Guide to planning a trip to Thailand on your own

por Postcards from IvI

Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for holidays and once you visit, you’ll realize why. Beautiful beaches, amazing cities, mountains, adventure, rich culture, friendly people… Thailand has it all. On this step by step guide to planning a trip to Thailand you’ll find useful information, tips and things you need to plan before leaving.

Plan a trip to Thailand - Useful info & Tips

Planning a trip to Thailand, a step-by-step guide:

1. Best time to visit Thailand

Thailand has a tropical, hot and humid climate. Thailand has three seasons: monsoon season (June to October), the “cool” season (November to February), and the hot season (March to may). In Thailand it is always hot and summer is eternal.

Traveling during the rainy season can be cheaper but keep in mind that some ferry routes stop their services during this season, for example Langkawi – Koh Lipe route. November to February is the best time to visit Thailand since the temperature is more bearable and it doesn’t rain much.

2. VISA and documents required

It’s extremely important that you know what documents are required to visit Thailand according to your nationality. You need 2 documents for traveling to Thailand.

  • Passport with a validity not less than 6 months.
  • VISA

If you are visiting Thailand as a tourist, you may be eligible to enter the country under the Visa Exemption rule. You can stay up to 15, 30 or 90 days depending on your nationality. You can check the complete list here.

3. Vaccines required

Another important thing to check before you travel is whether or not you need any vaccinations for entering the country. If you are travelling from or through a country infected with yellow fever, you will need to show an International Health Certificate proving that you’ve received a Yellow Fever vaccination. The infected countries are the majority of South America and Africa. You can see the complete list is here.

The vaccine needs to be given at least 10 days before traveling, because that’s when it begins to be effective. In addition, it is possible to have fever for a few days after the application.

4. Duration of a trip to Thailand

How much time do you need to travel Thailand? Well the answer is as much as you can because once you are there you will probably never want to leave, at least not soon. I suggest you stay at least 14 days in Thailand. Try to be selective when you choose which places you will visit, narrow down your destinations so you stay enough time in each place.

5. Plane ticket to Thailand

Once you’ve decided the dates and duration of your trip, you can start looking for plane tickets. I always recommend using Skyscanner. Your flight will most likely arrive to Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city.

6. Thailand Itinerary

The itinerary will depend on what you like to do when you travel. I suggest you read a bit about each destination and plan your own itinerary.

Most flights arrive to Bangkok, where I suggest to stay at least 2 days to see the temples and have a glimpse of the city. Many people hate Bangkok because the traffic, the hot weather, etc, but I loved it. For more info read: what to do in Bangkok in 3 days.

Another popular destination is Chiang Mai, a city in the north of the country that is really worth visiting. Many skip Chiang Mai to go straight to the beaches, but if you want to see more of Thailand’s culture, and you love mountains you shouldn’t skip it. Stay at least 4 days in Chiang Mai.

The famous islands of Thailand are divided into two groups: the ones located in the Andaman Sea and the ones in the Gulf of Thailand. The Andaman Sea area is where the famous Phi Phi, Hong, Similan, Koh Lipe, etc are located. They are really paradisiac beaches with white sand and the famous rock formations that emerge in the middle of the sea. I recommend to stay on this side at least 5 days. There are many places to choose as a base point for island hopping, I stayed in Ao Nang, Krabi.

Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan (where the famous full moon party takes place) are located on the Gulf of Thailand. This area is a bit different, there aren’t giant rock formations like on the other side but there are places worth visiting. Nevertheless, if you don’t have plenty of days to spend in Thailand, I suggest you visit just the Andaman Sea side.

  • DAY 1: Bangkok. Arrival and city tour.
  • DAY 2: Bangkok. Visit the temples.
  • DAY 3: Chiang Mai. Arrival and city tour.
  • DAY 4: Chiang Mai. Visit the temples.
  • DAY 5: Chiang Mai. Tour to the White Temple in Chiang Rai.
  • DAY 6: Chiang Mai. Visit the temples.
  • DAY 7: Koh Lipe. Arrival.
  • DAY 8: Koh Lipe. Beach day.
  • DAY 9: Koh Lipe. Beach day.
  • DAY 10: Ao Nang. Arrival.
  • DAY 11: Ao Nang. Phi Phi islands tour (Bamboo Island, Maya Bay, Phi Phi Don, Monkey Beach).
  • DAY 12: Ao Nang. 4 islands tour (Tup island, Pranang Beach, Chicken Island, Poda Island).
  • DAY 13: Ao Nang. Hong Islands tour (Hong Island, Lading Island, Pakbia Island, Daeng Island).
  • DAY 14: Koh Tao or Koh Samui.
  • DAY 15: Koh Tao or Koh Samui.
  • DAY 16: Koh Tao or Koh Samui.
  • DAY 17: Bangkok

7. Getting around in Thailand

Thailand is a big country and there are all types of transport to get from one city to another. You should plan how you will move in advance so you get an idea of how long it will take you.

  • Flights: there are several low-cost airlines that connect the country. Airports are usually close to the city centres and sometimes connected by public transport. The airline I used for all my flights was Air Asia.
  • Train: Trains connect most of the country with an economic and comfortable service, but also rather slow. If you want to save money this is a good option. Day trains can cost as little as 50 TBH. There is also a wide choice of buses of different categories but of course, it is only a good option if you have time.

  • Buses: there are many buses connecting the country. They are cheap and are a great option for short distances and trips.

  • Ferries: for island hopping it is likely that you take ferries. There are high speed boats and normal ferries. The famous long-tail boats are used to make just short journeys and day trips. Tour companies should always provide you with life jackets for safety. Sometimes they also offer snorkel masks if you don’t have one.

For booking ferries, buses and trains in Thailand I recommend using website

8. Accommodation in Thailand

In Thailand accommodation, pretty much as everything else is really cheap. Hotels are generally ridiculously cheap, sometimes even more convenient than a hostel. In Thailand you can stay in luxury hotels which would cost twice (or more) in other countries.

Recommended hotels in Thailand:

These are all the hotels where I’ve stayed during my trip and had a great experience.

9. Attractions and tours

You will encounter tour guys in each city trying to get you to buy a tour from them. It is important that you ask for prices at different agencies before booking a tour to avoid scams. Always check if food, entrances and other things are included. You can also book tours in advance at GetYourGuide.

10. Money in Thailand

The official currency of Thailand is the Thai Bath. 35 bath = $1 usd. There are ATMs and currency exchange offices in all the cities and islands. Most hotels and restaurants accept credit or debit cards but you should have cash for local shops, small restaurants or street markets.

11. What to pack for Thailand

Backpack or suitcase? The truth that is up to you and what you usually feel comfortable with. You have to keep in mind that low-cost airlines charge checked baggage, so a good option would be to just travel with a carry on. If you plan on moving a lot, the easiest things is to bring a backpack. You must also keep in mind that if you take a long-tail boat to go from an island to another, you will probably have to carry your luggage on the sand.

For more information on what to pack read: Thailand packing list for 2 weeks.

12. Safety in Thailand

Thailand is a safe country, but you need to be cautious and avoid tourist scams which are common, specially in Bangkok. From what I experienced, I can say I felt safe every moment I spent in the country. Always take metered taxis (sometimes hard to find), because some drivers will want to charge you just whatever they want if they see you’re a tourist.

Motorcycle and road accidents are common causes of injury. It is really important to have medical insurance. As some ferry companies tell you when booking a ticket online so you pay for extra insurance: It’s Thailand, anything can happen.

I hope this guide is useful for planning your trip to Thailand!

Check out my Southeast Asia posts:

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you click on certain links within this post and make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read more about it here.

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Cindy June 30, 2020 - 5:35 am

Nice writings! I will visit Thailand for 2 weeks next year and planned to do island hopping. Actually I already arranged everything, from airbnb accomodation to ferry tickets on duckferries. But now I considering to take a tour service or join a group. Any advice wich one is better for safety and eficiency? Many Thanks.

Postcards from IvI June 30, 2020 - 10:48 am

Hi Cindy! That’s great. I loved taking private tours to some of the islands. I stayed in Krabi and took 1-day tours to other islands by private longtail boats and had the best experience! My boyfriend and I had some beaches completely for us.
To some other islands I took group tours and also had a great time but of course we didn’t have any beach for ourselves. Group tous good mostly for the furthest islands because the boats are usually bigger, more safe and quick.

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