S̄wạs̄dī! Or Hello! and welcome to Trekprep's 2 week travel itinerary through Thailand and the Thai Islands! With the Thai culture being one of the most friendly and welcoming around, you will immediately fall in love the country. After you land in Bangkok, you have the option to either travel north towards the mountains where you will find the town of Chang Mai, one of the most relaxing places in Thailand. Just north of there is Pai, another mountain town knowns for its gorges, hot springs and waterfalls.
Once you've visited these places it's time to turn on the island switch and make your way to the Thai Gulf. With a week left, we recommend two options: choose between the east coast and the west coast. On the east, there are the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Most notably, Koh Phangan is known for it's wild full and half moon parties, while Koh Tao is known for its beach parties and diving adventures. On the west coast you have your base islands of Phuket (pronounced fuw-ket) or Krabi where we recommend that you travel to Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. Koh Phi Phi is best known for its appearance in the book "The Beach" and its beautiful coral and beaches. Koh Lanta is more low key and known for its relaxation and diving. Either coast you decide on going to will be an incredible time.
The visa requirements for Thailand state that you are given a 30 visa exempt stamp upon entering the country. Any time over the 30 days without applying for a 90 or 180 day extension results in a 500 Bhat fine each day over the 30 days. You can apply for a valid Tourist Visa (60 days) and a valid Non Immigrant Visa (90 days). While this is the high level overview of visa requirements for most countries, please visit the Thai Visa Service site to see what agreement your country falls under.
North Thailand Travel Map
Chang Mai to the South Island's Map
Thai Gulf Coast (East Coast) Travel Map
If you plan on going to the Thai Gulf coast and are flying from the Chang Mai, you will take a plane ride from the Chang Mai International Airport (CMX) to Surat Thani International Airport (URT). Once you're at the Surat Thani Airport, there will be plenty of bus companies that will take you to the Don Sak Pier. You will take a bus ride (about an hour) to the Don Sak Pier and hop on the speed ferry (for around $5 USD) and land in Ko Samui an hour and a half later. You can choose to go to Ko Tao or Ko Pangang as well from the Don Sak Pier. If you wish to see the schedule and pricing for ferry rides click here to visit the Samui Ferry Schedule.
Day 0-1: Arrive in Bangkok
Getting to your Hostel From the Airport
When flying into Thailand, you will be landing at the international Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK). Once you land you will be ushered through customs, get your visa stamped and be led to the taxi service station. You will hop into the taxi desk line and receive a ticket with a number on it (this designated the parking spot number that your taxi will be stationed at). As a reminder, the number is displayed on the hanging channel above each parking spot.
Since you booked a hostel or hotel in downtown Bangkok, the fee to get into town will be roughly 350 Baht (As of June 2017). This is a standard rate for taxis leaving the airport so trying to haggle won’t work. Depending on traffic, the car ride will be around 30-40 minutes where you will be dropped off in front or near your accommodations.
Getting Around Bangkok and Other Parts of Thailand
With the streets full of transportation buses, tuk-tuk’s, taxis and motorbikes, there are plenty of options to get around Bangkok and Thailand in general. The below outlines the different transportation methods and average prices to expect when haggling with the drivers. As always though, be sure to talk to your hostel staff and they will help assist in setting up taxis/tuk-tuk’s or explaining the bus system.
Taxi Tuk-Tuk City Bus
Overnight Bus Trains Motorbike Taxi
Taxi: Another is using the Grab Taxi app, the equivalence of Uber in Thailand. Typically, they won’t pick up travelers but you can organize a taxi through your hostel with the app. Either way, it’s worth a download to try it!
Tuk-Tuk: If you decide to go with a small city tour, tuk-tuk drivers typically will charge a high fee of around 500 Baht initially, but you can be able to negotiate down to around 200-250 Bhat. Since there are so many drivers, if one doesn’t take your price you can try with another and they will probably take it.
Overnight Buses: To Chang Mai, you can expect the following prices for each: VIP (around 760 Baht), 1st Class (around 490-570 Baht) and 2nd Class (around 400 Baht).
Depending on when you leave, prices may fluctuate. Furthermore, check ahead of schedule to make sure that there are spots available. During the Thai New Year (Songkran, mid-April) buses may be booked days ahead. Tickets can be booked up to 30 days in advance at Mo Chit BTS Station.
Sombat Tour and The Transport Company are two popular and well recognized bus companies that have gotten good reviews in the past. The ride to Chang Mai is usually around 9.5 hours.
Trains: With different options for seat sizes and quality of cabins, you can choose your comfort. To get an idea of the scheduling and pricing from Hua Lamphong, click here to see more information.
When it comes to accommodations in Bangkok, most travelers opt to stay near Koh San Road (one of the most popular destinations in South East Asia. You can find all sorts of hostels that are either near or on the road. Filtering through which one you want is choosing between a party hostel versus a calm one. Here are a few suggestions of places to stay if you choose to be on or near the road (Advise that prices of hostels, food and other items cost more due to Koh San's popularity)
Hostel's Located On or Near Kohsan Road
Counting Stars Hostel: Counting Stars is located 4 blocks from Kohsan Road, near the Chao Phraya River. This place is perfect if you want the best of both world in comfort and fun. With free WiFi and A/C, the hostel gives you the freedom walk to and from the party, as well as peace and quiet when you're ready for some sleep. The staff is very helpful in setting up activities and travel to/from the airport. Furthermore, Counting Stars has one of the best prices for budget backpackers. Price: $7 USD
From here on out you should go and check out madmonkeyhostels.com for more information on hostels located on Kohsan Road.
Hostels Located Away From Khao San Road
Good Day Hostel
Furthermore, if you stay at this hostel, you are minutes away from the Pratunam Pier where you can hop on the Saensap Express Boat for 10 Bhat and ride down the city river to the end where it will drop you off at a street intersection that is about a 10 minute walk to Khao San Road and other attractions. It’s a great way to see the city from a locals view! (See the below)
For other accommodation options, visit Booking.com for more!
Only spending a day or two in Bangkok may seem like a rush but the reason for this is because you will want plenty of time to see the rest of the country. Taking a day to rest up and see some local Wat’s, Buddha’s and street food is a great way to gear up for the next part of your leg of your trip. Once you’re settled at your hostel, take a look at getting into some of these activities.
Tuk-Tuk City Tour
The Golden Mount (Wat Saket):
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew
Khao San Road: For any backpacker coming to South East Asia, this is one of the most popular roads as it is typically either the starting or finishing point for most travelers. On this road there is plenty of restaurants, pubs, stores and other attractions to keep you occupied from day until night. Don’t expect to get much shut eye as partying continues into the night and morning. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to a “Ping-Pong” show or Mui Thai fight…if so proceed with caution as these can be scams (though very entertaining).
With a city so big, there are lots of attractions to see, like having a drink at the top of Tower Club (hotel from the movie “The Hangover”) or hitting the river market, check out TripAdvisor for more activities!
Traveling from Bangkok to Chang Mai
As explained earlier, you can go to Mo Chit BTS Station and purchase a bus ticket from there to Chiang Mai. Pick-up is from there and the drop off location will be at Chiang Mai Arcade Bus stop, right outside the city walls. Ride time will be around 9 and a half hours but there will be several stops along the way. In any case, try to bring some sleeping pills to help with the trip.
Alternative Option: If you want to save a trip to the bus station to grab your ticket, you can arrange with travel agents on Khao San Road that will pick up from there (or close to) as well as other point around the city. There is a slight up-charge when booking through an agent but you pay for the convenience of the pick-up.
(Pick-Up): Mo Chit BTS Station or if through travel agent, at specified pick up point in Bangkok
(Drop-Off): Chang Mai Arcade Bus Station in Chang Mai
Days 2-5: Chang Mai
Once you arrive in Chang Mai, it will more than likely be early morning (around 8-9am depending on if there were any stops in your bus trip). There will be taxis around the bus station that will take you to your hostel or hotel. Usually, most of the hostels are close by so just pull out your maps and walk to your accommodation if it is close by.
Once you get settled in, look to do some of the following activities:
Chang Mai Activities
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Elephant Sanctuary or Adventure Trip Combination
Wualai Walking Market/ Night Bazaar/ Sunday Night Market
Day (or Overnight) Trip to Chang Rai
Chang Mai Accommodations
Slumber Party Chang Mai: If you're looking to stay within the walls of the Old Town and want a hostel that has the most up to date amenities, Slumber party offers everything that you need from an accommodation. Considered a party hostel with nightly beer pong tournaments and next to the nightlife of Chang Mai, you can find plenty of friendly travelers and check out the town. Price: $10 USD
GD Backpackers Hostel: For the ultimate budget spot, GD Backpackers offers rooms for as little as $4 USD. Rooms do not have air conditioner but do come with floor fans and clean sheets. Furthermore, the family that runs the hostel is very welcoming and incredible. Price: $4 USD
If you want to take a look at others hostels in the area, take a look at Chang Mai Hostelworld's website for more options!
Day 6: Traveling from Chang Mai to Surat Thani
As explained earlier, if you plan on coming to the Thai Gulf coast and are coming from the Chang Mai, you will take a plane ride from the Chang Mai International Airport (CMX) to Surat Thani International Airport (URT).
From the Surat Thani Airport, you will take a bus ride about an hour to the Don Sak Pier and hop on the speed ferry (for around $5 USD) and dock in Ko Samui an hour and a half later. If you decide you want to spend more time on the other islands, there are direct ferries to Koh Tao and Koh Pangang which vary in price and times. Click here to visit the Samui Ferry Schedule website to see departure times and pricing options.
Chances are that when you book your flight from Chang Mai, it will take a full day for you to get to Surat Thani and ferry over to Koh Samui. You will probably arrive in the later afternoon or night, so once you arrive, traveling from the Koh Samui port to your hostel is a short car ride in one of the Songthaews (a pick up truck with a converted truck bed into bench seats). These rides are typically start around 50 Baht ($1.20 USD) depending on where you're going and how many people looking for a ride and the distance that you're going.
Days 7-8: Koh Samui
We advise that renting a motor bike is the best way to go around and see the island. For as little as 200-250 Baht per day ($6-8 USD), you have the freedom to drive to anywhere and stop at anytime. If you are concerned about finding petrol, there are plenty of little stops next to the road which sell 1L for $1 USD. If you would like to learn more about riding motorbikes in Thailand and general safety, visit World Nomads to learn more!
Once you're at your hostel, look to do some of these activities while on the island.if that's the case go ahead and get comfortable at your hostel and grab a drink with some friends or catch some sleep to get up early.
Koh Samui Activities
Na Muang/Hin Lad Waterfalls: When traveling to Koh Samui, one of the highlights is to stop by and enjoy the waterfalls on the island. Traveling by motorbike, you can get to either Na Muang or Hin Lad Waterfall in about 20-30 minutes. Na Muang is arguably to more popular, but Hin Lad provides a bit of a scenic hike to reach the falls. Remember to bring close-toed shoes and some food to make the most of the day. There is no entry cost to get to either and advise that during the dry season the falls may be a little dry.
Catching the Sunset
Fisherman Village in Bophut: If you are looking to spend an evening out, Fisherman’s village offers a night market, plenty of food options and bars for a great time. It is definitely worth a visit during your stay on the island, but we recommend that you pick an accommodation away from the area since prices may be more due to it being touristy.
As always, the night life on Koh Samui is what you make of it. There are plenty of beach bars and clubs more inland on the island for you to have a good time. If you’re interested at looking into some spots, visit KohSamui.com for more information.
Koh Samui Accommodations
98 Hostel: If you are looking for a great value backpacking hostel in a perfect location, 98 Hostel is a perfect spot to unwind for a few days. With Lamari beach about a 10 minute walk away and plenty of food and shopping options, you will have time enjoy the area. The staff if very friendly along with clean facilities so your stay will be comfortable and clean. Across the street there is a motorbike rental shop so you can rent one easily if you so choose to. Price: starting at $5.71 USD
For other cheap hostels or looking for something more specific, be sure to visit Hostelworld to see what the island has to offer!
Traveling from Koh Samui to Koh Tao (or Koh Pangang)
When traveling from Koh Samui, there are a few options of getting to either of the two next islands. The cheaper option is to take the slow boat (which is about 2 and a half hours to Koh Tao) or you can opt to take the fast boat which is 30 minutes. Whichever you choose, visit ferrysamui.com to check out the full list of departure times and prices. Furthermore, you can either book your ticket in advance through the website or choose to purchase it at the Samui port.
Day 9-11: Koh Tao
Arriving from Koh Samui you will port at the Mae Haad Pier. After getting off, there will be pick up truck taxis waiting near the port seating area to take you to your hostel or hotel. Expect the price of the taxi from port to be around 100-150 Baht.
Once you arrive at your hostel, look to do these activities.
Koh Tao Activities
Get PADI Certified or One-Day Diving Experience
Given that you have only two weeks, getting your PADI may be a little more difficult due to it typically takes 2-3 days for the certification (through New Wave diving school, they were able to certify in a jam packed day and a half).
Snorkeling and Hiking Koh Nang Yuan
Nightlife: All along the beach there are plenty of beach bars the offer an electric party scene. Whether it be beer pong tournaments, fire limbo and twirlers or even a late night skinny dip, the Koh Tao night life has plenty to offer.
If you wish to explore the lesser touristy part of the island, you can rent motorbikes along the beach for 150 Baht per day and explore the rest of Koh Tao. Be aware that most of the roads are not paved and that road conditions can get pretty bad.
Koh Tao Accommodations
Good Time Beach Hostel: When coming to Koh Tao, one of our recommendations is that you look to stay at a beach front hostel. There is no better feeling then being able to wake up and walk from your room and straight to the beach. Good Time is a great hostel with a young crowd, onsite bar and restaurant, a great staff and comfortable beds. Furthermore, it is in a great location in the heart of Sairee Beach where the bars and restaurants are. Though you pay a little premium to be on the beach, it is worth it. Price: Starting at $16 USD
Another great beach front hostel with similar amenities and young crowd is Indie Hostel with prices starting at $18 USD. If you are looking for a most cost efficient hostel that is near the beach, check out HostelBookers.com to see all the ones that are available. You can expect prices to start for as little as $9 USD.
Day 11-13: Koh Pangang
Koh Pangang Activities
Full Moon/Half Moon Party: Arguably one of the most popular parties in South East Asia, Koh Pangang is known for its wild jungle party whenever there is a full or half-moon. With multiple stages and DJ’s playing everything from house to deep trance, you can find yourself dancing there usually until sunrise. Safety is always important to remember so make sure you find yourself a good group to go with from the hostel you’re staying at. Furthermore, make sure to book your accommodations in advance for these parties because they will fill quickly. Tickets are available online or at your hostel. Price of admission is 1000 Baht ($31.60 USD) and expect to pay ~100 Baht per drink once inside.
Phangan Wipeout: This water obstacle course is a great way to test your skills with activities from rope swings, rolling barrels, monkey bars and much more. For a full day pass, you can hang out in the park as well as eat lunch on site there. The hours are from 10am-6pm with a happy hour at the bar starting at 4pm till close. Price for admissions: 500 Baht ($15.80 USD)
There are spots on the island for snorkeling and diving as well so if you can’t make it to the Full/Half-moon party, check out Kohphanganthailand.com for more adventures and activities!
Koh Phangan Accommodations
Blue Dream Hostel: A hostel that has a swimming pool, outdoor bar and turf soccer fields in the back, Blue Dream is one of our favorite hostels to recommend backpackers. It attracts a crowd of younger travelers and is a great location from the beach, street market and Full/Half-moon parties. The staff is very helpful in coordinating any activates you want to do and the condition of the hostel rooms are great. Prices do fluctuate around the Moon parties so be prepared to pay a premium regardless of which hostel you stay at. Price: Starting at $8 USD per night
If you are looking for hostels that are in a similar in price and convenience, we recommend looking at Smile hostel (Price: Starting at $9.50 USD per night) or Slumber Pary Koh Phangan (Price: Starting at $8 USD)
Day 14: Return To Bangkok