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My top tips for backpacking through Thailand

April 29, 2024
Guest blogger

I traveled solo for two months across South East Asia. My route took me through South Vietnam, Cambodia, Vietnam again, and back into Northern Thailand. I applied for my visas, booked two nights of accommodation, and jumped on a plane with my dad’s rucksack from travelling Asia 40 years earlier. Here is an overview of backpacking through Thailand.

Transport & Accommodation

Despite the uncomfortable nature of being 6’4”, for the transportation in Thailand - I used sleeper buses to take me between cities. Buses are an easy option as South East Asia is a well-trodden backpackers’ route with all cities providing ample provisions to get you from place to place. For longer journeys, I’d recommend flying or taking the train, but be sure to plan ahead as these trips may need prior booking. They’re also not as expensive as you might think! Within cities, Tuk-tuks are cheap and ideal for short journeys, but watch out for extortionate tourist rates or scams. Similarly, be wary of anyone who is too keen to help, as I found out, occasionally it can be too good to be true. I stayed in a variety of accommodations booked mostly through the Hostelworld app. This app is great for people travelling alone or as a group, as it offers either private or shared rooms.

South Thailand

Route: Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi, Koh Pha Ngan
Currency: Thai Baht
Accommodation options: Party Hostels
Time: 2 weeks

South Thailand is known for the party scene and that is exactly why I went. I re-lived Freshers week, heading out for 7 consecutive nights without spending a single day in a pile of takeaway or self-loathing. With so much nightlife, it’s easy to ignore the beautiful area around you, but both Koh Phi Phi and Krabi are both bustling hubs with stunning backdrops. Fight through the hangovers and climb to the viewpoints and be sure to watch or participate in some local Muay Thai in Thailand.

My largest expense on the trip was also my favourite: a PADI open water diving course. I had contemplated diving before my trip but I wanted to hear some recommendations from other travellers before I committed. Most people dive in Koh Tao as you can see an  incredible variety of creatures that you won’t experience anywhere else in South Asia. Although this is a cheaper option, Koh Tao is infamously busy with large dives that can be intimidating for a nervous diver. Despite slightly pricier one-to-one lessons, I took the course in Railay Beach in Krabi which was a beautiful area well-known for rock climbing. The dive sites were still fantastic and I was able to capture some amazing footage on my GoPro. This was one of the best purchases on my trip as I was keen to get involved in water based activities and it was awesome to capture footage without the fear of breaking my phone.

North Thailand

Route: Chiang Mai and Pai
Currency: Thai Baht
Accommodation options: Travellers Lodges
Time: 1 week

Northern Thailand allowed me to experience the antithesis of the Southern party islands. Between elephant sanctuaries, cooking classes, fire shows, drag cabaret and mountain hiking, Chiang Mai and Pai offer the complete package for someone trying to submerge themselves in as many activities as possible. The cooking class I joined was amazing, as I learnt to cook traditional curries, soups and appetizers. However, it made me realise I missed the chance to try cooking in each different culture. My last piece of advice is to avoid falling into a routine; try as many activities as you can whilst travelling, even if you think they’ll be out of your comfort zone because, for most of us, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

My Top Tips For Backpacking Through Thailand

1. Don’t over-plan!

I loved having the freedom to spend as much or little time as I wanted in each place depending on who I met or what I wanted to experience

2. Use the locals’ knowledge!

My favourite spots came from people who’d lived in the area for a while; from a Buddhist farmer showing me the way to a waterfall behind a temple to my diving instructor taking me to a closed viewpoint in a cave system overlooking the beach.

3. Document it all!

Despite reminding people about the great time you’re having, posting on social media allowed me to meet people who were in the same area as me. It also allowed me to make connections with real people I met on my travels and use their posts and insight to guide what I could do.  

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