10 Tips for backpacking Thailand

Considering traveling to Thailand?

You should be.

It’s pretty amazing.

I just finished a one-month backpacking trip and wanted to share a few things to make your trip there a bit smoother.

I chose to start in the Northern city of Chiang Mai then went further north to Pai and then traveled South to the islands, Koh Lanta & Koh Lipe.

Pai: Yun Lai Lookout
Pai: Canyon Sunset
Railay Beach: Kayak life
Koh Lanta: Nui Bay ended up being one of my favorite beaches in Thailand.

While everyone will have their own unique adventure while traveling Thailand I think the following tips are practical no matter where your journey takes you and they should help save you some time, $$$ and potential frustration.

Frustrations on vacation?

No way.

You’re trying to live your best life.

Pai: White Buddha overlooking the town

Pack Light

Bring way less than you think you’ll need. I am a minimalist by nature and I still managed to overpack.

Everything you could possibly need will be there and at much cheaper prices.

I do recommend taking a decent supply of sunscreen as its 3-4 times the cost there and it adds up quickly, cause you’re gonna need that shit.

Next time I go I’ll be packing the following:

3 tank tops
3 pair of light shorts
1 collared shirt
1 towel
3 pair of no-see socks
1 pair of runners
Toiletries

That is really all you need plus you will accumulate items as you go such as elephant pants, sandals, and other wacky souvenirs!

I often saw travelers leaving stuff behind that they originally brought from home in order to make more room for all the new swag they picked up.

I also like the idea of having nothing of value in my bags in case they get lost or stolen.

 

Wait to get your Thai currency until you arrive.

You’ll get a much better exchange rate on your Thai Baht in Thailand. Plus many exchanges there offer commission-free exchange!

There are also ATM’s everywhere throughout the country.

Keep in mind those ATM’s are expensive and it’ll cost you 220 Baht – 8 CAD every time you pull money.

OUCH!

I pulled 10,000 Baht for each week I was there which is about 300 CAN.

I felt comfortable carrying that and it was a good amount of pocket money.

 

Get a Thai Sim Card with unlimited data for a ridiculously cheap price!

That’s right! You can get a Thai sim card with your own number and unlimited data for about 50$

AIS offers the best service countrywide.

Thailand has mind-blowing internet speeds and in fact, put our speeds and prices to shame.

While most places have wifi it’s still nice to know you have maps and a lifeline when you need it most.

 

Install GRAB, Google Translate and Maps.me

Grab is basically the Thai version of UBER.

It is super affordable and it is what everyone uses. It also helps you avoid potential pricing scams from Tuk Tuk’s and unmetered taxis which will never work out in your favor.

Google translate will definitely help you clear up any language based confusion and you may even pick up some Thai at the same time!

Maps.me is an offline map that’ll be really handy if for some reason you don’t follow my advice of getting a sim card! IMO it’s far better software than Google Maps.

 

Vegan Food

Vegan food is easy to find. Very easy!

There are many dedicated vegetarian/vegan restaurants but the average street vendor can also prepare local dishes vegan.

Keep in mind that western-style restaurants are far more expensive than street vendors and can be pretty much the same prices you would pay at home. Especially for trendy vegan food!!

How bad do you need avocado toast?

I generally opted for street vendors at every opportunity as it’s a more authentic, affordable experience and it helped my money go a lot further.

Like anywhere else things aren’t perfect and at some point, you may feel the need to communicate no fish sauce, no chicken broth, etc.

I found Google Translate the most useful.

Most vendors and service staff know about a vegan diet already and easily accommodated my requests.

Pineapple Rice quickly became my go-to meal. About 2$ CAN.

Always Haggle or Negotiate when dealing with independent vendors

Use your discretion on this one but prices are always inflated for tourists and any independent salesperson or vendor has a lot of wiggle room on the price. Especially on volume.

This goes for hostels, scooter rentals, street vendors, t-shirt stands, and ESPECIALLY on any walking streets.

If they don’t want to play ball tell them you seen them cheaper down the road, walk away, and see how quickly they offer a deal!

 

Domestic Travel within Thailand

Ok picture this, you’re in Pai living the life but want to make it down to the islands for some snorkeling.

You could take an overnight bus OR you could fly from Chiang Mai’s Domestic airport. Which one you use depends on your preference, time frame, and budget.

Domestic Flights, Van-service, Buses, and Trains are all at your disposal.

12go.asia is a terrific resource for planning and pricing out trips for any budget. You can also book most things through your hostel, hotel or the never-ending supply of travel agents.

4$ Boat Taxi to Koh Adang

Scooter Rental

If you’re comfortable driving get yourself a scooter and you can cover a lot more ground.

Scooters are about 200-300 BAHT or 8$ CAD a day.

Rental places will ask for your passport or a cash deposit of 3000 BAHT but it also depends on the situation. You may be renting through your hostel or hotel and may find you’re comfortable leaving your passport with them.

I always opted for a deposit. You can decide what you’re comfortable with.

ALWAYS TAKE PICTURES OF YOUR BIKE

Know what you’re liable for and drive safely! There is no shortage of scooter injuries especially in Pai where the amount of backpacker injuries has coined the term “Pai Fashion”.

Which is in fact, backpackers in casts, leg – braces and bandages, roaming the streets, with fresh cuts and bruises from their morning scooter accident.

That’s no joke!

Chiang Mai: Sunrise from Soi Duthep overlooking the city. Def needed a scooter for this!

Plan Rest Days

If you’re anything like me you want to make the most of your trip and are determined to pack it all in.

Well, partner, you need to slow down.

Rest days are important.

It’s very easy to get caught up in good times but early mornings, late nights, travel days, tropical sun, physical activity and a lot of beer will leave you drained.

Literally.

Stay hydrated, enjoy lots of local fruit smoothies, and make sure to rest.

Your body needs recovery after so much epicness.

"I'm a good boy!"

Do not over plan or overbook.

I found it more than adequate to use Agoda or Booking for accommodations about 1 or 2 days before I arrived somewhere.

Then I would only plan to be somewhere 1 or 2 nights initially.

Check out the vibe then extend if you choose.

Transportation such as vans, ferry rides, etc, can be picked up as necessary the day before departure.

Important flights can be bought beforehand but for the most part, you’ll want your freedom.

Stay flexible and keep your options open!

 

Bonus Tip

DO NOT DRINK THE WATER OR USE LOCAL ICE

Arguably the MOST important on this list is to not drink any local water or use any ice unless you want to get violently ill.

Sometimes vendors will put non-bottled water and ice on your table.

DO NOT DRINK IT.

You need the bottled water and the bagged ice which has been treated.

You’ll regret it otherwise, trust me!

 

Have you been to Thailand already? Are you planning a trip currently??

Let me know about it in the comments!

#boatlife

René Benoit
benoit@plantbasedtoronto.com

I love all things Toronto. V-Food. Parks. Bikes and Real Estate. Follow me on Instagram