Thailand Travel Tips | Tea & Post

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Thailand Travel Tips

Since I went to Thailand back in February I've received a few messages asking how we planned our trip, how much it cost and how we chose to book everything. Rather than reply the same to everyone I thought it might be handy to create a post showing how we went about this. I find planning a trip to be one of the best parts of travelling, I love researching where I will be going and what I can get up to once I'm there. It gives me something to daydream about when I'm in the office.



PLANNING

Of course the very first thing you need to decide is where you want to go. Whether there's a country that's been on your wishlist for years or you've suddenly developed a need to get to a beach. I'm centering this post around my trip to Thailand but to be honest you can apply this to anywhere you choose to go. In my case I had longed to go for years, when I was leaving Sixth Form I remember wishing I had enough money to complete the Thailand Experience with a company like Real Gap or STA. I got itchy feet around May last year and started researching into it again and found a friend who also dreamed of visiting Thailand. 

Next we had to ask ourselves some pretty important questions to figure out how we were going to plan the trip. Some of these were:
  •  What kind of holiday do we want? (Adventure/Culture/Beach?)
  • How long will we go for?
  • Should we book with a travel agency or plan it by ourselves
  • How much money will we need?
  • Which part of the country would we like to go to?
  • Should we stay in luxury or budget accommodation?
  • When should we go?
  • What injections will we need?
I know I wanted to see as much of Thailand as possible in the time I had (I could only take two weeks off work), we both made a list of where we wanted to go and compared them. Our mutual chosen destinations were Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Lanta and Phuket. A lot of my decisions were based on what I had read through travel blogs and tripadvisor. Do some research into the country you want to visit. It was Adventurous Kate's post on Koh Lanta that convinced me I had to visit the island.


SAVING

With our rough guide I was able to draw up a draft itinerary and made notes on how much everything would cost in order to figure out how much money we would need. Accommodation only cost us £120 each (not including the trip we did with STA). The Chiang Mai Village Trek we agreed we should go on cost £199 each, including a hotel for 2 nights, 3 nights camping and several days meals. Our international flights were perhaps the most expensive to purchase at £580 each for a return flights. On top of these costs we knew we'd also have to pay for internal travel, injections and also money for whilst we were out there. To save money I cut back on nights out, eating out and managed to restrain myself from any form of shopping for a few months. Online shopping is a killer! It took us around 5 months to save with us booking everything in December/January for our February trip.

BOOKING

When it came to booking I wanted the security of having booked through a reputable travel company but also the flexibility. For this reason we did the majority of our booking through Expedia. International flights via Emirates were the first thing we booked followed by the STA trip as we didn't want to lose our places. The STA trip began in Chiang Mai two days after we would arrive in Bangkok so we needed to arrange some form of travel there. I'd heard that Thai trains were fairly cheap and we thought by taking an overnight one we would save ourselves some money on a hotel for that night. Unfortunately the train website was down so we decided to book a train when we got there, assuming it would be exactly the same as booking one in this country, we'd just hop on. Turns out it's not like that at all, the train was fully booked and we ended up spending a lot more money than we would've if we'd booked another mode of transport in advance. 

The rest of our internal travel would be by ferry and plane, it wasn't possible to book our ferry from Koh Lanta to Phuket until we got there. Having heard the prices were cheaper than the amount our hotel was trying to charge us we shopped around to see if we could find any better deals. It turned out a little shop on the main road was a lot more reasonably priced and we went with them in the end. Always hunt around for a better deal! Our internal flights also weren't too badly priced at £85 from Chiang Mai to Krabi and just £38 each from Phuket to Bangkok. We chose to fly AirAsia, the only downside being that we had to pay for our luggage to be put in the hold once we were there. This cost us about £16 a bag.


WHERE WE STAYED

FuramaXclusive Sathorn, Bangkok 

 We spent two nights at this hotel and it was potentially my favourite of the bunch. For just £17 a night we had clean, spacious rooms with amazing aircon, excellent wifi and a swimming pool (although we didn't use it). The location was ideal as it's right next to the SkyTrain which, along with the metro, will take you pretty much anywhere in the city.  We ate in the restaurant once and the food was delicious, particularly the Pho. 

 Chiang Mai Gate Hotel, Chiang Mai 

As this hotel was part of the package we bought with STA Travel we didn't have much of a choice when it came to where we stayed. It was a fairly nice hotel, we ended up staying two nights instead of the one as we had to get an overnight bus to Chiang Mai that arrived at 5am. With no-where else to go that early in the morning we  figured it'd be better to pay for an extra night and get some sleep before the trek. The extra night we paid for was probably the most expensive accommodation we paid for on the trip. I wasn't blown away by the breakfast that was included but it did the job. The wifi also wasn't great as you had to go sit in the lobby to use it, sometimes taking quite a while to connect. Location-wise, the night market is just a short tuk tuk ride away and there are plenty of restaurants in walking distance.



Lanta Beach Pearl Resort , Koh Lanta

I probably set my expectations too high for this hotel as it's rated as a 4-star online. The highest star rating we would be staying at on our trip (although pretty cheap at £15 each per night) I was quite disappointed by our room, it was large and clean but the aircon was awful. It took forever to get started and never felt like it made the room quite cool enough. Going into the bathroom was like walking into a sauna, the air conditioning didn't reach that room and there was only a tiny ventilation window at the top. The other annoyance with this room was the number of gnats that seemed to be able to get in, we have a theory that they were coming through the ventilation window I just mentioned. On the positive side, it was only a short walk from the beach and the restaurant did amazing coconut shakes. I loved Koh Lanta but I think if I visited again I'd stay somewhere else.


Blu Monkey, Phuket 

 This was the cheapest hotel we booked at £11 each per night  and a contender for favourite place we stayed. Our room was clean, large and had cute quotes printed on the wall. The only issue was that it wasn't positioned very well location wise but the staff were super helpful and would call us a taxi whenever we needed one.They also let us stay in the cafĂ© way past closing time as we waited to leave for the airport.

WORRIES

In the months before our trip we were pretty worried about the political situation in Thailand, particularly in Bangkok as there were numerous bombings occuring due to the protests.We were frequently checking the Foreign Travel Advice site for any signs that we shouldn't go. Throughout their troubles Thailand has maintained that it is safe for tourists to visit. Whilst we were in Thailand we did accidentally stumble upon a protest site and later on that day there was an explosion, luckily we were no-where near when it happened. I think in this situation you just need to be aware of the sites that are mainly affected and try to avoid these areas. I drew up a map before we left using information from Richard Barrow's Twitter and Map he created showing where the trouble was. I believe that it's spread further now and that curfews are in place in quite a lot of destinations. I'd really recommend following him on Twitter if you are planning to go to Thailand and are worried about the coup. Make sure you buy insurance as soon as you book your trip just in case you do need to cancel.

Another concern of ours was the danger of drinking alcohol out there. A few months before we went a girl who lived in the same area as us passed away due to a bad experience with alcohol in Thailand. Their laws on food and drink are completely different to those that exist within the EU, you have to be a lot more careful. We did drink alcohol when we were away but we were quite selective about it, ensuring we only bought from a bar that looked quite busy and only buying drinks we could see others having. The only shop we bought alcohol from was a 7-Eleven, these are dotted around everywhere in Thailand and are also found in the US.
 

LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKES

  • Make sure you have all your travel booked before you leave, it's pricier to arrange when in Thailand and you won't always be guaranteed a seat at the time you need to go.
  • If you are travelling overnight make sure you have a hotel room waiting for your arrival. We ended up spending more than we should've on a room as we arrived in Chiang Mai at 5am and had no-where to go. 
  • If you go on a trek take one large backpack to share between you, you can take it in turns to carry.
  • If staying near the beach hunt around for shops further inland as they are usually cheaper
  • If you are going to the islands you will need a LOT of bug spray


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2 comments

  1. What a great post, so many useful tips and info! So scary about the exploration, I'm glad you guys weren't near that place when it happened. You cant deny Thailand is beautiful! Thanks for sharing the photos and the info :)

    Jessica
    the.pyreflies.org

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    Replies
    1. It's SO beautiful, I'm desperate to go back! Glad you found it informative, thank you for the lovely comment :) x

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