Thailand with your family : a practical guide
3 June 2019
At the mention of Thailand, several images come to inspired to the mind of globetrotters families: from the remnants of Buddhist temples to the spicy scents of street food, through the heavenly landscapes of its sandy beaches. Zoom on the most popular tropical family destination!
South Thailand between lagoons and fine sand crescents …
- Thailand in a nutshell
- Between the sea and mountains
- The standouts of the north
- The must-go places in the south
- Hotels for families
- Kids-friendly restaurants
- Theme parks
- The most beautiful beaches
- Moving around
- Weather & climate
- Some tips…
1 – Thailand IN A NUTSHELL
- Capital: Bangkok
- Political regime: Constitutional monarchy with an authoritarian tendency
- Official language: Thaï
- Currency: Baht
- Cost of living: Quite cheap
- The best time to travel to Bali: December to March
2 – BETWEEN THE SEa and mountains
Known as « the Land of Smiles » by the rest of the world, Thailand is distinguished by the warm hospitality of its inhabitants and the great diversity of its landscapes.
From North to South, the Kingdom of Siam shows two very different faces. While the northern part of the country, being authentic and rural, is mostly covered with wooded hills and rice fields, the South of the country is renowned for its idyllic beaches and islets surrounded by crystal clear waters. Two worlds are thus built around the vibrant, modern and opulent Bangkok capital.
3 – The STANDOUTS of the north
- Explore the remains of the majestic Royal City of Sukhothai and immerse yourself in Thai history and traditions. This archaeological site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the perfect backdrop to slip into the shoes of Indiana Jones.
- Spend time at Sri Lanna National Park and discover its splendid waterfalls as the most daring abseil. The calm waters of Mae Ngud Lake offer great canoeing trips and many good laughs on its aquatic trampolines.
- Treat the whole family by browsing the stalls of countless floating markets. An explosion of colours and flavours among which we find fresh fruits, flowers, fishes and especially, the famous banana pancakes with chocolate.
- Approaching Asian elephants, petting and feeding them, is an extraordinary experience that children and adults are not ready to forget. The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand and Elephant World are two great places to educate the youngest ones on the animal cause.
- To get lost in the lanes of the historic city of Chiang Mai, to marvel at its traditional, unspoiled wooden houses and admiring the local handicrafts among which the hand-painted paper umbrellas establish the reputation.
- To feel small next to the famous Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok. Lying over 43 meters long and 15 meters high, the deity reigns supreme over one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in the capital.
- Taste the bustle of Bangkok, the ultramodern city with huge shopping malls and thrilling nightlife. A visit to the Royal Palace and the lively Khaosan area, which is known for offering inexpensive excursions to travellers.
Did you know that there are approximately 40,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand?
4 – THE must-go places in THE SOUTH
- Embark on the long tail boats, recognizable from miles by the colourful ribbons wrapped around their prow, and their drivers reminding the romantics of Venetian gondoliers.
- Be enchanted by the lantern festival, a magnificent traditional festival, which has become extremely popular in the West, taking place every year in mid-November. As night falls, the spectacle of lights rising to the sky is simply magical.
- Approach the underwater life sheltered within the coral reefs of the Andaman Sea. Younger and older divers flee with happiness in a colourful universe worthy of the cartoon Nemo off the Similan Islands, a known and recognized place of fans of the genre.
- Marvel at the scenery of Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, a protected marine archipelago made up of 42 islands of lush vegetation that contrasts with the fifty shades of the blue ocean. We discover it from a boat or a helicopter, the choice is yours!
- Follow the footsteps of Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie The Beach on the Koh Phi archipelago before making a stop at Khao Phing Kan, where the mythical rock of James Bond stands, scenery of the adventures of 007 in « The Man with golden gun ». To remain on a Hollywood note, the fans of the 7th art make a detour to the State Tower of Bangkok, which makes an appearance in The Hangover 2. With a height of 247 meters, it delivers a breathtaking view on the capital.
5 – HOTELS FOR THE FAMILIES
- Nestled in a private bay in the south of the country, the Soneva Kiri unfolds on the virgin island of Koh Kood, far from the mass tourist sites. The hotel invites the family to live an eco-friendly experience, in a lush and preserved jungle. Children and adults live in harmony with nature, head in the stars, feet in the China Sea. We love the refined decor of the lodges and the eco-educational activities for the little ones who visit the kids-club. The hotel also has many facilities to ease babies’ stay such as a high-quality babysitting service and essential comfort accessories (bottle warmers, strollers, chamber pots, etc.). Special mention for the observation of stars and constellations organized every evening with a professional astronomer!
- Not far from the city of Phuket, on the west coast of Thailand, is the 5-star Hotel, The Slate, which harmoniously blends architectural tradition with contemporary design. This high-flying establishment stands out for its ideal location, only a few kilometres from the cerulean waters of Nai Yang Beach. The kids-club, accessible as from 4 years old, offers to the youngest travellers a program of activities that are as (re)creative as they are fun: the creation of origami, cooking classes, introduction to martial arts, plastic arts, etc. Families stay in majestic suites with private pools and hot tubs, which are sure to please the whole family at the end of a breathtaking day in the city centre. Parents love their spa and Thai cooking lessons where they make some local specialities by themselves under the guidance of a great Chef.
- Nestled in the heart of the rice fields that are the charm of the northern regions of the Kingdom, the Four Seasons Chiang-Mai is a prestigious establishment that perfectly meets the expectations of demanding families in search of a change of scenery. In an exceptional natural setting and conducive to relaxation, children and adults alike discover local traditions together.
- The Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok is a family-run hotel with breathtaking views of the beating heart of the megalopolis while enjoying the calm of the banks of the Chao Phraya River. The family suites with large bay windows have their quarters on the 35th floor to better appreciate the views of the city. The children adore its playground, located in the gardens of the establishment.
Soneva Kiri, our favorite hotel in the south of the country
6 – KIDS-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS
- Benz’s, the flagship restaurant of the Soneva Kiri resort, bears the name of its Chef. His innovative cuisine inspired by the finest local produce delights the taste buds of children and adults, owing to the creative and refined children’s menus. For the most adventurous people, they choose to share their meal around a hanging table just like a bird’s nest in the trees. In short, a unique taste experience! Koh Kood Sub-District, Trat, Thaïland; +66 82 208 8888. Itinerary.
- A mandatory stop at the only street canteen of the country to hold a Michelin star; Jay Fay’s restaurant serves travellers and locals who are hungry for delicious crab omelettes. Without prior reservation, it would be impossible to enjoy! 327 Mahachai Road, Samranras Subdistrict, Phra Nakon District, Bangkok 10200, Thaïlande; +66 2 223 9384. Itinerary.
- Located in Phuket Province, PRU is a starred epicurean address that offers traditional Thai dishes. Chef Jimmy Ophorst celebrates unexpected alliances such as white pepper and pineapple or black crab and Phuket coffee. The gastronomic menu has no less than 8 dishes! 60/1 Moo 6, Srisoonthorn Road, Trisara Resort, Cherngtalay, Phuket 83110, Thaïland; +66 76 310 100. Itinerary.
- For a culinary journey to Northern Thailand with Burmese and Chinese influences, head to the table at Khao by Four Seasons. The signature menu reinvents the traditional dish of Yam Pla Fu, a subtle blend of fried fish and tangerines. We love it! Mae Rim-Samoeng Old Road, Chiang Mai, 50180, Thaïland; +66 53 298 181. Itinerary.
7 – STREET FOOD
Thailand is a paradise for street food lovers: eating on the street is more than a tradition, it’s a way of life! Everywhere, many small shops offer tasty snacks, at any time of the day and at a very affordable price!
Do not miss the meat kebabs, delicious with coconut sticky rice and tasty mango slices. Finish with a “Som Tam”, a green papaya salad that has become a true national institution.
The children are delighted to taste the famous “Roti”, small banana pancakes and feast on exotic fruits such as papayas, watermelons or sapodilla.
8 – THEME PARKS
- Young acrobats and their parents gather in the heart of the rainforest at the Pattaya Zipline Experience. Located on the edge of the protected natural area of Chomphu, this tree climbing park offers the possibility to fly over the canopy safely. Practical information: As from 117€/person ; Chiang Mai 50000 ; Itinéraire.
- Voted « Best Aquatic Park of Thailand » by the TripAdvisor community, the Ramayana is distinguished from its competitors by its toboggans with overly impressive convolutions. Sensitive souls prefer to revel in the calm waters of its river lined with caves and geysers. Practical information: From 30€/child under 122 cm 42€/adult ; Pattaya 20250 ; Itinerary.
- Art in Paradise opens the doors of a world of optical illusions in three dimensions. Its dioramas, frescoes and immersive scenery immerse visitors in the heart of the savannah, in the Jurassic era or inside famous paintings works of art. Practical information: From 11€/person ; Din Daeng, Bangkok 10400 ; Itinerary.
- Dream World Bangkok allows tribes with an overflowing imagination to transform into Lilliputians for a day and to wander through the fantastic scenery inspired by fairy tales. Practical information: Children under 90 cm have fun, free of charge, at Dream World Bangkok; From 31€/person; Bang Yitho, Thanyaburi 12130. Itinerary
The Pattaya Zipline, to play like monkeys!
9 – THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
- In Thailand, the temperature of the sea varies throughout the year between 28 and 30°. Children and adults alike can wander endlessly in the shallow warm waters of its many bays.
- Ranked in the first place among the top 10 of Thailand’s best beaches in 2019, Nai Harn and its warm waters delight surfers visiting the mountainous island of Phuket. On the same spot, there is also Yanui Beach, which is mostly visited by families with younger kids.
- To the northwest, not far from Bangkok, the so-called « royal coast » is home to the discreet beach of Ban Krut, very popular among families seeking tranquillity and healing.
- To the north-west of Koh Pha Ngan Atoll, we love Haad Salad Beach, which has a small coral reef that is a great snorkel spot.
- Relaxation time is not lacking on the sublime Choeng Mon Beach, a pleasant bay shaped like a crescent moon covered with golden sand.
- Surrounded by incredible limestone cliffs, Rai Leh Beach (Railay) is only accessible by boat. After swimming, adventurous people can visit and impregnate legends of the surprising « princess cave ». Its neighbouring, Phra Nang beach, is distinguished by the softness of its sand and emerald waters. Sports enthusiasts complete their trip with a kayak ride.
- Mom and Dad do not fail to provide their toddlers with beach shoes to avoid sea urchin stings, which sometimes hide in the coral.
The beach of Nai Harn, its long ribbon of fine sand and water at 28 ° all year long!
10 – MOVING AROUND
The plane is the ideal option for families wishing to travel to Thailand from North to South. Domestic flights can save you valuable time, especially in reaching the southern islands. Ticket prices are rather cheap, provided you reserve them a few months beforehand. Chiang Mai Airport (CNX) serves the city of the same name. It is the main airport of the northern provinces. The Bangkok capital has two airports: the very recent Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and the Don Mueang Airport (DMK) reserved for internal flights and low cost. It is also possible to reach the islands by air through Phuket Airport (HKT) or Samui Airport (USM) serving the islands of the same name. The extreme south of the country is finally equipped Hat Yai Airport (HDY).
Train trips have something magical, but also fun for kids who love to watch the scenery unfold before their eyes. In Thailand, travelling by train is generally cheap but rather long. Trains run on average at 40km/h. More information in English or French
To reach the islands and their idyllic landscapes, the boat is more privileged. The main Thai ferry companies are Seatran and Raja Ferry. The boats are used to receiving families and the crew is always kind to the little ones. The most hurried tribes use speed boats, although they are more expensive.
11 – WEATHER & CLIMATE
- Thailand has a tropical climate. The weather varies according to seasons and regions. The country faces a hot season, a rainy season, but also a dry season every year. However, in the northern mountains, it is generally cool, while in the southern islands, temperatures are less likely to fall.
- From November to February, we talk about a « dry and cool season ». A coolness, to say the least, since temperatures usually peak between 28°C and 34°C! During the night, the mercury sometimes drops below 0. Travelers praise the dry season as the best time to visit the whole country under a clear sky.
- Brief but intense, the hot season runs from March to mid-May. The thermometer rises and the heat reaches the limit of bearable for young children, especially in town.
- The rainy season, also known as the « green season », runs from June to October. As its name indicates, nature is visibly unfolding during this period. In general, the weather is sunny but you can expect heavy, unpredictable and brief storms during the day. It rains on average between 1 and 3 hours a day and usually at the end of the day. The green season peaks in September and ends in late October.
- As we can imagine, the dry season, like the rainy season, is less abundant in the North than in the South of the country.
- It is best to avoid visiting Thailand at least during September and October, as typhoons can occur at this time of the year.
12 – SOME TIPS…
- Exotic destination means immunization notebook up to date! For Thailand, no vaccination is mandatory, but some vaccinations or updates are strongly recommended. The very complete the website of the Institut Pasteur details all the precautions to take before leaving.
- Avoid drinking tap water, prefer bottled water! It is found everywhere and at low cost, especially in the stalls of street vendors.
- There are many mosquitoes in Thailand, remember to bring effective mosquito repellents to protect your tribe.
- The local spices are full of surprises, as good as they are bad, especially for your little blond heads, unaccustomed to spicy cooking and whose stomach is fragile. Be careful about the choices of their catering and remember that the taste buds of children are more sensitive than those of adults. Pad Thai, fried rice skewers and grilled meat are usually less spicy!
- The tropical sun is sometimes deceptive for the whole family. The UV rays are virulent and the sun cream with the maximum protection index (SPF 50+) is essential for both children and adults. Do not forget the hats, sunglasses and anti-UV clothing of your young kids. Our articles on organic sun protection for babies, as well as our comparison of the best pairs of glasses for babies, will undoubtedly help you to make the best choice.
- To keep your bags safe, Mom and Dad check our travel checklists for babies of 1 day to 3 years old, toddlers from 3 to 6 years old and children from 6 to 12 years old: pyjamas, toys, band-aids, mosquito repellent, swimsuits, armbands, after-sun care… Everything is there!
- Finally, here are some basic expressions in Thai that can be of great service to you. First, the magic words: Hello: Sawat dii khrap [sa-wat-die-krap] (if you are a man) Sawat dii khaa [sa-wat-die-ka] (if you are a woman) and thanks Khop khoun khrap [kop-koun-krap] (if you are a man) Khop khoun khaa [kop-koun-ka] (if you are a woman). In the restaurant, Maï Pét [Mai Pét] (literally “not spicy”) and Maï Saï prik [Maï Saï prik] (without spice) can save your palate!
Mylène, 28 years old, art lover and travel addict, from Strasbourg, France