Currency? Thai baht ($1USD = 35baht, £1=45baht, €1=38baht)

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Visa required? G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the United States) do not require a visa and can obtain one on arrival at the airport or (as of this year) at land borders.  Both means of entry will grant you 30 days in Thailand which can be extended an additional 30 days at an immigration office for about 1,800 baht ($52USD).

Weather?  Tropical.  In the dry season temperatures range from high 20s to mid to upper 30s and occasionally 40s towards the end of the dry season (Nov. to mid May).  In the wet seasons expect mid 20s to lower 30s with high humidity and frequent rain.  Don’t let the rainy season deter you from visiting, while it is also the low season for tourism, the rain usually takes place in the morning and at night time leaving the daytime mostly dry.

When to visit? Generally, any time during dry/high season but more specifically December is a great time to visit because the temperatures are not yet soaring as well as rain being limited.  Not to mention the Thai holidays and Christmas/New Years make December a booming time to visit.  January is also an ideal time temperature-wise.  Another peak time to visit is during Songkran (Thai new year) in mid April when the country is at its hottest but full of holiday spirit.

If you are slightly older and want to avoid the hordes of gap-yah students or more budget conscious you could simply visit during the rainy/low season when prices will be lower, the beaches deserted, and the weather slightly cooler.  Yes, the weather is a bit unpredictable during the rainy season but from my experience currently in Thailand, most days have been dry during the day and even when it does break this pattern there are lulls in the rain when it doesn’t rain for days or even a week at a time.  Don’t let the weather dictate your vacation!

Food? Thai cuisine is world famous and for good reason. Dishes like red/green/yellow curry, khao pad gai (fried rice and chicken), pad Thai (a backpacker favorite), tom yum soup, som tum (green papaya salad), pad krapow, among others make Thailand a favorite among foodies.  Thai food is also very well priced and meals can be bought for less than a dollar at street side carts and small restaurants.

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Cooking a variation of pad Thai at the home of one of my lovely Thai co-workers back in Chokchai, in Isaan

Alcohol prices? Can of beer from a 711 costs about 32baht and a big bottle of beer 55baht.  At a bar or restaurant prices tend to start around 60baht and go up to 100+baht for a big bottle of beer.  I’d say 80 or 90baht is the average for a big bottle of beer.  Cocktails tend to start at the 100-120baht range and go up from there.

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Top destinations? Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Chang, Koh Phangan, Pai

National holidays? Thailand has many public holidays but the one holiday to rule them all, one holiday to bring them all, is definitively, Songkran.  While  the Buddhist holiday is primarily rooted in the tradition of blessing people with daubing water people’s heads for the start of the new year, nowadays it is more or less a week long alcohol fuelled nationwide water fight.  Chiang Mai is the top destination to celebrate Songkran but the fun can be had anywhere in Thailand and I thoroughly recommend experiencing it.

Top backpacking experiences? Khaosan road the epicenter of Southeast Asian backpacking, the Full Moon Party; the most beach legendary party in the world(?), the beauty of Koh Phi Phi, the chill vibes of Chiang Mai and Pai, renting a motorbike and roaring down the road while taking in breathtaking scenery, and the culinary delights of Thailand unique to each region.

Regions

South: The south is truly paradise with an abundance of tropical islands and gorgeous white sandy beaches.  World class destinations like Koh Phi Phi (made famous in the DiCaprio movie The Beach), Koh Samui, and Phuket, not to mention many more stunning islands, have made Thailand a mecca for beach and island lovers.  While these islands are more expensive and busier than the rest of Thailand, if you love to party, lay on the beach, go jungle trekking, snorkelling, scuba diving, and just generally love island life, then the south is for you!

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Phuket, on my first visit to Thailand in 2009

Central: This part of Thailand encompasses Bangkok and the surrounding area to out east to the Cambodian border.  Bangkok, Pattaya, Koh Samet, and Koh Chang are the highlights of this region, though having lived in Chanthaburi I’d argue it is worth a visit and is a good resting point for a couple days if you are on your way to Koh Chang or coming from Cambodia.  Bangkok is the heart of the country and gets your blood pumping on the start of your travel or work adventure.  Pattaya has a nice beachfront but is a tad sleazy.  Koh Samet is rated highly as an island weekend getaway from Bangkok but I’ve heard mixed reports…will report later 😉 Koh Chang on the other hand is amazing.  It has beaches, accommodations, activities, and food for all budgets.  From what I’ve heard, if you like Koh Tao you will like Koh Chang.

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North: The north is a vast and hugely diverse region of Thailand.  It is a land of rice paddies and fruit plantations, a place where traditional meets modern in Chiang Mai, the habitat of wild elephants and tigers, and a melting pot of different cultures from the generations of migrants who have flocked here over the years.  The jewels of the north in my opinion are Chiang Mai and the quaint little town of Pai. While these are unquestionably the tourist hubs of the north, Chiang Mai retains a unique identity and charm that makes it one of the most attractive places in the country to live while Pai has a bohemian vibe where Thai Muslims and Rastafarians live side by side in a small town with big character.

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