How to plan a trip to Thailand from India

Everything you need to know about booking Flights, getting Visa, managing Finances and Local Travel, etc.

INTRODUCTION

Pristine Beaches, Mountains, Exotic Honeymoon destinations, National Parks, Water Sports, Shopping centers, Night Life,….Thailand has something for everybody.

Moreover, Thailand is close to India, and is relatively cheap compared to other foreign destinations. 

The icing on the cake is that the people are very hospitable and welcoming.  No wonder Thailand is called the land of smiles. 

We keep seeing questions regarding Thailand on most Indian travel forums we frequent.

Thailand is the 3rd most popular country that Indians travel to as per the above data (year 2015) from Wikipedia, and the numbers are increasing year on year.

Which is why we decided to put our travel wisdom into a complete guide to help you plan your own Thai Trip. 

In case you are wondering if you need a travel agent to get this trip done, the answer is No. 

You can have your own customised trip by planning  it yourself, and it will still work out cheaper than going through an agent.

Trust us. We have done it multiple times. 

This Guide is primarily focused on the planning part (Flights, Visa, local travel etc.) and will not go into details on the things to do and see.

Let’s get you started on “How to plan a Thailand Trip from India”.

DESTINATIONS

So what are these destinations that we are talking about?

To name a few, the capital Bangkok and Pattaya that famous for night life, partying, malls and local shopping centers.

Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in the north are popular among those who love the hills and mountains.

Krabi and Phuket are exotic Island destinations in the south frequented by Honeymooner and other youngsters alike.

Ko Phangan and Ko Samui are islands that are world famous for the monthly full moon parties.

Apart from the above, there are many other destinations such Ko-Kood, Ko- Tao, Ko-Lipe etc. which may not be very mainstream, but are heavens for backpackers. We will leave it to you to figure these jewels out on your own

WHEN TO VISIT

The below data shows the average temperatures (deg. C) and rainfall (mm) in Thailand throughout the year.

Thailand Weather Year round

It is evident that the best time to visit is November to February, when the temperatures are low and there is less rainfall.  

Temperatures start rising towards the end of March.

May to September is the rainy season, but its not a bad time to visit. Rains in Thailand have its own charm. 

VISA

For us Indians, visa is usually a pre-requisite for foreign travel.

Unlike westerners, we can’t waltz into most countries visa-fee.

Hence rule number one: When planning a foreign trip, think of visa first.

Fortunately for us, Thailand offers us Indians Visa on Arrival for 15 days. Just show up with your  Passport, Visa Fee and other documents, and you can enter the country. 

Check out the infographic below to get an idea about Thailand Visa on arrival. 

We also have a  detailed step by step guide on securing a Thailand Visa on Arrival for Indians.

News Update, 15th Jan 2019

Thailand has waived visa on arrival fee for Indian travellers 

This waiver is only for the period 14th Jan 2019 to 30th Apr 2019.

This means you can enter Thailand free, and your trip just got cheaper by ~4,400 Rupees (2,000 Thai Baht was the original visa fee).

Time to Pack your bags!!!

You can read the official notification in our Facebook Group

Should you get a pre-approved Visa?

In case you are not interested in a Visa on Arrival and would prefer to skip the Airport Queues, you can apply before hand at the Embassy and get a pre-approved visa prior to travel.

This will save you a lot of time especially if your flight is landing during busy hours and the queue for visa on arrival is really (sometimes really really) long.

A pre-approved visa comes with a longer validity too (up to 90 days). However to get one, you will have to submit documentation at the embassy directly or through an agent.

FLIGHTS

This is the part that we at BorderTribe personally love. Not only is Thailand a stone’s thrown away from India by (4-5 hours max from any Metro by air), there are cheap direct connections to the country. 

The major airlines that fly from India to Thailand are Air Asia, Indigo, and Thai Airways.

Here are the return fares from a few Indian cities to Bangkok for Jan 2019. 

Return fares to Bangkok should cost you around 15K per person if you fly budget. 

The best budget Airline of choice is AirAsia. The service is good and fares are competitive. Moreover, Bangkok being a major hub for AirAsia. they offer connections to Phuket, Krabi and other locations in Thailand through Bangkok from India.

You can get connecting flights through Bangkok to locations such as Krabi, Phuket etc. from cities in India.

All destinations in Thailand are well connected through bus, rail and flights. Once you land in the country, it will be easy to get around.

Hence, booking a Bangkok return flight prior hand, and then figuring out the rest of your travel plans  once you arrive in Bangkok is also a good option.

Have you heard of the Air Asia Island Transfer Service?

As you maybe aware, Thailand has a lot of Islands, and many of these islands (e.g. Ko-Phangan, Ko-Tao, Ko-Lanta) do no have Airports.

Travelling to these destinations require you to fly to the nearest airport, get to the nearest pier/harbour and then catch a ferry to the island.

The AirAsia island transfer service bundles all the stages of the above journey into a single ticket, making your travel super convenient.

For e.g. lets say you need to get to Ko-Phangan (an island) from Bangkok. However Ko-Phangan does not have an airport. The nearest airport is Surat Thani.

 Airasia will issue you a single ticket that includes a flight from Bangkok to Surat Thani, a bus from Surat Thani Airport to the Pier, and a Ferry from the pier to Ko-Phangan. All of this is managed by Air Asia, making the whole journey convenient. 

Here is an what an AirAsia island Transfer itinerary from Bangkok to Ko Phangan looks like.

Air Asia Island Transfer

The only catch is the island services are available starting from Thailand only. Meaning, if you wanna avail it, you need to book your Bangkok flight from India separately first, and then book these services on a separate ticket from Bangkok.

How to book flights to Thailand?

Go to skyscanner or google flights and figure out the cheapest flights to your destination. Then go either directly to the Airline website (e.g. airasia) or the online portal (e.g makemytrip) and make the booking based on whichever is the cheapest. Don’t forget to look for deals. 

Like we said before, our go to Airline is Airasia as they have the best connectivity in south east asia and is usually the cheapest option.

We advise you to book your flights about 1 month in advance. However if your plans are fixed, no harm in booking the flights asap as the earlier you book, the better the rates.

Also please note that if you plan to travel during the peak season (Oct to Jan), better make early bookings (2 months before travel date preferably), as the fares can rise drastically, closer to the dates.

Here is a way to save some money on flights. Most cheap flights to south east asia (e.g. Airasia, Scoot) operate from the south and east of India. if you are from the west or north of the country, considering flying to the south (Chennai, Bangalore) or East (Kolkata) to avail cheaper flights.

[Note: Most budget airlines have a no-refund on cancellation policy. So make sure your plan is fixed when booking budget airlines, or you will forfeit the fare].

ACCOMMODATION

You can find all kinds of accommodation options in Thailand, right from hostels and guest houses to luxury island beach resorts.

If you are backpacking, try staying at a hostel. Bunk beds come cheap and it is an opportunity to meet fellow travelers and party. 

Here are the dorm rates per bed at one of the best hostels (slumber party hostel) in Ko Phangan, Thailand.

Hostel bunk bed rates Thailand

Rs. 557 per night per person for a bed. That is a steal.

If you are honeymooning, go for one of the luxury Island resorts. They are great value for money, compared to similar facilities in India and abroad.

There are a multitude of other options too, such as booking an Airbnb, staying at a medium range hotel/ guest house. It wont cost you a bomb. 

Check out bookings we found for some resorts in Krabi, Thailand.

Krabi Resorts booking

How to book Accommodation in Thailand?

The most popular online portals for booking are booking.comAgoda etc.

Hostelworld is a option in case you are looking to book hostel accommodation.

Another lesser known, but good option is sawadee, a portal that caters only to properties in Thailand. You can get good deals here.

From our personal experience, Agoda has the cheapest rates. However, do compare the rates and availability on different portals before finalising the booking.

When it comes to time of booking, the same rule as that for flights apply. Book early when travelling in peak season, as all the good properties get sold out quickly.

A lot of properties have a free cancellation option. Book such properties to ensure that you don’t lose money if your trip gets cancelled or rescheduled.

BTW have you considered staying at an AirBnb. 

We have written a definitive guide on using Airbnb for a perfect stay abroad.

LOCAL TRAVEL

Let us talk about local travel, i.e. how to get around your destination in Thailand.

As in any other place, private transport (Taxis) are the most expensive option. However it is very affordable when you travel as a group, and split the fare.  

Most Airports in Thailand are well connected to the tourist destinations by buses. These are the cheapest and the most convenient option.

Once you get to your destination, the best option for getting around is the Songthew or the Tuk Tuk (shown below). These are similar to the Indian share Autos that carry people from point to point for a nominal fee. These are very common in Thailand and very convenient to travel by.

songthew or tuk tuk in thailand

If you are looking to travel longer distances within Thailand, you can find both cheap flights and luxury bus options to do this.

In case you are travelling to a island destination that does not have an Airport, your only option is the ferry (ships). They generally take a couple of hours between each island and is convenient. 

There are also watertaxis (motor boats) that serve nearby islands. They charge you a nominal fee only.

You also have the option of renting a bike. This option is very popular especially among the young backpacker crowd.

How to book local travel in Thailand?

Taxis can be booked directly from the Airport or at the hotel you are staying at.

Long distance Bus tickets can be booked thorough travel agents in the respective location or even through your hotel.

Ferry (ship) tickets can be booked in advance online (advisable) or at the harbour.

Water/Boat taxi tickets are purchased on the spot at the harbour/ pier.

Songthew/Tuks dont need a ticket, just climb in and pay when you get down.

It is advisable to book ferry tickets in advance. You can either do this online or at the local travel office.

FOOD & DRINKS

There are a plethora of dining options when visiting Thailand.

For starters, there are many fully stocked super markets and 24/7 mini marts (7/11, K Mart etc). You can either pick up ready to eat stuff here or even buy stuff and cook it on your own if your place has a kitchen (e.g. when staying at an Airbnb).

Since Thailand has a lot of tourism, there is no dearth of restaurants and bars. Everything from continental and Italian to Chinese and Mexican is available. 

Indian restaurants are not hard to come by either. We have found at least one in every destination we have visited. 

However our go to food joints are the local street food in Thailand. It is Hygenic, cheap and tastes yum. Give the local Phad Thai noodles and the Tom Yum soup a try from the local street food market.

Street food in Thailand

Worried about finding Vegetarian food in Thailand?

Well you have no reason to worry.

It might be hard to find a place that serves only vegetarian food, however most restaurants will serve a few vegetarian dishes. 

As the number of Indian travellers to Thailand are going up year on year, so are the establishments that cater to us.

You may not have as many options as non-vegetarians do, but you can still have a good meal. 

How much does food cost?

Well, it depends on where you dine at. Food at luxury resorts will cost a premium (similar to star hotels in India). 

Street food is the cheapest and is available from Rs. 100 per meal and upwards.

Most dine in restaurants will cost you around the same as that charged by a good dine-in restaurant in of an Indian metro city (Rs. 400-500 and above per meal).

When it comes to drinks, beer is reasonably priced and is widely available. Hard Liquor (Whiskey, Brandy etc.) may be expensive depending on the place. It is advisable to buy hard liquor on the way from the Airport duty free if you intend to binge.

THINGS TO DO

When one thinks of things to do in Thailand, what immediately comes to mind are diving, snorkeling, surfing and other similar water sports apart from other stuff like trekking, hiking etc.

How to book sight seeing and other activities in Thailand?

The best place to book these activities  is at your local destination. Walk around the place and inquire regarding rates and choose the best one. 

If you want to do an online booking or know the rates in advance, one good option is Viator. Viator is an  international aggregator of activities at tourist destinations.

Check out the screenshot of a list of things to do in Krabi, Thailand along with prices.

Cost of things to do in Thailsnd - Viator

If you are travelling to an island destination, the best thing to do is do a general island tour on day one. This will give you an idea about the place, stuff to do etc.

MONEY

The currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht. 

One Thai Baht = 2.15 Indian rupee as of October 2018.

Dollar is accepted in some places but most places accept only Thai Baht. However currency exchange centers are plenty in most tourist destinations. 

As you may be aware, the Indian Rupee is not widely accepted internationally. Try to avoid converting Indian rupee to Thai Baht in Thailand as the rates will be very high  (nowhere near the 2.15 rate mentioned above. You will probably get close to 2.8).

The best option is to carry a credit card and manage all your expenses with it.

Carry USD as a buffer and whenever you are in need of Thai Baht, exchange USD for Thai Baht. This will get you the best rates as the USD is a widely accepted currency.

The best place to exchange is the local destination. You can exchange a few dollars at the Airport too in case you have immediate requirements once you land in the country.

Don’t forget to check with your credit card company regarding foreign exchange rates. A premium of 2-3% over the exchange rate is what most banks charge. Anything above this is high.

Also make sure that the international transaction option is activated on your card. 

How much money can you carry to Thailand from India?

Every country usually has limits on how much money you can carry in and out of the country. Moreover, you can bring back the excess USD with you and use it for future trips.

As per customs norms, you are allowed to carry USD 5,000 (appox Rs. 3.75 lacs) per person out of India and USD 20,000 (approx. Rs.15 Lacs) per person into Thailand. You are highly unlikely to exceed these limits.

Given below is the cost of essentials in Thailand. This should give you a fair idea of how much the trip will cost you.

Cost of living in Thailand

Most backpackers will complete a trip within 40 – 50K easily if they don’t do too much shopping. Lot of honeymooners too do it within the same rate (1 to 1.2 lacs per couple). 

The expenses will go up if you opt for luxury resorts or do extensive shopping. 

Note that your biggest expense will be flights (about 50% of your total trip cost). You flight fares can make or break your budget. Get this sorted and half your budgeting is done. 

Btw, we have written an entire ebook on how to plan a foreign trip from India within 50K. Get it here.

SOME OTHER STUFF YOU NEED MAY WANT TO KNOW

1) Language

As you may be aware, Thai is the official language of Thailand. However, most locals in tourist destinations (waiters, taxi drivers, hotel staff etc.) speak decent English. So no worries there.

Directions are written in English everywhere, so you wouldn’t have a problem reading them.

The accent might be a bit tricky and you may have to ask people to repeat what they said. But don’t worry, you will get by if you know English.

Just be polite and courteous and smile a lot. This is the land of smiles after all.

2) Safety

It is reasonable to worry about safety when travelling to a foreign country. After all, you are new to the land.

Thailand is generally a very safe place. It wouldn’t be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world otherwise.

Cities like Bangkok, Pattaya and main centers in other destinations like Krabi, Phuket, Ko Samui etc are bustling with activity 24/7. These places are very safe even for solo women travellers.

That said, just take a few necessary precaution that you would take in any metro city in India.  A few of them are

a) Be very careful with your travel documents. Keep them in the hotel locker or on you at all times.

b) Avoid getting into any arguments or fights with locals. Just walk away, or things can get ugly.

c) Like we said before, most cities and tourist centers are very safe 24/7. Just take extra care when travelling into suburbs/ interiors

d) Don’t wear too much Jewellery or display your valuables. Common sense right? We know. But would hurt to emphasize it though. 

e) Like any other place, Thailand is not without scamsters and tricksters. Always fix the prices in advance for all services you avail, and avoid dealing with questionable characters.

3) Other important stuff

a) The king of Thailand is very revered and considered sacred in Thailand. Never disrespect him (talk or action) in anyway while in the country.

b) Dress conservatively when entering Buddhist temples and monasteries. Avoid shorts and sleeveless, low cut clothing.

c) Tipping is very much appreciated but not compulsory. It is up to you. We recommend you tip if you find the service good.

d) Don’t forget to buy travel insurance. Not only is it cheap, but it is also a small price to pay for the peace of mind it gives you.

CONCLUSION

Alright so we have talked all about planning a Thai trip including getting a visa, booking flights and accommodations, managing finances, eating out and all other important stuff.

I hope you are all set now for your Thai Trip. Incase you have anymore doubts, feel free to email us at bordertribe4@gmail.com.

BorderTribe wishes you Smooth Travels

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