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Thailand travel guide

The Land of Smiles beckons travelers with its friendly locals and great food. Find travel tips in our Thailand travel guide.

Pagoda at Wat pra kaew or Royal Grand palace, Bangkok favorite landmark, Thailand. Image: Getty Images

Image: Getty Images

Let’s travel to Thailand! Nicknamed the “Land of Smiles”, be prepared to encounter many courteous and friendly locals. Smiling, or “yim” in Thai, is how the locals express themselves in almost every situation.

If you’re thinking of a holiday in Thailand, it’s good to be prepared for any incident with travel insurance. You’ll also want to know what to do, where to go and what you’ll need to complete before travelling. Read our guide on travelling to Thailand to find out more.

Thailand travel restrictions

As of 1 July 2022, Singapore passport holders may enter Thailand without a visa for tourist purposes and may stay up to 30 days. There is no need to apply for Thailand Pass or undertake a COVID-19 test upon entry.

Fully vaccinated travellers must show proof of vaccination certificate in digital or print format upon arrival. Unvaccinated children under 18 years old travelling with vaccinated parents are exempted.

Partially vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers must show a negative COVID-19 test result administered by a medical professional no more than 72 hours before their flight.

While compulsory COVID-19 insurance is no longer required, any medical expenses due to COVID will be borne by travellers. Take note that mask-wearing is no longer mandatory in Thailand.

Thailand at a glance

Like its national dish, Pad Thai (stir-fried glass noodles), Thailand offers a delicious mix of culture and adventure with tempting possibilities. Whether shopping for trendy, affordable clothes in Bangkok or relaxing on the beach in Phuket, there’s plenty to do. Its history of monarchical rule and no European colonisation makes it a fascinating jumble of history and culture.

Go there to admire the ancient ruins and stunning religious architecture, or visit its various hill-tribe villages. Or explore its vibrant arts scene and lively markets. Plus it has 1,430 islands to offer visitors. Finally, it’s a place for extreme sports – many thrill-seekers go there to try paragliding, white water rafting, scuba diving, and so on.

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Top things to see and do in Thailand

Here are some of the fun things you can consider adding to your itinerary:

Ride a Tuk Tuk and go shopping in Bangkok

  • A Tuk Tuk is a motorised rickshaw which the locals use to travel short distances everywhere in Thailand, not just in Bangkok. But the capital city is a busy and lively place, so a colourful Tuk Tuk is a great way to see the city on wheels. Even better still if it’s at night!
  • Prices for a Tuk Tuk start at 30baht for short distances. Do negotiate on rates with the rider before you start your journey. The city offers many shopping options, glitzy performances and cultural sites. Drop by the most famous weekend market, Chatuchak Market.

Visit temples in Chiang Mai

  • Chiang Mai, located in northern Thailand, has a long history. It was founded in the 13th century as a religious and cultural centre. Now, it still houses hundreds of ornate Buddhist temples, such as the 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang.
  • The city’s unhurried pace and its gentle locals will remind you also to slow down, so you can admire the moats and carved walls of the Old City. Visit the colourful hill tribes if you have time too. At night, the city comes to life with its lively night markets.

Watch the sunset in Phuket

  • The largest island in Thailand, many people visit Phuket to lounge on its beautiful white beaches. With its quaint 19th-century shophouses and Portuguese influence, Phuket City also has lots to see, eat and do.
  • Visit Laem Phromthep, Phuket’s southernmost cape which looks over the Andaman Sea. If you’re there from December to March, the sunset view is gorgeous as glittery streaks of sun glimmer in the waters.

Relax on the beaches of Krabi

  • If you’re yearning for a beach getaway that’s a little more secluded than Phuket, head for Krabi instead. Krabi is in south Thailand, and is famous for a few things. One is its island, Koh Phi Phi, which was the setting for the iconic Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach. It also has plenty of beautiful coral reefs that thrive underwater.
  • For rock-climbing enthusiasts, you can scale the limestone cliffs at Railay Beach. Or soak in its natural hot springs instead. While it is quieter compared to Phuket, there are still plenty of nightlife restaurants and night markets.

Admire the historic ruins of Ayutthaya

  • Ayutthaya is near Bangkok and is worth 2–3 days’ visit on its own. This UNESCO World Heritage Centre was once Thailand’s capital before the Burmese burnt it to the ground in a siege in the 18th century.
  • The ruins of this ancient kingdom have been restored, and it’s truly a marvel to see these iconic sights. When you’re there, do not forget to tuck into fresh seafood from the rivers surrounding the city.

Go on a jungle safari tour in Koh Samui

  • Koh Samui is Thailand’s second-largest island. The pristine waters and leafy palm trees make it a dream destination for all types of travellers, from budget tourists to celebrities.
  • A jungle safari tour will take you around the island’s sights, from the breathtaking Namuang Waterfall to the genital-shaped natural rock forms of Hin Ta and Hin Yai. As well as that, many scuba divers head for its surrounding islands to dive. If you are near Chaweng Beach, drop by to watch a jaw-dropping cabaret performance put up by cross-dressing performers.
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Best time to visit Thailand

You can visit Thailand all year round as the country does not have seasonal changes. It is generally humid and warm throughout the year. However, certain months are hot and dry while others have more rain.

The ideal weather is November until April or May. This is the dry season, and you’ll have less rain. However, avoid visiting Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, as it’s rainy from October to December.

From April to June, the hot and dry weather makes it a perfect time to visit the beaches since sea breezes in coastal areas will provide a cooler temperature. From December to February, you can visit the Gulf coast islands (in the middle of Thailand) to avoid the monsoon rains.

Monsoon seasons are from May to October and November to March. From May to October, the South-West Monsoon affects the West coast (e.g. Phuket and Khao Lak/Similan Islands). From November to March, the North-East Monsoon affects the East coast (e.g.Koh Tao, Koh Samui). Note that some islands shut down during monsoon seasons, and boat service is limited during stormy weather.

Do I need to apply for a tourist visa to visit Thailand?

Singapore nationals do not need a visa to enter Thailand for up to 30 days.

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Travelling to Thailand

Thailand has several airports, depending on your destination. The most popular way by flight is to travel from Singapore to the Thailand capital of Bangkok. From there you can travel interstate to several cities.

Instead of Bangkok, you can also travel directly from Singapore to Phuket or Chiang Mai by air. Both destinations are also popular, and it is more convenient to travel directly by air.Back to top

Do I need travel insurance for Thailand?

From 1 July 2022, Singapore travellers no longer need compulsory COVID-19 insurance. Previously, visitors had to have compulsory COVID-19 travel insurance. Check the most updated information on the SafeTravel site before you book your tickets.

While COVID-19 travel insurance is no longer compulsory, purchasing travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage is still advisable. This is because travel insurance for Thailand protects you from COVID-19 medical expenses. It also protects you against unexpected costs from events such as flight delays and luggage theft.

Besides, if you are thinking of heading to Thailand for extreme sports, you will need to look for travel insurance that includes coverage for such risky activities. While not every insurer has protection for extreme sports, the definitions of an extreme sport may differ from policy to policy. So, you might be able to find travel insurance for the sport that you want to try.

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Where to exchange Thai baht

The unit of currency used in Thailand is baht. The currency code is THB and the symbol of the currency is ฿.

Changing a small sum of money is advisable before you travel to Thailand. While you will be able to find money changers in Thailand, you might need cash while travelling there. A tip is to change money at local money changers in shopping malls in Singapore or Thailand. Try not to change at the airport, the bank or the hotel as the rate will be less competitive.

If you prefer to travel without cash, you should consider a digital, multi-currency wallet or bank account. Read our comparison of YouTrip vs Revolut vs Wise to find the best digital wallet for when you travel.

Tips to remember when exchanging money in Thailand

  • Tipping is not the norm in Thailand
  • Exchange your cash at the money changers around the subway at the airport
  • Try to pay using credit cards if you can, as most places accept credit cards
  • Make sure that you check and count your cash in front of the money changer before leaving
  • Carry cash in lower denominations while shopping at the night markets or clubbing
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Top cities to visit in Thailand

DestinationDescription
Bangkok

Without a doubt, the capital city is the most popular destination for travellers. Its street vendors, weekend markets, and spacious malls selling various goods are a bargain hunter’s dream.

Cultural landmarks like the Grand Palace and Buddhist temples such as Wat Arun and Wat Pho are fascinating to visit. Bangkok is a lively city to visit for those who like an urban holiday.

Phuket

The largest island in Thailand, Phuket, is all about sandy beaches and blue waters. Visitors head there to immerse themselves in nature and try extreme sports such as white water rafting, snorkelling and diving.

It is also more affordable compared to Bangkok. So if you want a getaway from the city, with the same nightlife and food options, go to Phuket.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, draws visitors due to its old-world charm. Known as Thailand’s “Rose of the North”, the pace is slower here, and the climate is also cooler.

Apart from the temples, the mountainous region around the city attracts many hikers who scale the mountains for its beautiful panoramic view.

KrabiKrabi is a popular beach destination for visitors who prefer somewhere quieter than Phuket.

Its limestone caves and mangrove forests offer nature lovers a respite from the busy urban life. While it may not be as large as Phuket, you’ll still have many options for restaurant and bar hopping at night.

PattayaPattaya is a popular tourist spot on Thailand’s eastern Gulf coast. The most well-known is Coral Island. Visitors head there to lounge on sandy beaches or participate in water sports.

The city was a fishing village till the 1960s, before the government converted it into a tourist destination with shopping malls and luxury hotels. So, expect a much more energetic pace than Phuket or Krabi for those headed to Pattaya.

Koh Samui

The largest island in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui is flanked by 2 smaller islands: Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.Travellers head there to dive, snorkel or go on a jungle tour. The breathtaking seascape of Ang Thong National Marine Park is also worth visiting.koh samui
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Thailand food guide

Here are some of the most delicious Thai dishes you should try!

Boat Noodles

Boat Noodles, or Kway Teow Rua, is a dish that you’ll be able to find anywhere in the country. It’s a Thai-style noodle soup made with chicken, pork or beef. Dark soy sauce and pickled bean curd are added, along with meatballs and pig’s liver.

Tom Yum Goong

Many people love this spicy soup in Singapore, so when you’re in Thailand, it’s best to try it. It’s cooked with lemongrass, chilli, and lime leaves, among other ingredients. The soup is an intense kick to your senses and will leave you in a sweat.
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Pad Thai (Stir-fried noodles)

A plate of Pad Thai is worth the calories when you’re in Thailand. The stir-fried glass noodle dish usually comes with meat, but there are vegetarian options too.

Tom Kha Gai (Chicken in coconut soup)

If spicy is not your preferred flavour, go for creamy Tom Kha Gai. This mildly spicy soup comes with coconut milk, so it’s a lush taste without the intense heat of Tom Yum.

Mango sticky rice

If you’re in Thailand and need a dessert, go for sticky mango rice. Glutinous rice is accompanied by fresh mango slices and sweet condensed milk. A sweet treat you cannot miss.

Khao Kha Mu (Stew pork leg with rice)

Commonly found at night markets, this delicious plate of rice is served with slow-braised stewed pork leg. The meat is simmered with soy sauce and five-spice powder. It’s usually served alongside vegetables and boiled eggs, making it a cheap but good meal.

Khao Soi

Khao Soi is a curry dish originating from Northern Thailand. It combines tender braised meat (chicken and beef are favourites) with the delicious creaminess of a coconut curry broth. You can usually find boiled or fried noodles served with it.

Yam Nua (Beef salad)

This zesty salad is a Phuket favourite. Thin slices of grilled beef tenderloin strips are tossed with spearmint, shallots, onions, garlic and chillis. It is then seasoned with lime juice and fish sauce.

Som Tam (Thai green papaya salad)

This fresh, zesty salad originated from northeast Thailand and is one of the most commonly available dishes. You should be able to find this at any food vendor. Great for quenching your thirst on a hot day!

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Thailand shopping guide

Thailand is well-known for its markets, but it also has many spacious malls. Bargain hunters will have a good time shopping in Thailand. Consider adding these to your list:

  • Central World. This 7-storey air-conditioned mall in Bangkok is hard to miss. There are over 500 stores with everything from shopping and dining, to fantastic entertainment and nightlife.
  • Chatuchak Weekend Market. A shopping trip is incomplete without a visit to this iconic open-air weekend market. With more than 8,000 stores selling food and items from handicrafts to antiques, be prepared to shop non-stop.
  • Phuket Weekend Market. The Phuket weekend market has 2 sections. The covered area is for bargain hunters to score second-hand items. An open-air area is where you can go to buy the newest, trendiest fashion items.
  • Maharaj Market. Thailand is known for its night markets, but this Krabi market is held in the morning so the best time to visit is 6am, and you can bargain here.
  • Pattaya Floating Market. As the name says, this floating market in Pattaya is a riverside attraction. You can get handmade souvenirs or just enjoy a boat ride to see how the locals live.
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How to stay safe in Thailand

Thailand is a warm, welcoming country. However, the southern provinces near the Malaysian border can get dangerous, and it is best to avoid visiting there. Otherwise, it is generally a safe country to visit.

Do note that Thailand’s roads are jam-packed, and traffic accident rates are relatively high. So be careful when you cross the roads, and avoid driving in busy streets if you can. You should also be alert and practice common sense by keeping your valuables safe and using exact change at the markets.

Travel insurance is necessary to protect you against unexpected medical expenses from accidents or illness. It can also assist you if you encounter scams, pickpockets or loss of valuable items.

Check the travel advisory if you intend to travel, so you know the latest updates before entering the country.

Dos and don’ts

Here are some quick tips so you can make the best of your holiday in Thailand:

Do
  • Respect the monarchy
  • Stay patient – enjoy your holiday and the slower pace
  • Dress appropriately when visiting Thai temples and royal palaces. It would be best if you covered your shoulders and knees.
Don’t
  • Point – it’s considered rude in Thailand. Instead, do the “wai” (slight bow with palms pressed together)
  • Put your feet up on public furniture
  • Touch anyone, even children’s heads. In Thai culture, the head is the most important.
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Images: Getty Images

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