Where to stay in Thailand for the first time?

Thailand is one of my favorite travel destinations in South East Asia and I have traveled to many cities in the country. In today’s article, I will help you to find the best places to stay in Thailand for first-time visitors.

I will share with you what I believe are the best areas to stay in Thailand for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map. I’ll also recommend some of the best hotels in Thailand for various budgets.

Thailand is a vibrant and diverse country with a rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and a welcoming atmosphere. If you’re planning your first trip to Thailand, here are some tips to make the most of your experience:

Thailand has various regions with different attractions, so you can plan your itinerary based on your interests. For example, Bangkok for city life, Chiang Mai/ Chiang Rai/ Pai for culture and nature, Phuket/ Krabi/ Koh Samui for beaches, and Pattaya for nightlife.

Thailand has three main seasons: hot (March to June), rainy (July to October), and cool (November to February). Consider the weather when planning your trip. The cool season is generally the most comfortable for travel.

The Thai people have great respect for their monarchy. Avoid making any negative comments or gestures towards the royal family, as this is considered highly disrespectful and can lead to legal consequences. . When visiting temples, cover your shoulders and knees, and remove your shoes.

Thai food is renowned worldwide. Don’t miss the chance to try local dishes like Pad Thai, Tom Yum Goong (spicy shrimp soup), Som Tum (green papaya salad), and Massaman Curry. Street food is also a must-try for an authentic culinary experience.

Thailand has various transportation options. Tuk-tuks, songthaews, taxis, and ride-sharing apps like Grab are common in cities, while long-distance travel may involve buses, trains, or domestic flights. You can rent a scooter to explore, but be cautious with traffic, and always wear a helmet.

Thailand is famous for its beautiful islands and beaches. Consider island hopping to destinations like Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, or Krabi. Each island has its unique charm and activities.

Thailand is dotted with stunning temples. You can visit iconic ones like Wat Arun and Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, and explore the ancient city of Ayutthaya for its historical temples.

Stay hydrated, use sunscreen, and take precautions against mosquito bites, especially in tropical areas. Be cautious with street food hygiene, and drink bottled or purified water.

Where to stay in Thailand for the first time?

The best places to stay in Thailand for first-timers and tourists are Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai. They are the most popular tourist destinations in the country and the top 3 cities on most travelers Thailand Intinities. You can consider visiting Chiang Rai, Krabi, and Koh Samui if your time allows. 

Bangkok is the most popular place to go in Thailand for the first time. It is the capital city of the country that is known for its vibrant street life, visit grand temples such as Wat Pho and Wat Arun, explore the bustling markets, and enjoy the city’s nightlife. Don’t miss the iconic Grand Palace.

Chiang Mai is the most famous tourist destination in northern Thailand. The city is known for its beautiful temples, a historic old town, and a range of outdoor activities. You can also consider visiting Chiang Rai and Pai in north Thailand if you have time.

Phuket is a popular choice for travelers who are looking for stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife. Patong Beach is known for its lively atmosphere, while quieter beaches like Kata and Karon offer a more relaxed experience.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Thailand for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map best places to stay in Thailand first time
Map best places to stay in Thailand first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Thailand, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Thailand have been carefully selected by me from well-known and secure booking sites such as booking.com, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. 

If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

6 Best areas to stay in Thailand for first-timers and tourists:

1. Bangkok

Bangkok is undoubtedly one of the best places to stay in Thailand for the first time. It is the bustling capital city known for its vibrant street life, cultural landmarks (such as the Grand Palace and Wat Arun), lively nightlife scene, and modern shopping malls.

The city is a melting pot of traditional Thai culture and modern influences. You can explore historic temples such as Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Arun, as well as experience the lively street food scene and night markets.

Bangkok is home to numerous landmarks, including the Grand Palace, which houses the Emerald Buddha, and the iconic Wat Pho with its giant reclining Buddha. The city skyline is also dotted with modern structures like the Baiyoke Tower II.

Bangkok is a shopping paradise, offering a mix of traditional markets and high-end shopping malls. Popular shopping areas include Chatuchak Weekend Market, MBK Center, and Siam Paragon.

The city has a well-developed transportation system, including an extensive network of buses, the BTS Skytrain, the MRT subway, and taxis. Tuk-tuks are also a popular mode of transportation.

Bangkok is known for its vibrant nightlife, with an array of bars, nightclubs, and entertainment options. Khao San Road is famous for its backpacker scene and nightlife, while areas like Sukhumvit offer a mix of upscale clubs and bars.

Bangkok is a great place to sample authentic Thai dishes. Street food vendors offer a variety of tasty treats, and there are also many restaurants serving regional and international cuisines.

From Bangkok, you can take day trips to Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with ancient temples and historical ruins. Hua Hin and Pattaya are also popular tourist destinations near Bangkok.

There are many areas in Bangkok for first-timers to book their accommodations, but the best ones are Sukhumvit, Riverside, Siam, Silom, Pratunam, Old Town, and Chinatown.

Best places to stay in Thailand in Bangkok for first-timers:


2. Phuket 

Phuket is one of the most popular island destinations in Thailand for first-timers, especially those who enjoy stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and water activities. It is the largest island in Thailand and is connected to the mainland by two bridges. 

Popular beaches in Phuket island are the Patong Beach, Kata, Kalama and Karon. Patong Beach is particularly famous for its nightlife, while other beaches likeKalama, Kata and Karon offer a more relaxed atmosphere.

Apart from its beaches, Phuket is home to various cultural and historical attractions. The Old Town in Phuket City features well-preserved Sino-Portuguese architecture, reflecting the island’s history as a trading port.

Phuket serves as a gateway to numerous nearby islands, and island hopping tours are popular among visitors. Islands like Phi Phi, James Bond Island, and Similan Islands are known for their natural beauty and crystal-clear waters.

You can enjoy water activities like swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and boat tours. The island also offers opportunities for trekking, elephant rides, and cultural shows.

With a well-developed tourism infrastructure, Phuket has a range of accommodations, from budget guesthouses to luxury resorts. The island also has an international airport, making it easily accessible.

Phuket has a tropical climate with a monsoon season from May to October. The high season, when the weather is more favorable, is from November to April.

The island hosts various events and festivals throughout the year, including the Vegetarian Festival, Loy Krathong, and Songkran (Thai New Year).

While Phuket is a beautiful destination, it’s essential to be mindful of sustainable tourism practices and respect the local culture and environment when visiting.

There are many areas and beaches to stay in Phuket, but the best areas for first-time visitors to book their accommodations are Patong, Kata, Karon, Phuket Town, Kamala, Bang Tao, and Mai Khao. 

Best places to stay in Thailand in Phuket for first-timers:


3. Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, located in northern Thailand, is a popular place for those seeking a more relaxed atmosphere, cultural immersion, and outdoor activities like trekking and visiting hill tribes.

Chiang Mai has a rich cultural heritage and is known for its ancient temples, many of which date back to the Lanna Kingdom. The city’s Old City area is surrounded by ancient walls and moats.

Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Chiang Man are among the prominent temples in Chiang Mai, showcasing impressive architecture and religious significance.

The city hosts various festivals throughout the year. One of the most famous is the Yi Peng Lantern Festival, where thousands of lanterns are released into the night sky.

Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar is a popular attraction, offering a wide range of goods, including traditional Thai handicrafts, textiles, and souvenirs. It’s a bustling market that comes alive in the evenings.

Surrounded by mountains and lush landscapes, Chiang Mai is a gateway to outdoor activities. The nearby Doi Suthep mountain offers stunning views of the city and the surrounding area.

Chiang Mai has become a hub for ethical elephant tourism, with several sanctuaries dedicated to the well-being of elephants, promoting responsible and sustainable interactions.

Be sure to try local northern Thai dishes, such as khao soi (a noodle soup) and sai ua (northern Thai sausage), which are popular in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai has gained popularity as a destination for digital nomads, offering a relaxed lifestyle, affordable cost of living, and a thriving community of remote workers.

The climate in Chiang Mai is generally tropical, with a cool season from November to February, a  hot season from March to June, and a rainy season from July to October.

The best places in Chiang Mai for first-timers to book their accommodations are Old City, Night Bazaar, and along Chiang Mai Riverside.

Best places to stay in Thailand in Chiang Mai for first-timers:


4. Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai, located in northern Thailand, is smaller and quieter than Chiang Mai, with attractions like the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) and the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten). Ideal for those who appreciate unique and artistic temple architecture, as well as a more serene atmosphere.

Chiang Rai is located in the Golden Triangle region, where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar converge. This area was historically associated with the opium trade, but today it attracts visitors with its scenic views and cultural significance.

Chiang Rai is home to various hill tribes, including the Akha, Karen, and Hmong. You will the opportunity to learn about their unique cultures and traditions through organized tours and visits to their villages.

The best places to stay in Chiang Rai for the first time are in the town center around the Clock Tower and along the Kok river. While the town center has a wide range of accommodations for all budgets, you find more luxury accommodations along the river.

Best places to stay in Thailand in Chiang Rai:


5. Krabi

Krabi is a popular beach destination in Thailand. It is a perfect location for beach lovers, rock climbers, and those looking for a more laid-back atmosphere compared to Phuket. This area is famous for stunning limestone cliffs, clear waters, and beautiful islands like Railay Beach and Phi Phi Islands.

Krabi is located on the Andaman Sea and is characterized by dramatic limestone karsts rising from the water. The province includes Ko Phi Phi and Koh Lanta, which are popular tourist destinations.

Railay Beach is a popular rock-climbing destination, Ao Nang is a bustling resort town and a starting point for boat trips to nearby islands. It also has a vibrant nightlife and various shops and restaurants.

Krabi serves as a gateway to numerous islands, including the Phi Phi Islands, Hong Islands, and Bamboo Island, offering opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and relaxation.

Krabi Province has several national parks, such as Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park and Khao Phanom Bencha National Park, where you can explore caves, waterfalls, and diverse ecosystems.

Krabi International Airport serves as the main gateway to the province, connecting it to various domestic and international destinations. The region is also accessible by road from other parts of Thailand.

The most popular areas to stay in Krabi for a first visit are Ao Nang, Krabi Town, and Railay Beach. Ao Nang Beach is the best location for beautiful beaches and lively nightlife scene, Krabi Town offers more local experiences and affordable accommodations, Railay Beach offers a relaxing beach experience.

Best places to stay in Thailand in Krabi:


6. Koh Samui

Koh Samui is an island known for its palm-fringed beaches, coconut groves, and dense, mountainous rainforest. It is the second-largest island in Thailand after Phuket. It is best suited for those who want a mix of relaxation, beach activities, and a bit of nightlife.

The island is renowned for its stunning beaches with white sandy shores and crystal-clear waters. Popular beaches include Chaweng, Lamai, Bophut, and Maenam.

Apart from the beaches, Koh Samui offers a variety of attractions and activities. The Big Buddha, a 12-meter golden statue, is a famous landmark. Other attractions include the Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks, the Namuang Waterfall, and the secret Buddha Garden.

Koh Samui serves as a gateway to other nearby islands, such as Koh Phangan, famous for its Full Moon Party, and Koh Tao, a popular destination for diving.

The best places to stay in Koh Samui for first time visitors are in the west and north coast in Chaweng, Lamai, Bophut, Mae Nam, and Choeng Mon. Chaweng is the main town of the island.

Best places to stay in Thailand in Koh Samui:


In conclusion, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Krabi, and Koh Samui are the best areas to stay in Thailand for first-timers and tourists. These are the top choices of many visitors during their first trips to Thailand.

You can continue reading about popular tourist destinations in Thailand in these articles:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular cities that you can stay during your first trip to Thailand. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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