Thailand was the first destination outside of Europe that Mrs d2t visited and, as such, holds a special place in our hearts. It is such a vibrant, colourful country offering a fantastic array of attractions and activities. Whether scuba diving in the Andaman Sea, bathing an elephant in the River Kwai, visiting ancient temples at Ayutthaya or experiencing the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, Thailand has it all.
Sandwiched between Burma, Laos and Cambodia, Thailand is relatively developed compared to its neighbours. Sure, you may see elephants walking down the side of the motorway with their mahout and there is poverty. However, in Bangkok especially, you are in a bustling, lively modern city with most imaginable conveniences available. The city has a huge range of shopping, from luxury international brands in shiny malls to street markets offering snacks, clothes and curios for a few coins. Although there have been political disturbances in recent years, we have never felt unsafe in Thailand and the situation seems to be under control at present (check with government-issued travel advice before travelling). In general, the Thai people are gentle and friendly - the country's reputation of "Land of Smiles" is well earned. Buddhism is the main religion and a major part of people's lives - most Thai men live as a monk for at least 6 months and you will frequently see young and old in their bright orange robes (it is best not to take photos without permission).
The country also offers some of the finest hospitality on the planet, with friendly smiles from eager-to-please staff, beautiful luxury resorts (many offering villas with private pools) and delicious cuisine. Perhaps surprisingly, given this wealth of amenities, Thailand is very affordable, whether your passion is for quality dining, spa treatments, activities or accommodation.
The climate of Thailand is tropical, thus temperatures tend to balmy but humidity can be high. Central and Northern Thailand have 3 seasons (hot, wet and dry) whereas Southern Thailand is only affected by two seasons (wet and dry).
For the landlocked area of the country, the three seasons are pretty reliable. During the hot season (from March to May) temperatures reach 35 C and little rain falls - the festival of Songkran is a welcome relief from the heat! The wet season (June to November) is considered low season by hotels, thus cheaper rates may be available. However, don't let the name put you off visiting - rainfall tends to be predictable, falling mainly in the afternoon. Dry season (from November to February) is the most popular time to travel (thus also higher hotel rates) offering blue skies, little rain fall and temperatures of around 32 C.
The Eastern coast of Thailand (including Koh Samui) has rainy season from September to December, whereas the Western Andaman Coast (including Phuket and Krabi) experiences most rain between April and October. West coast monsoons tend to be more dramatic than the rest of Thailand, thus tourist activities may be affected.
Thailand's currency, the baht, in recent has fluctuated in value because of political uncertainties but is currently worth around $0.03, £0.02 or €0.025. A night in a 5* hotel in Bangkok starts at around 2500 THB ($75), rising to 13500 ($405) for a standard room at the luxury Siam or 12000 ($360) at the Mandarin Oriental. Naturally, when you start to look at larger suites, rates rise consummately (145000 THB excluding taxes for the opulent Royal Oriental Suite at the MO!).
Visa-free travel is available to citizens of over 50 countries, including the EU, USA, Japan, Australia and much of South America. A 1000 THB visa-on-arrival is necessary for citizens of China and many Eastern European countries. In general, travel is permitted for 30 days from entry if arriving by air and for 15 days if entering the country by road.