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Thailand is a fantastic and relatively easy destination for you and your kids, we’d certainly rate it easiest in South East Asia, particularly for families. Thailand combines low prices, ultra friendly, child-loving people, stunning clean beaches with varied watersports, wonderful wildlife and a host of cultural experiences. Along with all of this, the food is amazing! After years exploring Thailand, these are our, and our kids’, recommendations for highlights of Thailand for families. Try to slot them into your Thailand itinerary.
Finding family accommodation in Thailand isn’t generally hard and prices are low, but a peak times, holidays and festivals. Thailand can get pretty full. We prefer Agoda for Asian destinations as they are local specialists, you could also compare prices on the same hotel from multiple agents, using our orange search box at the top of the page. AirBnB ( join here, for free, and get our special discount) is also possible in Thailand and is best for apartments, longer stays or home stays.
Highlights of Thailand for Families
Beaches and Islands
Thailand’s beaches start just south of Bangkok with Ko Samet and extend south to the border with Malaysia. There are beautiful beaches and islands on the Andaman Sea and on the Gulf of Thailand. In general beaches are very clean with sparkling water, some are lively, some quiet. You need to find a beach to suit your family’s personality. We have visited many, but not all, of Thailand’s diverse beach spots. In all honesty, beaches aren’t our thing nor our area of expertise, but we have tested out Phuket, Krabi, Ko Phangan, Ko Samui and Ko Samet. In general, the smaller the beach destination the better, in our opinion.
Bangkok is the thumping heart of Thailand and it’s a city to visit time and time again. Here you will find stunning temples and wats, the magnificent Grand Palace, the iconic Khao San Rd and the magnificent Chao Praya River and connecting klongs. Bangkok has luxury riverside resorts, mid range hotels and budget guest houses suitable for families. ( recommended family hotels in Bangkok here). In Thailand’s capital you will also find cultural shows and banquet dinners, authentic cheap street food and fine dining. If you’d like to shop there are modern malls for every taste along with street-fulls of souvenirs, clothes and jewellery. Be sure to find a hotel or other accommodation in the right part of town for you, we can help you make that choice. While in Bangkok you can take day trips to floating markets and nearby towns with cultural or historic interests. ( Itinerary suggestions here, more things to do in Bangkok here) Maybe you could spend some time learning to cook Thai food or enjoying an organised food tour ( see resources section, bottom of this page)
I’m yet to meet anyone who didn’t love Chiang Mai. The charming walled Old Town is a separated from the city by a peaceful and picturesque moat. There is a market for every day of the week and Chiang Mai’s Walking Streets are world famous. Food in Chiang Mai has it’s own character, with plenty of regional specialities. The city is well known for Thai cooking classes, some will take families and children. Around Chiang Mai you will find numerous tourist attractions and excursions. Chiang Mai has a much lower cost of accommodation and living that Bangkok and can be somewhat cooler. You will also find modern shopping malls and good co-working spaces here, this is where many digital nomads settle.
Chiang Rai is a few hours north of Chiang Mai and has much to offer families. We have a full post on things to do in Chiang Rai here, including the famous White Temple and Blue Temple. We usually hire a car in the north of Thailand to explore at our leisure, we highly recommend this! Full post on the treasures of Northern Thailand here.
Other Historic Cities and Ancient Sites
Sukhothai is harder to get to, there’s a long bus journey and you’ll need at least 1 night there. The Sukhothai ruins can famously be toured by bicycle and they are stunning, the town itself is lovely, sleepy and a little off the main tourist track. Full post on Sukhothai here.
Kanchanaburi is not far from Bangkok and is a sleepy riverside town, home to the Bridge on the River Kwai, WW2 history and an ethical elephant park. A few days on the river here is a relaxing and beautiful experience, prices are some of the lowest in Thailand. There is a new elephant attraction here, billed as ethical, which could compete with those of Chiang Mai for visitors not heading north. Full post on Kanchanaburi here.
Theme Parks and Other Family Attractions
The following is not a comprehensive list of theme parks, zoos, water or adventure parks etc. But it gives you an idea of how much choice there is in Thailand.
- Siam Park City, Bangkok. Amusement park.
- Cartoon Network Amazone near Jomtien Beach Water & Amusement Park.
- Sea Life Aquarium Bangkok. The Largest Aquarium in South East Asia
- Chiang Mai Zoo
- Dusit Zoo, Bangkok
- Ramayama Water Park, Pattaya
- Black Mountain Water Park, Hua Hin
- Flight of the Gibbon and other zipline parks near Chiang Mai.
There are many more family attractions like this in Thailand.
If you don’t see monkeys or elephants in Thailand I’d be very surprised. Beware animal exploitation attractions and choose ethical operations. Some of the attractions around Chiang Mai have a good reputation when it comes to elephant interaction. I’d personally avoid anything to do with tigers in Thailand and elephant attractions in Phuket.
You probably won’t see a wild snake, but if you’d like to find more about Thailand’s native reptiles, try the venom farm and education centre at one of the main hospitals in Bangkok. ( pictured above) Also watch out for birds, huge butterflies and fascinating bugs.
You can visit a hill tribe museum and education centre for free in Chiang Mai, or you can set out by car to find them for yourselves as we did with the long neck Karen village above. If you’d like to organise an authentic, cultural and educational experience take a look at Thailand Hilltribe Holidays for homestays and tours in Northern Thailand. They are a responsible operation and can arrange homestays in hill tribe villages, particularly for family groups.
Food and Cooking
Thailand is a country that you absolutely need to eat your way around. Thai food is superb, arguably the most exciting cuisine in the world. Not all Thai food is heavy on the chillies and your family won’t go hungry if they’re not keen on heat. Try every kind of food outlet, the floating markets pictured above, night markets and walking streets, restaurants fine and basic and if you have time take a food tour or enrol in a cooking school for half a day or longer. Some cooking schools are more than happy to take kids, our boys love these days of making and eating superb food. Their dad is a chef after all!
We hope you enjoyed our post on highlights of Thailand and that you’ll be visiting or planning your trip, very soon. If you like, we can help you with your plans ( see resources below)
Further Resources for Families Planning a Trip to Thailand:
- Best family accommodation in Bangkok
- Things to do in Bangkok
- Getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (train, bus or fly)
- Getting from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi ( train, taxi, mini bus)
- Handling Your Money in Thailand
- From Kanchanaburi to Laos via Bangkok (train and mini bus)
- Beginner’s Guide to Thai Food
- General Thailand Travel Guide
- Our Thailand Archives
- Travel Insurance for Extended Travel
- Hiring a Car and Self-Driving to explore Northern Thailand
- Which floating market to visit from Bangkok
- Book Tours, Tickets and Experiences in Thailand with Get Your Guide
- The ONLY way to Pre-Book Transport ( train, mini van and bus tickets) in Thailand and S.E. Asia 12 Go Asia.
- Book Accommodation in Thailand with Agoda ( local specialists owned by Booking.com, good reputation)
We love Thailand, our visit next week will be our 24th ( hard to believe) and we are always adding more content to our Thailand archives. Sukhothai is coming soon along with 2 and 3 week Thailand itineraries. We also hope to get to Kanchanaburi to check out the new ethical elephant attraction there and will be making a return trip to Ayutthaya. Come back for more soon!