Nearly every town offers accommodation. In smaller towns hotels may be fairly simple, but they will usually be clean and inexpensive. In major cities or resort areas there are hotels to fit all price categories. The least-expensive places may have a fan rather than air-conditioning. Breakfast is sometimes included in the room rate at hotels and guesthouses.
During the peak tourist season hotels are often fully booked and rates are at their highest. During holidays, such as between December 30 and January 2, Chinese New Year (in January or February, depending on the year), and Songkran (the Thai New Year in April), rates climb even higher, and reservations are difficult to obtain on short notice. Weekday rates at some resorts are often lower, and virtually all hotels will discount their rooms if they are not fully booked. You often can get a deal by booking mid- to upper-range hotel rooms through Thai travel agents. They get a deeply discounted rate, part of which they then pass on to you.
Don't be reticent about asking for a special rate. Though it may feel awkward to haggle, because western hotel prices aren't negotiable, this practice is perfectly normal in Thailand. Often it will get you nothing, but occasionally it can save you up to 50% if you catch a manager in the right mood with a bunch of empty rooms. Give it a whirl. The worst they can say is "no."
The lodgings we list are the cream of the crop in each price category. When pricing accommodations, always ask what's included and what costs extra. Hotels have private bath unless otherwise noted.
Apartment and House Rentals
It is possible to rent apartments or houses for longer stays in most places in Thailand. Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Pattaya in particular have large expat and long-term tourist communities. Also, many hotels and guesthouses are willing to offer greatly reduced rates for long-term guests. Agents are available in all big cities, and are used to helping foreigners. Often they will be the only way to find an affordable place quickly in a city like Bangkok. The Bangkok Post, Chiang Mai CityLife magazine, Chiang Mai Mail, Phuket Gazette, and Pattaya Mail are all good places to begin looking for agents or places for rent.
Though the "guesthouse" label is tacked onto accommodations of all sizes and prices, guesthouses are generally smaller, cheaper, and more casual than hotels. They are often family-run, with small restaurants. The least-expensive rooms often have shared baths, and linens may not be included. At the other end of the spectrum, $35 will get you a room with all the amenities—air-conditioning, cable TV, en suite bathrooms, even Internet access—in just about every corner of the country. Even if you're traveling on a strict budget, make sure your room has window screens or a mosquito net.
Thai luxury hotels are among the best in the world. Service is generally superb—polite and efficient—and most of the staff speak English. At the other end of the scale, budget lodgings are simple and basic—a room with little more than a bed. Expect any room costing more than the equivalent of $35 a night to come with hot water, air-conditioning, and a TV. Southeast Asian hotels traditionally have two twin beds. Make sure to ask for one big bed if that is your preference, though this is often two twins pushed together.
Many hotels have restaurants and offer room service throughout most of the day and night. Many will also be happy to make travel arrangements for you—for which they receive commissions. Use hotel safe-deposit boxes if they are offered.