So you’ve just booked your plane ticket to go backpacking in Thailand. I remember when I was sitting at my computer 6 months ago and decided to pull the trigger on a two month trip in Thailand. The feeling of excitement that rushes through you when you get the ticket confirmation email is magical. It’s official, you are going!
I remember feeling butterflies in my stomach thinking about all of the amazing things I would see and do in a place that is so different from the western world. But that excitement quickly turned to worry as I realized I had a lot to do before I hoped on that plane.
I wish at the time I had a checklist of things to do before going to Thailand so that I could get all set for my trip as quick as possible. So I figured I’d save you guys time by putting together of a list of things that you need to do before you embark on your trip. That way you can focus on being excited for your journey through the land of smiles! So here is your Thailand backpacking checklist..
1) Get Travel Insurance
When backpacking in Thailand, you absolutely should get travel insurance. Why? Because anything can happen while you are there, especially since backpacking puts you in so many adventurous situations. If something does happen and you don’t have insurance, you could be spending thousands of dollars in medical costs. With travel insurance, your medical expenses will be covered and you’ll feel better knowing that you are prepared for the worst.
I recommend World Nomads for travel insurance as they are the only insurance company aimed at backpackers. They have a list that covers things that might happen in many different adventurous situations. For example, if you got injured while trekking with elephants which is a very popular tour in Thailand, World Nomads will provide coverage whereas other travel insurance companies would not.
To summarize, World Nomads is the best travel insurance for backpackers. Here is a link to their site: WorldNomads.com
2) Get a good Backpack and packing essentials.
As a backpacker, you gotta have a backpack. A rolling suitcase simply won’t do. Thailand is a place where having mobility is key. When everything is on your back, it is easy to get around without lugging around a suitcase. For recommendations on a good backpack and packing list, check out our article on What to Pack for Backpacking Thailand.
3) Get info on Vaccinations and get educated on Malaria
Best thing to do is see your doctor or travel doctor and tell them that you are planning a trip to Thailand and are wondering which vaccinations are necessary. You can give the doctor an idea of places you are going to visit and they will recommend the vaccinations they think are necessary.
You can also ask about malaria pills, though this is a highly debated topic. It is best to inform yourself as much as you can and make your own decision. Personally, I only feel they are necessary when staying in very remote locations where malaria is of high risk. The major cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and many of the major islands are not high risk areas, so personally I wouldn’t take malaria pills in those places. The very first time I went to Thailand, I was on malaria pills (Malarone) but I stopped after a week due to experiencing nightmares and anxiety. One thing that really helps is to prevent bites from happening by using mosquito spray. I used citronella stuff I found in Thailand that smelled like lemons and worked pretty well.
4) Book your first couple nights at a Hostel
When I travel, I don’t like to book too much as it is more fun to be spontaneous rather than following a big plan. However, when you are travelling for so many hours on an airplane, it makes sense to have your first couple of nights booked so there are no worries when you land, you can just go straight to your hostel and get some rest.
I recommend using Agoda to book your hostels as they are the absolute cheapest online hostel booking site.
There is a good chance you are landing in Bangkok. Here’s some good hostels in Bangkok:
NapPark – located a 2 minute walk from the Khao San Road, but away enough that its not too loud. A more social place for sure.
Bed Station – Very highly rated, clean and modern. A great place to start your trip!
5) Get a general idea of where you want to go
You will most likely be going to Bangkok already since it is where most people fly into. I would say only a couple days needed there. I would highly recommend checking out the north which turned out to be my favourite part of Thailand, particularly Chiang Mai. Pai was very cool as well and only a few hours ride from Chiang Mai.
My favourite islands were Koh Chang, Koh Tao and Koh Lanta as they seemed the most geared towards backpackers and not touristy like the other more popular islands.
I found having a Lonely Planet guide book on Thailand to be useful, though I have an even better alternative. We have a Thailand Backpacker Community Facebook Group with lots of knowledgable members who have been to Thailand. There you can ask questions even while you are already in Thailand and get recommendations almost instantly. You can join our Facebook group here.
Remember, don’t plan too much. Half the fun is just being free and making decisions on the fly. This is much easier when you have more time in Thailand so you can go at a more relaxed pace.
6) Save enough money to cover your expenses
Many people ask me, ‘how much money do you need to backpack in Thailand?’ After your plane ticket, around $40 USD per day would be a comfortable amount to have. This will cover your hostels, food, transportation between cities, light souvenirs, occasional tours, etc. Put aside an extra couple hundred dollars just incase you need it.
Here is a cost breakdown of things you’d buy in Thailand (US Dollars):
Street food – $1 – $3
Beer from 7-11 – $2 for a large bottle
Restaurant food – $2 – $5
Hostels – $5 – $15 (cheaper hostels in the north)
Bus/Train transportation – $10 – $30 (depends on distance)
7) Make copies of your passport to carry with you.
In the event that you lose your passport, things will be a whole lot easier if you have a copy of your passport to take to an embassy. I would suggest having 3 or 4 copies and putting them in different places. One in your main backpack, one in your wallet, one in your daypack, etc. Then also take a picture of your passport too so it is on your camera or phone. Missing passports are a common occurrence, but if you are prepared for it, it won’t be as much of a hassle.
8) Get money switched over to Thai Baht, and let your bank know you are going to Thailand.
The local currency in Thailand in Thai Baht. It is a good idea to get some Thai Baht ahead of time so you are not scrambling at the airport to convert your currency. Around 5000 baht would be a decent start, though I started with 8000. It depends how much you are comfortable with carrying on you. I would also bring one or two american $100 bills. You can easily switch American money in Thailand to baht. Its a good idea to have incase there are problems with your bank card. Might be a good idea to have two separate cash cards too incase you lose one.
Make sure you also tell your bank you are going to Thailand and when you will be there. They will put a note on your account so your card will not be declined when trying to pull money out in Thailand. If you don’t tell your bank ahead of time, your bank account might freeze when you try to pull out money which can definitely cause a lot of unnecessary headaches that can be avoided.
9) Check Visa info for your home country.
Most backpackers going to Thailand will get a free 30-day Visa when they arrive, however it is best to check based on where you are from. You can find this info on embassy websites. If you are staying in Thailand for longer than the visa you are given, you can always do a visa run by going to a surrounding country such as Laos, and then re-entering Thailand to get a new visa issued.
10) Open your mind, say yes, and be outgoing!
This last point is more for when you start your trip, but equally as important since it will dictate the kind of trip you will have. If this is your first backpacking trip, you may experience a bit of a culture shock as many do. Instead of repelling it, try and take it all in with an open mind. Try new foods, learn about the culture, and go for new experiences. Someone at the hostel asked me if I wanted to go for dinner, I said yes and it resulted in a fun night with drinks and meeting lots of people. A hostel owner asked me if I wanted to go along with other guests to a music festival. I said yes and it ended up being one of the most memorable nights of my trip. At the end of the day, you want to make the most of your trip, so say yes to going out and seeing this amazing country. Finally, be outgoing. When you see people, smile. Say hello to people at the hostels. Include other people by inviting them along for meals. Just trying to be a little more social goes a long way as you will end up meeting a ton of people from all over the world. When I look back at my trip, one of the best parts of it were all of the cool people I met along the way. After all, shared experiences are the best.
After you’ve done these 10 things, you can relax as all you have to do next is jump on that plane and enjoy the trip of a lifetime! Got friends going to Thailand too? Share this article with them by clicking on the share buttons below!