- Fact file
- Where to go
- When to go
- Getting there
- Travel via neighbouring countries
- Getting around
- Food and drink
- Culture and etiquette
- The media
- Entertainment and sport
- Spas and traditional massage
- Meditation centres and retreats
- Outdoor activities
- Travelling with children
- Travel essentials
Thailand currently has six international airports, in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Krabi, Phuket and Ko Samui. The vast majority of travellers fly into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Air fares to Thailand generally depend on the season, with the highest being approximately mid-November to mid-February, when the weather is best (with premium rates charged for flights between mid-Dec and New Year), and in July and August to coincide with school holidays. You will need to book several months in advance to get reasonably priced tickets during these peak periods.
The cheapest way of getting to most regional Thai airports is usually to buy a flight to Bangkok and then a separate domestic ticket (see Train information and booking). However, there are dozens of potentially useful, mostly seasonal, international routes into Phuket, including direct flights with several airlines from Australia. For Ko Samui, there are flights from Singapore, Hong Kong (both Bangkok Airways) and Kuala Lumpur (Berjaya Airlines and Firefly); for Krabi you can fly from KL with Air Asia, from Singapore with Tiger Airways or nonstop on seasonal, mostly charter flights from Scandinavia; and for Chiang Mai, Silk Air fly from Singapore, Air Asia from KL and Macau, while Korean Airlines from Seoul is a popular route for North American visitors.
Flights from the UK and Ireland
The fastest and most comfortable way of reaching Thailand from the UK is to fly nonstop from London to Bangkok with Qantas (wqantas.com.au), British Airways (wba.com), Thai Airways (wthaiair.com) or Eva Airways (wevaair.com), a journey of about eleven and a half hours. These airlines sometimes have special promotions, but a typical fare in high season might come in at around £900. Fares on indirect scheduled flights to Bangkok are always cheaper than nonstop flights – about £600 in high season if booked well in advance with Qatar Airways (wqatarairways.com), for example – though these journeys can take anything from two to twelve hours longer.
There are no nonstop flights from any regional airports in Britain or from any Irish airports, and rather than routing via London, you may find it convenient to fly to another hub such as Frankfurt (with Lufthansa; wlufthansa.com), Zurich (with Swiss; wswiss.com), Abu Dhabi (with Etihad; wetihadairways.com) or Dubai (with Emirates; wemirates.com), and take a connecting flight from there. Return flights from Newcastle upon Tyne with Emirates, for example, currently start at around £675 in high season, from Dublin via Copenhagen with SAS (wflysas.com), at around €800.
Flights from the US and Canada
Thai Airways (wthaiair.com) offers convenient flights from LA to Bangkok, with a one-hour stop in Seoul, charging around US$1600 in high season. Plenty of other airlines run to Bangkok from East and West Coast cities with one stop en route; it’s generally easier to find a reasonable fare on flights via Asia than via Europe, even if you’re departing from the East Coast. From New York, expect to pay upwards of US$1375 return in high season, including taxes, US$1250 from LA. Air Canada (waircanada.com) has the most convenient service to Bangkok from the largest number of Canadian cities; from Vancouver, expect to pay from around Can$1450 in high season; from Toronto, Can$1675. Cheaper rates are often available if you’re prepared to make two or three stops and take more time.
Minimum flying times are twenty hours from New York or Toronto (westbound or eastbound), including stopovers, seventeen hours (nonstop) or nineteen and a half hours (with one stop) from LA, and eighteen hours from Vancouver.
Flights from Australia and New Zealand
There’s no shortage of scheduled flights to Bangkok from Australia, with direct services from major cities operated by Thai Airways (wthaiair.com), Qantas (wqantas.com.au) and half a dozen others (around nine hours from Sydney and Perth), and plenty of indirect flights via Asian hubs, which take at least eleven and a half hours. You can also fly nonstop to Phuket from Sydney (with Jetstar; wjetstar.com) and Perth (on Thai and Virgin Australia; wvirginaustralia.com). There’s often not much difference between the fares on nonstop and indirect flights with the major carriers, nor between the fares from the major eastern cities. From Sydney, if you book far in advance, you should be able to get a ticket to Bangkok in high season for around Aus$900, on a low-cost carrier such as Jetstar or through a special promotion with one of the major airlines; nonstop flights with the major airlines more typically cost around Aus$1200. Fares from Perth and Darwin are up to Aus$200 cheaper.
From New Zealand, Thai Airways runs nonstop twelve-hour flights between Auckland and Bangkok, costing from around NZ$1700 (including taxes) in high season. British Airways/Qantas flights from Auckland make brief stops in Sydney, adding about three hours to the trip, and other major Asian airlines offer indirect flights via their hubs (from 13hr, but more typically 17hr): fares for indirect flights can start as low as NZ$1500 in high season.
Flights from South Africa
From South Africa, Thai Airways (wthaiair.com), code-sharing with South African Airways (wflysaa.com), currently operate three nonstop flights a week from Johannesburg to Bangkok, taking eleven and a half hours and costing from around ZAR9,500 return for an advance booking in high season, including taxes. Otherwise, you’ll be making a stop either in the Middle East or in Hong Kong or Southeast Asia, with fares starting at around ZAR8000 in high season.
Agents and operators
Adventure Center US t1-800/228-8747, wadventurecenter.com. Hiking and “soft adventure” specialist agent, offering dozens of packages to Thailand with well-regarded tour operators from all over the world.
All Points East UK t023/9225 8859, Thailand t081 885 9490; wallpointseast.com. Southeast Asia specialist operating small-group adventure holidays with off-the-beaten-track itineraries.
Andaman Discoveries Thailand wandamandiscoveries.com. Village-based homestay community tourism programmes around Khuraburi on the north Andaman coast, lasting from one to five days, which allow visitors to experience daily activities such as soap making, cashew-nut farming and roof thatching. Other tours include four-day trips to Ko Surin National Park to learn about Moken life.
Asian Trails Thailand wasiantrails.net. Well-regarded company that offers self-drive tours, cycling adventures, homestay programmes, river and sea cruises, plus more typical package tours.
Creative Events Asia Thailand wcreativeeventsasia.com. Wedding specialists for everything from paperwork to the ceremony and guest accommodation.
Crooked Trails US t206/383-9828, wcrookedtrails.com. Not-for-profit community-based tourism organization offering homestays along the Andaman coast, featuring volunteer work as well as cultural tours.
Eastern & Oriental Express UK t0845 077 2222, US t1-800/524 2420; worient-express.com. Tours by luxury train between Bangkok and Singapore, as well as to northern and northeastern Thailand.
ETC (Educational Travel Centre) Thailand wetc.co.th. Unusual tour programmes including Thai cooking holidays, rice-barge cruises to Ayutthaya, and community-based programmes and homestays that might include trekking and teaching.
Flight Centre Australia t13 31 33, Canada t1-877/967 5302, New Zealand t0800/243 544, South Africa t0860 400 727, UK t0870/499 0040, US t1-877/992 4732; wflightcentre.com. Guarantees to offer the lowest international air fares.
Grasshopper Adventures Australia t03/9016 3172, Thailand t02 280 0832, UK t020/8123 8144, US t818/921-7101; wgrasshopperadventures.com. Cycling day-tours around Bangkok, longer rides to Kanchanaburi and Ko Samui, and around Chiang Mai.
Intrepid Travel Australia t1300/018 871, Canada t1-866/360-1151, Ireland t01/524 0071, New Zealand t0800/600 610, South Africa t087 985 2798, UK t0800 781 1660, US t1-800/970 7299; wintrepidtravel.com. Well-regarded, small-group, off-the-beaten-track tour operator that offers over sixty trips to Thailand.
North South Travel UK t01245/608 291, wnorthsouthtravel.co.uk. Friendly, competitive travel agency, offering discounted fares worldwide. Profits are used to support projects in the developing world, especially the promotion of sustainable tourism.
Origin Asia Thailand walex-kerr.com. Cultural programmes that teach and explain living Thai arts such as dance, music, martial arts, textiles, flower offerings and cooking. Courses last from one day to a week and are held in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Responsible Travel UK t01273/600030, wresponsibletravel.com. One-stop shop for scores of fair-trade, ethically inclined holidays in Thailand, including trips that focus on wildlife, meditation, family activities and village life.
Spice Roads Thailand wspiceroads.com. Escorted bike tours through north, central and southern Thailand.
STA Travel Australia t134 782, New Zealand t0800/474 400, South Africa t0861/781 781, Thailand t02 236 0262, UK t0871/230/0040, US t1-800/781-4040; wstatravel.com. Worldwide specialists in independent travel. Good discounts for students and under-26s.
Symbiosis UK t0845/123 2844, wsymbiosis-travel.com. Upmarket, off-the-beaten-track tours with an environmentally sensitive, fair-trade focus, including visiting hill tribes by mountain bike, and kayaking at Khao Sok and Ko Tarutao.
Telltale Travel UK t0800/011 2571, wtelltaletravel.co.uk. Tailor-made, upscale company that offers off-the-beaten-track wildlife, cultural, family, cooking and well-being tours, as well as group trips for solo travellers.
Thailand Birdwatching Thailand wthailandbirdwatching.com. Specialist birdwatching tours in national parks and nature reserves.
Trailfinders UK t0845 058 5858, Ireland t01 677 7888; wtrailfinders.com. One of the best-informed and most efficient agents for independent travellers, with 24 branches in Britain and Ireland.
Travel Cuts Canada t1-800/667 2887, US t1-800/592-2887; wtravelcuts.com. Popular, long-established specialists in budget travel, including student and youth discount offers.
USIT Australia t1800 092499, Ireland t01/602 1906; wusit.ie. Ireland’s main outlet for discounted, youth and student fares, with a branch in Sydney.