Thailand is renowned for its captivating culture, breathtaking beauty, and mouthwatering cuisine. But the jewel of Southeast Asia can be an intimidating country for those planning a family trip to Thailand with kids for the first time.
From the fast-paced capital of Bangkok to the laid-back jungles surrounding Chiang Mai, visiting Thailand with kids can be a memorable experience for families. Its countless mesmerizing temples and plethora of unique, family-friendly activities makes Thailand one of the best destinations in Asia for a family vacation.
However, if you are planning to travel to Thailand with kids, there are a few things to know and prepare for prior to your trip.
This family travel guide to visiting Thailand with kids includes the 10 most important things to know before your trip – plus a few tips for visiting and must-see attractions in Thailand for kids.
Is Thailand safe for families?
Known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand is generally considered a warm and welcoming country for tourists. If visiting Thailand with kids, you’ll find the country is just as safe as nearly any other tourist destinations.
Violent crime is rare. Even more so, violent crime directed at tourists is extremely rare.
As a visitor to Thailand, the primary issues you will want to look out for are petty crimes, like pickpocketing. Scams, such as taxi drivers claiming their meter doesn’t work to charge you more, are also common.
Overall, there is nothing particularly dangerous about Thailand. If visiting with very young children, like babies and toddlers, we’d recommend waiting until they are fully vaccinated and taking precautions to avoid mosquito-borne viruses. More on that below.
Things to know when visiting Thailand with kids
Safety is of course top concern when planning family holidays, but there are a few other things that are important to know when visiting Thailand with kids.
By going into your trip with knowledge of what to expect, you avoid culture shock and set yourself up for an even more enjoyable vacation.
Here are 10 things to know before your family vacation to Thailand with kids.
You shouldn’t drink the tap water in Thailand
Tap water in Thailand is generally not considered drinkable, although you can brush your teeth with it and shower in the water without any concerns.
While efforts have been made to improve water quality in urban areas, the infrastructure and water treatment processes may not meet the same standards as in some other countries like the United States.
The tap water can contain harmful bacteria, parasites, and pollutants that can cause gastrointestinal issues which can quickly ruin your vacation.
Most hotels and even budget hostels provide plenty of complimentary bottled water or offer refillable water stations for guests to use as frequently as needed.
Additionally, the convenience store chain, 7-11, is everywhere. 7-11 sells large jugs of bottled water that we would purchase upon arriving in a city to make sure we were staying very hydrated during our trip.
The weather is very hot and humid
Thailand’s tropical climate means hot and humid weather throughout the year. We visited during the summer months, and it was dripping-sweat hot.
Pack lightweight and breathable clothing for yourself and for your children to keep the family comfortable during your trip.
The heat and humidity can be intense, especially for children. We carried water bottles around with us everywhere to prevent dehydration and used sunscreen multiple times a day.
Try to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of bottled water and carrying water bottles with you during your outings. Encourage your kids to drink water regularly, even if they don’t feel thirsty.
We also let our daughter drink fruit smoothies and eat coconut ice cream each day to further promote hydration and help her cool off during breaks from sightseeing.
Do not flush toilet paper in Thailand
Depending on where you stay in Thailand, there is a good chance you will not be able to flush toilet paper down the toilet. Instead, you are asked to dispose of any tissues or sanitary items in the trash receptacle in the bathroom.
While larger, luxury tourist-friendly hotels and establishments will likely have biodegradable, flushable toilet paper, many smaller hotels in older parts of cities or remote areas do not have plumbing systems that are designed to handle toilet paper.
In such cases, you will find signs or notices instructing you to dispose of toilet paper in a separate bin provided in the bathroom.
Most toilets also have a sprayer nozzle that can be used to rinse after using the bathroom, similar to a bidet. While this is helpful, the sprayer is trickier to use than a standard bidet, especially for children.
Pack accordingly to tour the temples
Remember to dress modestly when visiting temples or more conservative areas and dress your children in appropriate clothing, as well.
Women and girls are expected to cover their shoulders, mid-drifts, and knees when visiting temples while men and boys should wear pants and avoid tank tops.
Flip flops or sandals are also beneficial on days when you plan to visit temples during your Thailand travel itinerary, as you are expected to remove your shoes upon entering temples. Many hotels also ask guests to remove their shoes before entering their hotel rooms.
You will want to bring or buy mosquito repellent
Mosquito repellent is highly recommended for a trip to Thailand due to the prevalence of mosquitoes in certain regions. Thailand’s tropical climate provides a conducive environment for mosquitoes to thrive, especially during the rainy season.
Additionally, mosquitoes can transmit diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, and Zika virus, although the risk varies depending on the specific areas visited.
To protect yourself and your family from mosquito-borne illnesses, it is essential to apply mosquito repellent containing DEET or other recommended active ingredients daily.
We used mosquito repellent daily and didn’t have any issues with bites and enjoyed our Thailand vacation without any health concerns.
Be aware of stray and wild animals
Thailand has a significant population of stray animals, including cats and dogs. While some areas, like rural communities, may have more visible stray animals than others, it is not uncommon to come across them in various parts of the country.
As in many other countries where stray animals are an issue, like Morocco and Guatemala, it’s important to exercise caution around stray animals, as they may not be accustomed to human interaction or may carry diseases.
Additionally, wild animals, like monkeys, are also found throughout Thailand. If visiting Thailand with children, be sure to keep kids at arm’s length around wild animals and strays.
Thai food is spicy
Thai cuisine is famous for its flavorful and spicy dishes. While there are milder options available, be prepared that even seemingly mild dishes may still have a spicy kick.
Some restaurants allow you to order food with no spice, but if you plan to sample the street food (which you definitely should!) that isn’t always an option.
If your children are not comfortable with spicy food, chicken fried rice is a non-spicy alternative that can be found on most restaurant menus.
Don’t forget to sample delicious tropical fruits that are abundant in Thailand, as well. Thailand is known as “The Kitchen to the World” since they grow so many fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are exported worldwide.
Cash is king in Thailand
Carrying cash in Thailand is essential! Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in major establishments such as hotels, upscale restaurants, and shopping malls, but there are still many places where cash is the preferred method of payment.
Small local shops, street vendors, night markets, and public transportation often only accept cash. Additionally, some rural or remote areas have limited access to card payment facilities.
Carrying cash allows you to have flexibility and convenience when making purchases or paying for services in these instances.
While things in Thailand are inexpensive compared to the USA, Canada, or western Europe, you’ll want to have a plan for how much cash you may need for your Thailand family trip so you can make larger ATM withdrawals.
ATM fees are more expensive in Thailand, averaging about $6 per foreign transaction, compared to about half that when visiting somewhere in Europe, for example.
Having cash on hand ensures that you can readily pay for daily expenses, transportation, and local experiences, providing you with a smooth and hassle-free journey throughout your time in Thailand.
Respect local customs and traditions
Teach your children to be mindful of local customs, such as removing their shoes before entering temples or homes, using their right hand for greetings and accepting or giving objects, and avoiding public displays of affection.
In Thai culture, it is considered highly disrespectful to touch or pat someone’s head, whether they are adults or children. The head is considered sacred and the most spiritually significant part of the body in Thai beliefs. It is believed to house the soul and represents a person’s highest point.
Touching someone’s head, even in a well-intentioned manner, can be seen as an invasion of personal space and an affront to their dignity.
So, while you may not feel compelled to ever touch a stranger’s head, it’s important for you, also, to avoid touching your own child’s head when in public out of respect for Thai culture and beliefs.
If you rent a car, expect to drive on the left
Driving in Thailand can be a stressful and somewhat challenging experience, particularly for those who are used to driving on the right hand side of the road, like in the United States.
Aside from driving on the opposite side of the road and car to which many of us may be accustomed, traffic in major cities like Bangkok can be congested and chaotic, as you’ll be sharing the road with motorcycles, scooters, tuk-tuks, and songthaews (shared trucks) that seem to follow their own traffic rules.
Road signs are generally in Thai, so it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with local driving regulations and signage before hitting the road.
International driving permits are required for foreigners, and car rental services are readily available in popular tourist destinations. While we did rent a car and drive from Krabi to Khao Sok National Park, we didn’t and wouldn’t want to rent a car in a city like Bangkok.
Looking for other great Asian destinations for families? Read our post on visiting Japan with kids.
Best activities in Thailand for families
Thailand is teeming with activities that are fantastic for families, particularly for those who enjoy adventure, culture, and trying new things. Here are a few can’t miss activities that are perfect for those traveling to Thailand with kids.
Thailand’s wildlife encounters can be incredible, but you will want to do your research and make sure the animal encounters are ethical and the animals are well-treated.
Elephants are perhaps the animals Thailand is most known for. For centuries, elephants have been an important part of Thailand’s way of life. For many years though, elephants were used for heavy labor, like logging.
But in more recent years, Thailand has placed strict restrictions on logging, and many of the elephants are now living out their lives in sanctuaries. In fact, visiting an elephant sanctuary is one of the best things to do around Chiang Mai, where many of the sanctuaries are located.
At the sanctuaries, like Into the Wild Elephant Camp, you’ll be able to feed, trek through the jungle, and in some cases, bathe in a river or mud pit with the elephants while they cool off. It is magical and will likely be one of the most unforgettable experiences in Thailand for kids.
Be sure to research elephant sanctuaries that prioritize the well-being of the animals, avoid attractions that involve animal exploitation, like riding elephants, and opt for eco-friendly wildlife experiences instead.
Southern Thailand is best known for its stunning beaches. From the Phi Phi Islands, to Koh Samui, Krabi, and Phuket, the region is a beach lover’s paradise.
Kids will enjoy snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding or simply splashing around in the calm ocean bays.
Any trip to Thailand with kids should include at least a few days enjoying the beach life and scenery in southern Thailand and the Thai islands.
Also read: The Best Things to Do in Krabi, Thailand
While Thailand may have its fair share of natural attractions, there are lots of adventurous activities in the country designed for the amusement and enjoyment of visitors.
Around Chiang Mai, families visiting Thailand with kids might enjoy exploring the scenic jungles while soaring through the air on a zipline cable or ropes course.
There are several zipline attractions where you can test your limits and build your courage, all while taking in the beauty of the dense forests in Northern Thailand.
Thailand has some of the best markets in the world. Whether you visit one of the popular night markets (our favorites were in Chiang Mai) or go to the famous floating market or train market outside of Bangkok, the markets in Thailand are fun and exciting places to visit in Thailand for families.
The markets are filled with local vendors selling handmade crafts, clothing, Thailand souvenirs, and street food.
The night markets are a great place to have dinner when traveling with kids, as each person can choose a different food stall and buy the type of food they want.
Also read: 4 Day Bangkok Itinerary
Go for a Hike
Thailand is home to some beautiful national parks. Whether you want to go on a cave hike in Koh Sok National Park or hike to beautiful waterfalls near Chiang Mai, you and your kids can have a blast exploring nature together.
If taking a hike with a local guide, your guide might also point out different plants that are edible, which adventurous kids may be inclined to try, or give more background on the area and the types of plants and animals that live in the jungles and forests.
Frequently asked questions about visiting Thailand with kids
When planning our family trip to Thailand, we had so many questions. Here are a few frequently asked questions that might be helpful as you plan your own Thailand family vacation.
Do they speak English in Thailand?
Thai is the official language of Thailand, however, tourism is one of the country’s largest industries. For this reason, many people in Thailand, particularly in tourist areas, can speak at least a little English.
While you may not have long conversations with locals if you do not speak Thai, you can get by in Thailand using English only.
What time of year is best to visit Thailand with kids?
November through March are the most popular months to visit Thailand. The weather is dry and not as hot. Rainy season starts in late June and runs through October.
We visited during late June and July and found the weather was very hot and humid. We experienced a couple days where it rained, but the rain typically came as a heavy downpour that lasted for about an hour and then stopped, so it didn’t hinder our experience or stop us from sightseeing.
Despite the rain, heat and humidity, we had a blast in Thailand. The country is great to visit anytime of year!
Where should you visit in Thailand with kids?
Thailand has so many incredible places to visit, and where you should go really depends on your family’s interests and unique travel style.
With that said, Chiang Mai is a wonderful city with so many activities in and around the city, from hikes, to elephant sanctuaries, to ziplining.
The beaches in Thailand are also really great for families, with Railay Beach and Ao Nang Beach outside of Krabi, Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand, or the beautiful but busy Bang Tao Beach in the district of Phuket among the most popular.
What is the best way to travel around Thailand?
The main tourist destinations in Thailand are not close together. So, you’ll have to fly or take an overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, for example, or from Bangkok to Krabi. Trains and inexpensive domestic flights are the best ways to get between the tourist cities.
Within major cities, tuk tuks, shared trucks, and taxis are all easy options. Some cities also have a metro system and ferries that you can use to get around efficiently.
Furthermore, many people will rent scooters or motorcycles to explore more rural areas. However, if visiting Thailand with kids, a scooter or motorcycle is not the safest option.
Thailand with Kids: Why You’ll Love It!
One of the first things you will notice upon arriving in Thailand is the genuine warmth and friendliness of the Thai people. Thais have a deep appreciation for family values, and children are highly cherished in their society.
Traveling with kids in Thailand means your family will be welcomed with open arms throughout the country.
We spent two weeks in Thailand after a long layover in Hong Kong and before moving onto Singapore for a few days. While Thailand was always on our family’s travel list, it wasn’t until we visited that we realized it is one of the best destinations for families in the world.
From the stunning beaches to the cultural splendor, Thailand offers a diverse range of activities and attractions that cater to the interests and needs of every member of the family. It truly is a treasure trove waiting to be explored by families seeking an extraordinary and adventurous vacation experience.
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