Thailand Travel Guide

Where to go in Thailand

 

Thailand has something for everyone. From crazy Full Moon Party in Ko Phangan to luxury private villas in Phuket, Thailand cater to different crowds from around the world. Mmmm, but that delicious Thai food! Whether you are a backpacker, a package tourist, outdoor enthusiast or wide-eyed adventurer, you should know how much money do you need to travel in Thailand. Check my ultimate Thailand Travel Guide to make sure you have all the information you need to plan an epic trip!

 

The Land of Thousand Smiles is home to lush jungles, hill tribes and wildlife in the north and outstanding ancient ruins in the middle of the country. In the South, you will discover tropical paradise with an iconic sandy coastline, turquoise waters and the most beautiful islands in the world. It doesn’t matter where you go in Thailand, you’ll find friendly people everywhere. There are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, Pattaya and everything seems so convenient and easy as you travel across Thailand.

1. Thailand Travel Guide – Getting around

When I first came to Thailand I thought getting around would be a challenging task. But since the country is the travel hub of Southeast Asia, there are always plenty of options to choose from. I have been to Thailand many times – from just passing through to long-term stays and seems that there is always some cheaper options available when you’re on a tight budget. You just need to know where to look.

 

Thailand budget travel guide

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Flying

I absolutely adore the fact that Thailand like Europe has a number of budget airlines. Flying is probably the quickest way to get around Thailand and reach the neighbouring countries like China, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Myanmar. AirAsia is arguably the most popular low-cost airline and you can get up to 90% discount when booking in advance. If you’re in a hurry you can also try Nok, Thai Smile and Thai Lion for some great deals and routings.

 

Train

Spending a night on a sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a quintessential Thailand experience. Travelling with long-haul (they also go overnight) trains in Thailand brings an added level of convenience when it comes to saving money. Basically, the trains have a 1st, 2nd and 3rd class. After my recent train journey, I tend to choose the second class because the beds are just as comfy as the 1st class with enough room for a backpack.

 

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The first class includes fancy private air-con cabins with double beds. Depending on your preferences, travelling with the third class can be great for your wallet (it is super cheap!), but can get extremely uncomfortable when you travel long-haul. The third class cars often have wooden benches and packed with locals, so if you’re NOT into watching people, saving money and learning facts about life in Thailand, avoid it. I’d recommend taking only short trips with the third class cars.

Buses

You can’t visit Thailand without taking a bus ride at least once. They are cheap and convenient but once you need to find a bus stop you often should ask locals first. Blue coloured open-air buses on Phuket do not necessarily stop at bus stops. They do it wherever they can pick up a passenger. If you need to wave the bus down, signal to the driver with a wave and stand back away from the road.   Buses may or may not have conductors to collect the fare. If there is no bus conductor, the driver leaves his cabin every time there are new passengers to collect the fare. Local buses are generally slower than trains and planes, but they offer an excellent opportunity to meet other travellers and locals, chat with them and take in the scenery. While so many travellers out there opt for air-con buses, I prefer ocean breeze blowing on my face.

How much money do you need to travel in Thailand

 

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When it comes to travelling between cities and internationally, a lot of long-haul buses run from Bangkok. Check the three major bus terminals in Bangkok. The Northern Bus Terminal, also known as Mo Chit, the Eastern Bus Terminal, also known as Ekkamai and the Southern Bus Terminal, also known as Sai Tai. I’d recommend buying tickets directly at one of the three public bus terminals and avoid travel agents and private buses, which are not the most reliable.

Tuk-Tuks

I think everyone knows what a tuk-tuk is. A small open-air taxi with a two-stroke engine and a few seats on the back is an extremely fun way to get around Thailand. I bet it has become an iconic symbol of Southeast Asia as well!   While they often drive like crazy and cutting everyone up, tuk-tuks are quite a lot more expensive than an average motorcycle taxi or Songthaew. Because so many tourists love them, it is essential to haggle hard. I have noticed that many drivers say that 200 Baht is just to start the engine of a tuk-tuk. Depending on the area, distance and the time, it is possible to drop the price at least twice by haggling.

2. Thailand Travel Guide – When is the Rainy Season?

Generally speaking, the rainy season in Thailand starts in May or June and lasts until the end of October. Storms can be unpredictable and heavy, especially in July. I’ll be honest, I visited Thailand in August and the weather was pretty much perfect. While some restaurants and hotels are temporarily closed, you can expect fewer crowds and have whole beaches all to yourself. It is important to know that it doesn’t rain all day during the rainy season. One heavy downpour will last around an hour per day and the intensity varies according to the region. Temperature does not change during the rainy season, so you can enjoy comfortably warm days. Read more: When Is the Best Time To Visit Thailand.  

3. Thailand Travel Guide – How much money do you need to travel in Thailand?

We all do have our own reasons for travelling to Thailand. Whether it is delicious food, stunning beaches, bizarrely interesting cultural traditions or working as a digital nomad, Thailand can be as inexpensive as you want it to be.  I spent three months traveling across Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia in 2014. And I found it possible to travel on an average of just $35 US dollars per day. Traveling on a tight (read backpacker) budget isn’t easy. Yes, keeping costs low requires a certain state of mind, but there are still many places that are completely off the beaten path, and therefore allowing you to travel across Thailand on a budget.

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Now let’s get straight to the point: How much money do you need to travel in Thailand? I’m not going to pretend that I know the ways how to travel across Thailand for less than $35 USD per day. Of course, there are some ways but I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing your comfort or any experiences just to save a few bucks. While there are various travel styles, I used to travel on a budget and allow myself the occasional indulgence. That being said, I do my best to keep my costs low.

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My daily budget in Thailand ranged from $35 to $50 US dollars. It always included a night in a mid-range room with bathroom, two meals at above average price, a tuk-tuk ride, and a bottle of lager beer in the evening. If you want to live like a king, throw in some extra money. By doing so you will get delicious seafood, island day tours, and low-cost domestic flights.   how much does it cost to travel in Thailand Traveling by train can be incredibly cheap, so you can get a ticket from Bangkok to Ayutthaya for as little as 15 THB. Yup, it won’t include the most luxurious high-end cabin, but more likely a 3rd class seat in an ordinary train. But when you’re on a tight budget such low prices do make a difference. Overnight trains tend to be much more expensive, with prices starting at 750 THB for the 2nd class sleeper with A/C.

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If you’re short on time, flying could be your best bet. People often ask me how much does it cost to go to Thailand? But they basically know that AirAsia offers the most competitive fares on budget flights. Be flexible with your dates to get a flight from Bangkok to Phuket for 1000 – 1500 THB ($31 – $47) one-way. Mapping out your main flights and purchasing them in advance is the best way to get the best deals! I use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flight deals.  

In general, when you travel across northern Thailand, you will discover more reasonable prices compared to Bangkok and the southern islands. Resort towns are almost always more expensive than inland areas. Thus, when it comes to figuring your daily budget, 250 – 450 Baht can get you a no-frills room with a fan in Chiang Mai. At the same time, similar mid-range room would cost around $25 US dollars on Phi Phi Islands. But things are generally cheaper when you travel off-season.

4. Thailand Travel Guide – Where to Go

I can’t help but stop singing praises to Thailand. It is one of my favourite countries in Southeast Asia that boasts delicious street food, relaxed vibe, and culture that may take years to explore. I’ve written a great deal on Thailand already (and even more I have to accomplish). But since so many readers ask me to reveal the non-touristy and cultural side of Thailand I decided to put together this section.

 

Northern Thailand

From classic Lanna architecture, quiet Buddhist stupas and hilly landscapes, Northern Thailand is also popular for jungle and hill tribe trekking, zip lining and night markets. This mountainous region is much cooler compared to the southern coast and even Bangkok. Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Pai are the most popular cities to visit here. Prices in Thailand’s north differ considerably from the rest of the country, making any of these cities a great base for backpackers. Especially if you plan on visiting the neighbouring countries.

 

Chiang Mai

This is the largest city in Thailand’s north and is like no other in country. Once a former seat of the Lanna Kingdom, it now has become a haven for backpackers and digital nomads escaping the frenzied buzz of the major cities. Chiang Mai is the most culturally significant city in the region and every time I want to unwind from hustle and bustle of Bangkok I hop on an overnight sleeper train to enjoy the incredible nature and adventure activities.

 

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Chiang Mai boasts a well-preserved Old City with a moat and dozens of ancient temples and wats along with busy markets. I can’t recommend wandering the Old City and hitting the night markets along Wualai Street and Ratchadamnoen Road highly enough. A lot of travellers end up staying in Chiang Mai longer than anticipated because once you immerse yourself in the city, you won’t want to leave.

 

travel across Thailand

 

Laid-Back Pai

Situated in the hills of Mai Hong Son, the tiny town of Pai is a magnet for backpackers, outdoor enthusiasts, and travellers that are into trekking with hill tribes. About 15 years ago few people have heard of this town and even fewer people had any idea where it’s located. But for those who do know and who do travel to Pai, there are Mo Paeng and Pam Bok waterfalls, the Pai Canyon and what they call the Land Split. I originally came to Pai for three days and ended up staying for additional 20 days. I definitely recommend renting a motorbike to explore the area on your own.

 

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Chiang Rai

The charming Chiang Rai rose under the reign of King Mengrai and it is a convenient base for exploring the surrounding countryside as well as the Golden Triangle (Saam Liam Thong Kham). While largely undiscovered, the town is often overlooked by travellers. Not by me though. I heard about Chiang Rai for the first time from my school teacher who was an avid globetrotter. Chiang Rai is just a little bit further north than its sister city Chiang Mai with plenty of affordable backpacker-style accommodation. If I were to choose between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, I’d prefer to start my trip from the latter and then would make my way up to the north.

Central Thailand

 

Ancient Sukhothai

The ancient capital of Thailand, Sukhothai is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a midpoint between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The Old Sukhothai (meuang gòw) with the park is actually situated 12 kilometers away from the new city. So it usually takes 15-20 minutes to reach it by a scheduled bus. If you’re travelling on a tight budget, you would probably want to find an accommodation in the new city like I did, since there are many different types of hotels and cheap guesthouses to choose from.

 

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Sukhothai park is broken up into several parts. And I really encourage you to research the history of this place before you actually get there. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of well-maintained ruins to see in the park but I just hate the feeling of being a little bit lost and find myself taking pictures of ancient ruins, not really knowing what I’m doing. If you’re planning on renting a bike consider renting from your hotel since rentals close to the park are much more expensive.

 

Things to do in Thailand

 

Frantic Bangkok

It is very common to hear that so many people schedule Bangkok as a stopover for a few days. With its cheap hotels, arguably the most delicious food in Southeast Asia and vibrant nightlife, it is no secret why backpackers (me as well) choose to stay here for at least a week before venturing out to the countryside. Here are 7 things you need to know before traveling to Bangkok.

 

Bangkok is often considered to be the gateway to Southeast Asia. But this hectic city isn’t the city most people fall in love with right away. While I knew what to expect from Thailand during my first trip to Bangkok, it took me two or three days just to get used to hustle-and-bustle of this city.

 

If you’re looking for some quintessential Bangkok experience, you I suggest visiting Khao San Road. This backpackers’ paradise with a vibrant nightlife, many budget accommodation, bars and clubs isn’t that accessible if you plan on using metro or Skytrain. You should be looking for bus number 59 if you want to reach Khao San road by public transport. Be aware of scams since this is very common in Khao San road. If you’re want to avoid noise at night, consider staying in Sukhumvit area with plenty of decent restaurants and western expatriates.

 

Koh Chang

Koh Chang sits much closer to Bangkok (but still not very close) than the majority of other Thai islands. With pristine turquoise water, white sand and plenty of activities beyond just snorkeling and scuba diving, the third largest island in Thailand sees fewer visitors than the southern islands. At the same time, Koh Chang is much cheaper when compared to Phuket, Koh Samui or Koh Phi Phi.

 

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Koh Chang (or the Elephant Island in Thai language) has still an incredibly laid-back ambience. As an avid hiker, I spent my days in Koh Chang not only relaxing but also trekking through the dense jungle. There are several hiking trails around the island that range from moderate half day treks to multi-day off-trail adventures and everything in between. If you’re planning an extended excursion or hiking in Koh Chang, be sure to bring enough water and wear cool clothing with head shading to avoid heat stroke or heat-related illness.

 

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Koh Chang beaches are perfect for a quiet beach holiday, and Bailan Bay didn’t disappoint: it is super quiet. An unpretentious Bailan beach is fairly rocky but there is a stretch of white flour like sand in front of the Mercure Hideaway that makes swimming in the shallow waters unforgettable. The quiet Bailan beach is great for budget travellers to get some decent sleep. And I was pretty happy to find this paradise where I could recharge my batteries after three months of intense travels in the north.

 

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Southern Thailand

Last year I spent two weeks exploring Southern Thailand and I wish I could have stayed longer. Thailand’s south is all about the fancy beach resorts and beaches, thus it is definitely the most popular region of the Land of Smiles. The Andaman Sea coast of Thailand is home to a large number of modern hotels, while Phuket is focused mainly on all-inclusive beach holidays. If you’re an independent traveler and looking for some secluded corner in Southern Thailand, I think you should skip infamous Bangla road and Patong beach in favor of Koh Phangan, Koh Lanta, and Koh Samui.

 

Koh Phangan

Countless backpackers head to Koh Phangan to take part in crazy Full Moon party at Haad Rin beach. Koh Phangan has actually much more to offer apart from one-week frantic partying. Attending the party wasn’t high on my list of priorities during my trip to Koh Phangan. In fact, realizing that I have spent way too much time in Koh Samui, I had to reduce the stay in Koh Phangan. Instead, I had an amazing time exploring in my motorbike, discovering beautiful beaches and viewpoints. For those of you who are looking for a more relaxed experience on Koh Phangan, head to the northern or eastern beaches since they are a lot more relaxed than Haat Rin.

 

Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta may seem perfect – it has laid-back ambience, stunning beaches, mangroves and it is not over-crowded. There are enough facilities to live a comfortable life of a digital nomad and indulge yourself occasionally in heart-pumping adventures. Koh Lanta has a number of decent family-friendly resorts along Khlong Khong beach and quality accommodation for backpackers mainly on Long Beach.

 

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Located in the Krabi Province getting to Koh Lanta may involve some effort. If you find yourself in Krabi Airport, consider renting a car as a cheap and convenient way to get around. There is a car ferry that connects the north and south islands of Koh Lanta so you can easily visit both of them on the wheels. You can also reach Koh Lanta by well-maintained speedboat when travelling from Koh Phi Phi, Ao Nang, and Phuket.

 

Thailand Travel Guide

 

Khao Sok National Park

The lowland rainforest of Khao Sok National Park is one of the most beautiful places to enjoy in southern Thailand. Within the unspoiled jungle, there are many waterfalls, amazing biodiversity and a clear blue jade lake of Cheow Lan with its floating bungalows. Khao Sok has loads of different accommodation options to suite everyone’s travel style and range from budget guesthouses to treehouse bungalows. Khao Sok is home to world’s largest flower. Rafflesia flower typically blooms for 4 days and then begins to wither and smell attracting a lot of flies. You have to be there to see it with your own eyes.

 

With formations of limestone protruding from the lake and a funky tiny village, Khao Sok National Park is arguably a paradise on Earth and Thailand’s largest protected wildlife reserve. Situated in Suratthani Province, I couldn’t have missed Khao Sok because of its hiking trails. Some of the trails you can hike independently, though most of them technically require a guide. There are a wide array of organized tours that often outdoor activities like kayaking, rafting, caving, zip lining, wildlife spotting, and camping in the jungle. You can easily book these tours from travel agents in most locations in Krabi.

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