THAILAND Travel Tips



Thailand, the "land of smiles". It's not easy to find the right words without sounding like a conventional travel guide. In Thailand, you'll find all, you've ever wished for - white sand beaches, lonely bays, top diving and snorkeling spots, tropical jungle, beautiful landscape, an inspiring culture, amazing food and welcoming locals. You can choose to either party each night or find the seclusion. Thailand provides bungalows and hotels for every taste and budget.

If you have time for the whole of Thailand, don't pre- plan your entire trip, just go with the flow. Try to enjoy the trip to its fullest and don't spend all your time rushing from one place to another. 

 

It's still favorable and possible to travel on a low budget. If you've never traveled with a backpack before, Thailand is probably the best destination to start with. It has a rapidly growing middle class, a great infrastructure, and it seems safe from a backpackers point of view. So you can easily find out whether you like it or not. 

Backpacking certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea. But if you're cut out for it, then it's one of the most amazing and enlightening things you'll ever experience. You'll definitely meet a lot of other backpackers in Thailand, who provide great ideas for destinations during your stay.

From Bangkok, it's pretty easy to reach beautiful islands with perfect beaches or the mountainous northern part.You can get there by minivan, bus or cheap domestic flights in just a couple of hours. So stop hesitating and start packing!

Read more about 10 things most people forget when packing for Southeast Asia.

Interesting facts about thailand

  • The word "Thailand" is translated as "land of the free".
  • Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, similar to England.
  • It's forbidden by law to leave your house without wearing underwear.
  • Its coastline measures about 3200 km.
  • Thailand has 1,430 tropical islands.
  • More than 90% of Thai people are Buddhist.
  • Thailand ranks 20th of the world's most populous countries, with nearly 67 million people. 
  • Muay Thai boxing is considered as the national sport. It is also known as “the art of eight limbs” as fighters use punches, kicks, elbows and knees.
  • Due to the fact, that Bangkok was once crisscrossed by dozens of canals, called  “Khlongs”, and its buildings stood on stilts, it's been called Venice of the East in former times. But nowadays most have been filled.

Thailand Weather - best time to visit

  • Gulf of Thailand: January - Mai
  • Andaman Sea: November-February
  • Bangkok, Koh Chang Island: November- April
  • Isaan (north- east Thailand): February - Mai
  • North Thailand (Chiang Mai, Pai): January- March
Bangkok weather and thailand temperature, climate chart
Average temperature and rainy days in northern, central and southern Thailand

In General, it's possible to travel to Thailand throughout the year. During wet season, you'll be more annoyed by mosquitoes and it rains several times a day short but heavy. The peak season begins in November when waterfalls are in full force, the landscape shines in a wonderful green and all kinds of flowers blossom. Moreover, most festivals like Loi Krathong or Songkran take place in high season. But higher costs and crowed sights represent the downside.

 

However, if you come between April and June, you won't find any of the wonderful waterfalls,  the landscape looks dry and bleak. It's almost unbearable to visit the northern part with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees Celcius during this period. But for island hopping in the south, it' s perfectly ok.

 

The best time to visit the islands in the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao) is between January and Mai. The weather in the Gulf of Thailand is poor and unpredictable from October to December. The best time to travel Andaman Sea (Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Mook)  is from November until February. Between Mai and Octobre, the tropical climate of monsoon predominates on the west coast.

 

Bangkok and the Koh Chang Islands (Koh Chang, Koh Kut, Koh Mak) have perfectly traveling conditions between November and April. But high season begins in October and ends in May. The north- east Thailand is characterized by monsoon climatic with three seasons. Best time to visit Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai, Pai) is January until March. In November and December the temperatures are during daytime perfectly ok but at night it mostly gets cold.


Visa requirements for Thailand

 

On arrival visa 

The on arrival tourist visa allows you to stay 30 days, single entry by plane. For a tourist visa you must have a confirmed return ticket to proof that you are flying out of Thailand within 30 or 15 days of entry, as appropriate. Open tickets do not qualify. Traveling overland out of Thailand by train or bus to Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia or Myanmar is not accepted as a proof of onward journey. The Visa can be officially extended for another 30 days at every Immigration Office (costs: $55). Please note, that with the entry to Thailand your passport still must be valid for at least six months .

 

Visa extension

A visa run for another 30 days is not as easy as it was before 2014. Nowadays you need a good explanation and a residence in Thailand for re-entering the cou ntry

after a one day trip to Thailands neighbors. If you want to stay longer than 30 days in Thailand, it's better to apply a tourist visa for 60 days in advance. Another extension of 30 days is possible in every Immigration Office on site. But intended stay of 90 days shall not be exceeded.

 

For some selected nationalities, a 30-day residence permit is valid on arrival by land. This applies to Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Japan, Great Britain and the USA. All of the other countries get a residence permit by land for only 15 days.

 

Hack for long-term travelers

You want to enter Thailand with a one-way ticket and leave the country overland? Book an ultra cheap one-way ticket with AirAsia which you'll never board. The printed boarding card of a flight to Laos, for example will satisfy the customs officials. Then cross the border the way you want within 1-2 days before your visa expires. 


Vaccinations for thailand

There are four highly recommended vaccinations for all kind of travelers and two optional for people who are at higher risk, because of their travel style and increased outdoor activities like jungle trekking, camping, rural homestay tourism or volunteering.

  1. Tetanus, Diphteria, Polio Booster
  2. Hepatitis A and B
  3. Cholera and ETEC combo vaccination
  4. Typhoid

Optional:

  • Rabies
  • Japanese Encephalitis

For detailed information about pathogens, prices per shot, time you'll need for full immunization and more, read our in-depth blog post about recommended travel vaccinations.


daily budget - cost of travel in thailand

Despite the rumors in several travel forums, it is still no problem at all to travel on a low budget in Thailand. The following suggested budgets include the major costs factors like accomodation, food, transport and activities. In general, it's cheaper in Thailand's northern countryside than in Bangkok or the tropical island down south. Typical tourist spots are costlier than off the beaten path.

 

  • Low budget: US$ 20- 30  per day. Assuming you'are eating mainly local street food, sleep in dormitories, shared rooms or basic bungalows without air-conditioner, and using puplic transport. Expensive activities are included every once in while. Experienced travelers will even manage easily to travel below this budget.
  • Mid-range budget: US$ 35-60  per day. This includes eating in restaurants, airconditioned single rooms or bungalows and sleeping buses, taxi or tuk-tuk rides. 
  • Luxury budget: US$ 100 and above per day. With this budget you will be able to eat in high quality restaurants, to stay in fancy spa-hotels or beach resorts and doing guided tours, diving trips and more.

typical costs

  • Currency: Thai Baht (THB), for a rough estimation in US$ - calculate one-third of local prices.
  • Accommodation: Low budget options like dorm beds range from US$ 3-6. Double rooms are ranging from US$ 6-15 depending on your choice - a fan cooled room or air- conditioner. Expect to pay US$ 15-20 for basic bungalows on the beach.
  • Food: US$ 1-6,5 for a decent meal. Contingent on your choice for street food or restaurant. Our favorite dish: Pad Thai and Penang Curry. Western dishes like pasta, pizza and burgers are mostly a bit more expensive - they cost between US$ 4 and US$ 9,50.
  • Water: 1.5l = ~$ 0.5
  • Local beer: Bar price is around $2,50 for a small beer. 660ml costs $ 3.5. Money saving tip: Buy your beer at 7/11 shops for ~$1 (330 ml) and $1.7 for a big one. Our favorite: Chang beer.
  • Transport: Thailand has a well developed public bus network. Bus operators charge $2-3 per 100km as a rule of thumb. Buy your ticket for long- haul routes right away at the bus terminal. Same applies for train tickets in Thailand because it’s always cheaper and safer to book tickets for the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) in an official “Ticket Office” at the train station, instead of buying it at your hostel. In General, timetables serve as rough values and should not be taken as exact departure times. Metered taxi rides should be around US$ 1-4. Tuk tuks are un-metered and the price is dependend to your negotiation skills, but in most cases tuk tuks are more expensive. Make sure to agree on a price before your ride and pay with exact cash at the end. If you are short on time, but despite like to visit both- the northern and southern part of Thailand - you can do so by booking a cheap inland flight to Chiang Mai, Phuket or Koh Samui. 
  • Laundry: 1kg = $1
  • ATM Availability: ATM's are available in almost all regions. Caution: Not all islands have ATMs. Check before entering the ferry.

Basic thai for travellers

Note: Thai people add the word "Khap" for male speakers and "Kah" for female speakers at the end of phrases. Doing this is considered as beeing polite. The following is a short list of words, that has proven as useful for many travelers. 

  • Sawatdee Khap/Kah - Hello
  • Khop Kuhn Khap/Kah - Thank you 
  • Chai - Yes
  • Mai Chai - No
  • Mai Aow Khab/Kah) - I don't want it. If said with a smile, it will dissuade every pushy street vendor.
  • Nee Tao Rai? - How much
  • Pang - Expensive
  • Lot noi dai mai - Can you give a little discount
  • Mai Naam Keng - No ice cubes please (should be avoided, except they have a hole, which then mostly means they aren't mad of tap water)
  • Mai Phet - Not spicy
  • Phet Nit Nawy - A little bit spicy
  • Aroy - Tell this the waitress or cook for saying the food was delicious

places to visit in Thailand

Bangkok

You'll either hate it or you love it! It's the capital and economic center of Thailand. This vibrant metropolis attracts millions of tourists each year with its fascinating mixture of traditional culture and modern lifestyle, hence it became the world most visited city according to the Global Destinations Cities Index. On the one hand, this bustling city is littered with hundreds of stunning Buddhist temples for culture lovers and on the other hand, it has countless glamorous shopping malls and markets for shopping enthusiasts. 

 

Getting around in Bangkok

Bangkok is the only town in Thailand with a rail transportation system.

  • Skytrain (BTS): it's an applicable way to get around in town center. Its website offers a route map in which MRT, BRT, ARL lines and the Chao Phraya Express boat piers are drawn in. It's not a 24/7 service. The first train starts at 6.00am last one just after midnight. Tickets start at $0.4 to $1.5 dependent on the number of stops.
  • Subway (MRT): you reach more districts using the underground than by Skytrain. Tickets start at $0,5 up to $1.2. An effect similar to the Skytrain.
  • Taxi: there are so many taxis on their way, that you never wait long to grab one. A ride around the inner city shouldn't be more than ~$5. Never admit to a lump sum, usually, it's three times as expensive as the price of the taximeter.
  • Bus (BMTA): taking a local bus is by far the cheapest and most inspiring way to drive through Bangkok. Non- air conditioned local bus ticket starts at ~ $0.1. Bangkok has the biggest bus network in the country.
  • Tuk-tuk: Yes, they are the most popular means of transport for tourists. But, we don't recommend to take a tuk-tuk, because it's not as cheap and safe like taxis. This counts especially for big cities like Bangkok. If you plan to visit other towns or villages as well, you better go for a tuk-tuk ride there. In general, locals pay for a short distance ~ $0.8 (2km) and for long distance ride ~ $1.5 (5km) in Bangkok. But for tourists, they will charge much more. Hence, be careful and don't let them rip you off. Negotiate a price before you start and pay with exact cash at the end.
City Guide Bangkok thailand
BTS Skytrain is an good option to get around in Bangkok

Arrival / Departure Bangkok

Bangkok has three public bus terminals, two of them are outside the city center. 

  • Ekamai Bus Station Bangkok (Eastern Bus Terminal) is located in the Ekamai Area on Sukhumvit Rd. next to the Skytrain station Ekamai. Destinations: Pattaya, Rayong, Chantaburi, Trat and other places in the east.
  • Mo Chit Bus Station Bangkok (Northern Bus Terminal) is the largest bus station in Bangkok and whole Thailand. It's also well known as Chatuchak Bus Terminal. The Busses drive to all destinations in northern and northeast
  • Thailand. Buses to Aranya Pathet start also here. To go to the Mo Chit Bus Station by BTS to Mo Chit BTS Station or by Subway to Chatuchak Park Station.
  • Sai Tai Mai Bus Station Bangkok (Southern Bus Terminal) is located in the Taling Chang district on Borommaratchachonnani Rd. Departing buses drive to the southern parts of Thailand, Kanchanaburi and western Thailand.

Bangkok Airports

If you arrive at Bangkok International Airport Suvarnabhumi (BKK) it's an easy option to take the Airport Rail Link (ARL) to get directly to the inner city. The service starts at 6.00am in the morning and ends at midnight. Are you traveling in a group of three or more people? Then it's definitely cheaper to take a taxi to downtown. Only domestic flights arrive and start at the old airport Don Muang (DMK)Both airports lie at opposite ends of Bangkok. To change from one airport to another take around one hour.

 

Bangkok trainstation

Most of the important train connections to southern, northern, northeast or east Thailand depart from Hualamphong Central Station in Bangkok.

 

Top things to do in Bangkok

Visit the Grand Palace and the Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). Open every day from 8.30am to 3.30pm, entry: ~$13. It's the residence of the King of Siam. Caution: the dress code for entrance must be considered. The Wat Pho- one of the oldest temple in Bangkok- is also of interest. Opening hours every day from 8 am to 5 pm, entry: $3. 

More temple worth visiting are:

  • Wat Arun (temple of Dawn)
  • Wat Saket
  • Wat Traimit
  • Loha Prasat

Dive into Bangkok wild nightlife on Khao San road. It's full of hostels, cheap accommondations, restaurants and lots of exciting bars. The street is located 1km north of the Grand Palace.  It's definitely the “mecca of the backpackers“ in Bangkok. Are you generally interested in material arts? Watch a Muay Thai boxing fight at world-famous Lumpinee Stadium. For tasting the delicious street food from Bangkok we recommend the Chatuchak Weekend market (opening hours: 6 am to 6 pm) which is one of the largest food markets worldwide. 

 

Bangkok Insider Tips

  • See some of the most famous attractions in Bangkok free of charge by grabbing one of the "Green Bangkok Bikes". You only need to fill in a form and show your passport. You get a map with pictures route for the bikes and you have to return the bike where got them.
  • If you are scouting Bangkok by boat, you get a feel into charm of this city. The rivers and canals are the heart of it. The royal district is located along the main river Ko Ratanakosin and this is where the most sights are situated. Therefore we advise to take the "Chao Phraya Express Boat". Check the link to find all necessary information at one glance.  We recommend taking The ORANGE FLAG BOAT to explore the temples and Chinatown.
  • Monday is a rest day, therefore less open street food stalls.

Andaman coast

This province looks like what we all associate with an exotic tropical destination like Thailand. It allures tourists with small islands, white sand beaches, sunken caves and stunning karst rock formations. If you're looking for perfect beaches like seen in Leonardo Di Caprio’s film “The Beach” you're here definitely on the right path. 

Arrival/Departure

Every day, there are seven buses starting from Sai Tai Mai Bus Station Bangkok (southern Bus Terminal) to Phang Nga. Distance is about 743km and it takes 12 hours by VIP bus to get there. Costs~ $26. Phang Nga Bay is located north of Phuket and easy to reach from there. If you are short in time, it's a good choice to take a cheap flight with AirAsia from Bangkok to Phuket or directly an international flight to Phuket from your home country. Or take a bus to Khao Lak or Krabi and take daily trips from there to the highlights of the bay.

 

Top things to do in Phang Nga Bay

Going on boat-trip and cruising around those emerald waters of the Ao Phang-Nga Marine Nationalpark is one of the most breathtaking activities in southern Thailand. Roaming through caves, temples, waterfalls and the archeological sites of "Ban Thung Tuek" are good options to fill the day. Have you "The Beach" on your bucket list? Then explore Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh, this has been the films shooting location for many scenes. Note, that nowadays they charge 200 THB as entry fee and you'll share the "beach" with a huge crowd of other travelers. Check our insider tips for secret spots. A lot of tours are available from Phuket or Khao Lak. Khao Lak is the centre point for diving tours. For a couple of days going by boat to some of the most beautiful diving spots worldwide.

 

The Surin and Similan island groups are popular for their unaffected beaches and definitely worth a side trip. Many reefs are only 5m underwater, those who doesn't like to dive has the opportunity of snorkeling around the islands.

 

Insider tips Phang Nga Bay

  • Take a boat trip to the secret spots "Koh Hong"and "Koh Panyi".
  • On the 1st march, there is an annual turtle festival celebrated on the Thai Muang Beach on Koh Lak. Watch baby turtles beeing released into the wild.
  • The Maya Bay is very crowded, thus we recommend to go in the morning at 9 am or in the afternoon at 4 pm. Check the other site "Loh Samah Bay" and you'll have a wonderfull view to the location. Don't book a group tour in advance. Instead, charter a private long-tail boat with some friends. It`s cheaper and it's more flexible. You decide how long you would like snorkel or play with the monkeys. The more people you are, the cheaper it gets.
  • Koh Phi Phi is pretty touristy, overdeveloped and one of the most expensive islands in Thailand. If you look for the opposite, like chasing calmness and insights into local island life - you better visit Koh Yao Yai. A ferry will get you there from Phuket, Krabi or Phang Nga.
  • It's inadvisable to take the PADI Open- Water cours in Khao Lak. If you have the possibility, take a beginner course on Koh Tao in the gulf of Thailand. There it's significantly cheaper. In Khao Lak, you have to pay around $450, however in Kao Tao only $ 275.

ayutthaya

You're interested in the culture and history of Thailand? The old capital of the former kingdom is a perfect stop to get an insight. Ayutthaya is for those who want to see more of Thailand than just its perfect beaches with crystal clear water and pulsating nightlife. This city has been one of the most important cosmopolitical trade centers of Asia during the 18th century. The countless ruins are silent witnesses of this period and  part of the UNESCO- world cultural heritage. 

Ayutthaya City Guide Thailand
The head of a Buddha statue firlmy embraced by a fig tree at Wat Mahathat

Arrival/Departure

Trains from Bangkok's Hualamphong Central Station to Ayutthaya (81km) depart every hour (travel time: 1.5 hours). 

  • third class costs ~$0.5 (only fan)
  • express train costs ~$10 (air condition, meal, and drinks are included)

Buses from Mo Chit Bus Station Bangkok start every 30 minutes

  • first class costs ~ $1.5
  • second class costs ~ $1

Minivans start at Mo Chit and are much faster, but also more dangerous, due to maniac Thai driving style. They charge up to $5.5 from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.

 

Top things to do in Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya has hundreds of ancient temples or at least their remains. Hence rent a bike, grab a free tourist map and immerse in the solemn silence and peacefulness of this city. 

Must-see temples:

  • Wat Mahathat 
  • Wat Ratburana
  • Wat Phra Si San Phet
  • Wat Chai Wattanaram

But there are more than 30 which are certainly worth a visit. If you get tired of temple hopping, unwind at the banks of one of the three rivers and get inspired by the beauty of classy restored timber houses.

Bang Pa-Inn is a rewarding side trip. It's the royal summer residence called Chao Phraya and attracts tourists with its unique mixture of Asian and European architecture embedded in sprawling parklands. 

Besides that, Ayutthaya invites you to relax in high-quality spas and wellness guesthouses.

Ayutthaya attratcs many tourists with its cultural heritage
Lying Buddha statue - just one out of many sights at the historical temple park, Ayutthaya

Be aware of street dogs, they can get aggressive. A lot of them are in incredibly bad shape and might have rabies. We heard of backpackers who got bitten during their stay. Therefore, avoid inner streets of residential areas or change street side to avoid getting too close to free-ranging dogs.

 

Insider tips

  • The cheapest and the best way to explore the historical temple park of Ayutthaya is by bike.  You can rent one in most of the hostels for little money.
  • It's possible to make a day trip from Bangkok. Doing that, we recommend getting to Ayutthaya by bus or train early in the morning and return with a traditional longtail boat. There are several operators available, some of them offer the tour with a delicious Thai-buffet.

chiang mai

Unfortunately, the northern part of Thailand is often underestimated. Chiang Mai is the capital of culture and a transport hub, but moreover, it’s the spiritual center of the country. 

 

Arrival/Departure

There is a big competition between the bus companies for the route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

At least every hour busses are leaving Bangkok (Northern Bus Terminal "Mo Chit") to Chiang Mai (Bus terminal "Chang Phenak") starting at 5.30 am to 10 pm.

If you have a limited amount of time and would like to view the northern part as well, besides the breathtaking islands. It’s recommendable to book a domestic flight from Bangkok (“Suvarnabhumi airport” or Don Mueang airport”) to Chiang Mai. Spontaneous flights cost with Air Asia ~$74 to $106. Early bookings get a discount. So the flight will cost ~ $32 (70 minutes). The Chiang Mai international airport (CNX) is only 5km out of town.

 

Top things to do in Chiang Mai

Visit the old town, view some of the hundreds of temples in Chiang Mai. The most significant are

  • Wat Phra Singh
  • Wat Chedi Luang
  • Wat Chiang Man

and stroll around the street market on Saturday or Sunday (from 04:00 pm to 00:00 am). The city has a huge yoga and wellness community. Get a massage or daily yoga classes. Thai massage starts as low as $6.

Chiang Mai is definitely the right choice if you want to know more about yourself. Are you interested in Buddhism? Learn how to meditate in a meditative course or go into retreat. We propose the Wat Suan Dok, if you are short on time because they provide a retreat for just two days. For an intensive course over 26 days, the “Northern Insight Meditation Centre-Wat Ram Poeng” (4km south of Chiang Mai) is a good option. If you are a safe motor scooter driver, go for a spin and discover Chiang Mai's stunning surrounding area.

 

A lot of cooking class schools offer courses for approximately $25. The Thai Farm Cooking School was our best choice. The organic farm is out of town and you are looking behind the scenes of the typical touristic route. 

 

Insider tips

  • Chiang Mai provides almost everything of the same stuff like on the islands for less money. If you’re hitting the islands first, save your money and spend it on the markets in Chang Mai.
  • The cheapest way to explore the city is by “Songtaew”. In general, you pay 20 Bath ($0.5) for every route. “Songtaew” are red trucks with two bench seats in the back. Flag one down and name the driver your destination (not an exact address, only the street area). If the driver moving in that direction, they will give you a nod and you are able to board. When you like to get off, push the button and pay.

Places off the beaten backpacker path

koh chang Archipelago

If you're not only looking for full-moon parties and crowded beaches, the islands in the Koh Chang archipelago are worth a visit. The  Koh Chang Marine Park with 651 km² includes over 50 islands, located off the eastern coast of Thailand, next to the Cambodian border. Strictly speaking Koh Mak and Koh Kood are not part of the national park, but should not be missed. Make sure to bring enough cash with you to Koh Mak, there is no ATM, Koh Kood already has one. The transport hub for all islands is called Trat

Trat

Trat is a small and beautiful city with old teak houses, strongly based on gemstone trade. 

 

Trat has some nice beaches, wich is worth a side trip. If you miss out the islands but travel directly to the Cambodia Border instead. We recommend to spend at least one night there.  

 

Arrival/Departure

You reach all the three islands from Trat by boat. Depending what you want to pay ferry, speedboats or slow boats are available. The most travel agencies will sell you a complete ticket from Bangkok to the island. It's easy but not the cheapest way to travel  in most cases it's better to go on your own. 

 

Bangkok to Trat

Air conditioned bus to depart at Eastern Bus Terminal Bangkok Ekkamai on a regular basis three times in the morning (freezing cold!! take a sweater with you). Depending on the class (VIP, 1 and 2 class) it costs between ~$4 and ~$13 (5 hours). In the opposite direction, the bus runs twice in the afternoon from Laem- Ngop- Pier to Bangkok.

 

Trat airport is operated by Bangkok Air. It's situated 20km north of Thammachet Pier. Bangkok Air is flying thrice daily to Trat (1hour). Prices for round-trip are ~ $160, prices for one-way tickets cost ~ $70.

Timetable (2016):

  • 8.20am- 9.20am
  • 11.40am- 12.40pm
  • 17.00pm- 18.00pm

Insider tips Trat

  • Don't pay attention to taxi or tuk tuk drivers who might claim, that the last ferry will depart soon and they help you out to reach it. It's a tourist trap, you'll end up paying a lot more then you should! Instead, if you are arriving late at Trats bus station, choose one of the cheap accommodation with their typical welcoming atmosphere. Roam the night market, get some sleep and take a ferry next morning to one of the beautiful islands. 

koh chang

This mountainous island is still covered with tropical jungle and surrounded by perfect white beaches. Koh Chang is the second largest island of Thailand and has preserved its virgin primary rainforest. The west coast of Koh Chang is quite developed for tourism, but 75% of the island are largely untapped and ready to be explored. There are still many wild animals on the island- stumpy tail macaques, civet cats and reticulated pythons. You can choose between simple beach bungalows or a 5- star luxury seaside resort.

  • Hat Sai Khao in the North is the longest beach on Koh Chang. This is where most of bars, restaurants and accommodations are located.
  • Hat Kai Mook in the South is clearly quieter with family- friendly accommodations
  • The lonely beach is the hub for backpackers and the island's nightlife
  • Bang Bao in the very South is a fishing village. This is the departure point for Koh Kood and Koh Mak.

The eastside is largely untouched, but there are some simple beach bungalows available.

Arrival/Departure 

Trat to Koh Chang

From bus station in Trat take a minivan, taxi or "songthaews" (shared pickup truck taxis) to Tha Centrepoint in  Laem Ngop village  for~$5. The cheapest option is the blue "songthaews"  for 6 persons~ $1.5 per person (17km).  If you drive off from another pier in Laem Ngop, gather information about the further transport on Koh Chang. Overall five piers are located in and around the port city Laem Ngop. But ultimately there are three ferry services to Koh Chang

  • Tha Laem Ngop Pier to Tha Dan Kao Ferry- Pier on Koh Chang
  • Centre Point Pier to Tha Dan Kao Ferry- Pier on Koh Chang
  • Tha Thammachat Pier to Koh Chang Ferry- Pier

Most ferries depart from Laem Ngop Pier every hour in main season. The rusty old passenger ferry is often overloaded and for sure not the safest option. Car ferries are more favorable and save.

Timetable for the puplic ferry from Trat to Koh Chang Thailand
Ferry departure time Trat to Koh Chang and back
Timetable Thammachat ferry  Trat to Koh Chang Thailand
Thammachat ferry departure time Trat to Koh Chang and back

  • Ticket prices cost around $2. Children under nine years are free of charge. Crossing time is around 45 min. 

The rainy season, cancellations occur occasionally, due to poor weather. The route between Koh Chang and the mainland is well protected against any tropical storms. It only gets choppy between November and December. The ferries run 365 days a year, there are no days off. In low season, there are no ferries at 2.00pm or 2.30pm. The last ferry in both directions departs at 7.30pm.

During Thai holiday weekends or New Year - ferries are running until 9.00pm in both directions.

 

Insider tips Koh Chang

  • Nude bathing or topless sunbathing is forbidden at Mu Koh Chang Marine national Park (All beaches on Koh Kood and Koh Mak are included).
  • Drug raids are common every now and then, even in accommodations! If you're lucky, they take you to the next ATM where you withdraw your credit card maximum. If not, there is a decent chance to get imprisoned. Thailand has stringent drug laws.

Where next to

Next stops like Koh Kood or Koh Mak offer a great opportunity for perfect beach days - relaxing, sunbathing and diving in crystal clear water.

 

Koh Chang to Koh Kood and Koh Mak by boat

Daily boats are available to the islands Koh Kood, Koh Mak and also Koh Wai and Koh Kham. Departure times are constantly changing. Hence, check it out on Koh Chang.

koh mak

This hidden paradise in the Gulf of Thailand counts only 500 inhabitants and measures 16 square kilometers. Some say that Koh Mak preserved the charm by which Thailand attracted travelers 20 years ago. The predominantly flat island is still used agriculturally and definitely far away from mass tourism. Koh Mak is privately owned and follows the principles of ecotourism. It is best for a relaxing vacation by the sea, due to its kilometres-long perfect white beaches, lined with palm trees and emerald water. Therefore it's the ideal frame for escaping the hectic of the every day, for

slowing down and to refuel new energy.  Furthermore, the island has been free of Malaria for more than 15 years. But nevertheless, we recommend using mosquito repellent, because there are more mosquito-spread diseases like Dengue. There is no ATM, make sure to bring enough cash for your stay.

 

Main beaches:

  • Ao Suan Yai - at the northwest
  • Ao Khao White Sand Beach  - at the southwest
  • Baan Lang and Ao Pai - at the southeast
gulf of thailand islands
Travelers reach Koh Mak by slow ferry or by speedboat

Arrival/Departure

Trat to Koh Mak by boat

There are eight speedboats each day on their way from Krom Luang Piers in Laem Ngop to Koh Mak. The village is located about 20km out of Trat. A one-way ticket to Koh Mak costs ~ $13. 

Speedboat from Trat to Koh Mak Thailand
Speedboat departure time from Trat to Koh Mak
Timetable speedboat from Koh Mak to Trat Thailand
Speedboat departure time Koh Mak to Trat

Note: different operators stop at different piers:

  • Leewadee: pier of Makathanee resort on Ao Khao on the southwest coast.
  • Panan: pier of Koh mak Resort on Ao Suan Yai, on the northwest coast.
  • Seatales and Suansuk: public pier on Ao Nid.

Top things to do and sights

Besides sunbathing and swimming, booking a snorkel day trip to Koh Kam or Koh Kradat is a great way to explore Thailands thrilling marine life. Further top activities are night fishing and cooking classes in which the secrets of Thailands delicious cuisine are revealed.

 

Where next to?

Koh Chang or back to the mainland for some jungle trekking.


koh kood

This island is synonymous for coconut trees, white sand beaches, and blue crystal clear water. Koh Kood retains its original beauty and it's less crowded than many other islands in the Gulf of Thailand.

Main beaches: 

  • Bang Bao Bay - located in the southwest 
  • Ao Noi Beach - you can go by kayak from Khlong Khao Beach 
  • Khlong Khao Beach - the most popular beach on Koh Kood and some of the best sunset spot. 

There are some other small beautiful beaches around the island. Rent a scooter and explore! 

 

Arrival/Departure

Trat to Koh Kood by boat

The fastest way from the mainland to Koh Kood is by fast ferry boat from Laem Sok pier to the main pier on Koh Kood at the west coast. The fast ferry boat needs only 75 min because it doesn't stop at any other islands in between or any resort private piers. On Koh Kut pick up trucks are waiting to carry you to your resort. This transport is included in the ticket price. The fast ferry boat is able to run all year round. Speedboats bring you directly to the resort pier. The departure times often change! Therefore take mentioned times as a rough value!

speedboat transport from trat to koh kood thailand
Arriving at Koh Kood's mangroves by speedboat

Ferry Timetable - Laem Sok Pier to Koh Kood

Timetable puplic ferry and speedboat from Trat to Koh Kood
Ferry and Speedboat departure time from Trat to Koh Kood
Timetable ferry and speedboat Koh Kut to Trat
Ferry and Speedboat departure time from Koh Kood to Trat

Top things to do at Koh Kood

Koh Kood has one of the most stunning waterfalls in the whole of Southeast Asia - the Khlong Chao Waterfall. It's surrounded by tropical rainforest making the hike to this falls an experience itself. The whole area around is amazing! You can swim in the pool and Tarzan-like swing with lianas into the water or relish an actual waterfall shower, which is an unforgettable adventure and certainly on most people's travel-bucket list.

A further option is renting a canoe to paddle on your own through a mangrove forest, or cruise along the Khlong Chao river, and around the bay and find your own exclusive beach.

Koh Kut offers a wide range of awesome diving and snorkeling spots. Get thrilled - Black-tip and White-tip reef sharks

are also often spotted here as well as turtles, different sting ray and big schools of parrotfish. You are free to choose between three diving operators, which offer courses for beginners, intermediates, and well-advanced divers. 

The cheapest hostel in Koh Kood is Cozy house. It has a limited number of bungalows and is very popular. Unfortunately, they accept only walk-in guests. By the way, it's located near the most beautiful beach of the island -Khlong Chao.

Koh Chang - province Ranong

The small Koh Chang in the Andaman Sea is the northernmost island of Thailand. The island doesn't  attract their visitors with white beaches, because of pervaded black sand. Usually, you can find basic bungalows without fan, the island is favorable and luxury is not to be found. And it isn't a good place for snorkeling. So why we recommend this small island? It's because of the absolute silence and loneliness. Besides that, there is plenty of yummy food and kindly locals to get in touch with.

 

Main beach:

  • Long Beach - in the western part, with most of the accommodations.

Arrival/Departure

Bangkok to Ranong by bus or domestic flight

First, travel to Ranong to reach Koh Chang. From Sai Tai Mai Bus Station Bangkok (Southern Bus Terminal) drive several buses daily to Ranong. Take a Songthaew to the pier for ~$ 0.5 or a taxi for around ~$ 2. 

 

Domestic flights with Nokair to Ranong airport are also possible. Certainly, the airport in Ranong is outside of town. A taxi ride from the airport to the pier in Ranong costs ~$5. The airline Nokair flies twice a day. 

  • 8.40 am
  • 4.50pm

You are able to catch a boat on the same day, if you take the flight in the morning from Bangkok to Ranong.

 

Ranong to Koh Chang by boat

Three times a day, a longtail boat runs to the west coast of Koh Chang, where the most accommodations are located (1- 1.5 hours). A one-way ticket costs rough ~$ 5. 

Speedboats run several times a day for ~$9 to the pier in the north of the island. Additional transport to respective resort wich costs between ~$ 2-3.

 

Top things to do at Koh Chang 

Swaying in a hammock, relax, read some books and enjoy the silence. There's nothing to hear, except some longtail boats, birds, geckos and the waves. Make a 3- 4 hours hike over the island through the small national park, play Volleyball in the evening with other travelers and enjoy breathtaking sunsets. Long beach is the starting point for wonderful boats trips to the surrounding area. 


Lopburi 

Most people follow the typical tourist trail from Bankok to Ayutthaya, and this small monkey city often gets overlooked. You can take a break from the typical tourist route and unwind before exploring the northern part of Thailand. There aren't too many aggressive tuk tuk drivers or bars and parties here. It's just a small city with lots of monkeys, and locals are very proud of them. The whole city is full of apes, they are just everywhere. Locals even have to barricade all windows, due to gangs of macaques which like to explore everything they can get into.

 

Arrival/Departure

Ayutthaya to Lopburi by train

Getting there by local train is only $0.40 (2014), and takes about 1.5 hours. Ordinary trains are older and stops at every station (only with fen). Or you choose the Express train for around $10 (air condition and serve delicious food).

 

Top things to do in Lopburi

Roam a day through the city and watch how the monkeys rampage through the locals daily life. Visit the old Khmer ruin called Prang Sam Yot with its new inhabitants, hundreds of Macaques. If you are lucky beeing in town during the last week of November, you can attend a banquet festival in honor of the monkeys. One day is enough to see everything in this small city, but it's worth a visit for sure. 

Lopburi's daily routine is stamped with delicious street food, why not trying something new?

Streetfood stalls are a good option for backpacker in Southeast- Asia
Streetfood stalls are a great and cheap opportunity to taste different delicious specialties of Thai food

Pai

A "small-island" town hidden in the mountains of northern Thailand. More and more travelers find their way to Pai. In spite of the constantly increasing number of visitors, the old hippie village didn' t lost its charm. Pai is clearly no longer a secret spot, but it remains a  special and spiritual place. The vibe is different from anywhere else in Thailand, so take your time and get enchanted. It was one of our favorite places and we found here, what we were looking for in Chiang Mai.

 

Arrival/Departure

Chiang Mai to Pai by Minivan: You'll get to Pai by in 3-3,5 hours (149km) for around US$5,00. Minivans depart hourly from 7:30 am until 5:30 am. The very winding route combined with the common lunatic driving style can cause nausea and some cold shivers running down your spine. So if you aren't free from giddiness, take a plastic bag with you. But don't be deterred,  the drive up to this place is worthwhile for sure!

 

Chiang Mai to Pai by public bus: If you're not in hurry and prone to nausea, caused by maniac thai driving style, go for public bus. It's safer due to large and slow buses and by the way much cheaper - $2,50.  Buses need up to double the amount of time compared to minivans. Depending on traffic you'll be in Pai in around 4,5-6 hours. Public busses depart at the "new terminal" - the Arcade Bus Station, which is located in the northeastern part of Chiang Mai. 

 

Chiang Mai to Pai by rented motor scooter: We suggest this as an option only for experienced motorbike drivers, who can deal with crazy overtaking maneuvres of above-mentioned minivans. Going for a first-time ride on this twisty route with literally hundreds of hazardously hairpin curves is a really bad idea. Local police reports at least two accidents per day here and tourists are commonly involved. Taking the risk can lead to an involuntary "Pai tattoo", which means big, nasty abrasions and seeing full-body bandaged.

Pai hostel tips backpacking northern Thailand
Sunset above Pai's marvelous mountain landscape in northern Thailand

Top things to do in Pai

Rent a motorbike, then ask around for one of these free maps and chase waterfalls to get a decent cooling soak. Pai is a good place learning how to ride a motorbike. If you're into Yoga or would like to give it a try - get inspired by a 5-night Yoga retreat which is designed to give you a profound experience of all aspects of Yoga, including breathing exercises, deep relaxation, and mindfulness meditation. The Pai Canyon is one of the top sights - enjoy a stunning view over high rocks cliffs and the Pai valley and get thrilled by balancing on a really narrow path between gorges. It's located 8km along the road leading to Chiang Mai.  Wander through the delicious offers of street food stalls, stringing together along center streets.

 

Insider tips

  • Drive the way up to the white Buddha on the hill and make sure to arrive an hour before sunset. Have a look around the temple and end this foray by relishing the breathtaking view from the top while the sun sinks behind Pai's surrounding mountains.
  • Learn Muay Thai boxing skills & techniques at Charnchai Muay Thai Camp. The head trainer "Bee" has been a former No.1 at Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadiums in Bangkok and beat many of the Thai Champions.

border crossings

Northern Thailand - Laos

The Checkpoint Houay Xai is most commonly used for entering Lao soil. Just book a bus ticket from Pai, Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong, which is the Thai border town and cross the border on your own or book a complete transport ticket to your desired destination in Laos.


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