Backpacking Thailand The Ultimate 2019 Guide

370163_ Photo and Touch Up_020819

Are you looking to master the art of backpacking Thailand? Then you’ve come to the right place (Digital High-Five). 

Imagine landing in Thailand with a sense of confidence having a good idea what to expect, a solid plan in place, and all the necessary skills you need to create an unforgettable trip.

Does that sound too good to be true? It’s not!

What This Guide Will Do

And this post will transform you into a Thai Jedi. Er… that is to say a traveling Thailand Jedi. I can’t turn you into a Thai Jedi, unless your from Thailand, in which case you probably don’t need this post.

In the next few minutes we will go into detail on topics like cost, where to go, things to do, safety tips, Thai phrases, packing checklist, and etiquette. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

So buckle up fellow travel addicts and let’s get started.

Jump Around The Post

Backpacking Thailand Cost
Staying Safe
When to Visit Thailand
Planning Your Trip
Where to Go in Thailand
Where to Stay
22 Best Things to do in Thailand
Travel Phrases & Thai Etquette
Best Ways to Get Around
Responsibly & Everything Else

What to Expect When Backpacking Thailand

Thailand is the travel hub and jumping off point for many travelers embarking on the loop traveling around Southeast Asia.

This also means that for many people “the land of smiles” is their introduction to the region. (which is a bonus because it is the easiest country in Asia to travel.)

But Thailand is much more than just a stopover country or homebase.

Thailand is a diverse and fascinating part of the world full of pristine islands, spicy yet delicious cuisine, hectic cities, thick jungles, and ornate temples. Roll all that in with the happy people, the world-class scuba diving, the cheap cost and you are left something special.

I fell in love with Thailand after only a couple days. Now, I’ve spent over two years in Thailand, and I still get amazed by the country.

Jump Around
370163_ Photo and Touch Up_020819

Cost of Traveling Thailand

What’s a good budget for backpacking Thailand?

A general travel rule is that islands are always more expensive, and this also true of the Thai Islands. On the other hand, the far North of the country is what English and Aussies commonly refer to as “Cheap as Chips”.

Cities like Chiang Mai, have become famed among expats, nomads, and backpackers as a budget travelers dream. Sadly, with the massive boom of both short and long term tourist in the North the prices are rising.

But when compared to Western prices anywhere you go in Thailand is cheap!

Recommended Budgets for Thailand

I’ve spent less than $20 and more than $100 a day when traveling Thailand.

It all depends on your style and comfort level. If you’re on a shoestring budget which entails eating delicious street food, sacrificing a room with an AC for one with a fan, shopping at local markets, and opting for local transportation plan on spending $20-$30 (625 -935 THB) daily.

If you want a balance between budget and luxury then plan on spending between $40-$60 (1250-1880 THB) per day. 

But if you want to live like a king then it is going to cost you over a $100+ per day.

Budget Extra for Adventures

Backpacking Thailand means that there is always an adventure within arms reach. 

After all, The land of smiles is much more than friendly faces and scenic landscapes. It is also famed for its scuba diving, island hopping, ziplining, Elephant Nature Park, full moon parties, and Sak Yant tattoos

If any of these adventures sound like they are up your alley then remember to add them to your budget.

Cost of Adventures in Thailand

Scuba Diving: Open Water: $150 – $350

Chiang Mai Zipline Experience: $134 (4,199 THB)

Snorkel Tours: $34 (1,156 THB)

Elephant Nature Park: $80 – $190 (2,500 – 6,000 THB) 

Rock Climbing: $30 (900 – 1,000 THB)

Free Diving: $150 (4,900 THB)

White Water Rafting: $50 (1,590 THB)

Cooking Classes: $40 – $60 (1,250 – 1875 THB)

Sak Yant- Bamboo Tattoo: $250 (7,800 THB)

8 Day Thailand Tour: $850 (26,570 THB)

Thailand Budget Breakdown

Backpacker

  • Sleeping: $4-$7
  • Eating: $5
  • Getting Around: $2-$4
  • Sightseeing: $10-$20
  • Daily Total: $22-$36

Flashpacker

  • Sleeping: $7-$15
  • Eating: $12
  • Getting Around: $10
  • Sightseeing: $20-$30
  • Daily Total: $49-$67

Liv’n Large

  • Sleeping: $100+
  • Eating: $30
  • Getting Around: $20
  • Sightseeing: $30
  • Daily Total: $180+

Best Time to Visit Thailand

Thailand caters to travelers needs, and every type of traveler. Whether you are a luxury traveler or a dirty backpacker (like myself), there are plenty of things to do in Thailand year round.

This means that the flood of tourist never stops. Although tourism does slow down in the summer due to the brutal heat. But the low season isn’t that low. 

Let’s take a quick look at the weather, and different tourist season so you can pick the best time of the year to visit Thailand that is right for you.

Seasons in Thailand

Peak season – Thailand’s peak tourist season is from November to late February, early March.

Weather – There are three major seasons in Thailand, hot, cool, and rainy. 

The hot season runs from March – June.

The cool season is  November – February 

The monsoon season varys every year but usual start in the middle of May and ends around October.

Summer Temperatures –Summer Months: March to June. April tends to be the hottest month with temperatures being around 96 to 104 °F (36-40 °C).

Winter Temperatures – Thailand cools off November to February. Temperatures are still warm. Somewhere around 80 °F(30ish °C)

Getting-Around-Thailand

Seasons in THailand

Peak Tourist Season: November – March

Low Season: July – August

Different Seasons in Thailand:

Spring: November – March

Summer: April – June 

Monsoon: July – October

Where to Go In Thailand

Thailand has it all! 

Looking for scenic islands? You got it. Dreaming of motorbiking through a mountainous jungle? No problem!

Or maybe you want to spend your time navigating the charming chaos of busy cities? Well, Thailand has that too.

A big reason people travel to Thailand is because of the sheer amount of things to do and places to discover.

Let’s look at some of the top places to visit in Thailand.

Bangkok

backpacking Thailand

Like many travelers, I have a love/hate relationship with Bangkok. 

The markets, street food, nightlife, and temples are fantastic. But I hate the traffic (seriously it’s some of the worst in the world), the fact that the BTS Skytrain doesn’t cover the entire city and the never-ending chaos. 

Bangkok is a buzzing capital which has its pros and cons!

Rather than partying the entire time on the well-beaten tourist track, instead wander off and you will find that Bangkok is a great city full of life and culture.

There is more to Bangkok than meets the eye and sadly, most people backpacking Thailand never get off Koh San Road long enough to see it. 

I would spend at least 3 days in Bangkok.

Bangkok Travel info

Where to Stay

Where to Eat

  • Street Food ($1-3)
  • The Local ($10+)
  • Thipsamai Pad Thai ($3 -$7)

Sightseeing

  • Royal Palace ($16)
  • Taling Chan Market
  • Wat Arun Ratchawararam ($3)

Chiang Mai

Backpacking Thailand

Chiang Mai is my 2nd home! It is cheap, beautiful, and friendly.  

The city, which is surrounded by the ruins of an ancient wall, is nestled in between tall hills in Northern Thailand. 

Chiang Mai’s claim to fame is the food (Koh Soi I’m looking at you), outdoor adventures, Elephant Nature Park, and the cheap price tag.

There are always a lot of backpackers or expats roaming Chaing Mai making it easy to meet other travelers.

CHiang Mai Travel Info

Where to Eat

  • Khao Soi Mae Sai ($2 -$3)
  • Nong Bee’s Burmese Restaurant ($1-$3)
  • Bumrung Buri Market ($2 -$5)

Sightseeing

  • Wat Phra That Doi Suthep ($2)
  • Elephant Nature Park ($80-$190)
  • Sticky Waterfalls

Pai

Pai - Northern Thailand- Sunrise

Ah, Pai, The small city surrounded by mountains has become a hippies paradise.  Pai is all about river trips, trekking, or swinging in a hammock being lazy. Nowadays Pai is a tourist trap and has lost much of its authenticity. But the area is still insanely beautiful. 

The city is just a few hours away from Chiang Mai and a popular adventure is to rent a bike and head on a road trip. 

Bikers beware, the mountainous road between the two cities has hundreds of twist and turns that have caused more than a few travelers to wipe out.

Pai Travel Info

Where to Eat

  • Om Garden Cafe ($3 -$5)
  • Na’s Kitchen ($4-$7)
  • Pen’s Kitchen ($2 -$5)

Sightseeing

  • Wat Nam Hu
  • Yun Lai Viewpoint
  • Pai Circus School ($17)

Koh Tao

KOH TAO

Koh Tao is known for its Scuba diving but it is also a good island to relax and enjoy island life. It is the cheapest place I have seen to get your open water diving license. 

One thing I like about Koh Tao is that this is a backpackers Islands and it isn’t overrun with fancy resorts or five-star hotels. Hostels and dive centers rule on Koh Tao. 

It has a decent nightlife, though not nearly as good as the parties on Koh Phangan and Koh Phi Phi.

Koh Tao Travel Info

Where to Eat

  • Sairee Cottage BBQ ($4)
  • Yellow Rice and Chicken ($3)
  • P.OY’S PLACE ($5)

Sightseeing

  • Sai Nuan Beach
  • Nang Yuan Island
  • John-Suwan Viewpoint

Koh Phi Phi

When it comes to Koh Phi Phi I am torn. The island has excellent diving, viewpoints, snorkeling, and nightlife. 

However, all the this comes at a price as the island doesn’t fill like Thailand. 

It always has a massive influx of tourist. The party scene is out of control and it fills more like pleasure island from Pinocchio.

Party too hard on Phi Phi and you never know what is going to happen. You might even end up waking up with a drunken souvenir of a Palm Tree tattoo on your ass. (*Cough)

Phi Phi Travel Info

Where to Stay

Where to Eat

  • Only Noodles ($3)
  • Dow Restaurant ($4)
  • Restaurant Knock Out ($5)

Sightseeing

  • Phi Phi Viewpoint
  • Maya Bay
  • Ko Phi Phi Le

Top Things to Do in Thailand

I’ve spent years in Thailand and have only scratched the surface of all there is to do and see. It would take a lifetime to explore every inch of Thailand. 

But many of the most popular sights and adventures are popular for a reason. 

So let’s look at some of the best things to do in Thailand.  

Learn to Scuba Dive

Thailand’s famous for it’s amazing dive spots. Many of the drive spots are top notch. It is one of the cheapest places in the world to learn Scuba diving, the instructors cater to travelers, and their passion for diving in contagious. 

The ocean is my biggest fear, I faced that fear on Koh Tao and scuba diving has become an addiction even after being stranded in a topical storm(On Koh Tao I recommend Big Blue Divers) 

Songkran (Bangkok / Chiang Mai)

Thai New Year turns into the biggest water fight in the world. Entire city blocks are taken over by tourist and locals alike throwing buckets of water on each other, waring with water guns, and having a wet and wild blast. 

No one is safe or spared from getting soaked during Songkran! The biggest New Year celebrations are in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. 

Songkran runs between April 13-15 every year. 

Full Moon Party (Koh Phangan)

The infamous Thailand full moon party takes place on the Island of Koh Phangan. What started with a few backpackers a couple decades ago has grown to a massive party of tens of thousands.

Travelers flock to the beach for a drunken night of fire ropes, slides, body paint, booze, and dancing. Nowadays, islanders through half moon parties, and 3 days of pre and after parties

Basically, the party on Koh Phangan never stops although Full Moon is still the biggest night.

During the party there is a good chance you will be approached by a local trying to sell you drugs, my advice is to avoid them as there is a good chance they are an undercover cops.

Taling Floating Market (Bangkok)

This weekend market is one of the most popular markets in the city, probably because it’s so close to Bangkok.

Vendors bob and weave their boats through the river selling their wares along the way. It is great for photos and food. But as a traveler expect to pay higher prices.

Elephant Nature Park (Chiang Mai)

When people ask me what they should do in Chiang Mai I always suggest spending some time volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park. 

This park has become famous globally. They help rehabilitate elephants that have spent years suffering the abuses of captivity and get them ready to release back into the wild. (it’s definitely a bucket list idea)

Grand Palace (Bangkok)

This elaborate royal palace was built over 250 years ago. The massive complex is filled with golden buildings covered in gems even to this day it is the most grandiose palace I’ve ever seen. 

Dotted throughout the palace are large gold statues. It is also home to a famous reclining Buddha. 

The price ticket is a little steep at $16, but it is definitely worth checking out, especially if this is your first time in Southeast Asia. 

Liveaboard (Similans Archipelago) 

This elaborate royal palace was built over 250 years ago. The massive complex is filled with golden buildings covered in gems even to this day it is the most grandiose palace I’ve ever seen. 

Dotted throughout the palace are large gold statues. It is also home to a famous reclining Buddha. 

The price ticket is a little steep at $16, but it is definitely worth checking out, especially if this is your first time in Southeast Asia. 

White and Black Temples (Chiang Rai)

The white temple is unlike any other temple I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen enough temples for two lifetimes)

The entire temple colored seashell white and boast an otherworldly design. This stunning temple is also free! 

The black temple is surrounded by a little forest, and meadows. I found beauty in the simplicity of the black temples designs. Both of these temples are close to Chiang Rai.

ERAWAN NATIONAL PARK (KANCHANABURI PROVINCE)

Landscape lovers will want to head to this national park to indulge in jungle treks, gushing waterfalls, still pools, and small streams. It is a great place for hiking, and nature photography. It is one of the best places in Thailand to explore the outdoors.

This stunning nature park is a few hours from Bangkok.

Sticky Waterfalls (Chiang Mai)

On a hot summer day in Chiang Mai, the locals retreat to Bua Thong (better known as sticky waterfalls). Limestone minerals coat the rocks of the waterfalls making the surface sticky enough for your feet to cling to them and you can easily climb up them. 

Imagine your friend’s jaws dropping when you tell them you walked up waterfalls in Thailand! These unique waterfalls are around an hour away from Chaing Mai.

Maya Bay (Near Koh Phi Phi)

If you want a deserted beach then look elsewhere. However, this bay is amazing. Maya Bay was skyrocketed to world fame as the island that Mr. Dicaprio lived in the movie ” The Beach”

As you can imagine because of its fame Maya Bay is always crowded, but if you work hard you can still find a quiet spot to soak it all in.

Chiang Doa (Chiang Mai Province) 

Chiang Doa is a beautiful getaway. One thing I love is that Chiang Dao isn’t touristy. There are great homestays, jungle temples, and hot springs to enjoy. 

The city is small so most of the fun comes from outdoor activities.

Cooking Lessons

With the massive array of coconut curries, satays, and spices I think we can all agree that Thailand has some of the tastiest food on the planet. Cooking classes are a great way to meet other travelers, learn to create amazing cuisine, and eat a lot! 

Even if you have zero interest in cooking still it’s fun and you get to try new foods!

Bottle Beach (Koh Phangan)

This isn’t the easiest beach to get to, but because it’s remote you won’t have to throngs of other travelers. You can have all the beauty to yourself, at most just a few others travelers.

Pamper Yourself at the Spa

Treat Yourself! 

Thailand is the land of cheap/awesome massages! A Thai massage is a simultaneously blissful and painful experience. Massages start at around $10 an hour. 

Whenever I am in Thailand I average around two a week (Don’t judge me).

Snorkel Tours (Phi Phi)

For those who have no interest in diving, then snorkeling is the next best thing. Phi Phi has world-class snorkeling. 

You can go right from the beaches or venture to more remote locations on a snorkeling tour.

Sak Yant Tattoo

Getting a bamboo tattoo from a Thai monk is one of the most memorable moments of my travel career.

These protection tattoos can be traced back in Thai history over two thousand years. They originate from the old Lana Kingdom in the Chiang Mai region, which is where I got mine.

It is much more than a tattoo it is an experience that stays with you. I arranged my Sak Yant through Where Sidewalks End.

Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe is getting more and more popular, but still less touristy than many of the other major Thai islands.

Koh Lipe is a perfect spot to chill on pristine beaches, relax in a hammock, and soak in the beauty of Thailand.

Being away from the noise and crowds that plague the other islands is just a bonus.  

DIVE CHUMPHON PINNACLE (KOH TAO)

Beside the Similans it is my favorite place to dive on Koh Tao. Specifically the Chumphon Pinnacle, which is my first scuba diving experience ever. 

The Pinnacle has great visibility and a variety of fun sea creatures to check out. On a good day you can even find Whale Sharks, although, they are rare.

DIVE CHUMPHON PINNACLE (KOH TAO)

Beside the Similans it is my favorite place to dive on Koh Tao. Specifically the Chumphon Pinnacle, which is my first scuba diving experience ever. 

The Pinnacle has great visibility and a variety of fun sea creatures to check out. On a good day you can even find Whale Sharks, although, they are rare.

Boat Through Bangkok

This semi-tourist attraction is a great way to get out of the chaos of Bangkok and see the city from the water. 

You get awesome views of a few of Bangkok’s popular temples. You can also ride the boat right to the doorstep of the Grand Palace, which lets you knock out two things at once!

About Me

A Backpackers Tale Italy

Hi! I’m Stephen Schreck (pronounced like SHREK), but don’t worry I’m not green.

I help people discover the world by helping them plan their trips with useful travel tips and guides.

Check Out Fun Facts About Me

Popular Post

Start Your Own Blog

Southeast Asia Guides

Resources for Thailand



Booking.com

Getting Around When Backpacking Thailand

The main modes of transportation around Thailand are buses, ferries, trains, and budget airlines. 

However, if you are feeling a little more adventurous you can rent a motorbike and drive the country yourself. Just make sure you have an international driving license that covers motorbikes or get ready to fork out cash for hefty fines (a.k.a bribes).

Motorbiking around Thailand isn’t as popular as other countries in Southeast Asia like Vietnam, but you will still run into people doing it.

Before booking any mode of transportation talk to the staff at the place you are staying. They will point you to good companies, list out your options, and give you prices so you can avoid getting ripped off. 

Many hotels and hostels can even book things for you.

Buses

Buses are the undisputed king of traveling Thailand. 

When booking buses make sure to get the VIP ticket which only cost a couple dollars more. Perks of the VIP ticket include extra legroom, snacks, a blanket, and a reclining seat. 

Chances are you will spend dozens of hours on buses so upgrading is definitely worth it. If you are heading to the islands the bus ticket also covers the cost of the ferry ride.

Budget Airlines

The three biggest budget airlines in Thailand are Air AsiaNok Air, and Thai Smile. Air Asia is the most well-known. This means that seats fill up and prices rise quickly.

There are only a few airports on islands and sadly the budget airlines don’t fly there direct. Instead, you fly to a nearby airport then hop on a bus/ferry combo to get to your destination. Bangkok Airways is the only airline I know that flies directly to the islands like Koh Samui and these tickets are expensive. Although, sometimes you can score a good fair on Skyscanner or Kayak so it is worth a quick search.

Trains

I’ve only ridden the rails on a few night trains (from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and vice versa). Trains are priced similar to buses and are a little slower. However, the sleeper trains are more comfortable than buses. 

For example, a night bus or train ticket from Bangkok to Chiang Mai cost around 15-20 USD. But on the overnight train, you get your own bed that is also equipped with a privacy curtain so you don’t have to worry about people staring at you.

A great website for searching bus and train tickets is Rome2Rio.

Mini Buses

Minibus is a code word for van. They are a little more expensive than the VIP buses and have less leg room. Basically, you are sacrificing comfort for speed. However, because they are fast they are ideal for smaller journeys and day trips. 

Personally, after a handful of hours in these vans, I start feeling cramped. I avoid overnight minibus trips at all cost.

Metered Taxis

In the big cities only use metered taxis or prepared to get ripped off. Even many of the metered taxis will want to negotiate a fare instead of using the meter. I always ask the driver “Meter” before getting into the cab. 

Chances are you will have to hail a few cabs before you find one that will agree but it will save you a lot of money. If you can’t find a taxi that is willing to use the meter then turn to Lyft or Uber. 

In my experience it is still cheaper than the fare the Taxi will offer you.

Outside of the big cities, you might be forced to take Tuk Tuk’s, any available taxi, or Songtow’s. Put in these areas they are more reasonably priced.

5 Backpacking Thailand Safety Tips

Thailand is a very safe country for travelers. However, it is always smart to brush up on your safety tips.

Trust Your Gut

The biggest safety tip for anywhere you travel in the world is to trust your feelings. 

Getting a bad vibe from someone? Get out of there fast! Looking down a dimly lit street and feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? Then go a different way! 

Your gut is one of the most powerful tools you have traveling and shouldn’t be ignored. It has saved me more times than I can count.

Use a Passport Wallet

Most likely the biggest danger you’ll face in Thailand is getting pick-pocketed which makes this a useful piece of travel gear

An easy way to divert this is by having a passport wallet you can wear around your neck, or a money belt tucked under your shirt.  

Copy Your Documents

Before leaving home make copies all your important documents (passport, cards, etc) and leave them with people you trust. 

If you lose anything you can email you a copy and save you a massive headache.

Stash Some Extra Cash

I hope someone doesn’t go ruffling through my things since I am blasting this tip on the internet. 

But I always tuck away a small stash of cash. It is a safety net that makes sure that in an emergency I have enough cash to get me through a week. 

Prepare for the worst and you’ll never be surprised.

Choose Your Accommodation Wisely

This is another tactic you can use to help you stay safe in Thailand. A lot of times you’ll be coming home late, and you’re staying in a bad neighborhood you are increasing the odds of something bad happening. 

Plus, you want a place with people and staff you can trust. I always check out a few of both the positive and negative reviews before booking a place.

Emergency Contacts For Thailand

Tourist Police Phone: 1155.
 
United States Embassy

Address: 95 Witthayu Rd, Lumphini, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

Hours:

Monday – Friday: 7AM–4PM
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed

Phone: +66 2 205 4000

Planning A Trip To Thailand

What the essentials when visiting Thailand? Below is a checklist of what you will need.

Here’s everything you need to help you plan your trip to Thailand. 

Visa’s

Most of you reading this won’t need a visa before heading to Thailand. Thailand has a visa exempt agreement with 55 countries (you just get a stamp in your passport) and another 21 countries can apply for a visa on Arrival. The length of the visas vary depending on your passport, but most last around 30 -60 days

Some passports can also extend their visa another 30 days from a consulate which makes for a total of 60-90 days in the country.

Visa Exempt Countries

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahrain
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Kuwait
  • Laos
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Macau
  • Malaysia
  • Monaco
  • Mongolia
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Peru
  • Korea
  • Kuwait
  • Laos
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Vietnam

Visa on Arrival Countries

  • Andorra
  • Bulgaria
  • Bhutan
  • China
  • Cyprus
  • Ethiopia
  • Fiji
  • India
  • Kazakhstan
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Maldives
  • Mauritius
  • Papua
  • New Guinea
  • Romania
  • San Marino
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Taiwan
  • Ukraine
  • Uzbekistan

Flight

Obvious right? I’m putting flight here because I’ve got good news for you (you can thank me later) flights to Thailand are cheaper than you think. 

I’ve flown from the U.S. to Thailand one way for under $300. Now that is an insanely cheap flight

Utilize airline tools like Skyscanner and Kayak Explore to your advantage and you will save hundreds of your travel budget getting to Thailand.

Travel Insurance

Southeast Asia is organized chaos. It is full of crazy traffic, strange bugs, dodgy roads, foreign germs, and wild adventures. But insurance is a hot topic for some travelers. Personally, I view travel insurance as an investment in myself.

For example, in Thailand, a buddy of mine got bit by a monkey and had to get $1,600 in shots which the insurance covered.

I’ll never tell you have to get travel insurance. That is a conversation between you, your wallet, and body. Personally, I always make sure I am covered. But everyone is different. For insurance I use World Nomads! 

They have great prices and coverage.

 

Packing List

Osprey Farpoint – It’s hard to backpack Thailand without a backpack! Personally, the Osprey Farpoint is my weapon of choice.

It comes with an unzipable day pack, lockable zippers, and a nice internal frame!

You can check it out on Amazon or REI.

  • 1 Weeks worth of  Underwear of your choice
  • 3 Pair of Socks ( You will wear flip flops most of the time)
  • 1 Pair of Shoes
  • 1- Sandals
  • 1 – Jeans
  • 2 Shorts
  • 4 T Shirts
  • 1 Light Jacket/Hoodie
  • All Necessary Toiletries
  • Camera
  • Go Pro Hero 7

Dressing Properly in Thailand

When it comes to dressing, Thailand is conservative.  It bothers me a little when I see a guy shirtless or a girl in a bikini walking down the street.

I don’t get mad at them because chances are they don’t know they are being disrespectful to the culture they are visiting as I haven’t seen many blog post on the subject.

Three simple rules for dressing in Thailand for both men and women are…

1- Never wear something that shows your shoulders. 

2- Don’t walk around in your swimwear 

3- If you wearing shorts or a skirt make sure it covers your knees.

A Thai person would never approach someone about how they are dressed and I feel Thailand is getting more accepting of tourist no adhering to these rules.

But following them is showing respect to the people and culture you are visiting. Also, temples won’t let people who are not dressed properly inside.

Withdrawing Money When Backpacking Thailand

ATM’s are a dime a dozen in Thailand, and if you have informed your bank your abroad then withdrawing money is easy. 

Expect a hefty 200 THD withdrawal fee (6 USD) from 99% of all the ATMs, plus, whatever international withdrawal fee your bank might tack on. I bank with Charles Schwab which reimburses all ATM Fees at the end of the month. 

Yes, you read that right, I get all fees deposited back into my account! This has saved me thousands over the years. 

Another good option for travelers is AEON ATMs which wave the withdrawal fee. These ATM’s are usually outside of TESCO Lotus and other major stores. 

Most ATM’s in Thailand will accept foreign cards, however, I have come across a few that denied me. Bangkok Bank is the biggest bank in the country and I have never had problems with their ATMs.

Since my first trip to Thailand 5 years ago the exchange rate from USD to Thai Baht has always hovered around 1 USD = 32 THB. If you look to the right you will notice that I have added the current exhcange rate from USD to BAHT.

Exchange Rate

Since my first trip to Thailand 5 years ago the exchange rate from USD to THB has always hovered somewhere around 1 USD = 32 THB. 

If you look to the right you will notice that I have added the current exchange rate from USD to BAHT.

Where to Stay in Thailand

Thailand caters to every type of traveler and prices vary wildly depending on your preference. 

Hostel dorms are the cheapest and you can get a good dorm room for as little as $7 a night but a fancy hotel could easily set you back $150 per night.  

Staying in hostels in one of the easiest ways to reduce the cost of traveling in Thailand

Although, for about $25 a night you’ve scored yourself a decent hotel in Thailand. And while the average price of Airbnb’s might seem high it is easily to find an awesome Airbnb for 15-35 USD(plus, you can use this Airbnb coupon code to save $40 off your first booking)

Below I have a list of average prices you can expect to pay that I figured out myself using hostelworld, Booking.com, and Airbnb comparing hundreds of places in every price range and doing a ton of math. 

Note: price of accommodation changes instantly but you can use these prices as a guide. 

Average Price of Accommodation by City

 HOSTELSAIRBNBHOTELS
Bangkok$11$47$85
Chiang Mai$10$48$78
Pai$6Only one ($16)$56
Phi Phi$15$100 (there are cheap ones)$92
Koa Tao$10$152 (decent ones for around $20)$90

20 Thai Phrases Every Traveler Should Know

Wait! Don’t skip this section.

I think it is vital for travelers to know at least a few words in the languages of the country you are visiting. I realize a lot of people get shy about trying new languages and are too embarrassed to try. But the truth is that most people love it when you try to speak their language even if you butcher it.

It shows a measure of respect and that you care about the culture you are visiting.

I’ve messed up countless times trying to talk to locals, but it always ends with a laugh and a thank you!

There are a couple things you need to know about Thai before looking at these phrases.

1-  Thai Language is tonal, meaning the same words said in different tones have different meanings.

2-  There are different words depending on what gender you identify with – Krub (Men) / Ka ( Women).

These are polite words you will use in almost any interaction in Thailand.  These phrases are helpful if you are venturing off the beaten path in Thailand.

Best Thai Phrases for Travelers

Hello – Sawadee krub (men) / ka (women)

Thank You – Kob Kun krub/ka

Yes – Chai

No – Ma Chai

Not a problem – Mai Pen Rai

How are you? – Sa bai dee mai krub/ka

I’m Sorry – Kaw Taod krub/ka

Where is the bathroom?- Hong Naam Yoo Nai

Are You Well – Sabai Dee Mai* krub/ka

(Mai* turns a sentence into a question)

I’m well – Sabai Dee krub/ka

Can I have the bill – Check Bin krub/ka

A little – Nid noi

Spicy – Ped

A little spicy – Ped Nid Noi

No Spice – Mai Ped

Vegetarian – Mangsawirat / 

Vegan – Gin Jay

Delicious! – Aroi

Very Delicious – Aroi mak mak

How Much does this Cost? – Un nee tao rai

Do you use the Taxi meter? – Chai meter mai

Vaccines

Most of the vaccines you need for Thailand you probably got at a child. No vaccines are required to visit Thailand.

However, you want to make sure you are caught up on tetanus, hepatitis A & B, typhoid, and rabies. If you are going to rural areas then you might also want to consider meningitis and tuberculosis, and encephalitis.

Etiquette in Thailand

Let’s quickly go over over a few social fopas in Thailand. No one in Thailand will get angry at you for breaking any of these. However, they are seen an very impolite.

Never Stop on Money

If you drop some money never put your foot on it. As I mentioned earlier the Thai family is revered and the King is on most of the coins and bills. 

Stepping on the money, even to stop it from blowing away, is viewed as an insult in Thai culture.

Don’t Eat With Your Fork

Pay attention and you’ll notice that everyone in Thailand eats with a spoon.

You are given a fork, but it is used as a shovel to push food onto your spoon.

Cleaning Your Plate is a Bad Thing

Eating every morsel of food on your plate leaves the impression that you didn’t get enough food.

Instead, leave a few grains of rice which tells the cook that the food was delicious and that you are full.

Remove Your Shoes

Many shops, restaurants, temples, and spas require that you remove your shoes before entering. This is one reason why having flip-flops is important in Thailand so you can slip them on and off easily.

Don’t worry about leaving your shoes outside, there is a zero percent chance that someone will steal them. This rule doesn’t apply to malls, big shopping centers, and 7/11’s, but rather local run shops and stores.

Things to Avoid When Backpacking Thailand

Thailand is a popular country for tourist. One of the cons of this is that certain aspect of the country is exploited for the benefit of tourist. Here are 10 tourist traps you should sidestep as a traveler.

Riding Elephants

Elephants are the largest sector of animal tourism in Thailand. I encourage you to resist the urge to ride an Elephant. 

These majestic creatures are held in captivity and abused in order to tame them for tourist. And this abuse will keep going as long as people are paying to ride them.

Is an Elephant ride really worth the fact that you would be directly funding the torture of an animal? I didn’t think so.

Touching Monks

Looking for that epic Monk selfie to pad your Instagram feed? 

I hate to burst your bubble but there is a huge chance that it’s not going to happen. Monks are revered in Thailand.

They carry a lot of respect and admiration. It’s forbidden for women to come into contact with Monks. It is so strict that most monks won’t even let women hand them things.

Men are allowed to come into contact with monks but even this is rare. The only time I’ve had physical contact with a monk is during my Sak Yant. The rest of the time I keep a couple of feet between us to show respect.

Sex Tourism

Thailand is infamous for its sex tourism. Party streets and certain massage parlors are often a hub for these shady dealings. Many of the girls are forced into this way of life from a young age.

And it is better for everyone if you avoid it. Places like Pattaya have made their name off of sex tourism and it is still a thriving industry.

Never Touch a Thai Person on the Head

If Thai’s see the feet as the lowest part of the body you can easily deduce that the head as the highest. Never, ever touch a Thai person on the head. This is considered a major social fopa.

I’ve seen Thai people get aggressive when a drunken westerner did this on purpose. If you accidentally touch someone’s head you’re ok, but apologize.

Never Speak Bad ABout the Royal Family

Thailand loves their Royal family even if the son of the late king isn’t as popular as his father. There are strict laws about saying anything negative or bad about the Royal Family. If the wrong person hears it you can get fined.

No PDA

Getting too handsy in public with your significant other isn’t polite. No Thai person would say anything, but you might get some looks. You might be able to get away with holding hands (Though I would avoid it). Kissing in public is extremely disrespectful.   

 

Watch Where you Point Your Feet

Feet are considered dirty, and so pointing your feet at people is one of the worst things you can do. You only need to be conscious of this in places that require you to take your shoes off like shops and temples.

Phone & Internet When Backpacking Thailand

Thailand has excellent phone service and data speed. You can buy sims at the airport (Make sure you have an unlocked phone).

Prices are cheap and you can buy a few GB of data for around $10.

I use T-Mobile which gives you unlimited free data in Thailand and over 100 other countries. It isn’t the fastest internet but it works!

5 Best Travel Apps Traveling Thailand

Line

Line is to Thailand what Whatsapp is to America.

Travelers and locals use it to stay in touch with friends and share photos and videos. This App isn’t essential to traveling around Thailand, but it makes photo sharing easier and you’re going to get asked for your line id so much that eventually, you’re going to download it anyway.

Amazing Thailand

Amazing Thailand is an official app created by the tourism authority of Thailand to help travelers.

This app gives awesome insights on where to eat, events around the country, Thai food, and travel information for Thailand.

It helps you make the most of your time and get a quick answer to any questions you might have.

Maps Me

This popular map app is a great choice for traveling almost anywhere in the world. The biggest perk is that lets you download the maps so you can use them offline which helps when you are getting off the beaten track or out of service.

I used Maps Me while hiking in the Himalayas to make sure I was staying on course.

While it does miss some smaller roads It is one of the best maps for travelers out there. Google maps also works pretty well in Thailand.

Uber

Right now Uber is insanely popular in Thailand. The best news is that it is cheap! I’ve gotten rides as cheap as $0.75 that would have cost a couple dollars by cab. Uber also offers a lot of promo codes in Thailand making it even cheaper.

Lfyt is also getting more popular.

XE Currency

XE currency gives you up to date exchange rates.

Useful for referencing how much you are paying or before exchanging using a currency exchange to make sure you’re not getting ripped off.

Reading and Movie List When Traveling Thailand

Lastly, let’s end with some fun! After reading all this you understand how awesome and diverse. But sometimes Thailand seems like a strange place. Here are some fun facts about the country.  

Bridge of the River Kwai (Book and Movie)

Based in WW II, this book covers POWs forced to help the Japanese get to Burma by building a bridge.

While bridge building might not sound like an entertaining premise for a book, trust me, it’s great.  The book takes place in the Kanchanaburi region, which is a popular tourist destination in Thailand. 

The Beach (Book and Movie)

A fantastic story about a sercert island community on an island in Thailand. That’s until they shakey truce with the island drug dealers crumble. The book’s great!

The movie, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio,  is also fantastic and showcases some of Thailand’s most beautiful landscapes. 

Thailand: Fun Facts

Lastly, let’s end with some fun! After reading all this you understand how awesome and diverse. But sometimes Thailand seems like a strange place. Here are some fun facts about the country.  

  • The Thai name for Thailand -Prathet Thai – means “land of the free”.
  • One of Thailand’s craziest festivals is the Monkey Buffet.
  • 90 percent of the Thai population are Buddhist.
  • The old name for Thailand is “Siam”.
  • Before a movie starts everyone stands as a tribute video to the King plays.
  • There is a legend that Chang Beer has different strengths. So you might drink one and feel fine, or be totally hammered. This is referred to as winning the Chang Lottery.
  • Bangkok was once called the Venice of the East because of all the canals. Nowadays they have been turned into roads.
  • A favorite dessert is ice cream between two pieces of bread! (What a strange ice cream sandwich)
  • There are around 35,000 temples in Thailand.
  • Thailand has over 1,400 islands.
  • Thailand is one of the most visited countries on the planet! Over 35 million tourist visited in 2018.
  • The official name of Bangkok is “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.” Making it the longest city name in the world.

All right, that all you need. You are now a backpacking Thailand Jedi!

If you have any questions, or just want to shoot me message with your thoughts about Thailand just leave me a comment below. 

Leave A Comment

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Fiona_M_Maclean says

    Given that picture of the couple on the scooter, I’m most grateful for your calendar of weather – I shall be avoiding Monsoon season for sure! I’m not really a backpacker but there’s tons of useful information in your guide for everyone

  2. Travel with Mei and Kerstin says

    Interesting post! We have friends and family who have visited Thailand many times and love it. We haven’t been there yet, mainly because we’re not into beaches or outdoor activities. But eventually we’ll visit someday when we’ve explored other bucket list countries. The only time we travel far (aka to Asia) would be in July and August. How’s the weather at that time of the year? We’ve heard that it often rains… although according to your post it’s not really monsoon season. Also, it’s good to know that one has to ask the driver “Meter” before getting into the cab. Thanks for sharing this post!

    • Stephen Schreck says

      Hey Mei! I’m glad you asked about the weather as I wrote it backwards. The rainy season is from May – October. So yes your friends are right. July and August are the rainiest months. It isn’t bad though. usual it just rains a couple hours here or there throughout the day. Making sure you get the taxi to agree to a meter is important. Often times in cities like Bangkok you’ll have to ask a few cabs before one agrees. To and from the airport the standard fair is 500 THB so no taxi will agree to the meter their. It is much cheaper to take the train.

  3. Christina Pfeiffer says

    One of the things about Thailand that continues to amaze me is how cost effective it is to visit, not just for backpackers. It’s cheap to holiday in Thailand no matter what your budget is. Do you know how much it would cost to learn scuba diving?

    • Stephen Schreck says

      For sure! You get a lot of bang for your buck no matter how much of a travel budget you have! Yeah, so any open water license runs somewhere between $150-$350 depending on where you are in Thailand.

  4. Daniels Beitss says

    Fantastic information here and great guide, espeically for me as I am hoping to travel to Thailand for the first time. Its great you given the rough costs to the adventures which people can do, but was really surprised that the Elephant park is $80.

  5. Hannah says

    What an incredibly comprehensive post on Thailand – I learnt so much! I’ve heard so many lovely things about Chiang Mai, I think I would definitely visit there. I didn’t know some of the etiquette, so that is so useful – especially about monks and not touching Thai people on the head. Great read!

  6. Lisa // Fjords & Beaches says

    Thailand is definitely a budget-friendly destination! And although Koh Phi Phi is filled with tourists, it’s such a gorgeous place 😍 I think I’d probably say “Ped” and then “Hong Naam Yoo Nai” the most in Thailand 😂 I absolutely love how detailed this guide is – thank you! 🙌🏼

  7. Layla Nia says

    Wow! I wish I had seen this before I traveled through Thailand!
    I was also there for songkran and it was so much fun (in bangkok)

    Koh phi phi Koh lanta were my fav but I have to visit the north so this is a great guide! thanks!

  8. Claire says

    I haven’t been to Thailand yet but I’m hoping to go in 2020 – it sounds amazing! I didn’t know about dressing conservatively there, I was aware about when you go into temples but I didn’t realise it should be everywhere. I think Bangkok is somewhere you have to go, but Chiang Mai sounds much more my taste!

    • Stephen Schreck says

      Haha if you get out of the touristy areas of Bangkok it is really nice! However, Chiang Mai is much more laid back and relaxing! Plus, the food in the north is awesome! When you are planning your 2020 adventures let me know if you have any questions!

  9. Shahrom Martijn says

    I am heading to Thailand this March. Thank you for your tips in this article and I would definitely check out some of the mentioned places.

  10. Terri Steffes says

    What a great post for traveling to Thailand! Wow! It’s not on my bucket list right now, but I am definitely reconsidering. It is beautiful and affordable and I want to see an elephant in the wild.

    • Stephen Schreck says

      Thanks!! I appreciate it. Sadly, your chances of seeing a wild elephant in Thailand are pretty slim. The population is so depleted due to people capturing them and selling them to other countries, or using for tourism. (This is a problem with a lot of animals in Southeast Asia) You can spend some time at the Elephant Nature Park in Chaing Mai. They rehabilitate captured and tortured elephants and help get them ready to go back to the wild.

  11. Roger Willis says

    This sounds like quite the adventure. Most of the time, I read about people backpacking through Europe, but this looks like so much fun. Your post was full of great locations and very detailed.

  12. Marcie W. says

    Excellent post! We frequently travel as a family and Thailand is our 2020 destination. I really appreciate all of this valuable information, especially the budget breakdown and etiquette sections.

  13. Jacque Hooper says

    This is such awesome information! I love how you break everything down, including the daily cost! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Eileen Mendoza Loya says

    Thank you for this very detailed and thorough guide to visiting Thailand. I thought it would cost me an arm and a leg to go there, but I guess not! I have to plan for a trip there soon.

  15. Eileen Mendoza Loya says

    Thank you for this very detailed and thorough guide to visiting Thailand. I thought it would cost me an arm and a leg to go there, but I guess not! I have to plan for a trip there soon.

  16. paula schuck says

    WOW!! This is the most comprehensive Thailand resource that I have seen on line. I didn’t know anything about how inexpensive it is to travel in various areas of Thailand so that’s good news. This helps me to determine when to go and what to do when there. Thanks so much!

  17. paula schuck says

    WOW!! This is the most comprehensive Thailand resource that I have seen on line. I didn’t know anything about how inexpensive it is to travel in various areas of Thailand so that’s good news. This helps me to determine when to go and what to do when there. Thanks so much!

  18. Jacque Hooper says

    This post is very well written and is all you need to have if you wanted to pick up and go to Thailand, tomorrow! Great information!

  19. Estelle Sobel Erasmus says

    This is such a comprehensive guide to Thailand. We went there in 2017 and had an amazing time. We went to one of the Islands, Ko Samai, I believe.

  20. ElizOF says

    These are very good tips for those who want to travel on a budget and do it safely. I enjoyed all the different price points you shared.

    Elizabeth O

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Pin The Post for Later

Or

Share It With the World

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on pocket