The Kingdom of Thailand draws more visitors than any other country in southeast Asia with its irresistible combination of breathtaking natural beauty, inspiring temples, renowned hospitality, robust cuisine and ruins of fabulous ancient kingdoms. Few countries are so well endowed.
From the stupa-studded mountains of Mae Hong Son and the verdant limestone islands of the Andaman Sea, to the pulse-pounding dance clubs of Bangkok and the tranquil villages moored along the Mekong River, Thailand offers something for every type of traveller.
When To Go
Thailand's monsoons arrive around July and last into November (the 'rainy season'). They can be uncomfortably, unpredictably sticky. This is followed by a dry, cool period from November to mid-February, followed by much higher relative temperatures from March to June.
By far the best time to visit is from February to March when the weather is kind and the beaches are at their finest.
The peak seasons are August, November, December, February and March, with secondary peak months in January and July. If your main objective is to avoid crowds and to take advantage of discounted rooms and low-season rates, you should consider travelling during the least crowded months (April, May, June, September and October). On the other hand it's not difficult to leave the crowds behind, even during peak months, if you simply avoid some of the most popular destinations (eg, Chiang Mai and all islands and beaches). This is also the prime time for diving in terms of visibility and accessibility.
Many Thai houses or buildings have spirit houses, which are places for the spirits of the site to live in. Without this vital structure you're likely to have the spirits living in the house with you, which can cause all sorts of trouble. An average spirit house looks rather like a birdhouse-sized Thai temple mounted on a pedestal. A big hotel may have a shrine covering 100 sq m (1076 sq ft) or more. How do you ensure that the spirits take up residence in your spirit house rather than in the main house with you? Mainly by making the spirit house a more auspicious place to live in than the main building, through daily offerings of food, flowers, candles and incense. The spirit house should also have a prominent location and should not be shaded by the main house. Thus its position has to be planned from the very beginning and the house installed with due ceremony. If your own house is improved or enlarged, the spirit house should be as well.
There is some risk to your security in Bangkok and we recommend New Zealanders exercise a high degree of caution. A series of bombings occurred in Bangkok on 31 December 2006, including in areas frequented by tourists. Further attacks may occur. New Zealanders in Bangkok should avoid unnecessary travel within the city.
Terrorist attacks may occur elsewhere in Thailand. New Zealanders should exercise a very high degree of personal security awareness. This advice extends also to New Zealanders in or planning to visit popular tourist destinations. Particular care should be taken in public and commercial areas, including landmark places known to be frequented by foreigners, public transport facilities, hotels, bars, tourist resorts and shopping areas.
On 19 September 2006, there was a coup against the Thai civilian government and martial law was extended to apply throughout the country. On 28 November 2006 a decision was taken to lift martial law in 41 of Thailand’s 76 provinces, including Bangkok. Places where it remains in force, either fully or partially, include Chaing Rai and Chiang Mai. New Zealanders are advised to avoid demonstrations and political rallies, monitor the local media, and follow any instructions issued by the local authorities to avoid being caught up in any violence.
There is high risk to your security in the southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and Songkhla because of ongoing violence due to insurgency. We continue to recommend deferral of all tourist and non-essential travel there. Since 2004 there have been over 1,900 deaths as a result of terrorist and other violent attacks. The Thai Government has declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.
There is some risk to your security when travelling near the Myanmar/Thai border. Sporadic conflict on the border occurs between Myanmar military and armed opposition groups as well as between Thai security forces and armed criminal groups (such as drug traffickers). If you intend visiting border areas beyond the main towns it is recommended that you check with the local authorities before setting out.