Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

Heading to Thailand and unsure where to go? I share my month long backpacking Thailand itinerary to help you to plan your trip

Backpacking in Thailand

Firstly, is Thailand good for backpackers? Yes! There are so many backpackers in Thailand making it easy to meet people and travel throughout the country. I backpacked around Thailand in 3 weeks but I recommend to stay in Thailand for a month at least as you travel from the north to the south. 

If you’re looking for ways on how to travel Thailand on a budget, you can't beat touring Thailand on your own. It’s cheaper with public transport, you can stay in hostels and will still meet people to travel with, especially if you follow the popular Thailand travel route. You meet a lot of young people choosing to single travel Thailand so if you’re also single in Thailand, expect to make romantic connections too!

Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

Backpacking Tips Thailand

I met so many travellers when I was backpacking south Thailand especially. The best islands in Thailand for backpackers in my opinion, are Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Samui, and Koh Phi Phi.

I recommend taking some extra cash with you as you never know when you may need it but a typical backpacking Thailand budget is between $30-$50 a day, depending on which destination you are staying in.

Street food is great here and is a good way of keeping your daily costs low. The cheapest island in Thailand is Koh Chang (which I didn’t get to visit) but Koh Samui is also good value. Chiang Mai is cheaper so you may want to plan a longer stay in the north if you’re looking to work on your trip.

Tip – If you are traveling to Thailand for the first time and are a bit unsure of the best cities in Thailand to visit or where to go in Thailand, you may prefer to join a backpacking Thailand tour (check backpacking tours Thailand here)

Backpacking #Thailand Itinerary

solo travel in Thailand: backpacking Thailand

Self-Guided Backpacking Tour Thailand

If you're looking for a month-long backpacking Thailand itinerary, this is the Thailand backpacking route that I took and I had no problems travelling around the country. In my personal opinion these are some of the best places to backpack in Thailand, and some of the safest places in Thailand, but as with anywhere, you still need to be careful at night.  

Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

Backpacking Thailand Route

Bangkok – 3 nights

Bangkok is your first port of call but this Thai capital can be a bit of an overload on the senses so you may feel a bit overwhelmed when you first arrive in the city. As well as having one of the worst traffic problems in the world, it is also one of the most polluted so expect there to be smog if it's hot. And take an air-conditioned taxi from the airport to the city if you can. 

Bangkok is a large city so walking isn’t really an option if you’re staying in the centre. Taxis are reasonable and accesible but the best way to get around is by the local transport: tuk tuk. These are motorised rickshaws that weave in and out of traffic. They’re the best mode of transport and also the cheapest, but do hold on tight! You can even hire them for 1.5 hours to take you around the local temples. It’s like having your own tour guide and is much easier than walking around with a map. They can also tell you the local history.

A unique feature to Bangkok is the Sky City where you can escape the heat and browse around the air-conditioned shops. It takes you to various parts of the city, is colour coded and very simple to use. It’s also a great way to see the city from above.

Escalators take you up to the hoards of department stores feet away from the ground. There’s a multiplex cinema which shows alternative plus the latest releases with subtitles! Clothes are very cheap so take the opportunity to shop until you drop. The only difficulty you may find are the clothes sizes, which are smaller as the Thais are a tiny race. If you fancy some indulgence, treat yourself to a Thai massage. Beauty parlours are everywhere as it appears to be one of their favourite pastimes. Salons are clean and treatments range from bikini waxing to cosmetic tatooing.

Koh San Road should be your first stop on a Thailand backpacker route. This is without a doubt, the best place to stay in Thailand for first timers. It has hostels, tour agencies, bars, Thai massages, shops to pick up those last minute items to go hill trekking in the north. It’s also one of the best cities in Thailand for nightlife if you like to party, before jumping on the night train to Chiang Mai for a hill-tribe trek.

Koh San Road is the place to pick up statues, sarongs or have your hair braided. It’s popular with backpackers and has budget accommodation. It’s a busy area with English-style pubs serving Western cuisine. But the cheapest way to eat is buying street food from the stalls on the corner that sell noodles or rice and cook it in front of you. It’s a good way to try new dishes, and some stalls offer the English translation but others you’ll have to use guess work. Convienience stores (7/11) are open late and also offer hot food. Just make sure to drink lots of water to stay hydrated from the heat (not the tap water though). 

Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

My Tips for Bangkok 

* Tuk Tuk Scam – If you visit Bangkok on a ‘Government holiday’ the drivers are entitled to free fuel for taking tourists to the jewelry and silk shops. So be firm on where you want to go, otherwise you could find yourself buying a necklace that you didn’t want. But you can get cheap clothes made here if that's what you're looking for.

* Explore Street Food: Bangkok is known for its vibrant street food scene. Try local delicacies like pad Thai, mango sticky rice, and fresh fruit smoothies from street vendors. Not only is it affordable and served fresh, but it also offers a glimpse into Thai culinary culture.

* Use Public Transport: Bangkok's traffic can be notoriously congested, so use the city's efficient public transport options like the BTS Skytrain and MRT subway to travel quicker between popular attractions and neighbourhoods.

Where To Stay in Bangkok

Once Again Hostel. This stylish hostel, situated on a quiet street in Bangkok, is perfect for solo female travelers. It features a pleasant rooftop and is conveniently located just a 15-minute walk from Khao San Road and 20 minutes from the temples. The hostel offers various activities and bike rentals. Each bed is equipped with curtains for added privacy, and the reception is open 24 hours. * Check prices and availability: Once Again Hostel

* Read my guide on what to see and where to stay in Bangkok

Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

Chiang Mai – 3 nights

Head north to Chiang Mai, the largest city in the north and the gateway to tribal treks, elephant riding and bamboo rafting. It’s actually Thailand’s second largest city with guesthouses, a night bazaar and a crystal Buddha! Chiang Mai is a hub for digital nomads so if you’re planning to work whilst travelling, this is the city to stay in for a while as you’re guaranteed to meet others to co-work with here.

There’s a night bazaar here and a Sunday Night market. Then once you’re templed out, head back down south for some beach relaxation.

There really is no other way to see Thailand on a hill tribe trek, staying overnight with the tribes, waking in the morning with the sounds of chickens, pigs and buffalo. You can stay overnight and learn more about the culture with the other guests too. Just don't expect there to be showers, just cold water from taps (if you're lucky).

My Tips For Chiang Mai

* Explore Local Markets: Chiang Mai is renowned for its vibrant markets. Don't miss the Sunday Walking Street Market on Ratchadamnoen Road and the Night Bazaar for unique souvenirs, local street food, and a lively atmosphere. The Warorot Market (Kad Luang) is ideal for traditional Thai goods and local produce.

* Immerse in Cultural Experiences: Chiang Mai has rich cultural experiences. Visit ancient temples like Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Wat Chedi Luang, participate in a traditional Thai cooking class, or explore the city's arts and crafts scene in places like the Baan Kang Wat artist village.

* Embrace Nature: Make sure to explore the nature here. Take a trek into the nearby mountains and visit hill tribe villages, explore the lush jungles of Doi Inthanon National Park, or relax with a swim at the picturesque Huay Tung Tao Lake. You can also experience the tranquility of local waterfalls like Mae Sa or Wachirathan.

Where To Stay in Chiang Mai

Allred Hostel – Allred Hostel Chiangmai is a top choice for solo travelers in Chiang Mai. The staff are incredibly friendly and make you feel right at home. The hostel features a common lounge and a terrace, perfect for meeting other guests. They also offer female-only dorm rooms, allowing us women to share the space exclusively with other female travellers. * Check prices and availability: Allred Hostel Chiangmai

Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

Surat Thani – Transfer or Stay 1 Night

Head back to Bangkok before travelling south. Flying into Surat Thani is the easiest way to get access to the Southern beaches of Thailand. Domestic flights operate from the capital, Bangkok and take only three hours. If you’re on a budget, travelling from a bus from Bangkok is the cheapest mode of transport.

Be prepared that the journey is long: nine hours, but lunch is often included and television is provided for entertainment. Surrathani itself is the gateway to two of the most popular islands: Koh Samui and Koh Pan Yang. The boat ride takes a few hours and is as comfortable as it can be for the age of the boats. Beware, that the Thais don’t seem to know the meaning of health and safety and boats can get busy. 

Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

Koh Samui – 5 nights

Traveling from Surat Thani to Koh Samui is easy, with a bus and ferry ride taking less than two hours. Once you arrive, you'll find that Koh Samui is a large island, so getting around requires a taxi or motorbike taxi. The nightlife here is fantastic, making it an ideal place to stay for at least a week.

If you enjoy both beaches and nightlife, the southern islands provide a perfect combination of daytime relaxation and evening parties. Koh Samui's palm-fringed beaches are ideal for this. While Chaweng Beach is popular, don't miss out on exploring other parts of the island like Lamai Beach for a quieter atmosphere or Maenam Beach for a more local experience. Each area offers unique charms and opportunities to discover hidden gems.

The island is renowned for its lively party scene (head to Chaweng Beach). It's often compared to Costa del Sol in Asia and the nightlife on Koh Samui caters to all musical tastes, from reggae bars to the Green Mango Club. 

However, there are also quieter areas that cater to couples and singles seeking tranquility. Bo Phut is a lovely, peaceful spot with beach bungalows where you can hear the waves. Rooms with en-suite bathrooms are reasonably cheap for backpackers although they may have cold water and Thai-style toilets. The long, sandy beach is perfect for barefoot walks. For a quieter experience, Bo Phut and Lamai beaches are ideal.

There is plenty to see in Koh Samui from Thai Kickboxing to coconut plantations, a Big Buddha statue and a crocodile and snake farm (if you're into that!)

My Tips for Koh Samui

* Pay For Comfort: Accommodation is inexpensive, so it's worth paying a bit more for a room with a fan to stay comfortable during the hot, humid nights.

* Visit Koh Tao: I recommend going to Koh Tao from here but you don’t have to stay overnight at Koh Tao as you can book a snorkeling trip from Koh Samui on a speedboat!

* Respect Cultural Norms: Thai culture values respect and modesty. When visiting temples or local communities, remember to dress appropriately (cover your shoulders and knees) and be mindful of local customs. Learning a few basic Thai phrases like “hello” (sawasdee khrap/ka) and “thank you” (khob khun khrap/ka) can also go a long way in showing respect.

Where To Stay in Koh Samui

Sleep Inn Samui – Located in Choeng Mon Beach, this welcoming inn boasts an excellent location. It's clean and bright, offering comfortable rooms. Restaurants are within walking distance, as well as a local 7-11 for all your needs. The rooms are reasonably priced and feature either garden or city views, along with a balcony. * Check prices and availability: Sleep Inn Samui

Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

Ko Pha Ngan – 5 nights 

You can easily book a ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan when you're in Samui. It takes up to an hour to get there. If you haven't heard of Ko Pha Ngan, this island is the place for full moon parties (or any other excuse there is to have any kind of moon party).

Haad Rin is the place to hang out and stay at and is where the full moon parties go from. Haad Rin is the place to hang out and stay in. It is the most well-known area, and is a lively place to enjoy the beach and meet others. 

Beyond Haad Rin, Koh Phangan has several pristine beaches such as Thong Nai Pan, Bottle Beach, and Haad Yuan where you can swim or sunbathe. Or you can go diving in the dive spots of Ang Thong Marine Park and Sail Rock to see the coral reefs. 

Koh Phangan is also a hub for wellness activities, with yoga centres and retreats so you can relax fully rejuvenate and detox after a full-moon party. There are temples you can explore such as Wat Phu Khao Noi, the island's oldest temple, or hike in the lush interior of the island with trails that lead to beautiful waterfalls like Than Sadet and Phaeng Waterfall, where you can take a dip in natural pools. You can also attend a local market and cooking class here too! It's a great island for backpackers. 

My Tips For Koh Phangan

* Timing Your Visit: Plan your visit around the famous Full Moon Party if you want to experience this hedonistic beach party. It happens every month on Haad Rin Beach. If you prefer a quieter atmosphere, consider visiting during other times to avoid the crowds.

* Exploring Beyond Full Moon Party: While the Full Moon Party is iconic, Ko Pha Ngan has much more to offer. Explore the island's quieter beaches like Bottle Beach or Haad Yuan for a more relaxed vibe. Rent a scooter to venture into the island's interior for jungle hikes and hidden waterfalls.

* Respect Local Culture: While the island has a reputation for partying, it's essential to respect local customs and culture. Ko Pha Ngan has a rich heritage beyond its nightlife. Engage respectfully with locals, visit temples like Wat Phu Khao Noi, and learn about traditional Thai practices.

Where To Stay in Koh Phanyan

Mbar Hostel Haad Rin – This sociable hostel has its own gym, shared lounge and terrace and restaurant and bar. Close to three different beaches, you can catch some rays on the sand during the day and party at the nightclub at night. It’s a great place to chill and meet others with comfortable beds. Rooms are 6-bed mixed dormitories. * Check rates & availability: Mbar Hostel

Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

Phuket – 3 nights

From Ko Phangan there’s a 9 hour ferry ride to the island of Phuket. I personally think it’s easier to meet people in Samui and Ko Phan Ngan but this island is definitely worth visiting. In Phuket you can take a day trip to see James Bond island (which is gorgeous), see fisherman villages on stilts and visit the Monkey Temple. Patong is the liveliest area here but the island is big so there are many different places to stay.

* Read my guide on where to stay and what to do in Phuket

Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

Krabi – 5 nights

Hop aboard a ferry from Phuket to Krabi which takes 2.5 hours. Krabi is a backpacker's paradise, boasting stunning natural beauty with white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush green forests. Adventure seekers can indulge in rock climbing at Railay Beach, kayaking through the emerald waters of Ao Thalane, and snorkeling at the vibrant coral reefs of the Phi Phi Islands.

For those interested in culture, Krabi offers the Tiger Cave Temple with its panoramic views after a challenging climb, and the bustling Krabi Town Night Market for delicious street food and unique souvenirs. The relaxed vibe and friendly locals make Krabi perfect for solo travelers looking to unwind.

For a true backpacker experience, Railay Beach is the ideal spot to stay. Accessible only by boat, it offers a secluded and laid-back atmosphere (I stayed here and loved it). Ao Nang is another great option, known for its vibrant scene with plenty of budget-friendly restaurants, bars, and shops. Additionally, don't miss out on exploring the nearby islands on a longtail boat tour, hiking the lush trails of Khao Phanom Bencha National Park, and soaking in the natural hot springs.

 

My Tips for Krabi

* Explore Beyond Ao Nang: While Ao Nang is the most popular tourist hub in Krabi, consider exploring other areas such as Railay Beach, Tonsai Beach, and Klong Muang Beach. Each of these destinations offers stunning landscapes, outdoor activities like rock climbing and hiking, and a more relaxed atmosphere compared to Ao Nang.

* Take Advantage of Island-Hopping Tours: Krabi is renowned for its beautiful islands and limestone cliffs. Don’t miss out on island-hopping tours that include snorkelling and visits to amazing beaches. They usually include stops at Phi Phi Islands, Hong Islands, and Four Islands. 

* Try Local Street Food: Krabi’s street food scene is vibrant and affordable. Venture into local markets such as Krabi Town’s Night Market or Ao Nang’s street stalls to sample authentic Thai dishes like pad thai, grilled seafood, and mango sticky rice. Not only is it budget-friendly, but it also gives you a taste of Thailand’s culinary delights.

Where To Stay in Krabi

Pak-Up Hostel – Situated in Krabi Town, this charming boutique hostel offers all the essentials: welcoming staff, laundry facilities, luggage storage, bike rentals, relaxing massages, and a cozy bar. It features a female-only dormitory and includes a delicious breakfast each morning. * Check prices and availability: Pack-Up Hostel

Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

Koh Phi Phi – 3 nights

If you’ve heard of “The Beach,” make sure to head to Koh Phi Phi. This tiny island is part of a small cluster surrounded by clear seas and white sand, protected by the limestone karsts unique to Thailand. The ferry from Krabi only takes 30 minutes.

Koh Phi Phi is a backpacker’s paradise, with its chilled atmosphere and beautiful scenery. You can visit Maya Bay, the iconic location from “The Beach,” snorkel in the clear waters, and take boat trips around the island.

When you visit Maya Bay, you'll first pass by Viking Cave, where you'll need to pay for admission. Next, you'll head to Koh Pi Ley Cove, where you must swim to the rocks to reach the island. Despite the controversy at the time, with locals complaining that the film company was damaging the environment, the area remains stunning. This small cove features pristine white sand and clear waters, encircled in a horseshoe shape by large rock formations with a lush forest backdrop. It's definitely a highlight for Thailand!

The island caters to Westerners with a variety of food options, including sandwiches and traditional Thai food. Many cafes even play movies. This is kind of island where you walk around barefoot (even for dinner!) and relax on the triangle cushions that Thailand is known for.

Family plays a significant role in Thai culture, which you’ll notice as you walk around. You might see scenes like a baby boy being washed in a tub on a table outside one of the stalls. The laid-back attitude can sometimes be frustrating if you have tasks like collecting your laundry or catching a boat but Koh Phi Phi definitely has a charm to it and in my opinion is a must-visit destination. 

Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

My Tips For Koh Phi Phi

* Prepare for noise: Koh Phi Phi is vibrant and lively, but this does mean that it can be difficult to sleep for light sleepers. Thais enjoy karaoke, and the island’s small size means the music can carry. Pack earplugs to ensure a good night’s sleep amongst the singing and the morning serenades of roosters.

* Beware of Hidden Costs at Restaurants: When dining out on Koh Phi Phi, be mindful that some restaurants may charge extra for rice, a staple in Thai meals. Always check the menu closely or ask your server to clarify if rice is included with your dish. This can prevent surprises when the bill arrives.

* Explore Beyond the Main Beaches: While the main beaches like Tonsai and Long Beach are popular for good reason, consider exploring quieter spots like Loh Dalum or Laem Tong Beach. These less crowded areas offer tranquil settings and are ideal if you're seeking a more peaceful escape from the island's hustle and bustle.

Where To Stay in Koh Phi Phi

Sweed Dee Seaview Hostel – Located walking distance from Loh Dalum Beach, this hostel has helpful staff and a welcoming atmosphere. The beds are comfortable and have their own curtain around them. The rooms are clean and are mixed dorms. Plus you have free water and snacks! * Check rates & availability: Sweed Dee Seaview Hostel

Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

Thailand Border Crossings

Bangkok is a great gateway for neighbouring countries; it’s definitely worth seeing more than one country when you backpack Thailand. So one of my travel tips Thailand is to travel overland and visit Cambodia or Laos when you’re here. This is how I travelled and share the border crossings below. (Make sure to check if you need visas for onward travel).

Thailand To Malaysia – Hat Yin is just a few hours from the border where you get a minibus to Penang. Krabi is a good last stop as minibuses go from here to Hat Yai, or catch a boat from Satun to the island of Langkawi.

Thailand To Myanmar – Cross from Mae Sai at the northern tip but check the latest advice before you go as border crossing information can change.

Thailand To Laos – There are several crossings but one of the most popular is Nong Khai, which crosses into Vientiane, the capital of Laos. You can travel from Bangkok to Nong Khai which takes approx 10 hours or cross at Chiang Khong into Huya Xai but you will need to pre-arrange your visa here.

Thailand To Cambodia – From Bangkok, it’s 3 hours to the Aranyprathet border crossing to Poipet.

I hope this backpacking Thailand itinerary has inspire you to backpack around Thailand. There are so many places that you can visit but this is the route that I took that I recommend. If you are feeling a bit unsure about travelling in Thailand alone and you want to join a backpacking Thailand tour, I recommend this one! And if you need any more resources on Thailand, I've listed my other articles below. 

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Backpacking Thailand Itinerary

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