I love Thailand.
I’ll just get that out there before starting the rest of the blog, so you don’t get put off this amazing country by the next bit.
Seriously, it’s one of my absolute favorite countries in Asia, if not the whole world. It has everything, from lovely people, to a well-developed tourist infrastructure, to awe-inspiring natural beauty everywhere you go.
But as much as I love Thailand, I hate areas overrun with tourists equally. And I’m not going to lie to you, Thailand has areas like this. Some people don’t mind this, but if you’re anything like me, you’d take a lazy day on a quiet beach with only locals around over a plastic resort vibe, any day of the week.
So after hearing about some of the areas in Thailand being filled to the brim with families on package tours and excessive commercialization, I decided to visit with the express intention of avoiding the tourist hotspots and staying away from the hordes.
Here are some of the things I learned on that trip that should help you to avoid the crowds.
Go in shoulder season
Unless you have a job that restricts your time off exclusively to peak periods, you should definitely consider traveling to Thailand during the shoulder season. This is the period of time either side of the peak season, around April to June, and later in the year around September.
You should experience largely the same quality of weather, but far fewer crowds as it falls outside of the time that the majority of people and families visit.
The vastly reduced number of tourists means that you can enjoy significantly reduced prices for things like hotels, food, tours, and flights. This should result in your trip being more affordable, so you won’t have to save as much. Or you can just travel for longer!
Avoid the most famous places
Ok, so there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, everyone’s heard of Bangkok, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit. You probably wouldn’t be able to avoid it anyway even if you tried.
But in general, I would advise you to go against your instincts and avoid a lot of the places you’ve probably heard of over people visiting over the years. I’m talking about places like Phuket, Koh Samui, and Koh Phi Phi.
Don’t get me wrong, these places are famous for a reason. They are incredibly beautiful, and they have some of the most picturesque scenery you can imagine. They are the sorts of places you see on the postcards that you gaze at longingly when you’re stuck at home on a wintery day.
The problem is, their beauty and fame in the early years of the Thai tourism boom meant that developers went crazy. Large swathes of these areas are now dominated by hotels geared at a high turnover of guests, only interested in recycling the same experiences for an over-inflated fee.
On my travels in Thailand, when I did happen to pass through places like this, I was disappointed and it just made me desperate to get away from it all again.
The Land of Smiles is the perfect place to join a volunteer program. Despite the relative affluence of many areas (largely fueled by the tourism boom), there are still big sections of the population affected by poverty.
I wanted to spend some time contributing something to the country, so I decided to volunteer. There are many organizations to choose from, such as Projects Abroad and many others. After researching many of them, I settled on uVolunteer, an excellent, small organization that also operates in Costa Rica and Ghana.
Besides the rewarding nature of volunteer work, I found that by staying with real local communities, I was able to experience authentic Thai culture, unadulterated by tourism. This allowed me to get to know locals, and even get recommendations for places to visit that were entirely off the radar of your average tourists.
Stay in the cheaper accommodation
It might not sound like the best way to spend your time when you’re on holiday. But in reality, prices are almost always a reflection of demand, so the most expensive places are also generally the busiest.
By looking for cheaper places, even if you have the budget for 5-star hotels, you will often find yourself if much less busy, more authentic areas.
You might only be staying in the next town on from a touristy area, but in my experience, the overall vibe can be completely different. You can still be close to the sights, but food will be more authentic and cheaper, and the locals are often much more relaxed as they aren’t as geared to maximizing their profits.
Don’t let the crowds put you off this amazing country
Thailand is absolutely still worth visiting and will remain so for many years to come. Don’t let the stories of the country being jam-packed full of crowds deter you from visiting. Following the tips in this article, you should be able to avoid the crowds and have the time of your life.
Author Bio: Nicoleta Radoi
Nicoleta is the resident content blogger for uVolunteer (www.uvolunteer.net). Nicoleta is an avid linguist, speaks fluent English, Chinese, French, Spanish and native Romanian. She spent a decade working in China in the education sector and working with major international development institutions and currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. She is passionate about volunteering, sustainable travel and has a soft spot for ethnic food.
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