Looking for an exotic destination that the kids can handle? Thailand has it all: beaches, mountains, wildlife, sparkling temples and bustling markets; there's something for each age range here.
Best Regions for Kids
- Ko Chang & Eastern Seaboard
Shallow seas are great for young swimmers and low evening tides make for good beach-combing. Older children will like the interior jungle, elephant interactions and mangrove kayaking.
- Hua Hin & the Upper Gulf
Hua Hin has a long sandy coastline, and hillside temples for monkey-spotting. Phetchaburi's cave temples are home to bats.
- Ko Samui & the Lower Gulf
Ko Samui, especially its northern beaches, is a hit with pram-pushers and toddlers, while Hat Chaweng is social, commercial and ideal for teens. Older children can snorkel at Ko Tao.
- Phuket & the Andaman Coast
Phuket has amusements galore (including child-friendly surf schools), but steer clear of the Patong party scene. There are at least a dozen Andaman Coast islands where families can frolic in the sea.
- Chiang Mai
Families come in droves to expose their kids to culture, zipline among the gibbons and cycle about town.
Thailand for Kids
Small foreign children are instant celebrities in Thailand and attract paparazzi-like attention. Babies do surprisingly well with their new-found stardom, soaking up adoration from gruff taxi drivers who transform into loving uncles wanting to play a game of peekaboo (called 'já ăir'). If you've got a babe in arms, food vendors will often hold the child while you eat, or take the child for a brief stroll to visit the neighbours.
If your children are shy, stick to tourist centres instead of heading to far-flung places where foreigners, especially children, will attract attention. A polite way to deflect spectators is to say the child is 'shy' ('kîi ai'). Older children don't usually attract attention.
Some kids might get nervous about the natural chaos of Thai cities and the confusion that arises from being in a new place and having to negotiate transport. Consider giving your children a role: reading the map, setting up an itinerary or carrying the water bottles.
Thai cities can also be claustrophobic and the heat can make it hard to wear out energetic children. Staying at a hotel or resort with a pool will give kids a chance to exercise. Shopping malls offer air-conditioning, entertainment options (cinemas) and the chance to stretch your legs.
Eating with Kids
In Thailand, the vagaries of children's food preferences are further complicated by a cuisine known for its spiciness. Luckily, even Thai children are shielded from chillies and there are a handful of child-friendly dishes that every server can recommend. Because of the heat, remember to keep your little ones well hydrated, either with water or a variety of fruit juices, including fresh young coconuts or lime juice (a surprising hit with some kids).
- kài jee·o (omelette) More oily than the French style but a safe, non-spicy restaurant or street-stall option.
- gài yâhng/tôrt (grilled/fried chicken) Common market and street-stall meal.
- kôw nĕe·o (sticky rice) Straight-up carbs but picky eaters won't resist; sold in markets alongside grilled or fried chicken.
- gài pàt mét má·môo·ang (chicken stir-fried with cashew nuts) Mild stir-fry, popular at restaurants.
- kôw man gài (Hainanese chicken rice) A popular morning and afternoon meal sold at speciality shops.
Health & Safety
For the most part, parents needn't worry too much about health concerns.
- Regular hand-washing should be enforced.
- Thai children are bathed at least twice a day and powdered afterwards to reduce skin irritation from the humid climate; foreigners should aim for at least daily showers.
- Children should be warned not to play with animals, as rabies is relatively common, and some pets (not to mention wild monkeys) may be aggressive.
- Dengue is an increasing concern in Thailand and has reached record highs in recent years. Parents should take care to prevent mosquito bites (a difficult task) in children. Repellent creams containing 12% DEET are widely available from 7-Elevens and other convenience stores, but pack some from home before you travel. If your child is bitten, there are a variety of locally produced balms that can reduce swelling and itching. All the usual health precautions apply.
- Thai cities are very loud and can be a sensory overload for young children. Be sure that your child understands street safety guidelines, as it will be difficult to focus on your instructions amid all the street noise outside.
- Phuket Elephant Sanctuary Kids love feeding the elephants and watching them wander here.
- Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok This 'snake farm' is a hit with children.
- Flight of the Gibbon, Chiang Mai A treetop zipline experience is great for older kids.
- Lopburi Monkeys with mayhem on their minds rule this central Thai town.
- Ancient City, Bangkok Region Open-air museum outside Bangkok that brings together scale models of the country's most famous monuments.
- River Kwai Canoe Travel Services, Kanchanaburi Entry-level kayaking experiences in central Thailand.
- Lumphini Park, Bangkok Central Bangkok's largest park has paddle boats, play areas and giant monitor lizards.
- Chiang Mai This province is home to a variety of trekking options, some of which are appropriate for families.
Bangkok's malls are a magnet for teens, both domestic and foreign, but there are plenty of other indoor distractions besides.
- Art in Paradise, Chiang Mai Kids enjoy posing for photos against the wacky backdrops here.
- Children's Discovery Museum, Bangkok Learning is disguised as fun at this recently renovated museum.
- KidZania, Bangkok Hyper-sophisticated play park in the city's centre.
- Museum of Siam, Bangkok An introduction to Thai culture with a kid-forward feel.
- BTS Bangkok's above-ground train system is a hit with young kids.
- Chao Phraya Express Boat, Bangkok River taxis are the most fun way to get around the city.
- Cycling There are many bicycle-tour outfits with suitable bikes and helmets for children.
- State Railways of Thailand Lots of kids like overnight train journeys, where they can be assigned lower sleeping berths with views of the stations and scenery.
- Child-safety seats for cars, high chairs in restaurants and nappy-changing facilities in public restrooms can be hard to find in Thailand. Parents will need to be resourceful in seeking out substitutes or just do without.
- Baby formula and nappies (diapers) are available at mini-markets and 7-Elevens in larger towns and cities, but sizes are usually small, smaller and smallish. For larger sizes, head to Tesco Lotus, Big C or Tops Market stores. Nappy-rash cream is sold at pharmacies.
- Thailand's footpaths are often too crowded to push a pram, especially larger versions. Instead, opt for a compact umbrella stroller that can squeeze past the fire hydrants and mango carts and then be folded up and thrown in a túk-túk. A baby carrier (sling) is also useful, but make sure the child's head doesn't sit higher than yours: there are lots of hanging obstacles poised at forehead level.
- If you can, avoid arriving in the rainy season (June to October). You may want to avoid the hottest months of the year, April and May, too.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.