The ultimate guide to backpacking Thailand
Sawasdee! Hopefully you’ll soon be dusting off your rucksack, booking that flight and jetting off to the land of smiles. If not, maybe this guide will act as your motivation to book that holiday from work – after all, no one ever regrets travelling, right?
Thailand is probably the number one backpacking destination in the world. Well suited to solo travellers, couples and friends alike, Thailand attracts a diverse backpacking crowd year-round. It’s not hard to see why so many travellers flock to this Asian culture hub. It’s healthy for the bank account (not so much the liver), the street food is as fresh as it gets and Thai people have the warmest of hearts.
Without further ado, here’s absolutely everything you need to know about backpacking Thailand. Read it before you board that plane or take it as a pocket guide for when you’re on the run and lost in translation.
Jump straight to:
- Best time to visit Thailand
- Where to go in Thailand
- Hostels in Thailand
- Best beaches in Thailand
- Thailand’s best national parks
- Thailand backpacking routes
- Travelling around Thailand
- Thai food
- Thailand nightlife
- Visa for Thailand
- Jobs in Thailand for backpackers
- Thai culture and customs
- Thailand travel advice
- Thailand travel costs
Best Time to visit Thailand
Thailand is pretty much hot 24/7, with temperatures rarely dropping below 25 degrees at sea level or 15 degrees in the mountains of Northern Thailand. 15 degrees may not sound cold, but after getting used to the tropical climate it can hit you like a ton of bricks!
Being a tropical country, rain is expected and it’s important to be aware of the seasons when planning your trip. Thailand’s monsoon season starts in June and ends in November, with the worst of the downfalls occurring in September. And when rain strikes, so does intense humidity! If your travel plans do coincide with monsoon season you will benefit from less crowding and cheaper prices.
There are three distinct seasons in Bangkok, with the peak time to travel being during the cooler months of November to February. The hottest weather begins in March and finishes three months later in June. From June to November, Bangkok experiences monsoons making September the least favourable time to travel.
The prime time to chill out on the beaches of Phuket is from December to February. Temperatures usually sit between 23 and 32 degrees, ideal for exploring and sunbathing. From February onwards, the heat and humidity rises but the rain holds off until late April.
Chiang Mai weather
Chiang Mai tends to get a lot cooler, with evening temperatures dropping to 14 degrees in December, January and February. There is also very little chance of rain so conditions are perfect for travelling. In April temperatures reach up to 35 degrees, with the monsoon moving in when May comes around.
When is the best time to visit Thailand?
If you’ve got the whole calendar free for your travel plans, then it’s recommended to travel Thailand between the months of December and March. Given this is peak season you can expect prices to be a little higher but the weather to be a whole lot peachier.
November, April and May are transitional months and although there may be some rain, the weather is typically good. Travel during these months will be friendlier on the budget and your funds will stretch a lot further.
Peak season = festival season. Songkran, Loi Krathong and more are a great way to get immersed in Thai culture.
Full Moon Party
Talk to anyone who’s been backpacking in Thailand and you’re almost guaranteed to hear some crazy stories about a fluorescent beach party in Koh Phangan. Introducing you to the Full Moon Party – the biggest and most renowned party in South East Asia. Every month around 30,000 people from all around the globe unite as one and party until the sun comes up on this Thai island. The beach is lined with live music stages and lit up by fluorescent glow sticks and fire jumping ropes (they may look fun, but are best avoided no matter how brilliant you think your jump rope skills are).
The main party happens at Haad Rin Sands with tickets costing just 150 baht (£3.40). Costs remain cheap at the festival, with alcohol buckets costing 200-300 baht (£4.50-6.80), street food for 50 baht (£1) and toilets (yes, you have to pay for toilets) for 5-10 baht (10 – 20 pence).
The Full Moon Party gets pretty wild but there’s rarely ever trouble or violence – everyone is here for a good time.
The main action happens at Haad Rin Sands, but you need to arrange accommodation at least four days prior to the party as it sells out quickly. Prices also increase as the party nears. If you can’t find a hostel at Koh Phangan, Koh Samui is your other option. On the night of the Full Moon Party ferries go between the two islands every hour, making it possible for even the most intoxicated revellers to get home. Just be warned that it could be a lengthy wait.
Sophie recommends Love Station Hostel for your Full Moon stay.
Free your inner child and join in with one of the biggest festivities in South East Asia. Imagine tens of thousands of people coming together in the streets for a massive water fight. Songkran comes from Sanskrit and translates to ‘move into’, a reference to Buddhist beliefs. The water symbolises blessing, with people washing away their sins and their friends’ by splashing them with water.
Songkran is Thailand’s New Year’s celebration and there’s a lot of partying involved. Expect to drink your alcohol from plastic buckets and get soaked from head to toe!
Best spots: Bangkok (Silom & Khoa San Road) and Chiang Mai (celebrations last for a week here)
You’ve probably seen the photos of hundreds of golden lanterns floating in the night sky. If not, it’s kind of like the last scene in Tangled where Rapunzel and Flynn confess their love for each other. Anyways, a total dreamscape! This is what happens at Loi Krathong, the annual Festival of Light.
Every November, the full moon sees an outburst of lights – fireworks, candles and most vividly, floating lanterns. The candle honours Buddha and the floating symbolises the release of all anger and animosity.
When: The full moon in November
Best spot: Chiang Mai
Flower Festival, Chiang Mai
All year round Thailand grows the most beautiful flowers – lilies, orchids, frangipanis, jasmine, you name it, they’ve got it. At the end of the cool season this beauty is put on show in Chiang Mai and it’s a magnificent sight to behold. The three-day festival features parades with flower floats, beauty pageants and delicious street food to try.
When: First weekend of February
Only spot: Chiang Mai
Planning your trip
From palm-dotted beaches and crystal clear seas to impressive temples and mountains that will take your breath away (both figuratively and literally), Thailand has got it all. Here’s everything you need to know about planning your trip and even some itineraries you can follow.
Where to go in Thailand
There’s no shortage of things to do in Bangkok and no better way to start a trip to Thailand than by diving head first into the chaos of their insane capital. First impressions may be intimidating, but Bangkok is a complex, exciting city that you shouldn’t shy away from.
Things you can’t miss:
Grand Palace: The Grand Palace is, well, pretty grand. It’s sure to blow you away with its intricate detailing and incredible craftsmanship. Although it’s no longer home to the Royal family, it’s still used for royal and religious ceremonies and rarely ever closes. This is the most popular tourist attraction in Bangkok, so an early morning visit is best to avoid the heat and the crowds.
Cost: 500 baht (£11.50)
Opening hours: 08:30 – 15:30
Allow: 1.5 hours
Wat Pho: A favourite for many and guaranteed to literally turn your head as you take in its 46 metre reclining Buddha. Wat Pho is also home to the largest collection of Buddhist images in all of Thailand. Whilst there, why not go for a massage at the national headquarters for teaching Thai massage and medicine.
Cost: 100 baht (£2.30)
Opening hours: 08:30 – 17:30
Allow: 1 hour (2 if you want a massage)
Wat Arun: Also known as The Temple of Dawn, the striking Wat Arun is located on the banks of the Chao Phraya. The temple’s main spire is 70 metres high and beautifully ornamented with Chinese porcelain and coloured glass. Unlike other temples, you can climb the central spire of Wat Arun for an incredible view overlooking Bangkok. Just be warned, the steps are stomach-churningly steep.
Cost: 50 baht (£1.15)
Opening hours: 08:00 – 17:30
Allow: 1 hour
Wat Traimit: Wat Traimit houses the largest ever seated golden Buddha, weighing a whopping 5.5 tonnes. The buddha was once concealed in plaster and its true value wasn’t discovered until 1955 when it was dropped accidentally and the gold inside was revealed.
Cost: Free to see the Buddha, 100 baht (£2.30) to visit the museum
Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
Allow: 30 minutes
Chatuchak Weekend Market: Chatuchak is the ultimate Bangkok market experience and has something for everyone. Whether you’re chasing the perfect souvenir for your bestie, looking for a love fern to give your travel crush or some traditional Thai artwork to hang in your home, Chatuchak has got you covered. They also sell fluffy dogs – unfortunately not a recommended travel buddy.
Cost: free, but bring money if you want to shop
Opening hours: 07:00 – 18:00
Allow: 1 – 2 hours
When incredible street food, natural beauty and cultural landmarks collide, you get the city of Chiang Mai. Known as ‘The Rose of the North’, Chiang Mai is a playground for the curious traveller with over a hundred Buddhist temples to visit.
Things you can’t miss:
Wat Pra That Doi Suthep: This mountainside temple is a must see. Rumour has it the temple was built to hold a piece of bone from Buddha’s shoulder. Depending on how much energy you’ve got, you can either walk up to the temple or jump in one of the red songthaews (trucks) that leave from Huay Kaew Road. If you’re travelling in a group then hail one from the centre for about 300 – 500 baht (£6-90 – £11.50). Most come to see the temple and Buddha relic, but there are several waterfalls nearby and various nature trails. You’ll also get one of the best views over Chiang Mai if you’re ready to work for it, with a heavy 300+ steps to the top.
Cost: 50 baht (£1.15)
Opening hours: 06:00 – 18:00 (go early to avoid the crowds)
Allow: 3 hours
Wat Chedi Luang: You might come across Wat Chedi Luang without even planning to. It’s smack bang in the centre of Chiang Mai and will certainly grab your attention. It used to hold the Emerald Buddha, the holiest symbol in Thailand, but was relocated after it was damaged in an earthquake. You can’t go inside the temple but can marvel at its beauty from the outside.
Allow: 15 minutes
Sunday Night Market: Welcome to one of the most insane markets you will ever experience. The Chiang Mai market is on every Sunday, so plan your stay around it if you want to grab some souvenirs. Not only are there hundreds of fashion and handicraft stalls but also a huge street food presence, with some of the best pad Thai you will ever taste.
Cost: free, but bring some money along for food
Opening hours: 17:00 – 22:00
Allow: 1 – 2 hours
Grand Canyon Chiang Mai: Escape the city heat by venturing a little further out to the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon. This huge quarry is amazing for swimming and diving and there’s even a floating Total Wipeout style course to compete on!
Cost: 300 baht (£7)
Opening hours: 10:00 – 19:00
Allow: all day!
Think waking up to misty mountains, bike riding to secluded waterfalls and hanging out in trendy cafes and you’ve got Pai! What was once off the beaten path is now well and truly on it. If you’re into wheatgrass shots, love a good downward dog or just want to spend your days chilling out in a hammock socialising with other travellers, Pai is the dream.
Things you can’t miss:
Watching the sunset at Pai canyon: Who doesn’t love a good sunset hike? Especially when it ends with a 360-degree view over the mountains of Pai. A lot of people know about the best sunset spot in town so it’s unlikely you’ll have it to yourself, but the more the merrier we say!
Tham Lod: One of the most incredible and easily accessible caves in Thailand. The cave is just under 2km long and 50 metres tall at one point, an impressive sight to behold. You can float down the river on a bamboo raft that runs through Tham Lod.
Chasing waterfalls: Hire out a motorbike, scooter or push bike and go chasing waterfalls. The Mo Paeng waterfall is the closest and most accessible, but this also means it attracts more crowds. If you’re seeking serenity and don’t mind venturing further off the beaten track, check out Pombok waterfall and the nearby Land Crack, which is, you guessed it, a crack in the land. It’s actually really cool!
Wat Phra That Mae Yen: A steep 350 step climb is required to come face to face with Pai’s famous white Buddha. Make it to the top to see one of Thailand’s most incredible sights up close, and enjoy unobstructed views over the whole of Pai town.
Chiang Rai is commonly visited on a day trip from Chiang Mai and it’s on the radar for its three striking temples. There are also plenty of beautiful waterfalls and lesser-known hiking trails that you’re likely to have to yourself. Public transport is limited, so the temples can either be visited with a tour company, or by motorbike if you have an adventurous streak (and of course travel insurance). The latter will give you an amazing sense of freedom.
Things you can’t miss:
Wat Rong Khun: Known as the White Temple, the Wat Rong Khun is one of the most beautiful temples you will ever step foot in. Expect to be blown away (and perhaps slightly creeped out) by the carved hands and heads on the main walkway to the entrance, references to Buddhist beliefs.
Baan Dam: The ‘Black Temple’ Baan Dam is eerier than the Wat Rong Khun. The buildings are a contrast of traditional wooden huts and contemporary structures – even one shaped as a whale. If you can only handle animals alive and breathing then perhaps give it a miss – the inside of the temple is full of snake skins, animal skeletons and other absurd pieces.
Koh Tao is the smallest of Thailand’s three main islands but it packs a punch. The water surrounding the island is such a gorgeous shade of turquoise it will have you Instagramming ‘til your thumbs are sore. Koh Tao is the best spot in Thailand to go scuba diving, but even if you aren’t about that underwater life there are plenty of hikes to give you breath-taking views over the Gulf of Thailand.
Things you can’t miss:
John-Suwan viewpoint: this isn’t a walk in the park, but it is one of the most incredible views in Thailand. The rigorous uphill trail is surrounded by dense jungle and only takes about 10 minutes to get to the top. Flip flops are definitely not encouraged and be aware that there is a fee of 100 baht per person as it’s private land.
Scuba diving: The Koh Tao vibe is laid back and the crowds are pretty chill. Throw yourself in the deep end – literally – with a scuba diving course. There are dozens of companies to choose from so don’t feel too pressured into having it arranged in advance. Rocktopus Dive is a well-established and fun company to go with.
The big sister to Phangan and Tao, Koh Samui is the second biggest island in Thailand. In terms of partying though, it’s the most laid back. This is mainly because it sparks the interest of families and a more mature crowd. Don’t see this as a negative though, because Samui is an absolute paradise with plenty of places to explore.
Things you can’t miss:
Fisherman’s Village night market: Every Friday night the markets in Fisherman’s Village fill the streets with bright, colourful lanterns, Chang shirts left right and centre and enough pad Thai stalls to feed you for a lifetime. This is a great spot to pick up some gifts for loved ones back home.
Crystal Bay: Want the luxury of having a whole beach to yourself? Well, this could be possible at Crystal Bay. This gorgeous area hasn’t been touched by the tourism industry, meaning no vendors selling you buckets and spades while you try and get your tan on.
Ang Thong Marine Park: Although the marine park isn’t in Koh Samui you can easily make a day trip. The park is a combination of 42 islands scattered across the ocean, each one just as dreamy as the last. Koh Mae is the most popular island and has an unreal lookout view.
Famed for its Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan well and truly caters to its youthful backpacking guests. If you want to let your hair down and get wild, this is the perfect place to do so. The Northern end of Koh Phangan has a more relaxed, hippy vibe so it’s possible to have the best of both worlds.
Things you can’t miss:
The Full Moon Party: This is a given as it’s what 90% of travellers come to Koh Phangan for. For more details see our Full Moon Party section and get yourself hyped up.
Half Moon Party: If you can’t seem to align your dates with the full moon, there’s always the Half Moon party to get your groove on. The entrance fee is 1000 baht and it’s basically the same deal, just without the huge crowds.
Thong Sala night market: If you consider yourself a bit of a foodie then you’ll be all over Thong Sala. Specialising in street food, there are plenty of delicious delicacies to try. You must get your hands on some fresh-off-the-boat seafood.
Chaloklum Beach: Eager for some peace and quiet? Try Chaloklum Beach. It’s hidden away from the busier parts of the island and has far fewer drinking establishments, so is basically the prime hangover spot.
Krabi & the Offshore Islands
Krabi is the most relaxing stop on Thailand’s west coast, boasting incredible scenery on land and at sea. This is the place to crack open a book, find a hammock and spend your days listening to the waves crash. When you can find the motivation to get off your hammock, jump on a boat tour and head out to the islands of Koh Lanta. There are over 150 islands off the coast of Krabi, but the most popular destinations are Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Railay Beach.
Things you can’t miss:
Thung Teao Forest Natural Park: Commonly known as the Emerald Pools, Thung Teao is an amazingly beautiful spot to go for a swim. With a 2.7km nature trail running through the park, you can spend hours appreciating the flora and fauna. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Pitta Gurney bird, which was thought to be extinct but has been sighted here before.
Wat Tham Sua: Just outside of Krabi town lies Wat Tham Sua, AKA the Tiger Cave. This temple complex is home to Buddhist monks and the view from the top of the limestone tower is out of this world. If you’re a sunset chaser there’s nowhere better.
Ya’s Cookery School: After sampling all of Thailand’s street food and coming to the realisation that you can’t live without top quality pad Thai, you’ll want to take a cooking class. Ya’s Cookery School is the best of the best, set in a gorgeous location backing onto rainforest. You eat everything you make, and whatever you don’t eat, you can take home.
Phuket is probably the most popular destination for tourists chasing those summer beach vibes. This does mean that having the beach to yourself is highly unlikely and that western food choices outweigh Thai. The hawker situation on the beaches is also pretty wild due to the number of tourists here.
Things you can’t miss:
Big Buddha: The most famous Phuket landmark standing at a whopping 45 metres. It is so gigantic that it can be seen from Phuket Town and Karon Beach. It’s worth getting a closer look though to appreciate its majesty.
Bangla Road: If you want a wild night out then the place to go is Bangla Road. This is Phuket’s main backpacker area where things go from 1 to 10 real quick, so don’t be surprised if your memory is a little bit foggy the next day.
Similian Islands: Phuket is the best base to make a day trip out to the Similian Islands, one of the most beautiful National Parks in South East Asia. This is where you can scuba dive with whale sharks – season permitting of course.
Still not sure what to do in Thailand? Check out 11 ridiculously cool things we love!
Best Places to Stay in Thailand
Backpacking Bangkok is a rite of passage for every traveller, but it’s a full-on city and it’s fine to admit you might be slightly intimidated at first, especially when tasked with where to stay. These three areas are the main districts for backpackers – loaded with bars, hostels and close to some main attractions.
Khao San Road: Bangkok’s backpacker street is the most famous in the world, extremely popular with travellers who love a drink (or 10) and boogying with new friends. Khao San Road is lined with raucous bars, budget hostels and uniquely ‘Bangkok’ sights and sounds. It’s no wonder it’s become the unofficial centre of backpacking in Thailand.
From the main strip you can walk to The Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Traimit and several of the markets. If you’re chasing neon lights and booze filled nights, Khao San Road is the place to be.
Sukhumvit: With more of an urban vibe, Sukhumvit is a hit with the trendy traveller. If you get a kick out of smashed avocado on rye, drinking at swanky bars and shopping for the best deal (we’re talking airconditioned malls, not night markets) then this is the spot for you. Exploring this area will show you just how diverse Bangkok is.
Sukhumvit takes the trophy for the snazziest rooftop bar. Octave Bar & Lounge is on the 45th floor of the Marriot Hotel and is the best spot for a classy drink at sundown with a 360-degree view over the city. Later, bar hop under the vivid lights of Soi Cowboy.
Chinatown: You don’t have to love dumplings to stay in Chinatown, but the food is a huge bonus. There are plenty of gloomy yet incredibly inviting alleyways to wander down and so much history to be unravelled in this part of Bangkok. At night time, the streets come alive and are lined with red lanterns and street food stalls.
Chiang Mai is a lot smaller than Bangkok, making it easier to choose where to stay. If you stay within a few blocks of the Old Town gate or the entrance of Thae Pae Gate, you’ve got yourself a top location. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t stay outside of the walls, it will just mean that your feet will do a lot more walking to and from the sights, bars and restaurants. But hey, maybe it’s a good opportunity to burn off those calories from mango sticky rice?
Although small, it’s important to think about where to stay in Pai as there’s no public transport. If you see yourself bar hopping and using your own two feet to get around, then Pai Village is the smartest spot to stay. If a moped is on your radar, then the far bank of the Pai River will suit perfectly.
Pai is incredibly stripped-back and relaxed, so it makes sense to stay in a bungalow or tepee. Just don’t be alarmed if the first thing you see in the morning is a cow casually standing outside. It’s totally normal.
Krabi and Surrounding Islands
Krabi is often confused for an island destination but is essentially a beach destination with lots of offshore islands. There are countless amounts of tours, both private and group, which venture out to the nearby islands every day. The Krabi province features staggering limestone cliffs and exquisite turquoise bays, making it no surprise that it’s one of the most adored destinations in Thailand by backpackers.
Ao Nang Beach: Ao Nang Beach is where days are spent basking in the sun drinking cocktails. Throw in a Thai beach massage and some cheap, delicious mojitos. Sounds like paradise? It’s about as close as you can get.
Koh Phi Phi Island: Made up of seven islands, Phi Phi is tucked between Phuket and Krabi, making it the perfect island getaway from either destination. With a vast amount of adventure activities on offer and a buzzing nightlife, Phi Phi is suited to the more youthful, adrenaline-craving traveller. Keep in mind that there are a number of upscale luxury resorts, but still plenty of hostels to be found.
Koh Lanta: Known for its coral fringed beaches, limestone ridges and lush rainforests, Koh Lanta is a nature lovers paradise. The most backpacker-friendly beach is Kantiang, which boasts tropical blue waters and a 1km stretch of white sand. Although basic it has everything that you need, with one minimart, a few tour shops and several bars and restaurants.
No matter where you stay on Koh Tao you’ll be treated to little pockets of paradise. If you want to get amongst the hype, Sairee Beach is where it’s all at. The small town is overloaded with dive schools and plenty of happy / hungover backpackers. If this isn’t your jam and you want tranquillity, you’ll be better off in quieter Chalok Bay.
If you’re one of the thousands coming to Koh Phangan purely for the Full Moon Party then you shouldn’t look past Haad Rin. To take relaxation a little more seriously make your way to the North West of Koh Phangan, where you’ll find the perfect balance of atmosphere and downtime.
Being Thailand’s second largest island, the accommodation options are extensive. The most popular area to stay is Chaweng beach, which is the place to be for water sports and nightlife. On the other hand, Maenam Beach is perfect for those chasing peace whilst maintaining a healthy relationship with their bank account.
Phuket is the most visited beach destination in Thailand and it’s not hard to see why. There’s so much going on here that you’re guaranteed to be kept busy and the accommodation options are plenty. If you want to be amongst all the action, Patong is for you. Beaches like Rawai and Nai Yang are a lot quieter, but more difficult to travel to/from.
Hostels in Thailand
Being a backpacker’s paradise, hostels are one thing Thailand isn’t short of and there’s some for every type of traveller. When you can put a roof over your head for £5 a night, stay in the coolest areas of every city/town and meet countless incredible people along the way, why would you stay anywhere else?
If you’re travelling solo, seek out busy hostels where socialising comes naturally courtesy of communal areas and fun activities. You only need to read a few reviews to gauge this sort of atmosphere. You might be arriving alone, but we’d be willing to bet that by your first night you’ll have a few new friends for life.
Party hostels are plenty, especially in Bangkok and the crazy islands of Koh Phangan and Phi Phi. These are where drinking games are encouraged and there’s no such thing as a curfew. Hostels for anyone who’s here for a good time, not a long time and wants to embrace the fun, party environment. Tell tale signs of a party hostel include photos of rooftop bars, plastic buckets and pub crawls.
Looking to recuperate after some heavy nights? Travelling gets exhausting and it’s important to find a place to take it easy. Thailand’s got just the hostels for you. Luxury private rooms at a bargain price? Check. Resort-style infinity pools? Check. Hammocks overlooking the beach? Check. Head to Pai or one of the islands for some serious R&R time and you’ll find the hostels to match.
We have over 1,000 hostels in Thailand – just take a look!
Best Beaches in Thailand
Not all beaches are created equal. Depending what sort of vibe you’re chasing, your ideal beach could be one where thousands of people party the night away, or one where you’re unlikely to see another soul. Despite their differences, all of these beaches are sure to offer white sand, crystal clear waters and good times.
Beaches for Partying
- Patong Beach, Phuket
- Sairee Beach, Koh Tao
- Sunrise Beach at Haad Rin, Koh Phangan
- Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Island
- Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui
Beaches for Chilling
- Bottle Beach, Koh Phangan
- Bamboo Island, off the Krabi coast
- Sunrise and Sunset beach, Koh Lipe (accessible by boat from Phuket)
- Phra Nang Beach, off the Krabi coast
- Ao Bang Bao, Koh Kood (accessible by boat from Bangkok)
Beaches for Adventure
- Railay Beach, Krabi: best for rock climbing
- Choeng Mon Beach, Koh Samui: best for water sports and scuba diving
- Koh Tachai, Similan Island (travel here from Phuket or Khao Lak): best for scuba diving with whale and leopard sharks
- Hua Hin, Koh Phangan: best for kitesurfing
- Chumphon Pinnacle, Koh Tao: best for scuba diving
About that beach life? Read our ultimate guide to island hopping in Thailand.
Thailand’s Best National Parks
- Doi Inthanon: For the highest summit in Thailand. This park covers 482m2 and boasts gorgeous scenery throughout, from agriculture and mirrored lakes to the most incredible mountain top temple.
- Erawan: For a gorgeous 7-tiered waterfall that you can swim in. There are also caves nearby that you can adventure through with a tour guide. This is best seen on a day trip from Bangkok or Chiang Mai.
- Mu Ko Similan: For untouched landscapes, turquoise shaded water and the chance to dive with whale sharks. The granite islands are topped with rainforests and fringed by some of the best coral reef in South East Asia.
- Ao Phang Nga: For living out your James Bond dreams and experiencing some unreal caving. The park consists of 42 karst islands all featuring lagoons, limestone cliffs and caves that will simply blow you away.
- Khao Sok: For mornings spent hiking through dense rainforests and afternoons kayaking in Cheow Larn Lake. You can have an elephant experience here, with the opportunity to get up close and personal with the fantastic beasts, learning about their health and even feeding and bathing them.
Thailand Backpacking Routes
Follow any of these itineraries to cover some of the best places to visit in Thailand. Choose the best one for you based on how much time you have to spend in the land of smiles.
3 weeks backpacking Thailand itinerary
Bangkok – 2 nights overnight train or bus Chiang Mai – 4 nights mini bus Pai – 3 nights mini bus, overnight train, bus and ferry Koh Tao – 3 nights ferry Koh Samui – 3 nights ferry and bus Phuket – 2 nights ferry or bus Krabi – 3 nights
2 weeks backpacking Thailand itinerary – Northern Thailand backpacking route
Bangkok – 3 nights overnight train or bus Chiang Mai – 4 nights motorbike/bus Doi Inthanon – 3 nights motorbike/bus Chiang Mai mini bus Pai – 3 nights
2 weeks backpacking Thailand itinerary – best beaches in Thailand
Krabi – 3 nights (with day trip to Koh Lanta) Bus Koh Tao – 3 nights Ferry Koh Phangan – 3 nights Ferry Koh Samui – 3 nights Ferry and bus Phuket – 2 nights
1 month backpacking Thailand itinerary
Northern Thailand route + best beaches route!
If you are blessed with time and have the flexibility to add another week to your travels then extend your stay at one of the islands to truly relax.
Travelling around Thailand
Although Thailand’s roads can be daunting, it’s actually quite easy to get from A to B. Whether it’s a quick ride in a tuk-tuk, a draining overnight train or a swift domestic flight, this section has you covered with everything you need to know.
Tuk-tuks: you can’t leave Thailand without having ridden in a tuk-tuk. It might make the hairs on your back stand up and maybe a few swear words slide out without your knowledge, but they are relatively safe and a whole lot of fun when you get used to them. Just be aware that there are some scams and for longer rides it’s probably cheaper to get a taxi.
Songthaews: Songthaews are passenger taxis that run in Northern Thailand and are an affordable way to get around, especially in a group. Commonly known as ‘red cars’ you simply tell the driver your destination and he will decide whether it fits in with his route. For travel in Chiang Mai, any trip inside the Old Town will cost just 30 baht.
Taxis: Taxis are often cheaper and more comfortable than a tuk-tuk – if the metre is used, that is. Make sure you always ask for it, and if the driver declines continue hailing until you find an honest one. Just beware of that Bangkok traffic!
MRT: Bangkok’s trusty underground system. If you don’t fancy tackling the roads but need to get somewhere quickly then jump on board the MRT. It’s clean, efficient and will only set you back about £1.
Trains: Catching the train in Thailand is an authentic experience. Although perhaps more enjoyable than the bus, the train is surprisingly the slowest mode of transport which is why most opt for overnight journeys. Trains also tend to sell out a few days in advance, so it’s best to pre-plan your journey if you’re relying on it. You can do this through a travel agency, or avoid paying commission by going to the train station and buying one there.
There are three different classes: first, second and third. First is only available on overnight trains and is an air-conditioned sleeper that holds two people. Second is the most economically friendly, with the option of seated or sleeper and air-conditioned or fan. Unless you’re travelling a short distance, third class isn’t recommended due to the lack of comfort and ventilation.
Buses: Catching the bus is the preferred option for long distance travel in Thailand for many reasons. There are always plenty of buses going, meaning it’s usually fine to get a ticket last minute and it’s a lot quicker than catching the train. Buses run during the day and overnight, but if you’re tight on time then opt for the latter. Tickets can be purchased at the bus station or through a travel agency on the day of travel. If you like to be organised you can purchase tickets in advance.
Buses can be freezing, which is where a scarf, light jumper and some socks will come in handy. There are toilets on board and throughout the journey the bus will make a few different stops where you can jump out, stretch your feet and get a bite to eat.
Ferries: If you’re island hopping, ferries will become your friend and with dozens of different companies you’ll never be stuck getting to your next island destination. You can either buy the ferry ticket online through the operator’s website or through a travel agency. If you’re catching a train or bus to the ferry port then it’s best to buy a combined ticket which will include the two in the price.
You can check travel times and buy bus, train and ferry tickets here.
Flights: Although usually the most expensive option, internal flights in Thailand can be cheap if you plan ahead. You can find flights for as little as £25 and for the time saved, it can be totally worth it. However, if you’re travelling with a lot of baggage that needs checking in, flights can go from affordable to over budget pretty quickly.
Airlines offering internal flights in Thailand:
- Nok Airlines
- Air Asia
- Thai Airways
- Bangkok Airways
Scooters: Do like the locals and hire out a scooter to explore Thailand at your own pace. If you aren’t an experienced driver, then this is advised against as roads can be dangerous, especially around cities. Prices vary depending on the type of bike, where you are hiring and how long for. Most bike hires go per 24 hours, but if you’re planning on a long trip you can always haggle the price down to get a better deal. For an automatic bike, expect to pay as little as £3.50 for 24 hours and around £13 for 24 hours for an off-road bike.
You will need to leave your passport and/or 5,000 baht as a deposit, as well as show proof of your driver’s license.
Travelling to and from Bangkok
Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- By day train: 12 hours / £20
- By overnight train: 13 hours / £20
- By bus: 10 hours 45 minutes / from £13
Bangkok to Krabi
- By bus from Khoa San Road: 15 hours / £20
- By bus from Southern Terminal: 12 hours / £15
Bangkok to Koh Tao
- By bus + ferry from Khoa San Road with Lomprayah: from 9 hours / £25
- By bus + ferry from Khoa San Road with Songserm: 16 hours / £20
Bangkok to Koh Phangan
- By bus + ferry from Khoa San Road with Lomprayah: from 10 hours / £30
- By bus + ferry from Khoa San Road with Songserm: 18 hours / £17
Bangkok to Koh Samui
- By bus + ferry from Khoa San Road with Lomprayah: from 10.5 hours / £30
- By bus + ferry from Khoa San Road with Songserm: from 17 hours / £17
Bangkok to Phuket
- By bus from Southern Terminal: 13 hours / £15
- By plane from Don Mueang with Thai Lion Air or Air Asia: 1.5 hours / £25
Catching a train from Bangkok to Phuket isn’t the most viable option as you need to transfer at Surat Thani to hop on a bus to continue on.
Travelling outside of Bangkok
Krabi to Koh Phi Phi
- By ferry: 1.5 hours / £4.30
Chiang Mai to Pai
- By minivan: 3 hours / £4.50
The best way to get to Pai from Chiang Mai (and vice versa) is by minivan. With departures from the Chiang Mai Arcade every hour it’s quick, easy and cheap to escape to the mountain-top haven.
Chiang Mai to Koh Samui
The only airline that connects Chiang Mai to Koh Samui is Bangkok Airways. They depart twice a day but prices start at a hefty £137. The best way to get from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui is via Bangkok so pack those snacks and get some good rest beforehand because it’s one long journey. Just think about how lovely it will feel jumping into that crystal-clear water!
Krabi to Koh Samui
- By bus and ferry from Ao Nang Beach with Lomprayah: 4 hours / £12.50
One of the greatest things about travel is being exposed to all the delicious and unusual flavour combinations around the world. Thai food is one of the tastiest and most diverse cuisines out there, with everything from curries and noodles to the freshest selection of tropical fruits and desserts.
It’s essential to get amongst the Thai street food scene as this is where the most authentic flavours and spices come to life. When selecting where and what to eat, pay attention to the conditions of the stall and how the food is cooked and stored. It’s also best to stay clear of any drinks with ice, unless you know that it’s been made using bottled water. Ain’t nobody got time for Bangkok belly.
The 10 foods and drinks you MUST try in Thailand
- Pad Thai: One does not simply go to Thailand and not stuff their bellies silly with Pad Thai. Being one of the most popular Thai dishes, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see hundreds of food vendors whipping it up fresh on the street. It’s a simple flavour combination of rice noodles stir-fried with eggs, shallots, tofu/chicken/prawns and then seasoned with fish sauce, tamarind and lime. Finished with peanuts on top for the extra little crunch.
- Pad see eiw: Pad see eiw is similar to pad Thai, but the noodles used are double the thickness and soaked in dark soy sauce. It comes with cabbage, Chinese broccoli and your choice of meat. It’s a perfect dish for those that can’t handle too much spice and want to ease their way into the cuisine.
- Geng kheaw wan gai (green curry): The green curry originated in central Thailand and is one of the spiciest curries the Thai make. But don’t worry, the green chillies are toned down by the sweetness of the coconut milk and absorbed by the rice that comes with it.
- Sticky rice with mango: Sticky rice with mango is a glutinous rice dish made with coconut milk and mango. Yep, it’s as simple as that! It’s a dish that proves you don’t need a million and one ingredients to create absolute deliciousness. Although claimed as a dessert, you can eat sticky rice with mango at any point of the day – breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- Guay teow (noodle soup): Another dish that’s popular with almost everyone is guay teow, a noodle soup made with chicken, pork or beef (sorry vegetarians, give this one a miss). The noodles used are egg or rice noodles soaked in a light, flavoursome meat broth. Most noodle soups are mild on the spice as they combine sugar, lime and dried chillies.
- Som tam: Also known as green papaya salad, som tam is a flavour sensation, hitting you with sweetness, savoury, salty and sour at the same time. If you’re looking for something fresh, light and healthy, this will go down a treat, even if you don’t like papaya! You can order it as a side, for a main dish or at some street food stalls.
- Spring rolls: Everyone loves a good spring roll – and if you don’t it’s time to give them another go! Spring rolls are commonly an appetiser or snack available from most street food stalls and they won’t make a dint in your budget. They are served in several ways, with the most popular combinations being shrimp, pork, chicken or vegetables.
- Tom yum goong (spicy shrimp soup): Tom yum goong is made with quintessentially Thai ingredients and is the epitome of fresh, aromatic food. If you aren’t so good with spice be prepared to let those eyes water, opt for a different dish, or grab a bottle of water and suck it up (it’s 100% worth it).
- Roti: Although compared to the pancake, rotis are more like a sister to the crepe. You can load them up with Nutella, strawberries, mango and cream, but the most common filling is banana. This is a cheap and very satisfying eat (especially after those drunken nights) that will have you going back for seconds.
- Cha yen (Thai milk tea): A rust-coloured tea drink that can be served hot or cold. Most commonly black Ceylon tea is mixed with condensed and evaporated milk, but you can also get some that balances the black tea with green tea, making it a lot less rich.
When you need something to fill your tummy after a heavy night you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Most Thai meals, like guay teow and pad Thai, will be served all day long but there are some breakfast specific meals.
- Khao tom: This thick rice soup is usually based off chicken or pork balls and is very mild in spice. Instead, they use more subtle, fresh herbs like lemongrass and coriander.
- Egg omelette: Omelettes in Thailand are slightly different to how they’re made in the western world, but in an absolutely brilliant (but not-so-healthy) way. Instead of pan frying the omelette is deep fried, giving it a crispy outside and a very fluffy inside. Most omelettes are served with rice, especially if you’re dining in.
- Fresh fruit: If you are looking for something on the run, then you can’t go wrong with a selection of tropical fruits from one of the street stalls. You’ll see an abundance of mangosteens, lychees, sliced mango, watermelon and rose apples (an extra tasty, super crunchy apple).
- Jok: A thick but silky rice porridge that is a perfect comfort food, especially on cooler mornings. Unlike most porridge jok is served as a savoury dish, with a whole lot of garlic, ginger, soy sauce and pork.
Thai Cooking Classes
One of the best things to do in Thailand is to join in with a Thai cooking class, especially if you’ve fallen in love with the cuisine. Here are some of the top-rated cooking schools to learn how to whip up the best pad Thai and show everyone back home just how much of a culinary genius you are.
- Blue Elephant – Bangkok
- Amita Thai Cooking Class – Bangkok
- Thai Akha Cooking School – Chiang Mai
- Zabb E Lee Thai Cooking School – Chiang Mai
- Kata Thai Cooking Class – Phuket
- Thai Charm Cooking School – Krabi
- Ya’s Cookery School – Krabi
One thing’s for sure – Thailand knows how to go hard or go home. So, if partying is your thing then you’re in luck. Drinks are cheap as chips both in stores and at bars, so pre-drinking isn’t essential. Most people will opt for an alcohol bucket when out, as it’s basically like getting four drinks in one… not that we’re trying to encourage you!
Bangkok nightlife is the wildest in the country. Get ready for a total assault on the senses and a banging headache the next day! Khao San Road is the backpacker’s centre where you can expect to find huge crowds and loud music, both in the bars/clubs and spilling out onto the streets. Cut through to the road parallel, Soi Rambuttri, and the vibe is very different. Think reggae bars, great food and quirky outdoor drinking spots like a bar in the back of a campervan! Head to Sukhumvit for a more cosmopolitan night out where the lights are brighter and drinks are pricier. This is where you’ll find many a rooftop cocktail lounge where you can catch a famous Bangkok sunset. The best bars in Bangkok for backpackers include Brick Bar and The Club on Khao San Road and Demo & Funky Villa and Q Bar in Sukhumvit.
Chiang Mai Nightlife
Chiang Mai as a whole is far more chilled than Bangkok, which goes for nightlife too. It’s less hedonistic but has its own unique party scene. The best backpacker’s bars are found in the Old City, centring around a big open-air club called Zoe in Yellow. Seven or eight bars make up this nightlife complex, where you’re guaranteed to see hundreds of travellers and locals dancing to the early hours every night of the week.
Phuket’s nightlife is wonderfully tacky and downright bizarre. For the best chance of mingling with locals, avoid the seedy touristic area of Patong and check out the Old Town instead. Timber Hut is a great spot to catch some live music and Kor Tor Mor is a stylish nightclub for when you’re feeling fancy. Alternatively, try Stone Bar on Kata Beach for cheap drinks and stripped-back backpacker vibes.
Southern Islands Nightlife
The best islands to get your party on are undoubtedly Koh Phangan and Koh Phi Phi. The former is famed for its Full Moon Party, but if you aren’t visiting during the festival it still has plenty of nightlife hotspots, with the largest concentration of busy bars and clubs around Haad Rin at the south of the island. Koh Phi Phi is another Thai backpacker’s paradise, and by night you’ll find the majority of them spread around the bars and clubs of Tonsai Village, Tonsai East and Loh Dalum Bay. To sample some of Thailand’s more laid-back nightlife, visit the islands of Koh Chang, Koh Tao or Koh Lanta.
Visa for Thailand
Thailand entry requirements differ depending on which country you’re from. UK passport holders don’t need a tourist visa for Thailand if planning to stay for less than 30 days, which is also known as a visa exemption. If this is the case, be prepared to show proof of onward travel within this 30 day window.
Check Thai visa requirements for all other nationalities here.
If you intend to stay longer than 30 days then you will need to apply for a visa in advance – the two types of Thai tourist visa are as follows:
SETV: Single Entry Thai Visa
The SETV is a 60-day tourist visa that needs to be purchased before your trip to Thailand. It’s typically a two-day application process costing £25. From when you apply for the visa you will have three months to validate it.
METV: Multiple Entry Thai Visa
The METV is also a 60-day tourist visa that needs to be purchased in advance, but it allows more flexibility. If you plan on coming in and out of Thailand a few times, the METV will give you the ability to do that for a period of 6 months. Although it’s more expensive at £125, it’s totally worth it if you see yourself coming and going. If you do get an METV it’s best to leave it as late as possible as its validity starts straight away.
If you enter Thailand on a visa exemption but decide to extend your stay (we don’t blame you) you have the option to make a border run to a neighbouring country. This basically means leaving the country briefly and re-entering. Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia are the most common border runs, but it depends on where you are in Thailand when breaching the 30 days. Be aware that with a visa exemption you are only allowed to do border runs twice a year, meaning the longest you can stay without a visa is 3 months.
Jobs in Thailand for Backpackers
Working in Thailand
There are plenty of jobs in Thailand for backpackers and you’ll surely meet plenty working in hostels and bars. It’s a great way to cut costs whilst travelling and build lasting friendships, but you will need to apply for a work permit which is separate from any visa.
The best way to find out about jobs is whilst travelling. Most hostels and bars will have signs up if they are looking for workers and it helps to ask around. In most cases, you’ll work a few days in exchange for board, food, drinks and depending on your permit situation, cash. This means you can put a halt on your expenses and have more time to explore the area.
Volunteer in Thailand
Thailand has many volunteering opportunities, with programs branching from education-based and animal welfare to conservation and medical work.
You might assume that volunteering is free, but you do have to pay program costs when applying through a certified company. It’s advised to do this, just make sure you research the company prior to committing. Check out these reputable and recommended volunteering organisations:
- AHHA Education – providing education services to rural areas
- Lanta Animal Welfare – cat and dog rescue in Koh Lanta
- Bring the Elephant Home Charity – wild elephant conservation
- Mindful Farm – organic farming to improve community health
- Volunteering Solutions – offering a range of volunteering opportunities
There are also regular beach clean-ups in the south which you can help with. To keep in the loop follow Trash Hero.
Thai Culture and Customs
If you pass a Thai person on the street and your eyes meet, smile and you will certainly receive one back. Thai people have hearts of gold and will do whatever they can to make your experience in Thailand that touch more special.
Nearly 95% of Thai people follow Theravada Buddhism, reflected in the spectacular temples that can be seen all over the country. The other small percentage is made up of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism. Religion is important in Thailand and travellers must show respect when visiting sacred sites. Shoulders and knees must be covered and footwear taken off before entering. It’s also considered disrespectful to point your feet towards Buddha’s likeness or to another person so if you sit on the ground, be sure to cross your feet.
Useful Thai Phrases
New languages can be daunting but learning the basics will be greatly appreciated. Just knowing how to say hello in Thai might win you an extra scoop of mango sticky rice!
How are you? Sa bai dee mai
Goodbye: La gorn
Maybe: Aaj ja
Thankyou: Khop khun
Sorry/Excuse me: Khor thoad
How much does this cost? Ra ka tao rai
Can you make it cheaper? Lot noi dai ma
Where is the toilet? Mee Hong-num mai
Good to know: if you are a male, it’s polite to add ‘khrup’ the end of the sentence, and for females to add ‘ka’.
Is Thailand Safe?
Thailand is deemed very safe for backpackers, but it’s still important to take precautions and know how to avoid trouble. It’s a trip of a lifetime and the last thing you want is to cut it short, fall foul to petty scams or have your valuables stolen.
Partying: Nobody likes a party-pooper, but most incidents occur when alcohol or drugs are involved. It’s likely that you’ll get so drunk that you might forget this paragraph, but if there’s anything you should take out of it it’s these two points:
- Alcohol buckets can be lethal: Every backpacker that goes to Thailand is going to have a bucket or two on a night out – after all, it’s a whole lot of fun. But enjoy with caution. Bars often use cheap alcohol, and buckets are also an easy target for drink spiking. Same rules apply as back home: watch your drink and never let anyone buy you one if you’re not present.
- Drugs are risky business: Undercover police will often try and set up tourists, offering to buy/sell drugs to them. This is particularly present at The Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan, so be careful – you don’t want to pay a hefty bribe, or worse, spend some time in a Thai jail.
In the hostel: Unfortunately, petty crime at hostels does sometimes occur. Be sure to make use of any lockers or safes where you can keep your money, passport and valuables secure. Bring your own lock as they aren’t usually supplied.
In the streets: Pick-pockets on the streets and public transport look for easy opportunities, so don’t get caught out. Always make sure you carry your bag securely and put it on your front in busy areas. If you hire a bike out don’t use the basket unless you can lock your bag/gear to it.
Thailand Travel Advice
What to pack for backpacking Thailand
Packing for Thailand isn’t as easy as chucking every pair of swimmers you own and some flip flops into a bag you know! With hot and humid weather all year round, it’s important to plan what you’ll be carrying round on your back. Here’s our helpful list of things to bring to Thailand backpacking:
The 10 Essentials
A microfibre towel: Say goodbye to luxury Egyptian cotton and get yourself a microfibre instead. Not only are they lightweight and roll up close to nothing, they dry almost instantly. Be aware that most hostels in Thailand won’t offer towels, and if they do you’ll most likely need to pay for them.
Travel adapter: This is a no-brainer if you want to use your electronics in Thailand. The power supply is 220 volts and outlets take two-prong round or flat sockets.
Money belt: What were once for dads only are your new favourite accessory. You won’t have to wear it at all times, but a money belt comes in handy when travelling on public transport, especially on overnight buses and trains. It’s an easy, hassle-free way of making sure your passport, money and cards are kept safe.
Flip-flops/sliders: You can bring them with you or buy some in Thailand, but either way you’re going to need these. Not only will you live in them whilst travelling, they’ll also be your shower buddy in communal bathrooms.
Power pack: Is Spotify chewing up your battery on those 12 hour train journeys? Or have you been grammin’ so much that you’ve been hit with that pesky 10% battery warning? Your power pack will save you in so many situations. Some can hold up to 10 charges so you’ll never be left without music, maps or amusing games.
Scarf: Why on earth would one pack a scarf for a trip to a country where the temperature rarely drops below 20 degrees? Well, a lightweight scarf is the perfect cover up for temples. It means you can dress for the heat all day, yet still be able to cover up to visit temples. Win win!
Lavender: This essential oil holds so many incredible qualities and is a blessing when it comes to mosquito bites. Rub a drop of lavender on your bite to soothe the itch almost instantly. It’s also great if you’re struggling with sleep or stress.
Multiple locks with codes: There’s no doubt about it, locks with keys are risky business, especially when sleep deprivation/drinking is involved. It’s best to buy at least two bigger sized locks that unlock with a code. You’ll need these to secure your baggage and valuables at hostels and when in transit.
Headphones: It’s not until you’ve sat on a bus for 12 hours that you realise how essential music is. Make sure you bring headphones and download plenty of new music and podcasts before every journey.
An unlocked phone: This means you can use any sim card, anywhere in the world. Having a local sim becomes very handy when you lose your buddies on Khao San Road and are stuck without a WiFi connection!
For more advice check out our complete Thailand packing list.
What to Wear in Thailand
Thailand is fairly casual, so there’s no need to pack like a rock star taking a trip to Las Vegas. Most travellers will stock up on cheap elephant pants and live in them all day, every day. At the beach, hanging out in your swimming costume is fine, just be respectful when walking around the towns.
In terms of clothes you really don’t need much. Take enough to get you through one week as it’s likely you’ll want to buy some while you’re there. Clothing at markets is super cheap and items are always more loved when they have memories or places attached to them.
It’s best to leave your expensive sunglasses and watches at home. You can pick some up from a local market for close to nothing. That way, if you get a little bit wild one night and lose them you won’t be heartbroken.
Vaccinations for Thailand
The recommended vaccinations for Thailand are hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid, as well as hepatitis B and rabies if you plan on spending time in more rural areas. Hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid jabs are available for free in the UK on the NHS but hepatitis B and rabies jabs will need to be booked through a private clinic. You should meet with your GP ideally three months prior to your trip to discuss what travel vaccinations you will need.
There is some risk of malaria in Thailand, mainly in the forested areas surrounding the international borders. Most cities and main tourist areas are classified as low to no risk and therefore anti-malarial tablets are not advised. You should check the recommendations for the areas you wish to travel before your visit. Thailand has also been categorised as having a moderate risk of Zika virus transmission. Both of these conditions are spread through mosquito bites, so it is recommended to practise strict bite avoidance by covering legs and arms when possible and always using insect repellent containing a high percentage of DEET.
Full travel health advice for Thailand can be found here.
Thailand Travel Tips
- Don’t drink the tap water – this also means you should steer clear of buying smoothies and juices that have ice in them.
- Always agree on a price before riding in a tuk-tuk. Most of the time drivers will try and ask for more, but stand your ground and you’ll save a whole lot of money.
- Be aware of scams – you might be approached by a stranger informing you that the temple you’re trying to visit is closed for a public holiday. This is to try and sell you a tour to an alternative attraction, so do your own research before buying into it.
- Just go with the flow – whilst travelling Thailand you’re guaranteed to meet cool, like-minded people who could potentially become your travel buddies. If you book too far in advance, you might not be able to join them on their travels!
- Learn to haggle! At markets the prices will often start unreasonably high, the vendors’ way of targeting tourists for extra profit. Don’t be scared to haggle the price down, but appreciate what’s fair and when you should stop.
- If you plan to ride a motorcycle or moped then make sure you wear a full head helmet, long clothes and enclosed shoes. If you aren’t an experienced driver, it’s better to be safe than sorry and say no to the idea as the roads are not for the faint-hearted/inexperienced.
- Thailand’s time difference is six hours ahead of the UK
Responsible Animal Tourism
It’s so important to be aware of animal tourism when travelling and some places in Thailand are particularly problematic when it comes to exploitation and cruelty. It may seem like a dream to ride an elephant or pat a tiger but there’s a dark, unsettling reality behind these attractions. This isn’t to say you should stop all plans to see elephants, monkeys and other local animals, but do so responsibly. Here’s a list of cruelty-free organisations that still allow up-close animal experiences.
- Elephant Nature Park – Chiang Mai
- Rescue Paws – Hua Hin
- Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand – Petchaburi
- Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary – Sukhothai
- The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project – Phuket
Thailand Travel Costs
How much backpacking Thailand costs depends on a number of factors – for instance, whether you stay in £5 dorm beds or £15 private rooms. If you expect to be getting boozy a lot then of course you’ll need more money. But the great news is the cost of living in Thailand is incredibly low by western standards – one of the many reasons backpackers love it so much!
As a general rule of thumb, allow £25-30 per day. This is a reasonable allowance that on some days you won’t even come close to spending.
Currency in Thailand is the baht, and the conversion of baht to pounds is about 1 to 0.024! Some handy rates to remember are:
- 50 baht = £1.15
- 150 baht = £3.40
- 500 baht = £11.50
Prices in Thailand
- Hostel dorm bed: £6-8
- Private room: £15
Food & Drinks
- Street food meal: £1-2
- Dine in meal: £2-5
- Bottled beer: £1.50
- Alcohol bucket: £4
- Coffee: £1
- Fresh juice: 50p
- Local bus/train transport: £1
- Regional transport/long distance: £10-13
- Regional flights (without baggage): starting from £25
- Tuk-tuk: the price you pay will solely depend on how far you will be travelling. It can be a really cheap way to quickly get from point A to B, but they aren’t advised for long distance travel. Expect to pay anything from £1 – £5
- Bike hire: £1 for day hire
- Scooter hire: £5 for day hire
Activities and Tours
- Cooking class: £20
- Temples: free – £1.50
- Thai massage: £1.50
- Scuba diving: £45 for a one day dive / £70 pounds for a three day certified course
- Muay Thai match: from £5
- Island day excursions: from £20
Whether you’re taking the plunge and going on your first solo travelling trip or embarking on a lifetime adventure with your closest of friends, Thailand will leave you with life long memories and have you itching to return. So, go and dust off that rucksack, search long and hard for the best flight deals and let the good times flow. After all, we only regret the trips that we didn’t take!
Been bitten by the travel bug? Check out our ultimate guide to backpacking South East Asia.
About the author:
Sophie Spencer is an Australian travel blogger who lives for adventure and thrives off breaking out of that pesky comfort zone. She created Adventures of Soph to inspire travellers to live their boldest life, full of courage, change and a whole lot of colour. But with the good, she also shares the ugly realities of travel, talking openly about mental health, her travel mishaps and hardest times both on and off the road.