My boyfriend, Taylor, and I have been very lucky to have friends from around the world visit us while we are living here in Chiang Mai! That said, we’ve gotten loads of questions about weather, currencies, visas, taxis, etc. So here’s our FAQ on what you need to know before traveling to Thailand. These are all questions that I have been asked. I am happy to add to the list if there is more you would like to know!
How do I get to you!? I love budget airlines! If you can pack carry on only then you’re good to go. I did carry on luggage only for a four month trip so you should be able to if you are just here for a short time. From Seattle, I have noticed that the cheapest airline I have seen is EVA Air which is out of Taiwan. I’ve used them before and my besties just booked a ticket for October that was only $700 Seattle to Chiang Mai round trip! What?! However, lots of people prefer to head to BKK first which is going to inevitably be a bit cheaper. If you make Bangkok your first spot you can easily fly to Chiang Mai, Krabi, or Phuket for about $60 round trip. If you have time, an overnight bus or train will be $15 to Chiang Mai from Bangkok and is super cozy.
What are taxi prices from airport? If you fly into Bangkok, you should be able to get to town for 300 baht from the airport. It’s about 45 minutes and should always be that price. If you fly into Chiang Mai you can get to town for 150 baht or to my house for 200 baht.
Do I need a visa? No. You will show up with your passport that has at least six months left until expiration and get stamped in for 30 days. If you plan to travel for more than 30 days message me for details. I have gone through lots of visa and immigration dealings since arriving in March.
What if I don’t eat meat!? Many people I know here are vegetarian or vegan which means it is still totally possible to travel to Thailand. I will still pressure you into trying the northern Thai sausage because it’s amazing. However, if you just say “gin jay” that means “eat vegan” when ordering in a restaurant. Easy! Also, there are loads of restaurants that cater to vegan/vegetarian/grass eater types so it’s really a breeze.
How’s the weather? Thailand has three seasons. Hot, rainy, and cool(ish). Rainy season is typically mid-May to mid-October. However, it doesn’t rain 24/7. It’ll storm in the late afternoon for an hour or two and then be done. It’s actually nice to travel here at this time because it’s not as touristy, things are cheaper, and it’s a bit more relaxed. Mid-October to mid-February is cool season and when all the tourists plan their trips abroad. However, cool season doesn’t mean freezing. It’s just cool by Thai standards. And mid-February to mid-May is hot season. If you are coming to CM, don’t come during burning season which takes place around February and March. This is when the rice farmers burn the fields and get their crops ready for a new season. Expats flee the city to get away from the smoke. It’s not going to be great around this time.
How much money should I bring? Personally, for traveling I would budget for $100 per day. That’s way more than enough but will allow you cushion because you’re on vacay. In Chiang Mai, local meals are $2-3, beer is the same, and hostels range from $5-$10 per night. If you are over hostel life and want something nicer you can still stay in the city for $30 per night or less. ATM fees here are 220 baht every time you withdraw and you will need to check with your home bank regarding how much they charge. Don’t plan on using your credit card as cash is used for everything.
Where do I exchange money? Do not exchange money at SeaTac – or any American airport for that matter. The fees are stupid. If you are absolutely freaked out about showing up in Thailand with zero Thai Baht, get a small amount beforehand that can get you from the airport. However, the airport in Bangkok allowed me to exchange at 11pm and had almost no fees! It was REALLY cheap. It’s also very easy to find money exchange places everywhere. If you are bringing cash from that states, make sure they are new and crisp bills. I was unable to exchange $200 worth of $20 bills because they were old and crinkled. OOPS. Bring fresh money and have your passport on you if you exchange in the city.
Where should I stay in Chiang Mai? If you are staying for a short time, stay anywhere in the old city. Yes, it’s touristy, but it is for a reason. The old city is a one mile by one mile square and it’s all very walk-able. I honestly don’t have a preference on any areas but you can easily find cheap accommodation.
What kind of fun outdoor adventures are there near Chiang Mai!? Thanks for asking! I just wrote an article about that here. It’s 100% my fave things to do.
What’s your favorite part of Bangkok? My favorite day was getting a small boat for 5 baht to take us across the river to the green lung. This is an area that takes you away from the big city madness. You can rent a bicycle for about 100 baht for the entire day and weave through elevated sidewalks towards floating markets. It was amazing and one of my favorite days in Thailand.
What do I pack? Leave behind your rain gear as it will do you no good. If you come during rainy season you can grab a body length poncho from 7-Eleven for 20 baht that will keep you all dry. You will need good walking shoes and good sandals. Bring a swim suit. I personally love having a sarang for the beach but you can buy those here. You’ll need to cover your knees and shoulders at the temple, and if you are REALLY picky about sunscreen brand bring your own as everything here all has whitening cream in it. Honestly, don’t pack much. It’s all gonna get smelly anyway. Laundry here is 20 baht per load and accessible on almost every street corner.
What about public transportation? My favorite app for accessing transportation is Grab. It’s the Uber of southeast Asia and it’s my main mode of transportation in Chiang Mai. To get anywhere in the city typically costs me $2-$3. Otherwise, I use Mobike daily to get across the city when it’s not raining. It’s my bike share app and I can get you a free code which allows you five rides. However, if you’re in Bangkok you will love the motorbike taxis, BTS (sky train), and MRT (subway).
Does Lauren need anything from the USA? Ya’ll are too sweet but of course everyone asks me this. Yes, I want a five blade razor cause I am sick of buying the crap 2 blade ones from 7-Eleven.
What if I get hit by a motorbike or get dengue fever or bit by a dog? My house is a mile from a great hospital where I spent plenty of time getting all of my rabies shots. The health care is cheap and accessible and costs way less than the States. However, good to always get travel insurance if you’re worried.
Do I need power converters? No, not for charging your phone or tablet. If you have a three prong charger for a laptop, you can buy those here. But pretty much every guest house (and my apartment) convert to the American style power outlets.
What about sim cards? If you are bringing an unlocked phone you can easily get a sim card from the airport or 7-Eleven with your passport. Typically a week of unlimited data should be around 300 baht. It’s sometimes nice to have if you are moseying around solo and a downpour happens and you want to call a Grab. However, there is WI-FI everywhere so it’s not a huge dealio.
Top left: Sean, Taylor’s climbing buddy, and Heather came to Thailand in June. Top right: Taylor’s sis-in-law, Kara, came to visit us for a week in mid September. Middle left: Colton, a former coworker, and his girlfriend Natalie came to Thailand late August. Middle: Bruner, Taylor’s roomie for three years in college, came to visit us in early September for a few days. Middle right: I met Sarah while living in South Korea. She came to visit in late July. Bottom left: I used to work with Nat who lives in Seattle. Nat came in early August. Bottom right: My best friends that I have known since elementary school, Brittanie & Mackenzie, came to visit. We made a trip to Kata beach in Phuket while also exploring a bit of Chaing Mai in late October.
Alright! That’s my FAQ as of now and would love to answer more. XOXO