Tag Archives: islands

How to Choose a Thai Island

Please note: this Thailand travel blog has been updated since the global pandemic as I moved back to Bangkok, Thailand in 2021 and I'm travelling Thailand in 2022 onwards.
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. If you make a booking, I may receive a small 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 stay on all of the Thailand islands.

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 pick Thai islands to visit on the same trip as they often have good transport links between them to make island hopping around Thailand accessible. Please note some ferry schedules are reduced as a result of the covid pandemic.

Here is a summary of all the ones I’ve been to so far and some brief information to help you decide how to choose a Thai sland 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 according to their locations which should give you an idea for the best island hopping routes in Thailand. 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 Thailand to Visit – The Gulf of Thailand

How to choose a Thai island – Koh Tao, Thailand

Koh Tao Thailand Islands
Learning to dive on Koh Tao

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 and many others choose to get scuba qualified in Thailand as it’s so cheap. 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.

Best Thailand island for: learning to dive. Once you learn to dive, head to some of these places for the best dive sites in Thailand

Things to do on Koh Tao: get PADI certified for your Open Water dive course or advanced. Check out beautiful viewpoints and quiet beaches.

Cheapest way to get to Koh Tao: Sleeper train/night bus to Chumpon and then ferry. You can book tickets here

Fastest way to get to Koh Tao: Fly to Chumpon/Surat thani, bus to pier and take the ferry. Lomprayah have the fastest service. Alternative is to fly to Koh Samui and take a ferry from there.

Book your transport here with this useful website. The more you book the cheaper the tickets become…

How to pick Thai islands – Koh Phangan 

bottle beach 2
Bottle Beach on Koh Phangan

Home to the infamous Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan is one of the best party islands in Thailand. Even if you are visiting Koh Phangan island not during a full moon party, then there are other party events happening. If you’re interested in party islands and attending the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, then read my Full Moon Party blog post – I should know, I’ve been to 5 full moon parties in Koh Phangan.

Koh Phangan is not just a Thailand party island, it’s actually one of my favourite islands in Thailand. The North of Koh Phangan is tranquil, green and has some of the best quiet beaches in Thailand including Bottle Beach in Koh Phangan.

Scuba diving in Koh Phangan can be great although visibility is unpredictable. Sail Rock Koh Tao is one of Koh Phangan’s famous dive sites (actually found between Koh Tao and Koh Phangan) and whale sharks can be spotted here  fairly regularly so I hope you’re feeling lucky (I haven’t been lucky…yet!). I love staying in the best accommodation in these cute Koh Phangan bungalows, 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.

A budget Koh Phangan accommodation was these 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.

Best Thailand island for partying: 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

Best things to do on Koh Phangan: Party and the chill out on Bottle Beach (one of my favourites), party or go scuba diving.

Read more about Thailand’s quiet beaches here

Cheapest way to get to Koh Phangan Sleeper train/night bus to Chumpon and then ferry

Fastest way to get to Koh Phangan: Fly to Chumpon /Surat thani/Koh Samui and take the ferry. Lomprayah have the fastest service.

How to Choose Thai islands: Koh Samui

Koh Samui Thailand Islands
Koh Samui during an island day tour I took to see temples, beaches, monkeys and waterfalls

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 Koh Tao or Koh Phangan.  That said, if you are on limited time it is one of only two island that you can fly direct from Bangkok to Koh Samui (the other being Phuket).

I stayed in the luxury Koh Samui accommodation at Lamai Wanta Beach Resort (courtesy of my generous aunt who took my sister and I there).

For a budget Koh Samui accommodation,  stay in these Koh Samui bungalows: New Hut Bungalows and recommended them to me. They look like a great photo opportunity too!

Why are flight so expensive from Bangkok to Koh Samui?

The airport in Koh Samui is owned by Bangkok Airways so the flights will always be expensive compared to Thailand’s budget airlines. 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 families: luxury resorts, families and couples

Best things to do on Koh Samui: an all round island tour including temples and waterfall visits

Cheapest way to get to Koh Samui: Sleeper train/night bus to Surat thani, bus to pier and then ferry. You can buy all inclusive tickets from this website

Fastest way to get to Koh Samui: Fly direct from Bangkok

Koh Phangan vs Koh Tao

I would personally go for Koh Phangan because of the nature, the option to party or stay in a quiet Koh Phangan beach and it’s a bigger island so more to explore.

Best Andaman Sea Islands Thailand

How to choose a Thai island – Phuket

 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 avoid unless I am looking for a party island in Thailand. 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 budget hostel,  accommodation in Kata and Karon beach. It was about 4 minute walk to the surfing beach, was good value and they had really nice facilities.

Last time I visited Kata Phuket I stayed at this lovely accommodation right between Kata and Karon beach. I would definitely recommend and I would stay there again. It had a gorgeous rooftop pool and was really conveniently located. Click on the image to check the cost of Phuket accommodation here:

Best Things to do in Phuket:  some of the best surfing in Thailand is in Phuket (and top surfing spots on Khao Lak as well).  If you are looking for beginner waves in Thailand, then you can hire a surf instructor and you get the board included for the rest of the day (the best season in Thailand for surfing is during rainy season from July-September)

The cheapest way to get to Phuket from Bangkok:  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 cost of transport in Phuket: songtaew 20 baht.

Fastest way to get to Phuket from Bangkok: Fly to Phuket from Bangkok or international airports and take the local bus further south.

Best Andaman Sea Islands Thailand – Koh Yao Noi

koh yao noi thailand islands
Stunning Views of Phangna Bay from Koh Nok, a small island I kayaked to from Koh Yao Noi

This island has really chilled out vibes and zero party scene. Koh Yao Noi is one of the quietest islands in Thailand. It felt like Thailand 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 Koh Yao Noi accommodation that 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. It also had lots of cats!

For a luxury stay on Koh Yao Noi – stay at Six Senses. We went there for some cocktails and it’s a gorgeous luxury Thailand resort.

Best Thailand Island for a hidden gem in Thailand : non-touristy islands in Thailand

Best things to do in Koh Yao Noi:  Kayak around Phangna Bay, stop on unihabited paradise islands and find secret viewpoints in Thailand

Cheapest way to get to Koh Yao Noi from Bangkok: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then long tail boat. Book tickets on this useful website

Fastest way to get to Koh Yao Noi from Bangkok: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, speedboat to island.

Best Andaman Sea Islands Thailand – Koh Phi Phi

Scuba diving in Koh Phi Phi with the famous Maya Bay beach behind me

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. Even post covid pandemic, this is one of the best partying islands in Thailand.

That said, I really enjoyed my last visit to Koh Phi Phi in 2022 because I spent most of my time on a boat scuba diving some of the best dive spots in Thailand.

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 fire shows. I personally feel they are the best fire shows in Thailand.

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 it’s a Thailand island with no cars, definitely a bonus if you’re living in Bangkok and sick of traffic jams.

Best Thailand island for partying and best Thailand islands for scuba diving: parties and beautiful beaches combined with a beautiful marine national park for scuba diving

Top things to do in Koh Phi Phi:  An island hopping trip to nearby islands, the famous Maya Bay from ‘The Beach’, scuba diving around Koh Phi Phi Ley and the wreck dive

Cheapest way to get to Koh Phi Phi from Bangkok: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry. Book all your tickets together here

Fastest way to get to Koh Phi Phi from Bangkok: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island

Scuba Diving Tips Thailand: Dive with Blue View Divers. I had a great time with them, they’ve got a big dive boat and I loved diving with Jaa, a female Thai divemaster.

Best Andaman Sea Islands – Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta Thailand Islands
Lunchtime with a view!

Serene and stunning, this is one of the quietest islands in Thailand and probably the best beach in Thailand. 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 Resort which was incredible. It has a great view (so a short walk uphill), an infinity pool and monkeys who come and visit your balcony. Click the Agoda link to see how much Koh Lanta accommodation costs:

Best Quiet Island in Thailand: best island for relaxing, couples, families

Best Things to do in Koh Lanta:  The 4 Island Hopping Trip, hanging out on the best beach in Thailand , Kantiang Beach

Cheapest way to get to Koh Lanta from Bangkok: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry. Tickets can be booked via this website, including ferries

Fastest way to get to Koh Lanta from Bangkok: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island

Best Andaman Sea Islands Thailand – Koh Lipe

koh lipe
Mango smoothies and banana pancakes breakfast on the beach! Yes please!

Koh Lipe is one of my favourite islands. It is paradise and is home to white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, beautiful coral reefs and less tourists than many others.  It also had some of the best sunsets I’ve seen in Thailand and the coral reefs were extremely colourful for snorkelling and it is the best diving in Thailand. 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.

I love Koh Lipe so much I wrote a whole blog post about it which I am continually updating every time I visit (once in 2021 and once in 2022).

Check out my full Koh Lipe Guide here

Best Thailand Island for scuba diving: Koh Lipe dive sites are the best dive sites in Thailand!

Best 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 from Bangkok: Night bus to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat

Fastest way to get to Koh Lipe from Bangkok: 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.

Best Andaman Sea Islands Thailand – Koh Jum

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A complete hidden gem in Thailand, Koh Jum is 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 with 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

Best things to do on Koh Jum: Star gazing, eating, relaxing at a beautiful resort

Cheapest way to get to Koh Jum from Bangkok: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry

Fastest way to get to Koh Jum from Bangkok: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island

Best Thailand beaches in the Andaman – Railay

Railay Beach Thailand Islands
Swimming around limestone karsts in Railay

I’m including Railay in this island section as it is only accessible by boat and therefore many people think Railay is a Thailand 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.

Best things to do on Railay: slip and slide your way up the viewpoint for a pretty view of both beaches, go into the huge bat cave and experience rock climbing and abseiling

Thailand Island Hopping Tip: Many boats arrive on the not so nice beach area so walk through the jungle pathway to reach the prettier beach

Cheapest way to get to Railay from Bangkok: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to Ao Nang and then longtail boat. Book your bus tickets here now. 

Fastest way to get to Railay from Bangkok: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to Ao Nang ferry to island

Best Andaman Sea Destinations: Ao Nang

Aonang Krabi is also not an island but it’s the easiest beach destination to get to in Krabi. 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 a weekend getaway from Bangkok: for having as a base to explore Railay, the national parks and to scuba dive the local Aonang islands

Best things to do in Ao Nang: sign up for some rock climbing nearby at Railay, go into the impressive bat cave, explore national parks and the emerald lagoon, go scuba diving

Thailand 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 long tail boats run which are more expensive. A shared boat is 200 baht return (at the time of writing in 2022).

Cheapest way to get to Ao Nang from Bangkok: Night bus to Krabi, local songtaew from bus station to Ao Nang  Book your night bus tickets here now. 

Fastest way to get to Ao Nang from Bangkok: Fly to Krabi, minivan from the airport to Ao Nang (approx 150 baht), no need to book the minivan in advance and they will drop you at your hotel. You will see the minivan tour operator as you exit the airport in the terminal.

Best Thai Islands: East Coast of Thailand

How to pick Thai island – Koh Chang

koh chang Thailand Islands
Lonely Beach in Koh Chang

Koh Chang has a really chilled back vibe to it, a small party backpacker crowd and some decent 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 from Bangkok: 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 from Bangkok: Fly to Trat then ferry

How to pick a Thai island – East Coast of Thailand – Koh Mak

Photo of the best bar in koh mak
Sunsets from Blue Pearl Bar Koh Mak

A lovely relaxing Thailand island near Koh Chang. I spent 4 days here and absolutely loved it and I wrote a full Koh Mak island guide here. It’s one of Thailand’s quietest islands and it has the best pier with a bar at the end of it. The dive sites were also enjoyable! Rent a bicycle or motorbike and explore the small island.

Best Thailand Island for: relaxing with a spot of scuba diving

Best things to do on Koh Mak: hang out at the bar at the end of the pier, cycle around the island, go scuba diving

Cheapest way to get to Koh Mak from Bangkok: Big bus or minivan from Ekkamai, Bangkok, songtaew (truck) to the pier then ferry. You can book your tickets here

Fastest way to get to Koh Mak from Bangkok: Fly to Trat, then transfer to the pier, then ferry

How to pick a Thai island – East Coast of Thailand – Koh Kood or Koh Kut

Dancing along one of Koh Kood’s beautiful beaches

Another contender for the best quiet islands in Thailand, Koh Kood has gorgeous white sand beaches, lovely range of accommodation and some great restaurants. Having stayed there in 2022, I wrote a full Koh kood guide and review here. I love staying at these gorgeous bungalows a short walk or even shorter motorbike drive to the closest beaches. Click on the bungalow to compare Koh Kood hotel accommodation prices on Agoda

Best East Coast of Thailand Island for: relaxing with a spot of scuba diving

Best things to do on Koh Kood: exploring by motorbike, visiting different beautiful beaches, going to a waterfall

Cheapest way to get to Koh Kood from Bangkok: Big bus or minivan from Ekkamai, Bangkok, songtaew (truck) to the pier then ferry. You can book your tickets here

Fastest way to get to Koh Kood from Bangkok: Fly to Trat then transfer then ferry.

Best luxury resort in Koh Kood is Soneva who fly their guests into Koh Kood itself, click on the image below to check out Soneva Kiri on Agoda:

Read here for Bangkok’s closest islands and beaches 

More islands information about Koh Similan, one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands can be found here

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Best Thailand Islands Guide

Thailand: Most Beautiful Destinations

These are my top 6 most beautiful destinations in Thailand…that I’ve been  to so far! Even after three years here I am still discovering so much…

Koh Similan

This group of white sand islands are found off the West Coast of Thailand, about 2 hours by speedboat. You can only visit during dry season (end of Oct-end of April) and try camping through the National Park to avoid the day tripper crowds!

Thailand Beautiful destinations beaches islands
Viewpoint on Similan 4, steep hike to the top but it was worth it!

Khao Sok National Park

Stay the night on floating bungalows on a blue lake surrounded by jungle. Kayak around spotting monkeys and wake up to the sound of gibbons. About 2 hours North of Krabi, try staying at a Tree House before heading for an overnight on the lake! You are given a guide as part of the tour who will help you to spot gibbons, eagles, dusky langur monkeys and even the rare elephant!

Thailand beautiful destinations nature
Kayaking with my Dad around the lake after sleeping in floating bungalows

 

Koh Lipe

One of the beaches with the whitest sand and the clearest water I’ve seen! The snorkelling was beautiful with lovely corals too. The main beach is stunning but be warned, they do have a litter problem because of the tides so walk around to the sunset beach and unfortunately you will find rubbish lying around. The sunsets are some of the best in the country!

Thailand beautiful destinations islands sunset
Sunsets in Koh Lipe, Thailand

Erawan Waterfalls, near Kanchanaburi

A 9 step waterfall found inside Erawan National Park, it’s worth the hike up to the uppermost step! Spend the day swimming in pools of stunning turquoise water. Ignore the ‘no food/drink’ sign and head to to one of the higher steps to avoid too many people. I suggest a week day visit for this place as it is very popular with Thai tourists.

Thailand waterfall destination
Swimming at the top step of the Erawan Waterfalls, Thailand

Phu Chi Fah

A little known place up in the mountains between the border of Laos and Thailand, you can take a motorbike to the top and watch the sunrise while hanging out on the border of two countries! I think having your own transport would be necessary for here and be prepared to find very few foreigners around.

thailand beautiful destinations mountains north
Phu Chi Fah, sunrise viewpoint in between Laos and Thailand

Do you agree? Any other places you think should be on my list? Here is my list for islands only! 

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

A new favourite of mine to visit! About 3-4 hours by minivan from Bangkok is Prachuap Kiri Khan Province. Inside the province are majestic limestone mountains known as Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, translated as Mountain of 300 peaks. Rent a scooter and ride around to beautiful beaches, explore caves and viewpoints and check out empty beaches!

thailand most beautiful destinations
Khao Daeng Viewpoint, Thailand National Park Destinations

 

 

 

Best Weekend Getaways from Bangkok

Staying or living in Thailand and looking for the best weekend getaways from Bangkok? After living in Bangkok twice, both pre-covid and post covid I have visited many destinations near Bangkok and have done a lot of weekend trips outside of Bangkok.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a booking I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Most Thailand visitors find themselves in Bangkok at some point during their trip. I find many people have a love/hate relationship with Bangkok and it’s my mission to try to convert tourists to loving this crazy city that I call home. If you love the beach, nature or history, read this Bangkok blog to find out where to visit for a weekend trip outside Bangkok.

Khao Yai National Park

One of my favourite short trips from Bangkok is to spend the weekend in the jungle. Khao Yai National Park is one of Thailand’s oldest national parks. If you love nature and the wilderness then, this is the best weekend trip from Bangkok. It takes approximately 2 hours to travel there from Bangkok. You can see wild elephants, monkeys, gibbons, snakes, porcupines, deer and many more inside Khao Yai National Park.

My top recommendations are to book a jungle day trip with Greenleaf Tours, who have awesome, knowledgeable tour guides and I have been with many times before.

The best budget place to stay near Khao Yai is Wynnhouse. I stayed here in 2022 and it was fairly accessible to head into the park from there although there are not that many restaurants around.

If you love camping, consider camping overnight in the park by renting motorbikes and heading into the park independently.

Please note there is a National Park entrance fee of 400 baht. Once you have entered you will be required to pay again if you leave and re-enter but not if you camp overnight (information accurate at time of writing in 2022)

How to get to Khao Yai National Park from Bangkok: Minivans from Ekkamai take about 2/3 hours and will drop you in Pak Chong.

Read here for more information about Thailand’s National Parks

Bangkok day trips
Get back to nature and spot wildlife in Khao Yai!

Best weekend getaways from Bangkok: Koh Samet

Koh Samet is one of the nearest islands to Bangkok and is therefore very popular with Bangkok residents. It has some lovely white sand beaches, particularly Ao Prao beach which boasts clear, turquoise water. At the weekends, it can become crowded and turns into more of a party island although it hasn’t yet returned to its pre-covid party glory.

I have stayed at two fantastic mid-range accommodation in Koh Samet and would recommend both. Pre-covid I stayed at the lovely Tubtim Resort which has spacious wooden bungalows bang on the beach, with green lily pads growing everywhere.

In 2021, post covid I enjoyed a very quiet beach on Koh Samet and loved staying at Silver Sands Koh Samet. 

How to get to Koh Samet from Bangkok?

Take a minivan ride to Rayong from Bangkok and then either take the local ferry or a shared speedboat. Both can be booked  when you arrive at the pier. Please note these boats do not run into the late evening.

Bangkok day trips
Koh Samet – Bangkok’s famous weekend trip island getaway

Weekend Trips from Bangkok to Lopburi

A few hours on the train from Bangkok (costing approximately 40 baht) you can find yourself in the ancient city of Lopburi, famous for its monkeys and temples. It’s all slightly off the tourist trail which might be a welcome sight for many. I recommend collecting a map of the different temples from the temple opposite the station and deciding on where to visit. All temples that I visited were walkable and there are certain ones that are home to huge families of macaques. Please be aware of not feeding the monkeys any food that is not natural for them. They also will grab your sunglasses or anything else in range so be careful.

If you feel like renting a scooter then you can access the gorgeous sunflower fields (seasonal around November- January) and the Peacock temple is worth a visit as well. Along with the birds there is also a great viewpoint if you feel like some exercise up many stairs.

lopburi bangkok day trip

lopburi bangkok day trip
Monkeys in one of Lopburi’s temples
Whale Watching (seasonal Aug-Nov)

Only two hours from Bangkok, the enormous Bryde whales can be seen! Entering the Gulf of Thailand to feed on anchovies these gentle giants are incredible and one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in Thailand. Wildlife Encounters Thailand offer weekly trips for 2500 baht including transfer from Bangkok and lunch on the boat. An amazing day out and still possible post covid in 2022.

I have recently been on this trip twice to see both the Bryde whales and Irawaddy dolphins in Thailand and absolutely love this day trip from Bangkok.

I have a whole blog post dedicated to whale watching in Thailand so please read here for more information about seeing whales near Bangkok!

For more about other wildlife in Thailand, read this article

Bangkok day trips
A Bangkok day trip that was a whale of a time!

 

Another island near Bangkok: Koh Lan

One of my favourite weekend getaways from Bangkok is Koh Lan which is an island just off of Pattaya. Cheap accommodation and a couple of beautiful white sand beaches are there to welcome you. This used to get very busy (pre-covid) with huge tour groups. Jump in a songtaew (truck) or motorsi taxi for 20-30 baht and spend the day exploring lesser known beaches and taking in great views of the island! I really enjoyed my stay at Castello resort, it’s walkable to the pier. However, my last weekend trip top Koh Lan was pre-covid so I am looking forward to a Bangkok weekend getaway there soon!

Find out more about Thailand’s paradise islands and where to visit

Bangkok day trips
Monks on a beach in Koh Lan, Thailand. A lovely Bangkok weekend trip
A weekend trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya

An interesting and cultural Bangkok day trip or weekend trip to experience some Thai history. Head to this ancient temple town, one hour by train or minivan from Bangkok. Rent bicycles cheaply and enjoy cycling around and soaking in the culture of these ancient temples and a former capital of Siam. Don’t forget to try my favourite dessert roti sai mai – kinda like a rolled up candyfloss.

Bangkok day trips
The ideal cultural Bangkok day trip: explore the ruins of Ayutthaya
Best Weekend Trips from Bangkok: Kanchanaburi

If you are interested in World War II history, then Kanchanaburi is a must visit as a weekend or slightly longer trip from Bangkok. Tourists come here to see the bridge over the River Kwai and understand more about the dark history of this area where prisoners of war were held by the Japanese during World War II. It is quite far for a Bangkok day trip but I have done it before in one day. I recommend staying one night though. Two hours by car/minivan or a little longer on the train.

Weekend Trips from Bangkok to Erawan Waterfall

You can combine this with a Bangkok day trip or overnight stay from Kanchanaburi. Visit these stunning, blue coloured waterfalls with 9 steps inside Erawan National Park. Around 45 minutes by car from Kanchanaburi, bring a picnic and spend the afternoon swimming in stunning pools, cliff jumping and getting back to nature.

Bangkok day trips
Bangkok Day trips: Swimming in blue waterfalls in Erawan National Park
Beaches near Bangkok – Hua Hin

One of Bangkok’s nearest beaches and very big for kite surfing, this is definitely possible as a Bangkok day trip or weekend getaway. A large stretch of yellow sand beach for hanging out on and a wide range of accommodation is on offer here. Swimming is not always recommended as there are jellyfish lurking! Cha-am is another beach stop just before Hua Hin. You can take minivans or the slow train to either place from Bangkok.

Bangkok day trips
View of Hua Hin from Takiap Beach, a good Bangkok day trip or weekend visit.
Bangkok Weekend Trips: Water Park

Water parks are a great Bangkok day trip and a fun day out. There are many both towards Pattaya or towards Hua Hin. I loved Splashdown, near Pattaya. It is more of an inflatable obstacle course, this brightly coloured water park will have you and your mates running around behaving like big kids, plus a few beers!

Bangkok day trips
Big Kids Day out in Splashdown – funnily enough no-one made it all the way across these giant floating obstacle courses!

Where are your favourite places for a Bangkok weekend getaway? I’m always looking for more inspiration!

Thailand: Top 10 Adventures and Activities!

Visiting Thailand? Here are the top 10 adventures and activities that you can do here, written by someone who lives here! Thailand has so much to offer, especially when you dig a little deeper than just the beach parties and Khao San Road in Bangkok!

1. Visit an Elephant Sanctuary. One that rescues elephants and offers no riding! (Hug Elephant Sanctuary I strongly recommend!) Read more here about why you shouldn’t ride elephants and how you can support ethical animal placesReasons to visit Thailand

2. Go to the jungle – Khao Yao National Park is one of my favourite places to visit for activities and adventures like hiking, jungle treks, camping and wildlife spotting. Read more here about Khao Yai and other places near to Bangkok to visit

activities and adventures Thailand
I was lucky enough to spot three wild elephants in Khao Yai National Park. This was an alone adult male.

Or if you want to venture slightly off the beaten track then read my post here about the activities you can do in Thailand’s amazing National Parks

3. Party on a paradise island like Koh Phi Phi or if timings work out head to Koh Phangan for the world famous Full Moon Party…read here for advice for the Full Moon… I should know I’ve been to 5!

adventures activities Thailand
Enjoy beautiful beaches in Koh Lipe

4. Visit a Bangkok skybar, avoid the incredibly expensive Lebua Sirocco Tower and head to Vertigo or Octave instead. Just as impressive a view and (slightly) more purse friendly.

activities and adventures Thailand

 

5. Go market shopping at Chatachak Weekend market. It’s open Saturday and Sunday and has probably everything you will ever need to buy in your life. Haggle with a smile and be open to getting lost in the middle (items tend to be cheaper there than around the road on the outside).

6. Activities to have to include visiting at least one Buddhist temple. In Bangkok, I love Wat Pho with it’s huge golden reclining Buddha and colourful stupas. Read here for more Bangkok adventures and activities (I live here!) or if you are heading to Northern Thailand like Chiang Mai then do not miss the White Temple in Chiang Rai, it’s a stunning sight to see.

adventures activities Thailand
White Temple in Chiang Rai

7. Eat Thai food. Street food, mango smoothies, desserts, the list goes on. Be adventurous and try some new dishes, sometimes in pays off

adventures activities Thailand
Just not when you’re drunkenly trying scorpions on Khao San Road in Bangkok…

8. Snorkelling Trips are an absolute must do activity. The coral and the fish are worth seeing in all their colours and they trips are great value for money, often full days including a pretty island spot for lunch too. Beware that national park fees will be added in some places so check when you book the tour.

adventures activities Thailand
Snorkelling in Koh Chang

9. Try scuba diving for the first time. Koh Tao, while not the beauty that it once was for diving, is still one of the cheapest places in the world to get qualified as an Open Water diver with PADI or SSI. Be warned, once you start you will be spending all your money on diving around the world in the future. If you’re already qualified or keen to do more then read about the best dive spots in Thailand here

adventures activities Thailand
Dive around tropical coral reefs

10. Get exploring Thailand by island hopping around 100s of islands. Take ferries or kayaks and enjoy anything from party islands to tranquil and deserted spots all around Thailand’s coastline. For (almost) all island summaries check out my blog post on Thailand’s Best Islands here. 

adventures activities Thailand
Beaches on Koh Phangan
Top 3 Things to Enjoy your Adventures and Activities in Thailand
      1. GoPro HERO4 BLACK Never miss a moment above or under the water with a Gopro. I’m obsessed with mine and love the results it produces, particularly diving and snorkelling shots
      2. A bag like this Dry Bag (Green, 5L) to keep all your valuables dry on boats and in monsoon season. Also it generally keeps things sand free too!
      3.  Don’t forget your mosquito spray. I’ve yet to find strong repellent in Thailand so recommend buying in advanvce from somewhere like Amazon Repel 40-Percent DEET

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Adventures Activities Thailand

How to Travel Around Thailand

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.

Check out this website for every trip you book you get more of a discount and if there are more people the fares get cheaper too! Most buses from here depart from Khao San area which saves on travel and traffic time of getting to Bangkok’s bus stations that are further out.

 

Travel Around Thailand by: Night buses

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…

Travel Around Thailand by: Minivans

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.

How To Travel Around Thailand by taxis
The view from my window, multicoloured taxis in Bangkok
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.

Travel Around Thailand by motorbike
One Way to Travel Around Thailand: Feeling the Fear and Doing it Anyway
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…

how to travel in Thailand by boat
The pier on Koh Phi Phi for ferries and longtail boats