Thailand is in the top five countries for annual numbers of Australian visitors and there are plenty of reasons to visit the Southeast Asian country – year-round sunshine, relatively short flights, incredible food, beautiful beaches and cheap everyday expenses.
Whether you’ve been to Thailand before or not, knowing where to go can be a tricky choice. Let Skyscanner Australia relieve the burden of decision by recommending some of the hotspots.
Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is home to the country’s biggest airports and is the most visited city in the area. With the cheapest direct flights from Australia and a huge choice of things to do, it’s no wonder that so many tourists visit Bangkok, especially on their first trip.
Bangkok is home to the Grand Palace, Wat Pho (the temple of the reclining Buddha) and a smattering of other temples that help show the history of the country. It also has some great markets and modern shopping centres, some of Thailand’s best restaurants and there are plenty of day trips available if you need more to do, including tours to the floating markets, the bridge over the River Kwai and the old capital of Ayutthaya.
The second most popular destination for Australians is the island of Phuket. Most of the accommodation is found on the island’s many beaches, each offering a different experience.
The centre of activities is Patong, which is favoured by those who want to enjoy the nightlife as much as the beaches. Karon Beach is a slightly quieter alternative, while Kamala Beach has near-deserted stretches of white sand.
Most hotels on Phuket will offer scuba or snorkelling tours, as well as boat trips to the Phi Phi Islands and Khao Phing Kan, famous for being the setting of James Bond’s The Man with the Golden Gun.
As well as Bangkok and Phuket, Hat Yai is the third and final Thai destination that you can fly to directly from Australia.
Found in the south of the country, near the border with Malaysia, Hat Yai is a popular for its many shopping opportunities – from air-conditioned malls to trade bazaars, local markets and vendors on boats.
Like Bangkok, it has plenty of temples including one – Wat Hat Yai Nai – with a large reclining Buddha. Elsewhere, you can explore the wildlife sanctuary at Namtok Ton Nga Chang, explore the Songkhla Old Town or spend the day at the Hat Yai Municipal Park, which offers panoramic views over the area.
Krabi has long been a favourite for people who enjoy rock climbing, with some incredible cliffs in the area just begging to be climbed. Recently, the appeal of Krabi has been broadened and more people are choosing it over other Thai destinations.
If you want to see Krabi but you’re not into climbing, there are plenty of hiking trails, beaches and boat trips to nearby islands to fill up your itinerary. Add Thai food, cheap massages and local fruit, and you can start to see the appeal.
Chiang Mai, to the north of Bangkok, is Thailand’s second biggest city. However, like many Australians have a strong preference in the Melbourne vs Sydney debate, the same is true for Bangkok and Chiang Mai, so don’t write it off if Bangkok wasn’t to your liking.
The walled city moves at a slower pace than the capital, but still offers a great way to see Thai life. Like Bangkok, there are plenty of temples to explore, including the hilltop Doi Suthep. The walking market in Chiang Mai is the biggest in the country and tours to nearby the Elephant Nature Park sanctuary leave from the city centre regularly.
Chiang Mai is also a gateway into northern Thailand, to places such as Chiang Rai, the Golden Triangle and Pai.
Along with Phuket, Koh Samui is one of the most developed and tourist-friendly islands in Thailand. Chaweng rivals Patong for revelry, while the quieter northern and southern coasts show a different way of life.
As well as its beaches, some of the island’s highlights include seeing mummified monks, exploring the walking markets in the various villages and taking a day trip to Angthong National Park. For more ideas, read about the best things to do in Koh Samui.
From Koh Samui, you can also get ferries to Surat Thani on the mainland and two nearby islands: the party island of Koh Phangan and the serene island of Koh Tao.
When is the cheapest time to travel to Thailand?
The cheapest flights from Australia to Thailand can be found in May.
For those flying from Australia to Thailand, the most popular routes are Melbourne and Sydney to Bangkok and Phuket. Each permutation of these airports gives the same answer that May is the cheapest time to travel.
For flights from Sydney to Bangkok you can save up to 16% on the average flight price across the year, while trips to Phuket are up to 19% cheaper in this month.
For those who prefer to fly from Melbourne, flights to Bangkok are up to 18% cheaper and flights to Phuket up to 22% cheaper in May.
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