The Land of Smiles, Thailand is a paradise on Earth. I should know, I’ve pretty much lived here for the last 10 years.
Dotted with glittering temples jutting out of the lush-green forest canopies, the country has a rich cultural history. But visiting Thailand is not limited to temple exploration.
Limestone cliffs overlooking the turquoise sea like ancient sentinels, longtail boats resting on reflective white sands, underwater theatrics of the coral reefs, and dreamy lakes & tranquil nature parks – Thailand is a treasure trove of vivid, ethereal, and fathomless natural beauty.
And for your mortal pleasures, the country offers delectable street food, unparalleled shopping, relaxing massage, and bestial Muay Thai, Muay Boran, & Muay Chaiya.
So, if visiting Thailand is on your wishlist, this rundown of the 10 very best things to do in Thailand will give you a headstart.
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Top 10 Very Best Things to do in Thailand: TL;DR
- Khao Yai National Park
- Khao Sok National Park
- Street Food Tour (Chiang Mai)
- Elephant Nature Park
- The Grand Palace
- Thai Massage
- Muay Thai Fight
- Full Moon Party
- Floating Market
- Thai Cooking Class
Top 10 Very Best Things to do in Thailand
1. Find Peace at Khao Yai National Park
Image Credit: Nawit science, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Nothing is more peaceful than Mother Nature cradling your withered soul on her lap. If that is what you desire, head over to the Khao Yai National Park, which happens to be Thailand’s first national park and one of the largest monsoon forests in Asia.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Khao Yai National Park in central Thailand is spread over 2,168 square kilometers and is home to over 300 bird species.
Laced with mountains, forests, and hiking trails, the park can give you glimpses of wild elephants, macaques, gibbons, bears, and deer.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the couple of picture-perfect and majestic waterfalls that can be easily accessed via a car.
2. Step Into the Unspoilt Khao Sok National Park
Image Credit: BerryJ, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
One of the most well-preserved and unspoiled places in southern Thailand is the Khao Sok National Park. At its heart is the famed Cheow Lan Lake with limestone cliffs protruding out of the still waters.
The lake is home to some unique flora and fauna that you can’t find elsewhere in Thailand.
One of the least-populated places in the country, the national park boasts picturesque landscapes.
The enchanting silence is occasionally stirred by the whooshing wind and the myriads of animal calls that only magnify the harmonious tranquility that blankets the area.
Pro Tip: Spend a night in a floating tent on the calm lake and you will never want to wake up from your dreamy slumber.
3. Go On a Delectable Street Food Tour
If you are in Thailand, eat street food, period. The best place to experience street food is Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.
The city is a melting pot of international and local cultures and a popular hub for digital nomads. No wonder, people there look for cheap food.
The dozens and dozens of street food stalls in Chiang Mai cater to the needs of people with delicious street food that range from the popular and delicious local Khao Soi (my fave Thai dish) to steamed buns, stewed pork legs, crispy roasted ducks, and more.
Pro Tip: Try the local Khao Soi – for as little as 50baht (just over $1), you’ll get a bowl of fresh noodles, covered in the most amazing curry sauce with pork, or chicken and topped with crispy noodles, red onions & lime. Amazing!
4. Interact With the Gentle Giants at the Elephant Nature Park
Image Credit: Elemanxx, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Not just luscious Thai food, but even elephants are an integral part of Thai culture. The elephant is the National Animal of Thailand.
You can experience an unforgettable experience of mingling with these gentle giants at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.
A rescue and rehabilitation center and an elephant sanctuary, this place will give you ample opportunities to interact with rescue elephants that had a rough life.
Pro Tip: Enjoy a memorable stay at Elephant Hills – Thailand’s first luxury tented camps.
5. Visit The Grand Palace
Image Credit: McKay Savage from London, UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Bangkok’s most recognizable tourist spot – the Grand Palace oozes gold-dripping splendor that exudes a romantic vibe when it is lit by the soft rays of the setting sun.
From 1782, the Grand Palace was the residence of the Kings of Siam (now Thailand). Not just the Grand Palace, but the surrounding buildings are equally breathtaking.
When you step into the precincts of the Grand Palace, you will step into a completely different chapter in time with Royal residences, civic buildings, and temples – all shaped using exotic traditional Thai architecture.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the nearby Wat Pho (home to Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha), Emerald Buddha, and Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn).
6. Experience a Quintessential Thai Massage
To truly experience Thai culture, you need to experience the quintessential Thai massage that involves a lot of cracking, slapping, pulling, and walking on your back.
You will be in for a surprise, but when it is all done, you will not only feel relaxed but also feel the blood rushing through your pulsating veins.
You can enjoy a relaxing traditional Thai massage for as little as $6 an hour, but in reputed parlors, the prices can go up to $15 an hour.
Pro Tip: Avoid massage scams in the name of happy endings. Yes, they exist but settle for an authentic Thai massage parlor that publicly displays the prices.
7. Witness a Brutal Muay Thai Fight
Image Credit: Mr.Peerapong Prasutr, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
A visit to this country in south east Asia cannot be complete without witnessing a Muay Thai fight.
Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is Thailand’s national sport and as such there are fights and training centers across the country although Bangkok is the best place to watch a ring fight.
If you’re into something a little more brutal, watch a Muay Boran fight. It is not classed as a sport because it was born on a battlefield and is pretty deadly. Similar brutality persists with Muay Chaiya, which too, isn’t a ring sport.
If this floats your boat, a local guide can (maybe) arrange for entry in a school like Muay Sangha located 5 kilometers from the center of Chiang Mai.
Pro Tip: Head to the Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok to watch a Muay Thai ring fight. You can also take a quick lesson if you want.
8. Vibe at a Full Moon Party
Image Credit: Per Meistrup, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
If you are a party animal, vibing at a Full Moon Party at Koh Pha-Ngan island is one of the top things to do in Thailand.
A Full Moon Party is an all-night dance party where you can enjoy exquisite Thai food and the famous Thai Bucket which serves your favorite drink mixed with coke and ice in a bucket.
In case you miss one of those Full Moon Parties that take place once a month, there are Half Moon Parties, which are still super fun but not as massive.
9. Visit the Floating Markets
When you visit Thailand, make it a point to witness the floating markets.
There are several such markets in Bangkok, but the most famous one is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market located 60 miles outside Bangkok.
Locals load their boats with fresh produce, handicrafts, spices, and various local souvenirs and sell them to other boat owners or people on the sidewalk.
Another popular floating market is the Amphawa Floating Market in Samut Songkhram which opens only in the afternoons.
Also, check out the Taling Chan Weekend Floating Market which is mostly frequented by the locals.
10. Take a Thai Cooking Class
After treating yourself to finger-licking street food such as Pad Thai, you can augment the fun by taking cooking classes.
Such cooking classes are available across Thailand including in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, & Phuket.
I recommend you take a morning class as they always start by taking you to a local Thai market to purchase all the ingredients which is a hugely interesting experience by itself.
If you’re not a natural chef like moi, then learning some basics of Thai cuisine is great for future home made dishes, although it never tastes the same when trying at home!
However, if you love Thai food, investing time in a cooking class means you get to see how they simply add spices and sauces to create the most amazing curries and of course you get to eat everything you cook!
Other Things to do in Thailand
Trust me, what you have read so far is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more that one list isn’t enough. Here is a quick list of other things to do in Thailand:
1. Ride a Motorbike Around Mae Hong Son Loop
Image Credit: User: (WT-shared) Flip666 at wts wikivoyage, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Rent a motorbike to explore northern Thailand. Mae Hong Son Loop is the best place for this. Start at Chiang Mai and pass through small (and beautiful) towns of Pai, Mae Hong Son, and Mae Sariang.
Pick a dry season and make sure to stop at some of the most breathtaking villages, caves, and waterfalls you will encounter during the ride.
2. Enjoy Island Hopping
Image Credit: Wokshots, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Did you know Thailand has 1,430 islands? Big ones like Koh Samui and Phuket have airports, but further south are the smaller ones adorning the naked tropical beauty.
The coastlines of Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Koh Phan in the Gulf of Thailand are breathtakingly beautiful and you can witness some of the amazing beaches that Thailand has to offer.
3. Go Snorkeling & Diving
On the Andaman Coast of Thailand is the Koh Phi Phi archipelago which is a tropical escapade for snorkeling, scuba diving, and island hopping. The Similan Islands, which is where I became PADI qualified, are stunning and are specifically known as the scuba paradise of Thailand.
4. Explore the Hills of Chiang Rai
Image Credit: Steve Evans from Citizen of the World, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Chiang Rai is in the northernmost corner of Thailand and shares its border with Laos to the east and Myanmar to the west. The result? You will encounter the most ethnically diverse population here.
In fact Chiang Rai was a complete surprise when we visited. Stupendous mountains, serene temples, and quaint villages of hill tribes, some of them caressed by the mighty Mekong river – all create a utopia very much worth visiting.
5. Try Rock Climbing in Krabi
Image Credit: kallerna, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Rock climbing up the colossal limestone pillars is a perfect adventure activity for those who seek an adrenaline rush.
You need to reach Railey Beach in Krabi to engage in rock climbing activities. If you are a beginner, there are tours to teach you the basics!
6. Shop at Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Image Credit: calflier001, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
This country of southeast Asia is a paradise for night owls who love to shop, eat, and enjoy great music at night!
The most famous is the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar or the night market where you can eat street food, grab a drink, and shop to your heart’s content. In Bangkok, you have the Asiatique Night Market.
7. Stop at Bangkok Airplane Graveyard
Image Credit: Photogoddle, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Scattered across an empty block of land in eastern Bangkok are numerous out-of-commission old aircraft collecting rust and dust. Broken wings, ruined cabins, rusted & rickety frames – they make a perfect setting for a doomsday movie.
8. Ride the Death Railway
Image Credit: Deror Avi, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Travel west to reach Kanchanaburi – a small historic town where you will find the Thai-Burma Railway and the bridge over the river Kwai.
The railway was built under brutal conditions during World War II by POWs, mostly Dutch, British, and Australians.
Stretching over farmland, riverbanks, and cliffs, the construction of the railway caused the deaths of many POWs.
Setting aside the brutal history, a ride on the Death Railway will take you through an off-the-beaten path where you can marvel at nature’s artistry.
9. Heal Yourself in the Hot Springs
Image Credit: Phra Ruang Hot Springs
Between Chiang Mai and Bangkok sits Kamphaeng Phet – a town in central Thailand. This is where you find the Phra Ruang Hot Springs. If Thai massages didn’t do it for you, soak in its mineral-rich waters to heal yourself.
10. Marvel at the Wat Rong Khun
The Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple in Chiang Rai is a piece of art. The intricate details of this Buddhist temple painted all white is absolutely stunning and is worth seeing.
The temple’s reflection in the surrounding pool makes it a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts!
While in Chiang Rai, also be sure to visit the Blue Temple, the Black House and the Goddess of Mercy.
Best Time to Visit Thailand
The dry season that starts in November and lasts till March and sometimes till May is ideal for visiting this country in south east Asia. However, avoid the lower gulf (Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Koh Phan) where it is the rainiest from October through December.
November through February is the High or Peak season with cool weather, clear waters, and lush green scenery. This is also the time for the major Thai festivals.
March and April get a little hotter, but this is when the crowd gradually thins out and prices drop. April is when festivals are aplenty, the crowd is minimal, and the summer rains won’t show up for a few more weeks. Also, the prices hit rock bottom.
Where to Stay in Thailand?
There is no shortage of hotels, hostels, or Airbnb in Thailand, so it completely depends on your requirements and budget.
I use booking.com as my preferred hotel booking app. I have tried many over the years and booking.com consistently offers me the best deals.
If however, you’re looking for super budget accommodation try hostelworld.com.
Here are the best budget, mid-range, and luxury accommodation options in Thailand include:
Villa Korbhun Khinbua: $32/night [For budget accommodation in Chiang Mai]
A 10-minute walk from the Old City Wall and Thanin Market, this hotel offers air conditioning, flat-screen TV, a minibar, free Wi-Fi, a private bathroom, and laundry & shuttle services.
Courtyard by Marriott Phuket Town: $66/night + $7 taxes [For mid-range accommodation in Phuket]
Located in the Phuket City Center, the hotel is only 20 minutes from the beach. It has a swimming pool, flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, ensuite bathroom, room service, etc.
THEA Serviced Apartment: $114/night [For luxury accommodation in Bangkok]
The hotel offers multiple options with prices starting at $114 per night and going all the way up to $270 a night depending on what you select. With a rooftop pool, air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, a private kitchen and bathroom, a balcony, and much more, it is a great choice if you have deep coffers.
Recommended Tours & Trips
There is no shortage of trips and tours to make the best use of your time in this beautiful country. However, here are some suggested trips I recommend you explore further.
Things to Do in Thailand – Tips for Digital Nomads or Long Term Travelers
- The best way to get around Thailand is by plane (if you are short on time). Plane tickets are pretty cheap and it is a reliable way to reach all major destinations. Buses & trains are also available that connect different provinces nicely. For buses, you can select from different levels of luxury, but second class is the cheapest. For short journeys, tuk-tuks (open-air three-wheeled vehicles) and motorbike taxis are the cheapest and quickest. Always ask the price to your destination first and be prepared to haggle. Drivers will almost always quote a higher price. I also recommend using the Grab App for taxis, or if you jump in a cab on the go, make sure they have their meter working!
- Wi-Fi connection is awesome across most places in Thailand. However, if you head out to some of the more remote places or experiences like Doi Inthanon National Park, Erawan National Park, Khao Yai National Park, etc., or embark on river cruises, island hopping, etc., you may have some brief connectivity issues.
- Thailand’s currency is the Thai Baht and for the best exchange rates its best to pay in their local currency. Always carry some cash, as street vendors and markets will expect cash (although many now accept payment via QR code if you have a local bank account or apple pay etc.) Technologically, Thailand is pretty savvy.
- Depending on how long you’re staying and the kind of phone contract you’re on, it might be worth getting a local SIM when you get there. Most times when I travel, a local sim is the cheapest option. A travel SIM from TrueMove will cost 599 Baht with 8GB of internet and approximately 50 minutes of talk time. You will have to top up in 15 days. It’s worth checking roaming fees with your phone company before traveling.
- If taking money out of an ATM, always choose the ‘convert from your own bank’ option, rather than the convert from the ATM option. This is a golden rule worldwide. I have tried multiple ATM’s in multiple countries and the bank conversion is always without fail cheaper than a local ATM conversion.
- Also when paying with your travel credit or debit card, always choose local currency. If you choose your own currency, the conversion will be done then and there by their bank. When choosing local currency, the conversion is done by your bank and will be cheaper. Not by much, but every little helps!
It’s tough when organizing your travels to know which companies offer the best deals and can be trusted with your credit card details!
The following resources are companies I have consistently used over my 11 years of travels and who I believe are the best in the business. I’m constantly updating this list as I find new and improved services.
Rome2Rio – a fantastic app which will show you the best routes to get from city to city or country to country. Simply enter where you’re traveling from and too, and they’ll show you how to get there via planes, trains and automobiles!
Skyscanner.net – always my first port of call when looking for the best flights. Easy to use and consistently highlights flights I can’t find anywhere else, they’re the best flight resource there is. Plus an easy to use app.
Flight Aware – a free, handy app showing flights around the world. I use this to track family or friends when they’re flying, to check whether my flight has left on time on previous days so I can be prepared for delays etc, and just to double check my own flight details as and when I’m traveling.
Trainline (for Europe) – I used to use this just for UK trains, but nowadays you can book trains all over Europe using their services. Cheap, reliable and with a great refund policy for canceled or delayed trains, they’re highly recommended.
Booking.com – I have tried all the other hotel booking sites and without doubt booking.com has consistently offered the best deals. One caveat to this, is always to just check the hotel website directly before finalizing your booking as sometimes they’ll have specialized deals.
Getyourguide.com – the easiest and most reliable activity booking agent. I haven’t had a bad trip to date with them. Plus an easy to use app which tracks all your bookings and includes the meeting point, trip details and everything else you need to ensure your activity goes smoothly.
Discovercars.com – Easy to use website to find rental cars in over 145 countries around the world. Pick up from one location, drop off in another. Find the best deals with the best reviews.
Safetywing – quite simply the best insurance for digital nomads and long term travelers. See my Safetywing insurance review for more details, but with cheap monthly plans and an easy to use claims process, you won’t find better on the market.
Light Packing Guide
I’m generally a very light packer and for a summer trip here is what I would usually pack, with a maximum weight of 7 KG;
Swimming costume or bikini
Light Beach dress
2 x pairs of shorts
2 x summer skirts
3 x t-shirts
1 x ‘going out’ dress
2 x night shorts & tee
14 x underwear (I always take a lot as I hate washing underwear in hotel sinks)
1 skin color plunge bra (can wear under black or white, and with posh dress or t-shirts)
1 x flip flops or thongs or sandals (depending where you’re from in the world)
1 x trainers/sneakers (which I generally wear when traveling from place to place or hang off the back of my bag
3 x trainer socks
1 x leggings
1 x light cardigan
Travel size all in one Shampoo/Conditioner (sacrilege to some women, but hey I want to travel light)
Travel size shower gel
Small battery powered toothbrush (with cap)
Travel size sun lotion
50SPF lip balm
Travel size body moisturiser
Tiger Balm – bites, sore muscles, etc.
Adapter & chargers in a handy cable organizer
Phone – iPhone
Computer – Macbook 12” Notebook
FitBit Versa 3
Ziplock bags – for anything and everything!
Travel Bags – for separating tops/shorts/underwear etc, and also great for laundry
My husbands bag usually weighs less than mine and he takes;
2 x shorts (Both double as swim shorts)
2 x tees
7 x socks
7 x boxers
1 x ‘going out’ shorts & tee
1 x croc flip flops
1 x trainers/sneakers
Travel size shampoo
1 x razor
Things to do in Thailand – FAQ’s
Where is Thailand?
Thailand is in the middle of Southeast Asia. The country is bordered by Myanmar in the northeast, Laos in the northeast and north, Cambodia in the east and southeast, and Malaysia in the south. The Andaman Sea is on the southwest side and the Gulf of Thailand is on the southeast.
Is Thailand Safe?
Thailand is a very safe city even for solo female travelers.
As with all popular tourist destinations you’ll need to watch out for pickpockets and keep your valuables hidden, plus for females, use your common sense and don’t go wandering on your own in the middle of the night plus be careful when drinking in bars/clubs. (Sad but true across the globe).
But on a general scale compared to the rest of the world, for tourists visiting Thailand it would be considered a very safe city, for solos, couples & families alike.
Nevertheless, always ensure you have travel insurance wherever you go as it will protect you against theft, injury, illness, or cancelations. Use the form below to get your personalized quote.
What’s the Currency in Thailand?
The official currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB) and you must pay in their local currency. Though you can use international travel credit and debit cards that will allow paying in Thai Baht, I suggest that you carry local currency, because certain remote places and local shops do not accept cards or app payments.
What Language is Spoken in Thailand?
The Thai language is the official language, however, many people speak English, especially in major tourist destinations.
What Time is it in Thailand?
Throughout the year Thailand follows Indochina Time (ICT), which is seven hours ahead of the UTC or the Coordinated Universal Time. Daylight Saving Time clock changes are not followed in Thailand.
Why Visit Thailand?
Apart from its many beautiful temples, massage centers, night markets, exotic Thai cuisine, and the Royal Palace, Thailand has pristine natural beauty to offer that I can’t possibly describe using just words. You need to experience it for yourself.
The country is teeming with life, rich cultural history, and friendly Thai people who always wear a smile on their faces (hence the land of the smiles)
From train rides to boat cruises, rock climbing, snorkeling, scuba diving, island parties, and magnificent temples, this country has something for everyone.
Top 10 Very Best Things to do in Thailand: Summary
Thailand is somewhere that was never on my bucket list, but that I now call home.
Its rich history & cultural heritage, enchanting islands, amazing beaches, and friendly locals all combine to make you feel comfortable and wondrous at the same time.
Some places I’ve visited such as Khao Yai National Park, the city of Ayutthaya (another UNESCO World Heritage site), Khao Sok National Park, Phuket (of course) Chiang Mai, etc. have cast a spell on me with their phenomenal beauty and rich cultural history.
For more tips on visiting Thailand, see the following articles;
Top 10 Things to do in Bangkok
35 Epic Things to do in Phuket
Top 10 Things to Do in Pai, Thailand
Top 10 Thailand Islands to Visit
Top 10 Very Best Things to Do in Chiang Rai, Thailand
Top 10 Very Best Things to Do on Phi Phi Island, Thailand
Top 10 Very Best Things to do in Koh Samui
Top 10 Very Best Beaches in Phuket
I hope you’ve found this list of things to do in Thailand useful for your travels. Let me know how you go!