Months before you book your flight, buying the travel guide is the first promise to yourself that this vacation is happening. Ready to commit to Thailand? While Lonely Planet books tend to be ubiquitous best-sellers, Thailand is rightly a popular country with plenty else on the shelves. Which should you choose?
- Top 4 Thailand travel guides (follows below)
- Thai language and culture guides
- Bangkok travel guides
- Chiang Mai travel guides
- Phuket travel guides
Some links below include affiliates
Top 4 Thailand travel guides
#1. Lonely Planet
A great starting point to get to grips with Thailand. Lonely Planet chases down the cool kids with liberal use of “kinda” and derisory references to strutting “middle-aged men”. Are you a cool kid? A very good Thailand primer section helps you to choose where to go, when and for how long. There’s some needed simplicity when you’re trying to choose between a dozen beach destinations. A thick section is devoted to Bangkok. The book makes excellent use of sidebars, colour-coding and bolded bits. Half an hour with it and you’ll have extracted all that you were looking for. Too simplistic in parts? Maybe. But a very dependable shortcut. As for size, you’re not going to want to carry this book in your handbag. It’s a brick. There’s a Kindle version, though!
#2. DK Eyewitness
300,000 temples. 282 mammal species. Nagas are believed to control rainfall. There’s a museum with the preserved remains of a man who ate 7 children. Rafflesia flowers are insane. I’m a walking Thailand ‘Rain Man’ thanks to DK Eyewitness. Expecting tidy lists of travel minutia? What you get instead is 880 pages of small font and huge interest. I read both this travel guide (and its companion, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Thailand’s Beaches & Islands) cover to cover. They’re fascinating, and – no matter your Thailand plans – you need at least one.
#3. Fodor’s Travel
More a book to read than Lonely Planet’s skim-through. However, photos on every page keep it interesting. Sections like “What’s hot in Thailand right now” (teenagers “tapping their feet to J-Pop”) suggests Fodor’s audience is Baby Boomer Plus. It feels – dare I say it – slightly uncool. Do you own a Tilley hat? Not quite as hyper as Lonely Planet, I find there’s more to read in Fodor’s. The content is wider-ranging as well, with details on Thai history and a great FAQ on how to eat street food (“What are all the condiments for?”). Intro pages have a great range of itinerary suggestions. Portable? No. It’s a great book for doing your research in advance, but plan to leave at home.
#4. Insight Guides
Gorgeous photos on every page, and helpful colour-coding make this book easy to skim and navigate as you go. I consider this travel guide to be an amalgamation of the best qualities of the three above: it’s engaging, has good ‘Thailand 101’ content and top-to-bottom coverage for any itinerary.
Thai language and culture guides
Thai language guides
If you’re going to do something badly while in Thailand – why not try to speak Thai? Most every tourist quickly masters ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in Thai, but a third, fourth or fifth phrase would earn high praise. Get a head start on a few words in this (quite tricky) language with this highly praised pocket reference book. More questions? See our tips for learning Thai.
Thai culture travel guides
Essential stuff! It’s easier than you think to cause offence in this polite country. We agree with reviewers: “It prevents embarrassment. It can deflect even a disaster.” Don’t miss: How to be Thailand’s rudest tourist.
This travel guide is a surprise favourite, particularly for its Thailand introduction sections. As it’s now eight years old and only available in used paperback, grab a cheap secondhand copy for its great cultural tips. Sections on how to bargain (“a cheerful face may prove your best weapon”) and its ‘Life and Times’ section should be on every tourist’s reading list. Of every Thailand travel guide I’ve reviewed, it has the only opening sentence that doesn’t make me want to pull out fingernails. I didn’t expect to, but I really like this book! (And even learned a bit). It’s printed on newsprint in black and white, but there’s a lot of detail in place of pretty pictures. If you see a reasonably priced secondhand copy on Amazon – snap it up!
Regional Thailand travel guides
Bangkok travel map
Bangkok city guides
- Top 10 Bangkok (Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide)
- Lonely Planet Bangkok (current) + Lonely Planet Bangkok (pre-order for 2018)
- Frommer’s Bangkok Day by Day
- Fodor’s Bangkok 25 Best
Bangkok things to do
- 22 Walks in Bangkok: Exploring the City’s Historic Back Lanes and Byways
- Bangkok Shopping Made Easy
- A Bangkok Coloring Adventure
Chiang Mai travel guides
- Thai Insider: Chiang Mai: An Insider’s Guide to the Best of Thailand
- Chiang Mai Bucket List
- Luxurious Chiang Mai
Phuket travel guides
- City Maps Phuket Thailand
- Groovy Phuket (2016)
- Greater Than a Tourist – Phuket Thailand: 50 Travel Tips from a Local
Koh Samui travel guide
Thailand travel guide maps
- Thailand (National Geographic Adventure Map)
- Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, & Cambodia (Marco Polo Maps)
- Laminated Thailand Map by Borch
Thailand beach travel guides
A 2016 update which consistently sits in Amazon’s top 10 for Thailand travel guides. 3D illustrations set the DK series apart from the travel guide pack – ideal for visual people, or those who need a little extra help with directions!
- Lonely Planet Thailand’s Islands & Beaches (current edition – 2016)
- Lonely Planet Thailand’s Islands & Beaches (pre-order for 2018)
Niche interest Thailand travel guides
Thailand travel guides for kids
TIP! See these recommendations for children’s books about Thailand.
- Thailand’s Best Street Food: A fantastic food guide for both gluttons and germaphobes.
- Eating Thai Food Guide