Backpacking Thailand The Ultimate 2020 Survival Guide
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 filled with confidence. Knowing what to expect, having a solid plan in place, and honing all the necessary skills you need, will imbue you with confidence and let you create an unforgettable trip.
Does this sound too good to be true? It’s not!
- Backpacking Thailand The Ultimate 2020 Survival Guide
- What This Thailand Guide Will Do For You
- Why Go Backpacking in Thailand
- Where Do Backpackers in Thailand Go?
- Crafting Your Thailand Itinerary
- Popular Thailand Backpacking Routes
- How Much Does A Trip to Thailand Cost for Backpackers
- Thailand Budget Breakdown
- Thailand Packing List
- What do you need to pack for Thailand?
- Bonus Items for Your Thailand Packing List
- When is the Best Time to Visit Thailand?
- Where to Go In Thailand
- Top Things to do in Thailand
- Learn to Scuba Dive
- Khao Sok National Park
- Songkran (BKK or CM)
- Full Moon Party (Koh Phangan)
- Taling Floating Market (BKK)
- Elephant Nature Park (CM)
- Grand Palace (BKK)
- Liveaboard (Similans Archipelago)
- White and Black Temples (Chiang Rai)
- ERAWAN NATIONAL PARK (KANCHANABURI PROVINCE)
- Sticky Waterfalls (CM)
- Maya Bay (Near Koh Phi Phi)
- Chiang Doa (Northern Thailand)
- Cooking Lessons
- Bottle Beach (Koh Phangan)
- Pamper Yourself at the Spa
- Snorkel Tours (Phi Phi)
- Sak Yant Tattoo (BKK or CM)
- Koh Lipe
- DIVE CHUMPHON PINNACLE (KOH TAO)
- Boat Through BKK
- Night Markets (All Thailand)
- Flying To Thailand
- Getting Around When Backpacking Thailand
- Staying Safe When Traveling Thailand
- Planning Thailand Trip
- 20 Thai Phrases Every Traveler Should Know
- Best Thai Phrases for Travelers
- 7 Things to Avoid When Backpacking Thailand
- All Your Questions About Thailand Answered
- On My Thailand backpacking route how long to spend in each place?
- What should I Buy in Thailand?
- Do You Need to Cover Up to Travel in Thailand?
- Where Will You Go After Thailand?
- Is Thailand Safe for Backpackers?
- What is the Best Month to Go to Thailand?
- Can You Brush Your Teeth With Tap Water in Thailand?
- Do You Tip in Thailand?
- Do Most Thai Speak English?
- Why Should You Travel to Thailand with a Water Bottle?
- Why Thailand is So Cheap?
- Is 100 Dollars a Lot in Thailand?
- Is Bali Cheaper Than Thailand?
- Reading and Movie List When Traveling Thailand
What This Thailand Guide Will Do For You
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 you’re from Thailand, in which case you probably don’t need this post.
Throughout this blog post, we will go into deep detail on topics that you need to know. We’ll talk about everything from planning your budget to crazy high-stakes adventures.
So buckle up fellow travel addicts and by the end of this guide, you’ll gain some important insights on traveling across Thailand.
Let’s get started!
Why Go Backpacking in Thailand
Thinking of traveling in Thailand? But not sure why to choose this wonderful country? Let me help clear it up for you.
Thailand’s the travel hub, and a major jumping-off point for many travelers embarking on the larger-than-life loop around Southeast Asia.
This also means that for many people “the land of smiles” is their introduction to Southeast Asia. (which is a bonus because Thailand’s the easiest country in Asia to travel)
But Thailand is much more than a stopover country or home-base for expats.
Thailand features everything from pristine beaches to thick jungle. The country is full of pristine islands, spicy – yet delicious cuisine, hectic cities, thick jungles, and ornate temples.
And that’s just the tip of what Thailand has to offer. world-class scuba diving, cheap cost of travel.
Now, top all that off with some of the happiest, most friendly people in the world – Thailand is called that “Land of Smiles” for a reason.
And what are you left with? Well, one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world.
I fell in love with Thailand after only a couple of days. Now, I’ve spent over three years in Thailand, and I still get amazed by the country.
Where Do Backpackers in Thailand Go?
So before we start planning our Thailand Itinerary we should take a quick look at where backpackers in Thailand go. Most backpackers start in tuk tuk filled Bangkok for at least a few days at the start of your trip through Southeast Asia.
It makes sense, it’s the capital and main travel port of the country. It’s also worth a few days of your time, just be prepared for chaos. But more on that later.
Leaving Bangkok travelers tend to lean towards Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai when visiting Northern Thailand, and the islands in Southern Thailand.
When it comes to islands there are two popular choices. There are the islands on the west coast like Phi Phi, Ko Lanta, and Phuket – the west coast is also your gateway to Krabi. This is also the gateway to the famed Khao Sok National Park.
And on the eastern side of the country lies another popular group of islands.
These islands are Ko Tao (one of the most famed islands), which is known for learning to scuba dive, and Ko Phangan, world-famous for the debaucherously fun-filled full moon party.
There’s also Ko Samui, which is the biggest isle but visited more by couples than backpackers. And now that we know the big hotspots where backpackers in Thailand go, we can start planning an itinerary.
Crafting Your Thailand Itinerary
Bangkok is the starting point for most backpackers who have a Southeast Asia Itinerary. And in many ways, Thailand’s capital is considered “the” gateway to Southeast Asia.
So I’d bet money that Bangkok is your first stop on your Thailand Itinerary. But after that…then what?
Here are a few well-worn routes that you can easily follow and have a great time. These recommended routes let you see the culture, explore a few of the best places in Northern Thailand, but also gives you time to relax on a beautiful beach.
Popular Thailand Backpacking Routes
As a solo traveller, these routes are good if you’re looking to meet other travelers. But feel free to mix and match or make your own itinerary. This is your Thailand Adventure after all!
Thailand Backpacking Route 1 (Northern and Southern Thailand)
- Bangkok: 2 Days
- Chiang Mai / Chiang Rai: 3 – 4 Days
- Koh Tao: 4 days (longer if learning to scuba dive)
- Koh Phangan: 2 -3 Days (for Full Moon Party)
Backpacking Route 2 (Island Hopper)
- Bangkok: 2 Days
- Khao Sok National Park: 2 Days
- Krabi: 3 Days
- Ao Nang: 3 Days
- Phi Phi island: 3 Days
- Phuket: 4 Days
Backpacking Route 3 ( Northern Thailand)
- Bangkok: 2 Days (Are you sensing a pattern here yet!?)
- Chiang Mai: 4 Days
- Pai: 3 Days
- Chiang Rai: 2 Days
- Chiang Dao: 2 Day
How Much Does A Trip to Thailand Cost for Backpackers
Now that we have some of the best places to go out of the way, let’s take a look at how much traveling through Thailand is likely to cost you. South East Asia travel is cheap compared other parts of the world like Europe.
How much does it cost to visit Thailand?
What’s a good budget for backpacking Thailand? How much money do you need for Thailand? How much does it cost to backpack in Thailand vs staying in hotels?
Let’s answer all your questions.
Like most places in the world, prices vary on location. And Thailand isn’t an exception to this rule.
The general travel rule is that the islands are more expensive, and this also true about the Islands of Thailand.
On the other hand, the far North of the country is what English and Aussies commonly refer to as “cheap as chips”.
Cities in Northern Thailand like Chiang Mai, have become famed among expats, nomads, and backpackers as a budget travelers dream.
On the other hand in Southern Thailand has backpacker hotspots like Phuket and Phi Phi are still cheap, compared to many other countries… but are much more expensive than the cities in Northern Thailand.
With the massive boom of both short and long-term travelers in the North the prices are rising.
But when compared to Western prices anywhere you go in Thailand is cheap! Making it an ideal country for a backpacker.
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. As well as shopping at local markets for fruit and quick meals, and opting for local transportation compared to the fancier buses, then plan on spending $20-$30 (625 -935 THB) daily.
If you want to find a nice balance between budget and luxury then plan on spending between $40-$60 (1250-1880 THB) per day.
For those who want to live like a king, then it is going to cost you over $100+ per day. Most tourists spend somewhere in the middle. I’d say a good fun budget for Thailand is $30 – $50 a day. This includes your hostel.
How much would it cost to go to Thailand for 2 Weeks?
Based on the logic above let’s figure out how much it would cost to go to Thailand for 2 weeks.
For bare-bones backpackers, I would suggest around somewhere between $300 – $400. This isn’t the ideal as you won’t be doing much other than cheap sightseeing and cheap eating.
A much more reasonable budget for two weeks in Thailand is $500. Plus add a few more hundred if you want to get your scuba diving license.
Budget Extra for Thailand Adventures
Exploring Thailand means that there’s always an adventure within arm’s 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, zip-lining, Elephant Nature Park, Thailand’s full moon parties, and Sak Yant tattoos.
If any of these adventures sound like they are up to 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 Sanctuary: $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
|Traveler Type||Sleeping||Food||Sightseeing & Getting Around||Total|
|Backpacker||$4-$7||$5||$15-$25||$24 – $35|
|Flashpacker||$7-$15||$12||$25-$35||$40 – $62|
|Luxury||$100+||$30||$40 – $50||$180+|
Thailand Packing List
Another thing we need to touch on is what to pack when backpacking in Thailand. Personally, this is subjective as what I consider vital might not be important to you.
What do you need to pack for Thailand?
While everyone will have a different packing list, here is a good base list of what every traveler should consider bringing when traveling to Thailand.
OUR BACKPACK OF CHOICE ( OSPREY FARPOINT)
Behold our backpack of choice, the Osprey Farpoint. This backpack has great suspension, 2 internal compression straps, and an unzippable day pack.
- A High-Quality Backpack (I like Osprey Backpacks)
- A Day Trip Backpack
- Shoes and flip-flops you can get on and off easily (more on this later).
- Modest clothes that cover your shoulders and knees. Also, remember swimwear if you are heading to the a Thai island.
- A Sarong
- Passport / And Passport Holder
- Reusable Water Bottle (Life Straw)
- Travel Insurance (We recommend Safety Wing – They are cheap and good!)
- A Good Camera
- International Travel Converter
- Toiletries and Towel
Bonus Items for Your Thailand Packing List
- Wet Wipes
- Medical Kit
- Unlocked Phone
- USB Charger
When is the Best Time to Visit Thailand?
Whenever I write about the best time to backpack in (insert country of choice here) I always feel a lonely planet wannabee. Thailand caters to travelers’ needs and every type of traveler. Whether you are a luxury traveler or a dirty backpacker (like myself), Thailand offers plenty of things no matter when you visit!
“So when is the best time to visit Thailand?”, you ask.
This means that the flood of travelers never stops. Although tourism slows down in the summer because of the brutal heat. But the low season isn’t that low.
What is the Best Month to Go to Thailand?
The overall consciences that the best month to visit Thailand is November. This is when the weather is dry and cool. Temperatures during this time are mild. However, you can’t wrong planning an island vacation anytime between October to December.
What is the coldest month in Thailand?
The coldest month in Thailand is January. But with the average temperature in January being 82 °F (28 Celsius) one can hardly call it cold. The coldest temperature recorded was 55°F. But even that was 80 years ago.
Where to Go In Thailand
Earlier I touched on some of the most important places to visit in Thailand. But now let’s dig a little deeper.
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.
Ah, Bangkok Thailand (BKK)- also known by its real name Krung Thep Maha Nakhon. What to say… like many travelers, I have a love/hate relationship with the capital.
I hate the traffic (seriously it’s some of the worst in the world), the fact that the BTS Bangkok Skytrain doesn’t cover the entire city and the never-ending chaos. The Bangkok Airport is hectic, and a long drive from the city. And being mentally prepared for the chaos can make or break your Bangkok Thailand vacation.
But I love The markets, street food (the major cuisine), Bangkok nightlife, and temples are fantastic.
The Great City of Immortals (BKK) does 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. Buzzing, full of life and culture.
BKK has more than meets the eye. And sadly, most travellers never get off Koh San Road long enough to see it.
I would spend at least 3 days in Bangkok. But if you have limited time and “wondering what to do in Bangkok in two days?”
Tips for Surviving
Bangkok Time: Like I mentioned the traffic in the capital is a mess. So it takes longer to get from A to B. This is often referred to as BKK time. And the way to deal with it is to add some extra time to your schedule to travel. Or go sightseeing super early and retreat to the area around your hotel during the afternoon and evening.
Bangkok News: Stay updated on the latest Bangkok news. This will let you know if there are trending places to visit or places to avoid. Also keep checking Southeast Asia forum for the latest updates and travel news.
Where to Stay
|Bangkok Hotel Deals||Hostels|
|Hotel Bangkok Sukhumvit||Lud’D|
|Silom Hotel Bangkok||Bed Station Khaosan|
|Rembrandt Hotel Bangkok||Mad Monkey|
Chiang Mai (CM)
Chiang Mai is my 2nd home! It is cheap, beautiful, and friendly. And I often get asked, “Why Chiang Mai?”.
The city which is surrounded by the ruins of an ancient wall is nestled in between tall hills in Northern Thailand.
Chiang Mai Thailand’s major claim to fame is the food (Koh Soi I’m looking at you), outdoor adventures, Elephant Sanctuary, botanic garden Chiang Mai, and the cheap price tag.
There are always a lot of backpackers or expats roaming Chiang Mai making it easy to meet other travelers.
Chiang Mai has a note-worthy night market. And the food in Northern Thailand is fantastic.
Chiang Mai Mueang ( The main part of the city) is teeming with great hostel’s to choose from, restaurants, and markets.
There’s just something about Chiang Mai Thailand that captivates travelers.
chiang mai accommodation
|Chiang Mai Hotels||Hostels|
|Amora Thapae Hotel||Mad Monkey|
|De Chai the Deco Hotel||Hug Hostel Rooftop|
|Four Seasons Resort||Thai Thai Hostel|
Ah, Pai, The compact 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.
Pai is only a few hours north of Chiang Mai. A popular thing to do is ride the treacherous, windy road from Chiang Mai to Pai.
Bikers beware, the mountainous road between the two cities has hundreds of twists and turns that have caused more than a few travelers to wipe out.
Ko Tao is a Thailand Island known for its Scuba diving but it is also a good place to relax and enjoy beach life. It is the cheapest place I have seen to get your open water diving license. It also has a beautiful beach where most tourists stay (and party).
For those seeking soft sandy beaches, head to the lesser-known Sai Nuan. Koa Tao has some hidden gems for those willing to do a little work. And for those looking for a Thailand adventure, it is a great island to learn to scuba dive.
One thing I like about Koh Tao is that it’s a hotspot for other people backpacking Thailand. It caters to backpackers; isn’t overrun with fancy resorts or five-star hotels. Hostels and dive centers rule the sands of Koh Tao.
It has a decent nightlife, though not nearly as good as the parties on Koh Phangan and Koh Phi Phi.
Railay (or Rai Leh)
Heading to the south of Thailand, then add Railway to your bucket list. The railway’s cut off from the rest of the mainland by gigantic limestone cliffs. These towering barriers give the area a secluded and relaxing atmosphere and make the peninsula only reachable by boat. It’s home to soft, sandy beaches, panoramic views, and a relaxing atmosphere.
Its secluded nature might trick you into believing that Rai Leh’s an often the beaten path spot. Sadly, that isn’t the case, and it’s a popular place to visit among beach bums. And there are beach bungalows and resorts to chillax.
And while this area’s become touristy, it’s still a great place to take a couple of days, relax, and charge your travel batteries.
Krabi is a major hub for the southern coast region. It’s the gateway to Railay as well.
Krabi’s a paradise, which awesome beaches, and large limestone rocks. It’s a tropical retreat from people looking for sun, beaches, emerald waters, and nature.
Krabi’s also known as a hopping off point for island hopping. You can get Tup Island, Poda Island, Chicken Island, and Hong Island.
Koh Phi Phi Island
Those looking to party on their Thailand vacation then is a popular spot.
But when it comes to Koh Phi Phi I am torn. This isle has excellent diving, viewpoints, snorkeling, and nightlife.
However, all this comes at a price as the island doesn’t feel like Thailand.
It always has a massive influx of tourists. The party scene is out of control and it fills more like a pleasure playground from Pinocchio.
Phi Phi is also by Phuket and Ao Nang. Making this a solid choice to add to your Thailand Itinerary.
Party too hard on Phi Phi and you never know what is going to happen. You might even end up waking up in your hostel with a drunken souvenir of a Palm Tree tattoo on your butt… or so I’ve heard (*Cough).
Top Things to do in Thailand
Still not sure what to do in Thailand? You’re in luck because I’ve spent 3 years in Thailand. And in all that time, after hundreds of hours spent on night buses and trains. I’ve come up with the best list of things to do when traveling to Thailand from visiting a Bangkok night market to giving you ideas for a day trip.
So let’s look at some of the best things to do in Thailand.
Learn to Scuba Dive
Thailand’s famous for its amazing dive spots. Many of the dive 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 is 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 tropical storm. (On Koh Tao I recommend Big Blue Divers)
Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park is a massive national park full of rain forests, flora, fauna, and wildlife. There’s quiet pools, thick jungles, gushing waterfalls, limestone mountains, and rain forest. It’s an incredible spot to take in some of the best landscapes the country has to offer.
Because of the park’s beauty and easy accessibility, many considered it the most popular national park on the mainland. But, it’s big enough that you never feel as if you are doing a touristy activity.
It’s an excellent place to spot wild monkeys, elephants, Asian black bears, wild boars, and Indochinese serow – just to name a few.
Of course, we are budget travelers, so we need to talk about endless things to do. Khoa Sok has lake tours, hiking, cooking lessons, kayaking, biking, cruelty-free elephant trekking, and lodges to stay.
You’ll never get bored at Khoa Sok National Park.
Songkran (BKK or CM)
New Year in Thailand turns into the biggest water fight in the world. Entire city blocks are taken over by tourists 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 of 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.
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 undercover cops.
Taling Floating Market (BKK)
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 (CM)
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 a bucket list idea)
Grand Palace (BKK)
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 teeming 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 enormous gold statues. It is also home to a famous reclining Buddha.
The price ticket is a little steep at $16, but the royal palace is a note-worthy site when backpacking Thailand.
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’s surrounded by gardens, handfuls of trees pepper the grounds, small forest surrounds the meadows of the complex. There’s a tranquil peacefulness found in the simplicity of the black temple designs.
Both of these temples are a few hours away from CM. And are located in the nearby city of Chiang Rai.
ERAWAN NATIONAL PARK (KANCHANABURI PROVINCE)
Landscape lovers pack your bags and head to this national park. Here indulge yourself in jungle treks, gushing waterfalls, still pools, and small streams. It’s an impressive place for hiking, and nature photography. It is one of the best places in Thailand to explore the outdoors.
This stunning nature park lies a few hours outside of Bangkok.
Sticky Waterfalls (CM)
On a scorching 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 an off-the-beaten path site.
Maya Bay (Near Koh Phi Phi)
If you want a deserted beach, then look elsewhere. But, this bay is amazing. Maya Bay was skyrocketed to world fame as the island that Mr. DiCaprio lived in the movie” The Beach”. ( An essential movie to watch before traveling to Thailand).
As you can imagine because of its fame, Maya Bay in Phi Phi jam-packed with tourists. But if you work hard, you can still find a quiet spot to soak in all the grand nature.
Chiang Doa (Northern Thailand)
Chiang Doa is a quiet getaway from the more popular cities in the North. This small mountain city sees little-to-no tourism. Scattered around the area are a few local homestays, jungle temples, and hot springs to enjoy.
Chiang Doa’s all about nature! And this dusty city’s ideal for backpackers seeking an adventure off the beaten path in Thailand.
A big part of Backpacking Thailand is stuffing your face with the food. Thai food is some of the best on the planet. With the massive array of coconut curries, satays, and spices I think we can all agree that food in Thailand is some of the best in the world. Seriously, try to think of a country with tastier food!
Cooking classes treat you to outstanding food, fast friends, and a fun souvenir you can use for the rest of your life.
Even if you have zero interest in cooking, a class is still fun and you get to try new foods!
Bottle Beach (Koh Phangan)
Getting to Bottle Beach takes a little bit of work. But because it’s remote you won’t have to throngs of other travelers. This is just one of Thailand’s most amazing beaches.
At max, you’ll see a handful of other travelers. But there’s a good chance you’ll have the entire beach to yourself!
Pamper Yourself at the Spa
Thailand is the land of cheap/awesome massages! And just because you’re backpacking Thailand cheap doesn’t mean you can’t build a little luxury in your budget.
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 massages a week (Don’t judge me).
Snorkel Tours (Phi Phi)
If diving doesn’t float your boat then why not try snorkeling! It’s 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. Ao Nang snorkeling is another great option when picking a Thailand Tour.
Sak Yant Tattoo (BKK or CM)
Getting a bamboo tattoo from a monk is one of the most memorable moments of my travel career.
These protection tattoos can be traced back in Thailand’s 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 is getting more and more popular, but still less touristy than many of the other major 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)
Besides 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. And if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a Whale Sharks, although, they are rare.
Boat Through BKK
A semi-touristy attraction. And as a bonus, it’s a fast and fun way to see Bangkok.
There’s something special about seeing the “Magnificent City of the Nine Gems” while whisking your way through the water.
You get outstanding views of a few of BKK’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!
One thing to bear in mind. Is that Thailand has many more things to do than listed here. After all my time spent in the country, after dozens of beaches, parties, and hangovers I have only scratched the surface of this. You could spend a lifetime venturing around Thailand and not get bored.
Even with a lifetime to explore every inch of Thailand, you wouldn’t do everything.
Night Markets (All Thailand)
Hands down one of my favorite things about visiting Thailand. Night markets engulf the senses with vibrant colors,
haggling merchants, lots of great smelling – and tasting – food. These markets are hubs for souvenirs and cheap food. No matter where you are visiting in Thailand, I can almost guarantee there’s a market nearby.
Flying To Thailand
I’ve got good news for you (you can thank me later) flights to Thailand are cheaper than you think. I’ve flown round trip from the US for less than $500 bucks.
I’ve flown from the U.S. to Thailand one way for under $300.
That halfway around the world for cheaper than it cost to fly to Europe! 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.
What month is the cheapest to fly to Thailand?
September is the cheapest month to fly to Thailand. Right before the high tourism season starts in November. But there’s a lot of cheap flights to Thailand from May – October. And with a little work, you can find a cheap flight to Thailand almost any time of the year.
Getting Around When Backpacking Thailand
The main modes of transportation around Thailand are buses, ferries, trains, and budget airlines.
Dreaming of motorbiking through a mountainous jungle? 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 gets 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 trustworthy 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 are the undisputed king of traveling Thailand.
When booking buses make sure to get the VIP ticket which only costs a couple of 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 worth it. If you are heading to the islands, the bus ticket also covers the cost of the ferry ride.
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.
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. But, sleeper trains are more comfortable than buses.
For example, an overnight bus or train ticket from Bangkok to Chiang Mai costs 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 fret about people staring at you.
How to book the overnight train in Thailand?
Booking an overnight train in Thailand is easy. Most of the time your hotel or hostel will be able to do it for you. Another option is to go to the train station that morning and book your ticket.
A minibus is a code word for a van. They are a little more expensive than the VIP buses and have less legroom. 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 costs. Mini-buses are quicker than an overnight bus. But are more expensive and less comfortable.
In the big cities only use metered taxis or are 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 Bangkok which is insanely cheap.
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.
Staying Safe When Traveling Thailand
Thailand is a very safe country for travelers. However, it is always smart to brush up on your safety tips.
Don’t be worried about traveling through Thailand. But like anywhere else in the world, there are some safety tips to increase your odds of exploring the country without trouble.
Trust Your Gut – The gut knows what the gut knows. If your gut is telling you to get out of a situation listen to it. Just make sure it is your gut, not your mind talking.
Know Your Info – Researching the areas you are going, and staying, will help you choose the best, and safest areas to stay.
Tell Someone – If you are a little unsure about where you are going, then let someone your trust know where are going, and what you are doing.
Carry Contact Info – One important thing that will help keep you safe, while traveling Thailand, is to carry the emergency contact info in your wallet or purse.
That way if you need to get a hold of the tourist police you have the contact info right on hand. Below you’ll find the emergency contact information and the contact info for the BKK United States Embassy.
Emergency Contacts For Thailand
Tourist Police Phone: 1155. United States Embassy
Address: 95 Witthayu Rd, Lumphini, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Monday – Friday: 7AM-4PMSaturday ClosedSunday Closed
Phone: +66 2 205 4000
Planning Thailand Trip
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.
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 on your passport). And another 21 countries can apply for a visa on arrival (VOA).
The length of the visas varies 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.
Most travelers can also extend their visas for another 30 – 60 days for a fee, which cost around $60 USD,
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. 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 to have to get travel insurance. That is a conversation between you, your wallet, and your body. I always make sure I am covered. But everyone is different.
For insurance, I use Safety Wing!
They have great prices (starting at $40 a month) and fantastic coverage. They have literally saved me thousands of dollars over the last two years. And reimbursed my flight back to America when COVID was shutting down the world.
WHY I RECOMMEND SAFETYWING
When the world started shutting down last March because of COVID, I was forced to get an emergency flight back to the states.
The only flight I could find was first class on BA, which cost more than $2,000.
Luckily I had invested in Safety Wing Travel Insurance. Which completely reimbursed me for the flight!
I’ll never travel without them! Checkout Safety Wing here.
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 ATMs are usually outside of TESCO Lotus and other major stores.
Most ATMs 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.
Bhat to USD 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 or 33 THB.
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 is 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 might seem high it is easy to find an awesome Airbnb for 15-35 USD (plus, you can use this Airbnb coupon code to save $40 off your first booking).
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.
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 of things you need to know about the language before looking at these phrases.
1- the 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|
|Not a problem||Mai Pen Rai|
|How are you?||Sa bai dee mai krub/ka|
|I’m sorry||Khor Thot 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|
|A little spicy||Ped Nid Noi|
|No spice||Mai Ped|
|Very delicious||Aroi mak mak|
|Do you use the Taxi meter?||Chai meter mai|
|How much does this cost?||Un nee tao rai|
7 Things to Avoid When Backpacking Thailand
Thailand is a popular country for tourists. One of the cons of this is that certain aspect of the country is exploited for the benefit of the tourist. Here are 10 tourist traps you should sidestep as a traveler.
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 to tame them for tourists. And this abuse will keep going as long as people are paying to ride them.
Is an Elephant ride worth the fact that you would be directly funding the torture of an animal? I didn’t think so.
Why we are on the subject also avoid the Tiger Temple. They are suspected of animal trafficking and drugging the tigers. So be responsible and do go to the Tiger Temple for a day trip.
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.
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 is the highest. Never, ever touch a local on the head. This is considered a major social faux pas.
I’ve seen local get aggressive when a drunken westerner did this on purpose. It’s the only time I’ve seen a local get aggressive. If you accidentally touch someone’s head it’s ok, but make sure to apologize to them.
Never Speak Bad About the Royal Family
Thailand loves its 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.
Getting too handsy in public with your significant other isn’t polite. No one 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. Respect the culture of Thailand and keep your hands to yourself.
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.
Using A Tuk Tuk
Avoid riding in a tuk-tuk. There are way more expensive and are usually a rip-off. If you want to do it once for the experience (and let’s be honest, the selfie) make sure to haggle with your tuk tuk driver to get a lower price. And don’t take it too far.
All Your Questions About Thailand Answered
Still have questions about traveling Thailand….no worries. Here we rapid fire answer some of the biggest questions travelers have about backpacking in Thailand.
On My Thailand backpacking route how long to spend in each place?
When traveling Thailand 3-5 days in each place is a good amount deciding how long to spend in each place. Of course, this can change drastically depending on where you are, and what you want to get out of your trip. So research is key.
What should I Buy in Thailand?
Clothes are a popular item to pick up in Thailand. Cloths’ are cheap and different from what you’ll find back home. Other popular things to buy are Knock Off Name Brands, silk, small carvings, accessories, and jewelry. An Asian night market is a good place to find things to buy.
Do You Need to Cover Up to Travel in Thailand?
Short answer, yes. Thailand is a conservatives country for most tourists. Women need to cover their cleavage. Shoulders and knees also need to be covered, especially when entering temples. Most temples will not let you enter with a women’s shoulders and knees showing.
When wondering “What should you not wear in Thailand?”. Just bear in mind that, apart from the beach, you should dress moderately.
So 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 posts on the subject.
3 Rules for Dressing Properly in Thailand
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 local would never approach someone about how they are dressed and I feel Thailand is getting more accepting of tourists not 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.
Where Will You Go After Thailand?
Well, that’s up to you. Like I said at the start, Thailand is the gateway to venturing through the rest of South East Asia. A few popular countries to visit after Thailand are Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia.
Is Thailand Safe for Backpackers?
Yes, overall Thailand is a safe country for travelers and welcoming to tourists. However, it is always important to be cautious and trust your gut when visiting any foreign country. But yes, Thailand is safe for both solo travelers and those traveling in a group.
What is the Best Month to Go to Thailand?
The overall consciences that the best month to visit Thailand are in November. This is when the weather is dry and cool. Temperatures during this time are mild. However, you can’t wrong planning an vacation anytime between October to December.
Can You Brush Your Teeth With Tap Water in Thailand?
Yes, the water in Thailand is safe for brushing your teeth. I recommend brushing your teeth with tap water. It slightly gets your body used to the local water. Although you shouldn’t drink tap water whether you are in Koh Krabi Thailand or Hotel Bangkok, or anywhere in Thailand.
Do You Tip in Thailand?
Thailand doesn’t have a tipping culture. So tips are not customary or expected in Thailand. However, if the service is spectacular, for example, after some great food, you can leave a small tip which is greatly appreciated.
Do Most Thai Speak English?
Not every person in Thailand speaks English, but a large majority know enough basic English there’s always an English speaker within arms reach, and locals that are happy to help you get around. Remember a big part of the Thailand’s economy runs
This is especially true in the bigger cities. Actually, in most capitals in Southeast Asia, from Siem Reap to Kuala Lumpur it’s easy to find locals who speak decent English.
Why Should You Travel to Thailand with a Water Bottle?
Easy, because the tap water isn’t safe to drink. Drinking the tap water in Thailand isn’t fatal. But you will become sick, and spend most your Thailand trip miserable. Don’t drink the tap water!
Why Thailand is So Cheap?
Thailand is cheaper because the baht is worse less than other currency. Items is Thailand are cheaper to buy because workers are paid less, around 300 baht a day. Food in Thailand is cheap because the country has a large amount of agricultural.
Is 100 Dollars a Lot in Thailand?
Frankly, yes. For a shoe string traveler $100 can last you well over a week. $100 is also what the average worker in Thailand gets paid for 10 days work. Let’s look at some other things $100 can get you in Thailand.
- Over 25 Cheap Meals.
- 3 -5 Nights in a Three Star Resort.
- Over 100 trips on the BTS.
- 2 -3 one way flights from BKK to CM, or Phuket.
Is Bali Cheaper Than Thailand?
Yes, and no. Bangkok is one of the cheapest cities to fly into in Asia, making the flight to Thailand cheaper than Bali. However, prices for food, and lodging are similar, with Bali arguably slightly more expensive. Thailand’s also cheaper when venturing off the well worn tourist trail. While prices are similar, Thailand is slightly cheaper than Bali. But Neither Bali or Thailand is considered expensive when compared to western standards.
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 on 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 secret hidden community on an isle in Thailand. That’s until they shaky truce with the drug dealers crumble. The book’s great!
The movie, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, is also fantastic and showcases some of Thailand’s most beautiful places in the world to visit.
MOVE FUN FACTS BOOK AND NEW POST!!