The doors to the plane open and in wafts the air. It’s strong, pungent, swampy, and hot—hot, hot, hot. Welcome to Thailand, The Land of Smiles. And welcome to Bangkok, the capital of the southeast Asian country.
Most travelers, especially those new to Thailand, step off the plane to find themselves in a strange world. There are some familiarities, like escalators, Subway sandwich shops, McDonald’s, and English language signs that read “Bathroom.” But those western assurances slowly fade away the further you get from the airport. That’s where guidebooks like Lonely Planet’s Thailand Travel Guide come in.
Lonely Planet’s Thailand Travel Guide—available in hardcover and downloadable digital format—covers everything. From planning your trip to understanding the culture to surviving daily life in one of world’s most exotic and interesting countries.
But in the age of the Internet, is it worth investing your money in a guide book? In one word: YES. Here’s why.
- You can use the guidebook when you don’t have Internet access
- You save time and money with their list of itineraries
- Written by experienced, Thailand-based writers
- Advice is fair; there’s no up-selling
Does it have shortcomings? Sure.
- The hardcover guide book is heavy and large
But lets look at how Lonely Planet has nailed each of these pros a bit closer.
No Internet, No Problem
If you’ve ever traveled to Thailand then you know one thing—the Internet is not good in some areas. Compared to neighboring countries like Singapore and South Korea, Thailand’s infrastructure needs an update. If you bring your phone or tablet to Thailand and hop onto wifi you’ll get 3G, or if you’re lucky, 4G at the most. Even prepaid tourist sim cards don’t always deliver. And in some areas you won’t get any wifi. Even hotels that offer wifi have shoddy connections.
So what happens when you’re in Thailand and your trying to plan tomorrow’s day? This is where the digital version of the Lonely Planet’s Thailand Travel Guide comes in handy. If you download the digital version, you’ll have a copy with you even when you can’t access the Internet. This comes in handy when you’re in the middle of nowhere and need a map.
Itineraries for Every Adventurous Itch
Take a look online. Search “Thailand itineraries.” You’ll find pre-planned itineraries ranging from $60-$100. And custom itineraries? Forget it. You’re looking at $50 per day. For about a third of that cost, you get 4 weeks worth of itineraries.
Lonely Planet’s Thailand Travel Guide includes itineraries that suit most travelers’ needs. Looking for a laid back holiday on the beach in the south? Check out their Best of Southern Thailand itinerary. Looking for a mountain adventure in the north? Check out their Thailand Highlights itinerary. Looking to mix things up in the heart of the city? They’ve got you covered with their Bangkok and Around itinerary.
And their itineraries cover Thailand trips ranging from 1 to 4 weeks.
Essential Details by Experienced Writers
I’ve seen some websites charge up to $200 for a private Thailand travel coaching session. And I guess if you’re going to invest your money into a trip to Thailand, something like that might be worth the money. But when you look at how much time they’ve spent in Thailand, you might get a little weary. Some people come to Thailand and try to hand out advice after only a few months or a year of living here.
With the Lonely Planet’s Thailand Travel Guide you get over six decades of Thailand-related experience. Most of the writers of this book have a lot of experience living in, traveling through, or working in Thailand. They’ve forgotten more things than newbies will ever learn. They’ve discovered villages and islands that most bloggers have never heard of. And they don’t hold anything back.
You’ll discover quaint northern villages like Tha Ton and the hill tribes that inhabit them. You’ll find out where to catch long-tail riverboats and experience mountain-framed sunsets. You’ll learn about southern secluded alabaster beaches like Koh Tarutao.
With 8 researchers and writers specialized in their respective areas, they leave no papaya unpeeled.
Not all travel websites offer fair advice. And if you’re planning your trip to Thailand and stick to only websites, you’re bound to run into biased reviews, dated info, and websites that want to sell you something else—like their poorly researched ebook. In other words, they make Thailand out to be a utopia in the hopes you’ll buy what they’re offering.
With Lonely Planet’s Thailand Travel Guide you get none of that. The writers cut to the chase and give you neutral advice without any ulterior motives. And in the case of restaurants—whether exotic eateries or street-side stalls; and hotels—whether noteworthy or not worthy, they’ve carefully and fairly reviewed each one.
Other Useful Advice
A Smart List to Save You Packing Time—and Stress
What kind of clothes should I bring if I’m going to be traveling around the entire country? Do I need walking shoes or flip-flops? What’s the dress code in temples and restaurants? Lonely Planet’s Thailand Travel Guide gives you a smart check list of items to bring, including vital travel documents.
Getting Around Bangkok
In terms of giving info on how to get around, the Lonely Planet guide has it down. Their hardcover and digital formats both have detailed maps of Bangkok. The hardcover book has a pull-out map, and the digital version has an interactive map.
Food and Diets
The guide book is rife with wonderful suggestions of where and what to eat. Lonely Guide suggests eateries based on each locale you’re in. So you’ll learn about and find out where to eat northern food like Kao Soi; the raw meat dishes of the northeast; and the spiy curries of the south. Although there isn’t a ton of info on gluten free diets, vegetarian and vegan diets get a mention.
One of the most important parts of travel in Thailand is health care. Accidents can happen. And for travelers with preexisting problems, knowing which hospitals can help them in an emergency is vital. The guide does offer a solid guide to average costs of health care in Thailand.
Many travelers face anxiety when thinking about how much and what kind of money to bring to Thailand. Some bring travelers checks while others bring wads of cash. Other travels use ATM machines. But as noted in the guide, ATMs can charge $5 or more for withdrawals. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t offer any long-term solutions for getting money into Thailand, but it does warn you of the added costs. (For that, you’re better off checking out our detailed review of Moneytis.)
Is it The Holy Grail of Thailand Travel?
The Lonely Planet’s Thailand Travel Guide has a lot of excellent resources built into it including a variety of maps, info on consulates, a Thai language guide, and maybe best of all the historical anecdotes that give context to the culture you’re experiencing.
Even if the hardcover is heavy, whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a new arrival, it’s worth picking up.
And of you’re not enthusiastic about carrying around a book, pick up the digital version and download it on your tablet, laptop, or phone.