We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

First trip to Thailand-any+all recommendations appreciated!

Level Contributor
24 posts
1 review
First trip to Thailand—any+all recommendations appreciated!

Hey everyone!

My girlfriend and I just booked our first trip to Thailand. It will also be our first international trip on our own (I went to Israel on birthright, she went on a school trip to Turkey). We’re both extremely excited. We fly into Chiang Mai late November, then fly out of Phuket in early-mid December (two weeks total). We booked directly through Air China, and plan to book additional flights to Bangkok and Krabi soon. Though I’m sure we could ask a hundred questions, we have a few that we would love to get some insight on, if you can help. :)

1. Where should we stay in Chiang Mai and Bangkok? We are looking for the Brooklyn of these cities, not the Times Square, if that makes sense. :) Somewhere local and chill, but central enough to not be isolated.

2. We are planning on flying into Krabi from Bangkok — where are the best places to stay amongst the Islands? We want as much serene beaches and tropics as possible. :)

3. Air BnB vs. Hotel vs. Hostel? We have primarily used Air BnB while traveling through the U.S., but I’m not sure how it compares in Thailand? We’re traveling on a bit of a budget, so nothing fancy is needed. Just trying to gauge what is typical and best. I know the U.S. dollar goes pretty far there, so maybe we actually can afford fancy, haha.

4. Best way to get cell service? We are considering pocket Wi-Fi, but perhaps an international sim card will be better?

5. We have a 12-hour layover in Beijing on our way to Chiang Mai (5am - 5pm). We qualify for the TWOV; is it worth trying to go out and explore? We would ideally just take public transit to Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square for a few hours.

6. From Chiang Mai to Bangkok, should we fly or take the train? I admittedly like to marvel at the idea of riding through Thailand on a train like The Darjeeling Limited (even though that’s set in India). It seems like flying would be easier though, right?

7. We live in NYC, and aren’t really looking to get caught up in tourist traps or shopping districts. Rather, we want as much nature and authentic Thai food / culture as possible. Along our journey from north to south, what are the must-see nature/food attractions?

8. Best way to get around? I'm guessing it's different in each part of the country. Renting a car is at the very bottom of our list, so ideally any type of public transit or affordable car service would be best.

Any insight you guys have on any of these questions would be extremely helpful. We are so incredibly excited!

Thank you,

Sam

7 replies to this topic
Jakarta, Indonesia
Level Contributor
4,834 posts
68 reviews
1. Re: First trip to Thailand—any+all recommendations appreciated!

Buy a sim card is usually cheaper then pocket WiFi

Bangkok, I like to stay near the river so that I can beat the traffic by traveling waterborne.

Naga residence is a good budget hotel or look at nearby ibis

Level Contributor
24 posts
1 review
2. Re: First trip to Thailand—any+all recommendations appreciated!

Awesome! Thank you for the tips. :D

Reading, United...
Level Contributor
17 posts
5 reviews
3. Re: First trip to Thailand—any+all recommendations appreciated!

Hi Sam,

Sounds like a lovely trip you have planned!

1. Where should we stay in Chiang Mai and Bangkok? We are looking for the Brooklyn of these cities, not the Times Square, if that makes sense. :) Somewhere local and chill, but central enough to not be isolated.

This is based on personal preference of places to stay but for Chiang Mai try and grab somewhere on the outskirts of the old town. There are a load of hostels/hotels just outside the old town which give you that out of town feel while still being within walking distance of the main part of Chiang Mai the old town.

Within Bangkok this was a tough one. I personally stayed near Bangkok old town (near the grand palace, the temple of the emerald buddha, and the other big Bangkok temples). For me that was perfect as I was a temple buff during the day. For nightlight it did become quite troublesome for the distances to the other areas of Bangkok as it is quite far from the Sky Train. If nightlife is your thing I would stay somewhere closer to the skytrain. However, if you don't mind a 30-40 minute taxi ride (not that expensive if you use grab and there are two of you), somewhere near the grand palace has a nice out of town feel as well and you can easily wonder some of the nearby streets and get an authentic Bangkok experience.

2. We are planning on flying into Krabi from Bangkok — where are the best places to stay amongst the Islands? We want as much serene beaches and tropics as possible. :)

Hard to answer without the exact islands :)

3. Air BnB vs. Hotel vs. Hostel? We have primarily used Air BnB while traveling through the U.S., but I’m not sure how it compares in Thailand? We’re traveling on a bit of a budget, so nothing fancy is needed. Just trying to gauge what is typical and best. I know the U.S. dollar goes pretty far there, so maybe we actually can afford fancy, haha.

I used a mixture of hotels and hostels, but rarely looked at airbnb. For me, the slightly more expensive but not crazily expensive hostels were absosultely stunning. I used the Hostelworld app and anything with a rating of 9 or higher supassed the hotels in terms of decor and service, all while being around £7-9 a night. With there being two of you though, do some research on the areas as most often you'll find a hotel room not much more than the hostels. It really depends if you want the socialbility of the hostel of the private nature of a hotel/airbnb.

4. Best way to get cell service? We are considering pocket Wi-Fi, but perhaps an international sim card will be better?

For my month trip I got an AIS sim from the aiport in Bangkok near the baggage area for 800 baht, which gave unlimited data, perfect for googling/booking and making any Thailand calls.

5. We have a 12-hour layover in Beijing on our way to Chiang Mai (5am - 5pm). We qualify for the TWOV; is it worth trying to go out and explore? We would ideally just take public transit to Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square for a few hours.

Can't comment on that one!

6. From Chiang Mai to Bangkok, should we fly or take the train? I admittedly like to marvel at the idea of riding through Thailand on a train like The Darjeeling Limited (even though that’s set in India). It seems like flying would be easier though, right?

I personally would fly, depending on the time of year the flights can sometimes work out cheaper. I managed to fly from Chiang Rai (highest point north) to Phuket for less than the price of the train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.

7. We live in NYC, and aren’t really looking to get caught up in tourist traps or shopping districts. Rather, we want as much nature and authentic Thai food / culture as possible. Along our journey from north to south, what are the must-see nature/food attractions?

For nature I would try and make a stop for two days in Khao Sok national park and jump onto the lake tour there. Absolutely stunning scenery with some great accommodation options as well.

8. Best way to get around? I'm guessing it's different in each part of the country. Renting a car is at the very bottom of our list, so ideally any type of public transit or affordable car service would be best.

I mainly used minivans between the major cities. Each of the hostels I stayed in were able to book them for me and they would be waiting outside the entrance. They are a very cost effective method as well. There are some horror stories of terrible drivers but I had nothing but great drivers throughout. I also flew a couple of times as domestic flights can be really cost effective.

I hope that helps a little and good luck with the planning!

Pawtucket, RI
Level Contributor
18,749 posts
4. Re: First trip to Thailand—any+all recommendations appreciated!

Long post with lots of places mentioned. Each major city you have an interest in will have a specific forum. Good idea to go to each forum and read the FAQs (on the right side) and look over the "Things To Do" choice under the green bar. A laptop or other real computer will be better for research than just using a phone.

On some of the various forums there are hotel recommendations you can look over. If you ask for hotel help include a price range and roughly where in each city. (Use Thai baht.)

Choose a hotel with free wifi so you can use your computer without extra cost. (There are some posts that go into detail for sims, etc.)

For Bangkok I prefer a hotel where I can walk to nightlife, walk to restaurants, walk to malls and use cheap city rail service. For me that is Siam, Nana and Asoke areas among a few others. (I can reach other areas by taxi, rail or bus for history/cultural type things during the day hours.) For YOU do some research for Khao San Road and Lumphini areas too. Bangkok is twice as big as NYC.

http://www.urbanrail.net/as/bang/bangkok.htm

Take the time to read up on how best to change your currency to Thai baht. (Do it in Thailand for best return on USD.) Also read up on how best to use ATMs when in Thailand too.

https://daytodaydata.net/

December is high season for hotel bookings and cost of plane rides. Highest is Christmas - New Years holiday period.

Good luck.

Edited: 07 August 2018, 07:14
Level Contributor
24 posts
1 review
5. Re: First trip to Thailand—any+all recommendations appreciated!

Thank you so, so much for the detailed insight, Luke! We appreciate it so much. All of your advice is really helpful.

As for my question about the islands, I'll be honest in saying I really don't know the best ones to go to! If you have any recommendations, we are totally open ears. We'll be flying into Krabi and spending a few days down south before flying out of Phuket. So anywhere around there that's worth staying, we would love to check out. The more serene the nature, the better. :)

Level Contributor
24 posts
1 review
6. Re: First trip to Thailand—any+all recommendations appreciated!

Thank you for the guidance! I will do some more research. And your Bangkok description really helps - good to have the size in context.

Level Contributor
12 posts
35 reviews
7. Re: First trip to Thailand—any+all recommendations appreciated!

OMG! You're going to LOVE Krabi. We loved it so much we ended up staying there for a total of three weeks! I actually wrote out a complete guide on Krabi, and all of the surrounding islands including what to do and where to stay here: www.chaseforadventure.com/2018/09/02/krabi/

No matter what you end up doing you're going to leave obsessed!

Reply to: First trip to Thailand—any+all recommendations appreciated!
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted