How to Plan Your First Trip to Thailand Posted by sasha on Jul 25, 2015 in Uncategorized
Many dream about it, few actually go through with it, and even fewer actually do it all themselves. Planning a trip to Thailand is something that simply exists in daydreams for lots of people. Some follow through and make the trip, but leave all the planning to travel agents and tour guides. For those willing to put forth the effort to do it themselves, however, a DIY first trip to Thailand can be one of the most amazing experiences of your life, provided
it all most of it works out in the end. Having taken quite a few trips through the Kingdom of Smiles and advised several friends on theirs, I feel like it’s time to share a bit of advice with our great readers. If you’re considering making your first trip to Thailand, read this post and then go ahead and book your ticket – it’s a tough decision but one you won’t regret!
1. Decide on the Duration
Before you start planning your Thai getaway, you’ve got to decide how long you’re going to stay. Now, I realize that seems like a silly thing to point out – of course you have to decide on the duration of your trip before you plan it. If you’re an American planning this trip, though (or someone from any other country that involves a long flight), you need to take into account the time it’s going to take you to get there and back, plus the time you’ll need to adjust to the time difference. For many countries, you get 30 days visa free on arrival at the airport, and I would highly recommend you use up every last one of them. Even with a full month in Thailand, you’ll have to be picky about where you go and what you do – there’s really that much to do here! In my not-really-an-expert opinion, the absolute shortest trip you should take to Thailand is two weeks. While I realize that for many people out there this will be all of your vacation days, just trust me and do it.
2. Make a List of Possible Destinations
Are you looking for sun and sand? Do you want to get your scuba diving certificate? Would you like to explore the country’s sparkling Buddhist temples? Is trekking and elephant riding something you absolutely have to do? Or are you just content with wining and dining your way through Bangkok? There are endless possibilities in Thailand, but as we’ve already discussed, you probably don’t have endless time. Making a list of the places you really want to hit will help you craft your perfect and doable itinerary in the end.
3. Make a Budget
Once you’ve figured out how long you’re going to stay for, it’s time to figure out how much you have to spend. Again, this should seem like common knowledge, but it’s something that simply can’t be ignored. Deciding on your budget will help you settle a lot of vital points related to your trip: how many places will you go, what kind of transportation will you use, where will you stay, and what activities you’ll take part in. If you’re coming from the Western world, Thailand is going to be much cheaper than what you’re used to at home, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t easy to blow through your money. Think about what you’ll have to spend on your flight and domestic transport, and then do your best to make a daily budget. Unless of course you’re flush with cash – in that case, please hire me to be your private tour guide!
4. Use a Variety of Research Tools
Lonely Planet guide books are great and all – we even carried one for our entire first trip in Thailand – but it’s best to use a variety of research tools when planning your trip. Be aware that guidebooks are limited in what they can list when it comes to things like accommodation and restaurants, and these listings often change. You might find a great-sounding restaurant in your book only to find it’s been closed down and turned into a go-go bar by the time you get there. Guidebooks are a great resource for getting the lay of the land and learning a bit about Thailand, its people, culture, and history, but it’s best to also employ online sources that are more up to date. Some of my favorites include Travelfish and Southeast Asia Backpacker. There are also a million travel blogs out there these days – most of which are totally free – so take advantage of those and make a mixed bag of resources for planning your trip. Another thing you’ll want to do is pick up some Thai with us before you go!
5. Choose Your Start/Finish Points
If you’re flying internationally, chances are you’ll end up in the Bangkok airport. Should you not be interested in the big city, though, never fear – you can easily connect to tons of other places in the country with one more short flight. From most destinations, your best bet is going to be to book a round-trip flight in and out of Bangkok and then another domestic flight or two depending on where you’re going.
6. Check Holiday/Event Schedules
Should you find yourself traveling in Thailand during Songkran (Thai New Year), you can expect it to be tough to get tickets and hotels. This holiday falls from April 13-15 and is the busiest, most important one in the country, but there are plenty others. Check the public holiday schedule before you go to make sure they don’t mess with your plans. Other things to consider are special events such as the Full Moon Party on Koh Pha-Ngan. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on who you are, so you might want to look into them before you go.
7. Figure Out Your Route
Do you want to go from north to south, the other way around, or all over the place? It’s easy getting around Thailand, but you’ll want to have some idea of the route you want to take just to make it easier on yourself, save time and money. The main reason for taking this into consideration is figuring out your transport – which places you can fly to, which you can take the train to, and which you need to take a bus or hire a driver for. Another aspect of this is how many days you think you might want to spend in each place. After thinking about this for a while, you just might have to re-visit steps #1 and 2.
8. Be Ready to Change Everything
Thailand has a way of making people fall in love with it. Every time I’ve been, and every time friends have gone, I hear the same sentiment echoed over and over again – “I never want to leave!” Chances are you’ll get the urge to change your flight and stay longer. Should that not be an option, there’s still a high probability of you finding a place you like so much that you want to stay there for a week instead of the three days you had planned for. Weather happens, flights get cancelled, and plans have to change. Budgets are great and all, but sometimes you find something you’ve just got to splurge on. It’s nice having a perfect itinerary ready to go, but sometimes you just have to throw those out the window. You’ve done a lot of planning and that’s great, but sometimes you’ve just got to go with the flow. I wouldn’t recommend missing your flight back home, but I highly recommend being open to the possibilities of changes in your trip, extended stays, and random adventures. After all, if you’ve made it this far, why stop now?