We love Mexico and Caribbean islands for resorts in the winter months, but they do feel just a bit too familiar after a while. After all, things are quite Americanized in most of the popular areas, and when you are visiting you are surrounded by Americans (along with Canadians and Europeans). Those looking for something different but also cheap and exotic should consider Thailand.
For those coming from North America, it does take a long flight to get there, so it’s not ideal for shorter trips, but from Europe it’s only a bit further than the Caribbean, so even going for a week is realistic.
Fly into Bangkok then head to an island
Obviously you’ll start with flights, and fortunately you can fly pretty cheaply into Bangkok at any time of year. It’s a major and modern new airport with connections from all over the world. Kuala Lumpur is another nearby alternative to try when searching for the best fares.
Once in either city, it’s just a matter of picking a resort island. A few are near enough to Bangkok that you can take a shuttle to a ferry and be there in only a few hours, but the better ones like Phuket and Ko Samui are best reached by a one-hour flight from Bangkok or KL.
A huge selection of resorts at great prices
Here’s where it gets good to visit Thailand. Prices are lower than in Cancun, and quality tends to be higher, and remember that Cancun is the best value in the Caribbean. Even in high season you can literally get a 3-star room near the beach for only around US$30 per night, or closer to US$40 per night on Phuket. If you want a 4-star resort directly on the beach, with sunbeds waiting out there for you each morning, you can get it for as low as around US$60 in Thailand island resorts.
The best part of this is the resorts tend to be new and clean, with modern furnishings and flat screen TVs and such. In Mexico or the Caribbean in this price range you’ll generally get motel-style resorts that haven’t had a paint job since the 1970s, with older furniture and poor service.
Speaking of service, this is another advantage in Thailand as the local labor rates tend to be quite low on the international scale, so resorts tend to hire many staff members. Service tends to be very good, and almost always with a smile and in decent English.
In the Caribbean wages tend to be somewhat high and service is notoriously weak at the cheaper places, so it can be frustrating.
Best of all, Thailand feels very exotic and also comfortable at the same time. Other countries in Southeast Asia also feel exotic, but few people speak English and they don’t have modern supermarkets and such. Thailand has pretty much everything you need, including a 7-Eleven on just about every block, so if you need something you can get it in 5 minutes.