide will give you some idea of what to expect when planning your trip. 

If you're planning on visiting Thailand while backpacking through SEA, then I've already put together a guide to planning a backpacking trip here which covers all the basics and goes into a bit more detail on certain aspects, so feel free to take a look at that post for some more in-depth info about that. 

But if you're just planning on hitting Thailand this time, then keep on reading...


WORK OUT YOUR BUDGET


You need to start looking realistically at how much money you are going to budget for your trip. Obviously, this does affect how long you want to go for, so regardless if you have a long or short-term trip in mind, it's really useful to look at your money situation. 

I have started putting together my own budget guides together currently covering New Zealand and Bali/Lombok, so when my Thailand budget guide is live I will link it here. 

Your budget will also depend on how you want to travel around Thailand. Do you want to embrace the backpacker life? Or do you want to spend a little more and travel in more luxury? 

Both options are perfectly feasible, so decide on what type of traveller you want to be while out there. 

Make sure to take into account the basics (accommodation, transport, food, and activities) as well as any extra excursions you may want to put some money aside for. 

Also, don't forget to take into account the amount of money you'll need to spend on buying plane tickets and anything you'll need before you go, as well as vaccinations and visa (which I'll talk about in a minute). 

Khao San Road, Bangkok
Khao San Road, Bangkok


HOW LONG TO TRAVEL FOR


Let's be clear - the longer you can spend in a country, the better, as you can get a real sense of the place and go to all the places you want to go to without being rushed. 

However, that's not always realistic, especially if you're using holiday days from work to go on this trip. 

I'd say that two weeks is a great starting point to see a couple of places in Thailand, and then you can go up from there. A lot of people normally head to the islands if they've only got a small amount of time, while some head to the north for the rolling hills of Pai and Chiang Mai. 

If you're lucky enough to stay longer, then you can hit quite a few places and you can figure out a route to travel up and down the country. 


WHERE TO GO/WHAT ROUTE TO TAKE


You'll probably find a tonne of guides out there recommending places to go, and so, for now, I will leave that to them. 

The way I planned where we wanted to go was by starring places of interest on Google Maps, and then working out a route and order from there as having the map created a visual guide for me to work with. 

Once you've highlighted all the places you want to go, then you can create your hit-list. For those on a short trip, you can figure out the areas that have the most amount of places of interest that you've highlighted, and look for accommodation around those areas. 

For those on longer trips, you can create a loose itinerary for you to follow. Normally you would start with where you're going to fly into, and then figure out whether you're going to head north or south first. We decided to head north first and then loop back to head south, but we also met a few people who had done the opposite and travelled straight to the islands after arriving in Bangkok. 

While you're looking at your route, definitely take a look at transport to see how realistic your route is. Thailand has a great railway network that covers most of the country, including sleeper trains for overnight travel. You've also got the other options of overnight buses (definitely not for the light-sleepers here) and, of course, domestic flights. 

Koh Nangyuan
Koh Nangyuan


VACCINATIONS


These next three points are things that you definitely need to look into while you're planning if you want to have an enjoyable trip/not contract a deadly disease/get thrown out the country/get compensation if your passport is stolen. 

You need to start thinking about getting your vaccinations at least 6-8 weeks before you travel to allow time to have all the injections you need, as well as to allow for anything to go wrong. 

The first thing to do is to check what vaccinations you've had already, as your doctor's surgery may not have a record of it if you had some done at school. You would have been given a slip after your injection as evidence you've had it done, so having those to hand can save you time and money.

On the NHS site fitfortravel, they say to get your tetanus shot if you haven't got it already, and then advise a few others like Hep B, typhoid and rabies. 

You may or may not have guessed, but these vaccinations are not free. You can pay as you go after each injection (you may need two or three), and the normal injections cost around £40 each so definitely factor this into your budget. 

You may also need to bring malaria tablets with you. This totally depends on what parts of Thailand you'll be visiting, as there are only small areas around the borders of the country that hold a malaria warning. 

You may already have some if you're travelling long-term to other countries with a malaria risk, but if you don't, it might be worth your time getting some if you think you'll be going to affected areas. The best thing to do with this is to talk about it with your doctor when you make an appointment for your injections, as they will be able to recommend the best ones for you. 


 VISAS


Depending on where you live, visas can either be a breeze or a pain in the butt. 

If you're from the UK, then you're in luck- you can enter Thailand without a visa for 30 days for free! If you want to stay longer, then you can either apply to extend your stay while you're in the country once for another 30 days, or you can apply for a visa before you go (especially important if you want to work in the country). 

You'll also need to have proof of onward travel before you go, as they may ask for it before you board your plane. 

I discussed the topic of proof of onward travel in this post, but to be honest, if you're just visiting Thailand on your trip then you probably will have your return ticket booked already. 

If, however, you're travelling long-term and don't want to be tied down to having an end-date to your time in Thailand, then read this post for some ideas of how to give you a little more spontaneity. 

Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya


TRAVEL INSURANCE


I think this one is obvious but can sometimes get overlooked. Getting travel insurance is so important, and is a must regardless whether you're hopping over to France for a weekend away or travelling for a year around Asia. 

There are specific packages out there designed for long-term travellers, so you should be able to find some great insurance regardless of how long you're travelling for. 

However, I implore you not to go for the first cheap deal you see. Normally with travel insurance (as I came to find out while dealing with my own insurance claim), the company advertising the package don't necessarily handle all the subjects covered. They will most likely have other companies who specialise in each subject to cover these areas, meaning that even if the company advertising the package may have 5-star reviews, the company responsible for other areas may not. 

So, when you're looking at a deal that may seem too good to be true, be sure to do some digging. Looking into those T&C's that no one ever reads, and check who's really covering you. When I had to make a tech insurance claim while away, I found out that the company handling my case had all 1-star reviews. Big bummer. 

If this is the case, then put a bit more money aside for a better deal with a more trusted company so you don't end up stuck with a rubbish company with hardly any customer service qualities if anything happens to you. 


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I'd love to hear if this has helped you plan your trip in any way and if you book tickets let me know what parts of Thailand you're going to! 

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