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We are planning a group trip to Thailand for three weeks in July/August. We are two families with 3 12 year old daughters and 1 7 year old boy.

We are doing a lot of research in terms of what to visit but there's something that is very difficult to get from guides; how difficult and safe it is to improvise your trip once you are there?

We have travelled a lot through America, Europe and a bit around India (20 years ago). We like to be able to feel our way, extend or shorten our trip depending on what we like. We have found that often we tend to follow different routes from other tourists.

So the question is: would it be safe and feasable to book a vehicle and drive? Will it be possible to improvise, booking hotels just one or two days in advance? And will we be able to find and get into the attractions and tours?

Many thanks for the help in advance, and please ask for clarification if you need it.

Edit: just to clarify, both families have travelled a lot with kids. It's the India experience what happened a long time ago.

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You can emphasize the fact that your previous trips were without the kids. I think the kids make a big difference, they need attention, so your energy and patience. –  Vince May 13 '13 at 23:57
    
If you do go, my girls (slightly older) enjoyed Cheow Larn Lake and staying at the Treehouse at Koh Sok. –  WW. May 14 '13 at 11:42
    
In short: yes, it's a safe country –  Ivan May 14 '13 at 16:31
    
@vince thanks. Please see edit in question. –  Manu May 14 '13 at 21:25
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@ivan thanks for your comments –  Manu May 14 '13 at 21:25

3 Answers 3

In a nutshell, travel in Thailand is super-easy. Basically, in any place of interest to travellers, you will find both all the facilities you need and people who speak enough English to guide you to them. Outside the absolute peak of high season (basically Christmas/NY), you can always find a place to stay, and booking hotels online is very easy: Sawadee.com has basically every single hotel, resort, hostel and fleapit in the country. A Thai phrasebook or even just a few key phrases will make life easier if you're way off the beaten track, eg. mai phet for "not spicy".

That said, I would not recommend driving in Thailand, the traffic can get kind of crazy. And you don't really need to: flights are cheap, buses and trains are even cheaper, and any destination of interest will have taxis, tuktuks, songthaews, guided tours etc that can take you around. The main exception is Phuket, where a mafia-run taxi cartel conspires to make taxis expensive and buses nearly impossible for non-locals to use, but if you're looking to go off the beaten track then Thailand's most popular beach destination is probably not on your list anyway.

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I am not sure if tuktuks etc are the right vehicle for two families with 4 kids :) –  uncovery May 14 '13 at 9:20
    
Thanks for your comments. We had hoped to be able to drive because of the added flexibility of being able to leave stuff/luggage in the car. I don't fancy the idea of a bus or train trip and having to carry to worry about bags for 8 when arriving at a destination or stop point. Is driving really a no/no? I've derived in Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, none or them are easy for a westerner. –  Manu May 14 '13 at 16:58
    
Ah, OK -- if you have 3rd world driving experience and stick to daytime driving, you'll be fine in Thailand. I assumed you meant only the US when you said "America". –  jpatokal May 15 '13 at 11:48

Yes. It's possible, and safe (in terms of "Safety") but not always easy.

The only challenge that you normally will have is that places are too busy. Since you are traveling in the high season with a larger group (2 people fit in almost anywhere anytime, a table for 8 will not always be getting a table).

While summer is less of a risk than Chinese New Year and Easter or Christmas, since not everyone arrives at the same time to fill the places up to the brim, it's still a high season. If you are picky about where to eat and sleep, you might find some filled hotels and restaurants, depending how popular the place is where you want to go. Some places in Thailand are very popular, and if the area does not have that many hotels, you might have to pick the less nice places than your dream location.

Tourist attractions should be normally fine, specially if you go to places early enough.

In terms of "Maximum Risk", there are some very very good Hospitals in Thailand, specially in Bangkok. They specialize in medical tourism from all over the world, even with travel offices on-site. Something that I would not want to say about other countries in Asia.

If you stay off the beaten path, you will have to encounter a much lower level of English skills. Be prepared for extremely spicy food made for locals for example. While it's sometimes decidedly hard to convince a Thai cook to make it really spicy for you as a foreigner, namely if the cook once had the occasion of hosting chili-intolerant Caucasians, I would not rely on this.

Driving in Thailand can be a challenge. While it's dimensions better than India, do not get surprised in case a member of your family is getting scared in the car.

That said, there are tons of tourists who travel independently and spontaneously through Thailand. There are also tons of people who get stuck there and start living there - even in remote areas. It all boils down if "off the beaten path" means a side street of Bangkok or driving with a car down to Malaysia.

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Last summer I was in Thailand for 3 weeks with my family. I'm 18, my family members are little brother, 12 and parents, 50+.

We only bought the flights and hotel.
However, from a friend's recommendation, we found a marvelous local guide. She didn't even ask for payments for the city tours, and she was happy to arrange trips to great sightseeings.

Pretty much everyone we met there were friendly to little children like my brother. The locals might be a little intruding and come too close to your kid, but it's only a problem if you're kid is shy and get's scared easily, they only mean good.

If you don't have any experience from driving in countries with left-sided traffic, like Thailand, I don't recommend booking a vehicle for you to drive. People in Thailand are really good drivers, but for inexperienced drivers of the local traffic, it can be hard to avoid injuries. We took a taxi (tuk-tuk usually) when we needed to go somewhere. Their driving style seemed insane compared to regular European traffic. Even in the rush-hour (in Bangkok) the tuk-tuks were literally driving between the cars if there was enough space to pass.

Thailand is a really safe country from criminality. You might run into some scam taxis, but if you only take the one's that look legit, near public places, you won't likely find yourself in trouble.

Thailand's medical care couldn't be much better, if you have you're insurances fixed. Our whole family got an ear-infection in Hua Hin. We went to the big Bangkok Hospital, where we were treated really good. The doctors were friendly to my brother, just like in home Finland. The English of most of the doctors was 8-9/10, if we didn't understand something, they used Google Translate to translate it to us, which was really useful.

This is more like my travel experience, but if you come up with some questions, feel free to ask.

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