10 of the best Places to Visit in Thailand as a Backpacker

Thailand is a backpacker’s paradise! It’s the perfect place for anyone wanting to travel on a shoestring budget. As a company that sends teachers to Teach English Abroad every day, we’re constantly searching for new ways to make your adventure as exciting as possible in the most affordable way.

Since Teaching English in Thailand is one of our most popular programs and so many of our teachers are choosing to use their holidays to travel through this phenomenal country and its neighbors, we thought we’d bring a list of the best places to backpack in Thailand.

The key to saving money when backpacking is to save on accommodation, so backpackers hostels are usually your best option. Not only are they cheap, but they are filled with like-minded travelers looking for an adventure; this type of environment allows you to mingle and share stories with fellow keen travelers. Another useful tip for backpacking in Thailand is to eat like a local, western food is very expensive in Southeast Asia. You can get as much as three local dishes for the price of one western meal, it’s also a great opportunity to try out different foods.

We’ve carefully selected accommodation that does not go over the $10 mark and most of the activities we’ve listed are either free or very affordable. We did this to keep daily spend at $50 dollars or less.


Bangkok canals, backpacking around Thailand.

There’s so much life in the breathtaking canals of Bangkok.

For anyone wanting to backpack through Southeast Asia, Bangkok is always a great place to start. It has connecting flights to most places in the region, for some decent prices too. Even though Bangkok is the capital and biggest city in Thailand, it’s very possible to enjoy it on a small Budget. The city is blessed with plenty of cheap accommodation and inexpensive activities. It’s considered the tourist hub of southeast Asia, where expats gather before they begin their travels through this captivating region.

A crowd favorite here is Khao San Road as it’s the party hub of the city. Although it can be quite overwhelming being packed with tourists, ravers and Bangkok’s general buzz, its definitely a place you have to experience at least once. Be sure to check the canals of the Chao Phraya River, where you’ll see a completely different Bangkok filled with a mixture between decay and contemporary chic that invokes an Eastern soulful feel.

Where to stay:

  • Mad Monkey Hostel (Rated 4.5/5 – number 1 in Bangkok)
  • The Yard Hostel Bangkok (Rated 5.0/5)
  • Smile Society Hostel (Rated 4.5/5 – number 4 in Bangkok)

What to do:

  • Lumpini Park – Great for weekend street food, stunning views of the city and as a place to exercise or unwind
  • Free Meditation classes at Wat Mahathat – you’ll find it a stone’s throw from the Grand Palace and Wat Arun in old Bangkok
  • Exploring Chinatown – Start from Hua Lamphong Station and head west down Rama IV Road and find some of the best street food Bangkok has to offer

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai, Thailand

On May 5, 2012, the White Temple was damaged by an earthquake that struck Thailand’s Mae Lao District of the Chiang Rai Province.

Chiang Rai is a charming small little town in the north of Thailand. Even though the town gets a lot of tourists, you can still hire a bike and find some trails which are very remote and relatively untouched. The further you walk north of the city, you’ll get to parts where there are hill tribes that still believe and practice their traditional way of life. They’ve had very little contact with westerners, thus have not been in any way affected by us.

Chaing Rai, unlike its sister town Chiang Mai, is all about taking it slow,  completely chilling out and savoring each moment as it passes by. Here life is very mellow and gives about a down-to-earth feel. It’s the ideal place to reload your batteries after extensive traveling. This little town is not short of attractions though, mostly with its impressive collection of art, temples, language, delicious cuisine, and local music. The town doesn’t offer much when it comes to nightlife, shopping, and entertainment and rightly so.

Where to stay:

  • Mercy Hostel (Rated 4.5/5 – number 2 in Chiang Rai)
  • Lek House (Rated 4/5 – amazing rooftop bar and pool)
  • Pan Kled Villa Eco Hill Resort ( Rated 4/5 – an outdoor experience second to none)

What to do:

  • Head out to Phucheefah for a great sunrise view – Hire a bike for the day as it’s a good 2-3 hours outside of town
  • Head out to the Gate of Siam, on the border of Laos, where you can get a great view of the sprawling Mekong River.
  • Visit Wanna Farm with its ostriches and old carnival games

Chiang Mai

Chiang-Mai-Thailand, Thailand

Doi Inthanon National Park, nicknamed “the roof of Thailand”

Chiang Mai is the capital of northern Thailand and many people consider it to be one of their favorite parts of Thailand. It has an interesting blend of Thai culture and religion, but also modern comforts. It’s amazing how Buddhist temples and hipster cafes can coexist in such an authentic way. This is every seasoned traveler’s playground, a shoppers dream, and an outdoor adventure’s favorite basecamp.

This city epitomizes Thailand: the food is to die for, the people are the sweetest you’ll ever meet, and the nightlife is exciting! Chiang Mai might be small but it truly has it all.

Where to stay:

  • Green Tiger House (By May 1st, 2019, the Green Tiger House will be Chiang Mai’s first completely plant-based hotel)
  • Sunday backpackers( 3.5/5 – located in the city center, walking distance to all the main temples and Thapae Gate.)
  • Strips the PoshTel (4.5/5 -air-conditioned with free breakfast and Wi-Fi)

What to do:

  • Chiang Mai Grand Canyon – Think zip lines, water slides and a full-fledged inflatable playground, all set against stunning cliffs and placid waters
  • Sunday night Market & daily Night Bazaar – get the best food Chiang Mai has to offer & shop for stunning handicrafts and portrait paintings.
  • Chiang Mai Night Safari – it cares for 1400 animals from 134 species, many of which are threatened.


Pai - Thailand.

In Pai, nature is your best friend and chilling out doing absolutely nothing is your second best friend.

If you’re in Northern Thailand, then Pai is a place you have to experience! It is one of the most beautiful small towns in all of Thailand. Situated in a quaint river valley and surrounded by natural beauty on all sides, it’s the perfect outdoor getaway after the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai, 150km away.

Most consider Pai to be quite a paradox, as you can visit it for a journey of spiritual healing, where you meditate in the mountains and wonder at nature. Or, it’s a place where you can party all night in the misty jungle. Pai is a different place for every traveler, depending on what you’re looking for. Whitewater rafting, tubing, jungle trekking, and waterfalls await the adventure seekers… while bars with nightly happy hours await the party-goers.

Where to stay:

  • Spicypai Backpackers (Rated 4/5 – Breakfast included and famous BBQ every week)
  • The famous Pai Circus Hostel (3.9/5 – Breakfast included, fire performance classes)
  • Suandoi Backpacker Resort (4.5/5 – number 4 in Pai)

What to do:

  • Visit Pai canyon – You can cycle or hike through the canyon, the sunset is a spectacular draw in the evenings.
  • Boon Ko Ku So Bridge – Also known as The Bamboo Bridge, if you visit in the right season, you’ll be walking over the lush green rice fields along a bamboo bridge that spreads out over the area.
  • Mae Yen Waterfalls – a short bike ride from town and then a sweaty 7km trek through the jungle.

Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai National Park

In addition to blooming flowers and insane waterfall, the park also boasts a number of fine cliff-top viewpoints.

Undoubtedly one of the best places to spot wild Elephants in Thailand. Khao Yai is the oldest national park in the country, as it was established in 1962. It is also the third largest, after Kaeng Krachen and Thap Lan. Many will know the national park as it’s Haew Suat Waterfall features in the Leonardo Di Caprio film, The beach.

Covering 2168 sq km, Khao Yai incorporates one of the largest intact monsoon forests remaining in mainland Asia. There is said to be more than 50km of hiking and biking trails throughout the park, which makes it one of the more accessible parks in the region.

If you’re looking for picture perfect scenes of diverse wildlife, you’re in for a treat. You’ll find bears, elephants, gibbons and so many more sheltered in the majestic park.

Where to stay:

  • San Khao Yai (Rated 4/5 – 100m from the park entrance, hires motorcycles, arranges tours and serves food.)
  • Khao Yai Garden Lodge (Rated 3.5/5 – free shuttle service to park, less than 5km from the entrance of the park)
  • Greenleaf Guesthouse and tours (Rated 4/5 – number 1 in Pak Chong)
  • Inside national park accommodation – a range of options including bungalows, lodges, youth hostels and camping

What to do:

  • Hiking – More than 18 marked official hiking trails
  • Bird watching – To fully appreciate the bird life, at least two or three days should be spent exploring.
  • Exploring the waterfalls – Khao Yai has 44 waterfalls that flow abundantly in the rainy season with the largest and tallest being Heo Narok Waterfall (150m)

Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park, 10 places to go backpacking

With its stunning beauty, the Khao Sok National Park is definitely one destination that should be listed on your Thai holiday itinerary.

Blessed with hidden waterfalls and caves, Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park’s rainforest is said to be more than 160 million years old, making it one of the oldest in the world. It’s the perfect getaway for those looking to escape the noise of Bangkok and full moon parties of Koh Phangan. It’s famous for its iconic tower-like limestone karst formations and the man-made Cheow Lan Lake which you can explore via canoes and kayaks. It’s a rain forest with a great diversity of wildlife and plants. What sets this park apart is its accessibility through public transport from the neighboring Phuket and Krabi.

The dry season: is from November to April, but still be prepared for showers and muddy hikes. The dry season is the best time to visit Khao Sok.

The wet season: is from May to October and we’ve been told that it’s pretty difficult to visit Khao Sok during this time because many things are closed. You can still go, but your activities may be limited.

Where to stay:

  • Our Jungle House (Rated 4.5/5 – number 4 in the park)
  • Khao Sok Jungle Hut (Rated 3.5/5 – 25 bungalows with different styles in a well-kept garden and close to Sok River)
  • Khao Riverside Cottages (Rated 4.5/5 – can arrange activities including jungle safaris, tours to Cheow Lan Lake, elephant trekking and canoe trips)

What to do:

  • Cheow Len Lake – Long Tail boat cruising, kayaking and canoeing and If you’re really lucky, catch a glimpse of the Malay sun bear – the world’s smallest bear, basking in the warm glow of the sun.
  • Full day Hiking – it’s not necessary to hire a guide as trails are well marked and you can buy a trail map at the information center.
  • Day Tour – Spend the day hiking in the pristine jungle, tubing down the river, or paddle by canoe on the Klong Sok river against a backdrop of towering limestone cliffs.

Koh Phangan


Mae Haat is the place where 2 currents meet. It makes quite the eye candy to see two different shades of water separated by a small strip of land, on which at high tide turns into a natural bridge.

To anyone who loves a good party, Koh Phangan is where you wanna be. This is the island that‘s known for having the full moon party, but there’s a lot more to this island. One of the most fascinating insights about Koh Phangan is, although it’s been long known as Thailand’s party HQ, it remains one of the countries most popular destinations because peace, serenity, and raves can coexist like no other place on earth. The best way to explore it is by renting a motorbike and riding around to all the white sandy beaches.

Most activities will be on Sunrise Beach, which is lined with bungalows filled with fellow backpackers. Away from Hat Rin beach’s parties, is Hat Khuat and Hat Thian where families looking for mouth-watering food, alluring night strolls and a quiet night in can be found.

Where to stay:

  • GoodFellas Hacienda (Rated 4.5/5 – free breakfast & shuttles to Hat Rin beach for guests)
  • Treechart Hostel (Rated 5/5 – Pool, Bar, Laundry, Wifi and breakfast)
  • Na-Tub Hostel (Rated 5/5 – stylish hostel containers and is one of the first on the island.)

What to do:

  • Hike Up Khao Ra – Best to go really early to catch the sunrise, it takes about 90 min to reach the top
  • Go Diving at Sail Rock – Sail Rock is one huge circular pinnacle that rises from the sea bed and juts out of the water. The waters around Sail Rock are overflowing with color and diversity.
  • Full Moon Party – Join 20,000 people every month as they party the night away at this beautiful island.

Krabi Province

Krabi, Thailand.

A province blessed with over 150 islands off its 150km-long coastline.

There’s a good chance that every picture you’ever seen of Thailand online will be taken here. Krabi is on Southern Thailand’s west coast, it’s a province characterized by sheer limestone cliffs, gorgeous mangrove forests and hundreds of stunning islands. Koh Phi Phi Island and Railay Beach are among the most popular locations in Krabi province.

The province is filled with seaside restaurants and beach bungalows. Even though it’s packed with tourists like most beach spots in Thailand, it’s still an ideal place for those looking for an awesome beach getaway with a touch of adventure.

You can bathe in the inviting waters of the Emerald Pool at Thung Teo Forest Natural Park before exploring forest trails and waterfalls. At Wat Tham Sua (Tiger Cave Temple) you can climb more than 1000 steps to witness a bird’s eye view of the surroundings and admire the golden Buddha statue and pagodas. From hidden lagoons to wildlife-rich mangroves, there’s plenty to discover in this breathtaking province. 

Where to stay:

  • JP Mansion – (Rated 3.5/5 – simple affordable B&B with Wi-Fi, air conditioning, bar, and pool)
  • Snoozz Hotel – (Rated 4/5 – A brand new hotel located in the heart of Krabi Town with 9 single Superior and Deluxe room and 34 separate bunked bed male and female)
  • Pak-Up Hostel – (Rated 4.5/5 – Since opening, they have won many an award such as voted ‘Top 3 Hostel in Asia’ by hostelbookers)

What to do:

  • Tiger Cave Temple – the stairs are often referred to as the Stairway to Heaven. 1,237 is not a small number, and glorious Buddha statues await your arrival at the peak
  • Rock Climbing at Railay Beach – Duration: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m, Cost: THB 1,800
    Includes water, lunch, gear, insurance and the option to rappel from a cave.
  • Klong Thom Hot Spring – this site features naturally hollowed-out ‘bathtubs’ in the smooth stone, filled to the brim with fresh running spring water at a pleasant 35-42C

Koh Tao

koh-tao island Thailand

The name Koh Tao, in English, means ‘Turtle Island’ for the island’s connection with it being inhabited by sea turtles.

Straight out of a tropical dream lies this tiny forest-covered island in the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Toa, lesser known than it’s bigger sisters Samui and Phangan, is regarded as one of the best diving spots in all of Thailand. What sets it apart from other diving locations is that many of the spots are completely accessible by foot as people can dive straight off the island’s shores.

They say what makes this island so perfect is that it has the busy vibe of Krabi but the laid back nature of Ko Phangan. This, complemented with the dripping coastal jungles,  makes for an unrivaled paradise.

Where to stay:

  • Black Wood Hostel – (Rated 5/5 – number 3 in Surat Thani)
  • Bed & Ink Hostel Koh Tao (Rated 4.5/5 – Newly renovated 26-bed hostel located in Mae Haad right by the Lomprayah pier and the 7-11. Close to pubs, restaurants, and shops)
  • Moov Inn Garden Hostel (Rated 3.5/5 –  air conditioning, good free Wifi, storage lockers, are furnished with comfy beds which include a personal light, power socket & privacy curtains)

What to do:

  • Spend an afternoon at Sairee Beach – a great place to spend the day topping up your tan, or, if you are feeling energetic, a game of beach volleyball, frisbee or football
  • Nang Yuan Island – while considered to be one island, is actually a set of three islands, or rocky outcrops, connected by two strips of white coral-sand that serve as beach during low tide, and that disappear under the clear water when it rises.
  • Hike up to a mountain viewpoint – spend an afternoon hiking up to one of the numerous viewpoints to watch the sunset.


Patong Beach , Phuket, Thailand.

Indulge in water activities such as fishing, parasailing, and jet skiing, or simply chill at one of the best beaches in the area, Kata Beach

Last but not least, Phuket, a rainforested, mountainous island in the Andaman Sea. Easily the most recognizable destination in Thailand. It houses some of Thailand’s most popular beaches, like Patong and Karon which lie along the crystal clear waters of the western shore of the island. This island along with Krabi province is undoubtedly the biggest tourist drawers to Thailand. Phuket is as close as it gets to a dream summer vacation, with its stunning beaches, lavish seaside resorts, and vibrant nightlife.

That being said, the island also has an exciting backpacking community, where travelers from all walks of life meet to mingle and celebrate life. You’ll find most of them scattered all over Patong beach during the day and two-stepping till the sun comes out at Phuket’s Bangla road, well known for its exuberant party scene.

Where to stay:

  • The Neighbors hostel – (Rated 5/5 – located in the heart of Phuket Old Town, Phangnga Road. Walking distance to market, restaurants, bar, popular attractions)
  • Ang Mor Lao Poshtel – (Rated 5/5 – Bar, outside pool, airport shuttle, WiFi throughout the property and air conditioning)
  • Sleepy Station – (Rated 3.5/5 – Sleepy Station is located just in 7 minutes away from the white sands and clear waters of Kata Beach.)

What to do:

  • Visit Phuket’s Big Buddha, temples and shrines – the island is blessed with many temples, Buddhas and shrines, most are easily accessible without needing a tour guide, like Big Buddha, where’s Wat Suwan Kuha, hidden in a cave, you’ll need a tour guide to reach.
  • Visit Phuket weekend market – Open on Saturdays and Sundays till 10 pm, there’s everything from fruits, deserts, corn, drinks, spicy snacks, noodles and of course fried insects and much more.
  • Explore Phuket Old Town – when you’ve had enough of beach bumming, head over to old town to experience this heritage-rich area which is easily explored on foot and it is filled with enough cafes to save you from the heat of the island

Fancy making Thailand your new home this year?

We can turn that dream into a reality!


One of the best ways to fully immerse yourself into Thai culture is by teaching English in Thailand. It’s one of our most popular programs and for good reason too, you can earn generous salaries of $800-$1200 and with low cost of living, you can really save to travel around Thailand and its neighboring countries. Another exciting drawing point for Thailand is the 2 and a half months of school holidays teachers get, which they can use to travel through Southeast Asia and other countries in the region.


About Ntobeko Ntombela

Ntobeko is TravelBud's marketing intern and is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) in Digital Marketing. Read more about him and other TravelBud authors.

He handles TravelBud's social media, blog writing and general content creation. Check out the inspiring stories he's created on the TravelBud Instagram page, featuring TravelBud alumni and their incredible experiences teaching and volunteering abroad.

He's done a fair bit of travel in his life, having explored Thailand, the UK, Italy, France and Germany.

His favorite place so far? That would be Rome, Italy but coming in a close second, thanks to a few memorable nights out, would be Phuket, Thailand.

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1 Comment

  1. Enzo

    Double thumbs up for Koh Tao!! Great sunsets, beach bars and awesome for Scuba Diving. My favorite spot in Thailand


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