Do you fancy going on an adventure to Thailand and discovering as much as possible in this country? Take a look at my complete backpacking guide through some of the most beautiful islands in the south of Thailand. Here are my best tips and advice for your trip!
Thailand is the place to be for backpackers! With breath-taking scenery, paradise islands, friendly people, an incredible culture and super cheap prices – this is a paradise destination that attracts more and more tourists each year. If you fancy exploring this wonderful place and having a backpacking trip to Thailand then this is the guide for you!
Whether you want to travel with your friends or alone, here are some of the main tips for when you are preparing your trip to Thailand.
Formalities and Visa
If you are going to Thailand for less than 30 days, you won’t need a visa. As long as you have a valid passport and a return plane ticket, you’re sorted! If you want to go for longer than 30 days then you need to get a tourist visa for 3 months for about £30 before you leave. You can also extend your stay once you are there by going to an immigration office – it will cost about 1900 baht (£44).
When to go to Thailand
Before going on a trip to the other side of the world, you need to do some research about the climate as it can be completely different depending on the region you go to. Thailand has 3 seasons: the cool season, rain season and dry season.
During the cool season (November – February) it doesn’t rain a lot and temperatures vary between 25°C and 30°C. The rain season is generally from July to October and the rainfall is fairly regular even if it doesn’t last a long time. And finally, in the dry season which is from March to May is the hottest time of year in Thailand and it hardly rains at all. Please note, however, that in the south with several islands, there is a tropical climate: it is hot and humid all year round and there are short but unpredictable storms. So, rest assured you can go any time of the year and enjoy the beaches.
Budget and currency
The currency used in Thailand is baht. £1 is 44 baht according to the current exchange rate. You can convert you money before you leave by going to a currency exchange office and changing your pounds into baht. If not, you can take money out at ATMs – but this costs about 220 baht (£5) for withdrawing as well as the charge from your bank. So it makes more sense to take out a large amount before you go. With regards to your budget, note that the cost of living in Thailand is a lot cheaper than in the UK – accommodation, restaurants and transport are super cheap.
If you are planning on going to Thailand, I highly recommend that you take a backpack and not a suitcase. It’s pretty certain that you will be walking around a lot from boats to buses to taxis and so a backpack is a lot more practical. And of course, don’t fill your back with trouser, jackets and coats – you will be spending your holiday in bikinis and shorts! Here’s a brief list of the things you absolutely must pack: important documents, sun glasses, sun cream, mosquito repellent, basic medication, flip-flops, waterproof clothing for rainy days, a waterproof bag for important belongings when you are on boat trips and a padlock for overnight stays in a hostel.
Travelling to Thailand
When it comes to getting to Thailand, you will have a choice of airport of arrival. You can go to Bangkok Airport or Krabi or Phuket Airport – especially if you are going on a trip to the southern islands of the country. You can get direct return flights from London airports with TUI Airways or Thai Airways starting from just £280.
To save the most money, I recommend that you are flexible with your travel dates. Flight prices can change from one day to the next so it is better to buy your tickets 3 – 6 months in advance to get the best price.
There are so many magnificent islands and beautiful villages that it would be a shame to spend your time in just one place. Your plan in Thailand depends on the length of your stay but here is the route I suggest.
Arrival in Phuket:
You can switch up how long you stay in each island depending on which places your prefer and what sort of activities you want to do. For example, if you fancy going diving, I recommend staying longer in Koh Tao. Whereas if you want to party, then you should stay for longer in Koh Phi Phi or Koh Phangan. I don’t recommend that you linger in Phuket or Patong – these tourists resorts are super crowded and hot spots for Thai prostitution.
Generally I would say that you should book your accommodation last minute (unless you want to go to the Full Moon Party, which you should book in advance). That way, if you like a particular destination you can stay there for longer and similarly, if you don’t like somewhere, you can leave earlier.
Arrival in Bangkok:
How to get around Thailand
Rest assured, it is super easy to get around Thailand. Whether it be by scooter, taxi, boat or bus you will find travel agencies on every corner to book your transport.
Getting around on scooter: just like in most Asian countries, getting around with a scooter is the most common in Thailand. You can rent a scooter for around 200 bahts per day. However, I must warn you: if you have never driven a scooter before, don’t try it there. There are a lot of accident as the traffic rules are different, the roads are windy and local drivers have little patients.
Getting around by taxi: the most economical and safest way of getting around an island or the towns is by taxi – especially the famous tuk-tuk. Make sure you negotiate the price – taxi drivers often inflate the total price. I recommend you download the Grab app which works like Uber where you can order the taxi in advance with a set price.
Getting around by boat: As you can imagine, in order to get from island to island you will need to travel by boat. There are several ferry companies in Thailand but I recommend you go with Lomprayah which provide the best value for money. You can see the price of these crossing on the routes I proposed earlier, but in general the price will vary from £6 – £14 depending on the distance between the islands.
Travelling by bus: When you book your trip with a travel provider, bus and boat transfers are included. Note that the buses are very comfortable in Thailand so you can take advantage of catching up on sleep during travel time.
Getting around by plane: If you want to get from the north of Thailand to the south, the best way to travel is with internal flights. There are several connections between Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Koh Samiu and Phuket for around £50 – £90. This allows you to travel quicker meaning more time on the beach ;)
Where to stay in Thailand
If you want to have a full backpacking experience, then there is nothing better than staying in a youth hostel. Especially when the prices are very appealing (between £7 – £20 a night) which allows you to meet other travelers and make even more memories. The best place to find a hostel is on hotels.com where you can filter the results to what you require. You can narrow down the results according to price, the size of the room and the distance to the beach. You can also find accommodation on AirBnB where you can find some gorgeous homes to stay in. You can easily book a villa with a private pool for less that £100 a night!
As I have already said, you aren’t going to find the breathtaking landscapes and paradise beaches here. The city of Phuket and Patong resort are full of tourists and everything revolves around partying and unfortunately, sex. Although, you can still enjoy the atmosphere and meet other travelers, go shopping and try out the bars and nightclubs – but you’ll probably get tired of the nightlife, massage proposals with a ‘happy ending’ and the famous ping pong show.
I advice that you don’t lose much time here in Phuket or Patong and to just go and discover the other, more interesting places. I must point out though that the street food market on Bangla Roa is one to visit – you can get Pad Thai for just 100 baht – and boy is it delicious!
What to do in Koh Phi Phi
Accommodation: Ibiza House Phi Phi Party: legendary parties on the beach Activity to do: cruise through the islands for 600 bahts Beach: Maya Bay the famous beach from the film
Nothing will beat the feeling of leaving the hustle of Phuket and going to discover the paradise of Koh Phi Phi. After travelling for 2 hours, you will arrive on the party island. You wont be using scooters or taxis here – everything is done on foot because the city centre is so small. But you will find several shops, restaurants, bars and diving centres. You have to do the day cruise which is on a traditional long-tail boat. For about 600 – 700 baht, you will leave at 10am and cruise until sunset. You will get to discover the archipelago of Koh Phi Phi with food and snorkeling equipment included.
You will have the chance to discover the Bamboo Island with its immaculate beach, Monkey Beach with its many, curious monkeys greeting you. Or, you can go to the famous Maya Bay beach where The Beach was filmed. In the evening you have to go to one of the beaches where you can dance until morning with your feet in the water, wearing fluorescent plaint and watching the fireworks.
Krabi is one of the most visited regions in Thailand mostly because of its famous Railay Beach and its karst cliffs. In Krabi, you can make the most of the the beach for sunbathing and you can try out several activities such as jet-skiing, parasailing, kayaking and even climbing. You should visit the Tiger Cave Temple which is 3km from the city-centre and make the most of the breath-taking views of the region from 1237 steps above. As well as sun bathing on the Railay Beach, you can enjoy the other fantastic beaches in Tonsai, Phra Nang and Ao Nang.
Koh Samui is the island most hyped about in Thailand. Here, you will find luxurious hotels, private villas and posh restaurants. But rest-assured, you can still have an experience here as a backpacker. Along the beach of Chaweng you will find many shops and you will also have the opportunity to have a massage on the beach for a pretty cheap price (£5 – £8 for an hour). The best part – Koh Samui is a perfect place to try yoga! You will also find many restaurants to try out Thai cuisine and even the possibility to do a cooking course – so you will be able to make the delicious Pad Thai when you return home. Also, there are many evening events here with beach parties, pool parties and cool clubs!
And here is the island of Koh Phangan – famous world-wide for its Full Moon Party! At the foot of the Rock Bar, hundreds of thousands of people come from all over the world to party until the early morning on the night of, before or after every full moon. Do note that there is more to the island than the Full Moon Party. Koh Phangan is a beautiful island with incredible scenery. All over the island you can take a road trip for just 500 baht which will take you to the most beautiful beaches on the island but also to see a waterfall and the most incredible sunset. You can also go shopping in the city centre or have a Thai massage for some much needed rest after 2 nights of drinking ;)
Dates for the next Full Moon Party:
3 December 2017
2 January 2018
31 January 2018
2 March 2018
29 April 2018
30 May 2018
27 July 2018
29 July 2018
26 August 2018
24 September 2018
25 October 2018
22 November 2018
22 December 2018
What to do in Koh Tao
A classic: the sunset on Sairee Beach
Activity to do: diving
Beach: the famous beach of Koh Nang Yuan island
Koh Tao is the smallest island of the three, but by no means the least beautiful. This Thai island is famous for being a diving paradise and you can can even get a diving certificate for a very good price. Whilst diving or snorkeling in Shark Bay, you can swim with the turtles and small, harmless sharks, or in Mango Bay you can dive with the vast array of colourful fish. A must-see part of Koh Tao, which is just a 10-minute boat ride away, is the famous view of the two islands being separated by a sandbar. In Koh Tao you can also party until the early hours in one of the many bars in the city. In short, it is a no-brainer – you have to visit this island!
So if you are feeling inspired and fancy going on a trip to Thailand take a look at my latest deals. Comment if you have any top tips or questions for me :D