Category Archives: Thailand

What to Wear in Thailand? [+Printable Checklist]

Feeding Elephants | Thailand Packing List

Beaches, mountains, and crazy Bangkok – Thailand is a fun country to visit. Whether you are island hopping or gap year stopping there’s something for every type of travel lover. However, with all the excitement of planning the trip of a lifetime, we often get carried away with what to take and end up packing too much. This Thailand packing list will detail what to wear in Thailand including the travel essentials, toiletries and electronics you can’t leave at home. We (Gemma and Craig) will also detail what to buy in Thailand!

Know Before You Go

Packing for Thailand shouldn’t be a stressful experience but we advise checking out the weather forecast and this list of the top Thailand activities to help you work out your travel gear.

Weather in Thailand

The Insta-perfect picture of Thailand would have you thinking that it is sunny all of the time but that is fake news, unfortunately!  The best time to visit Thailand depends on which areas you plan to visit.

  • May-late September/early October is bad for the west coast islands like Phuket and Krabi.
  • September-December is rainy season for the east coast islands like Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
  • The north sees a drier season around November-May.

Top Things to do in Thailand

  • Rum buckets and scorpion snacks in Bangkok.
  • Waterfalls and hot springs in Pai.
  • Hiking, rafting and elephant washing in Chiang Mai.
  • Temple hunting in Chiang Rai.
  • Diving and snorkelling at Koh Phi Phi.
  • Full moon party Ko Pha-Ngan.
  • Expat life Koh Tao.

Thailand Packing List

Naturally, the number of items depends on your luggage size and duration. For two weeks, consider the following.

Clothes – Female/Ladies

  • Four vest tops (day).
  • Three cami/dress vest tops.
  • Shorts for a beach/city.
  • Skirts (I actually prefer skirts to shorts, dumpy thighs!)
  • Black gym/yoga pants – casual and disco pants in one item.
  • Dresses – little black dress is always a winner, match with flip-flops and a scarf/shirt for the perfect Thailand outfit.
  • Cardigan.
  • Hoody.
  • Shorts for hiking.
  • Overtrousers USA / UK for downpours while hiking.
  • A waterproof coat like my beloved Marmot US / UK comes with me everywhere. which folds into its own pocket, great for hiking/saves space.
  • Merino wool base layer like Icebreaker Merino wool base layer USA / UK  – keeps you cool in hot climates, warm in cold conditions.

Hot Springs in Pai

Convertible Clothes

Hybrid clothing is on point. Convertible dresses can be worn in twenty different ways. Saves space and looks unique in every photo you take!

» » Pack travel detergent. We washed our clothes with shampoo during our travels and they stunk after a while. 

What to Pack for Thailand (Male/Men)

Guys, you’ll want to still look suave while fighting the sweat. Here’s our tried, tested and refined Thailand travel essentials for men.

  • Five vesties.
  • Five shirts/Ts (check out Bluffwork’s range for travel-specific shirts).
  • Shorts.
  • Hiking pants (convertibles work well for hikes).
  • Hoody.
  • Merino wool base layer.
  • Waterproof coat – Craig is now rocking the Mountain Equipment Rupal but that might be a little bulky for Thailand.

» » Pro tip: You will need to cover up when visiting temples, some have clothes for you to hire there.

Thailand Shoes

Personally, I think the best shoes for Thailand come in a three-pack! Flip-flops for beach days, hiking boots or covered shoes for treks and fancier sandals for evening wear.

  • A sturdy pair of flip-flops – Havaianas US / UK
  • A fancier pair of sandals for partying.
  • Closed shoes like a pair of black trainers (go with everything) for scooter rides – don’t attempt mopeds in flip-flops you will scrape or burn your feet (Craig scraped, I burnt).
  • Gortex waterproof hiking shoes or boots (shoes are lighter, I wear Salomon US / UK which I trekked with to Machu Picchu. , Craig wears Scarpa boots for treks and wading his way through monsoon roadblocks!

» » That’s it, don’t pack another pair. You are just wasting precious space.

How to Pack Your Travel Shoes for Thailand

Wear your heaviest pair of shoes during travel/transit(that’s why I like my Salomon, they look nice as well as support my awkward feet) and squeeze your other shoes down the sides of your suitcase or backpack.

Many backpacks open like suitcases now (front opening like a clamshell) so you can get to your shoes easily enough. It’s often worth popping your flip-flops in your day bag for accessibility. Hot feet are no fun!

Invest in a [amazon_textlink asin=’B00F9S8RHG|B072KHGXV3′ text=’heavy-duty shoe bag’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thaipack-20|thaipack-21′ marketplace=’US|UK’ link_id=’86f7f43f-d393-11e8-9bc9-57ce7be55976′] for dirty hiking boots, you can double this bag up as a waterproof bag which is useful for watersports.

Scooter Rides Thailand

Underwear/Swimwear

When creating your checklist on what to bring to Thailand, pride of place should be a couple of swimwear options because let’s face it, we book a trip to Thailand to get those Instagram worthy shots of the palm trees and turquoise waters. So let’s dive in. 

  • Pants/knickers/boxers – I pack extra because, well… sweat.
  • Cotton trainer socks.
  • Merino wool hiking socks US / UK– very important for hiking as they are breathable.
  • Bras.
  • Sports bra if top-heavy.
  • Bikinis/swim suits.
  • Kaftan, sarongs, cover-ups – don’t go wild on these. One is enough if you are going all-inclusive or looking to book into a luxury hotel (they are economical!)
  • Swimming shorts.

»» Top tip for bikinis – pack dark bottom, a variety of bold coloured bikini tops for different looks.

Buy a snorkel there.

Travel Accessories

  • Sunglasses.
  • Headscarf/hat.
  • Large scarf – travel hack: scarves make great covers, blankets, bags and curtains for dorm beds (read our hilarious tips for dorm users post).
  • Day bag (I adore my Kanken).
  • Tote bag – stop the Thai plastic tide.
  • Leave the bling (including engagement rings) at home.
  • Bio-degradbale glitter for Full Moon BUT don’t go in the sea with it – respect the Thai marine life.
  • Bamboo straw and cutlery kit US / UK.

Electronics

  • You definitely want to take headphones for bus/train/boat/plane journeys. They are also your best bet for when there’s a snorer in your company and great for hiding behind when you are too hungover to be social (like Harry Potter’s invisible cloak).
  • GoPro to document all the advnentures you are going to take and definitely splurge on the waterproof cover and floating hand grip.
  • Waterproof phone covers are great for keeping your phone alive but still available for selfies.
  • We love Anker battery pack US / UK
    for phone and GoPro charging on the go.
  • Craig never hikes without the JBL Clip US / UK . Superb sound, economically priced (makes for a great gift too).
  • Universal plugs with USB slots are space savers US / UK.

Travel Toiletries + Medication

  • Suntan lotion.
  • Nice high factor face moisturisers like US / UK.
  • Cleanser.
  • Soap and solid shampoos save space, avoid spills and tend to be plastic-free.
  • Razor.
  • Toothbrush.
  • Tooth tablets (no spill).
  • Make-up: keep this to a minimum. You’ll rarely wear it (even if you put it on, you can expect it to fall off your face in the heat!) I like a palette which covers all bases.
  • Mosquito repellent – you need to decide if you want DEET or DEET-free products like Avon Soft Skin US / UK. We’ve used both, nothing works if mosquitoes like you.
  • You don’t need a mosquito net, just make sure you book accommodation with it.
  • Malaria tablets – I cheaped out and took the (free) budget malaria tablets for our trip to Southeast Asia. I definitely didn’t feel myself, I bruised easily and felt a bit paranoid. For South America, I paid for Malarone and felt better. Others have had different experiences on both! Share your experience in the comments below.
  • See your doctor for vaccinations.
  • Well stocked first aid kit with needles.
  • Tubigrip for strains.
  • Leukotape US / UK to cover heels during hikes (that stuff does not budge!)
  • Electrolytes US / UK for the hangovers (rum buckets, ‘nuf said).
  • Filtering/purifying water bottle like the Water 2 Go (15% off using TSA15 at checkout).
  • Don’t forget your travel insurance. Our review of True Traveller and World Nomads can be read here.

Thailand Packing Checklist

Click here to download your checklist for things to pack for Thailand (you may need to log in to your Gmail account).

Thailand Packing List Checklist

Things To Buy In Thailand

You can pretty much buy anything in Thailand (7/11, Tesco, Pizza Hut) so don’t stress if you forget an item. It is a rite of passage to purchase:

  • Hareem elephant pants/trousers.
  • ‘Same same but different’ vesties.
  • Tiger balm.
  • Thai silk blankets.
  • Fakebans (no protection though).
  • Thai lanterns (don’t let them go/bad for the environment).
  • Massages (super cheap).
  • And for the most permanent souvenir – a Sak Yant tattoo!

» » All of the above can be purchased at Thai markets and along Kho San Road in Bangkok. I wish we had got a fake university card for cheap student discounts back home…

How to Pack for Thailand

One of the hardest parts of packing for Thailand is being strict on what you are taking. Pro tip – pack once then save time to re-pack because a third of what is in your bag/case should be left behind!

Backpack users – consider some kind of separation system like [amazon_textlink asin=’B00R280UQM|B019OF87V0′ text=’packing cubes’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’twoscotsusa-20|t0cc80-21′ marketplace=’US|UK’ link_id=’aa7ad318-3c01-46ca-9d45-1f7ce9dcac99′] or large ziplock bags. Roll your tops then place in the cube/bag. Do the same for your bottoms. Roll valuables like sunglasses up with an item of clothing.

Suitcase users – roll or fold your items, the decision is yours. I do believe that rolling creates more space though. Roll valuables like sunglasses up with an item of clothing.

For both – place shoes down the sides of the bag or make the shoes fit into each other and pack them first. Place items like socks, headscarves etc in the shoes.

Keep your flip-flops in your day bag. Pack a clean pair of underwear, top and swimwear in your carry-on bag too just in case your luggage goes missing. Tripping with your partner? Pack half of a bag each that way if one case goes missing you still have half of your Thailand essentials.

I pack my underwear and swimwear in a separate make-up bag. I also store my toiletries in a second make-up bag (waterproof).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is wearing shorts in Thailand acceptable?

Sure! But if you plan to visit any temples you might want to pack a long pair of pants and a long-sleeved top.

2. Colors not to wear in Thailand?

Nothing is off-limits but research states that mosquitos prefer darker shades. On the flipside, laundry store washing machines really don’t like white so expect your gear to come back looking a little on the yellow side.

P2o suntan lotion definitely does like white, it stains it.

3. What medications can I take to Thailand?

I took malaria tablets and the pill with me to Thailand with no issues. It is wise to carry your prescription receipt with you in case you are questioned.

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Final Thoughts

Thailand is honestly a care-free country with an infrastructure set up for tourists and backpackers. As long as you have your passport, visa, vaccinations and the correct meds you don’t have to overthink packing for Thailand because this country has everything ‘same same but different’!

Whether you are backpacking Thailand for a month or flashpacking to one or two destinations you are in for a fun time. Do remember the hangover hydration tablets!

What have we missed, tell us in the comments below?

10 Best Chiang Mai Tours: Temples, Treks + Food

Chiang Mai tours temples

While the south has acquired international fame for its incredible white sand beaches, the north is a magnet for visitors interested in culture, food, and hiking in Thailand. In this article, we’re going to introduce some great Chiang Mai tours that will give you efficient access to the best that this city has to offer, including some of the best day trips from Chiang Mai.

And when we say visitors, we mean a lot of them! Some 10 million people come to Chiang Mai every year, including many domestic tourists who flock to Chiang Mai’s gorgeous temples, some of which are the most important places of Buddhist worship in all of Northern Thailand.

But even with all those visitors, Chiang Mai’s relaxed feel, lack of skyscrapers, and quaint Old City lanes are some of its main draws. That’s why so many foreigners and digital nomads end up sticking around here, and Chiang Mai is the gateway to an ideal home base for visiting the north of Thailand.

This guest post was contributed by Nick Kembel. Nick fell in love with Asia when he first visited Chiang Mai in 2001 and has been living in that part of the world for over 10 years.

Chiang Mai Tourist Information

As such a popular city, deciding when to visit Chiang Mai is a decision that will have a major effect on your trip. November to February has the best weather, especially for outdoor activities such as trekking, hiking, and cycling. However, it is the busiest season, especially in January, so you will need to book your accommodation early and you can expect tourist crowds.

From March until the end of June, the weather gets hotter and clammier by the day but are less busy. In March and April, the air also gets smoky from farmers burning their crops, while May and June can be unbearably hot. If you like tropical heat, though, this could be a great time for you! June to October, the rainy season, sees the fewest tourists and the best room prices. It’s not a bad time to travel, as mornings are often rain-free, and watching life go as the city gets drenched can be fun. Just bring lots of rain gear!

Chiang Mai is a far more manageable size than Bangkok. Most tourists stay in or near Chiang Mai’s lovely walled Old City, where some of the city’s most important temples are found. The Old City’s main street, Ratchadamnoen Road, turns into a popular market street on Sunday evening. This road also leads east out of the old city to enormous Warorot market, Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, and a riverside area that features a flower market and some popular restaurants overlooking the river.

West of the Old City, Chiang Mai University sits at the base of Doi Suthep, a 1676-meter mountain. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai’s most important temple, overlooks the city from the slope of the mountain. Further afield, Chiang Mai’s national parks provide opportunities for trekking and visiting hill tribes. We don’t recommend riding elephants in Thailand, but we’ll introduce the best elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai!

The Chiang Mai International Airport is conveniently located just southwest of the Old City. If you get tired of haggling with tuk-tuk drivers, download Grab, similar to Uber, with fares that are often half what tuk-tuk drivers ask for. The cheapest way to get around is to hop on a local Songthaew (those red pickup trucks), which run along routes like buses but can also be hired privately like tuk-tuks.

Now that we’ve got you oriented, let’s look at the best tours in Chiang Mai!

Wat sri suphan Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Tours

1. Temple Hopping Tours

Chiang Mai’s array of stunning, ancient temples is one of the city’s key characteristics. Most of the Chiang Mai’s temples date back to the Lanna Kingdom (1292-1775) when Chiang Mai was the capital of a large Indian-influenced state. Buddhist Lanna temples feature strikingly ornate details, towering golden chedis, and multi-tiered roofs.

It is possible to visit Chiang Mai’s temples on your own, especially in the Old City, but some of the temples outside of the Old City walls can be a little harder to reach, including Chiang Mai’s most important temple, Doi Suthep. Furthermore, visiting Thai temples with a knowledgeable guide can help you to know what’s going on inside the temple when to do what, and also learn more about the temple’s history and unique architecture.

This eight-hour tour takes in the three most important temples in the Old City, while this full-day tour combines a visit to Doi Suthep with a visit to a “sticky waterfall,” which flows down a limestone wall that you can actually climb up.

2. The Best Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai

As we mentioned above, riding elephants in Thailand is unethical and we don’t recommend it. Operators in Chiang Mai are aware that many tourists don’t want to anymore, so a lot of them now advertise “no riding” and “cruelty-free,” but the sad truth is that many of them are still like prisons for elephants.

Fortunately, there’s one that everybody agrees is ethical and the best of Chiang Mai’s Elephant camps: Elephant Nature Park. 60km north of the city, the sizeable park is a legitimate rescue centre, not only for dozens of abused elephants but also cats, dogs, buffalos, and more.

Elephant Nature Park has volunteer positions, houses guests overnight, and offers popular half-day and full-day Chiang Mai elephant tours (book early in the high season!), both which include vegetarian buffet lunch and pick-up and drop-off anywhere in or near the Chiang Mai Old City.

The tours involve a fair amount of walking and time outside, so dress appropriately. There are some graphic photos, videos, and stories, so it can be an emotional experience. We brought our kids along and found the half-day tour ideal.

Baby elephant scratches bottom

3. Chiang Mai Jungle Trekking

Chiang Mai’s hiking trails are lush and overflowing with life. You can expect to walk well-maintained trails through dense bush and bamboo forests, with the sounds of trickling streams and waterfalls, some which you can swim in, and the chance to spot tropical birds and oversized bugs.

You don’t have to venture far from the city to enjoy some of the best Chiang Mai hiking tours; this seven-hour small group trekking tour takes in bamboo forests, awesome city views, multiple waterfalls swims, and empty trails on Doi Suthep (mountain), finishing at Doi Suthep temple. You’ll hardly believe you are right beside a major city.

This route can be a little tough, so you should be in decent shape to join.

Hill tribe trekking is another activity that is practically synonymous with travelling in northern Thailand. A highly recommended tour with excellent guides is this full-day trekking tour to five hill tribes in Chiang Dao, north of Chiang Mai.

The tour provides you with the opportunity to immerse yourself in hill tribe culture without having to stay overnight like on many other trekking tours.

Chiang Mai Tours Trekking

4. White Water Rafting in Chiang Mai

It’s adventure time! If you’ve never tried white water rafting, why not give it a shot in Chiang Mai? This professionally run, full-day tour combines three awesome activities: 2-3 hours of trekking through the jungle, swimming under a waterfall, and of course white water rafting. Before racing through some of the best whitewater in Thailand, the leaders do proper training and a warm-up run.

5. Food Tours in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai’s food is legendary. Lanna cuisine is influenced by Lao, Burmese, and Yunnanese cuisines, and true to stereotype, the real stuff is often so spicy that you’ll be left in a sweat. Amazing sticky rice, which is often grabbed in clumps with the hand from little baskets, is a staple, while fiery green and red chilli sauces come on the side.

Som tum (raw papaya salad) is a common favourite, while the city’s classic dish, khao soi, is a mild coconut curry with crunchy egg noodles on top that you’ll probably never find in a Thai restaurant abroad. Unlike southern Thailand, the seafood isn’t great in Chiang Mai, so it’s better not to bother.

Really, though, these dishes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to food in Chiang Mai. So how can you know where to start, with so many local specialities, restaurants, and night markets in the city?

By joining a food tour, of course! On this 2.5-hour local street food tour, you can try several snacks and dishes that you may never have heard of or thought to try, and you can also learn some basic Thai phrases for ordering food.

6. Take a Cooking Class

Give a person a Thai curry and you feed her/her for a day. Teach him/her to cook and you feed her/him for life! In a city and country that is world-renowned for both its markets and cuisine, taking a cooking class can be an awesome way to immerse yourself in local food culture and learn how to replicate some of those awesome local dishes long after you’ve left!

Thai cuisine is one that is often loved and enjoyed, but few people outside of Thailand known how to do it right.

On this half-day tour, you do exactly that. After visiting a local market, you are taken to a farm outside the city where you learn to prepare five dishes of your choice.

7. Chiang Mai Walking Tours

While Chiang Mai’s Old City temples and markets get all the fame, one of the most pleasant experiences when visiting can be simply walking around and taking it all in. Veering off of and getting lost in the city’s laid-back lanes is a must. For a quick sample, try Phra Pok Klao alley 12, a calm leafy alley behind chill Wat U Mong Mahathera Chan, which connects to Inthawarorot Rd. and Wat Inthakin. To really get lost though, head towards any of the four corners of the Old City and see where you end up.

8. Chiang Mai Biking Tours

Chiang Mai’s traffic is far easier to handle than in the country’s capital, Bangkok, making it a great city to explore by bike. Outside of the city, you can also peddle past agricultural land, forested foothills, and countryside temples.

There are many options for cycling tours in Chiang Mai. Some tours get you well out of the city, where you pedal through the countryside and visit forest temples. Other take you to some of the city centre’s most famous attractions, lit up at night. Foodies can try the evening culinary cycling tour!

9. Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s tallest peak, at 2565 meters. The mountain is a cool respite from the city, and the park around it features protected forests, waterfalls, wildlife, and is home to Karen tribes. It is an hour-long drive from the Chiang Mai Old City.

This full-day Doi Inthanon tour takes you right to the top of the mountain, as well as visiting rice terraces, waterfalls, and twin stupas that commemorate King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit (see the cover photo of this article).

10. Chiang Rai’s White Temple

Chiang Rai is like a mini version of Chiang Mai, three hours drive to the north, in the Golden Triangle Area, once known for opium production. Chiang Rai is deeper into hill tribe territory and therefore offers better hill tribe trekking opportunities if you’ve got more time.

Chiang Mai tours, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Chiang Mai day tours, Chiang Mai day trips, Chiang Mai things to do, Chian Mai elephant sanctuary, elephants, temples, Chiang Mia itinerary, Thailand itinerary, Thailand guide, Thailand Vacation, Thailand things to do, best things to do in Thailand, Thailand destinations, Thailand first time, Thailand guide, Thailand travel tips, Thailand elephants, how to plan your trip to Thailand, how to visit Thailand on a budget, cheap Thailand tips, Thailand hikes Wat Rong Khun (the “White Temple”) is not an ancient or traditional temple but a highly photogenic modern art gallery styled like a traditional Buddhist temple. The temple alone is worth the visit from Chiang Mai!

This long, full-day tour takes in the White Temple, as well as other sites and temples in the Golden Triangle area, including seeing the place where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet from the Golden Triangle Lookout Point.

Final Words

Chiang Mai should not be one quick stop on your Thailand itinerary. It’s the kind of place where you base yourself and plan a whole trip around. For my most recent trip, we spent 10 days in Chiang Mai and barely left the city or surrounding area. Take your time here, enjoying every amazing meal, marvelling at the city’s awesome temples, and exploring the Old City, hills, and countryside beyond!

 

Nick Kembel has been living in Taiwan and exploring Asia for 10+ years and is the author of ‘Taiwan in the Eyes of a Foreigner’ and other books. Find more of his work at  Spiritual Travels.

Thailand itinerary – 2 Weeks in Thailand

Best Black Friday travel deals

A Thailand itinerary has a lot going for her. Turquoise waters, lustful mountains, she’s chill up north, all party down south. She’s the kinda country that every person wants to visit; the gap yahs, the honeymooners, and more increasingly, holidaymakers with kids. You could easily spend one-month scooting around the north and nursing your hangover in the south but since life gets in the way and restricts us of a life in Paradise here is an outstanding 2 weeks in Thailand route which covers the best of what this Asian country has to offer. Ps yes, there will be elephants.

Where is Thailand?

Partly smothered (never mind sandwiched) between Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, Thailand keeps good company. The ease of travel around Southeast Asia makes it a very attractive option for backpackers on gap years or holidaymakers who dare to cross borders on their annual leave.

How expensive is Thailand?

Out of the four Southeast Asian countries on our itinerary, Thailand was the second most expensive country to visit (Singapore was the most expensive, Vietnam was the cheapest and Cambodia in the middle). However, don’t let this put you off a trip to Thailand, there is something for every budget from purse pinching bed dorms to luxury Thailand vacation accommodation.

Although you can book attractive hotels with swimming pools for less than £20 per night, the price of food and drink is more expensive than Cambodia or Vietnam.

To put bluntly, some areas of Thailand are really popular and tourists pay the price because they are happy to pay the prices. For a budget trip to Thailand, stay clear of the clifftop sea-view restaurants and stick to the trusty street food.

Weather in Thailand

Just like Scotland, the weather in Thailand is temperamental although you can expect a hell of a lot more sunshine in Thailand than in the U.K or the Pacific Northwest.

The best times to visit Thailand depend on where you plan to stay. Planning a trip to Thailand can actually be dictated by the weather but as always, you cannot guarantee forecasts are accurate so always pack a decent raincoat (like this neat [amazon_textlink asin=’B00DNO0GYK’ text=’Marmot’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’twoscotsusa-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’30e3b3e4-a6c0-11e7-a0e0-6d246bfa5e51′]).

The good news is that you can be strategic with your island choice depending on the time of year you wish to visit.

The west coast islands (Phuket and Krabi) face rain from May until late September/early October. The east coast islands (Koh Samui and Koh Phangan) get their turn from September to December. Many roads become mud pools and boats are cancelled during the rainy/monsoon season in Thailand.

We visited Koh Samui (southeast) in July and had one day of a downpour (and a power outage).  The north can be much cooler at times. The drier season for the north (Chaing Mai and Pai) is typically November to May. I recall a very unpleasant three-hour drenched scooter ride from Pai, we could not feel our faces or hands by the end of it. Free botox anyone?

Currency in Thailand

Thai currency is the Thai Baht which comes in note and coin form. £10 is approximately 446 Baht at time of writing. For the best rates see here.

Tipping in Thailand is not mandatory like it is in the USA but it is appreciated. It is not common practice to tip street food vendors (although I’m sure many intoxicated customers on Bangkok’s infamous Khao San Road do) however it is becoming more expected in the ‘fancier’ restaurants.

Like most experiences; if you found it exceptional and you can afford to tip go for a 10% addition to the bill. Always negotiate taxi and tuk-tuk prices before you set off.

Getting around Thailand

Today, internal flights from Air Asia and Nok Air, make transport in Thailand more economical and efficient than ever. We wasted a full morning bickering over trains and ferry options from Chiang Mai to the south, finally agreeing to fly to save time.

However, Seat 61 (excellent online transport guide) states that the train and ferry combo from Bangkok to Koh Samui is an authentic travelling around Thailand experience. Unfortunately, the train website communication is shocking and never replied to my request for information so we ditched it and flew.

In short, Thailand’s transport system consists of planes, trains, ferries, and boats. Within towns and cities, there are also options of taxis (and now Über) and tuk-tuks. Tuk-tuks are bikes with a seat and make-shift(ish) roof and it is very common to hop on for a short ride. As mentioned above, always agree on a price before leaving, tipping 10% is up to you.

Check out Bookaway for transport options

1- 2 Week Thailand Itinerary 

Bangkok

All roads lead to Bangkok, and I say this with affection. Bangkok is crazy! It is loud, busy and a bit of a car crash on first impressions but after a few days in the city and moving away from the party street, Khoa San Road, you will realise that the city is more than just drinking out of buckets and eating bugs. The city has a number of temples worth your time such as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (probably the most photographed) and the Wat Po temple area.

Wat Arun Temple at sunset in Bangkok Thailand.

Beaches Near Bangkok

If your Thailand trip planner cuts your time short but you need to get out of the city, you don’t have to go south to swim in the sea.

A couple hours outside of Bangkok there are a few beach options such as Hua Hin, Hat Sai Kaew and Ao Thian (Koh Samet) and the up-and-coming Pranburi resort.

  • Getting to Bangkok: flights from most big cities around the world
  • Days: 2-4 depending on priorities (some use it as a stop-over only)

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is in the north of Thailand and what I would refer to as the ‘gateway to adventure’.

Many visitors to Chiang Mai stay for a few days but rarely see much of the city as they day trip away to waterfalls (Mae Sa), lakes (Huay Tung Tao) and to see the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park. A day out to this nature reserve is definitely one of the most exciting things to do in Thailand but you have to book up fast as feeding and bathing the adopted elephants is becoming ridiculously popular.

ENP is also educational, it teaches you why you should not ride elephants. Elephants (and tigers) in Southeast Asia are abused and beaten into submission until they comply to entertain us, westerners.

Other cool things to do in Chiang Mai include taking a cooking class (expect around 7 courses, mmm sticky rice and mango), shopping at the Night Bazaar, and getting a massage from a prisoner.

Chiang Mai is fast becoming a business hub for digital nomads, it offers co-working spaces at reasonable rates for those who work online.

  • Getting to Chiang Mai: Train or fly
  • Days: 2-4 (if using as a base to head to Pai or Chiang Rai)

Pai

Pai for us was one of the best places in Thailand. There are bus trips to Pai, the hippy town in the mountains from Chiang Mai but we hired a scooter so we could stay overnight and chill at the hot springs and waterfalls in our own time.

The town itself is a bit overrun with expats in Thai pants (the baggy harem type) but the stop-offs on the way must be part of your Thailand travel itinerary.

Read more: Hot springs and waterfalls, the perfect road trip
  • Getting to Pai: Bus or scooter from Chiang Mai
  • Days: 1-2

Hot springs | Pai, Thailand

Chiang Rai

Once the lesser-known area of northern Thailand, Chaing Rai is being put on the map.

This slow-paced city is about as chill as it gets with long-tail boat rides along the river and checking out the Jekyll and Hyde architecture of The White Temple (below) and The Black House. Maybe one to miss on a restricted Thailand itinerary for 2 weeks.

  • Getting to Chiang Rai: by flight (airport) or bus (station)
  • Days: 1-2

Thailand Travel Itinerary: Island Hopping

So now that you are templed out, it’s time to feel the sand between your toes, heading south to Thailand’s islands. There are a variety of options for island hopping and accommodation to suit every budget from those looking for a hammock to the other half who want to push the boat out.

As mentioned, the weather will dictate which side of the country to visit so don’t throw caution to the wind (and the rain), do some research while choosing your best of Thailand in 10 days trip. The number of days you plan to spend on a Thai island will depend entirely on if you want a base with day island hopping or a longer trip where you carry your bags from the beach to boat.

West Thai Islands

Krabi

You can expect that piercing turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, and longboats covered in colourful flowers.

You have made it, you are in the postcard of Krabi! If you tire of lazing by the beach check out the day trip to Thung Teao Forest Natural Park aka Krabi Emerald Pool. Check out this guide on places to go in Thailand for more information on Railey which is close to Krabi.

  • Get there: by flight

Phuket

Thailand’s biggest island, Phuket, is still one of its most popular. Many tourists relax here for two weeks using the island as a springboard to visit the smaller sister islands, others stay and explore the island’s own 30 beaches.

  • Get there: fly or bus (train to Surat Thani is 3-4 hours away)

Koh Phi Phi

Dive, cliff-jump or snorkel in the crystal clear waters of the Koh Phi Phi. This is where you will find the younger backpackers partying by night and chilling by day. Maya Bay has been one of the top attractions of Phi Phi since the 90s film, The Beach, was filmed there.

Maya Bay is currently closed to the public. Over tourism has ruined the area.

  • Get there: 45 min ferry from Phuket

Koh Lanta

More chill, less action and less than two hours away from Krabi this selection of islands is less touristy than the big dogs of Phuket and Krabi.

  • Get there: Ferries with car/minibus capacity from Krabi (1.5 hours) and Phuket (4 hours). Bridge building is in the process (but completion is dubious)

East Thai Islands

Ko Pha-Ngan

The first thing that springs to mind? Yes, Full Moon Party.

Hat Rin beach is the culprit for these notorious all-nighters which result in backpackers with bonfire burns and female travellers losing friends. Safety is not really the top priority on everyone’s list that heads to Ko Pha-Ngan but granted, they are in for a good time.

Whisky buckets and magic milkshakes may be on the menu for full moons but when the day draws in and the boats full of spew pull out, the resort which is left still has a lot offer visitors.

Koh Samui

Chewang is the most popular area for holiday-makers in Koh Samui and if you like Pizza Hut on your paradise then it may be the spot for you. Along the coast you can enjoy quieter areas such as Lamai, the nightlife is pretty non-existent but there area few restaurants to dine out.

As you fly into Koh Samui you will see the Big Buddha and Guan Yin in the skyline, like an Asian Disney. Na Muang Waterfalls are also located on the island but are nothing in comparison to Mok-fa-waterfall in Pai.

Read more: the quieter side of Koh Samui 
  • Get there: Fly or train (to Surat Thani) and ferry

Koh Tao

This was the island we wish we had reached but our two-week Thailand itinerary saw us dock at Koh Samui to ensure we enjoyed some R&R before returning home. In the past, Koh Tao was a hotbed for expats looking to dive by day and have a few drinks at the night but of late there has been a spate of serious crimes on the islands which have become a turn-off for some heading south.

  • Get there: two-hour ferry ride from Koh Samui
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Cundi Guanyin Koh Samui Thailand_

I know what you are thinking, this Thailand itinerary offers a year worth of activities so what to do in Thailand for a week or two? The obvious answer, you will just have to return the next year to see the remaining sides of the country (but check the weather forecast first!)


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This is How You Spend One Day in Bangkok

Wat Arun | Things to do in Thailand, Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand is the hub of this Southeast Asian city. Whether you are heading south the Thai islands to catch some rays or north to the jungle it is very likely that you will spend time in Bangkok in transit. We (Craig and Gemma) had just one day in Bangkok, we had heard that it was mental, and it definitely lived up to its reputation. We had two aims for the last stop of our five-week travel trip, to party on the infamous Khao San Road and eat some bugs. Were we successful? Read on to find out as well as other things to do in Bangkok in under 24 hours.

Bangkok One Day Itinerary

Khao San Road – Did That Just Happen?

Khao San Road is a road, funnily enough, littered with restaurants, bars, market shops, men trying to sell you tailored suits, and backpackers all looking for a good time.

Hell to some, hilarity to others.

The bars are packed with blaring music, wasted travellers, and PRs trying to sell you scorpions on a stick.

Always in search of the more local options, we veered away from Bangkok’s popular street to find a vendor selling a selection of bugs, who knew there was such variety?

Eating Bugs in Bangkok

I squealed as the vendor scooped up some dead flies into a bag like it was popcorn at the cinema.

A local girl, who was also purchasing some winged snacks, stared at me, bugged out at my reaction.

Myself, accompanied by Craig, the bag of bugs, and two bottles of Chang beers, settled down on a bench on the outskirts of Khao San Road to chow down on the local delicacy.

In the video below of the ordeal, you can spot me saying – they have eyes!

They did, and they tasted salty. A local man stopped to watch and laugh, we offered him the rest of the bag, which he downed like a packet of crisps.

Not quite satisfied with the insects for dinner, I chose Pad Thai for my main, super cheap and made by a vendor in front of my eyes.

Fast food at its best. The food in Thailand really has been one of the main highlights for me. Are you a foodie?

Check out my review of this cooking class in Chiang Mai. We made seven courses!

Things to do in Bangkok

Bangkok is more than just Khao San Road (thankfully).

Unfortunately, some of the more popular things to do in Bangkok are just as seedy such as the must-see ping pong shows.

We decided not to participate in this voyeuristic show but for those who may be interested, be wary that many visitors to Bangkok are ripped off here. We heard tales where travellers agreed on an entrance fee but were then charged a table fee, drinks surcharges, and even a price on each ejaculated ping pong!

No judgement if you do want to see this, just choose a show on the recommendation. I hate to see people ripped off. It’s also possible to get the spiritual bamboo Sak Yant tattoos in Bangkok!

Temples in Bangkok

A far less stressful Bangkok attraction is to visit one of the cities many temples. We took a boat to Wat Arun (Wat Chaeng) which is located on in the west of the city on the river, a calming escape from the madness of the city. For 50 Baht, visitors can climb the stairs which are steep and slightly nerve-wracking.

Wat Arun | Things to do in Thailand, Bangkok

The most popular of all temples is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, home to a gold relaxing Buddha, all 150 metres of it! This temple is located at the Wat Po temple area. Tip – remember to cover up, wear trousers and bring a shall to ensure that no skin is on show.

Temple of Reclining Buddha | Things to do in Bangkok, Thailand
For even more things to do including market visits and boat tours, check out Cory’s article on Bangkok’s wheelchair access.

Where We Stayed in Bangkok

We booked last minute into D&Ds hostel which is on Khao San Road, after a recommendation from fellow backpackers. I can’t say I would recommend this windowless private room, however, the hostel does have a nice rooftop pool and bar to aid that Khao San Road horrendous hangover. 

In hindsight, I wish I’d researched further (I was planned out by this point of the trip) as there are heaps options for accommodation in Bangkok, and some of the hotels are really plush! Hostel dorms start from $5 / £4 and hotels in Bangkok range from £10 / $13 – £516 / $646 (what were we thinking about staying in a windowless hole?!)

Wat Arun | Things to do in Thailand, Bangkok

Bangkok Top Tip

We paid an additional 50 baht to avoid the traffic from the airport to the city centre, the standard price was 400 baht – worth it if you are short on time. You can research and book internal transport as well as transport between neighbouring countries here

For more tips on Bangkok and Thailand in general, check out this neat Thailand travel guide

After five weeks in Southeast Asia backpacking through pricey Singapore, the beautiful north of Vietnam, the historically important Phnom Penh, Cambodia and the north and south of Thailand, Bangkok is not somewhere that rests high on my list of places travellers must-see.

However, I have concluded that all roads pass through Bangkok so it is inevitable that I will be seeing this beast of a city again. So it’s kampookaahhh Thailand and goodbye South East Asia.

Have you been to Bangkok?