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Travel to Thailand Made Easy
Thailand’s appeal to Australians remains strong. Just a six-hour flight from Perth and around eight hours from the east coast, Thailand has stunning beaches, mountain forests, temples galore, great shopping and some of the best food in the world. Add to that the more sordid aspects of prostitution and the notorious Full Moon parties and you have an entertaining mix that will leave some begging for more while others will be happy never to return.
It’s a common first destination for backpackers as it’s easy to get around, English is widely spoken and finding good times and bads is never a problem. There are of course also lovely beaches for sleeping in the hangover or simply soaking up the sun.
Seasons/When to go
Thailand is hot and humid most of the year. The most comfortable time to visit is from November to March. It rains the least and it’s not super hot. Thailand’s peak tourist seasons are around this time and in July and August.
The rainy season extends approximately from July to October. The rainy season gets bad press; meanwhile, the more popular beaches can be littered with litter after heavy rains. Despite this, the rain can be a break from the heat and the countryside is lush and green. October tends to be the wettest time of the year.
The months of April to June and September to October generally see the cheapest fares and the least tourist traffic. Consider these times if you want to travel the cheapest way away from the high season hordes.
Find cheap flights from Australia to Thailand
If you’re thinking of booking the popular choice of a few days in Bangkok and five or more days in Phuket or Ko Samui, it’s worth researching the packages offered by major travel agencies in Australia. Like Fiji, it is one of the few destinations where booking this way through an agent can be cheaper than booking online. Businesses will have assigned rooms and seats on preferred airlines which can be sold at very low prices.
If you book yourself, don’t always assume that Jetstar (which flies direct to Phuket) will always be the cheapest. Thai, British and even Singaporean airlines will regularly offer special flights to Bangkok from Australia. From there you can book yourself onto the national carriers to any of the islands (see below). From the east coast, fares have recently been as low as $600 return including tax in low season to Bangkok (British Airways or Thai).
For students, it is worth checking with STA or student flights as there are often cheap fares on this route.
The most common route would be to fly to Bangkok, stay for a few days, then fly to Phuket or Ko Samui (or both). Expect to pay around $1,200 including tax for all three in low season, while it’s closer to $2,000 including tax at Christmas (flights only).
On a backpacking budget, allow 30 to 50 dollars per day in low season. It’s not as cheap as some Southeast Asian countries, but still good value for money. For a more comfortable vacation, $100 a day will get you a decent hotel and allow you to live quite comfortably.
Try these carriers to get you out of Bangkok and to popular islands and other Thai destinations.
Thai Air Asia – Flies on domestic and international routes
Nok Air – Flies from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Krabi, Trang, Loei, Udon Thani, Phuket and Nakhon Si Thammarat
One Two Go – Economy carrier with a list of destinations similar to Nok Air. Also offers free snacks on board.
Bangkok Airways – Flying since 1986 Bangkok air is a popular choice serving over 20 Asian cities. Ideal for Bangkok – Phuket – Ko Samui flights. You can book online and their website also offers a few discounts on accommodation.
Destination Air – A small company that offers scenic seaplane flights and day trips around Phuket and surrounding islands like Ko Pi Pi. Minimum passenger requirements apply.
Getting to central Bangkok from Suvarnabhumi airport / what happens when I arrive at Bangkok airport?
Shortly after arriving, it’s easy to change Australian dollars into local currency or use an ATM (for the best rates).
As soon as you leave customs, you will probably be hassled by locals who will offer you a taxi to take you to town. Keep calm and ignore those touts as the shuttle into town costs AUD 9.00 for a fowl and runs from 04:30 to 00:30. A taxi will be more expensive. Just walk outside and look for the signs for the shuttle, it’s easy.
Most travelers will be staying on or near the famous Khaosan Road, just tell the guy on the bus where you are heading. If you’re arriving outside of the shuttle’s opening hours (and many flights from Oz will), it’s always easy to get a taxi. Make sure the driver turns on the meter; it starts at around 35B. Get out of the taxi if they don’t turn on the meter. Be firm about this – as elsewhere, it’s a common scam for taxi drivers to offset the fare on arrival. You will have to pay the car toll if you go into the city by taxi – so you will be asked for a small additional amount of money along the way. The cost of a taxi should not exceed approximately 12 Australian dollars to get into the city. The airport is approximately 30 km or 45 minutes drive from the city centre.
If you’re thinking of booking a transfer in Australia, it costs around AU$40 one way, so it’s much easier and cheaper to get the shuttle when you arrive. If you arrive late, a taxi is always cheaper than booking a transfer in Australia.
If you are staying at Khaosan Road: After getting off the shuttle bus or taxi on Kao Son road, walk to the end of the road where the monastery (Wat) is located, there is a police station on the right , walk in that direction, cross the street and go down the red brick road named Soi Rambuttri (the monastery will now be on your left). This area is much quieter than on the main street.
Accommodation options in Khao San Road
In Bangkok, Ko Shan road is usually the first port of call for most travelers, usually budget travelers. Lately, more comfortable hotels seem to be springing up everywhere. Outside of peak times, it’s fairly easy to drop into this small area and reserve a spot – although in busier times or if you don’t want to miss it, it’s easy enough to book at the advance.
The Viengtai Hotel is a popular choice for young Australians. Expect to pay around $10-30 a night.
Rambuttri Inn (15-20AUD) is a popular and comfortable place with a swimming pool.
MyHouse Guesthouse- ($10 AUD) One of the best cheap, nice and quiet hotels by Bangkok standards.
With any guest house in this area, be sure to check the rooms first, but most will be fine for their cheapness.
For more comfortable digs, most major hotels are represented in Bangkok. If you have the money in the most famous hotel in town, the Oriental is the place to be. If you can’t afford the Royal Orchid Sheraton just down the river has a great view at a much cheaper price.
Other areas of Bangkok are equally pleasant to stay; Discover Chinatown and the roadside area of Sukhumvit.
Khaosan Road is ideal for new travelers who want to go out or shop and the best place to arrange other travel services like visas and train tickets.
Getting around in Thailand
Thailand has fantastic trains and buses that are cheap, fast and easy to use. You can buy tickets from many local travel agencies, although it is cheaper and easier to buy yourself at the bus or train station. The cheapest option for getting around is to use the “fan” buses for short or medium journeys – just leave early in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat. The cheapest rail option is third class, which can take a little longer than the more expensive AC buses, but is a fun way to get around.
This island of half a million inhabitants is the most visited in Thailand. It is well served by flights from all over Asia and offers a great choice of accommodation. Staying in the heart of Phuket Town on the beach will be expensive, while staying a few blocks or 15 minutes down the road from Karon Beach are the cheapest options. This is the area from which you can easily visit islands such as Ko Pi Pi (from the movie The beach).
Once a purely budget destination, Ko Samui is now a resort island in its own right. All the major hotels are here, with expensive accommodation the norm. For a budget beach vacation, Phuket or Khao Lak, an hour north, are the best bets. Most Australians will come to Ko Samui en route to Ko Panyang for the famous full moon parties. Click the link below for a full page on how to get there and descriptions of these popular and always loose parties. Parties are pretty commercialized these days, but still worth the trip.
Off the beaten track
There is more to Thailand than just Bangkok, Phuket and Ko Samui. It’s easy to get around, so with a bit of time, visiting places like Khao Sok National Park, Ko Chang, and the Similan Islands will take you away from the masses. Avoid the southern mainland city of Pattaya; package tourists, pimps, members of pedophiles without borders: not nice.
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