Pristine rainforest in the jungles outside Chiang Mai, Thailand

Conscious comes first – four ways to enjoy a sustainably-minded trip to Thailand

Dreaming of a tropical getaway to Thailand but don’t want to compromise on your green credentials? Fret not: with sustainable travel being all the rage, an increasing number of tour operators and hotels cater to conscious tourists across the Kingdom – from eco-resorts to multi-day treks supporting local communities!

But there are even more ways to experience all that makes Thailand the fabulous and welcoming destination it is whilst continuing to live a low-impact lifestyle. To enjoy a green vacation in one the world’s most biodiverse destinations, follow the below recommendations… and don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

Take the train

A young woman on a train journey in Thailand
A greener hangout: Thailand’s railway network is extensive, efficient and it helps lowering your carbon footprint!

It’s perhaps not altogether surprising to see that a country, whose capital is known for an extensive and highly efficient public transport system, also has elaborate railway tracks connecting all its corners. The environmental benefits of going by train rather than hopping on a plane are indisputable, and there are more perks, still…

A train journey in Thailand entails passing some of the country’s most scenic landscapes, from rural towns to verdant rice plantations and temples dotting the horizon. Among the most popular railway journeys in Kingdom is the Bangkok-Chiang Mai connection, which gives you between 11 and 14 hours of stunning scenery with low emissions. Now that’s our kind of slow travel!

Eat vegetarian and vegan

A vegan meal at a Thai market
Kentucky fried who? Thailand’s legendary night markets offer all sorts of vegan fare – including spicy fried tofu sticks!

Did you know the biggest ever study conducted on how to have a positive impact on our planet’s health found that following a plant-based diet is the single best way to do so? And amazingly, you won’t have to go completely vegan – even just opting for the occasional veggie meal makes a big difference!

Thankfully, Thailand offers some of the freshest vegetarian and vegan fare available anywhere, from Pad Pak and Pad Tahu (fried vegetables and tofu with rice) to fragrant Tom Yum Hed (a mushroom-based version of the famous coconut chicken soup). To find veggie restaurants across the country, download the HappyCow app and veg out!

Stay at an eco-friendly hotel

Santhiya eco-resort on Koh Yao Yai, Thailand
Luxuriously green: eco-resorts like the Santhiya help guests have a more conscious stay in the Kingdom! Photography courtesy of Santhiya.

Sustainably-minded hospitality is growing fast, and Thai hotels are among the most pioneering in the field: from resorts that grow all their produce seasonally and allow guests to participate in reef restoration dives, to eco-hostels that organise weekly beach clean-ups and install rainwater showers!

Among the Kingdom’s most popular options for a green getaway is the magical Santhiya eco-resort on dreamy Koh Yao Yai, which serves as a source of income for the island’s community. Meanwhile, on nearby Koh Yao Noi, the five-star Six Senses resort offers unparalleled luxury paired with the brand’s strong philosophy of sustainability – just ask the fifteen hornbill families living in a special nesting habitat built by the resort!

Support local businesses and shop responsibly

A man wears a scarf made by the Karen people of Thailand
It’s a look: the Karen peoples’ locally made fabrics make for original scarves and other great accessories.

Conscious travel isn’t all about the environment. Sometimes, it’s important to directly empower people and help keep ancient crafts alive. This is the case when it comes to Karen woven fabrics: available mostly in Northern Thailand, where the Karen people live, these range from shirts to dresses and more, often made from organic cotton and dyed with natural colours.

But it’s not just clothes. Throughout the country, you’ll come across markets where local vendors sell responsibly sourced and made products such as recycled jewellery, natural soaps, cork-based faux-leather accessories and so much more. Could there be a better way to round off a low-impact trip to Thailand than by treating yourself to a little souvenir that supports a local business? We don’t think so!