Gone are the days of quiet Phuket beaches – Thailand has become a tourist hotspot, and it’s easy to see why. Gorgeous beaches, great climate, an amazing culture and delicious food all combine to make Thailand the perfect holiday destination for those wanting to escape the daily grind. If you’re looking for an authentic Thai experience without the throngs of tourists though, you’re going to have to be a bit savvy about your travel plans. Here’s how to visit Thailand without the crowds.
Go in Shoulder Season or Off Season
Pretty much everyone heads to Thailand over the relevant peak season for the region (November to February for Phuket, July to Septemberfor Koh Samui etc) to minimise the chances of bad weather and grey seas. If you’re not afraid of a bit of bad weather though, you can take advantage of off seasons which come with far less crowds as well as cheaper hotels. Shoulder season is a great compromise – you might not want to explore Thailand during monsoon season but most people can cope with a bit of rain here and there. Hotels often offer discounts of up to 80%, and while you might get a heavy shower in the afternoon, you’re generally unlikely to have to spend days cooped up inside avoiding the rain. Think of it as a Gauteng thunderstorm – short and fierce, but they clear up very quickly and often to brilliant sunshine and lovely weather.
The other thing to consider is that school holidays will more likely than not count as ‘high season’ even if the weather isn’t at its best then. So, try to avoid booking a trip over Easter or Christmas – and remember that the Northern hemisphere school holidays run differently to ours, so consider those too!
Make Use Of Domestic Transport
Once you’ve landed in Bangkok or Phuket, you’re going to want to go off the beaten path to find somewhere that’s quiet and authentic. Hop on a short domestic flight to another location, rent a scooter and drive 100kms, task a tuk tuk driver to whisk you away somewhere new, or take a bus like the locals. It’s more of a hassle than just flying to Phuket and getting the hotel to send an airport shuttle, but that’s exactly why you’ll be rewarded with quiet beaches, authentic food from street vendors who don’t speak a word of English, and villas or BnB’s that aren’t packed to the rafters with Aussie tourists ready to drink enough Mai Tai’s to sink a ship.
Go Somewhere Off The Tourist Track
Thailand has tons of beaches and islands which are quiet and lesser known, you just have to put in a little more effort to get yourself there. Instead of heading to Phi Phi Island, try Koh Phayan or Koh Kradan. Or, visit one of their National Parks for some peace, quiet and serenity surrounded by lush jungles and greenery. The options are plentiful; Doi Inthanon for gardens and birds, Khao Sok for dense forest or Khao Yai for waterfalls and mountains within easy reach of Bangkok - perfect if you want to escape the crowds for a day or two but still experience the bustling Thai capital.
Visit Exquisite Towns
If you want to soak up traditional, authentic Thai life in a setting that isn’t quite as intense as Bangkok, you can head to one of the many towns and smaller cities dotted around the country. Head to Nong Kai on the banks of the expansive Mekong River or go right up to the Northern tip of Thailand to explore Chiang Rai, a stunning ancient town often used a gateway to the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar intersect.