Escorted tours to Thailand
Currency: Thai Bhat
Time Zone: ICT/GMT+6
Tipping: In Thailand tipping is not customary, there is no obligation to tip anyone, however small gratuities are appreciated.
Thailand - an Introduction
The first thing that will hit you on an escorted tour to this 'Land of Smiles' is the sheer colour, from glittering gold temples adorned with rainbow coloured flags to brightly clothed natives. Add to that paradise-white beaches, bustling markets and bejewelled temples and a holiday here promises to be no less dull.
Northern Thailand is the country's spiritual and cultural hub, home to the cities of ChiangMai and Chiang Rai. Chiang Mai has more than 300 temples ('wats') and exudes a homely feel that other cities can only dream of. It's hard to put a finger on what makes Chiang Mai so charming, but this riverside city is a delight to explore. Second hand book shops, noodle stalls and a bustling Night Bazaar only add to the ambience. Chiang Mai is a popular base from which to go elephant trekking and in addition to that and bamboo rafting, some escorted tours also include a visit to elephant camps. Colourful Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple is also a usual stop and affords brilliant views over the surrounding country.
Further east is slightly less elegant Chiang Rai, with its all-singing, all-dancing gold clock tower. Each night the tower demonstrates a dazzling light performance to music and is probably the closest Southeast Asia has to the Bellagio Fountains.
Capital Bangkok opens up more opportunities and is a guaranteed stop on any tour of Thailand, where you can check out the jewel-studded Grand Palace and colossal reclining Buddha at Wat Po, visit the floating market at Damnern Saduak, take part in a Tai Chi lesson and enjoy in a cooking demonstration. Away from the main cities, some tours even visit the mountain tribe villages of Chiang Saen and the River Kwai, home to the infamous bridge and start of the notorious Burma-Siam railway, built by WW2 prisoners of war.
Some of the best Thai experiences you'll encounter are off the beaten track. Make the most of thorough Thai massages which will only set you back around £3, where you'll be pulled and cracked to within an inch of your life. It would be a travesty to leave Thailand without trialling fresh green or red Thai curry, Tom Yam (soup), Pad Thai, or soul soothing noodle soup, the best of which is often served up on the streets. Quite often the grubbiest looking places that you wouldn't dream of visiting back home serve up the best tasting fare.
All touring holidays to Thailand include return flights from the UK, internal travel via a range of methods, a full excursion programme, accommodation (from hotels to jungle rafts!) and some meals as well as a tour manager and local guides.
Things to do
From beaches to bustling markets, Thailand is a colourful, great country to visit. Here are a handful of the countries key destinations.
The capital city of Thailand really does have something for everyone, from modern, vast shopping centres to old world charm in its palaces and temples. Some of the key highlights include visiting "Old City" which is home to hundreds of temples, the most popular and famous being the Grand Palace, Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun. Chaotic but lively Khao San Road is the hub of Bangkok, and its carefree and anything goes atmosphere makes it a great place to people watch. For shopping head to Siam Square, or if you're visiting on a weekend head to Chatuchak Weekend Market with over 8,000 stalls, making it the largest in Southeast Asia.
There's a charming feel to Chiang Mai, as a historical and cultural city full of temples. There are over 300 in total so nearly as many as Bangkok, so a visit to at least a few of them is not to be missed! There are a variety of activities to do in this city from a Thai cookery course, a trek to see the Burma Long Neck tribe or watch a Muay Thai boxing match. Visits to elephant nature parks are also popular from Chiang Mai, but make sure you research your tour as the quality can vary. Typically you will have an elephant ride, bathe the elephants in a river and have a training course on some basic commands.
The ancient city of Ayutthaya was once one of Southeast Asia's most affluent cities. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya historical park is full of magnificent ruins, quite a contrast to the town itself. Some of the UNESCO World Heritage Site ruins are huge and you can only just imagine how amazing they would have looked. Hiring a bike is a good option to get around all of the areas as they are fairly spread out over the city.
Thinking of travelling to Thailand? Check out the average temperatures for when you plan to visit courtesy of BBC Weather
Tips & Advice
The beauty of travelling in an escorted tour is that you'll be in the safest hands when it comes to holidaying in foreign lands. To help you have an enjoyable holiday in Thailand take a look at these useful tips and advice provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO):
Health and Travel Insurance
It is sensible to check with your GP prior to travelling to Thailand to check whether you need any vaccinations or preventative medical treatment.
Thailand has some excellent private hospitals but they are expensive. Public hospitals are not generally up to UK standards, particularly outside of Bangkok. Some hospitals will require guaranteed payment before commencing treatment, therefore you must check that you have suitable travel insurance before travelling in addition to extra funding. Most tours offer the chance to purchase one-trip travel insurance at the time of booking.
To call for emergency medical assistance dial 1669 to ask for an ambulance. If you are transferred to a clinic or hospital for treatment you should inform your insurance company immediately.
Avoid buying any medication from street sellers as this is often fake or stolen.
Avoid full moon parties and other late night parties in bars as these can be dangerous. Always take care especially at night and never invite anyone into your hotel room. Always buy your own drinks and never accept them from strangers.
As always, be on your guard against pickpockets and bag snatchers. They may use public transport to drive past and steal your bag so always wear bags on the pavement side and not toward the road.
Gem scams are common and it is advised that you avoid buying gems whilst in the country.
Any crimes should be reported to Thai police before you leave the country.
Local Laws and Customs
Never become involved with drugs when in Thailand as possession can lead to imprisonment and in extreme cases the death penalty.
It's also a crime to make critical remarks about the Thai Royal family, which is punishable by a long prison sentence.
It is illegal to import more than 200 cigarettes into Thailand per person. If caught you will be fined and the cigarettes will be confiscated.
Thai law states that you must carry your passport with you at all times. If you cannot produce your passport when asked you could face being arrested. Make sure that the emergency details on the last page of your passport are completed before arriving in the country.
Passports should be valid for at least 6 months from the date that you enter Thailand. Visitors arriving by air can stay for 30 days without needing a visa.
You may be asked by immigration officials for proof of onward travel or your return ticket when entering the country. Some airlines will refuse to board passengers without this kind of evidence.
UK ETD (Emergency Travel Documents) can be used for entrance, exit and airside transit.
Any other nationality looking to visit Thailand must contact the local embassy to check visa requirements.
To find out more about Thailand visit the tourist board website at inter.tourismthailand.org/uk.