Thailand is a famous backpacker destination for recent graduates and 20 somethings. The country is popular with youngsters due its affordability and party reputation. And, honestly, I can see why young people love Thailand, but I never had a chance to visit in my 20s. Instead, I chose to visit Thailand in my 30s.
From the moment of arrival, it became clear that Thailand is swarming with foreign party seekers. If you’re not prepared, these youthful nomads can ruin your trip with their party antics and general disregard for Thai culture. While tourism is important to Thailand’s economy, I prefer to travel in a slightly less intoxicated manner. Yes, I said slightly… I’m not a saint! Below I’ve listed 5 ways you can enhance your visit to Thailand as a 30-something.
How to visit Thailand in your 30s
1). Stay in guest houses
In Thailand, guest houses are affordable, prevalent and can be rather luxurious (for budget accommodation). We even stayed in a few island bungalows! Average cost is 600-1000 baht per night ($17-30 USD).
While I normally don’t shy away from backpacker accommodations, hostels do not make financial sense in Thailand unless you are traveling alone. A hostel bed can cost 400-500 baht per night. Since my group would have needed four bunks, it made more sense to book two guest houses. Staying in a guest house will help you avoid the party scene, which is never far away in Thailand. So grab a beer at the nearby bar or hostel and later retire to your luxurious bungalow. The best of both worlds!
Many guest houses offer wifi, air conditioning, western toilets, warm showers, etc. It’s a luxury compared to many accommodations you’ll find as you visit Thailand.
2). Book a few tours
If you have room in your budget, splurge for a few tours. We took a cooking class in Chaing Mai, scuba diving in Koh Tao, sea kayaking in Phang Nga Bay, and a boat tour to Maya Bay (the beach from the film “The Beach). I was never disappointed with any tour I took in Thailand. And they are very affordable at less than 1000 baht ($28 USD) per tour, with lunch included! Book tours and domestic travel at any local Thai travel agency and shop around for the best price.
3). Get a massage
Massages in Thailand typically cost about 300 baht ($9 USD). I had four massages in three weeks and that simply wasn’t enough! Have a foot massage after walking all day, or a shoulder massage if you’re feeling jet-lagged. Many parlors have “couples” rooms, so you can chat with your friend or significant other during your massage. As a bonus, many have air conditioning. Massages are a great way to escape the heat. As with almost everything in Thailand, you can bargain for the best price, but be sure to come to an agreement before getting a massage.
4). Visit an Elephant Sanctuary
Instead of riding an elephant (like many heedless tourists do), visit an elephant sanctuary and learn about elephant abuse in Thailand. We chose Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, and it was one of the best things we did in Thailand! During our visit, we were able to feed and bath the elephants. I’d say “once in a lifetime experience,” but I’ll be back. A visit to the park costs 2,500 baht ($72 USD) which will keep the youngsters away – they save their money for the bar.
5). Do as the locals do, and know when to splurge
On some of the islands in Thailand, you’ll find more westerners than thais. I encourage you to stay away from tourist bars and restaurants. Some of the best (and cheapest) food in Thailand is found at a street food vendor or a small local restaurant. Just point to what you want and pay with cash. Learn to say “Thank You” in Thai; it goes a long way!
That being said, sometimes it’s a good idea to splurge. I booked a 2nd class seat on an overnight train, without air conditioning, from Bangkok to the southern islands. It was a very uncomfortable sweaty night. Spending a little extra on your accommodations and domestic travel is worth it. Save money elsewhere.
Activities you should try as a 30-something when you visit Thailand:
- Walk through, buy and taste at local markets and night markets
- Watch a thai boxing match
- Visit Wats (Buddhist temples)
- Rent a motorbike in Northern Thailand or Koh Tao to get out of the populated areas. You don’t need a special license.
- Take a tuk tuk once or twice. They are slightly more expensive than metered taxis, but unique!
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