Introduction

For the longest time, Thailand has been the ultimate backpacking destination for backpackers, and for all the right reasons. Thailand is hands-down one of the most visited countries in Southeast Asia. The main factors driving this force are that Thailand is an extremely beautiful, culturally rich, and safe country with gorgeous locales, scenic beauty, delicious food, lively parties, and warm and welcoming people. The country also boasts a supremely well-maintained tourist infrastructure, which makes it conducive for travellers to navigate the country without being stressed out. Lastly, and most importantly, Thailand is a favourite backpacking destination due to its affordability when compared with its western counterparts. In Thailand, food and travel are comparatively cheap, as are the hostels where many backpackers find refuge.

Suggested Read: Thailand In March and Thailand in May

If you too have been planning to go backpacking in Thailand or want to know how much money you need to backpack in Thailand, this guide will help you answer all your questions regarding Thai backpacking travel.

Best Time to Visit Thailand for Backpacking

Best Time to Visit Thailand

The best time to visit Thailand is the dry season which is from November to March. And if you can take up a little bit of heat and humidity then include April as well. During this time period the weather is cool and pleasant for going on hiking trails, camping, island hopping, engaging in water sports, exploring Thai cities, shopping from weekend markets and trying mouth watering Thai food. Let’s break down Thai travel season a little bit more:

The Cool/Dry Season in Thailand: The cool season (November to March) in Thailand is considered best for travelling. The average temperature hovers around 25 degree celsius and is ideal for most activities in Thailand. The visibility under sea is also great for divers and snorkelers and for those who want to go island hopping can do it with ease. However, in mountainous regions of the north such as Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai the temperature goes down as low as 13 degrees celsius. In that case keep a jacket or a sweater.

Woman with a map

The Hot Season in Thailand: The hot season in Thailand begins from mid-April to mid-May. The temperature during this time hovers around 35 to 37 degrees Celsius. If you don’t mind the heat, you can travel to Thailand during this period, but make sure to avoid the sun from 12 PM to 3 PM. April is also the time when the Songrakan (water splashing) festival is celebrated in Thailand, which attracts a lot of tourists.

Tuk Tuk Ride

The Rainy Season in Thailand: This season lasts from June to October. During this period, due to heavy rains, many water-based activities are halted. But it is also a period when one can find the cheapest accommodations and still have a great time in Thailand. If you’re on a shoestring budget, the rainy season might be your best bet.

Understanding the Local Culture and Etiquettes

Local Culture and Etiquettes

Thailand is a country which is deeply influenced by Theravada Buddhism (which is also the official religion) with more than 95% of the population following it. It also plays a crucial role in governing many socio-cultural aspects of life in Thailand. Thai people hold values such as respect, mutual harmony, politeness, tolerance, and being non-confrontational very close to them. Make sure as a foreign traveller in their country you too, practise the same values and keep a sense of calm and composure in your demeanour.

Here are some social and cultural etiquettes to follow when you are backpacking in Thailand:

1. Refrain from touching people’s head: Head is considered the most sacred part of the body as per Thai culture. It is considered utterly disrespectful to touch a person’s head or hair. Even children are aware of it and don’t like it so avoid giving any head pats to kids or ruffle their hair.

2. Don’t use your feet to point at something or someone: Just like the head is the most important part of the body and is considered sacred, feet in Thailand are the lowest part of the body and considered the ‘dirtiest’. Therefore, make sure your toes are not pointing at someone, especially towards any sacred symbols, Buddha statues or monarchy.

3. Politely return a wai: The getsure of wai is a Thai greeting in which hands are folded together and the person bows a little to say sawasdee khrap (male) or sawadee kha (females) which is a polite way of saying hello. If you see someone doing a wai make sure to return a wai with a warm smile.

4. Don’t point with your finger: In Thailand it is considered rude to point at people with fingers. For foreigners there might be an exception to this rule however it’s best to follow the locals and use your entire hand to point at people.

5. Dress modestly while visiting religious sites: Always cover your knees, shoulder or belly before entering a temple or religious site. You may carry a sarong or rent one outside any temple premises. Make sure to follow temple rules like talking off shoes or avoid photography inside the temple. Lastly, maintain a respectful distance with the monks and do not disturb them.

Preparing for Your Trip for Backpacking in Thailand

1. Visa Requirements and Entry Procedures

Visa Requirements

With all the right documents and a valid passport, you can enter Thailand on a tourist visa, which allows you to stay for 60 days with an additional 30 days upon request from the local immigration office. You can check whether your country is on the list of visa exemptions or not. Currently, 64 countries are allowed to enter Thailand under the Visa Exemption Rule. In the year 2023, Thailand authorities announced visa-free travel for Indian nationals as well, up to May 10, 2024. For more information on Thailand visas for Indians, click here.

Documents required for a valid Thailand visa:

Passport

  • Passport or travel document with an expiry date of no less than 6 months
  • Visa application form (filled out)
  • One recent 4 x 6 cm photograph of the applicant.
  • Return air ticket or e-ticket within 30 days (paid in full)
  • Proof of financial means (10,000 baht per person/20,000 baht per family) such as bank statements.
  • Proof of hotel/hostel or private accommodation booking

Visa Fee: The tourist visa fee is typically subject to change so it’s best to contact the nearest Thai Embassy or consulate in your area before registering any paperwork.

2. Health and safety tips while Backpacking in Thailand

Health checkup

(a) Visit a Doctor 

Being healthy and safe while backpacking in Thailand should be a top priority. Before travelling to Thailand, it is important to visit a doctor and get a health checkup done. Take note of any allergies or health issues that can get triggered while travelling in Thailand.

Mosquito repellant

(b) Keep a mosquito repellent spray or lotion

Always carry a mosquito repellent spray or lotion to keep mosquitoes at bay. During the rainy season in Thailand, coupled with the hot tropical climate, there are cases of dengue fever. Your best bet is to avoid getting mosquito bites while hiking or camping in nature.

Drink bottled water

(c) Stay Hydrated 

Avoid drinking tap water, and always consume water from sealed bottles. In Thailand, it is important to stay well hydrated so that you avoid the swelling of the ankles and feet, excessive perspiration, and cramping of the muscles from exerting yourself during the hotter part of the day.

Sunscreen SPF

(d) Apply Sunscreen 

The sun during the day in Thailand can be harsh, to say the least. Hence, it is paramount to keep applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen every 3–4 hours. It will not only protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays but also from sunburn and redness.

First aid kit

(e) Carry a first-aid kit 

Keep a first-aid kit handy with you all the time in case any medical emergency arises. This kit should have antifungal and antiseptic creams, facemasks, sanitisers, antihistamines, paracetamol and any other medication advised by your doctor.

Travel Insurance

(f) Always Carry a Travel Insurance

Get travel insurance, which covers you when you’re sick or in case of any accidents that may occur as a result of outdoor activities. Make sure to have documents in fine print and keep all invoices secure for getting a medical claim smooth.

3. Backpacking Thailand Essentials | What should I pack for a trip to Thailand?

Backpacking Thailand Essentials

(a) Clothes:

Summer clothes

Thailand has a hot and humid climate so carry clothes made from easy and breathable fabrics like linen or cotton. You can pack t-shirts, shirts, tank tops, swimwear for beach, shorts, loose pants, cargos, a long skirt, and a full sleeve t-shirt to protect you from harsh sun or use them when going to the temple. And if you want to hit the clubs, keep a dress or smart casual wear ready. If you’re reading in the northern cities of Chiang Mai or Chinag Rai, the night gets cold so it’s best to pack a jumper or a hoodie.

(b) Footwear:

Footwear

Don’t make this mistake – going to Thailand and only packing flip flops. Sure they are comfortable in hot weather and going to the beach but you can’t wear them everywhere. So with a pair of flip flops, keep travel sandals or sturdy walking shoes for hiking and doing adventure sports such as rock climbing or ziplining. And if there are any other footwear which you think you don’t have, just buy a cheap pair from any market in Thailand.

(c) Other travel essentials

This can include all your stuff required in making travelling comfortable such as sunblock, mosquito repellent, a water bottle, travel towels, power bank, torch, neck pillow, lighter, earplugs, sunglasses and a universal adapter.

Backpacking in Thailand cost

Backpacking Cost

Most people go backpacking in Thailand for three weeks and cover major cities like Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai etc. On an average people spend anywhere from $700 to $1500/- on backpacking in Thailand. If you can manage to stay under $25 per day you can stay in Thailand easily for 10 -15 days.

Transportation in Thailand

Tuk Tuk

All Modes of Transport in Thailand:

Mode of Transport Description Cost Tips & Notes
Tuk Tuks Thailand’s iconic mode of transportation. Easy and quick three-wheeled vehicles offering short-distance rides. Bargain fares (typically 50 THB to 100 THB) Beware of scams and negotiate fares beforehand.
Taxis Easily available for varying budgets; great for covering short to medium distances. Starts from 35 THB to 100 THB Prefer metered taxis; avoid unmarked vehicles and always negotiate fares beforehand if meter isn’t available.
Grab Thailand’s equivalent of Uber, offering rides at competitive prices. Meter fare + 20 THB more Download the Grab app for easy booking.
Long Distance Buses Overnight coaches traversing the country’s highways, providing budget-friendly travel options. Economical Book in advance for preferred timings; consider comfort levels for overnight journeys.
Rail Network Thailand has a decent rail network but they are not the most preferred mode of transport. Reasonable fares Check train schedules and book tickets in advance for a comfortable travel experience.
Budget Airlines
(Thai Airways, Thai Airasia, Bangkok Airways, Thai Lion Air)
Numerous budget airline routes providing affordable domestic and international travel options. Varies Book in advance for cheaper fares; check baggage allowances and additional fees.
Rental Cars/Scooters Option for independent travel, offering flexibility to explore at your own pace. Varies from operator to operator Ensure valid license and insurance; familiarize with local driving rules and road conditions.
Ferries/Boats Essential for island hopping and coastal travel, with frequent services available. Affordable Check schedules and weather conditions before planning ferry trips; consider seasickness if prone.
MRT/BTS
(Only in Bangkok)
Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) and Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS) offer convenient travel within urban areas. Reasonable fares
Starts from 16 THB to 59 THB
(one way ride)
Purchase stored value cards for seamless travel.
Songthaews Shared pickup trucks serve as a common mode of transport in rural and suburban areas.
(Popular in Chiang Mai, Phuket, Chiang Rai, and Krabi)
Charges up to 150 THB per person. Confirm destination with the driver. These share rides are great for cost-saving benefits.
Bicycle Rentals Ideal for exploring local areas and attractions at a leisurely pace. Budget-friendly Check for available bike lanes and road safety; negotiate rental rates for longer durations.

BTS Train

Accommodation in Thailand

Backpackers hostel

For most backpackers, finding accommodation in Thailand is like taking a walk in the park. Thanks to the country’s robust tourist infrastructure and backpacker-friendly environment, you can find cosy and comfortable hostels or poshtels at competitive prices. A decent hostel stay in Bangkok can cost anywhere from 250 THB to 500 THB per night. If you’re visiting during the peak season, make sure to make advance bookings because the hostels can get full. And if you are visiting during shoulder season or off season, then you will hardly have any trouble finding a bed that suits your budget, taste, and convenience.

List of Affordable Hostels in Thailand

Place Name Average Cost Per Night
Bangkok Khaosan Social Capsule Hostel INR 1536/-
Pattaya Happiness Community Wake & Bake Hostel INR 1324/-
Phuket Black Panther Hostel INR 946/-
Krabi Chanchalay Hip Hostel INR 900/-
Chiang Mai Green Sleep Hostel INR 917/-
Koh Phangan Bodega Pool Party Koh Phangan INR 787/-

What to eat while Backpacking in Thailand?

Thai street food

Eating delicious Thai cuisine  is going to be an integral part of your Thailand backpacking journey. Food in Thailand is not just delicious but also easy on your pockets. You can easily buy a plateful of pad Thai noodles for just 30 THB. Besides spicy shrimp soup, Thai green curry, green papaya salad, and mango sticky rice, Thai food can cater to a wide palette. And if you feel adventurous and want to try exotic meats, there are several stalls that sells

To know more about the best places to eat street food, read below:

Best spots to enjoy Thai street food

Cities/Islands Best spots to enjoy Thai street food
Bangkok Chinatown, Victory Monument, Petchaburi Soi 5, JODD Fairs, Nakhon Sawan 6 Alley, Silom Soi 20, Khao San road
Pattaya Tree Town Street Food Area Soi 19, Pattaya floating market, Pattaya night bazaar, The Glass House Silver in Bang Lamung District
Phuket Dibuk Road, Yaowarat Road, Chillva market, Lard Yai Sunday market, Naka market, Phuket Chatuchak
Krabi Krabi walking street, Maharat Market, Chao Fah Pier, Ao Nang night market
Chiang Mai Chang Phuak, Chiang Mai South Gate Market, Nimman, Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, Chill Square

What to eat as a vegetarian/vegan in Thailand?

Contrary to popular belief, finding vegetarian or vegan food is as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack. You can find restaurants and food stalls serving delicious vegan or vegetarian food. When you are looking for a vegetarian restaurant in Thailand, look for venues featuring yellow flags with red writing in either Thai or Chinese script. These flags are indicative of outlets serving only vegetarian dishes to attract vegan and vegetarian tourists.

Do remember that in most Thai cooking, fish sauce (nam pla) or oyster sauce (nam mun hoi) is commonly used, even in “vegetarian” pad Thai noodles featuring a lot of veggies. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to double-check the ingredients for the dish you are ordering. You can also ask the restaurant or street food vendor if they are willing to customise the dish to accommodate your dietary preferences.

Here are some vegan/ vegetarian Thai dishes you can try while backpacking in Thailand:

  • Vegan yellow Thai curry mixed with veggies
  • Vegan Pad Thai noodles
  • Tofu satay in coconut sauce
  • Pineapple fried rice
  • Thai vegan spring rolls
  • Green mango or papaya salad
  • Baked Tofu in Thai peanut sauce
  • Gluten-free sweet sticky rice cake
  • Aromatic Thai yellow rice

Backpacking in Thailand: Must-Visit Destinations

Bangkok

Bangkok

The capital city of Thailand is a bustling metropolis with skyscrapers and delicious street food. Home to Asia’s one of biggest markets – Chatuchak, Bangkok attracts many shoppers and foodies. Exploring this city via BTS sky trains is one of the best experiences you can have. Bangkok is home to world class entertainment, shopping malls and Buddhist temples. And amidst the concrete jungle, there are two parks – Benjakitti Park and Lumpini Park where you can sit back and relax and enjoy a cup of coffee.

Pattaya

Pattaya

Pattaya is a lively city in Thailand known for its adult nightlife scene, cabaret shows, and walking streets. Jomtien Beach, Buddha Hill, and Pattaya floating market are top tourist attractions that one shouldn’t miss while visiting Pattaya.

Phuket

Phuket

Phuket is the largest island in Thailand. Many backpackers flock to Phuket for its pristine beaches, scenic beauty, and adventure sports. Even though Phuket has always been seen as more of a honeymoon destination, it doesn’t deter backpackers from exploring this beautiful island.

Krabi

Krabi

Krabi is still an underrated destination in Thailand when it comes to backpacking. This ethereal place deserves all the attention of backpacking enthusiasts. With destinations like Tiger Cave Temple, Pai Plong Beach, Princess Cave, Krabi Hot Springs, Railay, and Ao Nang Beach, one must definitely include Krabi in their Thailand backpacking itinerary.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

A must-visit destination in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is surrounded by lush jungle and a scenic mountainous landscape. While exploring this city, you can find heavy influences from the Lanna Kingdom. You can go trekking in its famous national parks or touch down at the golden triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Northern Laos meet.

Activities and Experiences

1. Explore walking streets and weekend markets

Weekend Market

To get the vibe of Thailand and its hustling spirit, one should definitely visit the famous walking streets and weekend markets in this country. Thailand has numerous weekend markets like Chatucchak, JODD fairs, Bangla walking street, Krabi walking street and so many more. They are ideal spots for shopping for souvenirs, trying delicious Thai food, and interacting with locals.

2. Shop from a floating market

Floating market

Does shopping while boating float your boat? If that sounds interesting to you, Do try and visit any of Thailand’s floating markets. These floating markets are a beautiful way to present and preserve Thai culture. Many vendors sell handmade soaps, scented candles, chocolates, coconut items, Thai silk, fresh fruits and vegetables, and other knick-knacks.

3. Take a Thai spa and wellness massage

Thai spa

Unwind and rejuvenate your tired body with backpacking fatigue with a soothing Thai spa and wellness massage. There are plenty of luxury, mid range and affordable massage centres in Thailand. For INR 2000/- you can get a Thai spa session of 60 minutes. Apart from Thai spa, get ahead massage and foot reflexology in an entire package.

4. Visit famous Thai temples

Thailand temple

There are many famous Buddhist temples in Thailand that should be on your bucket list. They are not only the centre of spirituality but also peace and enlightenment. Visit these temples to admire the great architecture and Thai craftsmanship.

5. Go Clubbing

Nightclub

The clubbing scene in Thailand is electrifying with some of the best clubs in the world hosting international DJs and creating a night scene like any other. Bangkok should be your go to destination for clubbing in Thailand.

6. Watch a Cabaret Show

Thai cabaret show

Thailand has some famous cabaret shows which are equivalent to Las Vegas cabaret shows. Alcazar show in Pattaya, Calypso Cabaret show in Bangkok and Tiffany cabaret show are listed as Thailand’s popular cabaret.

7. Engage in scuba diving and rock climbing

Scuba dive

Home to some of the best scuba diving and rock climbing sites in the world, Thailand is a famous destination amongst travellers and adventure enthusiasts who are looking forward to taking a deep dive under Andaman sea or test their endurance via rock climbing on the famous limestone caves.

8. Attend a full moon party

Full moon party

Full moon parties in Koh Phangan are the craziest and wild parties that involve a lot of dancing, drinking and merrymaking. The party is attended by some 20,000+ people at Haad Rin beach. For more information on the full moon party, please click here.

9. Learn some Thai Cooking

Thai cooking class

When else will you get a chance to whip up spicy Thai dishes and take home not only authentic ingredients but recipes and memories. Thai cooking classes let you have an immersive experience with Thai culture by partaking in their culinary process.

Backpacking in Thailand Safety Tips, Practical Tips and Resources:

Travel Tips

1. Be Aware of Scams and Touts:

While Thailand is generally considered safe for tourists, one be cautious of scams and touts, especially in tourist-heavy areas like Bangkok and Phuket. Avoid strangers offering unsolicited advice or tours, as they may have ulterior motives. Research common scams beforehand and always negotiate prices before accepting services.

2. Respect Local Customs and Laws:

It is important for you to familiarise yourself with Thai customs and laws to avoid unintentional offences. Dress modestly when visiting temples and religious sites, removing shoes and covering shoulders and knees. Refrain from public displays of affection, especially in the countryside where it may be considered disrespectful. Be aware of strict drug laws in Thailand, as possession of even small amounts of illegal substances in parties or clubs or otherwise can result in severe penalties.

3. Use Reliable Transportation and Accommodation:

Always prioritise safety when choosing transportation and accommodation options. Choose reputable bus and train companies with good safety records, and avoid travelling on overcrowded or poorly maintained vehicles. You can also do your research in hostels and guesthouses with positive reviews from fellow backpackers. Make sure they meet your safety and comfort standards. Only use trusted booking platforms or websites to secure your accommodations in advance.

Practical Resources:

Tourist Police Hotline:

In case of emergencies or safety concerns, dial 1155 for assistance from English-speaking tourist police. They are available to help you promptly and effectively.

Travel Apps:

Download travel apps like Grab (ride-hailing service), Thai translator app and Trail Wallet (budget tracking) to navigate efficiently and manage expenses.

Travel Insurance:

Consider purchasing comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and personal belongings to protect yourself against unforeseen events.

Embassy Contacts:

Be sure to save the contact information for your home country’s embassy or consulate in Thailand. This ensures assistance is available for passport issues or legal matters if needed.

Local SIM Card:

Upon arrival, purchase a local SIM card for affordable data and communication services. This helps you to stay connected, use translation tools and access maps.

Conversion Rate of INR vs THB (at the time of publishing the guide): 1 INR = 0.44 THB

By taking these practical steps into consideration, you are bound to have a fulfilling and safe backpacking experience in Thailand. If you are someone who is backpacking for the first time, Thailand is a great place to start your adventure. It is not too overwhelming and challenging for backpackers to navigate. Thailand is a country that offers a good mix of excitement, fun, and accessibility, making it an ideal destination even for first-time backpackers.