Looking for important travel information while backpacking in Thailand? Here you will find information on working in Thailand, entry visas, Thailand hostels, and much more.
Table of Contents
- Facts About Thailand
- Top Things to do
- How to Travel Around
- Hostels & Budget Accommodation
- Know before you go: Entry Visas, Health, & Safety
- Volunteering & Backpacker Jobs in Thailand
Facts About Thailand
Thailand is firmly established as a tourist gem of Southeast Asia. With plenty of Buddhist culture, a well-developed tourist industry, and a more than adequate infrastructure, more tourists come here than anywhere else on the south-eastern part of the continent.
Thailand offers everything from crowded markets and bazaars, to ancient temples, to busy nightlife all set against some of the best scenery in the region. The locals are very welcoming towards tourists making most travels in Thailand an absolute pleasure.
As a popular tourist destination, it is not a surprise that most locals, especially in touristy areas know basic English. However, you’ll notice that because of the language barrier, as with many other destinations, locals may not be so open to meet and greet you. Speaking in their native tongue can enrich your travel experience, so, by learning Thai for free you can converse more easily with locals and get more depth to your journey in Thailand.
- Currency: Baht (Bt) = 100 satang
- Time Zone: GMT + 7
- Language: Thai, although some regions speak Malay and Chinese. English is widely spoken.
- Telephone Services: Country Code +66, International access code 001
- Emergency Numbers: Not present
Climate in Thailand
When deciding the best time to visit Thailand, the weather plays a big role. Thailand is a tropical climate, with hot weather between March and May and a monsoon season from June through October. September in particular experiences large amounts of precipitation. The best time to travel to Thailand is between November and February.
Top Things to do in Thailand
When deciding the best things to do in Thailand, there is an abundance of options. Here are the top bucket-list items when backpacking Thailand.
Bangkok, the country’s capital is one of the most essential destinations in Thailand. It is by far the largest city in the country and is Thailand’s hectic centre of commerce, politics, and culture. Although traffic is ridiculously heavy, the city still has plenty to offer the traveller.
One of the most memorable experiences is taking a boat ride along the city’s canals where you will be able to experience some of the floating markets. Within Bangkok, you can find the famous Wat Sai Market, although it has become somewhat commercial in recent years.
You can also arrange a day trip to nearby Damnoen Saduak floating market, which is considered the best of these uniquely Thai experiences. Other top sites in Bangkok include the magnificent Grand Palace which was built for the coronation of Rama I in the late 1700s. The Temple of the Golden Buddha houses an enormous 5-tonne statue of Buddha rendered in solid gold.
The nightlife in Bangkok is lively and there are plenty of bars and clubs. Many travellers are drawn to the lewd displays of the Patpong bars but in other areas of the city, there is enough variety to cater for most tastes.
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second city was founded in 1296 and sits against the backdrop of the impressive Doi Suthep mountain. In comparison with Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a lot less crowded and manic and many travellers prefer its slightly more relaxed atmosphere.
One of the main attractions in Chiang Mai is the Night Bazaar which is located in the centre of the city and a great place to do a spot of souvenir shopping or just to practice your haggling. The city is also a base for a variety of mountain treks, most give you the opportunity to visit the hill tribes to the north of the city. Arguably the highlight in Chiang Mai is the ‘chedi’ at the top of Doi Suthep, the Wat Phra Borommathat temple situated there is renowned as one of the holiest in Thailand.
Ayuthaya was the capital of Thailand up until 1350 and it is now the site of impressive world heritage recognised ruins. The ruins are almost exclusively temples which were destroyed by the Burmese when they conquered the city in 1767.
One of the highlights in Ayuthaya is the temple of Wat Phra Chao Phana Choeng, this 14th-century temple boasts an enormous 19m high image of Buddha. Also of note is the Wat Phra Meru which escaped the ravages of the Burmese and is home to a 1300-year-old green rock carving of a throned Buddha.
Beaches in Thailand
Thailand has no shortage of beaches, with over 3,200 km of coastline and 1,430 islands. There’s a beach-location for every type of trip, whether you’re after natural beauty or booze-fueled adventure.
Koh Tao is well-known for diving vacations. Koh Phangan is the site of the infamous Full Moon party (they also host Black Moon and Half Moon parties with just as much energy). Koh Phi Phi is the jumping off point to visit the famous Maya Bay, immortalized in the movie The Beach.
Please practice responsible travel and respect the local environment! In recent years, the Thai government has had to ban visitors from certain beaches because the local habitats were completely destroyed by tourists.
Booking Activities in Thailand
Since popular places in Thailand can get crowded during tourist season, it is wise to reserve tickets and activities ahead of time. GetYourGuide sells entrance tickets to museums and landmarks at face value so you can avoid the lines and save that precious time for more exploring.
Viator is another popular travel website that helps you book things to do in Thailand. They work directly with local tour operators in Thailand, so you won’t have to scour the internet or roam around town trying to find the best deal.
If you know your schedule ahead of time, a great insider tip is to buy tickets for major tourist attractions ahead of time. Tiqets has entrance tickets and skip the line passes for major tourist spots in Thailand such as Ayutthaya, Bangkok, Ko Samui, and Pattaya so that you can avoid the lines and save that precious time for more exploring.
How to Find Cheap Flights to Thailand
In order to find the best flights to Thailand we recommend using a few well-known flight comparison search engines. These websites offer powerful search options, like entering flexible dates and airports in order to find the cheapest flight to Thailand.
Our go-to flight search engine is Skyscanner, which we love for its extremely flexible search options. Our favourite way to get travel inspiration is their “Everywhere” feature. Simply enter “Everywhere” as a destination, and it will then list all available flights from your departure city in order of price. This also works when entering the entire country of Thailand as your destination. Skyscanner will search all possible airports in the country in order to find the cheapest option.
Kiwi is another new favourite flight search engine among savvy travelers. Kiwi works by combining flights from different carriers in order to get the best deal. Also, if there is a better ground or ferry option for the route you’re searching, Kiwi will include that in the search results. On average, we have found the cheapest flights to Thailand with them compared to the other websites out there.
How to Travel Around Thailand on a Budget
Flights in Thailand
Thailand covers a very substantial area so much like other Asian countries internal flights become a viable alternative to overland travel. The main services are run by Thai Airways International which runs services to 22 internal airports. Bangkok Airlines runs 7 additional routes. In general, discounts are available during off-peak seasons and if you want to travel a large distance fast, this is a reasonably cheap way to do it.
Train travel in Thailand
Rail is the best way to get around most areas of Thailand, the extensive rail network is run by The State Railway of Thailand and extends for nearly 5000km. This covers all major towns with the noticeable exception of Phuket which is reachable by bus. Fares are generally quite cheap and the carriages are comfortable with most major lines boasting air-conditioned, restaurant and sleeper carriages. Supplements are required on some routes and for some carriages.
If you can navigate the somewhat cryptic website which the State Railways of Thailand uses you will be able to find a Thai Rail pass which offers unlimited travel for 20 days for 3000 Baht including supplements or 1500 Baht without, as you can see this is quite a deal and using this pass makes travel in Thailand both cheap and easy. It is worth noting however that the rail pass only covers travel in 2nd and 3rd class.
Bus travel in Thailand
There are plenty of inter-city bus services in Thailand, generally, these are run by local private companies and range from uncomfortably crowded buses to luxury air-conditioned coaches. Prices are quite cheap but the appalling traffic in some areas of Thailand makes travelling by bus quite slow.
Taking a Ferry in Thailand
The islands and some beaches in Thailand are accessible by ferry. These are operated mainly by private companies and schedules should be available from your hotel, hostel, or homestay.
Backpacking Tours in Thailand
Though part of the fun of backpacking Thailand is exploring on your own, there are situations, especially when venturing off the tourist trail, when it does make sense to go with a guide or a small group.
The most popular option for social travel in Thailand is Contiki tours. Contiki trips offer more than just transportation, they are organized social group travel for travelers aged 18-35. Whether you’re traveling by yourself or going with a group of friends, Contiki tours are perfect for people looking to have a blast, meet new friends, and form lifelong memories. They offer tours that travel primarily in Thailand or longer tours that cover other nearby places.
G Adventures is another great option for organized travel, but with a smaller group. It’s a great choice for anyone backpacking Thailand alone who would like to meet up with like-minded travellers. It’s also a practical option for exploring places where you need an experienced guide, like a long hiking adventure or visiting a place well off the beaten path. You can choose from different styles of small group tours like active, wellness, hiking trips, 18-30somethings, and more. Their most popular trips in Thailand are their 15-day Thailand on a Shoestring tour, and their 7-day Bangkok to Chiang Mai Express tour.
Thailand Hostels & Budget Accommodation
With Thailand becoming increasingly popular with tourists you will have no problem finding good, cheap accommodation. Hotels are plentiful in all major cities with Bangkok boasting over 12,000 international standard rooms alone.
We have had good experiences finding hostels in Thailand on HostelWorld. They have the largest inventory of hostels worldwide, and with over 10 million reviews and ratings from other travellers, you know exactly what to expect.
Another good way to find accommodation in Thailand is by checking booking.com. You’ll find hotels, homestays, hostels, and other unique accommodations. They have the most reviews and advanced filtering of any accommodation-booking site, so you’ll be sure to find a great place in your budget. Many of the places on booking.com also offer free cancellation, which takes the pressure off the planning phase of your trip to Thailand.
If you are backpacking with another travel companion, we highly recommend booking a rental via VRBO. With a vacation rental in Thailand, you’ll have more space, your own kitchen, and you’ll get a better feel for how the locals live. Plus, the cost of a vacation rental can be split among your group, oftentimes making it cheaper than doing individual hotel rooms.
If you’re looking to save even more money while backpacking in Thailand, there are plenty of creative ways to get free accommodation in exchange for work. For example, one of our favorite ways to stay in amazing locations for free is by signing up as a petsitter with Trusted Housesitters. The site connects responsible animal lovers with petsitting opportunities in Thailand and all over the world. It’s a win-win for both sides – travellers can stay in amazing locations for free, and homeowners can rest easy knowing that someone is watching over their place.
And lastly, CouchSurfing is a great community that connects travellers with local hosts in Thailand. You can stay for free with verified hosts, who will usually take some time to show you around the local spots.
Entry Visa Requirements for Thailand
All visitors require a passport valid for the duration of their stay, Thailand visas are not required by EU or USA nationals for stays of up to 30 days. However, a return ticket is required to be shown before you will be granted entry.
Any further visa or immigration related enquiries should contact the local Thai Embassy or Consulate. It is also worth noting that Thai officials reserve the right to refuse entry to anybody. There have been recent reports of travelers being denied entry because they look too “hippyish” or are wearing clothes which are considered offensive to the state. Again further enquiries should be directed towards your local Thai Embassy or Consulate.
Visa requirements for Thailand can vary widely depending on your country of origin and can change over time. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, be sure to check the latest visa requirements while you’re still planning your trip.
Health and Safety in Thailand
As with travel to all other countries abroad, it is vital that you get travel insurance before you leave for Thailand. Even for short trips, our go-to travel insurance provider is World Nomads, which is also recommended by Lonely Planet, HostelWorld, and other major travel companies.
The standard of healthcare in Thailand in large populated areas such as Bangkok and other major cities is quite good. Rural areas and smaller towns may not have adequate facilities, however. Most major hotels will have a doctor on call since there are no official emergency service contact numbers throughout Thailand. Costs of treatment and repatriation can get quite steep so ensure that you have adequate travel insurance before departing for Thailand.
The tap water in Thailand is not safe to drink and should be boiled before use. The use of bottled water is recommended. Dairy products should be avoided as most are un-pasteurised. Pasteurised milk can be bought in larger cities but always check the label before consumption. Raw fruits and vegetables should be washed and peeled before consumption. Caution should be observed when purchasing food from street vendors.
Vaccinations against Typhoid and Polio are recommended before traveling to Thailand and are available from your local GP for approximately 40 baht. It is also advised to seek medical advice concerning cholera from your GP before travel. Malaria is present throughout the country so you should avoid getting bitten by insects by using good repellents and bug nets where appropriate. Consult your GP for the most appropriate anti-malaria treatments to take with you as resistant strains are present in some areas of the country.
Volunteering and Backpacker Jobs in Thailand
As is the case with a lot of Asian countries, work opportunities in Thailand are difficult to come by due to the weakness of the economy. Most chances of work will be found in teaching English, or volunteering.
A work permit is needed to legally find employment and will require renewal out of the country every three months. If you find work as a teacher in a school, a letter from the institution can often gain you a non-immigrant Visa, allowing you to work.
Teaching English in Thailand
Most opportunities for teaching English in Thailand will be found in the main cities, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai, for example. Check the Bangkok Post for vacancies, or contact schools and institutions listed in the Yellow Pages. Training to receive the TEFL qualification before you leave the UK can often put you at an advantage but is not essential for work in Thailand. Alternatively, some people try freelance work and advertise as private tutors in the local media. Tutors can expect to receive upwards of 150 baht per hour.
Volunteering in Thailand
Volunteer travel is a great way to explore Thailand on a budget while also giving back. Typically, you’ll work on the project a set number of hours per week in exchange for free accommodation, and sometimes other perks such as free food, free bike rentals, and more.
If volunteer work in Thailand sounds like something you want to do, it’s best to do it via a reputable agency. An agency will help screen volunteer programs and hosts in Thailand to make sure you have support every step of the way.
Volunteer work in Thailand can be organized through the WorldPackers agency, and you can use promo code BACKPACKING10 to save $10 on your membership. WorldPackers can connect you with volunteering opportunities in Thailand with NGOs, hostels and homestays, agricultural or wildlife experiences, and more.
Useful links for Backpacking in Thailand
- GAdventures – guided small group tours in Thailand, great for solo travellers or for those interested in a more adventurous trip which would require a guide
- Kiwi and Skyscanner – Flight comparison search engines to find the cheapest flights to Thailand and within the country
- GetYourGuide and Viator – a collection of local tours and activities in Thailand. Also offers Skip the Line tickets for crowded attractions
- Tiqets – Website selling entrance tickets and skip the line tickets for major tourist attractions in Thailand
- HostelWorld – #1 hostel search website to find accommodation while backpacking Thailand. Thousands of hostels and millions of reviews from fellow travellers
- Booking.com – commonly used booking site for accommodation in Thailand. Find hostels, hotels, and other unique accommodations in Thailand with advanced filtering and millions of reviews
- World Nomads Travel Insurance – Comprehensive travel insurance for long and short trips when backpacking Thailand
There you have it, the ultimate Thailand backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Thailand.
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