Time of year visited: January
Cities Visited: Bangkok, Chiang-Mai (our favorite of the 3) and Phuket
–-LAX to Bangkok (Roundtrip): China Southern-we weren’t impressed. Also good to note that on our international flight the flight attendants didn’t speak English which wasn’t convienient for such a long flight. PS: Don’t expect much from the food either.
–Bangkok to Chiang Mai:-Thai smile $75 one-way. The food was pretty good. We were very satisfied with the airline.
–Phuket to Bangkok: Thai Smile $85 one-way
Travel Requirements & Currency Exchange
U.S citizens only need a valid passport to visit Thailand for visits of 30 days or less. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of travel and it must have at least one blank page per stamp. For additional information regarding travel requirements click HERE.
The official currency of Thailand is the Thai BAHT. Currently, 1 USD is equal to 35 BAHT. Keep track of rates by using an app like XE Currency App. Your U.S dollars will get you a lot in Thailand, and rates for exchanges are higher there than doing it here ahead of time. Currency exchange houses/booths are all over the place, just make sure you compare prices to get the best rate. When paying with cash always make sure you get back the correct change, you would be surprised how often people “forget” to give you back the correct amount. If you want to use a credit card there are plenty of places that accept cards, just beware of foreign transaction fees. Also, make sure they charge you in the local currency and not in U.S currency.
Tip: The cooler months in Thailand are November to February. The hot and dry season is during March, May and June (humidity can get up to 75%). April is the HOTTEST and the most humid. July-October are the months they get the most rain.
–In Bangkok: Eastin Sathorn Average price $86/night. Side note: Bangkok is cool and convenient to use as a base if you are flying around Asia. However, since most attractions are centrally located you won’t need more than 2 days here.
Tip:Avoid strip clubs and ping pong shows unless you want to be ripped off. (If you don’t know what Ping Pong shows are there’s a good description here)
–Chiang Mai: Nap in Chiang Mai Average price $71/night.
–In Phuket: Hotel IKON Phuket Average $97/night. Side note: Our overall impression of Phuket isn’t a good one. Everything was really run down including the airport (no A/C available). Our hotel was nice but the city is overrun with tourists. Nothing seems authentic and the service is pretty bad. In our opinion, it was very overpriced and it caters more to Eastern Europeans. We would suggest using Krabi as your base to island hop for your visit instead.
Tip: If you are a lover of spicy food, go to non-touristy places to find real spicy food. Due to the high number of tourists, the food around common places doesn’t come as spicy.
Places Visited & Tours
Get $10 OFF your first tour through Viator Here. Keep in mind to haggle prices if you are paying for things once you are there.
Please don’t pay to ride elephants, the tactics the majority of places use are abusive to the animals. Instead come volunteer here. You can choose from several options (including overnight volunteer trips), but we went with the “Pamper a Pachyderm” option; hands down one of the highlights of our trip. Books up quickly, so definitely make reservations ahead of time. Pricey, but worth it. We spent the whole day with two elephants- feeding, bathing, and walking through the forest with them. Very personal. This place is a true sanctuary, with over 70 rescued elephants (and one baby that was born last April!) NO CHAINS, HOOKS, OR RIDING. They truly focus on allowing the elephants to finally enjoy their freedom. You finish the day white water rafting back to the camp and then walking around to meet the rest of the elephants.
Another good option to visit the Elephants in an environment that is safe and kind to the animals is the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. It is also a lot less expensive. Check their website for details.
We purchased a tour once we got into town. About $15 USD per person (with entrance fees, transportation, etc. it ended up being about what we would have paid if we’d done it on our own) Doi Suthep is at the highest point in Chiang Mai, so you get amazing panoramic views of the city. The palace was pretty, but nothing out of the ordinary (basically one huge garden).
You can do a full or half-day. We opted for the half day in the evening. Definitely recommended. Instructors are great, you get to pick what you want to cook, and everything is made from scratch with fresh ingredients from their garden. Small group, and everybody has their own wok.
Phi Phi is definitely one of the most popular island destinations, so you can expect large crowds, in particular at Maya Bay. Upside to the sunrise trip is that you avoid a lot of the crowds and actually get to enjoy the beautiful and iconic Maya Bay before the hoards of people arrive.
Tip: if you are going to be renting a jet sky or boat once you get to any of the beaches vs booking with a tour company ahead of time, make sure you document the status of the vehicles prior to riding them to avoid getting charged for damage you didn’t cause.
If you’re a James Bond fan, this is a must-do! (Ibe is kind of obsessed, so we couldn’t pass this up). Definitely preferred Ko Phi Phi, but this still provides some cool photo opportunities and it was great to visit the floating fishing village and kayak around the cave in Talu island.
There is so much to see and do in Thailand it is impossible to do it all in one visit. These are additional places to consider for your visit to Thailand:
(Disclaimer: the following images are not ours, the source is listed when available)
Phanom Rung Historical Park-in Yai Yaem Watthan
Phang Nga Bay- Phuket
We hope our post helps inspire your next trip. Remember to tag us on your travel pictures on Instagram!
Karla M & Ibe O
Additional edits & information: Susi G