Top Tips for Backpacking around Thailand
I spent 5 weeks travelling throughout the country. We started in Bangkok for a couple of days before heading down to Koh Samui and Koh Phangnan by bus and boat (this took bout 7 hours in total). After a few days on both islands, we made our way up north to Sukothai, Attuya, Chiang Mai and finally to Pai. We spent a few days in each one before heading back down to Bangkok and then east to Khao Yai National Park, and then onto Koh Chang for a few days R&R before heading home. Again via Bangkok.
I would recommend a cookery course in Chiang Mai, this is the place to do it. Spend a good time up here as it is more tropical – however cloudier so your tan will sadly fade.
Another recommendation is Sukothai and Khao Yai National Park. There are both very much of the main tourist trail so you will get more of a Thai experience, and the ‘land of smiles’ is something you will see everywhere. In addition, if you want a basic hut on a beach, make sure you stay on Travellers Beach in Koh Chang.
All routes go via Bangkok as it is the hub, and overland is the best way to see things. We did want to head south by train but at the time there were quite a few robberies of travellers, and we advised by some monks we met in Bangkok.
Where to stay?
Most hostels were found when we arrived in town. We only booked the island places and the first hostel in Bangkok in advance. I would suggest that choosing something when you’re there is the best thing to do. Oftem you get a better price, but also a good idea of what the place is like by the people you meet. They don’t overly hassle you, but do expect a few to be pushy. Haggling is also possible to do when you’re here in the way of extra such as laundry etc.
Average cost was £5 per night for both of us, but this was 10 years ago.
Where to drink?
Personally I prefer smaller bars, but Koh Samui has a fun nightlife if you’re after something more lively. Most places are open late and it is basically all travellers, and only a handful of locals – usually prostitutes. We didn’t research before, we just got chatting to locals and other travellers.
A night in Patong is always a bit of fun too – you’ll see the usual Ping Pong shows but be careful of the ones which say ‘free entry’. Usually thr drinks are INCREDIBLY expensive when you’re in there such as £20 for a beer rather than £2. Also, make sure you go in with a group for safety as of course some of these places are run by pimps and they know who to target.
How to get around?
Tuk Tuk and local busses is the best way to get around. Local busses for long distance have a standard price from the bus station, whereas Tuk Tuks can be haggled. Expect to pay more outside tourist hotspots, but generally very cheap. Also, don’t tell this you’ve just arrived in the country, and make sure you ask around to find the right price and you’re nnot being ripped off. In Bangkok, they will take you to clothing shops as they get petrol vouchers – take the company business cards so you can show future drivers you don’t need to go.
Overnight busses are simple, and you can pay more for a flat bed – do suggest it. These 1st class ones are actually quite luxurious.
Internal flights go everywhere and can be more expensive but when you take into account time to and from the airport etc, sometimes its the same amount of time but more pleasant. Worth checking them out.
Most places take cards these days but do have cash for the more remote places and in cse the electricity is down. It will come out of the ATM in large notes but you can break these either at the hostels or in the 7/11s. They’re used to it.
It is worth taking around $100 in USD notes, as this is a very generic currency and most accept it – always good as a back up or paying for something expensve.