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Expat Holidays Thailand

Essential Thailand for First Timers

This 11 night Thailand first time itinerary is perfect for first-time visitors to the country. It includes city, culture, history, food, nature, adventure and of course relaxation & beach time.  You will start in the capital city of Bangkok taking in the sites and enjoying famous street food.  Then you will travel North to Chiang Mai — the cultural capital of Thailand — where you will spend time at an elephant sanctuary, explore ancient temples, visit hill tribe villages, and more adventures.  End the trip relaxing on famous Thai beaches while taking in the beauty of Phi Phi Islands and the limestone cliff formations of Phang Na Bay.

Holiday highlights
  • Exploring Bangkok using various modes of local transport: sky train, canal boat, tuk tuk, long tail boat and more.
  • Discover amazing street food during a night tuk tuk tour
  • Visit Doi Suthep Mountain Temple
  • Elephant sanctuary experience
  • Learning to cook with a host family in Chiang Mai
  • Chiang Mai famous night markets
  • Island hopping tour of Phi Phi Islands
  • Sea kayaking or biking around the stunning Phang Na Bay
Brief itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Bangkok

Day 2: City tour

Day 3: Free at leisure – night street food tour by tuk tuk

Day 4: Fly to Chiang Mai – Doi Suthep Temple

Day 5: Elephant Sanctuary trip – hiking – bamboo river rafting

Day 6: Free at leisure – dinner & cooking class with a local Lanna host family

Day 7: Doi Inthanon National Park tour

Day 8: Fly to Phuket

Day 9: Phi Phi Island day trip

Day 10: free at leisure

Day 11: sea kayaking tour of Phang Na Bay

Day 12: Departure

Recommended for

Couples, honeymoons, solo travelers, families.

DAY 1/ BANGKOK ARRIVAL WITH FAST TRACK SERVICE

Upon arrival in Bangkok, you will be met as you get off the plane and lead through fast track immigration line. Then you will be transferred to your hotel by a private car. The rest of the day is free at leisure.

Meals this day: none

DAY 2 / BANGKOK MULTI TRANSPORT ADVENTURE 

Bangkok is famous for all of its’ various modes of transport. Today you will have a chance to explore the city with our guide — using different types of transport to get around. Highlights of the tour include visits to the Wat Phra Kaew Emerald Buddha Temple, Wat Pho Temple of the reclining Buddha, Wat Arun Temple of the Dawn and a long tail boat tour of Bangkok canals. You will travel around by sky train, canal boat, tuk tuk, long tail boat and river taxi boat. In the afternoon, return to your hotel and evening is free at leisure — we can make reservations for you at one of the famous Bangkok rooftop restaurants.  For those who love sports, we can book ring side tickets at a historic Muay Thai Boxing stadium.

Meals this day: breakfast

DAY 3 / BANGKOK –  EVENING LOCAL STREET FOOD TOUR BY TUK TUK

Today is free at leisure to explore on your own or relax, perhaps trying with a Thai massage.  If you prefer, we’d be happy to arrange a half day excursion like a trip to the famous floating market, half day bike ride in non touristy part of Bangkok, cooking class or many other options.

Bangkok is known as the city that never stop eating. Bangkokians usually find themselves enjoy eating even at midnight. So, what would be more fun than exploring this city of angels via a fun Tuk Tuk ride and visiting the best local eateries after the sunset?  This private tour goes beyond tourist zones for the most amazing midnight eating adventure. After the moon comes up, cruise along Bangkok streets via this city’s iconic 3-wheel, Tuk Tuk, to visit Bangkokian’s favorite places to eat. Taste a variety of savory menus, including the local favorite Northeastern Thai Food (Esan Food), the town’s Best Pad Thai, and the popular home-style Thai snack. Between the bites, visit old-town landmarks and temples for a different perspective compared to the busy day time scene. Discover the side of Bangkok wholly unknown to visitors. After the tour you’ll be dropped off back at your hotel.

Meals this day: breakfast, dinner

DAY 4 / BANGKOK – CHIANG MAI – DOI SUTHEP MOUNTAIN

After breakfast, your private driver will transfer you to the airport for a short (1hr) flight to Chiang Mai.  Upon arrival you’ll be met by your local guide and proceed to Doi Suthep mountain from where the ancient temple Wat Phra That is located. This temple was built in 1383 and is still a working monastery today. From the mountain you can enjoy panoramic views of Chiang Mai. Return to Chiang Mai for a lunch of famous Northern Thailand dish – Khao Soi – a curry broth with noodles and meat.  Check into your hotel and rest of the day is free at leisure.

Meals this day: breakfast, lunch (Khao Soi)

DAY 5 / ELEPHANT DREAM VALLEY – HIKING AND BAMBOO RIVER RAFTING

Early in the morning you will be picked up at your hotel by your guide and driven to Elephant Dream Valley. This is an ethical elephant sanctuary where the elephants are allowed to roam around freely – no baskets, hooks or chains are used at this camp. You will arrive early, before the rest of the group, and have 30-45 mins of 1 to 1 time with these gentle giants.  Then after the rest of the day’s group arrive, join in the daily activities: going for a walk with them in the jungle, feeding them and after lunch, bathing them in the river and in mud!

Afterwards, our guide will lead you on a short hike to a waterfall where you can have a refreshing swim and then to visit a local Karen hill tribe village.  End the day with a leisurely bamboo river raft ride before returning to Chiang Mai.

Meals this day: breakfast, lunch

DAY 6 / FREE AT LEISURE – HOST DINNER & COOKING CLASS WITH A LANNA FAMILY

Free at leisure to explore the city on your own (Chiang Mai is very easy to get around by walking (or by renting bicycles) Activities can later be added if you like, or this would be a good time to enjoy a relaxing treatment at one of Chiang Mai’s many spas!  If you prefer, we’d be happy to suggest

Around 3.30pm you will be picked up from your hotel and we head south out of Chiangmai to Bandoo in Hangdong district. The home you will be visiting belongs to the Raunkaew-Yanon family, who arrived in the area possibly by elephant back almost 150 years ago. The family is a Lanna family, continuing the traditions of many generations in building their homes of teak wood and maintaining the natural surroundings in manner now rarely seen in Chiangmai. You will experience the simple Lanna way of life including the family orchard with many types of fruit such as banana, mango, coconut, whilst the organic garden is filled with herbs for cooking. You will then have the opportunity to join the cooking of your meal, guided by the local family. Your evening meal will be served on the second floor terrace of the home of Raunkaew- yanon family from where you will enjoy the panoramic view of this Lanna village. This tour is very different from typical cooking classes and is designed to give you a real experience and understanding of Lanna life, the traditions and buildings, the relationship between their religions and ancestors and the way this all works together with nature.

Meals this day: breakfast, dinner

DAY 7 / DOI INTHANON NATIONAL PARK TOUR

On this tour you can cool off on Thailand’s highest peak while taking in the beautiful scenic Doi Inthanon National Park. Night time temperatures on the peak can be as low as -8 degrees centigrade. In the cold/dry season night time frosts are common.  With your local, private tour guide you will visit Wachiritharn Waterfalls, The King and Queen Chedi’s, (the best views across the park are found here), and then on the peak of Doi Inthanon the highest mountain in Thailand. Near the top we will take the Angkha nature walk where you can walk amongst the unique flora and forest that grow at this altitude. For those who are more adventurous, the national park offers a variety of trekking trails.  There are both Karen and Hmong hill tribe villages in the bounds of Doi Inthanon and we will see those at the local market on the way down the mountain before making our way back to Chiang Mai.

Meals this day: breakfast, lunch

DAY 8 / CHIANG MAI – PHUKET

Free at leisure until transfer to Chiang Mai airport for a flight to Phuket (2hrs), where your driver awaits to transfer you to your Phuket hotel. Rest of the day is free at leisure.

Meals this day: breakfast

DAY 9 / PHI PHI ISLAND BY SPEEDBOAT (JOINED SMALL GROUP TOUR)

We leave early to avoid the worst crowds, and first stop is usually Maya Bay, the beautiful location of the movie “The Beach”. Here we can swim, walk to the look out to view the beautiful Lo Sama Bay and take the photos you have dreamed about. Whenever possible we arrive early to avoid the crowds, and we are leaving the beach as many other boats are arriving. Take a boat ride to Pilay, the inner sea of the gulf, where emerald seawater rushes through the cliffs. Enjoy a view from the top of Phi Phi Don Island and take a look at the place where two gulfs meet. Dive down to admire the bright pink corals at Moo Sung stones. These are only a few examples of possible activities in a dream vacation that tourists everywhere are willing to pay for and they are sure to be worth it.

Please note:  Maya Bay will be closed by the National Parks Authority indefinitely, until further notice. We will still be able to run great tours to Phi Phi, you will be able to view Maya Bay from a distance and there are many other great places we can take you for swimming and snorkeling.

Meals this day: breakfast, lunch

DAY  10 / LEISURE

Free at leisure to enjoy the beach and resort facilities.  You may want to check out Baba Nest rooftop bar for the best sunset views on the island.

Meals this day: breakfast

DAY  11 / LEISURE WITH OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES

Either enjoy another leisure day or choose one of these optional excursions.

Optional Activity : Hong By Starlight 

Enjoy an afternoon of sea cave exploring literally inside Phang Nga Bay’s marine geology, – including the caves and hidden lagoons John Gray found in 1989. Great nature and wildlife surrounds you. Book one of the many fabulous tours and truly put yourself into your own “Natural History by Sea Kayak” documentary in Thailand. The combination of experienced guides, new equipment and creative freedom takes you to new levels of adventure. We will paddle through a sea of fireflies, a truly magical and out of this world experience. Delicious seafood-vegan buffet on the trip back, you return to the pier two hours after sunset.

Optional Activity : Koh Yao Noi Private Bike Tour 

Koh Yao Noi Island is situated in the Bay of Phang Nga in Southern Thailand and even though the island is only a one-hour boat ride from the tourist hub of Phuket, at koh Yao noi island you will feel as if you’re a thousand miles away. There are no loud bars, no high-rise hotels in koh yao noi island, just a handful of bungalows overlooking the Andaman Sea. Not only is this island affordable, it’s an untouched paradise. The traditional way of life on Koh Yao Noi Island has remained virtually unchanged. The main road snakes through rice paddies, fishing villages and plenty of nice and quiet beaches. The best way to explore it is on two wheels. Experience the gorgeous countryside of the peaceful island of Koh Yao Noi by cycling through its rice fields, jungles and forests of rubber trees. Meet the locals in a self-sufficient farm and pedal through a village on stilts, spot water buffaloes dozing in a muddy pool. Enjoy a scenic long tail boat trip with a fisherman to a lovely beach for picnic, relaxing and swimming. A real island experience far from the crowds! We will take the boat back from Koh Yao Noi at 3 pm.then head to Phuket.

Meals this day: breakfast

DAY  12 / DEPARTURE

Free at leisure until your private airport transfer for your departure flight.  Phuket has a big international airport from where you may often find return flights directly to your home country.  If you depart from Bangkok – we will arrange all logistics.

Meals this day: breakfast

Best time to go

Best time for this trip is November – March. Chances of rain are small, temperatures in North Thailand are cool in the mornings and evenings while temperatures in South Thailand are perfect for beach days.

March and April are also a great months to go.  It gets very hot, especially up North with chances of rain but the benefit is much lower prices relative to the weather.

May – October is the official ‘low season’ in most places in Thailand.  There can be heavy rains at times but don’t let this put you off – it normally rains hard for a few hours in a day and usually in the evenings.  During this time prices drop dramatically and there are much less tourists.  For these reasons are seeing the low season become more and more popular time to visit Thailand.

Thailand visa information

Thailand allows free visa on arrival for most countries.  Please check the list here for information regarding your country.

Extension options

If you have more than 11 nights, we would be happy to offer you some trip extension ideas.  You can head to Kanchanaburi and spend a few nights in a luxury tents and floating villas on the river.  You may wish to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia for a few days to explore the Ancient Angkor ruins.  If you are more active, you might like to try one of our overnight trekking tours in North Thailand, or make the sea kayaking trip in Phang Ba bay a 2 day / 1 night mini expedition where you’ll camp on a secluded beach!  For beach lovers, we can always add more beach time, perhaps visiting another island.

Tailor – made

All of our suggested itineraries are based on holidays that have been very popular with our clients.  However we strongly believe that each holiday should be unique to the traveler.  Absolutely anything in our itineraries can be tailored to suit your requirements, travel style and budget.  Simply contact us and let us design your custom holiday!

Private

We never mix groups during holidays.  All the holidays are arranged for your group only so you can travel at your own pace.

Independent travel

The most consistent feedback from our clients is how amazing our guides are!  We strongly believe that having a guide can add some much value to your travel experience.  With that said, we totally understand that some travelers prefer to explore independently.  If this is your travel style – we can still help you!  We can arrange your holiday without guides, suggest activities that you will enjoy, advise the best way to get around, how much to pay for things, etc.  We simply help you plan a logical itinerary, book accommodation and necessary transfers along the way.

Planning process

We work together with you until you are 100% satisfied with your itinerary.

  • Initial contact by phone or email to ask you some questions to help us fully understand your travel style, requirements, budget etc.
  • We send you a detailed itinerary proposal with prices
  • You review, and if needed, reply with requested changes.
  • We send you updated proposal.
  • Continue this process until you are 100% happy with and accept the proposal.

Prices often vary due to travel period, best accommodation rates during that period, number of persons traveling, etc.  Please send us your holiday requirements and and approximate budget (if you have one in mind) and we will get back to you with a detailed quotation right away.

Please provide as much information as possible.  We respond to most requests right away during work hours and always within 12 hours.

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Hotel options for this holiday

These are our suggestions.  If you have other hotels in mind, or would like more options – just let us know.

Location Superior hotels **** Deluxe hotels ***** Luxury hotels *****
Bangkok U Sukhumvit Bangkok (deluxe) Shangri La (deluxe river view) The Siam Hotel (siam suite)
Chiang Mai Thai Akara Lanna (deluxe) Anantara Chiang Mai (river view) 137 Pillars House (rajah brooke suite)
Phuket Boathouse Kata (deluxe sea view) Anantara Layan (deluxe pool villa) Trisara Phuket (ocean view pool villa)

Holiday includes

  • Accommodation in category chosen
  • All meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
  • All airport and train station transfers by private vehicle with A/C
  • All private and joined sightseeing as mentioned in the program
  • English speaking guides where mentioend

Holiday does not include

  • International flights
  • Domestic flights (can be quoted separately)
  • Travel insurance
  • Any meals and transfers not clearly mentioned in the program
  • Any personal expenses such as tips, laundry etc

Map

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  •   I cannot say enough about our wonderful trip with adult kids. With the help of Lenny's panning we got off the beaten path and had a great experience. ... read more

    avatar thumb nms99
    1/30/2019

      I had originally planned to organize this trip myself, but when time got short, Lenny came to my rescue. He fit in everything we wanted to do over our... read more

    avatar thumb Reagan D
    11/30/2018

      excellent trip with buddies!we visit this place in first time. this trip is well organized.staff very friendly and well known

    avatar thumb Edward s
    9/10/2018

      This was, by far... the best trip I have ever taken in my whole life and I feel like I owe much of this to Lenny and his outstanding team... read more

    avatar thumb Nancy R
    4/02/2019
  •   Wow what can I say. Lenny had everything covered from start to finish. He handcrafted an adventure that we will never forget. He always seemed to be one step ahead... read more

    avatar thumb mintyotter
    12/10/2018

      We are always looking for a local travel agency to book a tailor-made tour. 6 persons (2 adults, 4 kids 5-16 years old). So I posted our ideas and... read more

    avatar thumb Petra C
    1/07/2019

      I would wholeheartedly recommended traveling to Thailand with Lenny from Expat Holidays. My wife and I had an amazing honeymoon in Thailand and Lenny made it effortless to book all... read more

    avatar thumb dandatraveler
    3/06/2019

      Lenny and his team were outstanding. He worked with our schedule and needs perfect and made great suggestions that added to our trip. Every tour we were set up on... read more

    avatar thumb angie b
    3/20/2019
  •   Friends recommended Expat Holidays and it was one if our best holidays ever. Everything went smooth - from the pickup service at the airport - the transfer to Koh Chang... read more

    avatar thumb Berlin_foodlover1974
    11/19/2018

      Exceptional 15 day tour of Thailand planned and organized by Expat Holidays Thailand . Lenny was very tentative to all details. Understood our request and what we wanted to experience.... read more

    avatar thumb amoore953883
    9/03/2018

      I would wholeheartedly recommended traveling to Thailand with Lenny from Expat Holidays. My wife and I had an amazing honeymoon in Thailand and Lenny made it effortless to book all... read more

    avatar thumb dandatraveler
    3/06/2019

      Lenny and his team were outstanding. He worked with our schedule and needs perfect and made great suggestions that added to our trip. Every tour we were set up on... read more

    avatar thumb angie b
    3/20/2019