Backpacking in Thailand...
Yes, backpacking in Thailand should be on every traveller’s bucket list – never mind if you are going East for the first time or already know the do’s and don’t’s of the travel game inside out.
With a few tips from our treasure chest (or backpack rather) we want to give you the ultimate tips to go backpacking in Thailand like a pro, and to make the most of your time in the beautiful kingdom:
(1) CHECK THE SEASONS AND WEATHER CONDITIONS
Whether you are planning to scuba dive with manta rays on the colourful Similan Islands, river raft down the Pai River or experience the famous Full Moon Parties on Koh Pha Ngan, you want to check the weather charts in advance. You can backpack in Thailand all year, but there’s a season for everything. So if you are hell-bent on a specific activity or area, make sure you are choosing the right season.
Do you want a beach like this? Check the weather and travel accordingly!
ROOMS SELL OUT FAST FOR FULL MOON ▶ SECURE YOUR FULL MOON PACKAGE NOW
(2) PACK LIGHTLY
It is tempting to pack anything you can think of but chances are, you won’t use half of it. Plus, you will still have to carry it around yourself. Instead, focus on packing light and practically (no, you won’t need stilettos). Rest assured that if you forget anything, it will be on sale in Thailand at a very low price.
(3) BUDGET YOUR TRIP
Thailand is backpacker heaven when it comes to low-cost travel. You can survive on as little as USD 20 a day for basic accommodation, food and transportation. But where’s the fun in that? You made it all the way to Thailand, so having a budget with room for the occasional splurge really adds to the experience. Remember, this is a holiday.
Trips do get better with occasional luxury
HANDPICKED “BEYOND ORDINARY” HOTELS IN THAILAND ▶ FIND YOUR TREAT
(4) LOVE STREET FOOD
There are several reasons to familiarise yourself with street food – it’s cheap, it’s charming, and you often get the freshest ingredients and the most authentic flavours and tastes. There are food stalls, plastic chairs, cold beers and good company anywhere in Thailand, and if you pick the places that are crowded, you can’t go wrong.
GET FAMILIAR WITH THAI FOOD FROM DAY 1 ▶ BOOK “TUK-TUK TOUR BY NIGHT”
(5) USE LOCAL TRANSPORTATION
Nothing beats a Thai journey by train when you gradually see the landscape change as you head from urban Bangkok towards mountainous Chiang Mai or the green Southern inland. Trains are comfortable, convenient and cheap – as are busses, boats, and even Song Thaews can be surprisingly comfortable. So make your transportation an exploration; use the local transport, save money and experience the real Thailand.
Go local in a Song Thaew and experience rural Thailand up close
GO TREKKING IN A REMOTE CORNER OF THAILAND ▶ BOOK UMPHANG JUNGLE TREKKING
(6) PICK YOUR ACCOMMODATION WELL
By now, Thailand has an amazing selection of hostels, guesthouses and homestays, which all come at affordable prices. So don’t settle for an infested mattress, and use every option at your disposal to find a place with character and soul. Did you know about that Colonial School that was transformed into a backpackers resort in Chiang Mai? Or that Bangkok guesthouse in the gemstone district where you can meet fellow backpackers and exchange travel stories? How about the best place to stay in Koh Pha Ngan for Full Moon Parties?
Chiang Mai’s former colonial school
WE HANDPICK HOTELS & HOSTELS IN THAILAND ▶ DON’T BET, BOOK ONLY THE BEST
(7) BE WEARY OF PEAK SEASONS
Book in advance! Getting a good deal and planning on a daily basis impossible when Songkran hits Thailand (April), when lanterns fill the skies in Chiang Mai (November), when the Full Moon shines above Koh Pha Ngan (every month) or all throughout Europe’s year-end holidays. Don’t get hit by sudden price surges or the inability to book a room – local travel advisors know all about the upcoming festivals or events that can affect your plans, so talk to these guys as well.
The Songkran water festival is pandemonium
(8) DON’T GET SCAMMED AND AVOID “FREE” TUK-TUKS
Backpacking in Thailand is safe, but keeping your eyes and ears open never hurt anybody. There are better ways to get from the airport and when a taxi tries to tell you his meter is “broken”, just take the next one. Also, when a price or service seems too good to be true – it usually is. That THB 300 overnight bus may be cheap, but you better keep your possessions close when you sleep.
Likewise, when a Tuk-Tuk driver offers to drive you around all day for only THB 20, he actually intends to take you from one store to the next where you will be pressured into making (overpriced) purchases. It’s one of the oldest scams in the city:
Don’t listen to anything the drivers tell you in Thailand… 😉
(9) COMMUNICATE AND KEEP IN TOUCH
A great advice is to bring an unlocked phone and buying a local SIM-card at the airport. Note that they are sold in almost all 7/11-type shops as well, as long as you bring a passport for registration. Once connected, you’ll be able to access the internet, use GPS in real-time, call local numbers without crippling roaming costs and plan your trip without the need for Wi-Fi.
Stay in contact!
HOW DO I GET AN SIM-CARD?
HOW DO I AVOID SCAMS?
(10) GET OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Getting off the beaten track will often save you money, and improves your Thailand experience! Win-win! How about exploring the rural life of less visited North-east Thailand? What about kicking back on an underdeveloped island or trekking into one of Thailand’s many national parks? Thailand is so much more than the crowded tourist areas, don’t be afraid to get out there and explore!
MAGIC OFF THE BEATEN TRACK? ▶ READ WHAT LASSE (DK) EXPERIENCED WHEN HE BROKE HIS COMFORT ZONE
(11) LEARN FROM THE LOCALS
Another very valuable advice is to watch the locals and do like them. When eating street food, visiting temples, travelling overland or doing anything you are unfamiliar with. Not only will this prevent you from behaving inappropriately, the locals will respect you for it and especially with food, there is a money-saving aspect to it as well. The locals know the do’s and don’t’s and if you ask, they are usually honoured and willing to help you
Do as the locals do! Bamboo actually make excellent cups!
GO TREKKING WITH AND LEARN FROM THE LOCALS ▶ BOOK UMPHANG JUNGLE TREKKING
(12) RESPECT THAI CULTURE
Thailand is a very proud and spiritual country. And while most social indiscretions will be forgiven, the Royal family and Buddhism are both touchy subjects. Thai culture is usually harmonic, and publicly expressing anger is a sure way to turn everyone against you. Feet are considered the lowest part of the body so as strange as it sounds, don’t point them at people, don’t put them on chairs if possible, especially in a public environment. If you are interested in how to behave properly in the Kingdom, we recommend reading more about this; it’s interesting to learn about a culture that is so different from ours. And don’t forget #11.
You will see monks using public transportation. If you are a female you are not allowed to touch the monks (and will normally not allow you to sit next to them)
(13) BE A GREAT TRAVELER AND KNOW YOUR FOOTPRINT
Understand that your backpacking in Thailand impacts local culture, nature and the environment. Your money will support certain venues and it’s a good thing to keep that in mind. For instance, ask questions before booking any trip involving animals. Will your visit have a negative impact on hill tribe culture? How are the elephants treated? Would you want a selfie with a tiger if you knew the whole story? Go Beyond Asia has views on sustainability, which we hope you agree with as well.
HOW CAN YOU BE A GOOD TRAVELLER? ▶ CONTACT OUR TRAVEL CENTER TODAY
Conclusion on Backpacking in Thailand
Explore, get out there and never hesitate to ask any questions about backpacking in Thailand.
And wear sunscreen! HAPPY TRAVELS!