50 Backpacking Thailand Tips That Will Make Or Break Your Trip

Backpacking Thailand

Planning out your Thailand backpacking route and not sure where to start? We got you covered! If you’ve never been to Southeast Asia before it can seem like a wild and confusing place. Yet, backpacking in Thailand can be such an amazing travel experience. After dozens of trips to this unique destination we put together a helpful list of 50 Thailand backpacking tips. Hopefully, they can guide you through this beautiful country and let you know what you’re in store for.

Best Backpacking Thailand Route 

Before we jump into all our fun tips for your Thailand backpacking trip let’s talk about a route. If you’re just starting the process of planning this can be one of the most overwhelming things.

First off, you should know that Thailand is very well set up for backpackers and budget travelers. This is similar to nearby countries like Vietnam as you can see in this article.

While you might want to plan out every day in advance, one of the best ways to go backpacking in Thailand is to speak with other travelers. You might learn about an island you’ve never heard of, or be convinced to randomly jump on an overnight train to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand! 

We wrote an article about the best 7 Day Thailand Itineraries that can be combined. So whether you have one week or a full month, you can get an idea of the most popular destinations! Also, be sure to check out our best tips for planning a vacation below.

How to Plan Your Trip to Thailand in 10 Easy Steps

Backpacking Thailand Route

4 Sample Thailand Backpacking Itineraries 

Khao Lak, Khao Sok & Phuket: The first Thailand itinerary involves the coastal town of Khao Lak and then heads to Khao Sok National Park. From there, you can take a boat to the largest Thai island and enjoy the beautiful beaches of Phuket

Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta & Krabi: The second 7-day Thailand itinerary is all about island hopping! Hit the parties on Phi Phi, relax on Koh Lanta, and then end at Krabi’s famous limestone cliffs of Railay beach.

Koh Samui, Koh Phangan & Koh Tao: Ready for more islands? Start in Koh Samui then head to the full moon party on Koh Phangan. After that, you can do some diving and snorkeling on Koh Tao before returning home.

Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Pai: The last itinerary to Thailand is all about the mainland. Explore the capital city of Bangkok before making your way to the beautiful temples and night markets of Chiang Mai. Once you’re done there, travel to the secluded mountains in Pai for a completely different experience.

Backpacking Thailand Itineraries

50 Backpacking Thailand Travel Tips

1. Travel Insurance: Let’s start with one of the most important backpacking Thailand travel tips! Any time you go abroad you should have insurance (we love this company). We have unfortunately made visits to hospitals in Southeast Asia with food poisoning and felt so much better knowing we were covered. 

2. Medical Kit: There are some things that we use daily in Thailand. We recommend making your own little medical kit and throwing it in your day bag with other essentials. You can bring them with you or stock up at a store when you arrive. The basics you should never leave your hotel without are sunblock, bug spray, Imodium, and Benadryl.

3. Folding Backpack: We used this every single day in Thailand. You can grab a cheap one like this before you leave. It will take up almost no space in your carry-on bag and can be used to go to the beach, on jungle hikes, and exploring the big cities.

4. Packing Lists: Find all the Thailand backpacking inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

Nothing Familiar Backpacking Thailand

Thailand Travel Tips for Packing

5. Luggage: Honestly, we have lost count of the times we’ve seen tourists dragging their roller suitcases down the beach. If you plan to move fast or island hop when backpacking Thailand know that your luggage will be thrown on and off boats. 

Pack light and if you are taking a roller make sure it’s not too heavy! We really like Osprey Bags and even wrote a review about the one we currently use. 

6. Shoes: You will need a good pair of flip-flops (we like these) for the islands as well as walking shoes. There are actually a lot of hikes and unique coastal trails that it’s good to have shoes on. You’ll also want to wear shoes and pants when you’re off the beaten track with the creepy crawlers! 

7. Clothing: Remember when packing that it is very hot in Thailand and you’ll be sweating a lot. Pack loose comfortable clothing that gives you some room to breathe.

8. Temple Outfit: If you’re not at the beach plan to dress modestly in the cities. You should have at least one specific temple outfit when visiting these special sites. 

This means a loose fitting clothing that covers your shoulders and falls below your knees (something like this for women). There is a very specific dress code for the Grand Palace in Bangkok, temples like Wat Arun, and for visiting the Reclining Buddha

9. Remove Shoes: Relating to the temple tip, you should know you will have to remove your shoes before entering. You may want to pack some socks so you don’t have to walk around barefoot if you’re wearing sandals. 

Backpacking Thailand Tips

Backpacking Thailand Tips

10. Tuk Tuk: Jumping on the back of a small tuk tuk taxi is something everyone should experience in Thailand. Flagging down one of the many Tuk-tuk drivers and the best ways to get around the city and the price can typically be negotiated. 

11. Grab: If you’re going to use an actual taxi service download the grab app. It’s pretty much the Uber of Southeast Asia and you can order everything from cars to motorbike rides, and food.  

12. Buses: Local buses are a popular option for Thailand backpacking, especially ones that go overnight. We’ve been on our fair share over the years and it’s definitely not our favorite mode of transportation. However, they can be a good way to travel if you’re on a tight budget search the different routes here)

13. Motorbike Rental: When exploring the islands like Phuket it is popular to rent a motorbike. You should ONLY do this if you have experience riding and a motorcycle license from your home country. 

Accidents with tourists who aren’t used to the traffic and way of the roads here are extremely common. Alternatively, you can rent a driver for a day or use a tuk tuk to get around. 

14. Private Transfers: Always ask your hotel or hostel about a private transfer as the price might surprise you! Specifically, it can be very cheap if you’re traveling with multiple people. When going from the island of Koh Lanta to Krabi it was cheaper for our group of four to share a private transfer over individually paying for the shuttle.  

Backpacking Thailand Travel Tips

Cheap Flights and Ferry Tickets

15. Ferries: There is something very important to know before island hopping in Thailand. A ferry is essentially a slow boat while the speedboat is much faster. 

Booking the right boat can save you hours on your backpacking Thailand journey. Compare the different routes here such as Phuket to Phi Phi island and Koh Samui to Koh Phangan

16. Flights: Sometimes the best way to get to your next destination can be flying. Domestic flights with popular budget airlines like Nok Air can be very inexpensive for those backpacking in Thailand. 

We always find our cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Expedia. That’s how we got flights from Bangkok to Phuket for just $12 USD, and Thailand to Vietnam for less than $50! Check out our complete guide to saving money with Skyscanner here.

17. Transportation: 12Go is where we find all our ferries, trains, buses, and transfers when traveling in Thailand. You can find everything from island hopping speedboats to the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Backpacking in Thailand

Arriving in Thailand Backpacking Tips

18. Customs: Make sure to print out and bring a hard copy of all the paperwork or photos that you need for customs. This can save a lot of headaches and time on arrival. 

19. Money: Thai Baht is the official currency of Thailand. Some ATMs have MASSIVE fees and this can be particularly annoying on the smaller islands. On the beautiful island of Koh Lipe we were charged $9 USD per transaction and you could only take out a maximum of $50. 

This was by far the worst we’ve seen, but plenty of ATMs do have a $6-9 fee. Luckily, we now use an international bank which refunds all the ATM fees at the end of each month.

20. Credit Card Fee: Also, know that it is common to be charged a small credit card fee of around 3% when paying. This applies more so to the family-run accommodations.

21. Airport Transfer: The airports in Thailand can be a little overwhelming when you first arrive. Don’t be surprised when you  see the taxi drivers swarming you as soon as you step out of the doors!

This is a good reason to arrange an affordable transfer directly with your hotel. Be sure to email ahead of time and ask for the price or what they recommend. 

Thailand Backpacking Route Tips

Thailand Backpacking Visas

22. Visas & Requirements: At the time of our last visit, Thailand was offering a 30-day visa on arrival to many countries around the world. Once you’re in Thailand you can extend your tourist visa for another 30 days at a local immigration office depending on your passport. 

23. Visa Run: It’s common to see signs all over offering “visa runs” to those backpacking in Thailand. When your visa is officially done and you want to stay longer this can be a last resort. Simply just cross over the border or fly to another country and your time will start again when you return.

24. Customs Paper: You’ll receive a small piece of paper in your passport when you make it through customs. DO NOT LOSE THIS!!! Keep it in a safe spot with your other important documents as you will need it when you leave Thailand.

Travel Guide Thailand Backpacking

Backpacking in Thailand Tech Tips 

25. SIM Card: Sim cards are crazy cheap in Thailand. Most companies offer a 30 or 90 day plan with a month long deal being as low as $10 USD. Just know that it’s cheaper to buy a sim card and load the money on yourself then to have them do it all at the store. 

E-Sims are also popular now (this is one of the best companies), but we’ve still found it slighter cheaper to get one when you arrive. Having the ability to make local calls is also great for contacting your accommodations. 

26. VPN: Using a VPN is a great way to protect yourself and your information while Backpacking Thailand. We having been using the company NordVPN for years and are happy with their service.

27. Wifi: Wifi is typically great on the mainland, but can get a little spotty on the islands and rural locations. Make sure to buy a sim card with a fast internet speed. That way if you need to work online or use the internet you can hotspot your other devices. 

Thailand Backpacking Top Tips

What to Know About the Islands 

28. Ferry vs Speed Boat: As we mentioned already, you’ll want to be careful what type of boat you pick on your island hopping adventures. Ferries are actually slow boats while speedboats and catamarans are the faster option. 

It may cost as little as $5 USD for a slow ferry. Yet, it could take four hours or longer to get to your next destination. In comparison, a $15 speed boat may take only 30 minutes between some islands. 

29. Snorkels: If you’re planning to visit the islands then bring your own snorkels (like this one). This will not only save you money from renting them, but you can use your snorkels at all the different beaches. 

30. Happy Shakes: Watch out for “happy” anything when backpacking in Thailand! This is commonly advertised on the party islands like Koh Phi Phi and refers to food and drinks containing magic mushrooms.

31. Full Moon Party: The largest party in Thailand takes place once a month on Koh Phangan. Thousands of travelers make their way to the island for the infamous Full Moon Party. Book your accommodation as far in advance as possible and make sure pick the right part of the island to stay. 

Some travelers book a hotel in the north and then have to take an hour shuttle each way. House of Sanskara and Little Paradise Haad Rin Koh Phangan are popular options in the south where the party goes down! Other islands do have their own full moon parties. However, Koh Phangan is home to the original and is the biggest event of its kind.

Backpacking in Thailand Route

Weather For Your Thailand Backpacking Route

32. Seasons: Unlike Europe and the United States, Thailand has two specific seasons. They are broken up between the dry and rainy months which is essential to know before planning your trip. Check out our article about the BEST time to visit Thailand for perfect weather.

33. Different Climates: Just because you plan to go backpacking in Thailand during the high season doesn’t mean you’ll be clear of any wild weather.

Thailand is a tropical destination and the conditions can change quickly. Be prepared for cooler weather in the mountains of northern Thailand, and intermittent showers on the islands. 

Thailand Backpacking Guide

Backpacking Thailand Safety Tips

34. Scams: There are tricks and scams in almost every country and Thailand is no different. Some of the most common are pickpocketing in the cities and being given back the incorrect change when breaking larger bills. Still, know that Thailand is a very safe country and we’ve never had any issues during our travels.

35. Taxis: We always use the Grab app as opposed to taking local taxis off the street. This way there is a set rate and you can confirm your pick up and drop off locations on the map. This is also a good way to avoid any language barriers you may encounter when backpacking in Thailand.

36. Bartering: This is all about the price being displayed vs when it is not. It can definitely come in handy when shopping at the local markets. Bartering is a natural part of many cultures in Southeast Asia, but it’s still wise not to offend anyone.

If the cost is clearly shown on an item then it’s not as likely you’ll be able to negotiate. However, if it’s not, then you may be able to ask for a better rate.  

Tips for Thailand Backpacking

Eating and Drinking

37. Street Food: The local food in Thailand is always a highlight of our visits, and something that keeps us coming back time and time again. With that said, there are some things to watch out for when tasting the many street food specialties.

We recommend picking out the stands that are cooking the food hot in front of you and not stuff that’s just sitting out. This is a good way to ensure you don’t get a dreaded case of food poisoning and spend days of your Thailand backpacking trip in bed. 

From wok fried pad thai to amazing curries and soups, there are so many great meals to enjoy in Thailand! You will even find Michelin Star restaurants in destinations like Chiang Mai and Phuket Old Town that can cost as little as $2 USD. Read our full guide to the best food in Thailand here!

38: Tap Water: Unfortunately, you can’t drink the tap water in Thailand. We don’t even risk it for brushing our teeth. The tap water isn’t filtered and can make you sick very quickly. 

There are plenty of small mini marts and stands to grab a large bottle of water. For longer stays, we preferred to use the reverse osmosis filling stations to fill up larger containers when they’re available.

39: Long Lines: If you see a long line in Thailand it’s normally for a good reason! Some of the best street food and restaurants have lines out the door. 

Typically, that is a sign that the dishes are amazing and you should try them. While many great restaurants can be found online, know that some of the best are only known locally. Take some time exploring your town or city to find these delicious local meals yourself.

Backpacking Thailand Guide

More Backpacking Thailand Food Tips

40: Ice in Drinks: Just as drinking tap water is a no-no, ice is also something to avoid. If the ice isn’t filtered properly then it can get you very sick. 

Some restaurants do buy filtered ice, while others make it themselves. We know it’s difficult to not get ice in your drink on a hot day. Yet, it’s best to avoid it if possible.

We once saw someone put a block of ice on the floor, use a hammer to get a slice off, then pick it up and put it in our iced coffee… Obviously, we had to walk away from that drink!

41: Single Wok Cooking: You will often see food  cooked and served one at a time as many kitchens only has one wok. Dig in as soon as your food comes out in this situation. Backpacking in Thailand is not the time to wait for the others to be served before eating.

42: Side Sauce & Chili: At almost every street food stand and restaurant you’ll see four small jars. These contain everything from chili and pickled garlic to sugar and soy sauce. The picked garlic is always a favorite of ours and we always love to load up on it in our soups and noodle dishes.

43. Western Food: More Western food has started to pop up all around Thailand in recent years. You can find everything from Italian restaurants to vegan cafes, and American burger joints. 

We definitely understand if you need to switch it once and awhile on a longer Thailand backpacking route. Just expect to pay double if not triple for these meals compared to traditional Thai food. 

Backpacking Thailand Food

General Tips For Thailand Backpacking 

44. Brushing Teeth: As we mentioned, it’s smart to play it safe and use a bottle of water to brush your teeth. This is a good way to ensure that you don’t get sick from this daily routine.

45. TP: Toilet paper isn’t usually flushed in Thailand due to their poor plumbing systems. Instead, it’s discarded in a bin that will be found next to the toilet. 

If you see a hose next to the toilet don’t be confused either! Many locals actually use this to wash off and disregard toilet paper entirely.

46. Squat Toilet: If it’s your first time backpacking Thailand you might have heard about the squat toilet. We haven’t seen them as much recently, and mostly have come across this type of toilet on travel days at bus stops.

Now this isn’t to say you won’t ever be faced with one! Just know the toilets are getting more modern in Thailand and these won’t be an everyday occurrence.  

47. Fan Vs AC: One thing to know about backpacking Thailand is that there are different prices for fan and air conditioned rooms. Unsurprisingly, the AC costs more to run so it makes sense that there is a separate cost. 

On our first Thailand backpacking route we were on a super tight budget and opted for the rooms with just a fan. While we saved money, we almost got heat stoke as our island bungalows would turn into a sizzling hot box. 

A lot of the time air conditioned hotel rooms only cost $3-5 USD more. It’s definitely worth it pay a little extra for AC if you can afford it.

Thailand Backpacking Trip

Staying Healthy & Hydrated 

48. Food Poisoning: We’ve had food poisoning a few times in Southeast Asia, and Thailand is no exception. No matter how “safe” you are trying to be it’s sometimes unavoidable. 

We wrote this post about on our unfortunate experiences and this one about eating street food in Asia. If you aren’t feeling better after a day or two you should make a trip to the hospital to get some tests run. You might just be dehydrated, or you could have something even worse!

49. Electrolyte, Tums & Imodium: One of the worst things you can do while backpacking Thailand is to let yourself get dehydrated. At every 7-11 they sell electrolyte packets, or you can get them before you arrive. 

You’ll also want to have Tums or Imodium handy for worst case scenarios. Trust us when we say you don’t want to be caught without it when the time comes!

50. ER & Clinic: We have found the healthcare in Thailand to be really good compared to other countries in Asia. It’s also insanely inexpensive even if your travel insurance doesn’t cover it. 

Nevertheless, in the event you do have to go try and visit the nicer facilities. We recommend researching reviews online or asking your accommodation where the Western clinics are. 

These often provide better care and have more English speaking doctors on site. Another option is to pay a little more to have a doctor come to you. 

Thailand Backpacking Travel Guide

Have any questions about backpacking in Thailand or want to share your own Thailand backpacking tips? Leave us a comment below!

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

PIN FOR LATER 

Thailand

Thailand Travel Planning 

 Transportation: While traveling through Thailand 12Go is where we find all our ferries, trains, buses, and transfers! You can find everything from island hopping speed boats to the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

 Flights: We always find our cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we found flights from Bangkok to Phuket for $12 USD, and Thailand to Vietnam for less than $50! 

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget. 

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over Phuket! You can find everything from a James Bond island luxury sunset cruise, to Phuket Old Town 15-taster food adventure, and 5-hour island tour

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

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Helpful Thailand Posts

Phuket: 22 Things to DoOld Town Food Guide6  Sunset SpotsRawaiElephant SanctuaryPromthep Cape SunsetSunday Night MarketPhuket Old TownBig BuddhaRenting a Motorbike 

Phuket Beaches:  15 Best Beaches Nai Harn & Yanui – Kata BeachKata NoiNui Beach

Koh Phi Phi:  Ferry from Phuket25 Things to KnowMaya Bay Private Tour3 Viewpoint HikeMonkey BeachPhi Phi Don Boat Tour 

Railey Beach:  12 Things to Do3 Epic BeachesKrabi to Koh Phangan

Gulf of Thailand: Koh Phangan 10 Things to KnowBottle Beach Koh PhanganKoh Tao 12 Things to KnowFreedom Beach Koh TaoKoh Samui 

More: Planning Thailand TripKoh LipeChiang Mai

Thailand Travel Guide

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2 Comments

  1. Genevieve
    December 2, 2023 / 2:04 pm

    I will absolutely be following your itinerary for Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Pai! I can’t wait to see the night markets. Bookmarking this guide to be sure I remember everything – thanks so much for the helpful resource!

    • Brigitte & Jake
      Author
      December 2, 2023 / 2:19 pm

      So glad you found it helpful. That is definitely one of our favorite itineraries, too!

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