Tag Archives: southeastasia

Best Islands Thailand : Thailand Island Hopping & Thailand Island Travel Guide

Please note: this Thailand island hopping blog has been updated since the global pandemic.
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 visit, and even more uninhabited desert Thailand islands to explore.  If you’re planning a Thailand vacation then it is likely you will be also planning a Thailand island trip.

With so many island destinations, it can be difficult to choose which island to visit in Thailand. Visitors should consider the following questions when planning a Thailand itinerary to make the best decision for how to pick a Thai island:

  • How to pick the best Thai island for partying?
  • Where are quiet Thailand beaches?
  • How to choose Thai islands for island hopping?
  • Where is the best snorkeling in Thailand?
  • Where is the best island in Thailand?
  • Where can I learn to scuba dive in Thailand?
  • Where is the best diving in Thailand?

Once you have decided on a Thai island there are many island hopping tours that you can book as a day trip from every island. Alternatively, spend a few days on each island and create your own Thailand island hopping itinerary. Please note some ferry schedules may be 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 : Your Thailand Island Trip

For planning your Thailand island trip, consider where the islands in Thailand are. There are three main groups: The Gulf of Thailand, the Andaman and the Eastern islands.

For Andaman island hopping, consider islands like Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Krabi, Ao Nang and Railay for the best islands in Thailand.

For the Gulf of Thailand, you may be planning an island hopping Thailand itinerary that includes Koh Tao, Koh Phangan or Koh Samui. Island hopping from Samui is popular as it is one of the few islands that has an airport.

For a Thailand island itinerary in the Eastern area near Cambodia, you could consider islands like Koh Chang, Koh Mak and Koh Kood also spelt as Koh Kut.

As many visitors will also be planning a Thailand beach itinerary I have included beach areas on the mainland such as Krabi (Ao nang and Railay beach).

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 – Andaman Island Hopping Itinerary

There are many Thailand island hopping routes in this area and if flying from Bangkok you have the option of flying domestic to Phuket or to Krabi.

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.

Island hopping from Phuket is very easy as it is well set up for tourists and has many ferry connections even post covid.

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 off the beaten track Thailand 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 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, the coral reefs are 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.

Koh Lipe is the best Thailand island for white sand, blue water, snorkelling and scuba diving. Check out my full Koh Lipe Guide here including the best Koh Lipe hotels and the best snorkeling in Thailand

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.

showing you the prettiness of Koh Lipe beaches
White sand and clear water on Koh Lipe

Best Andaman Sea Islands Thailand – Koh Jum

IMG_2868

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

White sand beaches 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 beaches 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 Krabi airport to Ao Nang, then a long tail boat for 10 minutes from Aonang to Railay.

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.

Read my full Ao Nang guide here including best restaurants, where to stay in Ao nang and the best island hopping tours.

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.

The best views from the viewpoint on Koh Hong island

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 East islands in Thailand near Koh Chang. It’s one of the quietest islands in Thailand 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. Read the full Koh Mak island Thailand guide here including where to stay on Koh Mak, how to get to Koh Mak and the best restaurants and beaches

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. Read here for a full review of Koh kood Thailand island guide here. Stay 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 

For more information on Thailand Island Hopping, click on the Thailand island guides below:

Koh Lipe Guide

Koh Lipe Accommodation

Ao Nang, Krabi Guide

Koh Mak Guide

Koh Kood Guide

The best quiet islands in Thailand

 

 

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Best Thailand Islands Guide

The Best National Parks in Thailand

If you love adventure, the outdoors, hiking and wildlife then consider heading to the best National Parks in Thailand. For me these are Thailand’s best kept secrets as you can get off the tourist trail, stay away from the crowds and discover nature and wildlife in Thailand’s national parks. This is, by no means, a full list of National Parks in Thailand but the most impressive ones I have been to so far and would definitely recommend visiting. Read on for the best National Parks in Thailand for waterfalls, swimming, beauty, nature and wildlife.

If you love wild animals then check out my advice on where and how to see wild elephants, whales, dolphins, whale sharks, turtles, sharks, monkeys and gibbons here…

Best National Park for getting to from Bangkok: Sai Yok National Park

Out of all the national parks in Thailand that I have been to lately, this is the most recent. You can go to Sai Yok waterfalls as part of a day trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi which also includes a museum visit, visit to the town of Kanchanaburi and a world war cemetery. You can also organise your own transport to Kanchanaburi. The park is around 2 hours from Kanchanaburi town. It has an impressive waterfall, which was crowded when I was there as I visited on a public holiday but I believe it would generally be a quiet non-touristy area to visit in Thailand. For more quiet areas around Thailand, check out these off the beaten track beaches in Thailand. You can even stay overnight on floating bungalows in Sai Yok National Park.

How to get to Sai Yok National Park from Bangkok: I recommend a day trip from Bangkok. You can book with tour operators around Khao San Road. I recommend comparing prices to get the best deal.

Sai Yok National Park entrance fee: free but subject to change depending on the government

National Park Thailand
Everybody’s chasing waterfalls…

 

Best National Park for views: Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Found about 3-4 hours South of Bangkok in Prachuap Kiri Khan province, this stunning national park is home to 300 birds and the amazing Khao Sam Roi Yot mountains, meaning 300 peaks. For me, it is one of the best national parks in Thailand because it is a lesser known area and therefore not crowded and I didn’t see any other tourists on the hike and only a handful inside the huge Praya Nakhon cave. It’s an excellent place to rent a motorcycle for the first time in Thailand as the area is flat, quiet and it won’t be so easy to get around unless you have your own transport. I stayed at the small, cute and fairly cheap Namaste Resort, the owner June was very helpful with renting motorbikes and booking onward travel. There are quite a few different activities to do in this national park, from hiking to view points, visiting deserted beaches, to going to see the secret cave which was a definite highlight for me.

Visit Thailand National Parks Nature
Unseen Thailand: The Hike to Praya Nakhon Cave
Best National Park in undiscovered Thailand: Khao Sam Roi Yot

Praya Nakhon cave is one of the most famous areas inside the national park. Inside it has a small but striking blue shrine (which looks like a temple) inside an enormous cave. The hole in the roof of the cave allows the light to filter down where trees and plants are now growing. To get here you can hike about 30 minutes to the beach, and then another 30 minutes after that or take a boat around to the beach if you want to limit your hiking time. The views from the hike are definitely worth it as it goes all the way round the coastline, as you can see from the photo above. I think this is one of Thailand’s hidden gems and if you have time to spare I definitely recommend visiting this national park.

 

Thailand National Parks Nature Caves
Discover Thailand’s Praya Nakhon Cave

Sam Phraya beach is found just inside the national park. While not a beach for swimming, it’s worth a photo stop of the colourful fishing boats and to marvel at just how far the tide goes out – it seemed like it was on the horizon!

Thailand National Park Nature Beaches
Phraya Nakhon Beach inside Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Best Viewpoint in Thailand

Khao Daeng Viewpoint has been one of my favourite viewpoints in Thailand so far. It’s about a 30 minute hike up a fairly steep slope with rocks around, so I don’t recommend doing it in flipflops. The trail is only officially open from 8-3.30pm but some visitors risk it for a sunrise/sunset view which I am not sure I recommend but if you do decide to hike outside these hours then bring a flashlight for safety. I hiked during the afternoon and had these impressive views of both the mountains and the ocean.

thailand national park nature
Khao Daeng Viewpoint of the 300 Peak Mountains ‘Khao Sam Roi Yot’

Getting to Khao Sam Roi Yot from Bangkok: Take a minivan from the Southern Bus terminal in Bangkok to Pranburi and then motorcycle taxi into Khao Sam Roi Yot.

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park Entrance Fee: 200 baht for foreigners

Best National Park for elephants: Khao Yai National Park

This is one of my favourite areas of jungle to visit. Visit the various waterfalls, do the visitor trail near the visitor office, keep your eyes peeled and ears open to see macaque monkeys, gibbons and there is a high chance of elephants, particularly in rainy season (June-Oct).  Most people in Thailand agree that this is the best place to see wild elephants in Thailand. Remember wild elephants are extremely territorial and dangerous so do not get too close! They are best to see from the road side or from the look-out point near the lake. It’s a great place to stop and chill for lunch too!

Getting to Khao Yai National Park: You can take a minivan about two hours from Bangkok from Ekkamai bus station to Pak Chong. I recommend Greenleaf Tours if you would like an incredible guide to find you lots of wildlife and help you spot elephants. If you are confident on scooters then rent a motorcycle in Pak Chong and head into Khao Yai itself for independent travel. I recommend taking a map from the visitor office as this shows the routes to the waterfalls (no swimming allowed due to the wildlife) and camping grounds. If you enjoy camping this is my favourite place to camp in Thailand as we saw fireflies and porcupines while camping here. You can rent tents from the campsite, basic toilets and showers are provided but make sure to bring your own food.

Khao Yai National Park Entrance Fee: 400 baht for foreigners

National Park Thailand
Khao Yai National Park – Amazing place for jungle trekking and wildlife

Camping in Khao Yai National Park: For the adventurous, ask the visitor office about camping. For around 250 baht you can rent a tent at one of a couple of camp sites and stay the night. Bring your own food and drink as there are no shops available in the park. The entrance fee is expensive so I recommend staying inside the park to make the most of your money.

Tours of Khao Yai National Park: Alternatively take a guided tour with Greenleaf tours, they will collect you from Pak Chong and take you into the park in songtaew trucks. Tour includes trekking, guide, lunch and transport and lasts the whole day!

National Parks Thailand
I was lucky enough to spot three wild elephants in Khao Yai National Park. This was an lone adult male.
Best National Park in Thailand for floating bungalows: Khao Sok National Park

Another area of astounding beauty, this park is about two hours north of Krabi. From your  accommodation you can arrange trekking, wildlife spotting with a guide and an overnight stay on the beautiful floating bungalows on the lake, which is definitely worth it. You can rent kayaks and kayak around  Chaew Lam Lake trying to spot monkeys, gibbons and even the odd elephant! (or so I’m told!). We saw fish eagles, dusky langur monkeys and gibbons on one of our boat trips around. If you want to visit I recommend arranging transport from Krabi and try booking into a treehouse! I usually use Agoda for hotel bookings in Thailand and compare with booking.com for the best rates.

Floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park: arrange an overnight stay through your accommodation inside the park or from Krabi

Thailand beautiful destinations nature
Kayaking in Khao Sok National Park after staying in floating bungalows on the lake
Best National Park for mountain views: Doi Ithanon National Park

These mountains contain the highest peak in Thailand and they are the start of the foothills of the Himalayas. You can join a Doi Ithanon day tour from Chiang Mai which also includes waterfalls and a lunch stop. Book through a tour operator in Chiang Mai.

On a clear day you can see fairly far into the mountain ranges and the unusual temple pagodas are worth a look, like something out of Star Wars. The gardens are also stunning with so many different kinds of flowers and a riot of colour.

Thailand National Parks Nature
Gardens at the top of Doi Ithanon National Park, Thailand
Best National Park with a deserted beach: Khao Lak National Park

I only visited an extremely small area of this but it’s worth it if you find yourself in Khao Lak for a couple of days as I am not a big fan of the town itself. If you take a short hike into the national park then you can stumble across golden sand, deserted hidden beaches with no tourists  which is definitely worth it, in my opinion. There was a small entrance fee (I think around 40 baht). Most people are here as it is a jump off point for the dive sites around the Similan islands for divers or snorkelling trips to Koh Similan, one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands. 

Thailand National Park
Hiking around Khao Lak National Park, Thailand and waiting for the sunset
Best National Park for Thailand’s best waterfall: Erawan National Park

I’ve written about this place before but it is definitely worth a visit to see the impressive Erawan waterfalls – one of the best waterfalls in Thailand. You can spend the day hiking in the jungle and swimming in gorgeous blue pools of fresh cool water. The colours of the water appear bluer the higher you climb so be prepared to head up to the top most step, the 9th one. Bring your own food and water as there is little on offer here You will also find it quieter the higher up you go as the lower and closest steps are often full of local children playing! It’s about 45 minutes drive from Kanchanaburi town.

Erawan National Park entrance fee: 200-300 baht

Erawan National Park tour: book a day trip from Bangkok, many tour operators on Khao San road can offer this which also includes some history and museums in Kanchanaburi town first.

Thailand beautiful waterfall destination
Swimming in magical blue pools in the Erawan National Park

Don’t Forget to Take:

    • Insect Spray – National Parks in Thailand can be full of mosquitoes so make sure you take insect repellent with you. I recommend 50% DEET if you are prone to being bitten. Try this Repel DEET Pump Spray from Amazon
    • A practical bag – I’ve spent many a time faffing about with the wrong bag, it’s size or style and I’ve finally found that dry bags are the best way forward for any destinations in Thailand that will involve water or sand! Buy yours in all sorts of great colours from Amazon here: Water Proof Dry Bag

Book your travel to these amazing places here. Trains, buses, ferries and boats for Thailand and beyond…

For backpacking essentials that I actually use and are very practical check out my blog post here

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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