Okay, so you’ve made the decision to go travel around Southeast Asia and you’ve heard that Thailand is the obvious place to start. Well, my friend, you’ve got some solid advice coming your way because Thailand is the perfect place to begin that backpacking adventure. But where do you even start when planning your Thailand backpacking route?
By the end of this blog, you’ll be absolutely sure of which places you want to visit and how long you’re planning to spend in each place. Let’s make one thing absolutely clear: you’ve made the best decision already… you’ve decided to go backpacking through Thailand, and what an epic adventure it’s going to be!
Why go backpacking in Thailand?
Thailand is clearly at the top of every solo traveller’s bucket list, and for good reason. With its broad range of appeal, it’s easy to see why backpacking in Thailand is still trending in 2023.
If you’ve ever spoken to anyone who has been to Thailand, you’ve probably heard about the golden temples in Bangkok, the idyllic beaches of the southern islands, and the lush mountainous jungle in Chiang Mai. You may have even heard about some secret spots, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love insider knowledge?! Don’t worry, we’ll cover those secret spots a little later on. Let’s just say that you’d be crazy to miss these three secret locations when backpacking around Thailand!
If you needed any more reasons to hit the road, he’s 17 reasons to travel solo in 2023 🙌🏼
How long to spend backpacking in Thailand?
There really is no simple answer to this game-changing decision, with so much to see and do you can easily get yourself stuck for weeks or even months travelling around Thailand. It’s important to consider that most nationalities get a free visa on arrival for 30 days and the average trip in Thailand is between 2 weeks to 1 month. I would personally suggest spending no less than 1 week especially if you’re doing a long-haul flight. At the same time if you’re passing through Bangkok on your way to another destination you would be silly not to make a trip of it for a few days (yes, we love Bangkok 🛺).
Where to start your backpacking adventure?
I think we’ve already made it very clear, Thailand is the perfect destination in South East Asia for first-time solo travellers. But, let’s get into why Bangkok is the perfect place to start when planning your route through Thailand. Here are 5 reasons why…
- It has great connections to the UK, Europe, America, Australia, and beyond. Flight prices in and out of Bangkok are great and the airport itself runs like clockwork.
- With it being a super popular destination for tourists, the locals are very used to chatting with foreigners coming through, and English is widely spoken, so the culture shock won’t be too overwhelming, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is.
- Bangkok is the backpacker capital of the world! When you get to the infamous Khao San Road, you’ll soon realize what I mean. You’ll be surrounded by other travellers, and the fun really does begin when you’ve got yourself a bucket in hand with your favourite vodka/gin/whiskey mixer.
- The food in Thailand is just yummmm… The street food in Bangkok will leave you wanting five meals a day (don’t worry, the portion sizes are enough to hit the spot but small enough to have you ready for more in no time!).
- Finally, the last reason is the number of things to do both by day and by night: temples, tuk-tuk rides, river cruises, markets, restaurants, bars, street parties, and much more.
Tip: It is recommended to spend at least 2 nights in Bangkok to get a feel for the place, but 3 nights would be ideal, especially if you are prone to experiencing jet-lag.
Is Thailand safe for backpackers?
When it comes to crime, Thailand is likely one of the safest countries in Southeast Asia. The thought of someone getting mugged, robbed, or attacked in Thailand is unfathomable to me. In fact, you are more likely to run into trouble on the streets of London, New York, or Berlin. Walking around the cities in Thailand after dark is generally safe, but it’s always wise to take precautions and use common sense.
You may have heard stories about backpackers getting into a spot of bother… usually, this is due to bad decision-making and putting yourself in silly situations. This can involve driving a motorbike after a party night out or going swimming after dark (we don’t recommend doing either of these – just for the record 🙈). But seriously, the chances of something happening are pretty slim!
Join a Facebook Group and get chatting to others travellers just like you. Travelling with others is a great way to build that confidence 🙌🏼
Where next after Bangkok?
When planning a backpacking route in Thailand, it’s important not to make the mistake of heading north instead of south. If you want to create the perfect backpacking itinerary, travelling south from Bangkok is a must. You can choose to take the train, bus/coach, or an internal flight. The most cost-efficient and comfortable option is an overnight sleeper train. You’ll depart Bangkok and travel south towards Surat Thani in an air-conditioned carriage with a semi-comfortable bunk, clean sheets, and bedding.
Where do I even start in the South?
You’ve got a few options in the south and to be honest, there is no right or wrong way of doing it. If we were going to give you 3 places you absolutely can’t miss, they would be; Khao Sok National Park, Railay Beach, & the Phi Phi Islands. All 3 of these destinations are different in their own right and visiting all 3 in that order is the best way to get the most out of your time and budget. Let’s get into all 3 below and see why they should be on your route when backpacking through Thailand.
Khao Sok National Park
In short, this place is Thailand’s best-kept secret and it’s by far the most incredible place I’ve ever visited in the 15 years I’ve been travelling. What makes it even more special is the fact it’s still very untouched because it’s not an easy place to get to as a solo traveller. That’s why group travel in Thailand is becoming more and more popular (more on that later).
So why visit the Khao Sok National Park?
- It’s a pristine jungle with scenes similar to those in Jurassic Park… Honestly, this isn’t an exaggeration. Khao Sok National Park is next-level incredible!
- It’s not uncommon these days to spot wild elephants roaming free, which was a rare thing in the pre-Covid world. Since the return of tourism, it has become a regular occurrence.
- You’ll have the opportunity to stay in floating bungalows in one of the world’s oldest evergreen rainforests (pretty special 😍).
- It’s the only place on your travels where you’ll be truly happy you’ve got no WIFI. Honestly, it’s the perfect place to disconnect and just hang with your new travel pals.
- If the idea of floating in a rubber tube with a beer in hand excites you, this is the final seal of approval for why Khao Sok National Park is an absolute must when planning your backpacking route through Thailand!
Railay Beach, Krabi
When you think of the picture-perfect beaches in Thailand, you’ll automatically think about towering limestone cliffs and traditional long-tail boats. Well, this is Railay Beach in a nutshell, it’s located in the Krabi region of South Thailand. It’s the gateway to the Phi Phi Islands and the perfect place to start your island hopping experience in Thailand.
Why should you visit Krabi & Railay Beach?
- If you’re looking for idyllic beaches and plenty of them, the Krabi region is the place to be! Towering limestone cliffs surround the coastlines, and your Instagram and TikTok followers will find the 9-5 grind much harder watching your feed!
- After a more rustic sleep in the floating bungalows of Khao Sok, you’ll be grateful for a nice comfy bed and even a rooftop pool if that’s your style!
- If you’re ready for a break from local food, you’ll have no issues finding all sorts of western restaurants in Krabi (as well as plenty of local options and night markets). We take our groups to our favourite Mexican restaurant on our first night to mix things up a bit. After all… who doesn’t love wearing a sombrero while sinking a few cheeky tequilas?
- Challenge yourself to the 1,237 steps leading to the summit of the Tiger Cave Temple. You’ll no doubt be joined by some naughty resident monkeys 🙈.
Koh Phi Phi Islands
Did someone say island hopping in Thailand? Now we’re talking! Okay, so you’ve experienced the secret spots and idyllic beaches, now it’s time to take things up a notch and get your first taste of island hopping in Thailand. No backpacking trip to Thailand is complete without visiting the world-famous Phi Phi Islands.
Why visit Koh Phi Phi?
- Spend a sun-kissed day island hopping around some of the most iconic locations in Thailand, including Pileh Lagoon, Maya Bay, and Monkey Beach. Other well-known locations include Bamboo Island, which is often substituted for Maya Bay due to its stunning beauty.
- The yellow brick road from the pier is only accessible on foot, making it easy to get around Phi Phi on foot. Phi Phi Don is home to all the hotels, and you can walk from one end to the other in as little as 30-45 minutes (depending on traffic 😆).
- Koh Phi Phi is home to some of the best beach parties in the world, and it doesn’t need to be a full moon to get the party started. Get out your brightest outfit and get covered in UV paint while dancing like nobody’s watching.
- Phi Phi Island features Thailand’s infamous fire shows every evening, and one of our favourite spots has some of the best fire dancers we’ve ever seen. Join us on our Thailand tours to witness them for yourself!
Had enough of the islands?
The chances are you’ll never have enough of the islands in the south of Thailand, but let’s be honest… your kidneys will thank you for planning the big escape and heading north. You’ve truly not completed Thailand without visiting the jewel of the north – Chiang Mai and its hippie little brother – Pai. These two destinations will leave your Thailand trip complete and you’ll be forever grateful for this guide (you can thank me later 😂). No backpacking route in Thailand would be credible without including the north of Thailand, let’s get into these two incredible spots and why they are important bucket list destinations to be added to your backpacking route through Thailand.
The chic and trendy city of Chiang Mai might be Thailand’s second biggest city, but it feels like a world apart from the bustling streets of Bangkok. Hip cafes and quirky bars scatter the streets of Chiang Mai. The good news for budget-weary travelers is that Northern Thailand is much cheaper than the south. Chiang Mai is famous for its markets, and there are plenty of them. The weekend markets are great for buying last-minute souvenirs and, of course, yummy street food!
Why visit Chiang Mai?
- The city of Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains and lush jungle, which can only mean one thing… more ELEPHANTS! The north is known for hand-feeding elephants, and you won’t be short of options when it comes to elephant sanctuaries (be mindful of picking an ethical experience).
- As I mentioned above, the night markets in Chiang Mai are pretty special. More often than not, you’ll hear people referring to Chiang Mai as the place where they enjoyed the best and cheapest street food. You’ll also get the luxury of trying northern dishes that are not available in the south.
- Continuing on the topic of food… Chiang Mai is the BEST place to learn to cook the traditional way. It’s the home of Thai Cookery Classes and fresh ingredients. We actually take our groups to a local family home surrounded by rice fields. You’ll soon appreciate the local experiences while backpacking around Southeast Asia.
- Chiang Mai is the gateway to Thailand’s second best-kept secret and is often referred to as ‘My favourite place in Thailand’ (said by almost anyone that visits Pai).
The hippie capital of Thailand and the place that will leave your heart complete. This is a destination missed by many and should be at the top of every traveller’s bucket list. If you’re planning your Thailand backpacking route and you’ve decided to skip Pai, you are a fool in my opinion (sorry…not sorry if I offended you 🤓). Ask anyone that’s ever been, “Should I go to Pai?” Their answer is almost certainly going to be “F*ck yeah!”
Why visit Pai?
- It’s truly the most chilled and heart-warming place on earth. If you love the idea of local hippies where life stands still, this place is for you!
- The local street food market is on every night and has some of the best eats in Thailand. You won’t only get local food but also other international delights for next to nothing 🤑. The options are endless, including vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and much more. You’ll be dreaming of the Pai street food for weeks after visiting! If you join us at Feel Free Travel, be sure to ask your Group Leader for Adam’s favourite Gyoza and falafel pitta recommendations (show the falafel lady my picture, and she’ll no doubt remember me as I’m her most loyal customer 😋🤪).
- The Pai countryside is just magical in so many different ways. Take a day trip and visit the hot springs, Pai Canyon, and the IG famous – Bamboo Bridge. If you fail to get Tiktok content on this day, you’ll definitely struggle in the influencer game. Pai is a content creator’s dream #takemeback
- I’ll arguably save the best until last, how about grabbing a rubber tube and floating down the river with a beer in hand? Well, that’s what our 1st day in Pai looks like on our South to North – 15 day trip. The only way to finish your tubing experience in Pai is sunset at one of our secret spots (insider knowledge; only available for those who decide to book on our trips… sorry 😬).
Ok, I did all that, now what?
The possibilities are endless, you can either revisit your favourite location on your trip or continue your backpacking adventure to another of South East Asia’s incredible destinations. We have many travellers joining us on our Best of Asia – 29 day tour (2 weeks in Thailand followed by 2 weeks in Vietnam). If you’re limited on time you might need to head home, but don’t worry… there is always next time!
Where do I stay when I travel around?
This really depends on the type of experience you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a more chilled-out holiday with plenty of your own space, maybe hotels/guesthouses are for you. If you’re looking for social vibes, sharing a dorm room and heaps of partying, then a hostel is the way to go.
Or… if you’re looking for the best of both worlds – join us on one of our backpacking group tours. Our trips are designed to give you maximum comfort with the hotel standard of accommodation mixed in with the social vibes of a hostel. What makes joining us even more convenient is the option to share with another traveller or upgrade to a private room. There really is no better way to travel.
What if I hate planning my own travel?
That’s where we come in. Even if you enjoy planning, but want to experience the best of Thailand, join us at Feel Free Travel as we take on the ultimate backpacking route through Thailand. It will be the best 2 weeks of your life as you’ll be sharing the whole experience with other travellers just like you. Yes, you can definitely do it cheaper on your own, but can you have the added experiences that we curate on our tours? The answer is no. We build experiences through years of trial and error. We are backpackers like you at heart and we LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of keeping it local. With Feel Free Travel, you’ll experience the perfect balance of culture, adventure, chill time, and party nights out. What are you waiting for? #FINDYOURFREEDOM
Whether you’re looking to travel solo or bring a friend along for the ride, our group tours in South East Asia & Australia are the perfect balance of culture, adventure, chill time & nightlife. You’ll arrive as strangers and leave as the best of friends.