Where to stay in Thailand first time: Best places

The best areas to stay in Thailand for first-timers are Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan, but there are so many other places worth noting such as Chiang Rai, Pai, Koh Lanta, Hua Hin, and Koh Chang.

In this post, I will help you to decide where to stay in Thailand for the first time, and the best thing to do in each city.

Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southeast Asia that is known for its tropical climate, mouth watering food, white sandy beaches, shopping paradise, and Buddhist temples.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Sukhumvit
💎 Best luxury hotel:Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal21
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Kokotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 50
💰 Best budget hotel:Rezt Bangkok

15 Best Places to Stay in Thailand for first-timers

1. Bangkok, where to stay in Thailand for first-timers

Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand and is one of the best places to stay in Thailand for first-timers. With the number of visitors increasing each year, it is always a popular tourist destination.

Some of the best things to do and see in Bangkok are visiting its temples such as the Temple of Dawn called Wat Arun, Temple of the Emerald Buddha inside the Grand Palace called Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of The Reclining Buddha called Wat Pho, and the Temple on the Mount called Wat SraKet. 

One fact you must know is all the temples on the Thai Baht coins are from Bangkok.

The city is situated along the Chao Phraya River and is also home to interesting palaces, museums, parks, as well as shopping centers,  floating markets, and markets like Chatuchak Weekend Market, Sampeng Market, Yaowarat Market. When shopping at markets, you can practice your bargain skills.

Some of the big shopping malls in Bangkok are EmQuartier, Emporium, and Terminal 21 Bangkok in the Sukhumvit area; Asiatique, Icon Siam on the Riverside; Siam Paragon, Siam Center, Siam Discovery, Central World Bangkok, MBK, Pantip Plaza, and Platinum Fashion Mall Bangkok in the Bangkok’s Siam Area.

You can explore the city’s streets or alleys called Soi in Thai. Sukhumvit Soi 11 is one of the busiest streets within the Asok and Nana districts, while Soi Sukhumvit 55 is a trendy place for dining. Soi Nana and Soi Cowboy, the city’s Red Light District, are also great places to enjoy vibrant nightlife.

Bangkok is well-connected with BTS Skytrain and the MRT rail, making it one of the best ways to travel around the city to avoid deadlock traffic. If you plan to use taxis, be sure to use a taxi meter.

The city is a haven for foodies with so much street food such as Pad Thai, Tom Yum, Khao Soi, Som Tam, Massaman Curry. With  noodle soups, curries, and sweet desserts, you will love this city for its authentic food.

Thailand’s capital is home to the largest Chinatown in the world. Also known as Yaowarat, the neighborhood is a buzzing street food hub and shopping center of the city. Here you will find the Hua Lamphong railway station, and the Temple of Wat Traimit.

Bangkok is the world’s massage paradise where you can try Thai massage throughout the parlors in the city.

Bangkok is also one of the most popular backpacker destinations in the world. It is home to Khao San Road, a backpacker hub and a cheap accommodation hotspot in the city. 

The capital city of Thailand is also known for its rooftop bars, located on top of skyscrapers, offering stunning views over the city. Lebua State Tower Sky Bar, Vertigo, Octave Rooftop Bar are some of the most popular sky bars in the city.

Bangkok is a great base in Thailand. You can choose to book a hotel in the areas of Sukhumvit, Siam, Silom, Old Town, Khao San Road, Chinatown, Riverside, and Pratunam because they are the most popular neighborhoods for tourists.

See more: Where to Stay in Bangkok First Time

2. Phuket, where to stay in Thailand for beaches

Phuket is a famous beach holiday, located in southern Thailand in the Andaman Sea. Phuket  attracts million tourists each year who come to visit for its world-famous beaches, amazing food, vibrant nightlife, lively night markets, and street arts.

Phuket is Thailand’s big island with magnificent beaches located on the west coast and Phuket Old Town located on the east coast of the island. The island is known for its vibrant nightlife with many beach clubs, rooftop bars, and nightclubs, especially on Bangla road.

Some of the most beautiful beaches on the island are the Rawai, Patong, Karon, Kamala, Kata Yai, Kata Noi, and Mai Khao. All the beaches have white sand, crystal clear water, and water activities such as diving, snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, and windsurfing.

You can take a boat tour to Phang Nga Bay, Maya Bay, and Phi Phi Islands with its two islands  Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh.

In addition to the beach, Phuket is home to the Old Town where you can find many Chinese shrines, Chinese Restaurants, and an annual Chinese Vegetarian Festival.

The island also has delicious Thai food which is influenced by Malaysian and Chinese cuisine. There are many authentic restaurants with local products and seafood. You can try basic street food or dine at a Michelin Restaurant.

The island is home to numerous night markets, offering a wide variety of cheap street food and drinks. There are The Old Phuket Town Walking Street (Lard Yai), Chillva Market, Dao Aungkhan Market, Phuket Indy Market (Lard Ploy Khong), Fun Friday Avenue Market, Naka Weekend Market (Chao Fah Variety Market).

Phuket has a beautiful nature scene with lush green rainforests, waterfalls, and Sirinat National Park where you can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and biking. You can enjoy sunset views at the Promthep cape viewpoint, Karon viewpoint, and Windmill viewpoint.

There are also several cultural attractions such as Wat Chalong Buddhist temple, and the 148-foot-tall Big Buddha.

See more: Where to Stay in Phuket First Time

3. Chiang Mai, where to stay in Thailand for mountains

Chiang Mai is one of the best places to stay in Thailand because it is the most popular city and the capital city in northern thailand. It is situated along the Ping River, famous for its mountainous landscape, national parks, historical temples, and tribal villages.

Chiang Mai was established in 1296 and was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Chiang Mai Old City still has the remains of walls and moats from its history. 

The city is home to more than 300 temples. Popular temples are Wat Phra Doi Suthep, Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Chiang Yuen, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Suan Dok.

Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains, providing cooler weather compared to Bangkok. In summer months, it can reach 30s degrees Celsius but it is cooler at night.

The city also hosts the Yi Peng and Loy Kratong lantern festivals, making it more popular at this time to see illuminated lanterns in the sky.

There are several elephant sanctuaries in the surrounding area where you can get up close with these elephants. You can feed them and learn more about their habits.

Chiang Mai offers great food from traditional Thai dishes to regional food. There are khao soi curry noodles, gaang hang lair – northern thai curry, som tum green papaya salad.

You can take a trip to San Kamphaeng Hot Springs, which is only around an hour drive from Chiang Mai. You can rent a motorbike and explore Doi Suthep, or Doi Inthanon National Park.

There are many other things to do in this northern Thailand city such as get a massage from women prisoners, hunt for cheap traditional food, enjoy coffee culture, shopping, and nightlife.

Chiang Mai is a convenient location to explore Chiang Rai and Pai, which are only a short ride away. Chiang Rai is home to the Golden Triangle, a meeting point of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. Pai is for laid-back and hippie vibes.

The Old City is the best place to stay in Chiang Mai due to its prime location. If you stay here, you will be located in the middle of the action. You can easily get around on foot, by taxis, tuk-tuks, and songthaews.

See more: Where to Stay in Chiang Mai First Time

4. Chiang Rai, beautiful northernmost area of Thailand

Chiang Rai is the northernmost area of Thailand, located only a few hours from Chiang mai, and also close to Myanmar and Laos. It was the first capital of the Lanna Kingdom, founded in 1262 and later conquered by Burma. 

Chiang Rai is known for its natural beauty, its temples such as Wat Rong Khun (White Temple),  Wat Rong Sua Ten (Blue Temple), and Wat Huay Pla Kang (Big Buddha), as well as the Golden Triangle, the meeting points of 3 countries, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar, and the intersection  of Mekong River and the Ruak River.

Exploring Chiang Rai Old City on foot and visiting temples such as Wat Ming Muang, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Phra Singh, as well as the beautiful Clock Tower.

You can visit the Khun Korn waterfall, one of Chiang Mai’ tallest waterfalls. There are also Huay Mae Sai Waterfall, Pong Phrabat Waterfall.

Chiang Rai is home to the Chiang Rai night bazaar and Chiang Rai Walking street where you can buy souvenirs, handicrafts, and clothing, as well as enjoy a drink or a Thai massage.

Visit the Black House (Baan Dam Museum) for an unique experience where you can view a collection of many Lanna-style buildings.

Chiang Rai is known for its tea where tea lovers can visit the Choui Fong Tea Plantation and Doi Mae Salong to drink a cup of tea, and to eat green tea desserts.

For the best sunrise views, try to get up early and get to Phu Chi Fa points. You can book accommodations near here, or take local public transport.

If you plan to stay in Chiang Rai, I recommend booking a hotel in the Clock Tower Area because it is the most central location to see attractions, with a range of accommodations, restaurants, bars, and shops.

See more: Where to Stay in Chiang Rai First Time

5. Koh Samui, the third largest Island in Thailand

Koh Samui is one of the best places to stay in Thailand due to its beautiful white sandy beaches, spectacular viewpoints, waterfalls, and temples.

Koh Samui is the third largest Island in Thailand and is easy to reach by airplane from Bangkok and Phuket. 

Some of the best beaches in Koh Samui are Chaweng Beach, Lamai Beach, and Taling Ngam Beach. The beaches are ideal places for swimming and watersports.

The island is known as the Spa Capital of Asia, where you can find numerous spa centers. It’s a mecca for health and wellness with yoga, vegan food, and Thai massage.

It is also known for the Na Muang Waterfalls, Samui Elephant Sanctuary, and Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park.

You can visit religious and cultural landmarks such as the Big Buddha temple, Wat Namtok Hin Lad, and the Secret Buddha Garden.

Koh Samui hosts several Thai festivals such as Songkran every April, and the Full Moon parties.

The island is home to the Central Festival shopping center, offering a great shopping experience. It housed numerous brand stores and restaurants.

See more: Where to Stay in Koh Samui First Time

6. Pai, beautiful mountain village in Northern Thailand

Pai is a beautiful mountain village located just a couple of hours from Chiang Mai, The capital city of northern Thailand. Pai is known for its laid-back atmosphere and natural beauty.

There are 3 tribes living around Pai including the Lahu, the Karen, and the Lisu. You can visit the Tha Pai Hot Springs in Mae Hong Son for a warm bath, as well as the Pai Canyon  for a walk.

There are also Lod Cave to visit, Muay Thai boxing classes and  cooking courses to join.

Pai is a great place to visit several waterfalls such as Mor Paeng Waterfall, Pam Bok Waterfall, and Mae Yen Waterfall.

About one hour drive from Pai town, you can see the Temple on the Hill, offering stunning views of its surrounding valleys, especially at sunset.

Other places of interest are visiting the WW2 Memorial Bridge, Wat Phra That Mae Yen, trying Tubing in Pai, strolling along the Pai’s Walking Street.

You can enjoy a party at some of the town’s bars. Popular places are Edible Jazz, Don’t Cry, Sunset Bar Pai, or Ting Tongor Bamboo Bar.

There are also quirky cafes, where you can sit, have a drink, and watch the world go by.

7. Krabi, one of the best areas to stay in Thailand

Krabi is one of the best places to stay in Thailand due to its scenic view and breathtaking beaches, cliffs, caves, or hot springs.

You can do island hopping to Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta, as well as Koh Rok, Koh Talabeng (Skull Island), Koh Gai, Koh Jum, Koh Hong, and Koh Nok. There are long-tail boats, speed boats and ferry day trips.

There are plenty of beautiful beaches for swimming and sunbathing such as Ao Nang, Long Beach, Tonsai Bayi, Phra Nang Beach, Tub Kaek.

The Krabi is famous for its rock climbing with striking cliffs and limestone rocks along the coastline. The Railay peninsula and Tonsai Beach are some of the best places for rock climbing.

It is also a great place for kayaking to enjoy the views and visit fascinating sea caves. For the nightlife, check out Ao Nang, Krabi’s main beach town in mainland Krabi. There are many bars, dive bars, beachside shacks, and sports bars.

Krabi offers great outdoor activities for outdoor lovers at the Emerald Pool at Forest Natural Park, Klong Thom Hot Springs, Khao Phanom Bencha National Park, Khao Khanab Nam, as well as Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta National Park, and Maya Bay.

Another attraction in Krabi is the Wat Tham Sua (Tiger Cave Temple). You can climb up to 100 steps to the top and enjoy views over the city. Other temples are the Wat Kaew Korawaram and the Phra Nang Shrine.

You can shop for cool souvenirs, handicrafts, and tourist t-shirts and trinkets at the weekend markets. There is the Maharaj Market, Talad Sod, Ao Nang Market, and Nongtalay Market.

As in any other cities of Thailand, you can enjoy Thai food with many influences from the large Muslim population. 

If you are visiting Krabi for the first time, it is best to stay in Ao Nang because it is the tourist hub of Krabi province that has a wide range of accommodations and amenities.

See more: Where to Stay in Krabi First Time

8. Phi Phi islands, location of the famous movie The Beach

Phi Phi islands is an archipelago containing 2 main islands,  Koh Phi Phi Leh and Koh Phi Phi Don. Koh Phi Phi Don has lively nightlife, with many beach bars and restaurants along with Tonsai Beach and Tonsai Village.

Phi Phi Leh is a more secluded island, and is the location to the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach. Maya Bay is surrounded by limestone cliffs and a white sand beach.

Phi Phi islands is located off  the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. They are easy to reach from Phuket and Krabi by ferry or speedboat.

 Phi Phi islands provide plenty of activities for adventure seekers such as kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, and hiking. The Viewpoint offers stunning views over the sea.

If you want to stay in Phi Phi island, you can book hotels in Koh Phi Phi Don because it is the only populated island with tourist amenities such as hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops.

9. Koh Phangan, where to stay in Thailand for full moon party

Koh Phangan is one of the best places to stay in Thailand for backpackers and for the Full Moon Party. The island has a beautiful coastline, waterfalls, mountains, and authentic cultural experiences.

Ko Pha-Ngan is located in the Gulf of Thailand, off the east coast of Surat Thani and only 15 km north of Koh Samui. 

Instead of its party and nightlife reputation, you can also relax by white sand beaches under the shade of coconut trees.

Thong Sala is the island’s main town, located on the west coast. It is home to the island’s main port where ferries from the mainland arrive. The town is home to many restaurants, travel agencies, and a supermarket. Thong Sala Night Market is a place to go to enjoy fresh local seafood.

To the north of the island, you will see Baan Chaloklum, a quiet fisherman village  with amenities for your needs. It is a place to escape from the busy Haad Rin.

Popular beaches on Koh Phangan island are the Thong Nai Pan, including Thong Nai Pan Noi and Thong Nai Pan Yai, Haad Yao, Haad Salad, Hat Khuat (Bottle Beach), and Hat Rin famous for its Full Moon party.

The island is home to several waterfalls, including Phaeng Waterfall, and the favorite of King Rama V, Thaan Sadet Waterfall.

You can also enjoy Thai boxing, Muay Thai, windsurfing, diving, kitesurfing, as well as yoga, retreat center, cooking classes, or visit the Angthong Marine Park.

See more: Where to Stay in Koh Phangan

10. Pattaya, great place for nightlife

Pattaya is a popular beach resort located only 10 km from Thailand’s capital city. It is known as Thailand’s Sin City due to its vibrant nightlife and its sex industry.

Pattaya offers crazy nightlife, making it a dream destination for party lovers. It has many bars, restaurants, night bars, and karaoke stations.

The beach offers water sport activities such as windsurfing, swimming, and sunbathing. There are also bungee jumping, skydiving, cycling, and Muay Thai. 

Patay also has a collection of golf courses, seafood restaurants, and international restaurants. You can visit Khao Chee Chan Buddha mountain but remember to dress modestly.

There are shopping opportunities at the floating market of Pattaya and Pattaya walking street, as well as Central festival mall, one of Asia’s largest malls.

Other activities include visiting the Sanctuary of truth, watching the The Tiffany show, and visiting The Elephant Village.

11. Koh Lanta, beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters

Koh Lanta is a group of islands located in the southern part of Thailand, specifically in the province of Krabi. It is known for its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, and stunning sunsets, making it a popular destination for tourists from around the world. 

The largest and most developed island in the group is Koh Lanta Yai, which is home to most of the island’s resorts, restaurants, and other tourist amenities. 

Visitors can enjoy a range of activities on Koh Lanta, including snorkeling, diving, hiking, kayaking, and visiting nearby national parks. 

The island is also known for its laid-back atmosphere and is a great place to relax and unwind.

12. Hua Hin, seaside resort town

Hua Hin is a seaside resort town located on the western coast of Thailand, about 200 kilometers south of Bangkok. It is a popular vacation destination for both locals and international tourists, known for its sandy beaches, warm waters, and vibrant nightlife.

The town offers a variety of activities and attractions, including water sports such as kiteboarding, fishing, and snorkeling, as well as golf courses, night markets, and temples. 

Some of the most popular sites in Hua Hin include the Hua Hin Railway Station, which is considered one of the most beautiful train stations in Thailand, the Khao Takiab Temple, and the Hua Hin Beach.

In recent years, Hua Hin has also become a popular retirement destination for foreigners due to its relaxed lifestyle, warm climate, and affordable cost of living.

13. Koh Tao, a small island located in the Gulf of Thailand

Koh Tao is a small island located in the Gulf of Thailand, known for its beautiful beaches, clear waters, and excellent scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities. The island is part of a group of three islands including Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.

Koh Tao is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world who come to enjoy its stunning scenery and relaxed atmosphere. The island offers a range of accommodation options, from budget guesthouses to luxury resorts, as well as plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops.

One of the main attractions of Koh Tao is its underwater world, which is home to an incredible variety of marine life, including tropical fish, sea turtles, and colorful coral reefs. 

Diving and snorkeling are popular activities here, and there are many dive schools and tour operators that offer trips to explore the island’s underwater beauty.

Other popular activities on Koh Tao include kayaking, paddleboarding, rock climbing, and hiking. There are also plenty of beaches to relax on, as well as several viewpoints that offer stunning panoramic views of the island and the surrounding sea.

14. Koh Chang

Koh Chang, also called Elephant Island, is one of the largest island in Thailand, situated in the Trat Province of eastern Thailand.

Koh Chang is known for its beautiful beaches, clear waters, and lush rainforest. Popular activities on the island include swimming, snorkeling, diving, hiking, and kayaking. The island is also home to several waterfalls, including the Klong Plu waterfall, which is one of the most popular attractions on the island.

Koh Chang has a range of accommodations, from budget guesthouses to luxury resorts, and there are many restaurants, bars, and shops catering to tourists. The island can be reached by ferry from the mainland, and there are also direct flights to Trat airport from Bangkok.

15. Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe is a small island located in the southern region of Thailand, near the Malaysian border. It is part of the Adang-Rawi Archipelago in the Andaman Sea.

Koh Lipe is famous for its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, and stunning coral reefs. The island has three main beaches: Pattaya Beach, Sunrise Beach, and Sunset Beach.

Pattaya Beach is the busiest of the three and is home to many restaurants, bars, and shops. Sunrise Beach is quieter and more secluded, while Sunset Beach is the smallest of the three and is popular among those looking for a more peaceful and private experience.

Koh Lipe is also a great destination for snorkeling and diving. There are several diving schools on the island that offer courses and guided dives to explore the colorful coral reefs and abundant marine life in the surrounding waters.

To reach Koh Lipe, visitors can take a ferry or speedboat from nearby islands such as Koh Phi Phi or Phuket, or from the mainland cities of Pak Bara or Satun.

Where should I go for the first time in Thailand?

Bangkok is overall the best place to stay in Thailand for the first time because it is the capital and tourist hub of the country. Bangkok offers great nightlife, shopping, dining, and sightseeing.

Where is the best part of Thailand to stay?

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket are some of the best areas to stay in Thailand because they are the most popular tourist destinations in the country. You can also consider staying in other parts such as Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Chiang Rai, and Pai.

What is the most beautiful part of Thailand?

Thailand is known for its gorgeous beaches, lush jungles, and stunning temples. While beauty is subjective, some popular destinations include the islands of Phuket and Koh Samui, the city of Chiang Mai, and the bustling metropolis of Bangkok. 

Where is the safest place to stay in Thailand?

Some of the safest places to stay in Thailand include Chiang Mai, Krabi, Bangkok, Phuket, and Koh Samui. These areas offer beautiful scenery, friendly locals, and low crime rates, making them perfect for a worry-free vacation.

Overall, Bangkok is the best area to stay in Thailand for first-timers because it is the most popular destination of the country. So there you have it, where to stay in Thailand for the first time, all you need to do now is to book your hotels, and get ready to go!

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