Thailand means “land of the free” and is known as the “land of smiles” and both descriptions are apparent as you laze on a pristine beach watching children with wide smiles frolic at the water’s edge without a care in the world. The kingdom embraces a rich diversity of cultures and traditions, and combined with the scenic splendour of a diverse countryside, offers something for everyone. Its proud history, tropical climate and renowned hospitality are an endless source of fascination and pleasure for families, from the more adventurous longing to explore, to the more vacation minded dreaming of lazy days and balmy nights.
Hua Hin is less than three-hour drive from Bangkok, and it boasts good swimming beaches, golf courses, spa resorts and excellent shopping.
Once a quiet fishing village, this thriving resort town is a popular holiday spot for families, thanks to its many water sport and beach activities, hotels, street food shacks, night markets, and beautiful temples.
Known as the “pearl of the south”, Phuket offers an extensive choice of resorts, from three- to five-star. The scenery is beautiful and diverse and the attractions are many, including the spectacular limestone scenery of Phang Nga Bay, the idyllic Phi Phi Island, the long golden stretch of Karon Beach, and bustling Patong.
For a cultural experience the whole family will delight in, check out Phuket FantaSea, an evening theme park and cultural performance inspired by Thailand’s exotic heritage, complete with vibrant costumes, acrobatics, pyrotechnics and more.
Thailand’s capital is the fantastically hot, crowded, traffic-choked city of “Krung Thep” – Bangkok. But don’t let that put you off for a second. Bangkok is an exciting and dynamic city with plenty of rewards in store for family holidays.
Built on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok is home to many of Thailand’s most spectacular temples and monuments, as well as amazing shopping, dining and nightlife.
See the enormous reclining Buddha inside Wat Pho Temple, go on a safari drive through Safari World, hunt for treasures and souvenirs at Chatuchak Weekend Market, and get your thrills and spills at Dream World amusement park.
When the sun starts to set, head to Asiatique The Riverfront, a large open-air riverside mall thriving with markets, restaurants, cafes, entertainment and a ferris wheel.
Chiang Mai is an ideal destination if you are looking to experience tradition, natural beauty and Thailand’s rich history. Travel through stunning mountains past hill tribe villages, or shop for handicrafts and antiques.
A prime attraction is the golden temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which is located at the top of the mountains and dates back nearly 700 years.
Chiang Mai Old City is another must-see where families will enjoy walking through old buildings, past moats and temples. The ancient settlement of Wiang Kum Kam is also a star attraction where visitors will find structures from the eighth century and ancient Buddhist inscription.
Animal lovers and families with young kids will love getting up close and personal with gentle giants at the Elephant Nature Park, a rescue and rehabilitation centre where you can watch elephants roam freely in their natural habitat, and help their carers feed and bathe them in the river.
If you’re after a bit more action and adventure, then hold on tight for the ride of a lifetime as you soar over the rain forest canopy on a zip line with Flight of the Gibbon.
Famous for its scenic coastlines, beaches and more than 100 islands dotting the Andaman Sea, Krabi offers families the perfect destination for fun outdoor activities.
Boasting one of the world’s most beautiful coral reefs, Krabi is an excellent place for snorkelling and diving, while its towering limestone cliffs, white sand beaches and secluded isles and inlets are best enjoyed by ferry or traditional long boat.
A popular attraction is Tiger Cave Temple, a sacred site containing tiger paw prints inside the cave, tall Buddha statues and beautiful shrines still used by local monks today.
For a great mix of adventure and relaxation, head to Khao Pra – Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary and walk down the shady forest pathway to the Emerald Pool, a natural square-shaped pool filled with pristine water, perfect for a cool afternoon swim. Just a short stroll away, you’ll also find Klong Tom Hot Waterfall which offers a soothing soak thanks to its naturally hot thermal waters.
Best time to go to Thailand
Thailand has a tropical climate, meaning it is mostly warm and humid. It has three distinct seasons – the hot season from March to June with an average temperature of 32 degrees Celsius, the cool season from November to February with an average temperature of 26 degrees Celsius, and the rainy season from July to October, averaging 28 degrees Celsius.
During the rainy season, there is still plenty of sunshine, with showers rarely lasting more than an hour or two, although the south of Thailand receives considerably more rain during this period. However, in northern Thailand, the wet season runs between May and November, while in the southern region on the west coast it is April to October and on the east coast, it is September to December.
A great time to visit is April during Songkran, the Thai New Year’s holiday which takes place 13-15 April. This holiday is well known for its cultural celebrations and water festival, where roads are closed for water fights on the streets. This is something everyone in Thailand participates in, and kids love it, so be prepared to get wet!
Australians must have a passport that is current for at least 6 months from the date of departure.
Australians do not require a visa for stays of less than 30 days. For longer stays, up to 60 days, you will need to apply for a tourist visa from Thai immigration.
Thailand’s international airports include Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Phuket International Airport and Chiang Mai International Airport. Airlines that fly from Australia to Thailand include Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Thai Airlines, Emirates, Jetstar and Scoot.
Most hotels will offer a transfer service from the airport to your accommodation and can also arrange a private driver or shuttle service for day trips, sightseeing excursions and lifts to the nearest shopping and town centres.
Taxis are a convenient and generally inexpensive way of getting around. There are plenty just outside the arrivals hall at the airport, and they can also easily spotted throughout Bangkok thanks to their vibrant colours. Taxis generally cost around 35 baht for the first two kilometres and go up by two baht, roughly per kilometre thereafter. A surcharge of 1.25 baht per metre applies in traffic jams when moving under six kilometres per hour. Communication with taxi drivers can be a challenge as many do not speak English, so it is helpful to have written down in Thai the address or name of where it is you wish to go.
For a fun, novelty way of getting around, jump on the back of a ‘tuk-tuk’. These three-wheeled engine rickshaws are an exciting way to sight see and kids get a real thrill out of the adventure. A short trip will cost around 30 baht, but avoid taking a tuk-tuk during peak traffic hours in the early mornings and late afternoon.
Food and drinks that kids will love
Full of flavour, colour and freshness, Thai food is vast and varied, meaning there is something for everyone, and most cafes and restaurants will offer kids menus.
Children will enjoy dishes such as Kao Tom, a tasty and creamy broth of rice and chicken, fried rice, Pad Thai, fried chicken and non-spicy grilled or barbecued meat skewers. Flavours like Satay will also go down a treat with young ones. Massaman curry is one of the better curries for kids as it is mild and creamy with a slight sweetness to it thanks to its delicious, creamy peanut base. Sticky rice with grilled chicken or pork is another widely available dish that will be finished in no time.
Thailand also has some interesting dessert options such as mango sticky rice and banana pancake. The tropical climate offers delicious, fresh fruit options and smoothies and tropical fruit from a trusted cafe or hotel make for a refreshing and healthy treat on a hot day.
Thailand shopping is a bargain hunter’s paradise, where you can buy clothing, shoes, bags and jewellery and so much more at a very reasonable price. There are also unique homeware options, handicrafts and antiques that make for perfect gifts and souvenirs.
Bangkok is renowned for its world-class malls, such as the legendary MBK Center which has eight floors of a variety of markets as well high-end stores, a huge department store and plenty of food options. Kids and teens will have a great time here, as there is heaps to see, its always bustling and there are plenty of treasures to find at bargain prices.
For a fun and traditional experience, visit some of the many markets, where you’ll find anything and everything from clothing and accessories, to leather goods, souvenirs and novelty items. Don’t be afraid to haggle for a lower price, its all part of the experience. Top picks in Bangkok include the famous and enormous Chatuchak Weekend Market, the Bangkok Flower Market with its fragrant and colourful blooms and the various floating markets around Bangkok with long boats piled high with fresh produce, offering fresh juices and local food cooked right on the boat in front of you.
If it is too hot to brave the markets, most cities and towns also offer high end shopping options, with designer labels and new technology available in air-conditioned malls.
Bargaining is a skill worth learning and practicing if you plan to do any shopping, and kids can try their hand and it too. Friendly bargaining is expected at market stalls and makes the shopping experience fun for both the buyer and the seller. Its best enjoyed with a sense of humour, politeness and a smile on your face.
While tipping is not expected in Thailand, you can tip a small amount at more tourist-oriented hotels, bars and restaurants if you feel you have received good service.
What to wear
It is important to pack comfortable clothes for the warm weather. Generally, locals dress relatively modestly and if you are planning to visit a temple you will need something that goes below the knee and covers the shoulders. It is always a good idea to carry around a light scarf or sarong, and a poncho during wet season. If you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors sightseeing, then comfortable shoes, a hat and sunglasses are a must.
Electricity mainly operates on 220 volts and the frequency is 50 Hz, the same as Australia, although you will occasionally find 110 volt sockets. The two-rounded pin standard Asian plug is used in most parts of the country, therefore you will require an adapter for any Australian electrical appliances.
It is recommended that you see your doctor at least six weeks before your trip to check which vaccinations may be required. Generally, vaccination against tetanus, hepatitis A and typhoid is recommended.
Mosquitoes and other insects are rife throughout the country, so make liberal use of insect repellent, especially at night. Major cities are considered low risk for malaria, however, if you are travelling to rural areas you may need to be careful. Your family doctor or travel clinic can give you more information about malaria high-risk zones and medication.
Thailand is an amazingly hot and humid country, so be sure to have hats, sunscreen and plenty of bottled water.
The locals in Thailand don’t drink tap water so it’s a good idea for tourists to stick to bottled water too. Water and ice served in good hotels, restaurants and cafes is generally made from filtered or treated water.
Severe storms and widespread seasonal flooding can happen with little to no warning in Thailand during the wet season.
Earthquakes and tsunamis are less likely, but can occur. However, seismic activity is monitored so there is usually warning if such a disaster were to happen. Ensure your passport is secure in a waterproof bag and with you at all times, be aware of evacuation zones and procedures, get to safety and follow the advice of local authorities.
Since a military coup came into power in Thailand in 2014, there has been civil unrest and political tension. Avoid protests and political rallies as these can become violent.
Petty theft and pick-pocketing is prevalent in some parts of Thailand, so always be aware of your surroundings and mindful of your belongings.
It is highly recommended you take out comprehensive travel insurance whenever you travel and keep up to date on the latest safety information via the Smart Traveller website.
In case of emergency, the numbers to call are:
Tourist police: 1155
Medical emergencies: 1669
The official language of Thailand is Thai, and dialect can vary slightly in the more remote villages. English is spoken and understood widely in Bangkok and in high tourist areas.
Hello – Sawatdi khrap (male speaking) kha (female speaking)
Thank you – Khob khun krab (male speaking) kha (female speaking)
How much? – Gee baht?
Lot noi dai mai? – Can you make it cheaper?
Yoo tee nai…? – Where is…?
Sorry – Khor tort
No – Bplao
Yes – Chai
Most photographed places
There are many photo opportunities to be had on a trip to Thailand thanks to its abundance of natural beauty and astonishing temples. Here are just some of the best photo spots.
Great Holy Relics Pagoda – Perched high up on a mountain top within Doi Inthanon National Park, this incredible Pagoda complex is surrounded by stunning gardens and expansive views. Its unique position makes its exceptionally photo-worthy during both sunrise and sunset.
Phang Nga Bay – With its dramatic limestone karsts jutting out of emerald green waters, inspiration can be seen and felt all around. The protected national marine park spans 40,000 hectares and boasts caves, mangrove forests, secret lagoons and islands. One of its most popular islands is Khao Phing Kan, also known as James Bond Island, made famous by its appearance in the 1974 Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun. The island’s most striking and photographed feature is the 20-metre tall limestone karst which towers from the water, just a few metres from shore.
Wat Arun, Bangkok – This stunning Buddhist temple is one of Thailand’s most significant religious sites and one its most striking structures. Standing at 70 meters tall, the spire is decorated with intricate bits of coloured glass and porcelain which glisten in the sun, making it one of the most photographed temples in the country. In the evening, it is beautifully lit up in a golden glow, glistening over Chao Phraya River – take a longboat ride along the river at dusk to capture its magic.
Lumpini Park, Bangkok – Sprawling across 57 hectares in the heart of the capital city, Lumpini Park features beautifully landscaped gardens, lush vegetation, shady trees and a man-made lake. Hire a boat for a spin on the lake and take a photo with the bangkok city skyline rising above the trees behind you.
Phraya Nakhon Cave – Located in the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park which in itself is a photographer’s dream, this cave houses a small gold and green temple. Getting to is no easy feat, with the 430-metre climb steep and uneven, but the surreal vision of rays of sunlight cascading upon the temple from an opening in the cave ceiling is well worth it.