You’ll find practically any type of lodging you can imagine in Thailand, from basic hostels to luxury resorts with spectacular spas. All the big international chains are represented, and there are plenty of locally owned boutique hotels. Homestays are also an option.
Here are a few important things to keep in mind:
– Be prepared for touts in some areas, particularly those popular with backpackers.
– Both tax and a service charge may be added to the quoted price.
– During holiday periods or festivals, rates rise and availability gets tight. (Be sure to check for Buddhist and Muslim celebrations, depending on where you’re going.)
– Proprietors will most likely want to see your passport, and some may want to keep it until you check out — so it’s always good to have a photocopied backup to carry with you.
– In Bangkok, we highly recommend choosing lodging that’s close to a Skytrain (BTS) stop; this is the most efficient way to get around, due to the city’s monumental traffic jams.
– Be aware of the country’s changing political situation. In the past protests have plagued some popular hotel areas in Bangkok.
If anything, there may be too many hotels in Thailand! Popular beach areas like Phuket and Koh Samui can be clogged with properties, and so many choices abound in Bangkok that you may have trouble deciding among them all.
The Accor hotel group is well represented around the country, with brands in multiple price ranges, including Pullman, Novotel and Ibis. The IHG group offers InterContinental and Crowne Plaza properties, while Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Sheraton, Best Western, Hyatt, Shangri-La, Renaissance, Meridien, Pan Pacific, Hilton and numerous others also have a presence.
There are plenty of boutique hotels and small chains too. In the case of smaller local operators, check recent reviews carefully — some of the one-off boutique hotels (particularly in Bangkok) may start out being quite chic and stylish, but aren’t kept up as well as they should be.
Local Thai chains include Centara, Dusit, Imperial, Amari, Anantara and Serenata. They all tend to be in the luxury category, although some have expanded into multiple brands at different price points.
Breakfast is often included at Thai hotels, but double-check when you’re booking and confirm when you check in. Basic buffets are typical, with eggs, yogurt, fruit, bread and some stir-fry or noodle dishes. More upscale hotels feature elaborate buffets, with fruit carvings and a mind-boggling assortment of Thai and Western dishes.
The Thai Hotel Association developed a star rating system just a few years back, but relatively few properties have applied for a rating — and most are in the high-end category. The ratings award up to five stars based on location, construction, facilities, services and quality standards. If you see stars on a budget accommodation, don’t assume it’s an official rating; it’s just as likely that the hotel awarded those stars to itself!
Thailand Vacation Rentals and Serviced Apartments
If you’re more independent or spending an extended amount of time in one location, you might decide to go with a vacation rental. TripAdvisor, Airbnb, VRBO, Roomorama and HomeAway have listings in Thailand, ranging from basic rooms to condos and villas.
Ramada and Marriott offer executive apartments in Bangkok, but there are also many other choices, including Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok, Oaks Bangkok Sathorn, the River Side Bangkok and Shama Sukhumvit. As with hotels, there are smaller and more modest serviced apartments than those named above, but you may find problems with hot water, air conditioning or other issues, so investigate thoroughly before committing to a long stay.
Always check out reviews before booking — and remember, previous guests may have had different needs or expectations than you do. Question the rental agent or host about street noise and safety. Ask about restaurants, shops and transit options in the neighborhood. Check the availability of air conditioning, hot water, continuous electricity, Wi-Fi and phone service. If there’s no phone, consider how you will contact the agency or host, since your U.S. cell phone may not work in Thailand. Carry the emergency number with you at all times in case you lose your keys.
Thailand B&Bs, Guesthouses and Homestays
The terms “B&B,” “guesthouse” and “homestay” can be used interchangeably in Thailand, so be sure to clarify what the situation is. Small establishments of this sort are often found in older buildings near the river in Bangkok, and by rivers or canals in other cities too. They may be in residences or buildings that have resisted the rush to “taller/glitzier/more modern,” which has taken over the popular areas of Bangkok.
Accommodations vary widely, so be sure to determine what type of bathroom facilities exist, whether or not there’s air conditioning and what services are available. Consider working with a company like Responsible Travel if you’re considering homestays in more far-flung places. In some cases, you can combine a homestay with volunteer opportunities, like those offered by Andaman Discoveries in southern Thailand.
Thais are generally warm and gracious hosts, so homestays here can be particularly rewarding.
Thailand B&B, Guesthouse and Homestay Resources:
Thailand Hostels and Dormitories
Thailand is a backpacker’s dream with plenty of affordable accommodations, whether it’s a budget hotel, dorm or hostel. You’ll find more than two dozen hostels accredited by Hostelling International throughout the country, but there are many more beyond those.
Check for options like air conditioning, fans, Wi-Fi and hot water, if those are necessities for you. As always, put safety first and keep an eye on your belongings. Unless you’re staying at an accredited hostel, always check out where you’ll be sleeping before committing.
In larger cities (particularly Bangkok), beware of buying bus tickets, tours and other add-ons from hostels or travel agents in areas targeting backpackers. Scams and bait-and-switch schemes have been reported.
Thailand Hostel Resources:
Thailand Monastery Stays
It’s possible to stay at Buddhist monasteries throughout the country. It can be a rigorous and austere life if you follow the monks’ practice, but these stays provide a real insight into the Buddhist religion. Not all monasteries accept both men and women; check the individual policies. Monastery stays are usually inexpensive or even free, but there may be limits on the number of days you can visit.
Thailand Monastery Resources:
Thailand Park Lodging and Camping
A number of Thailand’s many national parks offer campsites and lodges. You’ll find trekking and camping at places like Doi Luang Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai, Phu Soi Dao in Uttaradit, Thung Salaeng Luang in Phetchabun and Phitsanulok, Phu Kradung in Loei and Khao Luang in Nakhon Si Thammarat. Some parks with campsites also rent tents, and you may even find sleeping bags and grills for rent. Cabins or bungalows are available in some parks too. The park service has a central website for online booking — but if you’re not in Thailand when you make the reservation, you’ll need to pay in advance by bank transfer.
Beach camping is also available in some areas. One popular destination is the otherwise uninhabited island of Koh Rok Nok, where you can hire a tent from the park service. You’ll also find private outfits in places like Koh Phi Phi that offer tent resorts or “glamping.”
Thailand Park Resources:
–written by Gayle Keck
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