A collection of Thailand travel and backpacking resources including Thailand travel, entry visa requirements, employment for backpackers, and Thai phrasebook.

Backpacking Thailand

Looking for important travel information while backpacking around Thailand? Here you will find information on working in Thailand, entry visas, Thailand hostels, and much more.

Table of Contents

A guide for backpacking around Thailand. Get important travelers information when it comes to Thailand including visa requirements, employment opportunities, common Thai phrases and translation, as well as Thailand hostels.

Facts About Thailand

Over recent years Thailand has positioned itself as the tourist gem of south-east asia. With plenty of mysterious Buddhist culture sitting side by side with 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. This is for a good reason! 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 population themselves are very welcoming towards tourists making most people travels in Thailand an absolute pleasure.

  • 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

Thailand is generally hot, especially during the summer months between March and May. Thailand experiences a monsoon climate with the rainy season running from June through to October. September in particular experiences large amounts of precipitation. The most comfortable time to travel is between November and February.

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Things to see and do

Bangkok, the country’s capital is one of the most essential destinations in Thailand. It is easily the largest city in the country and is Thailand’s hectic centre of commerce, politics and culture. Although traffic is ridiculously heavy, making London’s gridlocks look quiet, 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. The most famous market is the Wat Sai Market but it has become somewhat commercial in recent years so you may want to seek out floating markets in other areas of the country. In particular the Damnoen Saduak floating market is considered the best of these uniquely Thai experiences. Other essential sites include the magnificent Grand Palace which was built for the coronation of Rama I in the late 1700s. Also worth a look is the Temple of the Golden Buddha which 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. The city is a lot less crowded and manic than Bangkok and many travellers prefer its slightly more relaxed atmosphere. One of the key attractions 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 and some are even conducted on elephant back. No traveller should leave without visiting the ‘chedi’ at the top of Doi Suthep, the Wat Phra Borommathat temple situated there is reknowned 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 is the temple of Wat Phra Chao Phana Choeng, this 14th century temple boasts an enormous 19m high image of Bhudda. 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 Bhudda.

Travel

Thailand covers a very substantial are 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 Airways 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.

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.

There are plenty of inter-city bus services on offer, generally these are run by local private companies and range from uncomfortable 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.

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. The Thai Hotels Association offers online booking for a range of member hotels, some even in the more remote areas of the country.

The YMCA and YWCA have hostels in Thailand and you will find these as well as numerous small cheap backpacker style hostels scattered across the country. The Thai Youth Hostels Association should be contacted for further details regarding finding and booking hostels.

Health

The standard of healthcare in large populated areas such as Bangkok and other major cities is quite good. Rural areas and smaller towns may not have adecuate facilities however. Most major hotels will have a doctor on call since there is 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 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 travel to Thailand and are available from your local GP for approximately 40 baht. It is also advised to seek medical advice concerning cholera from you 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.

Useful Links

The Thai Youth Hostels Association maintains information on youth hostels throughout the country.

The State Railway of Thailand maintains and runs the railway services throughout Thailand

Bangkok Airways operates 7 Thai domestic routes.

Thai Airways International provide most of the Thai domestic flights.

Entry Visas for Thailand

All visitors require a passport valid for the duration of their stay, visas are not required by EU or USA nationals for stays of up to 30 days. A return tickets 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 those with long, untidy hair who look too “hippyish” or to people wearing clothes which are considered offensive to the state. Again further enquiries should be directed towards your local Thai Embassy or Conulate.

Addresses

The Tourism Authority of Thailand provides general tourist and travel advice for visitors to the country:

Tourism Authority of Thailand 
49 Albermarle Street 
London 
W1X 3FE 
Tel: (0171) 499 7679 
fax: (0171) 629 5519. 

All visa and immigration related enquiries should be directed towards the Royal Thai Embassy:

Royal Thai Embassy 
29/30 Queens Gate 
London 
SW7 5JB 
Tel: (020) 7 589 2944
Fax: (020) 7 823 9695.

If you require UK representation whilst in Thailand you should contact the British Embassy:

British Embassy 
Wireless Road 
Bangkok 
Thailand 
10330 
Tel: + (66) (2) 253 0191-9 
Fax: +(66) (2) 255 6051 
consular@bangkok.fco.gov.uk  

There is also an Honorary British Consulate in Chiang Mai.

Foreigner Work Permits in Thailand

As is the case with a lot of Asian countries, work opportunities are difficult to come by in Thailand 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

Most opportunities for teaching English as a foreign language 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 from 150 baht per hour.

Volunteering

Most volunteer projects remain in the field of teaching but some organisations offer opportunities in social work and practical community programmes.

Project Trust

The main focus of the Project Trust’s programmes in Thailand is teaching English in schools. There are currently chances to work in Nabokhumwittayakom School, Sriyapai School, and Mae Sai Prasitthisak School, amongst others. Volunteers must be aged between 17 and 19 and a half years old and are expected to raise 3850 baht themselves to fund their project, this includes all expenses for living costs, travel, donations etc.

Concordia

Volunteers work in groups with children and communities in a number of countries throughout the world. Projects last for up to three weeks, in the summer months. All volunteers are supplied with food and accommodation and are required to pay a fee of 75 baht to register with Concordia.

Crusoe

Crusoe is a Christian organisation arranging overseas four week placements for teams to visit and work in developing countries. Volunteers are expected to pay for their own travel etc. which can amount to more than 1000 baht.

World Exchange, Scottish Churches

Volunteers with the organisation are sent on twelve month projects abroad, including Thailand, to work on projects set up by associate churches. You will receive free accommodation and be given pocket money, but are required to fund your own travel and insurance etc.

GAP Activity Projects Ltd

GAP arranges volunteer programmes specifically aimed at gap year students. In Thailand volunteers are usually sent to primary schools to assist in teaching English. Projects last about five months, and begin in either May or November. Currently there are opportunities to help teach English in schools in Chiang Mai, Nan, and Samut Songkhram. GAP provides accommodation and pocket money but volunteers are expected to pay an initial registration fee.

Useful Links

Tefl

Project Trust

Concordia

Crusaders.org.uk for more information about volunteering with Crusoe

World Exchange

GAP

How to Say Common Thai Phrases

Meeting People

English
Thai
yes
chai
no
mai-chai
thank you
kob-khun
you are welcome
mai-pen-rai
please
ka-ru-na
excuse me
kor-tose
hello
sa-wat-dee
goodbye
lar-korn
Good morning
sa-was-dee-torn-chao
Good night
ra-tree-sa-was
I do not understand
chan-mai-kao-jai (f) pom-mai-kao-jai (m)
Do you speak…?
khun-pood…?
English
pa-sa-ang-krit
What is your name?
khun-cheu-ar-rai?
Nice to meet you
dee-jai-tee-dai-pob-khun
How are you?
khun-sa-bai-dee-mai?
good
dee
bad
mai-dee

Directions

English
Thai
map
phaen-tie
left
saaj
right
khwaa
straight on
trong
far
klaj
near
klaj

Methods of Transport

English
Thai
Where is…?
…-you-tee-nai?
How much is the fare?
ka-douy-sarn-tao-rai?
ticket
tua
A ticket to…, please
pai…neung-tee
Where are you going?
khun-kum-rung-pai-nai?
Where do you live?
khun-you-tee-nai?
train
rod-fai
bus
rod-may
underground
rod-fai-tai-din
airport
sa-narm-bin
train station
sa-tarn-nee-rod-fai
bus station
pai-rod-may
underground station
sa-tarn-nee-rod-fai-tai-din
departure
ork-pai
arrival
ma-teung
parking
tee-jord-rod

Time

English
Thai
What time is it?
nee-va-la-ar-rai? Kie-mong?
today
wan-nee
yesterday
mua-waan-nie
tomorrow
phroeng-nie

Accommodation

English
Thai
hotel
rong-ram
room
hong
reservation
jong
Are there any vacancies?
imee-hong-wang-sum-rub-keun-nee-mai?
No vacancies
mai-mee-hong-wang
passport
passport, nangsue-deun-thaang

Places

English
Thai
post office
tee-tum-karn-plai-sa-nee
bank
ta-na-karn
police station
sa-thaan-nie-tam-roewat
hospital
rong-pa-ya-barn
chemist
ran-kai-ya
shop
ran-kai-kong
restaurant
raan-ahaan
museum
pi-pit-ta-pan
church
bost
square
ja-tu-rus
street
ta-nonn

Shopping

English
Thai
How much does this cost?
nee-la-ka-tao-lai?
I will buy it
shun-ja-seu-mun
I would like to buy…
…shun-tong-karn-ja-seu
Do you have…?
khun-mee-…-reu-plao?
open
peut
closed
pid
postcard
praj-sa-nie-brat
stamps
sataem
little
nit-noi
lot
maak
all
thung-mode

Meals

English
Thai
breakfast
ar-harn-chao
lunch
a-haan-tiang
dinner
ar-harn-yen
vegetarian
mung-sa-vi-rat, kin-ahaan-tjee
cheers!
chok-dee
The bill please
khep-tang, check-bill

Drinks

English
Thai
drink
kreung-deum
coffee
ca-fae
tea
naam-chaa
juice
naam-pom-la-mai
water
naam
beer
bia
wine
waj

Food

English
Thai
meat
neur-sat
fish
neur-plaa
vegetable
phak
fruit
pom-la-mai
potato
man-fa-rang
salad
salad
dessert
kong-wang

Buy phrasebooks online at Amazon.co.uk

Thailand Hostels

Hostels are a cheap form of accomodation, and so they are essential to backpackers and other budget travellers. We have compiled a list of hostels in Thailand to help you plan your journey. If you are looking for a hostel in Thailand, you’ve come to the right place.

Bangkok
Chaing Rai
Krabi
Suratthani

There you have it, the ultimate Thailand backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Thailand.