Thailand Travel, Backpacking & Gap Year Guide
Thailand has everything, friendly people, a rich culture, delicious food, facsinating cities, temples, stunning beaches and legendary parties. Over 10 million people visit Thailand every year making it one of the most popular destinations in the world. Get information, advice and inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to travel, go backpacking or take a gap year in Thailand.
Thailand Travel Ideas, Backpacking Trips & Gap Year Programs
Travel to Thailand
Perfect for first time visitors, Thailand is incredible. Our guide aims to give you all the information you need to have an life changing experience in this amazing country. Find affordable travel and backpacking ideas with advice for amazing things to do and how you can be more than just your average traveller. You can also get recommendations for budget travel tips, tips for places to stay and advice how to stay safe.
Get inspired to visit Thailand today!
Why Visit Thailand?
The name Thailand means Land of the Free and not many countries in the world compare. Thailand was known as Siam until 1939, it's land borders are with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. Thailand really does have everything - brilliant city nightlife in Bangkok, stunning national parks for hiking, beautiful beaches, ornately decorated Buddhist temples and of the course the opportunity to get up and close with elephants.
Thailand offers the complete package. From the crazy nightlife of Bangkok to the stunning jungle locations of some treks, this destination really do have it all. The best bit being - you get to decide where you visit. You can discover a city like Bangkok, join a hill tribe trek in the North, visit the stunning ancient temples, explore a city like Chiang Mai, see elephants, visit the tallest Buddhist monument in the world in the town of Nakhon Pathom or or go island hopping - the choice is yours.
Our directory features lots of amazing experiences and cheap travel packages in Thailand. You will get to explore destinations and enjoy the best time of your life. You can also get information about the country, tips for places to go and advice about costs, accommodation, transport, health and safety.
- Capital: Bangkok (population 8,500,000)
- Currency: Thai Baht - THB (£1 = 45Baht / $1 = 30baht approx).
- Calling Code: +66
- Country Size: 513,100 km2
- Population: 66,800,000
How to Get to Thailand
Thailand is connect to lots of worldwide airports and most flights arrive into the capital city Bangkok. There are other destinations you can fly into too like Chiang Mai in the North and also Phuket in the South. To get the best deals you will need to book in advance. We recommend searching flights on Skyscanner which is one of the best flight comparison websites.
Weather & Best Time to Visit Thailand
Thailand enjoys a warm tropical climate with temperatures averaging around 30°C / 90°F. The North is relatively cooler than the South, especially at night when even during summer you might want to pack some warm clothes. Thailand is a great country to visit any month. Generally the cold season runs from October to March, the hot season from March to July, whilst rainy season usually runs from July to October. This is also monsoon season.
A popular option is to travel to Thailand from November to February, when there is usually a cool breeze which is great to give a rest from the intense heat. Spending Christmas in Thailand is a great experience. If you are seeking sun and heat then aim to arrive in Thailand around April, May or June when the temperature is usually well over 32°C. We recommend escaping the cities during this period and head to the coast where you can swim in the ocean or find a pool to bathe and relax from the humidity. The weather can sometimes be unpredictable even during summer, even in rainy season of July to October you can get a lot of sunshine and top up your tan.
Visa & Entry Requirements
You can gain a visa on arrival and when entering the country you are meant to have proof of an outbound ticket but this is very rarely checked. If you overstay your visa in Thailand will be fined or in the worst case put in jail. Ideas to extend your Thai visa period including doing a 'visa run' to a nearby country like Malaysia, Cambodia or Laos where you can then re-enter Thailand.
Citizens from most countries like the UK, USA and Canada can enter Thailand and be granted a visa on arrival. This is a very easy process you just need to turn up at an airport and this will be issued when you arrive. If you arrive by land you will be given a 15 day visa.
Nationalities eligible for a Thai visa on arrival include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea*, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, UK, USA and Vietnam.
There are lots of options when it comes to places to stay in Thailand including hotels, resorts, hostels, villas, beach bungalows, apartments and AirBnB. If you are looking for somewhere cheap to stay, use Hostelbookers or Booking.com to search for budget accommodation and book well in advance to get the best prices.
People in Thailand speak Thai and you might want to learn some basic words and phrases before arriving. In the touristy areas a lot of locals also speak English.
Travelling & Backpacking in Thailand
Thailand is one of the best countries to visit and it is easy to see why so many internationals visit every year. Expect beautiful beaches, spectacular islands, diverse cities, spectacular mountains, tasty food and friendly locals.
A lot of people in Thailand speak English so booking tranport is fairly easy, there are bus and trains which connect towns and cities throughout the country. Local people are very used to see tourists and are very friendly. Always watch belongings on bus journeys, lots of people either misplace or have things stolen because they are careless.
In Thailand's capital - Bangkok, you can explore canals, explore markets or experience a traditional Thai massage. From Bangkok you could cruise down the "River of Kings" and visit the ancient Siamese capital of Ayutthaya which has an diverse selection of palaces and temples.
In Northern Thailand you can explore cities like Chiang Mai, usually you will have around 2 days to enjoy the sights and sounds of this bustling city. You can also take a trek into the beautiful surrounding countryside, visit one of the 300 temples, check out the brilliant ancient city and the great shopping, cafes and architecture to be seen here. Take a stroll through the night market in the evening – we guarantee you won’t leave empty handed!
In Southern Thailand you might want to go island hopping and see places like Koh Phi Phi and Phuket or kick back and relax at beautiful beach resorts in places like Koh Samui. If you are looking to get away from the normal itinerary we recommend Songkhla which is one of the Southern mosts provinces in Thailand and considered the most important one for international trade and tourism (mainly with Malaysia). There is a harbour in Songkhla city, and loads of beautiful, sandy beaches.
There are also many National Parks with stunning waterfalls and the Lake of Songkhla is famous for harbouring migration birds (from as far as the Himalayas and Siberia). You'll also get visits to the National Park Thalee Noi (bird sanctuary) and Don Na Chang National Park (with many waterfalls) thrown in too. These are a very small sampling of wonders just provides a taster of Thailand's rich history and fascinating culture.
Buses are highly recommended for getting around, these can be arranged with most travel agents but shop around as prices can vary differently. There are bus journeys for all budgets, if you want luxury you'll find amazing train carriages or premium bus services. Renting a car and driving on Thai roads is not really recommended unless you are really experienced. Hiring a moped is very easily done and a lot of fun especially on islands like Koh Chang but please always be safety conscious and wear a helmet. So many people get injured riding mopeds either going to quick or driving dangerously, if you have never riden one before go slow.
Amazing Things to Do in Thailand
- Visiting Phuket and then going island hopping around the Southern islands
- Relaxing on stunning beaches, meeting new people & taking in the local hospitality and cuisine
- Learn to scuba dive in Thailand on the beautiful Southern island of Koh Tao
- Visiting the Elephant Nature Park located close to Chaing Mai or the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand - WFFT located in Kanchanaburi, both are special places for conservation efforts
- Thailand has lots of National Parks and beauty spots to visit, we recommend the Khao Sok National Park which is a great destination to explore
- Helping wildlife or working with Monks, a way to be far more than just a tourist
- Travelling to the Andaman sea and visiting the simply stunning tiny island of Koh Lipe
- Joining a hill tribe trek in Northern Thailand around the Myanmar border
- Soaking up culture and history by exploring new destinations which are unlike many places in the world
- Phuket is a really touristy destination but it still has a great vibe and beaches whilst Ko Samui still has a relaxed atmosphere even with massive re-development in recent decades
- Pai is a remote hippy retreat located in Northern Thailand which is small, friendly and the gateway to a lot of jungle treks
Best Thai Cities
- Most flights arrive into Bangkok which is Thailand's capital, expext a bustling atmosphere full of sights and sounds
- Ayutthaya is the old capital and a stunning city home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- In Northern Thailand a visit to the relaxed city of Chiang Mai is a must
- If you are looking for adventure visit Chiang Rai which is the gateway to the Golden Triangle and the start of most hiltribe treks
- For a insight into World War II head to Kanchanaburi where the bridge over the River Kwai is located
Incredible Thai Islands
- Ko Chang: This is a large island with so many beaches to choose from
- Koh Lipe: If you are looking to escape the crowds check out Koh Lipe
- Ko Phi Phi: This island has been re-developed since the devestating sunami in 2004 but is still as beautiful place to visit
- Ko Samet: A perfect and close by escape from the busy city life of Bangkok
- Ko Lanta: One of the most un-populated islands with plenty of places to visit
Thailand Costs & Budget
The cost of traveling in Thailand has risen in the past decade but you can still get great value if you seek out the best deals. Depending on what level of luxury you require you can budget for around £3 for food, £2 for drinks, £5 for accommodation and then £5 for other things like activities or tourist sights. You can travel cheaply in Thailand for less than £15 ($25) per day if you are careful with spending.
Don't be afraid to barter for prices, for examples taxis, street food and buying goods in shops and market stalls. You might think the prices are already cheap but they will probably lower the price with some persuasion. For internal transport in Thailand always shop around for the best prices, in Bangkok around the Koh San Road there are lots of agencies and the prices vary dramatically.
Thai food is delicious and you can get great value meals throughout the country. Eating street food is highly recommended as you can try the local delicacies. Alcohol can be more expensive than food and can stretch your budget if you drink a lot every day. A cheap option is to go to a supermarket rather than eating at restaurants every day.
Here we give you an idea of what you are roughly likely to pay for certain things in Thailand, this is only an estimate it really depends where you are and if you eat in local or touristy designated places: Breakfast: 40 baht, Lunch: 60 baht, Dinner: 80 baht, Street Food: 10 - 30 baht, Banana Pancake: 25 baht, Bottle of Water: 15 - 25 baht, a Beer: Around 40 - 120 baht depending if you go to a local or tourist pub and Thai Massage: 150 - 250 baht per hour.
Health, Safety & Culture
Thailand is nicknamed the ‘Land of Smiles’ and is a very safe destination for international visitors but it is still essential you research and follow local laws before departing.
There are no specific vaccinations needed to enter Thailand but please check with your local GP to see what they recommend a couple of months before departing. Malaria is a problem in really rural areas around the Cambodia and Laos borders in the North, please ask locals and fellow travellers for advice on this. The chances of catching malaria in Thailand are slim but if you want to be on the safe side get tablets before departing. Drink lots of water during summer, Thailand gets hot and it is important to stay hydrated. Stay away from drugs and be careful when drinking alcoholic buckets, these are really strong!
The FCO advises against all but essential travel to areas on the Thai - Malaysia borders and some on the Thai-Cambodian borders, in the city of Bangkok itself the rules perhaps aren’t as clear cut. The first rule in Bangkok is if there’s no set price get ready to haggle your way to a good price - but adopting a confrontational attitude won’t help. It’s best to stick to tactics such as, “help me out on a good price here my friend” as a general rule. Thais don’t like to ‘lose face’ so be gracious in your proceedings.
You should carry your passport with you at all times, it’s actually illegal to be without it so when deciding whether it’s safer to have it on you or in the hotel safe, the answer in Thailand is always securely on you! Travellers need to be aware of the high regard royalty is held in, be sure not to make defamatory comments about the King or the Royal Family for that matter, it’s a way you could find yourself in a prison. Also, your clothing should be considered when in more rural parts of Thailand. Generally speaking, travellers should cover their shoulders and at least down to the knees when visiting rural villages and also temples.
Please do not support the illegal wildlife trade in Thailand, this means not buying any ivory / ornaments or souvenirs from exotic animals, reporting any restaurants which sell exotic wildlife on their menus (e.g. tigers) and also having your pictures taken with elephants and other animals like snakes and reptiles on the streets of cities like Bangkok.
We also do not support the use of elephants for tourist purposes, please try to avoid riding elephants there are plenty of places you can see these magnificent creatures in a natural habitat. Avoid visiting the Tiger Temple especially if you care about animals and wildlife conservation, this is a controversial place where tigers are raised by humans and reportedly drugged to make them passive to human contact. There are lots of really amazing wildlife experiences in Thailand which genuinely have the interests of the animals at heart, not profit to be made from tourists.
Gap Year in Thailand
Thailand attracts thousands of travellers because of its beautiful beaches, rich culture and party scene. Taking a gap year to Thailand is a fun way for you to enjoy something different and explore an incredible country. If you are looking for the best things to do on a gap year in Thailand our website can help you plan the ultimate experience.
There are no specific reasons why you might want to visit Thailand, maybe you are are finishing your studies, possible want to travel and see places you've heard about or you just want to experience one of the worlds greatest parties the Full Moon Party.
If you have never visited Asia before then Thailand is a great country to start, a lot of people speak English and travel can be organised very easily. Starting off your travels in the bustling city of Bangkok you can embrace the culture face on with busy markets, incredible street food and temples. Heading south your travels will be rewarded by beautiful sandy beaches and a laid back vibe. For those after a bit of adventure you can trek through jungles, learn to dive and kayak in Marine National Parks.
Going to Thailand is a great opportunity to become attuned to how other countries live and it is undoubtedly a culturally rich experience. Many travellers choose to book experiences through our website during their travels because there are few better ways to ingratiate yourself into the cultures and customs of the country.
Whether on your trip you spend time soaking up the sights, meeting new people or you want to return home with some skills you never thought you would acquire, there are plenty of experiences available to book all year round. Popular adventure ideas include joining an overland adventure, going off the beaten track hill tribe expedition, going sea kayaking in Koh Chang, joining mountain walks in Chiang Rai and going rafting in the North.
Thailand is very well placed to travel around or take a gap year South-East Asia. Bangkok is an easily accessible city to get to from anywhere in the world and can be incorporated into most round the world tickets. This is a top destination for a reason, the food is delicious, there are friendly locals many of which speak English whilst there is also good infrastructure and also so many things to see and do.
Highlights include partying in Koh Phangan, seeing the famous 'Maya Bay' from the film the Beach, visiting the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, doing a trek up to the Burma border, island hopping, hiring a moped and exploring an island like Koh Chang & more.