Thailand is certainly a country where you could leave the camping and cooking gear at home.
Hotels are cheap, almost always very clean and in just about every town. Even if you’re a keen camper, after a day of sweating it out you’ll be craving a cool shower and a fan blowing on your face.
There are several categories of accommodation to choose from, including homestays, guesthouses and hotels. You’ll often see ‘resorts’ and these can be true resorts in the Western sense, with swimming pools and luxury rooms, or something rather simpler, perhaps just a few individual chalets run by a retired couple. In small towns there may only be one option, usually around the 250-400 Baht mark but occasionally as little as 200 Baht. For anything from 300 Baht upwards you should get air conditioning and a television if not a fridge and other luxuries.
Keep an eye out for the chain known as Cabbages & Condoms. Their profits support family planning and sexual health education in Thailand and they get their name from the founder who wants condoms to be as common as cabbages in Thailand. You can support a good cause and get a cheap room at the same time.
Off the Beaten Track
Away from the tourist trail, signs tend to be only written in Thai so you may have to ask around for the nearest accommodation. Not all Thais know the English word ‘hotel’ so it’s good to learn the word rohng raem or just make a sleeping motion with your hands. If they say there’s no hotel, ask for a homestay or guesthouse. Thais will often only answer your exact question, instead of giving you the other possible options.
Even in Thailand, it is occasionally possible to get so far off the beaten track that there are no hotels. This happened to us once in several weeks of touring. In this case you can ask around to see if a local person will rent you a room for the night but this can be difficult unless your Thai is up to scratch or you can find a translator.
Another option is to ask at a temple. The monks are always happy to see you – it’s no problem for women to stay – and will never refuse you a place to lay a sleeping mat or put your tent. You may have to help the monks practice their English though and you’ll definitely have to be up with the sun. It’s good form to make a donation, called tamboon in Thai, before leaving.
Finally, try asking the police for help. We have pitched our tent in an outside shelter, used as a meeting room, by the police. With electricity, water and bathrooms next door, it was actually quite a good option for the evening!
A few campsites exist in Thailand but the best are inside national parks and to access them you’ll have to pay the lofty entry fees demanded by Thai authorities. Sometimes you will see forest parks, which do not have admission fees. We have camped for free in these. You could also try asking to put your tent up on the land around schools or other community buildings. A letter in Thai is essential for clear communication.
Because there are so few chances to put up a tent and because the weather is so hot and humid, a better alternative would be to just bring a sleeping mat and a mosquito net.