This was our first backpacking trip so we did a lot of research – we googled articles, bloggers, stalked IGs & watched hella vlogs on YouTube. We played around with dates for a while and were able to find a plane ticket to Thailand for $650! We spent 4 days in Koh Chang, 5 days in Chiang Mai, & 1.5 days in Bangkok. We roughly planned each day the night before – the ONLY activity we booked in advance was Elephant Nature Park. I’ll list some of the main bloggers that we felt helped us prepare the most.
– Nomadic Matt
– Kinging It
– Nomadic Samuel
Btw, if you have a long layover in Narita Airport (Japan) like we did, there are day rooms where you can take a warm, refreshing shower for $10. Super clutch!
Things to Bring
– If you plan to travel to multiple cities, take the quote, “pack light, travel far” literally. I had a 48L REI backpack and it fit so much in there. If you plan to buy a backpack, I personally like front-loading backpacks way better than top-loading. They’re so much easier to pack and unpack.
– Pepto-Bismol or Imodium AD: traveler’s diarrhea is a real thing, guys. God bless.
– Waterproof phone pouch: this thing is genius!
– Portable Wi-Fi: you can rent a portable Wi-Fi router at the airport. We didn’t have one & we survived, but it definitely would’ve been helpful all 357 times we got lost.
– First aid kit: you’d be surprised how much this came in handy throughout our trip
– Universal charger
– Bug spray
Apps to Download
– Maps.me: it allows you to pull up directions when you’re offline
– Google Maps: I believe it lets you use the map when you’re offline as well
– Grab: Southeast Asia’s version of Uber
– Google photos: if you don’t have a lot of storage on your phone, this is a good storage app for all of your photos. Also, God forbid you lose your phone while traveling, you don’t have to worry about your photos being lost because the app automatically backs them up!
If you want to go to multiple cities like we did, you can either take a bus or a plane. Buses are super cheap, but the rides take forever. We chose to take a plane to each city and each ride was no more than an hour. Use one of the local airlines such as Bangkok Air or AirAsia – tickets are fairly cheap. We booked our domestic flights through Expedia. If you’re wondering if the airports are reliable, don’t worry lol. The airports were very clean and modern.
While in the city, you can use Grab, Uber, or the red trucks (Songthaews). There are also Tuk Tuks and taxis, but they’ll try to overcharge you so be careful. Another option is renting a moped. We paid about 250 baht ($7.50) to rent one for one day. Make sure you’ve practiced enough before taking off. Also, don’t forget they drive on the left side of the road! My bf had 5 minutes of practice and accidentally pulled out on the wrong side of the road lol. We also had an incident where we both fell off the motorbike into a sea of mud. Thank God no one was seriously injured and we can just laugh about it now lol.
The island of Koh Chang is literally backpackers’ paradise. There is so much to do and there are very little tourists. We specifically chose Koh Chang because we wanted to get over our jet lag on a nice, quiet island, but there are many more islands you can choose from! We were extremely nervous about going to Thailand during low (rainy) season, but the weather during our stay was absolutely beautiful. Our host said she loves Koh Chang because it has the culture feel like Chiang Mai and the beautiful beaches like Phuket without all the tourists.
Transportation here was an adventure. After landing in Bangkok, we took a connecting flight to Trat airport (cutest, most tiny airport I’ve seen in my life) – and from there we were immediately directed to set up transportation to our guesthouse. To get to the island of Koh Chang from Trat airport, you have to take a 45 min ferry. There are different options for transportation you can choose, but we had a van that actually drove onto the ferry & took us straight to our guesthouse once we reached the island.
Transportation cost (bus + ferry round trip): 900 baht = $27 USD
Airbnb: We stayed in a guesthouse called Home Bar which was $18 USD per night. It was very clean and cozy. Although it wasn’t right on the beach, it was very close to everything – about a 10 min walk to White Sand Beach. Our host & her pup were awesome and helped set us up for some of the activities we did. She even cooked for us! We enjoyed our stay here, but next time we might look into staying in one of the bungalows right on the beach. Get $40 off your first trip
Things to Do
– 60 min Thai/oil massage: don’t pay more than 250 baht ($7.50). Get as many massages as you can while you’re in Thailand! They’re so cheap. Getting a Thai massage was definitely an experience lol. Gotta get one just to say you did it, but the Oil massages were definitely my fave.
– Snorkeling: We only paid 750 baht ($22.50) to go to 4 beautiful islands. Take the sea sickness meds they give you or bring your own. We thought we would be fine so we skipped the meds and got super nauseous on the ride out there.
– Kai Bae Viewpoint
– Klong Plu Waterfall: this is my new favorite place in the world. You’ll see why when you go. There are a million other waterfalls you can explore in Koh Chang too
– Mangrove Boardwalk in Salakphet: unless you’re really experienced with mopeds, I suggest taking a taxi out there. We drove our motorbike out there and it felt like it took forever – it was supposedly 30 minutes from our Airbnb. This is where we fell off our bike lol.
– RELAX on the beach
Places to Eat:
There are a million places to eat at, but these are the main spots we ate at during the 3 days we were there.
– Home Bar (our Airbnb is a little restaurant too)
– Food Night Market: this takes place every evening from 5:30PM-11:30PM on Rural Road (right next to white sand beach)
– Coco Mango
– Nong Bua Seafood: we randomly found this place on the way back from Klong Plu Waterfall
– Make sure you try all of the exotic fruit! Mangosteen was my absolute fav.
Chiang Mai was probably our favorite city. The city is filled with so much diversity and culture. There is always something to do and eat here.
Airbnb: this was our favorite Airbnb! It’s a guest suite called East Moat and we paid only $16 per night. It was right outside of the old city and walking distance to almost everything. The host also provided us with a guidebook of things to do and places to eat in Chiang Mai. Get $40 off your first trip
Things to Do
– Elephant Nature Park: This is the ONLY activity we pre-booked – there is an option for them to pick you up from your hotel. We specifically chose ENP to volunteer because they take in previously abused elephants and do NOT support riding. If ever in Thailand, PLEASE never ride elephants! They are abused when being trained & riding them only weakens their spines and causes them pain. This place is home to 73 elephants, dogs, cats, & water buffalo. You have to book this WAY in advance. We got lucky and were able to get a spot for a half-day. We had the opportunity to feed the elephants, learn some of their personal stories, and watch them bathe in the river. They even fed us a yummy vegetarian lunch, because elephants are vegetarians! During the full or multiple day packages, you can help bathe the elephants. This was the most expensive thing we did, but it was totally worth it. 2500 baht ($75)
– Grand Canyon Water Park: 300 baht ($9); super fun water park – it’s best to get there early to avoid the crowds.
– Thai Kitchen Cookery Centre: this place was a 5 min walk from our Airbnb, but they will gladly pick you up from your hotel (for no extra charge). We paid 800 baht ($24) to cook 4 dishes. They even send you home with a Thai recipe book! It was a cool experience because they gave us a tour of a local Thai market. We also met really cool people from all around the world.
– Temples: there are hundreds of temples that you can pop in and view. our favorites were Wat Phra Singh, Wat Suan Dok, and Wat Chedi Luang. Ladies, please remember to be respectful of their culture and cover your shoulders & legs. Some of the temples won’t even let you in if you aren’t dressed appropriately.
– Night Bazaar: you can find nice souvenirs and street food here every night around 6PM
– Saturday night market at Wua Lai Road: make sure to try some Khao Soi! We personally liked this better than Pad Thai.
– Sunday night market at Tha Phae Gate
–Art in Paradise Museum: a super cool 3D museum on Chang Klan road
– Zoe’s Bar: we didn’t get a chance to go, but we heard it’s super fun, & lots of ppl from all over the world go there. There are lots of bars around it as well.
– Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall: another place we didn’t get to go to. Apparently, the waterfall is not only beautiful, but you can walk up the waterfall because the rocks are “sticky.” Some people said they felt like Spider-Man lol. I’ll definitely be going next time I’m in Thailand.
Places to Eat
– The Corner restaurant for breakfast
– Rice & Noodle: LOVED this place (even though they had no AC lol). We paid only $6 USD for two delicious entrees, a soda, a mango smoothie, AND mango sticky rice.
– Rock Burger: if you need a break from Thai food, their burgers are delicious
– Carmelo: this place is inside of the Grand Canyon water park & their bingsu is so yummy!
– Make sure you try mango sticky rice somewhere!!! You shouldn’t pay more than 60 baht ($1.80)
Definitely not my favorite experience. The traffic is horrible and some of the taxis will try to scam you – Make sure they put their meter on. We were only there for a short amount of time, so I’ll have to give it another go-around next time.
Airbnb: it was kind of hard to find, but it was super cute and in a local Thai neighborhood that was walking distance to Khao San Road and the Grand Palace. There were also a whole bunch of food stalls right around the corner of our place. We paid $29 per night. Get $40 off your first trip
Things to Do
– Soei Restaurant: it was featured on a number of popular travel vlogs. super yummy! Kind of pricey though.
– The Grand Palace: the Grand Palace was WAY too crowded – we didn’t even go all the way inside.
– Wat Pho: Wat Pho was less crowded and this is where you can find the Reclining Buddha.
– Khao San Road: hella touristy street – if you want to party, this street is your spot. We bought a lot of souvenirs here, but be ready to bargain!
If you have any other questions that I did not answer on this post, please ask away!
Saving for your next vacation:
- Airbnb: Take advantage of Airbnb’s price range filter to rent a room, couch, apartment, or an entire home on a backpackers budget. Sign up for $40 off your first stay
- You can use Rakuten to book flights through Expedia, Hotwire, and many other sites. They give up to 10% cashback upon completion of your trip. Sign up
11 thoughts on “Thailand Backpacking Guide”
I wish i knew these tips before my trip to Thailand!!!
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Well now you have an excuse to go again! haha
Wow I got a lot of good info here for my Thailand trip! This is great.
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Yay glad it helped! Enjoy your trip!
Wow. This is an incredible overview of your trip. I’m going to Thailand this upcoming February, so this blog post was right on time! Thank you! Look forward to reading more posts!
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Thank you so much! I hope you have an amazing trip 🎈
Actually Bangkok isn’t a bad place at all. Especially if you more or less like big cities. I also didn’t like at first, but with every visit I’ve started to like it more and more. It’s just so big & differ a lot from place to place. For getting around I would recommend using metro/skytrain; it’s much faster than by car or bus.
yeah, I didn’t think it was a bad place. I just didn’t have the best experience. I do plan this visit again in the future though!