Many travellers and backpackers can be concerned about their health when travelling to Thailand. Having lived here for 3 and a half years I thought I would pass on some of my knowledge. Here is an assortment of health advice, travel tips and things to be careful about in Thailand.
Mosquitos in Thailand
Generally speaking Thailand is not a malaria area and there are risks only around the borders of Thailand with other countries. Most people do not need to take malaria tablets when visiting. However, dengue fever has been on the rise in recent years so I recommend covering up in the evening and using a strong DEET repellent. Buy before you travel here as it is hard to find strong DEET. I recommend this 50% one from Amazon.
Street food is one of Thailand’s pleasures and I have never been sick from eating street food. It is cooked hot and fresh right in front of you. There are some stalls where cooked food sits around for a hours and I would definitely avoid these places, particularly if eating meat. If you get a bad stomach in Thailand, before reaching for the Immodium, I recommend trying charcoal pills from 7/11. They are not as strong and I find work much more effectively. I think it feels more natural and is less likely to bung you up for 3 days and then you continue to have the same problem later on. This is what the packet looks like and you can usually find them near the till in any 7/11. If you contract diarrhea in Thailand you will most likely become very dehydrated so I always use electrolytes from 7/11 and I swear by coconut water too. (Also useful for hangovers from buckets…see below!)
Having Ice in your Drinks in Thailand
I never had an issue for this, until it came to drinking 50 baht mojitos in Phuket…and then I was pretty ill for a week afterwards. Lesson learnt: if the alcohol is unreasonably cheap, so is the ice! Avoid things like this in Phuket. That said, I have been sick once from ice in 3 years here so I don’t think it is something to go fretting over.
Drinking Buckets in Thailand
From Khaosan Road to the Islands you will always find a cheap bucket of alcohol to drink. While some people might recommend avoiding drinking buckets in Thailand, if you want to lesson the hangover, stick with a spirit and a mixer in the bucket rather than any of the mysterious cocktail mixes that end up with you and your sister vomiting on the journey back to Bangkok (true story.)
Drinking Tap Water in Thailand
The tap water in Thailand is not drinkable. You can buy plastic bottles from 7/11 and refill them at drinking water stations for 1 baht. You can often find these on streets and in residential areas. That said, I always use the tap water to brush my teeth in Thailand and elsewhere and have never had any problems because of this. I’m probably wrong but I feel maybe it builds up some immunity??
Travel Sick in Thailand
If you are unfortunate enough to get travel sick like me, then I cannot recommend strongly enough these travel bands. I am not even sure how they work, I think they have a bead that presses on a pressure point that is linked with nausea, but they really work. Whether travel sick in mountain roads like from Chiang Mai to Pai or seasick on a boat, these have really helped me. It might just be psychological but who cares if they stop you from vomiting right? Buy yours here. You can also buy seasick pills from most pharmacies in Thailand very cheaply as an extra back up.
Travel Thailand Tip: Ask to sit in the front of the minivan on long journeys. I also find I tend to get less travel sick on the big buses so I try to book them instead of a minivan if possible. You can book travel tickets using this website.
Colds in Thailand
Due to various establishments that blast the AC freezing cold in Thailand, I often find myself with a cold after staying in hostels or sleeping on night buses. Normally this isn’t a problem unless you want to go scuba diving and you cannot dive with a cold because you’ll be unable to equalize properly. Enter TIFFY tablets you can buy from any pharmacy or some 7/11s. They cost around 7 baht for 4 tablets and as these are not a strong tablet it’s no problem to combine with diving.
Do you need vaccinations to travel in Thailand? Before I came here, I was recommended to get Hep A, Hep B and typhoid. Every clinic seems to recommend different things but these are the ones that I got. I decided not to bother with the expensive rabies vaccine because if you get bitten you still have to go to the hospital, it just gives you more time and I figured I was never going to be that far away from an available clinic. I usually use the NHS website for advice about vaccinations in Asia.
Stray dogs can cause alarm in Thailand and my best advice is to just stay calm and steer clear. Most dogs here I have found extremely chilled out and not remotely interested in humans. However, you always hear a few stories. I read it is best to not look threatening, to yawn and look relaxed and calmly walk past them. If you do get bitten by a stray dog, rabies is a concern here so immediately find a clinic. Even small islands like Koh Lan or Koh Lipe have doctor’s clinics who can administer the first round of PEP injections. After that you will need 5 more injections over the course of 6 weeks.
Pharmacies in Thailand
I have found many pharmacies in Thailand to be full of helpful, English speaking staff. You can generally find what you need and for very cheap prices. You can also buy antibiotics over the counter in Thailand but this is obviously a fairly controversial thing to do so read up about it first.
Hospitals and Healthcare in Thailand
Thailand has some fantastic international hospitals…and some less fantastic hospitals. As long as you have health insurance, I would always use an expensive international hospital. The staff there speak English (or will find you a translator) and have always dealt with me efficiently and swiftly.
Disclaimer 1: I’m a teacher, not a doctor.
Disclaimer 2: This page may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase I may receive commission at no extra cost to you.
Koh Life website this is actually a friend’s transport agency that he started last year and it’s going really well so far! They have tons of buses and ferry links on the decent VIP buses (think proper reclining seats and no TV blasting at you all night like some other buses I’ve been on!). They will be adding trains soon. You can get discounts for multiple bookings and group tickets.
www.thaiticketmajor.com also has bus ticket bookings for all of Thailand. I find the website is not that navigable and buses leave from different areas around Bangkok so make sure you know where the departure station is.
Thailand Useful Links: Transport- Flights
I usually find a great deal for domestic flights with either Air Asia or Nok Air. I always use Skyscanner to compare prices.
Thailand Useful Links: Transport- Taxis
I always just use meter taxis but I know some people are a fan of Uber and Grabtaxi. I’ve found both of these to usually be more expensive, but the benefits are taxi drivers with a GPS who will know where they are going!
Thailand Useful Links: Accommodation
I usually compare Agoda and Booking.com to find the best deal for accommodation.
Thailand Useful Links: Events Information
Facebook is a really useful tool for finding events happening in the area and various bars and clubs advertise special events on here.
If you’re looking for cycling tour then I definitely recommend https://www.covankessel.com/ as I have done several of their bicycle tours around Bangkok. I think they are good value for money and the guide provided has always been very knowledgeable.
For other tours I recommend using local tour agencies around Khao San area or through your hotel, Ask around to make sure you are getting the best deal.
None! I honestly find weather forecasts to be extremely inaccurate as the weather here is very unpredictable! The best advice I can give is to keep your options open and your travel plan flexible so you can move around if the weather turns bad.
Thailand Useful Links: What to Pack
People often ask me what they should bring out to Thailand so I wrote these two blog posts, aimed at backpackers or flashpackers.
As always the Bible for travellers is often Lonely Planet or a similar brand. I have find the Thailand one extremely useful and also Southeast Asia on Shoestring. Buy your own copy on Amazon here. I don’t recommend Kindle versions and this is one book where I would rather have a real, paper edition!
I always try and buy the latest version but old versions are dirt cheap and can still be useful for the planning stages of your trip.
Learn some Thai with a Thai phrasebook. I have this and it was very useful when I first arrived here. Definitely get a phrasebook with a CD or MP3 version as Thai is a tonal language and so you need to be able to hear the word to reproduce it. Buy your copy here.
Thailand Useful Links: This Blog!
I’ve got tons of information from itineraries to transport, from wildlife to diving and the top islands to visit. Click the links below.
So how many islands does Thailand have? Nobody seems to know for sure but it’s safe to say that Thailand has hundreds of islands you can stay on and/or visit and it is my intention to visit them all! With so many island destinations, it can be difficult to choose which island to visit in Thailand. I often get asked many of the following questions by backpackers and tourists who are looking for Thailand’s best islands and beaches:
Hopefully this post will help you make the best decision about which islands to stay on. Even better, you can visit a few of the Thai islands on the same trip as they often have good transport links between them to make island hopping around Thailand accessible.
Here is a summary of all the ones I’ve been to so far and some brief information to help you decide on which paradise island to check out first including must-do activities and how to get to each Thai island. Read more about how to travel around Thailand on this post.
Thailand Island Hopping
I’ve grouped the islands as to where they are in Thailand which should give you and idea for the best island hopping routes around. The Gulf of Thailand refers to the islands South of Bangkok on the East of the mainland – mainly Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. Then we have the Andaman islands on the West with connecting airports such as Krabi and Phuket. Then Southern islands like Koh Lipe and Koh Tarutao and Eastern islands towards the Cambodian border.
Best Islands in The Gulf of Thailand
A backpacker island in the Gulf of Thailand. It has beautiful beaches and an obvious party scene but mostly it is known for cheap diving courses, and is often advertised as one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to scuba dive. I took my PADI Open Water Qualification here 4 years ago and the prices are still the same. Your Open Water diving certificate can start from around 9000 baht…try and get your accommodation thrown in too. If you turn up at the pier, you can often negotiate prices with the dive shops. Unfortunately Koh Tao is not without its problems and I suggest being careful here, not to get too drunk and never to cause problems with locals, such as getting into fights etc.
Home to the infamous Full Moon Party, this party island in Thailand remains one of my favourites. It’s party in the South and tranquil, quiet beaches in the North of Koh Phangan. It is also one of the best islands for backpackers because it is both party and calm and you can find very cheap accommodation, particularly in the north. For the most beautiful beach in the Gulf of Thailand, visit Bottle Beach – a stunning Northern beach only accessible by boat so it’s very quiet. Diving in Koh Phangan here can be great although visibility is unpredictable. Sail Rock is one of Koh Phangan’s famous dive sites and whale sharks can be spotted here (just not by me…yet!). I love staying in the North and I discovered these cute bungalows last time, right on a lovely stretch of beach. Check out Seaboard Bungalow’s reasonable rates here. The restaurant here did great food and there were more food options further down the beach too. An even cheaper option with basic bungalows that also had a pool but not as a nice a beach was Lucky Resort. Compare their room rates here. The restaurant had great views of the ocean for sunsets too. Read here for Full Moon Party Tips..
Best Thailand island for: Dancing until sunrise. Even if you miss Full Moon there are Half Moon Parties, Jungle Parties, Waterfall parties…Read my post here for more Full Moon Party advice
Fastest way to get to Koh Phangan: Fly to Chumpon /Surat thani/Koh Samui and take the ferry. Lomprayah have the fastest service.
Thailand Islands to Visit: Koh Samui
Boasting one of coolest airports I’ve ever been to, Samui caters to holiday makers on a large scale. It is the only island in the Gulf of Thailand to have an airport
In all honesty, Koh Samui is probably my least favourite island as a result of this, it can get very crowded over peak season (December – when I went!) and I don’t think it is as idyllic looking as it’s Gulf counterparts. That said, if you are on limited time it is one of only two island that you can fly direct to (the other being Phuket). I stayed in upmarket accommodation at Lamai Wanta Beach Resort (courtesy of my generous aunt!) but a friend recently stayed at budget friendly New Hut Bungalows and recommended them to me. They look like a great photo opportunity too!
One thing to be aware of in Koh Samui is that flights are generally expensive because the budget airlines cannot fly to Samui as it is owned by Bangkok Airways. However, the airport looks like the garden of a 5 star hotel and is worth seeing. Occasionally cheap flights with Thai Smile can be found.
Best Thailand Island for: resorts, families and couples
Things to do on Koh Samui: an all round island tour including temples and waterfall visits
Fastest way to get to Koh Samui: Fly direct from Bangkok
Best Thailand Islands: The Andaman
Phuket is one of Thailand’s largest islands and is attached to the mainland by bridge. It has an international airport which can lead to extremely busy beaches and very high prices for taxis, which is why it has a bit of a bad reputation among those of us who live in Thailand. However, I don’t feel this is totally deserved and as it is such a huge island there are many less popular places to explore. The busiest area seems to be Patong beach which I have always been urged to avoid, mainly because of its multitude of gogo bars. I’ve mainly spent time in the South at Kata and Karon beaches for surfing during rainy season (June-October). I loved staying at this hostel, it was about 4 minute walk to the surfing beach, was good value and they had really nice facilities.
Things to do in Phuket: learning to surf, you can hire an instructor and then you get the board for the rest of the day (rainy season only when the waves are bigger, July-October approx)
Cheapest way to get to Phuket:Take a night bus to Phuket Town, then songtaew (local trucks) to the beach of your choice. You may need to take two, one from the bus station and then another from Phuket town to the beach. Approx 20 baht.
Fastest way to get to Phuket: Fly to Phuket from Bangkok or international airports and take the local bus further south.
Koh Yao Noi
This island has really chilled out vibes and zero party scene. It felt a little off the beaten track but still has hotels and restaurants around. The beaches are fairly thin strips of sand so there’s not all that much room for sunbathing. Swimming with the backdrop of Phangna Bay behind you felt pretty awesome though. I rented bicycles and cycled around the island – which has a couple of hills so be prepared! (or get off and walk like someone may have done…). This is a great place to rent kayaks from as well and I discovered the small empty island of Koh Nok which this amazing viewpoint. I loved the place I stayed at, Sabai Corner Bungalows, it had tall wooden bungalows set back into the mountain with great views of the bay. It was also very affordable and the owners were helpful with renting kayaks and bicycles.
Best Thailand Island for: getting off the beaten track but still with amenities
Things to do in Koh Yao Noi: If you can’t afford to stay somewhere like the Six Senses Hotel (and I can’t!) then head there for a cocktail to enjoy sunset and the views at this exotic looking hotel.
Fastest way to get to Koh Yao Noi: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, speedboat to island.
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is the type of island that the first time I went there, I hated it. Lots of young backpackers falling drunk out of bars and overpacked long tail boats pouring into Maya Bay to see the beach from Dicaprio’s ‘The Beach’ movie. Now I’ve returned there a 2nd, 3rd and 4th time, I have to admit that Phi Phi is growing on me. I’ve accepted it for what it is : a party island and a great place to meet backpackers. Try taking a snorkelling trip to a few of the less crowded islands and definitely watch some of the fireshows. I personally feel they are the best in Thailand and even after watching a few I still think they are very impressive.
The diving around the marine park is generally of a very good standard for Thailand. I was lucky enough to see a turtle, black tip reef shark and a leopard shark all in one day. I also love that you can walk everywhere and there are no cars on the whole island, definitely a bonus if you’re living in Bangkok and sick of traffic jams.
Best Thailand island for: parties and beautiful beaches combined
Things to do in Koh Phi Phi: An island hopping trip to nearby islands
Fastest way to get to Koh Phi Phi: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island
Serene and stunning, this is a quieter island for a relaxing time. Kantiang beach in the South is huge, wide and empty when I was there in April. There isn’t much of a party scene and not so many backpackers here. The snorkelling and island hopping trip was definitely a highlight for me as it took you to Koh Kradan, a stunning white beach uninhabited island. I went with my parents and we stayed at Alama Sea Village Resortwhich was incredible. It has a great view (so a short walk uphill), an infinity pool and monkeys who come and visit your balcony.
Best Thailand island for: relaxing, couples, families
Things to do in Koh Lanta: The 4 Island Hopping Trip
Fastest way to get to Koh Lanta: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island
This paradise island is home to white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, beautiful coral reefs and less tourists than many others! The main beach is kept extremely clean but unfortunately a lot of litter gets washed up around this island’s shores despite local efforts to consistently clear the trash. When I was there, the people were working every day but unfortunately they are fighting a losing battle with the currents. It also had some of the best sunsets I’ve seen in Thailand and the coral reefs were extremely colourful for snorkelling. (I’ve yet to dive here!) It’s close to Malaysia so can fill up if there are Thai and Malaysian coinciding holidays. I suggest you book in advance if this could be the case. I stayed at Gypsy Bungalows and loved these basic but cute bungalows with a garden walk to the beach.
Best Thailand Island for: white sand beaches
Things to do on Koh Lipe: Walk around the corner from the main beach to Sunset beach for some of the most impressive sunsets in Thailand
Cheapest way to get to Koh Lipe: Night bus to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat
Fastest way to get to Koh Lipe: Fly to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat
This island can take a long time to get to. I think it’s definitely worth it but don’t try if you’re on limited time.
A lesser known island to both tourists and Thais, this is a rocky, wild island which still feels fairly untouched. However, this is not always a good thing as it was extremely expensive to get to from Koh Phi Phi and once on the island it was difficult to get around. My sister and I stayed at the gorgeous Onlee bungalows – pricier than normal but amazing food as the couple who run it are Thai-French. The stargazing was also incredible and so clear as there is not much light pollution nearby. I recommend settling into a resort as there are limited ways to visit other restaurants and if you want to hire a ‘taxi’ it won’t be at a cheap price.
Best Thailand Island: that people have never heard of
Things to do on Koh Jum: Star gazing
Cheapest way to get to Koh Jum: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry
Fastest way to get to Koh Jum: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island
I’m including Railay in this island section as it is only accessible by boat. (And until very recently I thought it was an island!). Lots of snorkelling day trips stop off here so it can get crowded during peak season (Nov-Dec) but you can jump on boats from Krabi to get here at any point during the day. Limited options at night where the boats can charge a much higher price. Watch dusky langur monkeys climb in nearby trees, hike to the top for a sweaty but great view and visit the Buddhist shrine to the penis. I love that this place has beaches, views and jungle.
Things to do on Railay: slip and slide your way up the viewpoint for a pretty view of both beaches
Island Hopping Tip: Many boats arrive on the not so nice beach area so walk through the jungle pathway to reach the prettier beach
Fastest way to get to Railay: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to Ao Nang ferry to island
This is also not an island but as one of the easiest beach destinations to get to from Krabi I thought it was worth a mention. Ao Nang has two long, wide stretches of yellow sand beaches where a lot of long tail boats depart from, making for some pretty photos. It has a lot of choices of accommodation and restaurants and is a good jump off point to go island hopping to the nearby beach of Railay, and National Park island hopping to nearby uninhabited islands like Koh Poda, Koh Hong and many more.
Best Beach Destination for: breaking up the journey to nearby islands
Things to do in Ao Nang: sign up for some rock climbing
Island Hopping Tip: Wait for the boat to fill up and take a 20 minute long tail boat to Railay when it’s quieter. At night time only private (read expensive) long tail boats will run
Fastest way to get to Ao Nang: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to Ao Nang (approx 100 baht).
Best Thai Islands: The East
Koh Chang has a really chilled back vibe to it, a small party backpacker crowd and some okay diving. This is one of the first islands I travelled to alone and I immediately met backpackers as it has a more intimate feel to it than other islands like Koh Tao or Koh Phi Phi. Lonely Beach is the main backpacker area and White Sand beach is a little more upmarket. I have stayed at a few places but none to rave about. There is also one creepy bartender who has followed a few solo females home so be aware and try to always walk in groups or with someone late at night.
Best Thailand Island for: daytime chilling
Things to do on Koh Chang: enjoy the backpacking party scene
Cheapest way to get to Koh Chang: Big bus or minivan from Ekkamai, Bangkok, songtaew (truck) to the pier then ferry- often a car ferry. You can book your tickets here
Fastest way to get to Koh Chang: Fly to Trat then ferry
Is it possible to have ethical animal experiences in Thailand?
Thailand is a place of beauty, adventure and there are so many amazing activities to try here, that after three years of living here, I am still finding new activities and places to visit. Unfortunately there are also a number of activities that have given rise to exploitation, both in regard to wildlife and people. I believe that tourists do have the power to bring about positive change and, particularly in a country like Thailand, where many locals are keen to reap the benefits of tourism, I feel it is important for tourists to do their research into putting their money into ethical activities involving both people and wildlife.
Many tourists want to ride elephants when visiting Thailand but first hopefully they can ask the following questions and do some research into elephant abuse in Chiang Mai and Phuket. Is it ethical to ride an elephant in Thailand? Where can we ride rescue elephants in Thailand? Is riding an elephant bad for its back?
Riding an elephant is animal abuse. Tourists ask me where to ride an elephant in Thailand, where is the best place for elephant riding and about elephant riding costs and please just stop there. The truth about elephant riding is that it is animal abuse. All elephant riding with seats is a widespread form of animal abuse in Thailand, it deforms the back of the elephant and elephant riding is cruel. Alternatives to elephant riding include visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary (my recommendations for no riding, ethical elephant sanctuaries are here)
Ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand
When I first visited Thailand in 2013 I could only find 2 elephant sanctuaries that refused to offer elephant riding. Nowadays many sanctuaries are refusing to offer elephant riding and it is the tourist demand that has made this change. Your actions can make a difference so let’s make decisions that will help protect elephants rather than harm them. My favourite alternative to elephant riding, and I recommend as even better than a sanctuary is to see wild elephants in Thailand which is, after all, where they belong. Seeing wild elephants in the jungle is one of my bucket list experiences and you can see them in a national park just a few hours from Bangkok – Khao Yai National Park. Read here for more details about Khao Yai National park – one of my favourite national parks in Thailand that has a good chance of seeing wild elephants in the jungle.
The truth about tigers in Thailand
Is it ethical to visit Tiger Kingdom in Thailand? Where can I take photos with tigers in Phuket or Chiang Mai? Are tigers drugged in Tiger Kingdom?
The cruel truth is that there is no such thing as an ethical tiger experience. Tigers are wild, dangerous animals and belong in the jungles of Thailand, not in some sort of petting zoo. Visit a tiger temple in Thailand or take pictures with tigers means you are participating in animal abuse. The infamous tourist temple “Tiger Temple” fortunately has now been closed down but there are many other “sanctuaries” appearing. When Tiger Temple was investigated, they found dead tiger cubs in a freezer and allegations of missing adult tigers thought to have been sold on the black market to China for tiger bones. This scandal is on top of the commonly held assumption that these tigers are drugged in order for tourists to take photos with them. I personally feel that the claim that people can get close to them because they are domesticated tigers brought up around people does not have any ground. Getting into a cage with a grown adult tiger is dangerous, no matter how the animal was raised and therefore I believe the drugging theory is likely. Read more about the truth about Thailand’s tiger temple on the BBC website.
The dark side of Thailand’s sex tourism industry
I strongly recommend avoiding going to a pingpong show, sex show or participate in any activities relating to the sex industry. Aside from my personal feelings about female exploitation, Thailand is a hub for human trafficking and there is no knowing how the women, men and even children in these industries are treated. 425,500 people are thought to be enslaved in modern day slavery in Thailand. (Source https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/country/thailand/ ) and some of these unpoliced, illegal industries have been found to ‘employ’ underage prostitutes, indicating child abuse and exploitation. Is this really where you want your money going? This article is an interesting and eye-opening read from the BBC website.
Dos and Don’ts in Thailand: Respecting Thai culture should be an important consideration when visiting on vacation or backpacking. Sunbathing in the nude, women going topless on a beach and males riding around on scooters without shirts is not considered appropriate or respectful behaviour by the majority of Thai people. Spain this is not. Most of Thailand is fairly conservative, whether the locals are Buddhist or Muslim and getting your baps out on the beach is not acceptable here. I have always felt it is important to be respectful when visiting other countries where the culture is very different to our own.
Another important rule in Thailand is about being respectful to the ocean. Standing on coral reefs damages them and coral reefs are already under severe pressure from climate change and rising ocean temperatures. Coral is extremely fragile and if you touch it, not only could you end up injured, but you are killing this vital eco-system that the ocean relies upon. Please be extremely careful of where you are stepping in the sea and inform any other visitors of the same. I feel many tourists stand on coral because they are ignorant of the fact they are damaging it. Please spread the word and don’t be shy about letting other tourists know not to stand on coral! I also think tour operators should be informing tourists so make sure to include them if their boat of tourists are not behaving respectfully towards the ocean.
Dos and Dont’s in Thailand: Touching wild animals- There are regular news stories in local papers here in Thailand about people touching turtles and I am frequently frustrated by the number of Instagram photos of people holding up a starfish. That is a wild animal and you are disturbing it. Remember to always be respectful of wildlife.
Taking photos in the markets or streets with ‘pet’ monkeys or gibbons. These are animals that belong in the wild and should not be used in the tourist industry in this way. Often teeth are painfully removed to ensure the animal does not bite people and they are often wearing nappies and chained up.
·Fishing and squid fishing. This is more of a personal thing as I am super into scuba diving and would prefer to see the fish underwater rather than kill them. However, I think it is important to be aware that Thailand has a massive problem with over-fishing and unfortunately very little is done to stop this. As a result of corruption many fishing boats can still be seen in marine parks which are supposed to be protected and I often sea fishing nets while scuba diving in supposedly protected areas. Don’t add to this problem.
If you love adventure, the outdoors, hiking and wildlife then consider heading to some of 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 am still marvelling at the photos. Read on for the best National Parks in Thailand for waterfalls, swimming, beauty, nature and wildlife.
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 or you can organise your own transport. The park is around 2 hours from Kanchanaburi town. It has an impressive waterfall, which was crowded when I was there 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.
Getting to Sai Yok National Park: I recommend a day trip from Bangkok. You can book with tour operators around Khao San Road
Sai Yok National Park entrance fee: free (at time of writing, Oct 2017)
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. I strongly recommend renting a scooter here and exploring all the different caves and viewpoints. It’s an excellent place to practise on a scooter if (like me…you’re kinda nervous/shit scared). About 10 cars will pass you throughout the whole day and the area is flat which is really great for confidence building! I stayed at the small, cute and fairly cheap Namaste Resort*, the owner June was very helpful with renting motorbikes and booking onward travel!
Praya Nakhon cave is one of the most famous and has a small but striking blue temple inside an enormous cavern. 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 magnificent though!
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!
Khao Daeng Viewpoint has been one of my favourite high up views 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 but bring a flashlight! I went during the afternoon and had these impressive views of both the mountains and the ocean.
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
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). 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. If you are confident on scooters then rent a motorcycle in Pak Chong and head into Khao Yai itself. I recommend taking a map from the visitor office while shows the waterfalls and camping grounds.
Khao Yai National Park Entrance Fee: 400 baht for foreigners
Camping in Khao Yai National Park: For the super 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!
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 pootle around 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.
Floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park: arrange an overnight stay through your accommodation inside the park or from Krabi
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.
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.
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
GoPro – I’m a total gopro convert and love making videos of all my trips! The colours come out really vibrant and as they are waterproof you don’t need to worry if it rains or goes in the sea. Buy yours from Amazon using this link: GoPro HERO4 BLACK I’m currently using the Gopro Hero 4 after my Entry Level Hero gave up the ghost in India (advice: they are not smash proof when dropped on a stone floor while ziplining!)