With stunning beaches, beautiful islands, party hubs, and shopping streets, Thailand should be on every budget backpackers list. This was by far the most impromptu trip planned by us.
But, but, but…
It also happens to be one of the most beautiful places I have been to. It was an 8-day trip and we closed the budget at INR 60K per person. We visited Phuket (2 days), Krabi (2 days), Pattaya (2 days) and Bangkok (2 days).
On Arrival Visa
Thailand is every traveler’s dream destination, so once you reach the airport you will find a long queue for the visa process. It is better to get an e-visa, the whole process would take about 4 working days. But, if you have planned the trip at the last minute like us, you’d be left with no option but to get an on-arrival visa. The time frame to get the visa entirely depends on the queue, but if you are in a hurry or do not want to wait, there is an express process at the airport. Check with the help desk and they will guide you, you will have to pay 200 Bhat for this. The line was 10x smaller than the original queue (at least it was for us). You need to carry your departure form and the visa processing form with your photo (4 x 6 inches) stuck on it. They did not ask us for any details but it is advised that you carry printouts of the place of your stay and 10K Bhat either in hand or account. Also, as far as I noticed most of the money exchange centres there do not do INR conversion. So, it is best to either carry USD or Bhat.
If you are going to stick to this itinerary then fly to Phuket, take a minivan to Krabi then fly to Bangkok, take a taxi to and fro to Pattaya and then fly back from Bangkok. The minivan to Krabhi should cost you anything between 700 – 900 Bhat and the taxi to Pattaya from Bangkok airport should cost you about 1200 – 1400 Bhat one way.
We opted for hostels in all the cities. All of these hostels had dorms for 4 people, which was more so like a private room for us. These rooms were extremely economical and the total cost for accommodation came close to INR 3k to 4k per person all the places put together.
Slumber Party Hostel – Phuket
If you are someone who loves partying, choose this place hands down. It is quite small though. But, the place is full of people with wild energy. The caretaker “Ice” is really sweet and might occasionally knock your door for free shots. You need to submit your Passport at the time of check-in. The place is at a walkable distance from Patong Beach and a few other major attractions. They have a tie-up with a few bike rental shops and can help you get one. They have a pub crawl event happening every Wednesday and it costs about 450 Bhat per person. Also, there are a lot of good Thai massage centers nearby.
Blanco Hideout Railay – Krabi
This was the best of the 4 hostels that we stayed in. It is the only hostel on the Railay side of Krabi. The place is extremely beautiful and well maintained. It also has an attached bathroom (unlike most hostels) and a bar by the pool. The hostel is located on an island and the only way to reach this place is to take a boat from Ao Nang Pier or Ao Nammo Pier which costs about 100 Bhat per person. There are about 3 beaches and a night market at a walkable distance from the hostel. Since Railay by itself is a very small town you can cover all of the places by walk.
18 Coins Hostel – Pattaya
The hostel is about 3 hours drive from Don Muang airport and you can get a taxi to reach this place. If you are booking it at the airport they might charge you about 1900 Bhat to reach this place, but you can book them independently outside the airport as well and they will cost you about 1200 – 1400 Bhat. The place is located at the heart of Pattaya. That said, you might have to take a tuk-tuk or a taxi to visit the places. Coral island is about 2 hours from here. The Sanctuary of truth is about 10 minutes and the Floating market is about 20 minutes.
Art Hotel Sanamchai – Bangkok
The architecture of this hostel is pretty old and colorful. It is situated right above a flower market which will remind you of Koyambedu. Wat Arun, Wat Pho and Khoasan market are about 10 minutes from this hostel. The place has a beautiful library and a snooker table.
Food can be a real challenge when you are in Thailand. If you are someone who prefers only Indian food, then be ready for the real shock – you either won’t find Indian food or you’d end up paying about 150 Bhat for a dosa. There are a lot of food markets available if you are looking for street food which is quite cheap. Make sure that you ask them what it is made up of before you order. People there eat almost everything ranging from crocodiles to octopus. If you have a sensitive stomach, you might want to think twice before you gobble something down that throat of yours.
If you are a vegan or vegetarian (we had both in our group), then your options are extremely limited. Most of the restaurants consider egg and fish as vegetarian and fish oil is used to cook almost anything and everything. So, if you are particular about the ingredients you need to give clear instructions while placing the order. However, we resorted to bread, lattes, milkshakes, and pancakes for breakfast and dinner. You will find Family Mart and Seven-Eleven stores in almost every street. They are open 24*7 and you can get your supplies there. Do read the ingredients before you purchase something, there is a high chance that you might end up eating beef or pork if otherwise. Sticky mango rice, Thai pancakes, Thai coconut ice cream are the must-try recipes there. If you are a fan of Thai curry, then brace yourself, it does not taste the same. The ones that we get here in Chennai are a lot creamier and tastier. But, if you run of food options, which you eventually will, you can try it.
A sweet lady wrote this note for us there, it apparently means vegetarian (no egg, meat or fish) in Thai. You can use this for reference.
Places to visit
Before I flood you with pictures of the places we visited, there is something that I’d like to tell you. Thailand is a place filled with Tiger kingdoms and Elephant sanctuaries. Although most of them have an ethical tag attached to it, we are not sure if they have been sedated or trained under captivity. Either way by buying a ticket to a tiger/elephant entertainment show, you are unknowingly funding cruelty, abuse, and unkindness. Conservation is definitely not equal to captivity. Being an elephant lover, myself, I wanted to visit the elephant sanctuaries there to play with baby elephants, but after reading about the sanctuaries and the cruelty done to them I changed my mind.
James Bond Island: This is a one day tour. You can book them with any vendor near Patong beach. The cost of the island tour is generally 1000 Bhat, but you can bargain it for 900 Bhat. Ask the vendor if they offer canoeing through the caves, most of them do, if they don’t find a different vendor. Also, get the contact number of the vendor for emergency purposes.
You will be picked up from your hotel by a minivan and on the way to the national park, they will take you to a Monkey Temple. Dress code is not mandatory here as there are no monks.
After your visit to the monkey temple, you will route back to Ao Phang Nga National Park, from there you will be boarded into a long tail boat and taken for lunch. Post lunch you will head to the James bond island followed by canoeing around Talu island. It was drizzling when we started our canoe tour which made it all the more heavenly. The boat person in the canoe might demand you for a 100 Bhat tip, which is absolutely up to you to give.
Other places that we went to: Patong beach, Shopping areas around Patong Beach, Karon Beach, Kamala Beach, Bangla walking street, Laem Singh Beach, Surin Beach, Phuket weekend night market, Patong OTOP (not that great though). You can get a bike for rent anywhere in Patong. They will charge you about 200 – 300 Bhat. You do not need an international driving license to get the bike, but it is needed if you have to drive one. But, when we checked with one of the cops there he said any Asian license would suffice. However, I am not sure if that is a piece of legit information. In case you get caught, you will end up paying a fine of 1000 Bhat. That said, the streets of Phuket are beautiful and if you are someone who loves riding bikes, it is worth the risk.
Krabi is my most favourite of all the 4 places. If you have time then plan a day or two extra for Krabi alone. The travel from Phuket to Krabi is about 3 – 4 hours by minivan. We did not cover areas on the Ao Nang side of the island due to our limited time. But there are a few great beaches on that side as well.
Phi Phi islands: This is also a one day tour. There are a lot of Phi Phi island tours from Phuket as well, check for the price. The cost of this trip on the Railey side comes about 1850 Bhat per person. This includes a trip to the monkey island, Phi Phi island, Maya bay, Bamboo island along with swimming and snorkeling. There is no separate place to change before you dive into the sea for snorkeling, so if you want to get into the water, plan accordingly. Maya bay is indefinitely closed by the government of Thailand due to the number of tourists after the release of “The beach”. Aquatic life is slowly starting to bloom again in this area. You can see the place from the boat.
Kayaking: You can hire kayak boats for 200 Bhat for 2 people on the Western side of Railey. We took the boats around 5PM and went to watch the sunset from the middle of the sea (okay not so middle!).
Bioluminescent Plankton: This is also a tour but available only in very few shops. Unlike the other tours, this is a night tour and will cost you about 350 Bhat per person. They will take you on a boat and show you bioluminescent planktons. This is purely based on luck and you will not be able to see them if it rains.
Beaches and Night Market: Krabi has the most beautiful and quietest beaches. Phra Nang Bay and Railey Beach are the two beaches here and both of them are extremely beautiful. The night market on the Railey side is quite pleasant, most of the restaurants have someone performing live, the street food, art shops are too good to be real. If you have the time and energy you can go for rock climbing, there are different levels for each individual considering your age and potential.
Khao Sok National Park: We badly wanted to go to Khao Sok national park but we were on a time crunch. If you are planning to go here, then it is best to stay at Khao Sok overnight. Going to Khao Sok via public transport is quite tough, there is a van that starts from Ao Nang Pier at 10. 30 AM and the other at 3.30 PM. It is a 4-hour journey and the national park closes by 4 PM. If you are booking a tour it should cost you about 2500 – 3000 Bhat. If you are planning to explore it by yourself the entry fee comes close to 300 Bhat and you will have to pay individually for each activity that you plan.
Pattaya Floating Market: Entry to this market is 800 Bhat by boat and 200 Bhat by walk. This floating market is bigger than the ones in Bangkok, so if you are looking for an experience, you can consider this one.
Coral island: This is a one day trip and costs you about 1200 – 2000 Bhat based on the activities that you choose. The activities include Parasailing, Jet Ski, Banana boat ride and sea bed walking. It is a 2-hour journey from Pattaya.
Other attractions: Wat Phra Yai (Big Buddha) temple, Pattaya viewpoint (plan it during sunset), Sanctuary of truth (Entry 500 Bhat), Pattaya walking street. You can either get a Tuk Tuk or a Bike for travel. The Tuk Tuk people here are quite costly, so check with some locals on how much you can pay before you start.
There are a few things that you need to know about Bangkok.
- The traffic here is crazy. If you are boarding your flight from Bangkok, start really early. We were very close to missing our flight.
- It is really hard to get a bike rental or taxi in residential areas (like the area near our hostel)
- Take the bus. The drivers and the conductors here are very sweet.
- Clothing for women is quite economical.
Places to visit in Bangkok: Wat Pho Temple (the architecture is amazing), Wat Arun (visit it during 5PM and wait until they switch on the lights. The temple closes by 6PM), Khaosan night market (closes by 1AM), China Town, Pratunam market, Platinum Mall. If you love shopping then do not miss the Pratunam market and Platinum mall. We spent the whole day here and we do not regret it.
We had a kickass vacation. Hope you do too. Let me know in case you have any questions 🙂
Kha Khabhun (Thank you!)