A row of golden buddahs and a bangkok temple

Backpacking in Thailand – The Ultimate Guide

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Backpacking in Thailand is the number one choice for so many travellers! Read this guide for all the information you will need.

Thailand has to be the number one destination for backpackers and travellers starting their adventures. The reason for this has to be the people. The Thai people are the most accommodating, friendly and open to tourists out of any of the countries we have been to.

This makes it perfect for people just starting out their travelling and backpacking experience. That being said, Thailand is now a powerhouse of globally famous events and activities. For example; the full moon party in Koh Phangan, elephant conservation and the floating markets.

So whether you’ve never been travelling before or you’re looking for somewhere new to experience, backpacking in Thailand is one of the best places in the world.

If you are looking for something in particular then I strongly advise using the contents section below as this will save you some time scrolling through. If you have only just thought about backpacking in Thailand then start from the top and let me guide you through the whole process.

Boats and the sea on a beach in Thailand, pictured whilst backpacking around Thailand

Visit one of the many islands in Thailand and views like this will be numerous.

Visas in Thailand

Whenever you are applying for a visa, always find out all of the information you require from the official immigration or visa website for that particular country. Visa requirements will change for different countries and they can also change over time.

To find out the current tourist visa rules and requirements for Thailand, visit the Thai immigration website.

You may be able to backpack around Thailand without a visa for a limited time if your country has a visa exemption policy, read this page referring to visa exemption in Thailand to find out if this is applicable to you.

As always your passport has to be valid for at least 6 months. This goes for every country I’ve ever been to. Check your passport before going any further, you would be amazed how many backpackers don’t and get stranded at the airport.

Pro Tips

If you have received any advice that sounds like it’s a loophole, such as leaving the country and coming back on the same day in order to get a new free visa, then think carefully about doing this. Many countries don’t care about it but it’s clearly something they didn’t plan on people doing, you only need one person to have a bad day and you’re stuck.

Vaccinations in Thailand

As always, we are not doctors so we will not recommend certain vaccinations. Have a look at this list of vaccinations for Thailand that will advise exactly what you should be looking at.

The best thing to do is always book an appointment with your local doctor’s surgery or hospital and seek professional medical advice relating to Thailand.

A deserted beach in Koh Phangan, pictured whilst backpacking through Thailand

The Beaches in Thailand are some of the best in the world. This one we had all to ourselves.

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Best Time to Go to Thailand

Thailand loves to be annoying when it comes to the best time to go. Thailand is so long that the north and the south can vary quite significantly throughout the year. To make matters worse, the islands in the south experience and even different weather pattern as they are in open water.

However, if you are looking at backpacking through Thailand and experiencing as much as you can see then there is an optimal time to go, from January to March. This combines the best times for all over Thailand where you can minimise rain and get the nicest temperatures throughout.

The Mainland

Cool and Dry

October to January. Temperatures are cool and rainfall is basically non-existent. If you prefer a comfortable heat or you are planning some adventure activities like trekking then this is the time for you.

Hot and Dry

January to May. Temperatures start to regularly exceed 30oC and often go above 40oC. If you prefer scorching heat then this is the time for you.

Thai Gulf Islands

These are islands in the Gulf of Thailand, for example; Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The best time to visit these islands is March to May as this is the least chance of rain with the best temperatures.

Backpacking in Thailand gives you the opportunity to see long deserted beaches in gorgeous weather

Koh Phangan Island is famous for the half moon festival, the beaches are also pretty damn good!

Andaman Sea Islands

These are the islands like Koh Phi Phi and Phuket. The best time to visit this grouping of islands is November to March.

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Packing List

Holdall (if you’ll hike go rucksack, if not definitely go holdall)
7x Underwear
7x T-shirts/vests
2x Shorts
7x Socks
Cover up (for temples, a shawl would suffice)
Sunglasses
Sanitary Product (Jade highly recommends the moon cup)

For a comprehensive breakdown of this list go to our budget savvy packing list guide.

Best Bag

This is my biggest peiece of advice i ever give out to anybody looking to backpack anywhere in the world. You almost certainly DO NOT need a $200 hiking rucksack for your backpacking experience. Ask yourself one question, ‘will I be doing long hikes and require a tent, multiple days of clothes, cooking equipment and other miscelanios camping gear’?

If your answer is no, then do not buy a hiking bag, buy a holdall. They are so much easier to store, and especially easier to find things inside. On top of the holdall, buy a small thin daysack for your day trips in Thailand. If you do this then you will save a tonne of money and find it a lot easier when you get to Thailand.

If the answer is yes then I highly recommend the Osprey Volt 60. This bag will do everything you require of it and more.

Shawl

Do you want to look like flubber (a small green slime) when you go into these beautiful temples? It can really affect the #instaperfect image you were planning next to the golden Buddhas. 

A lady smiling wearing a green overall in a temple in thailand

Jade won’t be happy that I called her flubber. Don’t make her mistake!

No? Then grab yourself a beautiful shawl before you go which can easily fit into your daysack and add to your outfit whilst you’re at the temples.

Money Belt

I always add this to the highly recommended section of the packing list as it really is a lifesaver. Pickpocketing is high in any major city and if you have a money belt then no one can access it. Do yourself a favour and grab a money belt, they are so cheap that it’s well worth the investment.

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Getting To Thailand

Plane

Flying into Thailand is by far the easiest way to get into Thailand from long distance. Thailand has a lot of good international and domestic airports so even if you are not going to Bangkok, getting around the country is very easy by air.

I highly recommend flying directly to Bangkok and then flying to wherever you are going from there.

If you are travelling down to the Thai islands then there will be some boat trips for you, for example; if you are going to Koh Phangan then you will need to fly to Bangkok, then to Koh Samui and then get a boat across to Koh Phangan.

A plane in the sky during sunset just above the clouds

Flying in Thailand is definitely the most convenient. Not necessarily the most economic, however.

Boats

Travelling by boat is a favourite for backpackers in Thailand, the big destinations have big ports that are well equipped and modern.

The smaller islands have many local businesses that can ferry you across for a good price. Unfortunately, for those of you who don’t like boats, these are nearly always the only option to reach the famous islands.

A thai ferry on the sea in Thailand, pictured whilst backpacking in Thailand

The ferries in Thailand are modern and appear very safe. Most are a lot newer than this one.

Trains

Thai trains can be a very effective way of cutting down on transport costs. The train network in Thailand is quite extensive however you will almost always have to get a bus or a private taxi from the final station in order to get to your destination.

If you are backpacking Thailand on a really tight budget and are planning on being there for some time then I recommend the train network.

If time is limited and your budget is not too cripplingly tight then definitely fly wherever you can. Flying in Thailand cuts a considerable amount of travel time and maximises time on the beach with a cocktail!

Pro Tips

If you are making your way around South East Asia then a great way to do it is by going through Vietnam and Cambodia by land and entering Bangkok from Cambodia by bus. This way you can experience all of the small villages and towns throughout the 3 countries.

READ MORE: Travel Overland from Beijing to Bangkok

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Getting Around Thailand

Tuk Tuks

This is the easiest way to get around in Thailand if you are in a town. They are numerous and very affordable. Tuk-tuks have the added benefit of being able to dodge through traffic and decrease travel time, due to congestion, considerably.

Pro Tips

Tuk-tuk drivers are very good at knowing how to rip you off if you have just got into Thailand. They ask for very large amounts of money to anyone who looks like they have just arrived.

If you think that the amount is too high then get on with some serious negotiating! If they refuse then just simply walk to the next tuk-tuk, they will certainly go lower.

Taxis

Taxis have the additional benefit of being air-conditioned throughout the entire trip, and also a hell of a lot more comfortable.

All taxis in Thailand come with a meter, if it doesn’t then it isn’t an official taxi. This means that everyone will be paying the same amount so you don’t have to worry about constantly bartering your way around.

They are more expensive than tuk-tuks and also can get caught in congestion.

Trains

As I said before, Thailand has a very good internal train network that can be used to vastly cut down transport costs within the country. Just be aware that they will take a long time to get where they are going so this will impact on your travel time.

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Places To Visit In Thailand

Bangkok

How can you talk about places to go in Thailand and not start with the capital, Bangkok? It is a phenomenal place where you can truly lose yourself for many days.

Rows of stalls selling Thai food in Bangkok, Pictured whilst backpacking around thailand

The food markets in Bangkok are some of the best we have been to in the world.

Are you interested in temples? Then Bangkok has some of the biggest and best temples in the world.

Are you interested in street food? Bangkok has one of the biggest, cheapest and most diverse street food scenes in the world.

Are you a shopaholic? Knock yourself out with some of the most unique markets in the world coupled with incredibly modern shopping malls throughout the city.

Every story you’ve ever heard about Bangkok is true and I bet you haven’t heard them all. Any backpacking in Thailand itinerary that doesn’t include Bangkok isn’t worth the time.

Getting Around

The tuk-tuks here are ridiculously fast, they will get you around the city faster than any other form of transport.

If you prefer air-conditioned with a seatbelt then grab a taxi, the price is still good. You will, however, find yourself in traffic jams more often than not so I recommend trying to get by with the tuk-tuks.

Khao San Road

Khao San Road in Bangkok is the place to go if you want everything in one place; markets, food, beer and massages. For next to no money at all, you could happily live in Khao San Road and what a happy life it would be.

Another large food stall in Bangkok Thailand.

Khao San road has so much more than just the street food, we were too preoccupied to take any other pictures though….

If you are looking for the quintessential backpacking Thailand experience and you want to share that experience with hundreds of other backpackers then head to Khao San Road in Bangkok. Khao San Road is the number one place in the world for elephant pants, dreadlocks and bandanas.

Khao San Road is located in the centre of Bangkok and every taxi driver and tuk-tuk driver knows the way.

Chatuchak Markets

Chatuchak market is one of the largest markets you will ever go to I swear. There are more than 8000 stalls and they sell everything from; clothing to food to antiques to anything you can think of!

This is a full day experience, especially if you like losing yourself whilst sifting through thousands of bargains. The markets open at the weekend at 9am and carry on through the day until 6pm.

Take the subway to Chatuchak station and follow the crowds until you see the entrance. The market is on Google maps so it should be very easy to find once you are at Chatuchak station.

Thai Massage

It would be a crime not to get a massage whilst backpacking Bangkok. I got an authentic Thai massage and this technique does not use any oils. If you are looking for something more relaxing then definitely go for one of the many oil-based massages.

You can still get a Thai massage with oil if you want, I recommend not getting the authentic one because the friction means there is a lot of skin pinching and wrenching that I’m sure is beneficial in some way but frankly hurts quite a lot.

A group of Thai masseuses performing massage in Bangkok

A Thai massage is over the top of your clothes with no oils. This can be nice for some or painful for others.

Muay Thai Kickboxing

Watching a Muay Thai kickboxing match has become a massive tourist industry for backpackers in Thailand in recent years. Whilst in Bangkok, many people will be advertising fights around the city and, if you’re into that sort of thing, it can be a hell of an atmosphere.

Make sure that you are going to watch an officially sanctioned fight by the governing body because fighting is illegal if it has not been sanctioned. Unofficial fighting can also be dangerous for the fighters as sanctioned kickboxers have to be medically screened and adhere to certain guidelines.

Songkran Water Festival

The Songkran water festival is gaining popularity at an exponential rate in Thailand. Originally a cleansing ritual developed by Buddhist monks, the Thai people and now thousands of foreigners use it to have a huge water fight.

A large group of Thia people having a large waterfight near a river

If you’re in Thailand during Songkran, don’t go outside if you don’t want to get wet!

I can’t think of many places in Thailand better than Bangkok to celebrate the Songkran water festival. The capital comes alive from April 13th – April 15th so if you’re there during that time, you’re going to get wet whether you like it or not!

Generally Explore Bangkok

Bangkok has so much to offer for anyone backpacking Thailand. Take your time exploring the temples, the streets and the culture as Bangkok really is the centre of the backpacking world.

Full Moon Party – Koh Phangan

This has to be one of the most famous parties in Thailand, if not the world. Once a month during the full moon, if you hadn’t guessed, the beach of Haad Rin becomes a mega party for backpackers and travellers alike.

If you are travelling the islands then this really has to be up on your list if you like partying, if you’re not really a party animal then stay away! 

If you are wondering what the best way to get to Koh Phangan is, look at our handy ‘how to get to Koh Phangan’ guide’.

Pro Tips

If you are around for the half-moon party then this is not the same thing by a long way! The vibe is completely different and it costs a lot more money to get in. It is more of an outside club rave than a relaxed moonlit beach party.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is in the very north of Thailand and is especially popular with digital nomads. It is a must visit but in my opinion, the city is not all that interesting. It has a very old gate and some nice markets but overall it isn’t special.

Where it shines is the activities you can do surrounding Chiang Mai. The city is quite remote so they have an abundance of land up there. This has given rise to huge sanctuaries for elephants and in my opinion is the best place to see them in the country.

Elephants in Thailand walking across a river, pictured whilst backpacking around Thailand

Chiang Mai has the most world-renowned and conservation orientated elephant sanctuary in all of Thailand.

Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park is the most famous and the best elephant sanctuary in Thailand. We were both very worried about cruelty to elephants in Thailand and we didn’t want to endorse or witness anything that could be distressing for the elephants.

Everything online about Elephant Nature Park said it was the best and they weren’t wrong. The care and treatment of the elephants is obviously very high and all of them have been rescued from around the country for various reasons.

2 elephants, one looking at the camera and another behind it. Pictured whilst backpacking through Thailand

The Elephants are free to roam across the huge area of land that Elephant Nature Park has at their disposal.

Have a read to see how to spend the night at Elephant Nature Park and how to avoid partaking in cruelty to elephants in Thailand.

Before we did the research into elephant cruelty, we were unaware of how bad it is in Thailand. If you see an elephant painting, standing on one leg or even playing with a ball for amusement then the elephants have been very seriously mistreated.

Thai Farm Cooking School

If you like cooking then Chiang Mai is a very good place to get yourself on some of the best cooking schools in Thailand.

We went to Thai Farm Cooking School and it was literally the best cooking school we have ever been on. The best thing about going to any Thai cooking class is that you find out how easy it is to cook some of the classic Thai food.

I love a pad Thai and when I found out that it takes minutes to make then I got a dreadful feeling that obesity was round the corner for me…

2 Plates of Pad Thai on a dark wooden table . Pictured in Chiang Mai whilst backpacking through Thailand

Pad Thai has to be one of the tastiest things you can get in all of Thailand. So easy to make as well.

Pai

Pai is the jewel of the Thailand backpacking experience. The town itself is slowly becoming a typically backpacking booze culture yoga retreat, however, the location hasn’t changed.

It is still nestled in one of the most beautiful spots in Thailand, surrounded by incredible hiking trails, mountains, waterfalls and caves.

If you are the adventurous type then definitely head down to Pai, it has everything you want.

Rafting

Pai is home to some of the best rafting experiences you can get anywhere in the world. You spend 2 days making your way down the river through the dense non-accessible rainforest, finding waterfalls and bathing in hot springs.

The scenery and wildlife along the way is second to none and the animal locals are completely wild. If you’re in Pai, I highly recommend booking a tour rafting down the Pai River.

Trekking

Pai is surrounded by incredible mountains landscapes and is an incredible opportunity to grab some breath-taking pictures of the rolling terrain.

You don’t necessarily have to book a tour to fully immerse yourself in the trekking culture in Pai. You can rent a scooter and head up to various spots around the town to save yourself some money. I always advise NOT to rent a scooter if you don’t have a domestic and international motorbike licence as you WILL NOT be covered by your insurance if you crash.

You can also rent a bicycle from town if you think you need the extra exercise but I recommend booking some sort of a tour that will take you around the best spots over a day or two. This will maximise your enjoyment and make sure you are seeing the best the town has to offer.

Thai Islands

There are so many islands in Thailand and nearly all of them are incredibly beautiful. Any decent backpacking Thailand itinerary has to include at least one stay at a Thai Island.

Below I have written about some of the most popular Thai islands for backpackers. There are more but this list has you covered.

Koh Phangan

As I said earlier, Koh Phangan is the place for the legendary full moon party in Thailand. If you are a party animal and are looking for that ridiculously laid-back party vibe then seriously get yourself down to Koh Phangan for the full moon party. You won’t regret it.

The view of the sea from a hotel in Koh Phangan. Pictred whilst backpacking in Thailand

Koh Phangan beachfront is a long cliff side so the views from the hotels can be incredible.

Koh Samui

Koh Samui has it all, from budget accommodation to luxury white beaches and 5-star hotels. If you are looking for a little bit of something in one place then this is it. Some of the other islands in Thailand cater to a very specific crowd; you don’t go to Phuket to experience high-class nightlife after all. Koh Samui, however, caters to everyone.

This may be a positive or negative for you. If you are looking for a very specific Thai experience then one of the other islands may be more suited. If you simply want a relaxing, beautiful, resort-like island then Koh Samui is for you.

A man about to fall off a paddle board in Thailand

Try your hand at paddle boarding on the Thai Islands. Hopefully, you’ll be better than me!

Click to see the best things to do in Koh Samui

Koh Tao – Diving

This is one of the more divided islands in terms of opinion. You only have to search Koh Tao in Google and you will see why. Without sugar-coating it, there have been a number of murders of foreign tourists in Koh Tao in recent years.

I couldn’t leave it out as it really is a diving paradise. There are a number of dive centres on the island and it’s great for beginners and experienced divers alike. If you are really looking for an immersive diving experience then have a look at some of these liveaboard diving boats in Thailand.

A man underwater diving with some fish.

If you haven’t been diving before then I highly recommend it.

Thailand is renowned for being a fantastically cheap place to learn how to dive and this is a great place to do it.

Please, if you are thinking of going, do your research and stay safe. This isn’t the island to be walking late at night, drunk, alone on the beach. If I’m honest, don’t ever do that wherever you may be in the world.

Phuket

You don’t really go to Phuket to experience the ‘real Thailand’. I don’t mean that in a bad way; if you have ever heard of anyone going to Mexico for example, then they almost certainly not going to have a wander around the city’s streets.

Phuket is very much like this, the whole island is basically one huge holiday resort. If that’s your kind of thing and your main goal is to find some good weather, good beaches, lie down and forget your troubles then Phuket is for you.

You can also take a few boat trips to nearby bays, get involved in some local cooking or get your adrenaline pumping in the jungle. Check out this kayaking tour, this cooking class and this activity day trip!

An aerial view of a beach in Phuket Thailand. Pictured whilst backpacking in Thailand

If you find somewhere that isn’t saturated by the drunk party vibe then you’ll be spoilt for scenery.

Pro Tips

In recent years, some areas of Phuket have started to become a little seedy. What I mean is that a lot of young people getting very pissed and making a lot of noise and mess. If that’s not what you’re looking for then have a look at my recommendations for Phuket accommodation below.

Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai National Park is widely accepted as the best national park in Thailand. It is a very good place to see Thai elephants in the wild as well as a lot of other amazing wildlife throughout the park.

Khao Yai National Park really is best experienced with a tour group or private guide. It is over 2 hours from Bangkok and, when you’re inside the park, it is very difficult to traverse.

I highly recommend booking a tour for Khao Yai National Park, you won’t regret it.

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What To Eat In Thailand

Thailand is a powerhouse for easy to cook, cheap meals that taste amazing. Those three things all in one is very hard to come by anywhere in the world and Thailand has it in abundance. Food is literally the reason why some many people go backpacking in Thailand

If there is anywhere that you’re going to finally try street food then Thailand is the place, so much of the food is fried in front of you that you can reduce your risk of food poisoning dramatically.

A food stall in Bangkok Thailand, pictured whilst backpacking through Thailand

The food is usually made fresh in front of you so you can minimise the risk of food poisoning.

Pro Tips

A lot of food in Thailand can be served with tofu instead of meat. This gives the impression that it is vegetarian and even vegan in so many situations. Unfortunately, nearly every single main course dish in Thailand is cooked using fish sauce. If you are a vegan or vegetarian then ensure you ask for no fish sauce.

Pad Thai

If you’re only going to try one dish in Thailand then this has to be it. Fried noodles with citrus and nutty flavours; they make it fresh for you on the side of the street in minutes and tastes ridiculously good.

Considering the average price can be as low as 50THB then this is pretty damn good.

A typical street food serving of Pad Thai.

A typical street food serving of Pad Thai.

Green and Red Curry

The difference in colour is only due to the different chillies used in the base paste. Thai green curry is the spiciest with a red curry quite close behind.

You can get either with a choice of meat or tofu for the protein source and they are full of various vegetables like; green beans, eggplant and potatoes. The sauce is made from coconut milk which just adds to the overall ridiculously good taste of the curry.

Thai yellow curry, made whilst backpacking around Thailand

But what about yellow curry!? In the middle between red and green, Thai yellow curry is another great option.

Sticky Rice Mango

Stick rice mango is a very typical dessert in Thailand and is very sweet. The rice is soaked in coconut milk and palm sugar and is served with fresh mango slices. If you have a sweet tooth then grab one of these desserts from one of the thousands of street vendors that sell it

A lady holding a box of sticky rice and mango in Thailand

A firm favourite for dessert in Thailand, Sticky Rice and Mango is exactly what it says on the box.

Papaya Salad

Papaya salad is the most eaten salad in the whole of Thailand. Some of them are made with fish sauce but if you can find one without this then it becomes a very tasty vegan dish. The citrusy taste that is all over Thailand is very prevalent in most Papaya salad.

A salad made from stripped papyrus with citrus flavours

Ask without the seafood or meat and this dish becomes great for vegans and vegetarians.

Tom Yum Soup

If you’re a fan of the spice and want a light bite then tom yam soup is the way to go. Tom yam soup is usually served with shrimp but you can get it with all sorts of meat or tofu.

A tom yum soup, pictured whilst backpacking in Thailand

If you want a light meal then don’t ask for rice.

Massaman Curry

If you like your curries richer and creamier than the relatively light red and green curries then grab a mutton massaman curry. It comes with various choices of meat of vegetarian options but I just think the mutton is the best.

If you haven’t already fallen in love just reading about Thai food then you’re going to when you eventually get there!

Ice Cream Rolls

If you’re not feeling like a traditional Thai dessert or you just have a ridiculously high sweet tooth, then have a look for the many stalls making ice cream rolls. They always give you a list of ingredients to smash up and put inside. It is literally ice cream that has been rolled up in front of your eyes, so nice.

Rolls of ice cream in a little tub, pictured whilst backpacking through Thailand

They put cream on an extremely cold metal slate and roll it up once it is frozen.

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Staying Safe In Thailand

Backpacking in Thailand can be a very memorable or traumatic experience. If you don’t go prepared for certain things or make the right choices then you can put yourself in a position to compromise your entire trip.

Renting Bikes

I guarantee that you’ve already been looking at Instagram pictures and travel blogs that say the best way to get around Thailand is by renting a scooter. I’m not going to say it isn’t because it definitely is the cheapest and easiest way to get around.

However, not many people realise that you are not covered at all by your insurance unless you have a domestic and international motorcycle license.

I was the same before, I thought that they were 50cc mopeds and my normal driver’s license allowed me to ride one. This is not the case, the motorbikes are 125cc and above and if anything happens to you then you will be footing the bill.

I also have to warn you that motorcycle accidents are not uncommon! It’s not like it won’t happen to you, it really could. Lastly, it’s not like the tuk-tuks and local taxis are that expensive either, save yourself some potential injury and don’t rent a bike.

Island Life

Drugs, sex and passing out on the beach. That’s what so many are expecting from their backpacking Thailand island experience. Unfortunately, when so many go to Thailand to do just that, predators follow. I’m not trying to scare you away from Thailand but I don’t sugar-coat things either. Drink spiking and sexual assault are on the rise in the Thai islands so be careful and don’t be stupid.

Drugs

I highly recommend not doing any drugs available anywhere. Thailand, especially, has very strict laws on drugs and you could be looking at being in serious trouble.

Tuk Tuks

Tuk Tuks in Thailand are the quickest I have seen in South East Asia. They are made using quite large motorcycles and have a lot of power compared to ones you may have been on before.

Also, they don’t have a very large barrier between the seat and the road; a quick corner can make you feel like you will slide out or one of your bags will.

Just be careful when using a tuk-tuk in Thailand and ensure you are seating in a good position and all your bags are nicely inside the vehicle.

Prostitution

Prostitution is illegal in Thailand. This means that it is not moderated and is controlled by illegal organisations. If you partake in prostitution in Thailand then you are contributing to an illegal organisation that is well known to be rife with abuse.

This is made worse by the level of sexually transmitted disease that is present in any illegal prostitution network.

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Scams In Thailand

If you are an experienced backpacker then you will probably be able to spot a scam a mile away. If you are not then you will have to be on the lookout as Thailand has a number of scams specifically targeting backpackers in Thailand.

Jet Ski

A really common scam in the Thai islands where owners will say you have damaged the jet ski and demand reimbursement. It is so common on the islands as a lot of the islands are controlled by certain gangs or mafia. This means that the police will not help you if this happens.

Avoid renting jet skis on the islands and if you do NEVER give your passport as collateral at the beginning.

Gem Stores

Small shady gem stores will say all sorts of things for you to buy their wares. If they are pushing the gems and are saying things like ‘we have too many’ then it’s a scam and they are worthless.

Tailor Shops

There are so many tailor shops in Thailand, especially Bangkok. If you want to have something made then have it made whilst you are in Thailand and don’t pay up front. This means that you can inspect the goods at the end and if it is a scam you will know instantly.

Tour Companies

This happens everywhere in the world. Tour companies advertising on the side of the street don’t sell the good tours. They peddle bad, shop heavy, sales orientated tours that do nothing for tourism at all.

They might be a good deal but go to proper agencies or book through reputable websites online. We personally like to use GetYourGuide and I highly recommend them.

Taxis     

Do not get into a taxi without a meter. All official taxis in Thailand have meters and they are not allowed to be ‘broken’. If your driver says it is broken or it is getting repaired then go elsewhere. You will be ripped off.

All Scams

There are a lot of scams in Thailand and too many for this backpackers guide to Thailand. I got a lot of my information from Travel Scams so check out that page to clue yourself up.

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Budget in Thailand

Accommodation

You will be able to get any level of accommodation basically wherever you are in Thailand. It is easy to find extreme budget hostels all the way to 5-star resorts at any of the tourist hot spots throughout Thailand.

I recommend using booking.com as we have been using them all over the world for years now and it just makes everything so easy having all the accommodation in one place.

If you don’t like booking.com then I highly recommend using one site for all of your purchases if you are backpacking through Thailand, for example; Agoda or Hotels Combined. It just means that you will have one place to go to find out all the information you need. When you are hopping from place to place, this is very important.

Food

Get on the street food wagon if you’re not already on it. Food is ridiculously cheap here and you can find incredibly tasty food wherever you are in seconds.

If you go to a restaurant then they will prepare the exact same meal in the exact same way as the street food people and it will be at least triple the price.

This is the easiest way to save money throughout your backpacking experience in Thailand.

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Cultural Differences In Thailand

One of the nicest things about Thailand is their hospitality to the tourism industry. This is why it’s such a massive hub for backpackers and tourists alike. Because of this, you won’t really ever feel like you’re not allowed to do something or you have to put up with something that is different from your own culture.

There are a few things to consider, however, if you are backpacking Thailand.

Temples

You cannot go into a temple with your shoulders showing or wearing any sort of revealing clothes. At all of the temples we went, there are overalls for people to wear during their visit. I would highly recommend that you carry around a shawl or something to cover up yourself just in case they do not have overalls.

Monks

If you do happen to visit a monastery or see monks around town, do not touch them, this especially goes for women. They are forbidden from having a relationship with women and cannot be touched, even a simple handshake.

Saving Face

Saving face is quite a big thing in many areas of Asia but is especially prevalent in Thailand. It means that people don’t like to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I can’t help you’. If you ask for directions and someone doesn’t know, then they are likely to send you somewhere just to save face. Just be aware of this and don’t be annoyed if someone does save face as it is a big tradition in Thailand.

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Apps for Thailand

Learn Thai

As the name suggests, this is an app for learning Thai and is very useful for key phrases and helping you to get by. Even if you are the sort of person who doesn’t really care for learning new languages, I highly recommend simply downloading it. Backpacking in Thailand is a lot easier if you know a few simple key phrases and it may help you if you are in a sticky situation.An image of an elephant that takes you to the learn Thai app

XE

The XE app has become a lot more streamlined in recent times and is just so handy for doing those quick currency exchanges on the move. You will end up using this much more than you think to keep track of how much you are spending in relation to your home currency.

Best Apps in China - XE

Google Translate

If learn Thai has failed you then you can use Google translate to translate the words you are speaking into your phone. It listens to you and then writes what you are saying in Thai. This is largely guesswork for the app but can really help out if everything else fails.

Best apps in China - Google Translate

Google Maps

Get this app. You’ll have it permanently open on your phone. If you don’t then you will regret it.

A link to the gogle maps app download

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Language In Thailand

There is only one language in Thailand and that is Thai. You won’t get caught out going to some obscure region and not know your key phrases.

In the cities and tourist spots, English is quite widely spoken and to a reasonable standard as well. You shouldn’t have to worry too much about learning the key phrases in order to get around and get by. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a go at some of the key phrases whilst in Thailand because, wherever you go in the world, the locals love someone that tries.

One thing to consider is that a lot of words have a female and male variant. For example, thankyou can be said ‘kob khun krab’ or ‘kob khun kha’ depending on your gender. The following translations and for females but you should easily be able to find the right ones for you on the Learn Thai app that I recommended earlier.

Key Phrases

Thank you – Kob khun kha
Hello – Sawasdee
Goodbye – Sawasdee (same as hello)
Taxi – Taksi
How much? – Nee tao rai?
Spicy – Ped-Mak
Not Spicy – Mai-Ped
Yes – Ka
No – Mai chai
Toilet – Nong-hum

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Currency In Thailand

The currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht. Thailand is not like Cambodia or Vietnam, where the accept USD as currency in some areas. You will have to pay in Thai Baht if you want to receive any goods or services.

If you do find somewhere that is accepting USD then the price will be largely inflated and you should just walk away.

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Honest Opinion Of Thailand

We have been backpacking through Thailand twice in our travelling experiences and have been more than happy with our experience both times.

The single best thing about Thailand is how accommodating the Thai people are to tourists. Other destinations throughout the world can have a general disdain for tourists all the way to outright rudeness.

A group of golden Buddah statues in Thailand, pictured whilst backpacking around Thailand

Some of the temples are incredibly beautiful. Gold is the colour of choice in Thai Temples.

Thailand, however, is the land of smiles and I can completely vouch for that. It is perfect for all levels of travellers, from beginner to experienced, and the backpacking community is large and vibrant.

If you are a solo backpacker and looking for companions then Thailand is the place to go, you’ll find at least someone exactly like you in the seas of backpackers in Thailand.

Honestly, there are a lot of scams going on in Thailand and some of the islands are particularly troubled with illegal activities. The vast majority of tourists and backpackers that go to Thailand never experience any negativity but it is one of those countries that you have to keep an eye open and your sense about you.

It is highly recommended for everyone to go to backpacking in Thailand at least once. Use this guide to help you plan the entire trip from start to finish and you’ll have a great time!

A large cliff next to perfect blue pool near a Thai island

One thing we know for sure is that you will see some incredibly beautiful scenery on your backpacking in Thailand adventure!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Should you tip in Thailand?

The tipping culture in Thailand is very much a choice. It is not like the U.S. where many people expect a tip regardless of the service you received. It is appreciated and is not expected. If you are happy with the service and want to tip then go ahead, if not then don’t worry.

Is it safe in Thailand?

Thailand can be a very safe place for backpackers, it is helped by how aware you are and how you behave in Thailand. If you are going to start taking drugs on mafia controlled islands or be involved with prostitution then you are opening yourself up to being targeted.

But this goes for any country in the world, stay out of the illegal businesses and don’t walk drunk down the beach alone at night. If you are smart then you drastically reduce the risk of anything bad happening to you.

What shoes do I wear in Thailand?

You shouldn’t need walking boots in Thailand unless you are planning on some serious trekking. For a normal backpacking in Thailand experience, take a pair of plimsolls and a pair of flip-flops and you’ll be good to go. If either break then they can be easily replaced in Thailand in the various stalls scattered around the entire country.

How much do you need per day whilst backpacking in Thailand?

You can easily live off of £25 per day for 2 People, this goes down to £18-£20 per day for 1 person. If there are two of you it massively saves you money in the long term. Read our ‘how to live in Thailand for £25 per day’ guide for more information.

What are the top places to go in Thailand?

If you are short on time then the top 3 places have to be;

  • Bangkok
  • Chiang Mai
  • Any Thai Island

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Backpacking in Thailand is the number one choice for so many travellers! Read this guide for all the information you will need. Backpacking Thailand | Travelling Thailand | Thai Food | Thai Culture | Thai Hostels | Ethical Animal Sanctuaries | Southeast Asia | #travel #backpackingThailand #southeastasia #thaifood #thailand #ultimateguide

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