Last Updated on November 19, 2022 by Wandering our World

Backpacking in Thailand is very popular and for good reason too. This country’s natural landscapes and affordability makes it a true gem for tourism in Southeast Asia due to its mix of stunning rural and city destinations.

Thailand is an easy country to go backpacking in too, with plenty of cheap accommodation, good transport links, lots of street food, and countless stunning places to visit.

But if it’s your first time in Thailand, this at times chaotic country can be daunting to navigate.

That’s where we can help! From showing you the best places to visit, as well as tips and tricks specifically for backpacking in Thailand, right here we will make your adventure that little bit easier. Let’s get started!

CONTENTS:

  1. When To Go Backpacking In Thailand
  2. Where To Visit
  3. Money Saving Tips When Backpacking In Thailand
Back view of woman tourist backpacker travel in Khao San road, Bangkok, Thailand
iStock.com/Nattakorn Maneerat

When To Go Backpacking In Thailand

But before you head out on your backpacking in Thailand adventure, consider the weather conditions. Thailand has 3 seasons: the rainy season (May – October), the cool season (November – February) and the hot season (March – May). 

The cool season is a great time to visit because the weather isn’t too hot (and it can be pretty chilly in northern regions, so consider that if you plan to visit Chiang Mai). There will be little to no rain either, which makes the months of November to February the peak time for visitors. As you might expect, the prices will also be the highest at this time. 

The hot season is the driest time, and temperatures reach up to 36 degrees across the country. It is a great time to enjoy the beach and take it a bit slower – the heat makes it a bit difficult to do any demanding physical activities.

However, you will be likely to get some good deals on accommodation and tours during this season, and if you are someone who’s used to scorching weather, this is the perfect season for you!

The rainy season can be slightly unpredictable because of flooding, but it tends to rain only once a day (although the rain tends to last for at least an hour).

This is not a popular time for tourists, so if you visit during this time, the sites will be less crowded and the prices will be more affordable.

Rain is an inconvenience that can be well managed, so this season is a good option to consider if you want to save money.

Monkeys waiting for food in Monkey Beach, Thailand
iStock.com/Anna Jedynak

Backpacking In Thailand: Where To Visit

1. Bangkok

The capital city is a great place to start your backpacking in Thailand adventure. Here you will get a chance to see magnificent temples, parks, museums, galleries and restaurants. Temples like Wat Pho and Wat Arun are a must-see!

Before you travel there, be sure to check the opening times (most temples aren’t open in the evening) and wear proper attire – shorts and open shouldered shirts aren’t allowed.

In the area around Wat Pho you might run into some boat tour salesmen that will tell you that the temple is closed and that you should take a river tour instead. That is usually a lie, and the temple is open on most days. 

There are many things to do in the capital, and a lot of them are free of charge! Chatuchak weekend market is a great way to witness a busy Thai market while parks like Lumpini and Benjakitti are great for enjoying some nature in the heart of the city.

Bangkok Arts & Culture Center hosts regular exhibitions of modern Thai artists and is also open to the public. On top of that, Bangkok is a very convenient location if you want to take a day trip to the ancient city of Ayutthaya. The travel cost is very affordable, and if you like it you can spend a night there.

Recommended: Staying Safe & Tourist Traps To Avoid In Thailand

A view of Bangkok
iStock.com/tawanlubfah

2. Pattaya & Koh Larn

If you want to get away from Bangkok and start exploring the seaside, a good option is to head to Pattaya for a couple of days.

A bus ride will take only 2 hours and cost you around 130 baht, which makes it the perfect weekend getaway.

During your stay in Pattaya you can try out some water sports such as windsurfing and wind-foiling. There are multiple schools and surf stations along the beach to pick from. The neighbouring island Koh Larn is a charming and cozy place with magnificent sandy beaches too.

The Sanctuary of Truth is another interesting attraction – a modern wooden temple overlooking the sea. It was created in the 1980s with an idea to not celebrate any one religion in particular but instead to give focus to the human quest to virtues and enlightened living.

The elaborate woodwork gives the sanctuary a fairytale quality, and the view over the sea is magnificent. Before visiting bear in mind that only guided tours are available and there is an entrance fee.

Pattaya city in Thailand
iStock.com/StockByM

3. Koh Samui

Koh Samui is an island loved by tourists who enjoy backpacking in Thailand. It has developed as a luxury resort of the last decade, but there are still plenty of affordable options available.

The Lamai and Chaweng areas offer accommodations ranging from 10-dollar-a-night hostel rooms to more expensive hotels. The area is quite popular among backpackers and party goers, but you can still find some more peaceful spots along the seaside.

One of the most beautiful destinations just an hour away by boat from Samui island is the Ang Thong National Marine Park. This park is a real treasure for those who enjoy some physical activities. You can snorkel to explore the beauty of the underwater world or kayak to witness the breathtaking views of the reefs and the sea.

Hiking is available too, and the natural caves that formed within the rocky structure of the islands are sure to impress. 

While visiting Koh Samui don’t forget to stop by at the Big Buddha statue. Located in the north-east of the island, this temple is one of the most prominent local landmarks. Climb up the steps to admire the beautiful golden statue, and don’t forget to cover up your legs and shoulders.

Lamai Beach on Koh Samui island, Thailand in a summer day
iStock.com/bloodua

4. Koh Phangan

Right next to Koh Samui, this island is a smaller and quieter option compared to its neighbour. Nevertheless, it is very popular among those who come to backpack in Thailand, and you should keep in mind that it gets very crowded destination for monthly full-moon parties.

That might affect hotel prices, but it won’t be a problem if you book in advance. You can live very comfortably on the island for around 30 dollars per day, which includes a decent accommodation option and meals.

This is an excellent destination for vegans and vegetarians too – the options are limitless and nearly every cafe, restaurant or a street food spot will have a variety of delicious options. The island is also home to a vibrant community of yoga practitioners, and it’s a great place for those who want to practice yoga with a view of the sea.

Beach hopping is another activity you can enjoy on this cozy island, and if you need to catch up on some work, the beach cafes are plentiful and provide access to Wi-Fi. For some natural attractions head to Sramanora Waterfall, go to the zip line adventure park, or enjoy a hike up Khao Ra Mountain.

Swing hang from coconut tree over beach, Phangan island
iStock.com/emariya

5. Chiang Mai

One of the best places to backpack in Thailand is Chiang Mai.

This city in the north is truly a gem – the mountainous landscape is captivating while the activities in the city and nightlife spots are very vibrant as well. If you are taking a break from sunbathing at the beach, a hike in the picturesque mountains of Chiang Mai is a great solution.

The weather is the most comfortable between November and April, but temperatures can get a bit chilly at night. The annual festival of light called Loy Kratong takes place every November, and Chiang Mai hosts one of the largest lantern festivals.

There are numerous temples in and outside of the city, cooking classes where you can learn how to cook traditional Thai dishes, and plenty of live music bars to visit in the evening.

Combined with a range of affordable accommodation options, all these perks make Chiang Mai one of the most exciting destinations for backpacking in Thailand.

Landmark pagoda in doi Inthanon national park at Chiang mai.
iStock.com/tawatchaiprakobkit

6. Lampong

Lampong is a city in the northern part of the country, and if you’re making a trip to Chiang Mai, it will be quite easy to visit it on the way.

It is a great spot to visit for those who want a bit more of an authentic experience of backpacking in Thailand. Here there are numerous astonishing temples that exemplify the unique architectural style of Thailand, so it is perfect for those who want to learn about the country’s culture and traditions.

Wat Si Rongmuang temple impresses with its scale and vibrancy of color, with beautiful interiors where Buddhist rituals and ceremonies take place.

The Wat Phra That Lampang Luang Temple is another unique temple which is also encircled by an ancient fortress. It was built in the 13th century and is one of the most grandiose and captivating constructions in the north of Thailand.

Last but definitely not least, you can hike up the mountains to see the Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat, a temple located high above, as if floating in the sky. Enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of the temple complex consisting of white pagodas resting on mountaintops while also appreciating the breathtaking view over Lampong’s fields and forests.

If you would like to take a break from the activities outdoors, try out the Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum. There you can learn about the step-by-step process of making ceramic dishes and even visit a workshop where you can paint a ceramic bowl.

As anywhere in Thailand, you can find affordable rooms to stay in either a hostel or a hotel. For some delicious street food, head out to Kad Kongta Night Market that is open until 10 PM every weekend. 

iStock.com/hirun

7. Koh Chang

This island in the south is one of the top destinations for backpackers in Thailand.

The Lonely Beach and its collection of affordable hostels right near the sea make it a destination for travellers to relax and rest after days or weeks of more intense travel.

Contrary to its name, this beach is always filled with tourists from all over the world. Many cafes, bars and yoga resorts are conveniently located in this area, making it easy to enjoy the beach along with some entertainment.

Some local attractions include the beautiful Klong Plu waterfall, the Bang Bao floating village, the Mu Ko Chang National Park and the Treetop Adventure Park. In addition to that, you can enjoy snorkelling, sailing, hiking or kayaking to the neighbouring islands.

The hostel rooms will cost you around 200 baht, and if you want a more comfortable private room with AC, it could reach up to 500 baht depending on the location of the hostel. Hotel rooms are also available and the most affordable prices range from 500-800 baht per night.

Woman Snorkeling
iStock.com/Nuture

8. Phuket

The largest island in Thailand, this is the most popular destination for tourists. The vibrant nightlife and non-stop parties make it really popular for those who want to have fun and enjoy the beach, and it might not be the most authentic experience of the country.

However, if you are in the mood for dancing, sunbathing and exploring the small islands nearby, this might just be the right destination for you.

This is a very budget-friendly island in terms of accommodation. The hostel options are endless, and it is quite easy to find an affordable place to stay.

For those who want to explore culture as well as some natural treasures, Phuket is a great mix of the two. The old town is full of historical buildings, charming coffee spots, live music bars, jazz evenings and much more!

For the sporty types, the local Kata beach is one of the few places in Thailand where you can try surfing – the waves are just perfect for that. To add on to that, Phuket is also a great spot for divers. Famous sites like the Anemone Reef and Shark Point are fantastic for exploring the sea. You can even check out a cruise ship that sank in 1997 and has since become home for some underwater inhabitants in 1997.

During peak seasons and around New Year’s eve, prices can rise up quite a bit, but if you plan ahead and book in advance, it’s a great destination. The island has its own airport, which makes it super convenient to get to.

Aerial view of Big Buddha viewpoint at sunset in Phuket province, Thailand
iStock.com/Pierrick Lemaret

9. Koh Phi Phi

Consisting of two islands – Koh Phi Phi Leh and Koh Phi Phi Don, this is one of the most picturesque places in the south.

It is one of the most sought after destinations because of the popularity of the Maya Bay view that was made famous by a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio called The Beach.

Apart from the fantastic views from the bay, you can also observe some monkeys on Monkey Beach, enjoy the natural beauty of Bamboo Island and go snorkelling and kayaking in the crystal blue water. Affordable boat tours can take you around the islands and there are some excellent diving spots. 

Ariel view of Maya Bay Koh Phi Phi
iStock.com/fokkebok

Money Saving Tips When Backpacking In Thailand

1. Transportation

While exploring Bangkok you will benefit from its very well developed transportation system – it’s possible to get anywhere around the city by either the BTS sky train or the underground MRT railway.

Taxis, tuk tuks, and motorbike rides are also a very affordable option, but keep in mind that you might spend a lot of time in Bangkok’s crazy traffic.

Local apps like Grab and Bolt will help you book a taxi or a bike in advance, with Bolt having slightly lower prices.

If you are catching a taxi at night or at any other time when the traffic is low, paying by the meter will often cost you less than the fixed rate that the driver offers you.

Using a motorbike taxi is a good way to save time because they can manoeuvre through traffic quite well. That being said, always remember to wear a helmet and use the bike taxi for shorter distance traveling because accidents involving motorbikes are the most common in Thailand.

If you’re anywhere on the islands or outside Bangkok, taxis can get more expensive. In that case the best solution is to use a songteow – a local public taxi service that has fixed affordable rates. Another good solution would be hiring a bike or a car to travel around the islands.

Air travel is very convenient and cheap, and it is the fastest and most comfortable way of traveling around Thailand. If you fly on weekdays, the fare is likely to be lower, and booking in advance always helps to get cheaper tickets. Low-cost companies such as Thai AirAsia and Thai Vietjet Air offer flights for as cheap as 20$!

As you travel to smaller islands that have no airport, you might need to get a ferry as well. Opting for a travel package that includes the air ticket and the ferry ticket is usually a good way to save money.

Recommended: The Ultimate Guide To Thailand’s Tuk Tuks

iStock.com/the.epic.man

2. Accommodation

One of the reasons why backpacking in Thailand is so convenient is the variety of affordable accommodation options ranging from hostels to private Airbnb rooms.

If you are travelling around the islands, a hostel can be a good choice for those travelling on a tight budget. It is also one of the best ways to meet new people and make friends.

Most of the islands will also have bungalows for rent, but the prices are significantly higher during peak tourist seasons.

When you’re staying in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, an Airbnb room may end up being a more comfortable and affordable option, especially if you’re travelling as a couple or with some friends. Choosing a hostel or room rental option that’s closest to the part of the city you want to explore the most will help you save some money on transportation, and there is an abundance of options in every district of the city!

If you’re looking for accommodation on popular websites like Agoda, Booking or Hostelworld, check if they offer any promotions. Areas that are popular among tourists sometimes have an overflow of lodging options, and the hotels often provide discounts. It is worth comparing the prices on different platforms and also contacting the hostel or the hotel directly to seek out the best prices.

Accommodation, living costs and transportation tend to be cheaper in the northern part of the country.

That’s because islands in the south are the prime tourist attractions throughout the year, so if you would like to cut down on some costs, including northern cities in your itinerary will help you do that while also appreciating the unique beauty of the mountainous region in the north.

iStock.com/Rawpixel

3.  Food & Drinks

Thailand is famous for its delicious street food. It is a go-to option not only for tourists but for the locals as well, and it’s the best way to try authentic Thai cuisine.

Head out to a market nearest to you and you will find a variety of hot dishes and snacks. Bear in mind that the local food can get pretty spicy, and it’s necessary to let the vendors know about your preferences.

If you’re looking for a quick bite and there is no market nearby, chances are there is a 7/11 store. They have plenty of good options in the frozen section and they can always heat the food up for you. There are some good vegetarian and vegan options available too.

Bottled water is very cheap in Thailand, but if you would like to save even more while also not contributing to Thailand’s plastic waste problem, you can bring your own water bottle and fill it up in the drinking water machines.

You can find them in most places around the cities and near the supermarkets. Many hostels and apartment buildings are likely to have them too.

Thai food display
iStock.com/leelakajonkij

4. ATM Machines & Laundry Services

Local ATM machines charge a service fee for withdrawing cash from foreign bank cards. Sometimes the fee can go up to 200 baht, so it is best to take out large quantities and avoid using the ATMs too often.

Plan out your expenses and try to always have some cash on you – taxis, street vendors and 7/11 shops only operate with cash or local bank cards.

If you’re looking to save some money on laundry services, the most affordable option is to do your own washing. However, you might not want to spend your time doing that while on a holiday, so another solution is to use the laundry rooms that local people go to.

They are usually even cheaper than the ones provided at the hostels, and it’s an interesting experience in and of itself.