Thailand – with all its beautiful scenery, great food, and friendly people – has become one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.  From budget travelers to families to honeymooners, Thailand appeals to almost everyone.  Whether you are an experienced traveler or someone just starting to venture abroad, planning your first visit to Thailand can take some work.  It might be a small country but don’t think you can just show up and go.  Check out our tips for planning your first visit to Thailand below.

What to Do

The beauty of Thailand is that it seems to have a bit of all the great things you could want in a vacation – peaceful island paradises, gorgeous beaches, lush jungles, wildlife, plenty of history, old temples and palaces, vibrant cities, amazing food, and much more.  Deciding what you want to do on your visit is a good way to start narrowing down your trip options.  To see it all would take months or even years so figuring out your travel priorities is a good first step.

If you like a vibrant nightlife, Thailand definitely has that!  Check out the world class dance clubs in the cities or party right on the beach at the famous full moon parties.  Not your ideal night out?  Why not head to one of Thailand’s many night markets where you can score great souvenirs and even better food.  For animal lovers, there is lots to experience in Thailand from bird watching hikes through tropical jungles to riding an elephant.  The country has some really great archaeological sites, many of which combine ancient temple ruins with modern Buddhist shrines.  No matter what type of traveler you are or what kind of trip you want, Thailand is likely to have some great choices.

Where to Go

Once you figure out what you want to do, you need to decide where to go.  It is better to figure out the what first since Thailand has many highlights, spread out in every corner of the country.  Narrowing it all down to just a few spots to see if hard but knowing what you are most interested in seeing will help.

If you really want to see some nice beaches and hang out on laidback islands, the South of Thailand is where you want to head.  With hundreds of great beach options, you can further narrow down your choices by figuring out what you might want to see away from the beaches.  Some Thailand beaches are remote paradises where spotting wildlife is much more likely and where great diving spots are plentiful.  Other beach areas are known for great nightlife and parties.

For history and culture, central and/or northern Thailand are good choices.  The historic city of Ayutthaya is not only filled with incredible old temples, earning it the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also a good place to see modern Buddhism being practiced.  Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai is a expat favorite thanks to great prices, lots of culture, good food, and plenty of day trip possibilities including a popular trip to a local elephant sanctuary.

What to Expect

When you are planning your first visit to Thailand, it is also important to remember that you will be entering a very different culture.  Doing some research ahead of time and knowing what to expect will help you deal with any culture shock.

In general, Thailand is a pretty conservative country and women especially should be conscious of what they wear.  A bikini on the southern beaches of Thailand won’t be a problem but might cause a bit of shock at a local river swimming spot in rural northern Thailand.  Another thing to keep in mind is that Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist culture and the highest respect should be shown at all temples.  Just be polite and aware of your actions, and you should be fine.

Photo Credit: MikeBehnken via photopin cc

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