Thailand has long been Southeast Asia's most popular destination. From its capital, Bangkok, with a Royal Palace, numerous wats (temples), and a series of klongs (canals), to the southern beach resorts and islands that have long attracted those seeking respite, there is something in Thailand for everyone.
Trip Type Trip TypeClassic Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself. Small Group Guided Experiences Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour. River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages. Small Ocean Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury. Private Tour Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service. Independent Package A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide. Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay. Large Ocean Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.
Lodging Level Lodging LevelCamping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges. Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping. Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.
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Physical Level Physical LevelVery Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip. Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments. Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment. Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included. Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.
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Solo Friendly Solo FriendlyGood for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles. No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.
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My boyfriend & I used Gate1 for our trip to Bangkok, Thailand and it was the smartest thing we could have done. We did not choice a tour guide or tours with the company, but we did realize on our next trip we will. But even though we did everything on our own, it was so extremely easy knowing they had all of our travels and hotel accommodations taken care of- after all those are the top two things everyone worries about when traveling.
We planning on using gate1 again, actually he wants to do a whole trip through Europe with the help of GATE1 travel.
Sunday, 22 July... SVALBARD, Norway. Halfway between the top of continental Norway & the North Pole!
We disembarked & are now back to civilization! WOW!
What a FANTASTIC adventure on the ship Ocean Adventurer!
Once again, Zegrahm delivered! Cruise Director & Expedition Leader executed an unforgettable adventure! SUPERB lectures on ship & field trips from the guest experts in their fields... history of polar explorations... geology... birds... polar bears & other animals!
We saw several polar bears, groups of walrus, one very photogenic seal, reindeer, Arctic fox, a BLUE WHALE (largest of ALL whales!)... & a gazillion birds!
Our small ship was indeed able to circumnavigate the Svalbard (Spitsbergen) archipelago... 3 cheers to our Russian captain! The staff on board were FANTASTIC! And the best food I've had on any ship!
Mostly great weather... quite fortunate! Out on the Zodiacs (rubber rafts), I wore almost everything in my suitcase, in layers all at once, hoping to stay warm & dry... followed by VERY LONG hot showers once back on the ship, while I thawed out!
If you have an interest in polar adventure, TAKE THIS TRIP!!! Unbelievable!
I just wanted to thank you for your patience and assistance during my Islands of Thailand trip. You have a wonderful company and I am forever grateful for your help in getting me back on schedule and communication with hotels when I missed a flight. I will continue to use your service when traveling (and I plan on traveling much more in the future), and I will recommend you to everyone I know. Once again, thank you and I had a trip of a lifetime in Thailand.
Loved the variety of activities! Learning to cook local dishes was great but a bit too long. The Thai massage was a different experience. The Palace and Wat Phra Kaew were amazing but I would recommend going earlier in the day to avoid Bangkok's heat. Loved the ruins of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. We would gladly have traded Hellfire Pass for more time in either of those places.
Just got off a fantastic trip on the Red River on RV Angkor Pandaw. It was an amazing 10 days of wonderful excursions, delicious food & an AWESOME crew. THE guides Tifo &Vu were so knowledgeable & informative as well as being wonderful, warm & courteous. The ship crew headed by Purser Saroun were absolutely outstanding! I highly recommend this trip. It was our first with Pandaw & look forward to taking another one soon.
Ketsara was an outstanding guide for our trip Nov 17-29. She worked to make sure that each individual had the experience heshe was looking for. When we expressed an interest in going to Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, she asked if anyone else was interested and took us on the ferry and skytrain on her time off. In Chiang Mai, she arranged for a minivan to take us and several others to a hilltribe village nearby. She went above and beyond in her attention to all members of the tour.
Thailand has long been Southeast Asia's most popular destination. Its capital, Bangkok, is home to a glittering Royal Palace, numerous wats (temples), and a series of klongs (canals) that can be explored by longboats. Chiang Mai, gateway to the northern mountains, offers a more traditional view of Thai life.
Thailand's southern beach resorts and islands have long attracted backpackers and those seeking respite from the frenzy of Bangkok. And, of course, the food -- even at modest noodle stands -- is world class. It all makes Thailand a must-stop in Southeast Asia.
Bangkok: The City Famous For It's Long Name
The Thai name for Bangkok is a mouthful to say the least. But it’s something every local learns in elementary school: "Krung Thep Mahanakhon amon Rattanakosin mahintara ayuthaya mahadilok phoP noppharat Ratchathani Burirom udomratchaniwet mahasathan amon piman awatan Sathit sakkathattiya witsanukam Prast." Thankfully there is a short version: Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (or Krungthep on some maps), which means means "City of Angels" in English.
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital, located in the southern part of the country, on the Gulf of Thailand. It’s gained a reputation for being one of the world’s busiest most vibrant cities, full of character - known especially for the nightlife and food scene. There’s a reason it remained as Travel and Leisure’s “World’s Best City” for 4 consecutive years.
In every part of the city, something different is happening, from a street full of Middle Eastern restaurants to upscale shopping. Crowded walking streets, among market stalls, street food, and various knick knacks for sale as motorcycles whizz by you, adding to the heartbeat of the city. Part of the city’s charm is in it’s insane crowding, haphazard centers, and city layout that makes it an adventure anytime you try to find a specific address. Urban development and growth occurred too quickly and with very little planning, causing the confusing and wild streets.
Chiang Mai and Thailand Adventure Travel
Of the world’s “Adventure capitals” Thailand might not spring to mind immediately, but it is certainly a place to travel for adventure. And Chiang Mai is Thailand’s Queenstown (NZ). The lush tropical atmosphere, from sea to waterfall to jungle, beckons outdoor enthusiasts for jungle trekking, surfing in turquoise waters, ziplining through bright green canopy, sea kayaking, river rafting and so much more.
Some can’t-miss experiences for adventure travelers in Thailand include:
Doi inthanon: This gorgeous national park is not just attractive to those wanting a pleasant walk through beautiful nature. Hard core adrenaline seekers flock here for the relatively new adventure sport of “waterfall abseiling”. For rock climbers, this is a classic way to apply your skills to a completely new and more challenging environment. Feel the spray and mist as your adrenaline kicks in leaning over beautiful Doi inthanon waterfall and as you rappel down the 35 ft to the pool at the bottom.
Jungle Trekking in Chiang Mai: Feel like a true explorer as you venture into the jungle on an unforgettable trek, getting up close and personal with the natural animal and plant life of Thailand. The humidity, lush canopy, and constant buzzing sounds of the rainforest add to the experience.
Zipline: Chiang Mai’s jungles are not just for trekking. While you walk on the forest floor, you may hear another sound, not traditionally of the jungle: that of thrill seekers above you soaring through the canopy on zip lines. This popular activity is not only exciting, it’s a way to get a completely unique view of the jungle; eye level with what the monkeys and birds see.
Elephant Sanctuary, Chiang Mai: Many travel to Thailand for the country’s diverse wildlife, namely elephants. There are many opinions surrounding the ethics of wildlife tourist experiences. Read more about traveling responsibly. Thailand has been in the hotseat, namely concerning tigers and elephants.
There are ways to see elephants in Thailand, while remaining responsible, and in some cases, helping to rehabilitate abused animals.
The most well known of these is Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary. Guests who visit do so as volunteers to help with the animals. You can arrange to visit here as an individual, or there are many guided trips through Thailand that make this a stop.
Visiting Thailand's Best Beaches
Thailand travel is known for the incredible beach scene with tepid bright blue waters, soft white sand, and inviting atmosphere. The best Thailand tours will feature a beach visit or two to spend a day relaxing, snorkeling, and exploring hidden bays via longboat.
Phuket (pronounced ‘poo-ket’) is Thailand’s largest island, and boasts over 30 beaches, plus several fantastic bars, and restaurants. As the most popular island for tourists, it does get quite crowded, and not the most authentic Thai beach experience if you’re looking for more local fare. The majority of food options on the island are not Thai, and the main beaches along the west coast are a dotted shoreline of resorts, hotels, and restaurants. Not to say it’s impossible to find a lovely beach experience on Phuket - there’s a reason it’s so well known. But if you’re visiting Phuket solely for the the beach, you might be disappointed by the crowds and hotels.
However beyond the beaches, there’s much more to explore! Phuket is home to some beautiful historical sights. Take a walk through Old Town, to see some beautiful architecture, cultural sights, shops and cafes. This is a great place to relax and learn a bit about Phuket’s history. There’s also the Phuket Rum Distillery, where you can take a tour to learn about the rum making process and of course taste some delicious samples.
The best beaches in Thailand are found on the smaller islands. Easily accessible just simply not as well known as Phuket. Here are some of the top:
Ko Lanta Island - Ko Lanta is a great place to visit, but it’s quite large - technically a district containing two main islands - so if you want to take advantage of everything it has to offer, plan a few days there. Take some time to explore the national park, with the lush rainforest atmosphere and wildlife, take a classic motorbike tour around the island, and spend time lounging on the many and widely dispersed beaches. Long Beach is one of the best for escaping crowds.
Ko-Kraden Island - This small paradise takes up to 3 hours to kayak around the entire island, and is the perfect tropical beach getaway. There is only one resort, but beach is public, and offers spectacular views to the mainland and an ocean dotted with other islands and rock formations. It’s a great destination for snorkeling in the shallow waters. The island’s small size and safe shallow waters make it the perfect day excursion for families.
Railway Beach, Krabi Island - Railway beach is compact, but usually not too crowded. Limestone rock formations burst out of the sea making for an otherworldly view while you sunbathe on the idyllic soft sand. Bring a pair of binoculars and keep an eye out for rock climbers in the distance!
Koh Kood Island - The least populated island off the eastern coast of Thailand is perfect for nature lovers looking for a quiet getaway. It’s not a place for nightlife, so you’ll be there for the ocean and the beach. Kayaking is one of the most popular activities, or take a short walk inland to the Klong Chao waterfall with it’s beautiful calm pools, perfect for swimming.
Food in Thailand
The street food scene in Thailand is second to none - and it’s a classic experience not to be missed. Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner. Bangkok is the epicenter for Thai street food. Let’s set the scene:
Crowded, busy, narrow streets where some semblance of organized chaos reigns. It’s an assault on the senses, not necessarily positive or negative, simply a lot. Rapid speaking in multiple dialects reaching your ears as locals and tourists haggle, take samples, and attempt to discern the best item from various stalls. The sounds of sizzling of fryers, dough slapped down on hot surfaces, and sharp chopping cleavers, mingle among the noise of the street.
Smells converge from both sides - sweet dumplings, tropical fruits, savory broths, seafood, grilling meat, amid a torrent of unidentifiable (to foreign noses) but nevertheless mouthwatering exotic aromas.
Watching the food be prepared is like watching a finely rehearsed dance. Hands move deftly and quickly as they respond to orders, and questions, never stopping the movement of ladling, dicing, and stirring. And of course there’s the delicate rolling out of thin pancakes, followed by the folding into a perfect meal - each one after the other impossibly identical. Everything is done with a fantastic combination of precision and abandon.
If you don’t think you’re a street food kind of person - Thailand is the place to change your mind. Concerns about sanitation and hygiene are understandable. Though Thailand is one of the safest non western countries for street food, you still want to be cautious about where you choose to partake.
Best practice tips include 1) go where the lines are. This is usually a good sign of not only deliciousness, but repeat visitors and locals - so the odds of getting ill are minimal. 2) Look for items made to order 3) do a quick scan of the stall for indications of general cleanliness - follow your instincts. Take a look through the Thailand Food Tours on Stride.
Travel to Thailand: Practicalities and Logistics
Before you go
For US citizens, UK citizens, and Canadian citizens, if you’re planning to be in Thailand for less than 30 days, you are not required to obtain a tourist visa. However, you must ensure that your passport is valid 6 months after your date of entry into Thailand. Though you may not be required to present it, it will be a good idea to have proof of the length of your stay available. See all Thailand tours for 2017
If you’re entering Thailand from a country with yellow fever present, have your proof of vaccination ready to show. Hep A and Typhoid vaccines are recommended as the risk of getting ill from contaminated food and water is heightened, especially if you partake in the street food scene (recommended! But be discerning about where you go. Always ask your guide or fellow travelers for their recommendations).
Show your doctor where you’ll be traveling to determine if you should take anti malarial precautions.
Zika has been reported in some areas of Thailand, but it is endemic as opposed to epidemic. You are not in as high a risk from Zika than if you were traveling in some areas of South America. Nevertheless, if you are pregnant or traveling with young children, you may want to consider another travel destination.
In the cities, be very alert and cautious to your surroundings. Pickpocketing is common as are more serious crimes such as kidnapping, especially for young single women traveling alone.
When crossing the street, know that pedestrians do not have the right of way in Thailand! Crossing the street can be very dangerous with the high numbers of tuk-tuks, motorcycles, and cars all competing for the right of way.
Be wary when choosing adventure activities! Safety standards may not be what you’re used to as a western traveler. This is another very good reason to go through a reputable tour company who is familiar with local operators and outfits.
Thailand tour packages can run the gamut from historical and culturally immersive, to a young party barge around Phuket.
Many different global tour operators have trips to Thailand, often with different themes. Thailand is a great destination for wildlife lovers, active travelers, and of course beach goers.
Elephant Tours in Thailand
Elephants and their mahouts (or handlers) have long been a part of the Thai economy, and helped with the logging business. When this practice was outlawed by the government, the role of elephant trainers and their animals transitioned to become a part of the tourism industry.
In some ways, this has created new animal welfare problems. Elephants often undergo abuse in their training to become rideable attractions, and once in this career, they can be overworked and fed improperly. On the other hand, elephant trainers complain that they would not be able to afford to feed their elephants (which, not surprisingly, eat a lot) without pandering to tourist interests.
Luckily, there is a way to ethically interact with elephants. Elephant sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers (which help restore the health of retired elephants and transition them to a more natural way of life) are great options of getting up close and personal with these gentle giants. It’s also a great way to fully immerse yourself in a natural Thai landscape.
Choosing a Thailand Tour
There is a lot to consider when picking your tour to Thailand. Oftentimes, tours in Thailand are geared toward a younger crowd, seeking the party atmosphere Southeast Asia is so well known for. If this is not what you’re after, consider a nature tour, or searching by a higher accommodation rating.
The majority of Thailand tours are in the “Value” (3 star) range. For a bit more comfort, consider searching Premium or Luxury tours, as these terms have are relative to what tour accommodation is normally like in Thailand. Put another way, luxury accommodation in Thailand will mean nicer, but not overly extravagant.
Food tours are very popular, and will feature a lot of street food, so be prepared. Traveling with a tour is one of the best ways to ensure you stay safe and eat safe. Your guide will know the best stalls and have advice on where to eat.
Active and adventure travel is another main theme when it comes to Thailand tours. This usually means visiting several national parks for hiking, zip lining, and waterfall rappelling. You’ll be sure to spend some time around Chiang Mai, Thailand’s adventure capital.
Cheap Thailand Tour Packages
Thailand is notorious for being a great destination for travelers on a budget. Although this is not as true as it once used to be, due to the flood of backpackers and tourists in the last 10 years, it’s still possible to experience Thailand on a budget. Here are three tips to help guide you in traveling Thailand cheaply:
Eat cheap. If you avoid international restaurants and classic tourist destinations, Thai food is still very affordable. More affordable meals can be found in cafeteria style dining halls, and from street vendors.
If you’re eating street food, walk off the beaten path. A good way to reduce the price of even the street food in Thailand is to take a turn off major street, an a try a food cart on a smaller street. You’ll be surprised at the difference!
Choose a budget tour. Group tours traveling Thailand can often offer different “styles” of traveling. Choosing a budget option will significantly reduce in price, and often refers to the quality of housing you will be staying in. If you don’t mind hostels, which are for the most part pretty clean and hospitable in Thailand, this is a great option for you.
Touring Thailand With Kids
If you’re traveling to Thailand with your family, the beaches beckon you. With snorkeling, soft sand, and many chances to relax in save secluded beaches, there are countless of activities to keep children busy and allow parents to relax.
There are also a number of national parks in Thailand, offering varying degrees of difficulty in hikes and activities. Kids will love the opportunity to see nature up close, play around waterfalls, and learn about the many different plants and animals.
Multi Country Thailand Tours
A large portion of Thailand tours also visit a combination of the nearby Southeast Asia countries. These include Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, and Laos.
This can be a great way to visit a lot of different countries and get a feel for Southeast Asian culture, both similarities and differences.
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