Backpacking Thailand

An Indie Travel Guide

Beaches, ancient temples, great street food, and plenty of new friends: Whatever you want or need in life, Thailand has it. Cheap, beautiful, and filled with good times…all while backpacking Thailand

Backpacking Thailand: The Basics

Thailand in a Nutshell

A Southeast Asian nation and mecca for backpackers and young travelers and backpackers. Why? Beautiful beaches, bountiful parties, amazing food, stunning temples, smiling locals, and all attainable on a backpacker budget.

The Weirder Side

1. See the “Penis Shrine” in (Bangkok)
2. Visit the airplane graveyard (Bangkok)
3. See a dilapidated shopping mall overrun (or overswum?) by exotic fish
4. Chat with a ladyboy to find out what all the fuss is about (looking only, no touching please!)
5. See medical oddities at the Siriraj Medical Museum

Basic Facts

Rating: 9/10
Budget: $15-$30 per day
Recommended Time: 2 Months

Why Go?

1. Getting from any “point A” to “point b” anywhere in the country is super easy and cheap
2. Accommodation is cheap and very comfortable
3. Getting around is easy without speaking the local language
4. Very safe (aside from pickpocketing in some areas)
5. Constant flow of backpackers and budget travelers, you will always have new friends nearby
6. Great solo travel destination
7. Haven of relaxation while also being a great party scene
8. Immense culture, history, and cuisine overwhelm the senses in the best way possible
9. It puts Vegas to shame at 1/10th the cost

Highlights

1. Street food (soups and noodles)
2. Thai massages (the respectable ones) for ~$7 an hour
3. World class SCUBA diving and snorkeling
4. Beach cocktails at sunset on the beach, with old friends or new
5. Watching a Thai kickboxing match
6. Riding a “Tuk-Tuk”, crazy taxi style
7. Amazing jungle and waterfall filled landscapes surrounding the cities of Pai and Chiang-Mai
8. Thai cooking classes
9. Ancient Buddhist Temples (like the Grand Palace and Wat Preakaw in Bangkok), monasteries, and ancient ruins
10. Muay Thai kickboxing training (not for the faint of heart)

When to Backpack Thailand

With Thailand’s variety of weather and things to do, it is always a good time to be in “the land of smiles”. Use the information below to find out the best place to be for your time here

Best Time to Go

November to mid-February: coolest monsoons have just finished and temperatures are

Special Events & Festivals:

Songkran (April 13-15): Water festival when everyone is armed with water guns and buckets and anyone is a target…but it’s all in good fun!
Yi Peng (November, revolving dates): Festival of lanterns releasing thousands into the night of Chiang Mai
Chinese New Year (January/February)
Lo Krathong (October/November)

Weather

Wet Season: May to October (but cheaper and less tourist heavy)
Hot Season: June-August, unpleasantly hot during mid-day, but doable
Burning Season: February – April, In northern Thailand the hill sides may be covered in smoke

Note: Any season is still. fine Given Thailand’s geography, if it is rainy and miserable in one part of the country, you’re just a bus/boat ride away from a sunny paradise somewhere else in Thailand. No joke! West Coast: Rainy Season is from May to October. East Coast: September to December

Average Costs While Backpacking Thailand

Overall Costs

$15 – $30 per day, staying in guesthouses and avoiding touristy restaurants.  Prices are cheaper in the central and north and more expensive in the islands

Food

$1-$3 a meal, $6 at a “Farang” (Foreigners) restuarant

Drink

Beer $2, Cocktail $2

Lodging

$10, $15, or $30 a night for budget accommodation (shared hostel dorm), (private hostel room), (hotel room)
$20 for a double room in Bangkok
$10-$15 for a hut on the beach (FYI, this option is my favortie…)

Tipping

Don’t! Thais don’t, and you shouldn’t either. Easy money saved

Suggested Daily Budget

Low end : $15/day (shared dorm, eating as a local, limited booze and partying)
High end: $30/day (single rooms, eating at restaurants, and the occasional night out and drink)

Entrance Fees

Museums $5, temples ~$5-$10

Tips on Saving Money

Hit 7/11 for snacks and alcohol. They’re everywhere and the prices are reasonable for most of your needs
Follow the tourists, not the locals for food and drink. Tourists pay tourist prices and locals know where delicious local food is.
Pre-game and have a little something to drink with friends before going to the bars. Most bars charges outrageous prices because locals don’t go to them

Thailand Itineraries

Overview

Backpacker itineraries in Thailand follow two options:
Northern Thailand (Mainland itinerary), filled with metropolises and culture, and
the Southern Thailand (the island itinerary) filled with basic pleasures and dreamy beachscapes

Mainland Itinerary

Bangkok -to- Chiang Mai -to- Pai -to- Mae Han Song Province -back to- Bangkok – A culture filled experience starting in the chaotic adventure that is Bangkok, followed by ancient ruins and a deeply cultural experiences in Chiang Mai and a relaxing immersion into the hippyish expat population in Pai

Island Itinerary

Bangkok -to- Krabi Province (Railay and Krabi Town) -to- the North Island of Koh Chang -to- Koh Phangnan (island) -to- Koh Tao (island) -to- Koh Phi Phi (island) -to- Khao Sok National Park (island) -back to- Bangkok – A dream sequence of sunny beaches, diving, snorkeling, and parties starting in the backpacker haven of Bangkok continuing by bus then train to reach the islands of southern Thailand where you will experience a buffet of islands, each bearing its character: from touristy and overbuilt, to undeveloped and dreamy, to party centric outposts for fire shows and buckets of cocktails. No matter what you like (or don’t like) as long as you enjoy sun and picturesque views, the island circuit of southern Thailand will be a dream come true

Thailand Itineraries:
The Northern and Southern Circuits

The Thailand Mainland Itinerary

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, and a few stops along the way. The north is generally more mountainous, has cooler weather, and a more relaxed pace of life.

Bangkok

The gateway to Thailand, Bangkok is a bustling metropolis that is the perfect start to backpacking adventures. The city serves two great purposes to travelers: 1) giving you an amazing experience to start off your travels, from food, to the backpacker laden Khao San Road, ancient temples, insanely cheap (~$5) therapeutic Thai massages, and so much more and 2) Providing an easy and cheap way to get to your next destination, whether that adventure is in the hilly, jungle laden northern Thailand or the sun drenched and enthralling beaches of southern Thailand. No matter what your travel aim is, Bangkok is not to be missed.

Sites and Experiences

Temples: Normally packed with tourists, go early to avoid the crowds

The Grand Palace: 250 Baht entrance fee **(**Research and addinfo**)**

Wat Po, Temple of the Reclining Buddha – Home to the “reclining Buddha”, 43meters long and 15meters tall with feet made from mother of pearl. Wat Pho is equally as impressive as the Grand Palace but cheaper and less hectic (Price of entry)

Wat Prakeaw temple, Temple of the Emerald Buddha

“Soi Cowboy” – **Spice it up if you dare** – I discovered this place on accident on my first trip to Thailand. All of the hostels and hotels seemed to be booked up and the only place I could find was two streets from here. Long story short – this is a street that serves as the bar district where ladyboys live. There is a bar with some decent live music on one end, and on the other end there is a street car vending delicious food – in between those two points you’ll see some very interesting things that you could only find in Bangkok. Not for the faint of heart (or pure of soul), but if you are in search of adventure and new things, you’ll definitely find “a little something” here.

Ari Neighborhood: Trendy cafes and bars that are popular with locals just as much as expats

China Town: Delicious street food from Thai and Chinese street vendors, surrounded by an assortment of interesting shops

Airplane Cemetery

Chatuchak Market:

Floating Markets: There are several but some say the best is in Nakhon Prathon, about two hours west of Bangkok

Ruins of Ayutthaya – An ancient city filed with Buddhist temples that was once the second capital of Siam and, during the 18th century, the largest city in the world with 1 million residents. Ayutthaya is located 2 hours outside of Bangkok

Traditional Thai Massages (200 Baht) Take advantage of the traditional Thai massages. The firm, therapeutic focus takes deep tissue massage to a whole new level. The most talented masseuse I encountered was a tiny fellow (maybe 110 pounds) who managed not only twist me up like a carnival pretzel, but also laid on his back and balanced me on his feet during the massage…and it somehow felt amazing. For a great massage near Khao San Road go to “Smooth Massage II” with a true Traditional Thai Massage for 250 Baht (~$7.50) per hour. Smooth Massage II is located across from the 7-Eleven on Thanon Tani Rd (The massage parlor has no address, but the 7-Eleven across the street is located at 102 Tani, Khwaeng Talat Yot) Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200

Late Night Street Food – The best street food available can usually be found after midnight and consisted of wok fried rices and noodles with fire grilled meats.  My favorite can be found a 10 minute walk from Khao San road and is heavily frequented by locals after 12AM.  To find it, walk the stretch between Sip Sam Hang Rd (in Bangkok) between the Thanon Tani Rd and Soi Kraisi road.  Recommended dishes are anything fire grilled or that smells amazing, including the salt covered fish that is slow grilled over open coals

Other Activities

Cycle tour of Bangkok
Walking Tour of Bangkok
Eat a whole pig!! – Featured in Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations, and just as delicious as you would expect
See a Thai Kickboxing match: Lumpini Stadium is legendary, aim for this venue
Boat down the Chao Phraya River
Visit MBK Shopping Center – The largest shopping mall in Bangkok with everything imaginable

Getting There

Bangkok is normally the first stop for most backpackers, in Thailand and in general. Bangkok is a great place to start Southeast Asia travel as flights to the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos are very cheap from Bangkok. Bangkok airport’s status as a major hub in Southeast Asia makes flights to surrounding countries impressively cheap. Once in Bangkok A taxi from Bangkok airport to Khao San Road should be 250-400 baht and no more than 500 baht, but I recommend using Uber instead – its reliable and fair. If you come to Bangkok with no accommodations and no plans, just head to Khao San Road and let the “travel gods” sort things out from there…it’s a great place to start

Getting Around

I prefer Uber for long rides across town as it is cheap and you know what you’re getting into. Taxis work well for long rides across town as well, but insist on the driver using a meter and don’t place any belongings in the trunk. Sky Train (http://www.bangkok-city.com/go/index.html) is another great option for getting around town. But really, walking is the most amazing option ever in this city – with all it has to offer there is bound to be a surprise around every corner.

Sleeping in Bangkok

See the Accommodations Section, at the end of this guide, for a list of recommended places to rest your head

Sites & Experiences

Kanchanaburi: A small river city frequent by backpackers and travelers, made famous in the move Bridge over the River Kwai. Highlights: Tiger Temple, Hellfire Pass, and Erawan National Park

Hua Hin: (1-2 days) Thailand’s oldest beach resort that is also very popular with Bangkok residents. Located 2.5 hours south of Bangkok, this city can breakup the long ride south to the other islands more preferred by backpackers.

Khao Yai National Park: Wild elephants, beautiful waterfalls, hiking, and swimming.

All of this, just 3 hours northeast of Bangkok by car

Lop Buri: A monkey filled, ancient town that is well known among Thais and devoid of foreigners

Ruins of Sukhothai: An ancient city (circa 13th century) that sits between Bangkok (5 hours drive) and Chiang Mai (4 hours drive) where the ruins of Thailand’s original capital sit.(best way to get there, what to do). The city sits midway on the main train line that travels from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Old Sukhothai is a UNESCO world heritage site situated about 8 miles west of downtown Sukhothai. Consider renting a motorbike to venture out and explore.

Moving On

In Thailand: Head for Chiang Mai. The ancient, cultural filled city is the natural next step for backpackers on the “mainland circuit”. If you’re craving beaches, head for Krabi town and Railay to start the southern “islands circuit”

For Cultural Experiences: Head for Myanmar. After you’ve tasted enough of Thailands pleasures, head here. With a more cultural and eye opening experience Myanmar will deeply enrich your travel experience

For Cheap Travel: Head for the Philippines. The Philippines is quickly becoming popular with backpackers for its great beaches, unique cultural experience and food, and the low price of great experiences, such as swimming with whale sharks. Also consider Laos and Cambodia for low cost travel.

For Beaches: Head for Indonesia or the Philippines. Both are island nations that have perfected the art of beaching and have world class snorkeling and diving.

For Food: Head for Vietnam. You’ve heard of Pho right? Exactly. Combine that with an assortment of street foods that rival Thailand and you have the perfect follow on destination for budget conscious foodies

Chiang Mai

“The Rose of the North”: Cosmopolitan, ancient, walled city in northern Thailand surrounded by grassy hillside landscapes that is home to delicious food, cheap accommodations, and a slower pace than Thailand’s other major city. Chiang Mai has long been a gracious host to backpackers, budget travelers, and digital nomads of all shapes, flavors, and origins.

Sites and Experiences in Chiang Mai

Thai cooking class: 1200 Baht for one day cooking class
Tours to Burmese long neck tribes
Jungle zip lining
Visit the Mae Sa Waterfall
Drive the Mae Hon Song Loop
Hill Tribe Tours and Treks
Night Market for handcrafted local goods
Warorot Market – Void of foreigners and as chaotic and interesting as Bangkok
Cheap massages (even cheaper than Bangkok!)
Myanmar border trekking
Sunset at the Golden Temple
Live Music & Venues – unexpected but plentiful and entertaining

Getting There

From Bangkok leave on an overnight train getting a first class sleeper car to save on accommodation. Visit the train Hualamphong Station in the middle of Bangkok (or inquire at your hostel) to reserve tickets.

Getting Around

**Information coming soon**

Sleeping in Chiang Mai

See the Accommodations section at the end of this guide for up to date reccomendations

Side Trips

Chiang Rai: The gateway to the golden triangle

Mae Sariang: Venture from Chiang Mai or Pai to Mae Sariang for trekking and minimalist outdoor activities close to the Myanmar border without the crowds of Pai and Chiang Mai.

Moving On

Head for Pai, a paradise for expats that are craving a slower, more relaxed pace or have a generally “hippy” nature. Riverside hostels and guest houses with waterfront hammocks and smiley hosts. What more can you ask for?

Pai

A hippy haven, home to many a backpacker, Pai is set on the bank of the Pai river and offers riverside bungalows and hammocks to cradle you while contemplate the meaning of life…and your next destination. With only 3000 residents, the town is small but backpackers will still manage to find an enjoyable place

Sights and Experiences

Jungle trips
River trips
Trip to the Pai Canyon
Visit Nearby Karen Villages
Tubing
Trekking
Zip-lining
Water rafting
Rent a motorcycle and discover countryside and rice paddies

Tips for Traveling in Pai

Tourists outnumber locals here, so avoid being drowned by tourists, get outside of Pai and discover the nature that the surrounding countryside has to offer

Getting There

Travel from Chiang Mai or bus, or rent a motorbike to make the intercity trip and and add even more memories

Getting Around

Rent a motorbike for the best experience. Given Pai’s slower pace, compared to Bangkok, renting a motorbike is a sane idea that gives you the freedom to zip around town freely and explore the nearby countryside

Sleeping in Pai

See the Accommodations section, at the end of this guide, for up to date recommendations on where to sleep in Pai

Side Trips

**Information coming soon**

Moving On

Head for Soppong and Chiang Rai in the Mae Han Song Province

Soppong
Chiang Rai

Northwest of Pai, Mae Han Song Province is Thailand’s least populated province best experienced on motorbike starting in Chiang Mai and ending in Pai. If you end up here, rent a motorbike and explore the surrounding cities. Soppong is a backpacker city in the province that is a perfect basecamp for backpackers hiking and trekking in the region.

Sites and Experiences

The bamboo bridge
Waterfall
Palace
Fish Cave
Hill tribe treks: Given the lower tourist traffic, hill tribe treks are more authentic here so be sure to check out the Karen and Lawa Hill Tribes

Getting There

**Information coming soon**

Getting Around

**Information coming soon**

Sleeping in Mae Han Song Province

See the Accommodations section at the end of this guide for up to date recommendations on where to sleep in Mae Han Song Province

Side Trips

**Information coming soon**

Moving On

Head back to Bangkok and make plans for the “Southern Circuit” in Thailand – AKA, “The Thailand Island Itinerary”

The Thailand Island Itinerary

Thailand’s East Coast

• Phuket (most commercial)
• Krabi province (Krabi Town and Railay)
• Khao Sok National Park (great jungle trekking)
• Phi Phi Island (beautiful, high prices, 24/7 party)
• Koh Lanta (Developed, cheaper, more laid back)
• Koh Lipe (rustic, least developed)
• Koh Kradan (rustic, least developed)

Thailand’s West Coast

• Koh Samui island (overdeveloped)
• Koh Phangnang (party, party, party)
• Koh Tao (rustic, SCUBA diving certification mecca)
• Khao Sok National Park
• Koh Samet
• Koh Tarutao
• Koh Chang
• Koh Lanta
• Similan Islands

Krabi Province

Krabi province is home to Ao Song, a touristy resort town located 30 minutes from its capital, Krabi Town, and Railay, which is less touristy and better suits the vibe and budget of most backpackers

Railay & Krabi Town

A must for beach bums!! Technically not an Island, Railay is a beautiful coastal town south of Krabi Town. Filled with picturesque beaches surrounded by limestone cliffs, Railay is probably the backdrop for man of the pictures of Thai beaches that you’ve seen (you know, the one with the bay with a single Thai boat tied to the shore and a beautiful tower of rock behind it). The hiking and activities make this a perfect destination for active travelers who want to do more than drink and lounge on the beach

Sites and Experiences

Hiking
Jungle tours
Lay in the amazingly warm sea and enjoy your slice of heaven
Climb to the Tiger Temple (& ring the bell 7 times for good luck)
Rock climbing

Where to Sleep

See the Accommodations section, at the end of this guide, for up to date recommendations on where to sleep in Railay and Krabi Town

Getting There

Despite not being an island, Railay is only accessible by boat, which gives it an “island feel”. Get to this remote, coastal town by hopping a ferry from Krabi Town

Moving On

**Information coming soon**

Koh Chang
(North Island)

An island with picturesque beaches that are deserted outside of peak seasons. The north western shore is a stretch of white sand beaches with accommodations for every budget (i.e., lovely huts for us nomads)

Sites and Experiences

Touring the island: The road network is well kept, so rent a motorcycle or scooter and explore the island to find your own flavor of paradise

Full Moon Party

Full Moon Party Details

Taking place at Haad Rin beach, the full moon party is LEGENDARY (said in a Barney Stinson voice).

Full Moon Party Tips
• Don’t show up too early if you want to make it to sunrise
• Eat a hefty meal beforehand
• Pace yourself (obvious why)
• Bring change to pay for the bathroom

Koh Phangnan

Another stunning island that is home to the “legendary” full moon party. Outside of the 3-5 days of full moon party craziness, the island has a calmer, wilder feel that should not be missed. With the right timing, this is some of the best semblances of paradise that Asia has to offer.

Koh Tao

Koh Tao (meaning “Turtle Island”) is a beautiful, more rustic version of the other islands. This island is easily the quietest of the main 3 inhabited islands. As a Mecca for SCUBA diving and SCUBA certifications, more divers are certified here (I was!) than anywhere else in the world. Whether you are in the market to get SCUBA certified or want to escape the beach crowds on other islands, go sneak away to a hut on Koh Tao.

Sites and Experiences

Get PADI (SCUBA) Certified: Koh Tao is one of the cheapest places in the world to get certified and churns out more dive certifications annually than anywhere else on the globe. We recommend Big Blue as they provided a great, safe experience. Want to stay in Thailand longer? Consider getting your master certification and stay to teach

Exploring the Island by Motorbike: There is a single road that runs along the west side of the island where most businesses are clustered. Here you can buy a meal, signup up for SCUBA lessons, rent your motorcycle, and come back at night the bars (after your certification, of course) to have a drink and meet some fellow travelers.

Koh Phi Phi

The famous Thailand backpacking movie “The Beach” was filmed here…need we say more? Prices are higher than the rest of Thailand, and tourists outnumber the grains of sand on the beach…but its still beautiful. Phi Phi Don is the only inhabited island in this group and though it was quiet and desolate 30 years ago, the current village caters to the same group of partiers chasing full moon parties and jungle parties, similar to Haad Rin on Koh Phagngan. Between ruckuses, travelers can lay on beautiful beaches and take advantage of great snorkeling.

Sites and Experiences

Boat trips between smaller islands
Visit “Maya Bay” where the movie “The Island” was filmed

Khao Sok National Park

A national park on Thailand’s west coast, along the Adaman Sea. Not an island, but regarded by some as the best national park in Thailand. Caves, jungles, and rivers can be explored by foot on hikes, or following the water by raft, canoe, or kayak.

Koh Samui

**NOT RECOMMENDED FOR BUDGET TRAVELERS!!!**

This island is not very popular with backpackers, compared to the other 3 inhabited islands, due to its relatively high costs and touristy vibe. We recommended forgoing this island and spending the savings on a communal bottle of Thai whiskey (from 7-11 of course) shared with new friends on an old beach

Other Destinations off the Beaten Path

Picturesque beaches once featured in movies, parties for every personality and budget, and more sunshine than you can ask for….welcome to the Island life in Thailand

Ko Kood

An island covered with jungle and dotted with waterfalls and monasteries, plus the beaches are nearly deserted by nightfall. If you want quiet beaches away from tourists, this is your spot

Koh Lanta

An island with cheap bungalows and motorcycles for rent to explore beaches without another soul in sight. The further you ride south, on the island, the tourists (and less tarmac) you’ll find. If you hit mental overload from fire jumping and neon paint, venture to here for true peace and solitude

Logistics

Getting to Thailand

If you are a first time backpacker or a general budget traveler Bangkok, should be your first destination in Southeast Asia. Bangkok’s airport is a high traffic hub of international travel meaning it is one of the most affordable places to fly to in Asia from North America, Europe, and elsewhere. From Bangkok, virtually everywhere (Myanmar, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Philippines, Japan, etc.) is easily and cheaply accessible by air and bus.

By Air

Flying into Bangkok is the cheapest and easiest route when coming in from abroad.

ByRoad and Rail

Road and train travel into Thailand is easy when traveling from Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos

By Air

Flying into Bangkok is the cheapest and easiest route when coming in from abroad.

Getting Around Thailand

The backpacker trail in Thailand is well traveled, so travel by air, bus, and train will be fairly cheap. If you are traveling short term in the country (less than two weeks) continue inter-city flights. Otherwise, bus travel is reliable and tends to be shorter and more punctual than trains. If traveling overnight from Bangkok to Chang Mai, consider taking a first class overnight train and saving on a night’s accommodation.

By Air

If traveling through Thailand on a short jaunt (less than two weeks) consider flying inter-city, but book flights early before seats fill up and prices go up. Air Asia, Thai Lion Air will be the easiest and most cost efficient

By Train

Example Train Prices:
Bangkok to Chang Mai: 11 hours
• 1st Class: 1200 Baht (~$30) – Small room with two bunk beds and an attendant who checks on you and brings you food/drink until sleeping hours. Excellent option for saving money on accommodation
• 2nd Class: 650 Baht (~$19) – For a 2nd class sleeper carriage, picture an average train car with all seats removed and bunk beds installed all along the walls of the train. The main difference between second and first class is less privacy and more beds
• 3rd Class: 250 Baht – Seats only, no bed! Only use for short trips, or fun jaunts with drunken friends

By Bus

Cross country busses cost between $7 and $20. VIP buses are very affordable and can be booked with travel agents in touristy areas. Some hostels are able to handle booking as well, so ask. Feeling froggy? Ask about the “Karaoke Buses”

• VIP Bus Bangkok to Chang Mai: 700 Baht, 11 hours
• Normal Bus Bangkok to Chiang Mai: 350 Baht, 11 hours
• VIP Bus Bangkok to Krabi: 750 Baht, 13 hours
• Normal Bus Bangkok to Krabi: 400 Baht, 13 hours
• Local buses ~30 Baht for most journeys (~$1

By Ferry

Hopping between islands is easily accomplished traveling by ferry. Prices vary and you can purchase your ticket as a package with your bus ticket. Ferries between islands run $7 to $15 and are generally cheaper if purchased with a bus ticket.

By Taxi

Go for Uber. Its predictable, fair and reliable. If you insist on a taxi, only get in if they agree to run the meter and avoid unlicensed taxis. Tips: pay with small bank notes, don’t put anything in the trunk, and keep an eye on the meter.

Hitchhiking

Safe but requires persistence. Ensure the driver knows where you want to go, otherwise you’ll end up at a bus station. Aim for a spot where the traffic is slow and just stick a thumb out

Rented Motorbike

Motorbikes are easily rented for $5-$10 a day depending on your preferences (age, motor scooter vs. dirt bike, 4 wheeler) and most road signs are marked in Thai and English. Renting a motorbike is highly recommended for exploring the countryside and getting off the beaten track

Where Next?

The backpacker trail in Thailand is well traveled, so travel by air, bus, and train will be fairly cheap. If you are traveling short term in the country (less than two weeks) continue inter-city flights. Otherwise, bus travel is reliable and tends to be shorter and more punctual than trains. If traveling overnight from Bangkok to Chang Mai, consider taking a first class overnight train and saving on a night’s accommodation.

Myanmar

**More information to come**

Cambodia

**More information to come**

Laos

**More information to come**

Vietnam

**More information to come**

Phillippines

**More information to come**

Indonesia

**More information to come**

Accommodations in Thailand

Recommendations for where to sleep in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, and the islands of Thailand

Advice on Where to Sleep

Accommodations in Thailand are easy to come by and have plenty of options regardless of your travel expectations, style of travel, or budget. Given the large number of backpackers, it is easy to find low budget hostels as well as posh and fancy hostels and guest houses. Given the equally large number of soul searches its just as easy to find hostels that cater to partying and socializing as it is to find hostels and guest houses that focus on hammocks, relaxing, and peaceful introspection.

Best Booking Sites

Couch Surfers (Budget), Couch Surfers Thailand
Hostelbookers (Budget)
Hostelworld (Budget)
AirBnB (Budget), AirBnB Thailand
Kayak (Budget + luxury)

Average Lodging Costs in Thailand

Dorm Bed: 200-300 Baht
Single Room: 300-500 Baht
Double Room: 500-1000 Baht
Beach Bungalows: 500-1500 Baht
Beach: Free!! (I mean…we are bumming it as backpackers, aren’t we?)

Recommended Accommodations in Thailand

A list of some of the most highly recommended hostels and guest houses from other awesome backpackers and budget travelers across the web

Bangkok

Nap Park Hostel: Ice cold dorms and a very social common area one block from Khao San made this the tipping point for the best backpacking adventure I’ve ever had.  Lovely staff.  Clean.  Great ambiance, daytime or night. Dorms from $13 – Rating: 9/10 (Site: Carlitos)

Lamurr Sukhumvit 41: Dorms from $16 – Rating: 9.9 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Cubic Bangkok: Dorms from $12 – Rating: 9.9 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Good One Hostel & Café: Dorms from $9 – Rating: 9.9 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Nornyai Hostel: Double Rooms from $24 – Rating: 9.7 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Kama Bangkok: Double Rooms from $45 – Rating: 9.5 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Smile Society: Double Rooms from $36 – Rating: 9.4 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road, The Broke Backpacker)
The Aris Hostel, Bangkok: (Recommending site: MyFunkyTravel)
Suneta Hostel Khaosan: Modern yet cozy hostel, away from busy Khaosan Road but close enough to walk there. Lovely common room with several pet guinea pigs. (IndieTraveller.Co)
Yard Hostel: In a less touristy part of Bangkok with wonderful courtyard garden. Read about my stay at Yard Hostel. (IndieTraveller.Co)

Chiang Mai

Spicy Thai (Backpacker Hostel): A low key hostel located outside of the main quarter.  Rooms aren’t the best, but a friendly common area and chill vibe mean you’re destined to make like minded friends that you’ll hate leaving (Recommending Site: Carlitos)

Brick House Hostel: A true poshtel with a great vibe and chill worthy freshwater pool brickhousehostel.com (Recommending Site: Carlitos)

Plearn Hostel: Dorms from $12 – Rating: 9.9 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Green Tiger Vegetarian House: Dorms from $12 – Rating: 9.6 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
@Box Hostel: Dorms from $9 – Rating: 9.6 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Khaosan in Chiang Mai: Double Rooms from $18 – Rating: 9.6 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Oxotel Hostel: Double Rooms from $35 – Rating: 9.5 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Tanita House: Double Rooms from $42 – Rating: 9.4 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Green Tulip House: Colorful Chiang Mai hostel with a great atmosphere and rooftop lounge. (Site: Indietraveller.co)
Rainforest Boutique Hotel: Chiang Mai has possibly the largest offering of budget to mid-range accommodation. This is one great example but there are hundreds more. (Site: IndieTraveller.Co)
The Poshtel: Located near the night market (Recommending Site: The Broke Backpacker)
Mapping Hostel: (Recommending Site: My Funky Travel)

 

Pai

Nine House: Dorms from $5 – Rating: 8.9 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Spicy Pai Backpackers: Dorms from $5 – Rating: 8.1 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Purple Monkey Backpackers: Dorms from $6 – Rating: 7.9 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road, The Broke Backpacker) — Very cheap for the area and includes wifi
Baan Kati Sod: Double Rooms from $9 – Rating: 8.1 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Baan Ing Na: Bungalows from $14 – Rating: 7.8 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
KK.Hut: Double Huts from $5 – Rating: 8.3 / 10 (Site: Goats on the Road)
Spicy Pai: Just slightly out of town, but loved staying here among the rice fields. Social backpacker atmosphere. (Site: Indietraveller.co)

Koh Lanta

Chill Out House: Hostel built entirely from driftwood with friendly communal atmosphere. Near the beach & very hippie. (Site: IndieTraveller.Co)

Koh Phangang

Shiralea Backpackers Resort: Modern hostel with swimming pool, dorms and privates. (Site: IndieTraveller.Co)

Kanchan-
aburi

Sky Resort Kanchanaburi : (Recommending site: The Broke Backpacker)

Koh Samui

Kingston Jamaica hostel: (Recommending site: The Broke Backpacker)

Koh Tao

Goodtime Beach Hostel: The highest-rated hostel on Koh Tao, on the main beach. (Site: IndieTraveller.Co)
Guesthouse DD Hut: Mini-resort with modern bungalows right on Sairee Beach, with private balconies and sea views. $33/n (Site: IndieTraveller.Co)
The Earth House: Thai-style bamboo bungalows among the palm trees with cozy beer garden. $12/n. (Site: IndieTraveller.Co)

Raily Beach, Krabi

Railay Viewpoint Resort: Rooms available around $35/n near one of south Thailand’s most popular beaches. (Site: IndieTraveller.Co)

Koh Phangang

High Life Bungalow: Mini-resort on top of a cliff overlooking the beach with hammocks, swimming pool & sea views. Starting at $24/n. (Site: IndieTraveller.Co)

Chiang Rai

Baan Rub Aroon: Quiet mansion hostel away from the city hustle and bustle. (Site: IndieTraveller.Co)

Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok Palm Garden Resort: Khao Sok National Park There’s a lot of affordable jungle hut style accommodation in beautiful Khao Sok National Park. Another example is Monkey Mansion. (Site: IndieTraveller.Co)
Khaosok Treehouse Resort: (Recommending site: The Broke Backpacker)

Khao Yai National Park

Pakchong Hotel: A cheap option in an otherwise expensive area (Recommending site: The Broke Backpacker)

Thai Food & Culture

Rules of Eating in Thailand

Rule 1

Follow the heard: Locals know where tastiest and safest food is, so, if you see a line for a food cart, get in it

Rule 2

Locals eat on “a local’s budget”. Unlike foreigners on holiday, they balance tasty with being price conscious, so let them do the work for you

Must Eat Thai Dishes

Pad Thai (of course)
Massuman
Spring Rolls
Larp
Tom Yam Gung: Spicy Shrimp soup
Tom Yum
Thai Yellow Curry
Som Tam, “Green Papaya Salad”: Thin sliced papaya pounded and seasoned with chile, fish sauce, and lime juice and served with sticky rice. Best eaten at street carts in Bangkok
Pad Ga Pao Moo: Stir fried pork with Basil served on a plate of rice with an (optional) egg. Best eaten at street stalls all over Bangkok
Gaeng Keow Wan Gai: “Green Chicken Curry” made with fragrant chile paste, chicken, bamboo shoots, and a bunch of other awesome mystery ingredients with a touch of coconut milk. Best eaten at a neighborhood or sit down restaurant
Pad Kee Mao Sen Yai: “Stir Fried Drunken Noodles” made of wide rice noodles, vegetables, your choice of meat, salted fish sauce, and soy sauce. Best eaten in chaotic bliss from a Bangkok street food stall
Kuay Teow Tom Yum: A soup of flash boiled noodles served in a spicy sour broth. Thais add a spoonful of sugar, a dash of chili flakes, and a touch of vinegar to turn up the flavor
Thai Iced Tea: Not a food, but still delicious
Thai Red Bull: I can’t put my finger on how, but this Red Bull gives you more than wings. Try it and you’ll understand

Food and Drink Costs in Thailand

Street Food

A street food plate of rice, vegetables and a small amount of meat will be 30-50 baht (~$1-$2)
Entire meals, with a main entrée and sides, of street food will be 60-200 baht (~$2-$7)

Restaurants

Air-conditioned restaurants: 100-200 baht (~$4-$7)per person
Gourmet restaurants: 300-400 baht (~$10-$15) per person

7/11

1.5 liter bottled water: 13 baht (~$.50)
Large local beer: 40-60 baht (~$1.25-$2)
Thai Whiskey: 150-400 baht (~$5-~$14)

Bars

Small local beer: 100-200 baht (~$3.25-~$7)
Bucket of whiskey and soda: 100-200 baht (~$3.25-~$7)

Extra Advice for Traveling Thailand

Tips for Traveling Thailand

Tip 1: Bring an unlocked Cell Phone and get T-Mobile One
Tip 2: Take a sleeper train
Tip 3: Get a traveler friendly credit card, with a bonus, points for purchases, price protection, and no foreign transaction fees
Tip 4: Avoid Phuket and Koh Samui – Extremely touristy and you will hear a weird sucking sound on your bank account
Tip 5: Coconut water and fresh smoothies: Get ‘em. They’re cheap and awesome. And you’re on vacation. Need I say more?
Tip 6: Pack Light – Aim for a carry on sized bag
Tip 7: Check the budget airlines: AirAsia, NokAir, and Thai Smile
Tip 8: Get massages. They’re between $5 and $20 for an hour, and they’re amazing
Tip 9: Don’t ride elephants or visit Tiger Temples: They’re likely drugged and you’d be perpetuating a horrible practice
Tip 10: Waterproof your camera or bring your go pro. I recommend Lifeproof cases or Ziploc bags…yes…Ziploc bags
Tip 11: Rent a snorkel and fins to arrange your own snorkeling experience (check out our city guides for each island to find the good spots
Tip 12: Pay a little extra to upgrade to an offroad motorcycle on islands when renting – the extra capability pays off in finding desolate beaches
Tip 13: Use the citronella extract mosquito repellant. Its natural, works well, stops the itching, and has a lovely tingle. You’ll be able to find it in most shops
Tip 14: Buy the Lonely Planet guidebook (here)
Tip 15: Look out for a music festival – I inadvertently landed in one in koh tao. Aside from diving, it was the best part of my experience
Tip 16: Stay in each place 4 days minimum: The longer you stay, more you relax, the more aware you become of the gems around you. You can always come back for that “next place”. You will…
Tip 17: Stay in Hostels: It’s the best way to meet travelers, and get on the “backpacker track”. It will help you stretch your budget and put you in great company
Tip 18: Barter barter barter: food menus prices are normally the only fixed prices. Everything else is fair game!
Tip 19: Bring your own lock. Some hostels offer a lock to lock your room and valuables, but bringing your own is safer
Tip 20: Pack all of your valuables (passport, cash, credit cards, electronics) on your person when taking long buses, trains, and ferries. Any luggage that is stowed has the potential of being stolen.
Tip 21: Don’t bring valuables to the beach (or full moon parties) as these are easy spots for petty theft
Tip 22: If visiting a temple, cover up by wearing pants and a long sleeve shirt out of respect
Tip 23: Prep well for overnight buses, plan to have no bathroom, stock up on food, wear layers, and consider ear plugs, baby wipes, and a flashlight
Tip 24: Go with the flow. On this backpacker trail, everything happens for a reason
Tip 25: Don’t rush. Assume you are unaware of the things that will make your adventure the most memorable. If you rush to the things you “should” see, you’ll miss what you’re meant to see
Tip 26: Drink Coca Cola to kill the nasties in your stomach from the questionable food
Tip 27: Bring toilet paper. Seriously. Bring toilet paper. And then sell it for a fortune when the other guy forgets. Just imagine what could happen when you don’t…
Tip 28: Agree on prices before you ride a Tuk Tuk or taxi. Do not ride in taxis without a running meter
Tip 29: For the mosquitos – look for the citronella extract spray bug repellent. It relieves the itch, keeps the bugs away, and works amazingly!
Tip 30: Negotiate: “Farrang prices” are the norm…negotiate and show that your pockets aren’t bottomless and you will get closer to the “locals only” price

Tips for Saving Money in Thailand

Tip 1: To keep drinking costs down, pick up your drinks from one of the many 7-11 convenience stores across the country, then share with new friends prior to going out. Even backpackers in Thailand frequent bars and clubs that locals rarely go to, so most bars and clubs naturally charge “farang” prices, which means beer and cocktails will be your most expensive daily luxury

Tip 2: A bottle of Mekhong whiskey costs about $3, so do yourself a favor – buy a bottle prior to going out and use that savings (aka, the whiskey) to make some friends at your hostel. If you take them to with you to Khao San Road or Lumpini stadium, they’ll add more fun than any overpriced drink

Consider Avoiding…

Avoid…Pattong: Overdeveloped, overpriced, and filled with package resort tourists

Avoid…Phucket: Sex tourists galore, and the rest are resort vacationers

Avoid…Koh Samui: Lovely island, not so lovely tourists. Go to Koh Tao, which has a much more relaxed, hippy vibe

Tips on Being a Responsible Traveler

Tip 1: Don’t write your name on temple walls in black sharpie marker
Tip 2: Don’t pay for sex – the free kind is plentiful, just have fun and be patient
Tip 3: Look for ethical animal sanctuaries if you want to see elephants and Tigers: most paid tours drug the animals or mistreat them. Do your research that you don’t perpetuate this cycle
Tip 4: Don’t ride elephants – if the elephant wasn’t forced into captivity, this wouldn’t be a possibility
Tip 5: Be courteous – a bucket of alcohol isn’t a valid reason to lose your cool, disrespect people, or disrespect the customs of your hosts
Tip 6: Wear a helmet on your motorbike – despite how stubborn your partner thinks you are, your head isn’t as hard as they may think. Accidents do (and eventually will) happen

Schemes for Working (and Staying) in Thailand

Many travelers have fallen in love with Thailand so hard that they wanted to extend their stays indefinitely. These are the schemes for staying in Thailand that have worked best for them

Teaching English (Paid or volunteering)
Volunteering
Child’s Dream Foundation
Foundation for Education and Devleopment
The Isara Foundation
Volunteer to work at a hostel
Working as a Dive instructor
Freelancing/Digital Nomad (Chiang Mai is a popular hub for this scheme)

Essential Thai Vocabulary

Farang: Foreigner
Khob kun kap: Thank You
No Problem/No Worries: Mai pen rai kap
Mau mai: Are you drunk?
Mau: Oh yeah! I’m drunk!
Chang (yai) kap: (Large) Change beer please
Baw Khaw Saw: Thai Bus Service

Scams to be Aware of

Thailand is safe enough that the only dangers you’ll come across will be targeted at your wallet. Beware of these scams to make sure the money flying out of your wallet is intentional

Scam 1: Tuk-tuk drivers as salesmen: Every Tuk-tuk driver “knows a guy/jeweler/tailor” who can get you a “great deal!!” Don’t buy it…literally. The driver gets a cut from whatever you purchase and you will not receive fair pricing.

Scam 2: Tuk-tuk city tour: Tuk-tuk driver offers to take a tourist on a tour of the city for a fixed fee…the tour just so happens to stop by every shop that the driver has a side deal with. If you can accept this, jump on board! If not, negotiate on the stops beforehand or choose an alternate way of getting around

Essential Gear to Bring to Thailand

Rain Jacket or poncho
ITH homemade first aid kit: With everything you neeed for stomach bugs, to hangovers, to quickly fixing gear, this is a must have. Find out how to make yours here
Travel Guide of choice – The objective nature and no need for wi-fi make these a must have

Other Great Resources

Best sites and sources from across the web on Thailand

Great Travel Sites

Unfortunately, you won’t be the first backpacker to visit Thailand. Fortunately, quite a few other people took notes along the way. Here are our favorites…aside from Indie Travel Hub, of course

Goats on the Road

http://www.goatsontheroad.com/guide-to-backpacking-thailand/

Indie Traveller

Not our “Indie Travel Hub”, but another knowledgeable traveler with a ton of great content (Indie traveller Thailand)

Nina’s Guide

A handful of good information on the cost of things in Thailand (Nina’s Costs in Thailand)

The Broke Backpacker

Another knowledgeable budget traveler with a ton of great information on Thailand (Broke Backpacker in Thailand)

My Funky Travel

A fun loving traveler providing info on routes and itineraries through Thailand (My Funky Travel Thailand Itinerary)

Soar Legs

Another knowledgeable, budget conscious globe trotter sharing knowledge on Thailand (Soar Legs walking through Thailand)

Jones Around the World

A very experienced backpacker sharing some unique advice on backpacking through Thailand (Jones Around the World’s Tips on Thailand)

Resources by Topic

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Pai

Nomadic Matt gives expert advice on travelling through Pai (Nomadic Matt in Pai)

Bangkok – Exotic Sites

Big cities can all feel the same. Renegade Travel provides 25 great exotic things to see in Bangkok to break the mold

Thailand FAQ

Can I drink the water?

Nope. Stick with the bottled water (cheapest at 7/11)

How do I do laundry?

Very easily. Laundry services take care of it quickly on a “per pound” price. Yes. It is awesome.

How do I access cash?

ATM’s are every where. Thailand also has magic fairy’s that deliver cash…they’re related to Red Bulls and are commonly found on Khao San Road

Why does the Thai Red Bull make me feel like an Olympic Track star?

We hear its made of real bits of red bulls…imported from Pamplona after being blessed by Zeus…but we’re not certain

Where do babies come from?

Cabbage patches…seriously…

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