Thailand is a popular destination for backpackers to go because it's inexpensive, exciting, has lots of amazing sights and beaches.
I've been to Thailand myself and loved it and want to help anyone else who is thinking about going.
It's full of excitement, but there are some things you may need that you haven't thought of, and some important details you should know. It's important to be well-informed and prepared so that you can travel over there with confidence.
Some of you will be going there to go and stay in hostels or hotels in Bangkok, or perhaps somewhere more rural like Phuket. Your type of travel might be staying in luxury hotels, staying in budget hostels, or all about going to the Full Moon Party.
Once you have decided what you want to do out there you will want to pack and be well-prepared for your trip. If you are staying in hostels you might want to get some padlocks to secure your luggage, as well as earplugs and eye masks so you can sleep without being disturbed.
The weather there can be very humid and feel hotter than it looks on the weather forecast. It's worth packing light clothing such as vest tops, shorts, flip -flops, sunglasses and a hat. You also want to have mosquito repellent and sunscreen to protect your skin while you are there.
Booking Cheap Flights
If you are booking one-way travel there to start your adventure, you can look for the cheapest flights to get there with this link on Skyscanner. Here you can see direct flights from London to Thailand at the cheapest time of year. At the time of writing this blog post, there is a direct one-way flight to Bangkok for just £305 and return flights are not much more expensive.
Indirect flight with 1 stop from just £154
Direct Flight to Bangkok from just £305
As you can see direct flights there are about 11-12 hours long. You don't need to be first in the queue if you are going to be on the flight that long. Just so long as you do get on the flight and you can pick and choose who you can sit with, and ideally you or the person you sit with doesn't want to be drunk or for you to be in any kind of discomfort. I would recommend that you buy some noise-cancelling earphones for practising basic Thai words, earplugs and an eye mask to get some quality sleep. You might also want to install BBC iPlayer on your phone or tablet for some of your own entertainment while on the flight, and if you feel homesick while you are there.
Songkran, Thailand's New Year
There are cheap flights to Bangkok in March which is great as Songkran is in mid-April, so it gives you time to get over your jet lag and order some water pistols. You will need these when you join in the festival as it is a big peaceful and fun water fight. You will get soaked and ideally will need a waterproof case for your mobile phone, so it doesn't get water damaged.
"Songkran is Thailand’s most famous festival. An important event on the Buddhist calendar, this water festival marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year. The name Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘passing’ or ‘approaching’."
- Everything you need to know about Songkran, Hostelworld
I have been there just by coincidence and would love to go again every year as it's so much fun. Usual dates for Songkran are the 13-15th April every year where they celebrate Thai New Year.
Staying in Hostels
If you plan to stay in hostels this will be a great way to meet other people travelling or backpacking as well. If it's your first time than it might be nerve-racking sleeping in the same room as strangers. Most hostels take down all the guests' contact details including passport details for each guest. This helps track down any guests that have stolen anything from you. Also, it is vital to buy good travel insurance before your trip. Please read the terms and conditions and make sure that your phone is included as sometimes this is a supplementary part of insurance.
It's good to just book for a few days in case you get to the room and decide you don't want to stay there or if there is any traveller with the flu there. I would recommend that once you get there, greet the other guests, get a good feel for the place before you extend your stay. People generally just ask each other where they are from and share stories. If someone is just on their laptop and doesn't get up to shake your hand then maybe you need to change your room or hostel.
If there are any guests that are locals and older and look like they have been staying there for weeks they might be homeless. If this is the case, I would just check out other hostels. It's important to get this right as you will need to book your hostel before you arrive at immigration as they ask where you are staying.
I would also recommend buying a couple of padlocks to secure your bags under your bed or in lockers. I would recommend that you choose a hostel that has lockers just for your peace of mind. I also highly recommend that you buy earplugs and an eye mask so they other hostel guests don't disturb you if they come back after a night out in Bangkok.
One hostel I stayed at that I would recommend to you guys is Silom Art Hostel, it's a really nice place to stay in the centre of Bangkok. It's not that expensive for a shared room or a private room while you are there. As it wasn't that busy when I was there, one other traveller I met (from the same town as me) had the whole shared dorm to herself. It was clean, vibrant, stylish and friendly. It also has a sense of humour about it as there was a notice to say 'Don't have sex in the dorms, (that's what private rooms are for)'. So it's good to know that if you do stay in the dorm nobody will be having sex above you and there are private rooms if you do find romance; or not, (I won't judge).
Some important things to know
1) Don't speak negatively about the Monarchy:
It is probably best just to stay clear of talking about them altogether. If someone you are with talks about the Thai King in a negative way, get them to change the subject in case they are overheard.
2) The politics are rocky and there can be a protest or military coup at any time. If this happens, I would suggest getting out of the city or perhaps even the country right away.
3) Keep your passport on you. It's strongly advised that you keep your passport on you just because the police can stop and search you. Also, you might not want to leave it in your hostel and if a protest breaks out you have the option to leave the country quickly and easily.
"Thailand along with many other countries in Asia requires you to carry your passport everywhere you travel, and photocopies are not acceptable, although very few people carry their travel documents all the time."
- Passports, Better Safe than Sorry, Bangkok Post
4) It's illegal to step on money. I know that if you drop your money it's really tempting to step on any coins to stop them rolling away. If this happens then you don't want to do that.
5) Cross the road with great caution. In the UK crossing the road on green is generally very safe. In Thailand, there are some cars that don't stop on the red light. This caught me by surprise and wish someone told me.
What Thailand has to Offer
Now that you know some of the things to be wary of, it will be good to talk about some of the more exciting things you can do in Thailand. I want to talk about the busy city life first and all it has to offer as I love the hustle and bustle of the city and all it has to offer.
The streets of Thailand have some really good and also really cheap food that I recommend you try while you are out there. It might seem a bit unusual at first but when you can sit down and watch the city moving with people from all around the world is great. Most dishes come with your choice of meat with rice, sometimes it can be served spicy, so I hope you are good with spicy food!
One of the most well known and staple foods you will see all the time out there is Pad Thai. This is something you should try and there, of course, a whole range of other tasty Thai dishes that you can order to impress your mates.
The Grand Palace
Located in Bangkok is 'The Grand Palace' and this is a sight that you do not want to miss while you are there. It's really beautiful and you can take lots of Instagram photos all your friends back home will be really jealous of, as well as any beach photos. Some facts on the grand palace from Trip Advisor.
"Bangkok's famous palace complex was built in 1782 and features several magnificent buildings including Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), which contains a beautiful Emerald Buddha that dates back to the 14th century." - Trip Advisor
Buddhism is central to Thai culture and it's super important that you respect Buddhist and Buddhist places of worship.
The Floating Market
Many hostels including the one I stayed at offered an excursion to different places around Thailand close to Bangkok. The one I went to was ‘The Floating Market’ as commonly pictured when you search for photos of Thailand. This was beautiful and a whole new way to think about shopping, that's for sure. It's a great place for taking photos, buying souvenirs and soaking in the sights.
When you are in the rural areas of Bangkok and even some public places the public toilets don't have toilet roll. In rural areas, you will want to bring it with you and there might even be a plastic bowl with water to help you freshen up afterwards. Overall there was a lot of opportunity in most hostel and hotel toilets to make sure you are clean and fresh top to toe.
Bangkok has some pretty lavish hostels with bars and restaurants on the rooftop with amazing views, if you have the budget for that I would recommend it. You might want to stay there while the sun sets and gets dark to really soak in some amazing sights.
Visiting Other Cities
A lot of backpackers visit Bangkok because that's where the flight lands, and it has some great sights, but many go on to visit Phuket and Chiang Mai that have different things to offer. I know further north it isn't so sticky and humid like it is in Bangkok and further south it's more rural as well and has some outstanding beaches.
Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand. Founded in 1296, it was capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Its Old City area still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious centre. It’s also home to hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents.
- Quick Facts from Google
Phuket, a rainforested, mountainous island in the Andaman Sea, has some of Thailand’s most popular beaches, mainly situated along the clear waters of the western shore. The island is home to many high-end seaside resorts, spas and restaurants. Phuket City, the capital, has old shophouses and busy markets. Patong, the main resort town, has many nightclubs, bars and discos.
- Quick Facts from Google
I did go to a pretty Thai island off the coast of Pattaya however it wouldn't be as beautiful and amazing as some around Phuket. If you want to see some of these amazing beached you best fly south, or if you're feeling really adventurous in the heat and want to save money then you can take a bus. But I don't see why as flights are really cheap, and much more convenient. Please note that they might depart from Bangkok's other airport in the north of the city.
Overall, I think you will have a great time if you take on board some of the advice and take a leap of faith with some of the recommendations. I really hope that this post has helped and that it will help you make the most of being in Thailand. There is still more I could cover I'm sure. If you have any further questions or suggestions on what I could write about, please leave a comment below. Also, if you have travelled around more of the rural areas and want to make a post on my site about that please message me at - firstname.lastname@example.org and I can add it for you if I like it.
Many thanks for reading. Peace. :)