Thailand is honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The people, the surroundings, the weather, it’s seriously a little slice of heaven. I personally think it’s an ideal place to go if you want to experience a very different culture, guaranteed good weather and beautiful surroundings on a low budget.
It can be expensive to get there, but once you’ve arrive you could spend as little as €1 on a meal. Sorted.
As a group of gals who were going purely off recommendations of others, we felt like we had a lot of planning to do. Where to go, and where to leave out is a tricky one, but we managed to plan a route that got us to the main spots to visit we were keen to visit.
You could fit in a lot more than we did, but planning it this way with the amount of places we chose to visit, meant we got a good few days in each place, and weren’t spending more time on a boat/plane.
We visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao in a just over six weeks, and stayed between 4-6 nights in each place.
First things first... Flights and accommodation:
Flights: The easiest thing to do is use Skyscanner. I think everyone and their Granny knows about sky scanner, and if you don’t, you ok? So I booked the cheapest option I could for the dates we wanted to go, working out at about €600 return.
We flew everywhere whilst in Thailand, and before you think to yourself “what divas”, it's the most cost and time effective way to travel around Thailand. We flew with “Thai Lion Air”, and most of our flights were €20 or under, and that's including a 20 kg bag check. Thailand is such a small country too, so our flights were all an hour or under.
You can travel by train or bus, but why travel for hours and hours and spend probably a few more euro realistically, when you don’t need to?
Accommodation: For accommodation, booking.com is gonna be your best friend here. We booked all of our accommodation before our trip, making sure to always select that we wanted flexi booking (allowing us not to have to pay if we wanted to cancel, or if we wanted to push the date of our booking back or bring it forward). As we had a plan for our trip this meant we were that bit more organised, and weren't stressing out in a hostel somewhere using bad wifi to try find the next place to stay.
We stayed in a variety of hotels, hostels and beach houses. Make sure to do your research properly on a place when booking and read the reviews; don’t just blindly trust the photos you see. We paid between €10-€20 a night for places.
Where to go? Bangkok for sure...
Bangkok is the cheapest place to fly in to, and if you’re in Thailand you need to see it. It is extremely hot, but can be pretty cloudy at the same time.
We only stayed for two days because we had gotten recommendations from other people that a couple of days in Bangkok is more than enough, and they were right.
Khao San Road is where you will find all of the Irish students, it’s a strip of bars and clubs. We stayed in the infamous D&D inn on Khao San Road, it’s a perfect little safe haven in the heart of a not-so-safe city. It has a lovely rooftop pool, and the rooms are comfortable and clean.
The markets are amazing, especially Chatuchak Market. The things you'll find at them are usually for half the price you will get anywhere else in the world. I would advise to leave all your shopping till the end of your trip, and give yourself an extra day in Bangkok at the end. We bought beautiful dresses, and bags, and purses. If you have your eye on fake designer things, you'll find it in heaps here.
One of the must see tourist attractions is definitely Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of Emerald Buddha). Built in the grounds of the Grand Palace it’s the most popular temple to visit in Bangkok.
Entrance is 400 baht, and a helpful tip there is a strict dress code of long trousers and no sleeveless tops.
Chiang Mai is a beautiful rural spot up north...
Chiang Mai isn't as hot as other places in Thailand and this is where we went to visit the elephants. When planning a trip to visit elephants or any sort of animals, you need to be responsible and make sure it’s an eco-tourism sanctuary that you go to, because there are so many places in Thailand that have the animals caged up and treat them inhumanely.
We visited the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, who have three locations throughout Thailand; Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya and is a place where you can interact with elephants in their natural setting. This was one of the highlights of my whole trip.
The elephants are so loved by the locals who take care of them, and live a free life among the locals.
They bring you up into the mountains, and you're given clothes similar to what the locals wear, so as to not scare the elephants. You then spend time feeding them bananas and bamboo shoots, while they just mingle around you. You then walk the elephants down to a natural mud pool, and (if they're in the mood for it!) give them a bath. It’s honestly the most bizarre, wonderful experience.
Once the elephants are nice and mucky you bring them down to the river nearby, and go for a swim with them. While you’re having the best time ever, one of the elephant sanctuary employees is taking photos of you!
They also provide you with a delicious Thai meal afterwards.
The trip costs roughly €60 and there is a transfer organised to and from the place you’re staying as well.
While in Chiang Mai, myself and the girls decided to do something a bit different and went and stayed in the nearby jungle.
We found this place on Air BnB, and it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We stayed in a treehouse, with people from the local village. ‘Treehouse Hideaway’ is located within the foothills of the majestic Chiang Dao Mountain range (1.5hr drive North of Chiang Mai) and overlooks the village of Mae Mae (a small community of 200 people).
The treehouse is run by a family, and you live with them during your stay – they cook your meals for you, and provide you with a guide who will bring you on trekking trips through the jungle to various waterfalls, trips to local temples and hot springs. It’s a magical experience and will make you feel like you're in Tarzan.
Koh Phi Phi: a little island of happiness
From Chiang Mai the first island we decided to visit was Koh Phi Phi. We got a direct flight down to a city called Krabi, again flying with Thai Lion Air. Then we got a 45 minute ferry to the island, costing about €6.
I think out of all the islands I visited this had to be my favourite. It has no roads, and you can get everywhere by foot. The nightlife is on the beach, one minute you’re in a club then two steps later you’re on the sand – the dream. The water is so warm and the beaches are like nothing you will have ever seen.
If you visit here you need to do one of the boat trips. I couldn’t recommend doing a boat trip more. You can get them for as cheap as €15, where you are brought on a traditional Thai motor boat, and lunch is provided. You could also go for the booze cruise options, that is a bit more expensive working between €30-€40, but they will supply you with an endless amount of beer, and lunch included, and provide you with snorkel equipment.
The infamous beach from the movie The Beach with Leo Dicaprio is just a stone’s throw away. ‘The beach’ also known as Maya Bay, is a must see (although take note it's closed for four months this summer due to allow it to recover from all the tourists) but if you go on a boat trip from Koh Phi Phi it will be one of the stops on the way.
There are so many boat trips on offer, but they all go to the same neighbouring islands. You will visit monkey island, an island that is totally inhabited by monkeys.
The stops are depending on tides, but the trips will bring you to various caves and stop off at beautiful coral reefs, where you can snorkel - serious GoPro moments here.
Next on the list is Koh Samui
We got a ferry back to Krabi, and then flew to Surat Thani, again with the trusty Thai Lion Air. We then hopped on another ferry to the closest island to the mainland- Koh Samui.
Koh Samui is a bit more commercialised than the a lot of other Thai islands. There are a lot of families, and you’ll see a lot of Australian families on their holidays. Imagine for your family summer holiday popping to Thailand, instead of Costa Del Sol?
It was also a tad more expensive than most places we visited, but in reality none of it is expensive.
There’s still plenty of clubs and a thriving nightlife. We stayed in a lovely hostel owned by a Thai woman Penzy and her American husband – Penzy Guest House, they took such good care of us.
Koh Samui has so many day trips that you can avail of. We did a zip lining trip through the jungle, and visited waterfalls. All organised through our hostel!
Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party!
This is the one island you have to organise your trip around. The infamous full moon party goes down on this crazy little island, but obviously with the full moon only taking place once a month, you need to organise yourself so you’ll be staying on Koh Phangan on that date. The place to stay is definitely as close as you can to Haad Rin beach.
The dates for each full moon party are released at the start of the year, and it’s honestly something you don’t want to miss. The whole island is just one neon ball for the whole night, it’ll be like nothing you’ll ever see.
You want to give yourself a few days on this island because there are events that lead up to the full moon party. DO NOT buy tickets to the full moon online before going, the party is on a beach and you can just walk on- the tickets are a scam.
The night before the Full Moon, there’s an epic pre party, called the Jungle Party. It does exactly what it says on the tin, you buy your ticket from one of the reps for about €30 and you are transported to a jungle about an hour away from Haad Rin. This jungle experience is Like something from electric picnic but ten times more extravagant.
Disclaimer: it takes a lot of stamina to do the jungle party the night before the Full moon.
We stayed in gorgeous beach houses a two minute walk from Haad Rin beach and paid €14 a night each for them. From seeing a lot of the island, the way to go is booking beach houses, as they’re everywhere, they’re comfortable, and cheap.
And Koh Tao to finish it all off...
Our last stop was the beautiful Koh Tao. If you’re a little adventurous soul, this is the place to get your ‘PADI’ Deep Sea Diving License. If you complete this course anywhere else in the places, like Australia or New Zealand, you’ll pay closer to the 1k mark, but in the Thailand it will only cost you about €250. The course is between three-four days long, and it’s one of my biggest regrets not doing it. The funds just weren’t there towards the end so maybe try budget extra for this.
Koh Tao is an island you need to have on your list to visit. The pub crawl is infamous and not to be missed, it’ll cost just under a tenner, and you get one bucket, four shots, a pub crawl t-shirt, a cabaret show, and a discount card for all of the pubs you visit. It was honestly one of the funniest nights of our whole trip. Get down early to sign up, because you can’t just turn up.
This spectacular place is renowned for its stunning reefs, thats why so many people get their PADI license here.
We did an amazing day trip that brought us to neighbouring islands, six different reefs, and to the nearby viewpoint, that will take your breath away. This trip cost us about €16, and all of our equipment, and food and drink was supplied.
Six weeks that will give you a lifetime of memories? You'd be crazy not to go.