Cheap flights to Thailand are on every traveller's wish list. Islands to cast away on? Check. Cities to kick up your heels in? Check. Perfect weather? Check. Great food? Check. Stirring history and culture? Check. Friendly locals? Check. 

Most travellers arrive in Bangkok, the teeming, bustling, fast-paced capital city in the centre of the kingdom. After a couple of days here to soak up the culture, do some shopping and sample the famed nightlife (Khao San Road is the destination of choice for backpackers), there's often a choice to be made between going north to Chiang Mai to see the magnificent temples and experience, however briefly, the traditional lifestyle of the hill tribes or to the islands for some R&R. 

Thailand has three main groupings of islands, a paradise for every traveller. There are those between Bangkok and Cambodia (Ko Chang, Koh Samet, Koh Samui, Koh Tao, the divers' destination, and Koh Pha-Ngan, famous for the full-moon parties at Hat Rin beach), the islands in the southern Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui, the third-largest island after Phuket and Koh Chang), and the islands in the Andaman Sea (Phuket, Khao Lak and Phi Phi Island). 

Savvy travellers will try to do both - go north and go off shore - and when back at home, book more flights. One trip may not be enough to experience all that this fascinating country has to offer. 

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Thailand climate

Thailand has a tropical climate with three seasons. March through May is the summer. June through September is the rainy season (green season, as the locals call it), however Australians considering booking cheap flights to Thailand should keep in mind that the rainy season is similar to the rainy season in other tropical climes. It rains hard for an hour or so and then the sun comes out. The cool season runs from October through February. The average annual temperature is 28 degrees (Celsius), the north will be mostly cooler than the south.

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When to fly to Thailand

Seasonality varies according to where you go and what you do once you step off your cheap flights to Thailand. For beaches, visit between mid-November and mid-March. April/May is hottest but afternoon showers will cool things down. Conditions for scuba diving are good for most of the year, but visibility is low during the rainy season. 

Peak season: 
November to late March is peak season but July and August are busy too. 

Off season: 
Try travelling between May and October to save some dollars. 

Shoulder season: 
Go in June to experience a less-crowded and less-expensive Thailand.

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Getting around Thailand

Trains are frequent, comfortable and punctual. They may be on the slow side, but this affords a great view of the surrounding countryside. Buses, in contrast, are very fast and, importantly, air-conditioned. If time is short, fly. There are several regional airports, and domestic flights are easy to find. 

For a city or resort, the best ways of getting around are by taxi, rickshaw, pickup, hired car and driver or, for the ultimate tourist experience, tuk-tuk. In the city taxis are usually metered. Ensure that the meter is switched on at the start of your journey. When it comes to a tuk-tuk or rickshaw journey, negotiate the fare before you start off. 

Public transport will get you around Bangkok. While Chiang Mai has a limited bus service, there are lots of songtaos (covered pickups) and tuk-tuks. Hail a songtao at the side of the street; their fares are reasonable. Lots of travellers hire motorcycles and bikes in Chiang Mai. Don't be shy, drive defensively.

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Thailand insider information

  • Taurutau National Marine Park has some of Thailand's best dive sites. The visibility is amazing, the marine life plentiful and very, very colourful. Put the reef off Sunrise Beach on Koh Lipe and the reef in front of the ranger station on Koh Ravi on your must-dive list. 
  • Camp on the twin islands Koh Rok Nok and Koh Rok Nai in the Ko Lanta archipelago. Ao Sarn Chao is one of Thailand's best beaches. Between the islands there's 20 metres' visibility over a coral reef. 
  • Shell Fossil Beach in Krabi lacks the soft sands of other islands but has something unique. A 75-million-year accumulation of shell deposits makes the beach look as if it is made of concrete slabs. 
  • Be respectful in the temples and around statues of Buddha. On no account clamber on top of one. Likewise, don't touch a Thai person on the head or point with your feet. All are no-nos. 

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Thailand airports

Bangkok International Suvarnabhumi (BKK) (website: www.suvarnabhumiairport.com). The airport is located in Samut Prakan Province, about 25km from downtown Bangkok.

Chiang Mai International (CNX) (website: www2.airportthai.co.th). The airport is situated 4km southwest of downtown Chiang Mai.

Chiang Rai International (CEI) (website: www2.airportthai.co.th). Chiang Rai International is located about 8km from the centre of Chiang Rai.

Hat Yai International (HDY) (website: www2.airportthai.co.th). The airport is located 9km from the centre of Hat Yai, in southern Thailand.

Phuket International (HKT) (website: www2.airportthai.co.th). HKT is 32km from downtown Phuket.

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Passport/Visa

Australian nationals holding a valid passport can enter Thailand (landing at an international airport, that is) without a visa and stay for up to 30 days. However, travellers without visas who arrive at one of Thailand's borders from Burma, Laos, Cambodia or Malaysia are now allowed to stay in the country for only 15 days. You will need to arrange a visa at one of the regional consulates (located in the following cities: Vientiane and Savannakhet, Laos; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Rangoon, Burma; Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Bharu, Malaysia).

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Entry requirements

Passports should be valid for a minimum of six months. Australians taking cheap flights to Thailand should have enough money to cover their holidays. They should also have a return or onward ticket.

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Kara Segedin
Writer, traveller, Tweeter, blogger and part-time adventurer. A kiwi living in London off to explore the world! I can never travel enough!
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