Thailand is known as The Land of Smiles, and it earns this title with the warm hospitality of the Thai people. Your senses will be on overload as you ride from the airport to your hotel in Bangkok. The colors of temples, the smell of foods in markets, the sounds of the streets as you work through traffic and Thai language and music. However, you have to get there first and the old adage, “getting there is half the fun”, is not always accurate. Somewhere in the middle of the longest leg of your journey, the word fun can get tougher to say. In this article we will look at making your trip affordable and comfortable.
Let’s start at the beginning, buying your airline ticket. Yes Thailand and the word affordable can belong in the same sentence. The key is whether or not you are willing to forego the 5 Star hotels and tour packages, for a more independent plan of your own. Starting with the air fare, forget most of the popular ticket search engines. Instead do a search for Thai or Asia travel agencies, plus the major city you live nearest, ie Chicago, Seattle, LA, NY, etc. You will usually find there are a number of agencies in the states that have Thai people as owners or employed as agents and they have a lot of experience finding the best prices and connections.
It should also be said that a good many non-Thai Agents are good at booking cheap flights to Thailand. However, Thai people will often know more current information about where you are traveling to in Thailand. A good agent live on the phone should be able to save you several hundred dollars over automated travel sites, even if their own site has an automated search.
Should I Get A Tour Package?
Tour packages can be great for some people, you research where you want to go, then ask an agent to help you get there. If you don’t research it and accept someone else’s package, you may get some things you didn’t bargain for, like scheduling that leaves little downtime for you to rest or just relax.
Also, if you are computer savvy and use the internet, Thailand has internet accessibility nearly everywhere these days and you may learn of something you want to do after you get on the ground in Thailand. So the advice here is to schedule things that look really interesting, but leave some open spaces in your trip where you can fill in the blanks after you arrive.
Best Time to Visit Thailand
Ticket prices will vary substantially, based on the season, and often due to the travel patterns of the Thai people. There are more than 250,000 Thai people in America, living, working and going to school. Many regularly travel back and forth to Thailand. Semester breaks in particular, major holidays like Loy Krathong in November and events like the birthday of Thailand’s King in December are busy times in Thailand.
All things relative, November through early March is the coolest time of the year to visit Thailand and a very popular time for tourists. If you have flexibility during these months, check with you travel agent for the best prices and dates to avoid due to high volume.
Travel Time and Jet Lag
Your time in the air can be difficult, especially if you are older, have medical conditions, or are traveling with young children. Ask your doctor if there are things you can do to make your flight more comfortable, given any medical issues you have. If you are traveling with young children and purchase your tickets far enough in advance, request the bulk head seats. There is generally a little more leg room and activity space for the kids and nobody in front of you to annoy. These tend to be coveted seats by families, so book early! Another thing, if you can afford it, some airlines have Economy Business Class, which has some more space, and a slightly elevated level of service.
Jet lag is what you go through with the time differences as you pass through time zones. From the midwest in the United States you are almost exactly 12 hours difference from there to Thailand. Also, you cross the international dateline, so for roughly 12 hours out of the day it is one day later in Thailand than it is somewhere in the midwest. So if you call back to the United States from Thailand at 10am on Monday morning, it will be about 10pm Sunday night in the States, depending on the time zone you call to.
The bottom line, according to Mayo Clinic, is that jet lag recovery takes about one day for every time zone crossed for your body to adjust to the new day night cycle (“Jet Lag Disorder,” mayoclinic.com). So for Thailand most people are looking at about 10 to 12 days of adjusting, regardless of what remedies they try. Some people definitely deal with the adjustment better and others swear by certain remedies, so go with whatever works best for you.
You do not need to get a visa to visit Thailand if you are from America or 56 other countries: you may enter Thailand for 30 days. You can get a 60 day tourist visa from a Thai Consulate, located in several U.S. cities. Your passport must be valid for 6 months beyond your planned departure. You can access a form for a Thailand visa at the Chicago website of the Royal Thai Consulate-General (thaichicago.net).
Some people need to know how every minute of their vacation is going be spent. There are in fact a lot of very good tours and experiences in Thailand, but exploring on your own, or spending time somewhere without a guide can be very satisfying to some as well. Research a little and decide what you’re interested in doing and learning about the most.
Make a list and prioritize it based on how much time you want to take for each item. Don’t forget about travel time. Even though Thailand is a small country, it can take the better part of the day to get from one part of the country to another. A domestic flight is an option, if you haven’t had enough flying yet. Maybe you want to travel north and try your hand training Asian elephants. Perhaps you would like to learn about Buddhism first hand and spend time in a Buddhist Temple. The point is, with this method you are in control, not the tour package. Create your own on your terms.