If you guys already caught my post about my Contiki adventures in Thailand with my girl Alicia, then you likely already saw that we had the best time ever. It was such an amazingly fun trip and we were both just talking the other day about how we’d love to be back there, even with this amazing sunshine we’ve been getting here in Van!
If you haven’t been to Thailand yet, consider this your intro to this magical place (along with the video above, which I’ve been watching on repeat because it brings back ALL the memories)! With some of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world, food you’ll dream about for the rest of your life, friendly people and a seriously fascinating history, it’s a must-visit. For me, it was also my first introduction to Asia! I’ve got the itch to explore so much more of this amazing continent! For now though, here’s a quick run-down on everything you need to know for your first or next trip to beautiful Thailand.
WHEN TO GO
We went on the tip of the rainy season (mid-April) but literally only experienced one rainy day (and by day, I mean two 30 minute extreme showers broken up by an hour or so). Generally speaking, aim for the cool and dry season which goes from November to early April. I’ve had friends who’ve gone in February who said the weather was perfection then! If you’re like me and live somewhere where the weather is abysmal from November through to around March, this is perfect timing as it is since you can escape the cold and dark for a bit!
HOW TO GET THERE
I can’t stress enough what a great experience we had with Cathay Pacific—we were assured they were the best airline to fly to Asia and from the lounge experience in Vancouver to our amazing seats and experience flying Premium Economy, we had the most relaxing travel experience! Other than having like 30 minutes to make our flight in Hong Kong but hey, it gave us a little workout before we sat on the plane for 13 hours. I’m used to flying a lot being from Vancouver and heading to Europe always, but I was a little bit apprehensive about such a long flight—honestly, it was nothing. I was passed out and so comfy for all of it. Definitely would recommend Cathay for your next trip to Asia and would also suggest upgrading to Premium Economy if you’re wanting a little boost to your travel experience—it was so worth it!
For the route, we got into Hong Kong from Vancouver and then flew from there to Phuket. The Hong Kong airport is seriously beautiful so if you can transfer through there, would highly recommend it! The only thing I wish we’d done was to do a one night layover so that we could’ve experienced Hong Kong, not only because it’s supposed to be such an amazing city, but because one of my really close friends lives there and I still haven’t visited her yet (bad friend me)! Next time for sure. Alicia and I both felt such a weird strange pull while in the airport on the way to Phuket—even in our travel-weary state, Hong Kong looked so appealing and we both promised ourselves that we’ll get the Hong Kong experience soon.
When you’re in Thailand, most travel will be done via ferries or mini buses. Honestly, I heard horror stories about the ferries and was quite nervous and they were not only totally fine, but actually really lovely. We even watched John Wick on our ferry from Koh Phi Phi to Krabi in an air conditioned space with cozy seats (we were seriously riveted haha, Keanuuuuuu)! Because we travelled with Contiki, all our transfers were set up ahead of time but we mostly got around in little mini buses (big buses we didn’t spot very often/hardly at all in the western islands) and they were really great. Just do your research ahead of time and make sure you’re picking a good provider!
WHAT TO BRING
General rule of thumb: only bring things you feel comfortable sweating through. Because you’ll likely be sweating through literally everything you wear. I made the mistake of packing a couple dresses that required more restrictive closures around my chest, strapless bras, etc. NEVER WORE THEM. Long story short, as little restrictiveness as possible, aim for things that breathe well and that are ideally not too precious because there’s just more humidity, flash rains, etc than your clothes are likely used to.
Some great pieces would be relaxed dresses in breathable fabrics, big sun hats, bathing suits that can double up easily as tops (think a super cute one-piece, like this Becca one I wore non-stop in Thailand), breezy pants or shorts (there’s a reason you’ll want to stock up on elephant pants while you’re there – they’re so perfect for the heat!) and a really minimal beauty routine. I literally wore sunscreen, a touch of bronzer and an SPF lip balm every day and that was it! If you remember from this post, I like to get my lashes tinted and lifted and my brows also tinted and waxed before I take off to any beachy holidays and it makes a big difference!!! Oh finally, a sarong is key! I don’t actually usually wear them too much for beachy vacays but on this trip, I’d legitimately wear the Aritzia scarf I packed as a sarong out to the clubs. I’m not even someone who hates humidity but it gets to ya and sarongs are the perfect relaxed fit for it!
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
The currency is baht so make sure you hit up your local currency exchange before you take off! The great news is that depending on where you are, the conversion will likely really work in your favour. I think I used 2000-3000 baht for the whole trip, which is roughly $80 CAD (keep in mind that this was only for food, drinks, shopping, etc). As far as bang for your buck, Thailand is one of the most cost-friendly places I’ve ever been to.
Now, some general customs. The head is considered holy and the feet considered dirty in Thai culture, so never pat someone on their head (I don’t know why you would though)—just be aware of this area. Also, it’s considered rude to point your feet at someone, to put your feet up (unless you’re in a hammock or something along those lines), etc. Long story short, the head is holy, the feet are gross. Keep that in mind and just act accordingly!
Thailand is a monarchy and the king and the whole royal family are highly revered, to such an extent that apparently, a tourist once had dropped some money and as it was flying away, he stepped on the bill (in other words, using his dirty feet to step on the face of the king). He was arrested and while the king eventually pardoned him, it’s really worth being careful! We were advised to just avoid chatting about the king and to be careful with pointing at pictures and the like. Just to show some general respect and to understand that the king is really revered in Thailand!
7-11’s are everywhere. Their ham and cheese toasties are apparently the stuff that dreams are made of—we never tried them out (Alicia is a veggie and I was being careful about what I ate because I have an especially sensitive tummy) but a lot of people in our group did and raved about them! Either way, you’ll be hitting up 7-11 a lot and the Thai ones are absolutely amazing. Toiletries, huge bottles of water (which you’ll be needing), great snacks, etc! My personal combo of heat saving snacks (I got heat stroke in Greece this summer and my doctor friend told me to do this) is some salty Lays chips (replenishes lost salts), Fanta (boosts up your blood sugar) and tons of water. I’m not a junk food person like ever but you seriously benefit from these little snacks during the day!
Speaking of food, this was the thing I was most nervous about because I have a super sensitive gut. Even if you can handle a lot of spice, really ease yourself in. I usually have a crazy tolerance for spicy food so on my birthday, I went out with the girls and ate a curry and had some vino to celebrate before we were supposed to go out and party. The curry didn’t taste spicy but somehow, while still at the table both me and one of the other girls started to feel very oddly sick, not like food poisoning but we both had this weird aching heat in our bellies, dizziness, fuzzy mouths and then I felt like I should visit the ladies riiiiiight when everyone in our whole Contiki group joined us and brought out a birthday cake for me and sang happy birthday, which was awesome and so sweet but also mildly terrifying timing. Nothing like sweating through “Happy Birthday” while everyone is staring at you and trying to get you to eat a piece of birthday cake when you think you’re going to vomit, shit your pants, pass out or all three at the same time (which would truly be something to behold). As it was explained to me later though, it’s not the spice level but just the type of spices that my body isn’t used to, which explains the weird symptoms (that were almost more like a weird allergic reaction).
So just ease in, be conscious of how much coconut milk you’re having (which is a serious tummy disrupter, especially if you’re not used to it!), in general avoid raw veggies unless you’re in a nice hotel or restaurant and if you’re stuck, pad thai or a rice dish will typically always be safe! Also for fruit—enjoy anything in a peel (mango, banana, etc) but veto anything like apple, pears, etc. Pretty much anything that has to get washed! I still enjoyed a ton of different food but because I’m super sensitive, I played it mostly safe after my birthday incident and still got to try a ton of different food without causing any more serious tummy troubles, which was a blessed relief. After that one night (which was a great way to spend my birthday night, by the by), I was totally fine the rest of the trip! Good idea to pack some traveller’s diarrhea pills which I did too, plus some Imodium just in case. Again, I was surprised that I was mostly fine for the trip since I am so sensitive, but having said that I did have to make use of my pills at different points so would highly advise packing them!
Speaking of pills to pack and visits to the pharmacy to make, make sure you’re up to date on any vaccinations you might need. I popped by my doctor beforehand, got aaaaaaall my diarrhea pills as I affectionally call them, and then popped over to get a few vaccinations on her recommendation from the travel clinic. I also got some basic travel insurance beyond the travel insurance I have from World Nomads which was a really seamless process, not only because Contiki required it, but because it just seemed like a good idea and nice to have some added benefits (for like $25) in addition to my usual travel insurance, like having the ability to fly Matt out if anything happened, coverage for some of the activities I was doing, etc.
Finally, safety—I felt totally safe throughout the whole trip but just exercise the same precautions you usually would. Don’t accept an open drink from someone, walk home in groups if you’re out late at night, barter reasonably (i.e. don’t get aggressive and walk away if someone’s getting aggressive with you), and most importantly do not do drugs in Thailand. Ever seen Brokedown Palace? Or Bridget Jones’ Diary 2 for that matter? Aside from clearly very realistic and refined filmmaking, we heard some seriously scary stories while there for people getting put in prison for just weed possession. So if one of your bucket list items is to hit up a full moon party, just stick to your (insanely cheap) drinks! Oh and last thing, the traffic—you have to be a bit aggressive otherwise you’ll literally never cross the street. My main trick we employed while in Phuket (the only place we really had to worry about traffic) is to hopefully find a local and just trail super closely behind them whenever they cross the street!
Endless beaches, turquoise waters, amazing food and unbelievable value—all available to you with just a few little precautions and research! I honestly can’t wait to visit Thailand again! Feel free to pin the image below so that you have this post handy for your next trip!