Thailand, or ‘the Land of Smiles’, exudes a gloriously golden glow - from its sun-kissed beaches and glittering temples, to its wide-beaming Thai smiles. As a Buddhist nation, religious zeal is colourful and ever-present, with temples, Buddhas and shrines dotting the landscapes. Tour the capital and see the sights, then head out into rural Thailand, a mist-shrouded backdrop of ancient Banyan trees, emerald rice paddies and tropical forests, sprinkled with charming farming villages drowsing in the sunshine. Next, discover the country’s jungle-topped islands and stunning shores; caressed by fine golden sands and turquoise seas, spend endless days in paradise with sand between your toes.
Round off a day over a bountiful feast of authentic dishes, whether served from a bustling street stall or posh seafood pavilion – expect plump prawns, piquant lemongrass, sticky rice, and more! Thailand is a destination people return to time and again - whether for the friendly locals, the striking scenery, the alluring culture, the exquisite food, the world-class diving, or, of course, the amazing hospitality and amenities of the luxury hotels
The Eastern & Oriental Express
Southeast Asia’s most glamorous train, the Eastern & Oriental Express travels through Thailand at a soothingly gentle pace. What better way to watch some of the most spectacular scenery pass you by than sitting in a comfortable armchair in an elegant carriage, sipping on a chilled Singapore Sling? Choose from a selection of itineraries, all of which include guided excursions, bringing you even closer to this fascinating part of the world.
Thailand is filled with devout Buddhists and you’ll find a host of wonderfully ornate temples (or wats) across the country, where locals pay their respects every day. They are more than just places of worship and reside at the heart of local community, providing guidance, education and acting as social centres for festivals, ceremonies and charitable events. As a focus for artistic endeavours, they offer unique examples of architecture, sculpture, painting and decorative arts and crafts. Top picks include Bangkok’s Wat Pho and Chiang Mai’s Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
With over 3,000 miles of tropical coastline, Thailand has a beach for every age and taste - whether travelling on a honeymoon, as a family, or during your ‘golden’ years. Just a few to mention include the sublime scoops on Koh Samui or the sweeping crescents on Phuket, each lapped by the warm, turquoise Andaman Sea. In the middle of Phang Nga Bay, stretch out on a secluded beach on Koh Yao Noi, or head to the blissfully peaceful, flaxen-coloured sands of Koh Kood.
Thai food needs little introduction and is enjoyed in restaurants around the world. Taste the very best and most authentic of this delicious cuisine; every dish is a juxtaposition of tastes, blending sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy. There is also an intricate interplay of texture and colour, as well as the medicinal benefits of traditional Thai ingredients. Sample fiery soups in the north, creamy green curries in the south and, of course, Pad Thai, a stir-fried rice noodle dish that’s almost an ambassador of Thai cuisine. Whether tasting the flavour-filled street food or trying out an exquisite fine dining restaurant, expect a taste sensation.
Blessed with a tropical climate, pristine seas and seemingly endless coastline, Thailand is home to a rich bounty of dazzling marine-life and healthy coral reefs, as well as sunken wrecks. As a result, it’s a playground for divers! There are some great sites to suit all abilities around Phuket and Koh Samui – plus professional instruction and equipment rental all readily on hand. More experienced divers can discover the world-class sites off the Similan and Surin Islands, a protected marine National Park encompassing a string of picturesque, tiny isles. Look out for Batfish, Moray eels, Snappers, Barracudas, Surgeonfish, Leopard sharks and more!
To the Thai people "sanuk" is about striving to achieve satisfaction and pleasure from whatever they do, whether it’s the office, the karaoke bar or working in the rice fields. As a visitor it will help do to likewise especially if you’re staying at The Peninsula Bangkok and are visiting the market – if you barter in the right manner, you may be surprised and delighted at the results.
If you’re staying at the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai or are enjoying a luxury rail journey on the Eastern & Oriental Express and have decided to pay a visit to the temples, do wear appropriate clothing, i.e. make sure your knees and shoulders are covered and remove both shoes and hats before entering the temple (or indeed any room where there is an image of Buddha). There is a direct association between the head (high status) and feet (low status) so don't place your hat on top of your shoes.
All buildings in Thailand have a raised threshold which is there to keep out evil spirits. You’ll see this in hotels like the Amanpuri and Trisara, take care to step over the raised threshold of the wat as it is bad manners (and bad luck) to place your foot on it.
Inside the wat, do try and keep your head lower than the images of Buddha and the monks. Don’t point the bottom of your feet at the images of Buddha or the monks - you will always see the Thai people kneeling with their feet tucked behind them.
If you do take photos, be discreet and consider leaving a small donation in the collection boxes as it will go towards the upkeep of the temple.
The Thai Smile
In Thailand, the smile isn’t just a sign of happiness, although you’ll be the recipient of many smiles when you enter any of our featured hotels and resorts and in particular the Banyan Tree Samui which has been described as a little piece of heaven soaked in angelic tranquillity. Thais smile when they are amused, bemused, apologetic, annoyed, uncertain, wrong, furious or embarrassed. In fact, there is a Thai smile to cover just about every circumstance. Bear this in mind and it shouldn't lead to confusion.
Capital city Bangkok is the country’s hub for onward travel, offering easy connections onto Burma, Cambodia and Laos - and indeed to the rest of the world - stopping here gives you a chance to catch your breath and sample some of the city’s attractions.
Tropical and humid for most of the year, northernThailand's climate is determined by three clearly defined seasons.
Between November and February and from March to May it’s mostly dry, with the latter months being the hottest.
Whilst the northeast monsoon doesn’t directly affect the area, it does bring with it cooling breezes from November to February. From May to November, northern Thailand is dominated by the southwest monsoon during which time, rainfall is at its heaviest.
The southern peninsular has two seasons - wet and dry. However, these seasons do not run at the same time on the west as they do on the eastern side of the peninsular. Rain falls at its heaviest on the west coast between April and October whilst on the east coast it’s at its heaviest between September and December.
Generally speaking, the best time to visit Thailand is from November to February when the northeast monsoon is blowing cool, dry air. April is quite simply the hottest month across the country.
From July to October the monsoon season brings most of Thailand's annual rainfall with humidity averaging at just under 90% and temperatures averaging around 29º C (Bangkok). For the Western visitor unused to humidity, there is no such thing as "cool" in the Far East just cooler than "hot" and "drier than humid". Light cotton clothing is very much the order of the day. Do remember that the tropical sun can be quite fierce so a hat is useful, and of course a good sun screen is essential.
These figures show monthly average maximum temperatures and monthly average rainfall for Thailand.
British Airways and Thai Airways from London Heathrow to Bangkok. Etihad Airways from London Heathrow and Manchester (via Abu Dhabi). Flights with Emirates (via Dubai) from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow are also available. Onward connections from Bangkok to Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Krabi and Chiang Rai.
From London Heathrow to Bangkok: 11 hours, 40 minutes.
Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country (for example, South Africa) or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have a valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.
British passport holders arriving by air or land can enter Thailand for 30 days without a visa - this is known as a visa exemption. It is now possible to extend your stay beyond the 30 days granted by the visa exemption by an additional 30 days from the expiry date of the original visa. To extend your visa you will need to apply at an immigration office.
If you have any queries about visas or entry requirements, please kindly check with the Royal Thai Embassy.
Passengers not travelling on a British Passport are advised to contact their relevant Foreign & Commonwealth office for individual Visa requirements.
For up-to-date resort information, visit www.fco.gov.uk
Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs from your general practitioner or a specialist clinic as early as possible before travel. Those planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess their risk of infection with Zika. For information about Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya), Lyme Disease (caused by tick bites), and to receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures, please visit http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/insect-tick-bite-avoidance/
In addition, we highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visit the FCO website and select your destination country for the very latest travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Additional sources of information include: www.hpa.org.uk, http://nathnac.net,
www.fco.gov.uk, www.hpa.org.uk and www.nathnac.org, your General Practitioner or a specialised clinic.
For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website. View the travel advice in full here: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/thailand