Many travellers and backpackers can be concerned about their health when travelling to Thailand. Having lived here for 3 and a half years I thought I would pass on some of my knowledge. Here is an assortment of health advice, travel tips and things to be careful about in Thailand.
Mosquitos in Thailand
Generally speaking Thailand is not a malaria area and there are risks only around the borders of Thailand with other countries. Most people do not need to take malaria tablets when visiting. However, dengue fever has been on the rise in recent years so I recommend covering up in the evening and using a strong DEET repellent. Buy before you travel here as it is hard to find strong DEET. I recommend this 50% one from Amazon.
Street food is one of Thailand’s pleasures and I have never been sick from eating street food. It is cooked hot and fresh right in front of you. There are some stalls where cooked food sits around for a hours and I would definitely avoid these places, particularly if eating meat. If you get a bad stomach in Thailand, before reaching for the Immodium, I recommend trying charcoal pills from 7/11. They are not as strong and I find work much more effectively. I think it feels more natural and is less likely to bung you up for 3 days and then you continue to have the same problem later on. This is what the packet looks like and you can usually find them near the till in any 7/11. If you contract diarrhea in Thailand you will most likely become very dehydrated so I always use electrolytes from 7/11 and I swear by coconut water too. (Also useful for hangovers from buckets…see below!)
Having Ice in your Drinks in Thailand
I never had an issue for this, until it came to drinking 50 baht mojitos in Phuket…and then I was pretty ill for a week afterwards. Lesson learnt: if the alcohol is unreasonably cheap, so is the ice! Avoid things like this in Phuket. That said, I have been sick once from ice in 3 years here so I don’t think it is something to go fretting over.
Drinking Buckets in Thailand
From Khaosan Road to the Islands you will always find a cheap bucket of alcohol to drink. While some people might recommend avoiding drinking buckets in Thailand, if you want to lesson the hangover, stick with a spirit and a mixer in the bucket rather than any of the mysterious cocktail mixes that end up with you and your sister vomiting on the journey back to Bangkok (true story.)
Drinking Tap Water in Thailand
The tap water in Thailand is not drinkable. You can buy plastic bottles from 7/11 and refill them at drinking water stations for 1 baht. You can often find these on streets and in residential areas. That said, I always use the tap water to brush my teeth in Thailand and elsewhere and have never had any problems because of this. I’m probably wrong but I feel maybe it builds up some immunity??
Travel Sick in Thailand
If you are unfortunate enough to get travel sick like me, then I cannot recommend strongly enough these travel bands. I am not even sure how they work, I think they have a bead that presses on a pressure point that is linked with nausea, but they really work. Whether travel sick in mountain roads like from Chiang Mai to Pai or seasick on a boat, these have really helped me. It might just be psychological but who cares if they stop you from vomiting right? Buy yours here. You can also buy seasick pills from most pharmacies in Thailand very cheaply as an extra back up.
Travel Thailand Tip: Ask to sit in the front of the minivan on long journeys. I also find I tend to get less travel sick on the big buses so I try to book them instead of a minivan if possible. You can book travel tickets using this website.
Colds in Thailand
Due to various establishments that blast the AC freezing cold in Thailand, I often find myself with a cold after staying in hostels or sleeping on night buses. Normally this isn’t a problem unless you want to go scuba diving and you cannot dive with a cold because you’ll be unable to equalize properly. Enter TIFFY tablets you can buy from any pharmacy or some 7/11s. They cost around 7 baht for 4 tablets and as these are not a strong tablet it’s no problem to combine with diving.
Do you need vaccinations to travel in Thailand? Before I came here, I was recommended to get Hep A, Hep B and typhoid. Every clinic seems to recommend different things but these are the ones that I got. I decided not to bother with the expensive rabies vaccine because if you get bitten you still have to go to the hospital, it just gives you more time and I figured I was never going to be that far away from an available clinic. I usually use the NHS website for advice about vaccinations in Asia.
Stray dogs can cause alarm in Thailand and my best advice is to just stay calm and steer clear. Most dogs here I have found extremely chilled out and not remotely interested in humans. However, you always hear a few stories. I read it is best to not look threatening, to yawn and look relaxed and calmly walk past them. If you do get bitten by a stray dog, rabies is a concern here so immediately find a clinic. Even small islands like Koh Lan or Koh Lipe have doctor’s clinics who can administer the first round of PEP injections. After that you will need 5 more injections over the course of 6 weeks.
Pharmacies in Thailand
I have found many pharmacies in Thailand to be full of helpful, English speaking staff. You can generally find what you need and for very cheap prices. You can also buy antibiotics over the counter in Thailand but this is obviously a fairly controversial thing to do so read up about it first.
Hospitals and Healthcare in Thailand
Thailand has some fantastic international hospitals…and some less fantastic hospitals. As long as you have health insurance, I would always use an expensive international hospital. The staff there speak English (or will find you a translator) and have always dealt with me efficiently and swiftly.
Disclaimer 1: I’m a teacher, not a doctor.
Disclaimer 2: This page may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase I may receive commission at no extra cost to you.
So how many islands does Thailand have? Nobody seems to know for sure but it’s safe to say that Thailand has hundreds of islands you can stay on and/or visit and it is my intention to visit them all! With so many island destinations, it can be difficult to choose which island to visit in Thailand. I often get asked many of the following questions by backpackers and tourists who are looking for Thailand’s best islands and beaches:
Hopefully this post will help you make the best decision about which islands to stay on. Even better, you can visit a few of the Thai islands on the same trip as they often have good transport links between them to make island hopping around Thailand accessible.
Here is a summary of all the ones I’ve been to so far and some brief information to help you decide on which paradise island to check out first including must-do activities and how to get to each Thai island. Read more about how to travel around Thailand on this post.
Thailand Island Hopping
I’ve grouped the islands as to where they are in Thailand which should give you and idea for the best island hopping routes around. The Gulf of Thailand refers to the islands South of Bangkok on the East of the mainland – mainly Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. Then we have the Andaman islands on the West with connecting airports such as Krabi and Phuket. Then Southern islands like Koh Lipe and Koh Tarutao and Eastern islands towards the Cambodian border.
Best Islands in The Gulf of Thailand
A backpacker island in the Gulf of Thailand. It has beautiful beaches and an obvious party scene but mostly it is known for cheap diving courses, and is often advertised as one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to scuba dive. I took my PADI Open Water Qualification here 4 years ago and the prices are still the same. Your Open Water diving certificate can start from around 9000 baht…try and get your accommodation thrown in too. If you turn up at the pier, you can often negotiate prices with the dive shops. Unfortunately Koh Tao is not without its problems and I suggest being careful here, not to get too drunk and never to cause problems with locals, such as getting into fights etc.
Home to the infamous Full Moon Party, this party island in Thailand remains one of my favourites. It’s party in the South and tranquil, quiet beaches in the North of Koh Phangan. It is also one of the best islands for backpackers because it is both party and calm and you can find very cheap accommodation, particularly in the north. For the most beautiful beach in the Gulf of Thailand, visit Bottle Beach – a stunning Northern beach only accessible by boat so it’s very quiet. Diving in Koh Phangan here can be great although visibility is unpredictable. Sail Rock is one of Koh Phangan’s famous dive sites and whale sharks can be spotted here (just not by me…yet!). I love staying in the North and I discovered these cute bungalows last time, right on a lovely stretch of beach. Check out Seaboard Bungalow’s reasonable rates here. The restaurant here did great food and there were more food options further down the beach too. An even cheaper option with basic bungalows that also had a pool but not as a nice a beach was Lucky Resort. Compare their room rates here. The restaurant had great views of the ocean for sunsets too. Read here for Full Moon Party Tips..
Best Thailand island for: Dancing until sunrise. Even if you miss Full Moon there are Half Moon Parties, Jungle Parties, Waterfall parties…Read my post here for more Full Moon Party advice
Fastest way to get to Koh Phangan: Fly to Chumpon /Surat thani/Koh Samui and take the ferry. Lomprayah have the fastest service.
Thailand Islands to Visit: Koh Samui
Boasting one of coolest airports I’ve ever been to, Samui caters to holiday makers on a large scale. It is the only island in the Gulf of Thailand to have an airport
In all honesty, Koh Samui is probably my least favourite island as a result of this, it can get very crowded over peak season (December – when I went!) and I don’t think it is as idyllic looking as it’s Gulf counterparts. That said, if you are on limited time it is one of only two island that you can fly direct to (the other being Phuket). I stayed in upmarket accommodation at Lamai Wanta Beach Resort (courtesy of my generous aunt!) but a friend recently stayed at budget friendly New Hut Bungalows and recommended them to me. They look like a great photo opportunity too!
One thing to be aware of in Koh Samui is that flights are generally expensive because the budget airlines cannot fly to Samui as it is owned by Bangkok Airways. However, the airport looks like the garden of a 5 star hotel and is worth seeing. Occasionally cheap flights with Thai Smile can be found.
Best Thailand Island for: resorts, families and couples
Things to do on Koh Samui: an all round island tour including temples and waterfall visits
Fastest way to get to Koh Samui: Fly direct from Bangkok
Best Thailand Islands: The Andaman
Phuket is one of Thailand’s largest islands and is attached to the mainland by bridge. It has an international airport which can lead to extremely busy beaches and very high prices for taxis, which is why it has a bit of a bad reputation among those of us who live in Thailand. However, I don’t feel this is totally deserved and as it is such a huge island there are many less popular places to explore. The busiest area seems to be Patong beach which I have always been urged to avoid, mainly because of its multitude of gogo bars. I’ve mainly spent time in the South at Kata and Karon beaches for surfing during rainy season (June-October). I loved staying at this hostel, it was about 4 minute walk to the surfing beach, was good value and they had really nice facilities.
Things to do in Phuket: learning to surf, you can hire an instructor and then you get the board for the rest of the day (rainy season only when the waves are bigger, July-October approx)
Cheapest way to get to Phuket:Take a night bus to Phuket Town, then songtaew (local trucks) to the beach of your choice. You may need to take two, one from the bus station and then another from Phuket town to the beach. Approx 20 baht.
Fastest way to get to Phuket: Fly to Phuket from Bangkok or international airports and take the local bus further south.
Koh Yao Noi
This island has really chilled out vibes and zero party scene. It felt a little off the beaten track but still has hotels and restaurants around. The beaches are fairly thin strips of sand so there’s not all that much room for sunbathing. Swimming with the backdrop of Phangna Bay behind you felt pretty awesome though. I rented bicycles and cycled around the island – which has a couple of hills so be prepared! (or get off and walk like someone may have done…). This is a great place to rent kayaks from as well and I discovered the small empty island of Koh Nok which this amazing viewpoint. I loved the place I stayed at, Sabai Corner Bungalows, it had tall wooden bungalows set back into the mountain with great views of the bay. It was also very affordable and the owners were helpful with renting kayaks and bicycles.
Best Thailand Island for: non-touristy places in Thailand
Things to do in Koh Yao Noi: If you can’t afford to stay somewhere like the Six Senses Hotel (and I can’t!) then head there for a cocktail to enjoy sunset and the views at this exotic looking hotel.
Fastest way to get to Koh Yao Noi: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, speedboat to island.
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is the type of island that the first time I went there, I hated it. Lots of young backpackers falling drunk out of bars and overpacked long tail boats pouring into Maya Bay to see the beach from Dicaprio’s ‘The Beach’ movie. Now I’ve returned there a 2nd, 3rd and 4th time, I have to admit that Phi Phi is growing on me. I’ve accepted it for what it is : a party island and a great place to meet backpackers. Try taking a snorkelling trip to a few of the less crowded islands and definitely watch some of the fireshows. I personally feel they are the best in Thailand and even after watching a few I still think they are very impressive.
The diving around the marine park is generally of a very good standard for Thailand. I was lucky enough to see a turtle, black tip reef shark and a leopard shark all in one day. I also love that you can walk everywhere and there are no cars on the whole island, definitely a bonus if you’re living in Bangkok and sick of traffic jams.
Best Thailand island for: parties and beautiful beaches combined.
Things to do in Koh Phi Phi: An island hopping trip to nearby islands
Fastest way to get to Koh Phi Phi: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island
Serene and stunning, this is a quieter island for a relaxing time. Kantiang beach in the South is huge, wide and empty when I was there in April. There isn’t much of a party scene and not so many backpackers here. The snorkelling and island hopping trip was definitely a highlight for me as it took you to Koh Kradan, a stunning white beach uninhabited island. I went with my parents and we stayed at Alama Sea Village Resortwhich was incredible. It has a great view (so a short walk uphill), an infinity pool and monkeys who come and visit your balcony.
Best Thailand island for: relaxing, couples, families
Things to do in Koh Lanta: The 4 Island Hopping Trip
Fastest way to get to Koh Lanta: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island
This paradise island is home to white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, beautiful coral reefs and less tourists than many others! The main beach is kept extremely clean but unfortunately a lot of litter gets washed up around this island’s shores despite local efforts to consistently clear the trash. When I was there, the people were working every day but unfortunately they are fighting a losing battle with the currents. It also had some of the best sunsets I’ve seen in Thailand and the coral reefs were extremely colourful for snorkelling. (I’ve yet to dive here!) It’s close to Malaysia so can fill up if there are Thai and Malaysian coinciding holidays. I suggest you book in advance if this could be the case. I stayed at Gypsy Bungalows and loved these basic but cute bungalows with a garden walk to the beach.
Best Thailand Island for: white sand beaches
Things to do on Koh Lipe: Walk around the corner from the main beach to Sunset beach for some of the most impressive sunsets in Thailand
Cheapest way to get to Koh Lipe: Night bus to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat
Fastest way to get to Koh Lipe: Fly to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat
This island can take a long time to get to. I think it’s definitely worth it but don’t try if you’re on limited time.
A lesser known island to both tourists and Thais, this is a rocky, wild island which still feels fairly untouched. However, this is not always a good thing as it was extremely expensive to get to from Koh Phi Phi and once on the island it was difficult to get around. My sister and I stayed at the gorgeous Onlee bungalows – pricier than normal but amazing food as the couple who run it are Thai-French. The stargazing was also incredible and so clear as there is not much light pollution nearby. I recommend settling into a resort as there are limited ways to visit other restaurants and if you want to hire a ‘taxi’ it won’t be at a cheap price.
Best Thailand Island: that people have never heard of
Things to do on Koh Jum: Star gazing
Cheapest way to get to Koh Jum: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry
Fastest way to get to Koh Jum: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island
I’m including Railay in this island section as it is only accessible by boat. (And until very recently I thought it was an island!). Lots of snorkelling day trips stop off here so it can get crowded during peak season (Nov-Dec) but you can jump on boats from Krabi to get here at any point during the day. Limited options at night where the boats can charge a much higher price. Watch dusky langur monkeys climb in nearby trees, hike to the top for a sweaty but great view and visit the Buddhist shrine to the penis. This is one of the best islands in Thailand for outdoor adventures like rock-climbing and hikes to viewpoints.
Things to do on Railay: slip and slide your way up the viewpoint for a pretty view of both beaches
Island Hopping Tip: Many boats arrive on the not so nice beach area so walk through the jungle pathway to reach the prettier beach
Fastest way to get to Railay: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to Ao Nang ferry to island
This is also not an island but as one of the easiest beach destinations to get to from Krabi I thought it was worth a mention. Ao Nang has two long, wide stretches of yellow sand beaches where a lot of long tail boats depart from, making for some pretty photos. It has a lot of choices of accommodation and restaurants and is a good jump off point to go island hopping to the nearby beach of Railay, and National Park island hopping to nearby uninhabited islands like Koh Poda, Koh Hong and many more.
Best Beach Destination for: breaking up the journey to nearby islands
Things to do in Ao Nang: sign up for some rock climbing nearby at Railay
Island Hopping Tip: Wait for the boat to fill up and take a 20 minute long tail boat to Railay when it’s quieter. At night time only private (read expensive) long tail boats will run
Fastest way to get to Ao Nang: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to Ao Nang (approx 100 baht).
Best Thai Islands: The East
Koh Chang has a really chilled back vibe to it, a small party backpacker crowd and some okay diving. This is one of the first islands I travelled to alone and I immediately met backpackers as it has a more intimate feel to it than other islands like Koh Tao or Koh Phi Phi. Lonely Beach is the main backpacker area and White Sand beach is a little more upmarket. I have stayed at a few places but none to rave about. There is also one creepy bartender who has followed a few solo females home so be aware and try to always walk in groups or with someone late at night.
Best Thailand Island for: daytime chilling
Things to do on Koh Chang: enjoy the backpacking party scene
Cheapest way to get to Koh Chang: Big bus or minivan from Ekkamai, Bangkok, songtaew (truck) to the pier then ferry- often a car ferry. You can book your tickets here
Fastest way to get to Koh Chang: Fly to Trat then ferry
Thailand is one of the best destinations in South East Asia for wildlife and nature. There is so much nature to see in Thailand’s jungles, oceans, mountains, national parks and islands. Thailand has such a variety of different natural habitats that you can see wild elephants one day and scuba dive with whale sharks the next.
So, for the best places to see wild animals such as elephants, dolphins, whales, turtles, sharks, whale sharks, monkeys and more, continue reading my Thailand travel blog. I have recommended the best places for wildlife in Thailand, particularly ways to experience wild animals in their natural environment as I believe this is important for respecting the animals and ethical wildlife tourism.
Elephants in Thailand
The top wildlife that you can see in the jungle in Thailand are the wild elephants, in my opinion. Many travellers come to Thailand wanting to see elephants and many tourists end up seeing working elephants at questionable elephant camps where animal abuse can be rife. Luckily, travellers and backpackers are becoming increasingly aware of this elephant abuse and choosing better alternatives to elephant camps. Read here to see why you should never ride an elephant in Thailand. More sanctuaries where elephant riding is banned have opened up for tourists to have an ethical elephant experience. However, the best way to see elephants in Thailand is in their natural habitat, the jungles of Thailand.
Where to see Wild Elephants in Thailand
I think Khao Yao National Park is one of the best places to see wild animals in Thailand and the most common place to encounter wild elephants. They are amazing creatures and despite all the elephant sanctuaries in Thailand (ethical or not?), the jungle is where they truly belong and to have the opportunity to see Asian elephants in the wild, and not in chains or in a camp, is a unique animal experience that I would love more tourists to take advantage of. Paying National Park fees ensures that that protected areas like Khao Yai National Park will remain safe and ethical places to see animals like elephants.
Wildlife Safari in Thailand: See Wild Elephants in Khao Yai National Park
I strongly recommend the ethical wildlife safari called Greenleaf Tours as I thought they were fantastic and they have very knowledgeable guides and will even pick you up from Pak Chong, the town where the minivans from Bangkok arrive.
Want to visit the park independently? You can rent scooters from Pak Chong upon arrival from Bangkok and ride around 15 minutes until you get into the park. Like all National Parks in Thailand, you can camp overnight by renting equipment from the National Park office. Make sure to bring your own food.
Wild Animals in Thailand: Snorkelling with turtles or scuba diving with turtles?
Seeing turtles when snorkelling or diving is definitely possible and you can have a good chance in some areas of Thailand. The island of Koh Tao is named after turtles although I have seen more when scuba diving around Koh Chang, Koh Phi Phi and around the Similan islands. The type of turtles that I have seen most frequently in Thailand are Hawksbill turtles.
Koh Phi Phi Travel Tip: allow more time as the ferry has often taken longer than 2 hours for me.
Wild Animals in Thailand: Scuba Diving with Whale Sharks
The whale shark is the biggest fish in the ocean and are one of the best marine animals to see in Thailand. They are generally spotted around Chumpon Pinnacle near Koh Tao and occasionally around Koh Phangan. Richelieu Rock, above the Similan islands is the dive site where I was lucky enough to see my first one and most divers will tell you this is the best dive site in Thailand for whale shark spotting. Rainy season around Koh Tao and Koh Phangan sometimes brings more in and a few were spotted around June-July of this year (unfortunately not by me!)
Diving Thailand Tip: For dive trips to Richelieu Rock and the Similan islands, take a night bus to Khao Lak and book your diving in centres there. It can get busy so consider contacting a dive centre in advance to ensure your place.
Short answer – yes. There can be dangerous animals in Thailand particularly some species of snake so it it always advisable to enter national parks with a tour guide or stay on allocated paths when trekking in Thailand.
Dangerous Animals in Thailand: Monitor Lizards
These enormous monitor lizards can be found all over Thailand and even in Bangkok. They can grow up to a couple of metres. We regularly see them in Bangkok’s parks and have a good look when crossing over any canal as you can often see them swimming (and not what I thought was a crocodile on first glance!). They eat small birds and can climb trees. Despite many locals nonchalant attitude towards these massive lizards, they are actually extremely dangerous and their bite can be fatal to humans so do not approach them. If you want to see monitor lizards then visit Lumpini Park in Bangkok. It is home to many monitor lizards who are used to people wandering around the park and co-existing with us.
Thailand Wild Animal Fact: The nickname for a monitor lizard is an extremely rude swear word in the Thai language.
Where to see monkeys in Thailand?
There are monkeys all over Thailand and they range from shy to over-friendly with tourists depending om how they are treated in that area. In the National Parks they are treated as a wild animal and the monkeys are extremely shy and will steer clear of humans, whereas on crowded tourist islands like Monkey Beach in Koh Phi Phi, the monkeys are fed by people and therefore associate people with food and can be aggressive.
Wild Animals in Thailand: Monkeys
Thailand has a variety of different species of monkey. Macaques are probably the most common monkey that you can see on the mainland and also on some of the islands. They live in huge families so often where this is one, there are lots more. I love seeing them in Khao Yai National Park as they are still a respectful distance away from humans, whereas places like Lopburi you can see them but they can be aggressive and often steal items from visitors. I also heard some good advice once which was not to smile at monkeys – they see the act of baring your teeth as a threat.
Dusky Langur Monkeys – These monkeys are fairly rare but can be seen in various places around Thailand. I have personally seen them in Khao Sok National Park, Railay beach and Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.
Thailand Animal Abuse: Be aware that monkeys should be in the wild and never pay for a photo with a ‘pet’ monkey as monkeys are treated as a tourist attraction. They often have their teeth removed, are wearing nappies and on chains. Read here for more things to avoid doing in Thailand
Wild Gibbons in Thailand
Gibbons are one of my favourite animals to spot and to hear in Thailand. You can often hear their distinct voices but catching a glimpse of these tree-top dwellers is more difficult. You can often hear gibbons calling to each other at dawn and dusk. After watching a documentary on them I discovered that when they mate for life, their mating calls develop and become more complex and have a wider range as years go by. I’ve spotted these in a few different national parks around the country such as in Khao Yai National Park and Khao Sok National Park.
Marine Life in Thailand: What sea animals are there in Thailand?
Thailand is home to a huge range of marine animals and it is the best destination to learn to scuba dive because of the cheap cost of open water courses. Thailand is home to the rare pink dolphin as well as spinner dolphins, whale sharks, manta rays and passing Bryde whales in season.
Wild Animals in Thailand: Spot Wild Dolphins in the Sea
Dolphins will always remain an amazing animal to me, no matter how many times I go dolphin spotting and I love seeing them when I am not even expecting to. I was told that on boat trips to Koh Similan, dolphins were spotted on average twice a week during dry season (October-May). I have recently been to Nakhon SI Thammarat to go pink dolphin watching which was an incredible experience, read about how and where to see pink dolphins in Thailand here.
Wild Animals in Thailand: Go Whale Watching in Thailand
During the months of August-November, huge Bryde whales migrate to Thailand to feast on anchovies in the Gulf of Thailand. I went last year and was lucky enough to see around 5 whales including a mother and calf and they even swam around our boat while we were having lunch. I did the day trip from Bangkok with Wild Encounters who were very professional, extremely knowledgeable and answered all of my many questions about whales.
Dive and Snorkel with Sharks around Thailand
If you are a shark lover then definitely consider a shark watching trip either diving or snorkelling. Thailand is a great destination for budget dives and a high chance of seeing a variety of sharks. I have seen sharks around Koh Phi Phi and diving the Ao Nang islands near Krabi. I’ve spotted black tip reef sharks, bamboo sharks and once I was lucky enough to see a 3 metre leopard shark while diving in Koh Phi Phi. Thailand doesn’t have any dangerous sharks and some people think you have more chance of seeing them snorkelling than diving as the bubbles can scare them away. Some dive centres like the Adventure Club on Koh Phi Phi have a specific shark watching trip that I plan to try out in the future.
Many people often ask me about how to travel around Thailand Bangkok, also known as the gateway to South East Asia, has amazing connections to almost everywhere in the country and indeed the rest of Asia. Flights, buses, trains and minivans connect this big bad city to the world beyond Bangkok. Read on to find out the lowdown about each type of transport around Thailand, where to catch them from, how to get there and approximate prices:
Travel Around Thailand by: Trains
Travelling by train is of my favourite ways to travel in Thailand. Super slow, extremely noisy but lots of fun, sociable and a more local way. You can take the night train all the way up to Chiang Mai (12 hours +) and down to Chumpon/Surathani (for islands in the Gulf). The night trains usually cost around 500-800 baht. You get given a seat and later in the evening a helpful Thai guy comes around and converts your seat into a bed! You get a sheet, a light blanket and a pillow in Second Class sleeper – air-con is cold so take warmer clothes! I recommend booking lower berths for a better night’s sleep and take advantage of the food lady bringing you a cuppa in the morning. Be warned, trains are often delayed and arrive late so only bother if you are ready for a slow pace of life (and you save on accommodation). Other options are taking a day trip to Ayutthaya or Kanchanaburi both a couple of hours from Bangkok. Travelling 3rd class is about 20 baht and you must book at the station if you don’t want agency fees tacked on. Go straight to the ticket office window and ignore the touts who approach you! You can now get boat and train tickets combined to the Gulf islands. Hualampong Station is near Chinatown, not far from Khao San.
A really handy and useful way to travel around, night buses depart from 4 main areas in Bangkok. Mochit 2 (in the north), Ekkamai (in the east and on the BTS skytrain line), Sai tai mai (southern bus terminal) slightly further out and across the river and Khao San Tourist Buses. VIP and First class buses have slightly unpleasant smelling toilets, fairly comfy reclining seats and you are handed a blanket, water and bread bun on climbing into the bus. I often use night buses to head to places like Krabi/Phuket/Khao Lak as the train line doesn’t extend to the Andaman side. Some buses will play LOUD Thai TV so take ear plugs, an eye mask and socks if you get cold sitting in aircon. Read my essential South East Asia backpacking list here for more useful items for travelling…
The fast and furious version of Thai travel. These minivans head to the nearby provinces around Bangkok (2-5 hours away) generally speaking. They are cheap and the fastest way to get to places close to Bangkok and slightly further away. I use them for heading to Bangkok’s nearby islands and national parks. Fees normally cost between 180-220 baht. They stop regularly for toilet and snack breaks and when at a gas station everyone is expected to get out and stretch their legs while refuelling. Up until recently all vans went from Victory Monument but now they have been re-routed to go from different areas of Bangkok depending on their final destination. To go North, most go from Mochit 2, East from Ekkamai Bus Terminal, South from Sai Tai Mai Southern Bus Terminal and some do still go from Victory. Try to avoid the seats in the back as these are the least comfortable.
Travel Around Thailand by: Flights
You can find dirt cheap flights to places if you book slightly in advance. I rarely pay more than 1000 baht for a flight and there are promo deals for 700 baht with Nok Air and Airasia to airports such as Phuket/Krabi/Surathani/Chiang Mai. If you are heading to the Andaman islands I’d suggest flying to Krabi just to avoid the expensive taxis in Phuket as there is a reasonably priced airport bus to Ao Nang (Krabi’s beach) and for the piers to the islands to get to Koh Phi Phi/ Koh Lanta. For the Gulf Islands like Koh Tao, Koh Phangan or Koh Samui if you would like to keep things cheap then I suggest flying to Surat thani and taking the ferry as flying to the airport on Koh Samui is generally much more expensive.
Most cheap flights go from Don Mueang airport which is served by various buses:
from Victory Monument or Mochit/Chatachak you can take the A1/A2 bus for 30 baht
for Khao San take the A4 bus.
Airasia and Nok Air are generally the cheapest domestic airlines in my experience. Thai smile can also offer great deals. Nok Air are more recently appearing on skyscanner – I always use this website to compare the most recent prices.
Travel Around Thailand by: Taxis
Taking taxis is Thailand can differ massively depending on the area you are staying in.
Taxis in Bangkok
Bangkok has the cheapest taxis when they will travel by meter. It is technically illegal for taxi drivers to charge otherwise but many will try because they know we are tourists and they earn very little and have been refused multiple pay rises in the past by the Thai government. Meter taxis in Bangkok start at 35 baht and go up incredible slowly. For most places in Bangkok you should never need to pay more than 200-300 baht and if you want the fastest route ask for the ‘highway’ which are the toll roads – the passenger is expected to pay. Both airports have a taxi surcharge of 50 baht which the passenger will pay on top of the meter.
Taxis Outside of Bangkok
Taxis outside of Bangkok will rarely go on the meter (never for me in 3 years of living here anyway!). In places like Phuket, taxis can be very expensive so I recommend using minivan shuttle services or buses to keep transport cheaper.
Travel Around Thailand by: Tuktuk
Tuktuks are fun, noisy and many see travelling in them as a tourist attraction. This means that their prices are often very steep so bargain hard if you are in a tourist area and don’t expect to get anywhere particularly fast. I strongly recommend avoiding at rush hour times as sitting in traffic is bearable if you are in a A/C taxi but not so much in hot and sticky tuktuk surrounded by traffic fumes.
Travel Around Thailand by: Motorcycle Taxis
Motorcycle taxis are generally not for the faint-hearted, my sister has still never forgiven me for making her go on one. They drive extremely fast, occasionally on the other side of the road, and will rarely, if ever, give you a helmet. Having said that, they are a very efficient way of getting from A-B and avoiding being stuck in traffic and can be cheaper than taxis in places like Bangkok for short journeys. Check the price before getting on one, most places in Bangkok have fixed prices anyway.
Travel Around Thailand by: Motorcycle Hire
Another hair-raising idea for some, hiring motorcycles is a fantastic way of getting around quieter areas of Thailand, whether it’s the North, National Parks or certain islands. It’s cheap, easy and gives you a lot of freedom. Beware motorcycle scams, incompetent drivers and drunk/drug drivers when on party islands such as Koh Phi Phi or Koh Phangan.
How to Travel Around Thailand by: Boat
There are various types of boat in Thailand and if you’re here visiting for a while you will probably get on a few of them. There are the noisy, wooden, long tail boats which are often use for island hopping day trips as well as slightly more expensive speed boats (which in my opinion are not always comfier!). For travel from the mainland to the islands there are a range of ferries, car ferries and even small flat boats mainly holding motorcycles. The Lomprayah service is usually the fastest for getting to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui). Most ferries take a couple of hours and cost anywhere between 300-500 baht. Book your buses and ferries together for a smoother experience, through this website for great discounts…
Travel Blog about Thailand, South East Asia & the Maldives