Thailand has fully opened to foreign tourists again after closing to visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. So no time is like the present to check out the stunning tropical country that’s loaded with the best tasting tropical fruits, kind people, beautiful ancient temples and pleasant beaches.
Not only is Thailand beautiful with lots of unique cultural experiences — it’s also pretty affordable. The average cost of meals per day per traveler is 481 baht which converts to about $13.89, according to The Travel.
Hotel prices aren’t bad either — especially if you book early. I was able to get a nice hotel for six nights with a beachside view for just $600. One of my biggest pieces of advice for Thailand is to book things early — flights, hotels and even tours.
But here are some of the main things I would highly recommend doing during a trip to Thailand.
1. Visit ancient temples
There are multiple ancient temples in different cities in Thailand that offer a window into history, and many offer local “monk chats” where you can talk with the Buddhist monks about life, tourist attractions and anything else you would like to talk about.
One I would highly recommend visiting is Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai.
According to a 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom, 93% of Thai locals are Buddhist, so you can also learn more about the Buddhist religion in the chats.
Just make sure to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and legs — they don’t allow women to enter the temples without having those body parts covered.
2. Visit an elephant sanctuary
Many places in Chiang Mai offer the opportunity to interact with Asian elephants without causing harm. Encountering the majestic elephants is an incredible experience and many tours offer chances to feed elephants or bathe them in the river. On my tour, the elephants in the camp were never chained and each night they were free to roam in the wild for food, but they would return because of the guaranteed feeding.
Lonely Planet has a list of some of the sanctuaries that offer the best tours to see the elephants without causing harm.
3. Take a cooking class
There are many cafes and excursion tours that offer cooking class experiences. The elephant excursion I did included a cooking class, offering insight into Thai culture and a better understanding of what it is that makes Thai food so delicious.
4. Try the street food
Street food is ubiquitous in Thailand and offers unique food experiences, especially to those traveling from the U.S. I recommend trying the fruit — especially the mangos and bananas. Another pro about the street food is it’s extremely affordable, and a lot of it is extremely delicious.
5. Visit the Muslim floating fishing village and the James Bond rock
In Phuket, there is a fishing village built right on top of the water called Koh Panyee, which is part of the Ao Phang Nga National Park. A giant limestone rock formation shelters the floating island, which was created “two hundred years ago by 3 seafaring fishing families from Java in Indonesia,” Thailand Magazine reports.
You can take a tour to the village from Phuket or Krabi to the island, which has a restaurant with amazing food, and many tours offer kayaking excursions within the park, as well as a stop at Khao Ping Kan, or James Bond Island. It’s one of the must-see stops that was featured in the 1974 Bond movie “The Man With The Golden Gun” for its scenic and iconic imagery.
6. Take a ferry to Phi Phi Islands
Thailand is surrounded by beautiful islands, and one of the most stunning is Phi Phi Island. You can take a ferry and stay overnight in one of the hotels on the island to take advantage of stunning beaches, incredible snorkeling and a more laid-back stop compared to bustling cities like Phuket or Krabi. Traditional Thai boat excursions are a great way to see more of the island, and most captains offer tours that are extremely affordable for small groups. I paid $45 for a tour around the island for the entire day, which included snorkeling and snacks.
7. Pamper yourself with a spa treatment
Thai massage techniques have become world-renowned for a reason. They’re relaxing. There are tons of shops where you can stop in to get a full-body massage, shoulder massages or even foot massages. And just like the food and the excursions, the relaxation comes at fairly affordable prices.
8. Plan a beach day
Thailand offers pristine beaches, and taking a beach day is a must, especially if you stay in one of the beach cities like Phuket. There are resorts that offer day services like full cabanas, hand-delivered food and drinks and a relaxing day at the beach.