Thailand is arguably the easiest SE Asian country to travel through and the tips below should make your time even easier and help you take in tigers, elephants, and temples galore.
Don't expect the Thailand of yesteryear
Bungalows are no longer $5 and the locals are no longer as friendly as they once were. That said, it often takes as little as a bike ride to bump into locals who'd love to chat.
There's no need to plan ahead and we suggest not doing so
Buses are plentiful to anywhere in the country and you can hop on one that goes across the country at a moment's notice. (Remember that if you buy a ticket outside the bus station, you're typically getting ripped off. Rule of thumb is to buy the ticket on the bus if the reseller isn't giving you a ticket with a specific seat.) The only exception to this rule is some of the beaches down south. If you go in the high season, booking ahead is wise.
Learn how to drive a motorbike, preferably a manual one
The best way to see the real Thailand is to get off the beach-Bangkok-Chiang Mai track and the best way to do that is on your own. Manual bikes are cheaper and better for the windy and hilly roads of Northern Thailand, which is arguably the most beautiful part of Thailand.
Eat and Drink at the markets
The food is generally better and more authentic than at cheaper restaurants and you can meet a ton of other travelers and locals, which makes the experience as interesting as the food. Note: a night bazaar is not the same as a night market. We learned the hard way.
Learn to love 7 Eleven
It's the best place to break 1000B and the best place to get affordable beer. Get a two pack of Leo outside one of the markets and you'll have the makings for a great night, or just a great walk. The price for two bottles at 7 Eleven is usually the price for one at a casual restaurant. If you have a fridge in your room, stock up. The biggest problem with beer from 7 Eleven is that it's never quite cold enough. But don't worry, they always have a bottle opener.
Know what things cost and bargain
As in all of SE Asia, know what things should cost and feel free to bargain when prices aren't written down. You should never get in a tuk tuk without offering a lower price than the first one quoted.
Prepare for long breakless bus rides
Buses in Thailand NEVER arrive on time and travel takes at least 4 times longer than you'd think looking at the mileage. Stock up on snacks at 7 Eleven and keep in mind that bathroom breaks are sometimes nonexistent on journeys as long as 5 hours.
Destination specific tips
See our three week Thailand itinerary.
Leave any tips for backpacking Thailand in the comments!