Planning a trip to Thailand
When my partner and I were starting to think about planning a holiday, the heavy lifting was given to me. She’d done the hard slog previously for our trip to the US a couple of years ago, and now it was my turn. I started to stress a bit, because once we'd decided where to go, I had a seemingly insurmountable number of chores to do.
Luckily, CHOICE had recently launched CHOICE Travel, a one-stop shop for travel information and advice. I decided to take it for a test run to see if it could tell me where to start in planning our trip to Thailand. It had been three years since our last holiday, and my planning skills were a bit rusty.
The CHOICE Travel experience
Fortunately, Thailand is a popular destination for Australians, and it had its own destination guide on CHOICE Travel so there was plenty of information about it. The best place for me to start was the…
The Thailand Travel Checklist.
I used the Thailand travel checklist to see what I needed to do before leaving. Some preliminary research included visa requirements, vaccinations, and so on. It was very useful having all these items to check off as I went, to reassure me that I’d taken all the precautions necessary. And some things just hadn't occurred to me, such as notifying our bank that we were going overseas, or registering on smartraveller.gov.au, just in case.
And of course, one essential item was travel insurance. Normally we just go with our health insurance provider for travel insurance, but the Checklist prompted me to check out the free travel insurance comparison – the best product found by our insurance team was cheaper and had more coverage than our usual insurer.
I'm a bit of a data hog and can't be without internet for more than five minutes. Before leaving on our trip I took the time to find out what kind of data pack for our smartphones was available at Bangkok airport, so we could get online as soon as we got off the flight. Having full access to data made it easier to satisfy ourselves that taxis were taking us where we actually wanted to go, that their advice was sound – no, the hotel hasn't closed for repairs actually – and that we were being charged the right amount (yes, please put the meter on).
TripAdvisor as trip adviser
The ‘Need to do’ section had more detailed info on what we … needed to do! A section on ‘Handy links and apps’ made me more aware of tripadviser.com.au, which, while useful, I tend to take with a grain of salt given the amount of astroturfing and fake reviews. But it was still good to get an idea of what was around.
Downloading maps from Google Maps along with other information before leaving – as urged on the ‘Need to do’ page – was very handy. I don't think I'll ever need to buy a guidebook again. It made it easier to get around, and the latest information was great for finding some interesting day tours and even adding (genuine) reviews when we got back from Thailand.
Need to know
This section covers topics such as the best time to go, Thai culture, health and safety, and local laws and things to watch out for. I discovered that we’d be travelling in wet season, but fortunately we weren’t put off. We had a total of three wet days in 17 days of travel. Not a bad innings for an off-season trip!
Accommodation and transport
Using the Transport and Accommodation guide on the CHOICE website, we knew where to go for taxis at Bangkok airport and what to expect in terms of cost. This is a point in our travel period that can make or break the rest of the trip – at least for us. Because we knew what to expect we could avoid the potential ‘scam the tourist’ scenario which can leave a bad taste in the mouth for the rest of the trip.
Learning about connecting flights through to Chiang Mai and Koh Samui also meant we went straight from the guide to booking flights. The only disappointment was learning about the ethical elephant park too late – it was booked out for months in advance!
So, how do I rate CHOICE Travel Destination Guides for planning a trip to Thailand? Definitely 4.5 out of 5 – I'm saving the half star for when CHOICE starts organising trips for members (and staff).