Backpacking Thailand is often the starting point for many people’s Southeast Asia trip. Though you can never be fully prepared for Southeast Asia (it’s full of surprises) you can be as prepared as possible with these Thailand backpacking tips to help you save some cash, know etiquette you should follow and plan the best trip possible.
Many people are intimidated with travel in Thailand but you don’t need to worry. Backpacking in Thailand is easy as the country caters to tourists and more English is spoken than you’d think (though not always).
Follow these Thailand travel tips and you’ll be sure to have an epic trip. Thailand is my favourite country and I’m excited for you to travel to Thailand!
1. Don’t Rush It
There’s a reason why this is the first tip, as it is the most important tip to ensure that you enjoy your trip! Thailand is a big country and the worst thing you could do is rush it and try to see as much as possible. Instead, spend time in places, enjoy the country and get to know fewer places rather than more. My best advice is to spend 3-5 days in each spot you visit.
2. Bargain, Bargain and Bargain Some More
You’ll get a ton of practice on your Thailand trip and it may seem weird at first but you will learn quickly. When I first went to Thailand I often tried low balling it and you know instantly when you’ve gone too low by the look on peoples faces. That being said sometimes if you stick with that low price you will get it but don’t try and push your luck.
3. Eat Street Food
Do it and you won’t regret it! This is one of my top Thailand tips: There is no need to fear street food. Getting sick in southeast Asia is like a rite of passage, it happens to all of us and avoiding street is not going to make you not get sick. Often times it is better because you can see the food being made in front of you versus restaurants with a kitchen in the back.
4. Cover Up
Be respectful when backpacking through Thailand, don’t have your a** hanging out of your shorts or be walking around topless with your board shorts on all the time. Sure, you can get away with it more on the islands but don’t even try to do it in the main cities. Same goes for temples, ladies make sure your shoulders, knees and chests are covered.
5. Pack Light
The last thing you’ll want to be doing is carrying around an extra heavy backpack in the humidity and heat. You can buy anything from home in Thailand and it’ll be cheaper. Don’t over pack on clothes because you will buy a ton from markets.
6. Bring Sunscreen from Home
I take back what I said in my last point…not everything is cheaper in Thailand. Sunscreen is way overpriced so bring it from home to save some extra $$$.
7. Stay in Hostels
One of the best ways to save money backpacking Thailand is to stay in hostels. Hotels are cheap enough that you can splurge if you want to but hostels are definitely the way to go for budget, fun and meeting people. Booking.com is my go-to for both hostels and hotels because of their great cancellation policy.
READ MORE: Hostel Tips You Need to Know Before Booking
8. Volunteer to Save Cash (& for Awesome Opportunities)
There are more volunteering opportunities in Southeast Asia than you would expect and plenty of them are in Thailand. If you fancy extending your travels while saving money, meeting other world travellers, learning new skills and having fun then join Worldpackers.
For $49 a year you’ll get access to over 4000 volunteering hosts plus a community of over 1 million travellers who can help you out.
Plus, just for being a Taylor’s Tracks reader you get $20 off when you use the code TAYLORSTRACKS.
9. Stay Hydrated
A very important tip, perhaps the top of these backpacking Thailand tips. With the heat and all of the drinking make sure you’re drinking enough fluids. 1.5 litre bottles of water are cheap at 7/11, coconut water is sold at road side stands and is amazing for hangovers and fresh fruit juice you’ll find everywhere.
10. Riding Elephants and Tiger Temples – Don’t Do It
The biggest no-no when it comes to Thailand tourism. Be aware of how animals are treated at these establishments…not good at all. You can still see elephants but opt for a sanctuary where they are better taken care of and no riding is allowed. I recommend Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai.
READ MORE: 8 Bucket List Things to do in Chiang Mai
11. Join Facebook Groups
There are a number of groups on Facebook where people respond pretty fast if you’ve got a question and they’re packed with useful information to help you with your trip to Thailand. Beware that there are some idiots in them.
12. Get Travel Insurance
Don’t be dumb and try to travel Thailand without travel insurance. I’m sure you’ve read the stories of people in Asia that have gotten hurt and then had to pay thousands in medical bills. If you have no idea how to even pick travel insurance read this guide. Also note that most insurance companies will not cover scooter accidents. Get a quote now so you can budget insurance into your overall budget. I recommend World Nomads which I’ve personally used and filed claims with.
13. Best Time to Visit Thailand
Some of the top travel tips for Thailand include the best time to visit which depends on what you’re looking for. The best weather in Thailand is from November to February when it’s cooler but still warm. However, this is also peak tourist season. Islands on the west coast are also great this time of year. Islands on the east coast are better to visit April to September.
Plan in advance! Know when festivals are taking place so you don’t miss them. Awesome ones to check out are Songkran (water festival) in April and Yi Peng (lantern festival) in November.
15. Book in Advance for Holidays
And speaking of festivals…places will sell out fast and be booked in advance during festival and holiday periods. Don’t miss out by waiting. Same goes for the full moon parties on Koh Phangan.
16. Learn Some Basic Thai Phrases
Hello, male: Sawasdee Krap (sa-wat-dii-krap)
Hello, female: Sawasdee Ka (sa-wat-dii-kha)
Thank you, male: Khob khun krab (khob-khun-krab)
Thank you, female: Khob khun kha (khob-khun-kha)
Where’s the toilet?: Hông náam yòo n?
How much: Nee Tao Rai
17. Book Tours When You Arrive
Don’t book any tours in advance. You’ll save money by shopping around the many choices once you get here.
18. Invest in a Waterproof Camera
You will most likely go on a tour of the islands or snorkeling and definitely go to the beach. Get a waterproof camera for epic shots. I am a GoPro fan all the way with a selfie stick that has a tripod in it. But if you don’t want to invest that much opt for a waterproof phone case.
19. Taxis and Tuk Tuks
Some taxis are metered but most of the time the drivers don’t want to use the metre. Negotiate a price before getting into a taxi or tuk tuk or you may be sorry later when they try and charge you a ridiculous price.
20. Buy Booze From 7/11
I’m all for partying in a hostel but I’m not always all for paying the prices in hostels. The rooms will be cheap but you’ll watch your cash fly out of your wallet if you consistently drink from hostels. Buy your beer from 7/11 to save.
21. Beware of Buckets
You will eventually try a bucket which are notoriously famous in Thailand. These buckets are literally buckets for the beach that are filled with booze. Redbull, coke and rum is pretty standard. While these are fine to have they are large and they are strong. I wouldn’t recommend drinking more than two. I’ve tried more and couldn’t tell you what happened.
22. Know How Much You’re Spending
Getting used to a new currency can be tricky and often times you’ll throw money at things without realizing how much you’re spending. Download an app like XE Currency so you can convert prices on the spot.
23. Fly with Budget Airlines
Flights in Thailand can be dirt cheap, especially if you don’t need to pay for checked baggage (all the more reason to pack light). Check out airlines like AirAsia and Nok Air to get around on a budget. You can compare prices using Skyscanner, a site I use to book pretty much all of my flights. And download the app so you can do it all from your phone.
24. Budget for ATM Fees
ATMs will limit how much you can take out and though I don’t recommend taking too much out it will save you money to take out larger chunks of cash. Budget appropriately for these fees or get a bank card that doesn’t charge extra fees like Charles Schwab which is unfortunately only available for Americans.
25. Getting Around Without Data
If you have an unlocked phone buying SIM cards in Thailand is so easy and very cheap. I found Wi-Fi was available enough and skipped on the SIM card altogether. I used Google Maps offline or an app called Maps.me to get around. On either just download a map for an area (ex. Bangkok) before you get there and then you can use your GPS to guide you. Easy!
26. Get a Guide
As much info as their is on the internet I invested in a Lonely Planet Guide book and loved it. I recommend the Southeast Asia on a Shoestring guide if you’re visiting multiple countries in Southeast Asia.
27. Ask the Locals
Want to find that hidden beach? Don’t know where to eat? Ask the locals and you’ll find great spots off the beaten path or hidden among the tourist hot spots. I always ask those who work at the hostels.
28. Getting Around Thailand
Getting around Thailand is relatively easy and there are usually multiple options to choose from. I like to use 12Go to check and see what my options are before booking. They usually give the best price too versus booking through a hostel or travel agent in Thailand.
29. Getting a Bamboo Tattoo
Getting a bamboo tattoo in Thailand is all the rage right now. I have one, I think they’re pretty sweet and if you want to get one I’m sure you have some questions. Read this for all of the answers.
30. Don’t Get Mad
In the Thai culture people do not get mad. So if something is not going your way keep your calm otherwise you risk an even worse outcome.
31. Be Respectful of Monks
They are not to gawk at and take pictures of. It is both kind and respectful to ask before you take pictures of them on the street or around temples. Many speak English and are often lovely to chat to.
32. Reply in a ‘wai’
Locals bow their head with their hands in a prayer on their forehead to each other as a way of greeting each other or saying goodbye. If someone does this to you then simply do the same back.
33. Point Your Feet Away in Temples
If you ever sit in a temple do so on your knees with your toes pointed away from any Buddhas or monks out of respect.
34. You Will Pay More
Lastly, this is not necessarily a tip but be aware that you will pay more for things in Thailand. This happens at tourist spots where locals will get in for free or for a cheaper price. Just pay the foreigner or farang fee and enjoy. Don’t try to argue it, it is how it is in Thailand and honestly it’s only ever a couple of dollars difference.
Now you’re set to backpack Thailand! Many of these backpacking tips can also be used in other countries when backpacking Asia so if you’re backpacking southeast Asia you’re golden.
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