As you may have gathered from the few pictures I posted while there, and my not-so-subtle mentions on a few occasions beforehand, I was lucky enough to ring in the New Year and keep the January blues at bay in beautiful Thailand. Thailand is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit, and scrolled through the Facebook and Instagram photos of friends and bloggers (ahem, Terri McEvoy, I’m looking at you!) with major envy. So when we were discussing a destination for a little group holiday around 9 months ago, it was a no-brainer!
I have to admit that it took a little more planning, saving and organisation than other holidays, but it was 1000% worth it! A few of you have been in touch asking for a post or 2 about my trip, what I’d recommend and any advice, so I’m going to do a few posts on different topics that will come in handy if you are off to Thailand or thinking of booking a trip (DO IT!). First up, a post with a few handy tips on preparing for a Thai adventure!
Book it well in advance
We booked way back in May, and even then the flights were steep enough (granted we were going right between Christmas and New Years so they were bound to be expensive). But booking it a few months before will usually mean getting better fares than leaving it too close. We used a travel agent to book the flights, as they were getting cheaper fares than we were ourselves online. We’ve travelled with Tropical Sky before, and they are really fantastic at helping with travel arrangements. Brendan is who we deal with, and he just makes the process so hassle-free and seamless! We flew Emirates from Dublin to Phuket via Dubai with minimal stopover time, and then Phuket to Dublin via Dubai on the way home.
Plan Your Route
There are so many places to see in Thailand and so many routes to follow, so it’s important to have a rough idea of your route in advance. Otherwise, you run the risk of wasting time there trying to figure out where you want to go, the most logical route to follow and how you get there. Know what you want to see and do, and plan your route around that. For us, we started in Patong, then on to Koh Phi Phi for New Years, Koh Lanta to chill after a few big nights in Phi Phi, Aonang for a night to break up the long trip to Koh Samui, Koh Tao, back to Aonang for a few nights and then finishing in Kata Beach.
Bear in mind that unless you’re there for quite a while, you won’t cram everything in, as you’ll need to stay at least 2 days in each place to really enjoy it, plus you don’t want to spend your whole trip on buses and boats rather than the beach! We had time to enjoy each place before moving on, and took speed boats where possible to speed the journeys up, but because we had a vague idea of our route beforehand, we didn’t waste much time in deciding where to go next (but we still had the flexibility to change our plans on a whim, which we did a few times after speaking to other travellers!).
Book Accommodation for the Night You Arrive
You can book a lot of your accommodation as you go when you’re there, and accommodation is generally pretty cheap, so you’re unlikely to be caught out that way. But for the night you arrive, you do not want to be scouting hotels or hostels after such a long journey – you’ll want to grab a shower and be guaranteed a clean bed with no hassle. We booked our first 2 nights in Patong, and also our stay in Phi Phi, because it was New Year and the island has limited accommodation and was jammers. But beside from that, we booked as we went using Booking.com and only had 1 hotel that we had to leave (which we actually booked with a rep on a boat, rather than ourselves)! I’ll do another post mentioning some of the places we stayed, as overall, we were very lucky with accommodation and stayed in some fab hotels.
It is really important to sort your vaccinations out before heading off to Asia, so we used the Tropical Medical Bureau in Dundrum for our shots. I think you need to get vaccinated 4-8 weeks before you travel depending on your destination, activities etc., so make sure to ring them well in advance to find out when you need to see them.
Any tropical climate usually necessitates a number of vaccinations, and the TMB are excellent for talking you through what you need depending on where you’re going and what route you’re taking, activities you’re doing, shots you’ve had previously etc. Most of us needed 2 – Tetanus and Hep A. There is an option to get others, but these are by far the most common. It is pricey enough to get these, so make sure you allow for your shots in your overall holiday budget!
Money, Money, Money…
The local currency is Baht, and €1 will get you roughly 39 Baht at the moment. Make sure to order your currency well in advance from the bank, and bear in mind that withdrawing cash and using your cards abroad can have high transaction charges, so make sure to check that with your bank so there are no nasty surprises when you get home! Most machines tell you the charge before you finalise your transaction, and for all of our group, it ranged from 180-200 Baht per withdrawal. Your card won’t work in every machine there, but there are SO many ATMs on all the islands that you shouldn’t get stuck.
Also, make sure to let your bank know that you are travelling, as they tend to block cards used abroad if they don’t know that you are travelling which is a nightmare to sort out!
I rarely travel without some form of medical kit with me (I’m the token group mammy that carries plasters, ibuprofen, antibacterial spray and the kitchen sink with me everywhere in my handbag anyway), but for somewhere like Thailand, it’s an essential. From Motilium to settle upset stomachs, to Dioralyte to rehydrate (which I use anyway if I’m dehydrated after a gym session or big night out), make sure you stock up. You can get most medicines over there, but we found it handier having it all to hand!
Mosquitoes are part and parcel of travelling to any tropical destination, and luckily for me, I seem to be particularly tasty to bugs of all descriptions, and I get eaten alive wherever I go regardless of what I use. I’ve used SO many insect sprays that just don’t work, and seem to actually attract the mosquitoes, like I’ve marinated myself in some kind of delicious sauce!
I got the LifeSystems range from Great Outdoors as recommended by my Action Man Dad, who mountain climbs and treks in all kinds of crazy climates, and for the first time ever, I actually wasn’t bitten too badly at all. They need to be reapplied every few hours, especially if you’re in and out of the pool or sea, and sweating. Plus you should avoid scented body lotions, perfumes, deodorants etc., as they attract them, and make sure to wear the spray at night and to bed too!
One of my friends swears by taking Vitamin B in the few weeks leading up to the trip as it supposedly deters the pests. She barely got bitten at all the whole time we were there, so I started taking them a few days into the trip. I’m not sure if it was the LifeSystems spray or the Vitamin D, but I noticed an absolutely massive difference in the number of bites I had compared to the number I would usually have.
Let’s call a spade a spade – this is not going to be a cheap holiday. You’re going to the other side of the world, and probably staying a few weeks, so even though Thailand is very cheap, it will cost you a few bob all-in-all. It won’t cost the same as a week in Spain or Portugal, but it will be a lot cheaper when you’re there, and let’s face it…it’s kind of the holiday of a lifetime! Two and a half weeks there cost me a little less than a week in Mexico did last year, so that puts it into some perspective! We stayed in lovely hotels and lived like kings, so you could definitely do it cheaper than we did if needs be! When my brother was there, he stayed in hostels which cost him €5-€10 per night, so it’s doable if you’d prefer to stick to a tight budget.
In the run up to the holiday, I just watched the pennies with very small bits and pieces, like making an effort to make my lunches at home, bringing a travel cup of tea with me in the morning rather than buying it in a cafe and cutting back on my spending on clothes and make-up a little bit (I swear I have despite what it might look like on the blog!). It all adds up, and by putting a little aside per month, it was actually pretty easy to get the money together. Plus Tropical Sky only require a deposit and you pay the balance off over a few months, or all in one go 8 weeks before you travel, so they make it SO easy.