Direct flights to Thailand from Australia
If you’re looking to fly directly to Thailand, you have two options for destination city: Bangkok and Phuket. These flights are available from Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
If you want to go elsewhere in the country, like Chiang Mai or Koh Samui, you can connect with a cheap domestic flight once you land.
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Bangkok has two airports
Just like Melbourne has both Avalon and Tullamarine, Bangkok has two airports two: Don Mueang (DMK) and Suvarnabhumi (BKK).
Don Mueang is the smaller of the two airports. It’s also older and further from the city centre than Suvarnabhumi. In most cases, it deals with low-cost carriers for predominantly domestic flights but also some international routes. The only direct flights from Australia to Don Mueang leaves from Brisbane.
Suvarnabhumi is the biggest airport in Thailand and the one you’re more likely to land at when flying from Australia.
If you have a domestic flight leaving from Bangkok, it’s important to check which airport you’re flying from. The airports are more than two hours apart so if you go to the wrong one, it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to make your flight on time.
Suggested vaccinations for Thailand
When you travel, it’s a good idea to check what vaccinations you need. Not only can this mean you don’t ruin your holiday through sickness, it also means that you can avoid long-term problems.
When travelling to Thailand, you should take the opportunity to make sure all your routine vaccines are up to date. This includes the basics like polio, whooping cough and Hepatitis B.
Extra vaccines that are suggested for trips to Thailand and not just for general good health include:
- Hepatitis A
- Malaria (if you’re travelling to remote areas)
Ideally, you should visit a travel doctor a month or two before you fly to get all this sorted.
Currency and haggling
The Thai currency is the baht, which you can get in Australia or when you arrive in Thailand. You can use credit cards and ATMs overseas but beware of poor conversion rates and high fees.
Although the exchange rate changes, over the past year $1 has been worth between 20 and 23 baht.
How much this buys you varies from city to city and shop to market. While you’re unlikely to be successful haggling on hotel costs or menu prices, in markets and with tuk-tuk drivers it’s definitely encouraged to haggle on prices.
A good rule of thumb is to let the market stallholder suggest the first price and come back with an offer around half of that value. From there you can thrash out the actual price with the vendor.
Other haggling techniques include walking away (to get a last-ditch offer from the vendor) or offering to buy more items at a reduced rate.
And, remember, people can and will refuse to sell you something if your bid is too low. If they accept, it’s in their financial interests.
Eat all the food
If you think Thai food is incredible at your local takeaway, you’ll be blown away when you try it in Thailand. Just a word of warning about spice: it will be a lot higher there than what we get served here.
Fruit too is incredible. Tropical but familiar options like pineapple and mango — and the more exotic choices like mangosteen and longan — are far cheaper and far tastier than at home.
Show respect at temples
Visiting Buddhist temples is a part of many tours in Thailand and it’s important that you show respect at these places of worship.
This means wearing clothes that cover your knees and shoulders (some temples provide cover-ups if you need them) and taking off footwear when entering the temples.
Be wary of water
To avoid tummy bugs, it’s a good idea not to drink the tap water in Thailand. Stick to bottled or filtered water instead.
Be careful of ice too — machine produced ice (large uniform pieces that have a ring shape) has been treated, but some places might make their own which can be problematic.
Watch out for animal exploitation
Many animal attractions in Thailand do not have the creatures’ best interests at heart. Elephants offering rides or painting pictures are often mistreated, while zoos and the like often have very cramped living conditions for their inhabitants.
There are some nice places to go too. Elephant Nature Park, just north of Chiang Mai, is one example: a sanctuary dedicated to animals that have been mistreated in the logging and tourism trades.
Common scams to be on the lookout for
Sadly, among all the genuine friendliness and warmth, there are some people who want to take advantage of tourists and their bulging wallets. A few common scams to watch out for in Thailand include:
- Taxi/tuk-tuk drivers telling you that your hotel is full/closed/no good in an attempt to take you somewhere else. The idea is that you’ll make a booking there (where they get a commission) but really there’s nothing wrong with your original place. Insist that you need to go to your original place — if you need a cover story, tell them you’re meeting a friend there and maybe you can all go together to the other hotel.
- If a tuk-tuk driver offers to take you to a gem shop, suit shop or similar, chances are they’re taking you to one that gives them a kickback. Check the quality of the items and be on the lookout for deals that sound too good to be true.
- Also, be wary when someone tells you a popular tourist spot is closed (maybe for a public holiday you’ve never heard of). Generally, they’ll offer to take you to a gem shop or similar instead…
- If you see a child or mother with a young baby asking you for milk, it can seem like you’d be heartless to say no. The reality is that they’ll take you to a shop they know where you’ll be sold overpriced milk that they then return once you’ve turned your back.
- If anyone tries to get you to visit a timeshare — maybe you won a huge prize on a raffle — just tell them no.
- Always check your change when it’s handed back to you.
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