The most visited parts of the country (meaning Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, and Ko Samui) offer the widest choice of accommodation. International chains, such as the Mandarin Oriental group, The Peninsula, Hilton, Accor, Sheraton, and Marriott, have some of their finest hotels and resorts in these areas, while the Asian-based Dusit and Amari chains have numerous resort and city properties that can compete with the best.
Five-star hotels and resorts spare no detail for the business or leisure traveler, providing designer toiletries, plush robes, in-room DVD or CD players, Jacuzzis, and Wi-Fi, plus many other creature comforts. At the other end of the scale, Thailand is famous for its good-value guesthouses; while they may lack fancy facilities, they do offer a friendly welcome and a comfy bed at rock-bottom prices. All expensive and some moderately priced hotels add a 10% service charge, plus 7% value-added tax (VAT), which can obviously make quite a difference, so check whether your chosen hotel adds them on. Air-conditioning is standard in most top-end and midrange hotels, while fans are the norm in most guesthouses. In some cases, such as in the north from November to February, A/C is not a necessity.
Accommodation categories in this guide are calculated according to rack rates in high season, though keep in mind that prices may fall as much as 50% between March and October, especially on the beach. Categories also refer to the majority of rooms, so if a hotel has a few rooms for 9,800B but most are over 10,000B, it will fall into the "very expensive" category.
Because they have more facilities, better activity options and services, and well-trained staff, luxury category hotels and resorts can charge more than 10,000B a night for a double room. These are listed as very expensive, and many hotels in this category have started quoting prices in U.S. dollars.
Most hotels that fall into the expensive category (5,000B-9,999B) also have lots of bells and whistles, and they may still offer such perks as silk bathrobes, CD players, and DVD players, but feature less deluxe amenities. Room design and furnishings will not extend to the glamour of the higher categories, but all rooms will be well maintained and facilities tend to be of excellent quality.
Moderate hotels and resorts (2,000B-4,999B) are often quite modern and a good value for your money. Most have swimming pools, good restaurants, toiletries, satellite television, in-room safes, and international direct dialing from your room. Small, personalized, boutique hotels, which are currently very much in vogue, fall into this category. One reason for their popularity is that they generally have more character than large, impersonal hotels.
Thailand offers a good range of inexpensive places (less than 2,000B) for the budget traveler. The many mom-and-pop guesthouses and cut-price hostels often allow for more authentic experiences. If you go really inexpensive (under 300B), expect to rough it. Cold-water showers, fan-cooled rooms, and dormitories are the norm. But sometimes, for 500B to 1,000B, you'll find accommodation that stands out from the pack -- quaint beachside bungalow villages, city hotels with good locations, or small guesthouses with knowledgeable and helpful staff.
Warning: The thought of a owning a holiday home in Thailand can be seductive, and private villas and timeshare properties are booming in places such as Ko Samui and Phuket. While many travelers fall for the sweet talk and buy right away, it pays to consult a reputable foreign law firm first. Many foreigners have lost their life savings in Thai real estate scams.