A Step-by-Step Guide on Planning a Trip to Thailand

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Are you planning a trip to Thailand and don’t know where to start? Here’s our complete step-by-step guide on how to do it!

Planning a trip to Thailand can be daunting for some, especially if it is their first time visiting the country or their first time traveling to Asia. However, this should not hinder you and, in fact, should motivate you to plan ahead as this can help you build your confidence to adventure in a new, unfamiliar land.

Thailand is indeed a really easy introduction to Asia, as many of its cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai are well developed and are a good stepping stone for those who would like to explore the rest of the continent.

Our Thailand trip planner is a step-by-step guide you can use to help you outline your epic trip to the country, either temple hopping, eating your way around, or even chasing waterfalls. Whatever it is, you may decide to see, planning a backpacking trip to Thailand will offer you one of the best experiences of a lifetime.

Here, we believe in advanced planning and leaving some wiggle room for changes, so even though we have firm steps you could follow in this post, it doesn’t mean you must follow everything.

In fact, what we really want you to pay attention the most is the steps, but everything else, you can leave it as you go if you have flexible travel times as plans do change once you are in the moment.

However, having a rough plan on where you want to go, what you want to see, and what you want to experience is always a good note to have on the side so you have some sort of a map you can peek from time to time if you feel like you’re missing out on something.

With no further ado, here’s our step-by-step guide on planning a trip to Thailand!

Lonely Beach, Ko Chang
via Flickr | celebrityabc

A Step-by-Step Guide on Planning a Trip to Thailand

Step 1: Ask yourself these important questions

Where do you want to visit?

The best way to plan a trip to Thailand is by knowing where you want to go as this will already give you an overview of how many days you should spend traveling around the country.

Do a little browsing around our website and see which places attracts you the most and read our guides to give you a rough idea how long do you see yourself staying in that place.

What to do you want to see?

If you already wrote down the places you would like to visit, the next step is to find out which attractions, activities, and experiences you would like to do in each place. This is more like a “bucket list” type of planning, and roughly writing down the things you would like to do will give you a more realistic overview of how much you would really need to spend in one destination.

For example, if you fancy visiting Northern Thailand and would like to visit Chiang Mai specifically, and would like to see different temples like Doi Suthep, visit an elephant sanctuary, go on a meditation retreat, and perhaps go on a scooter day trip around the mountains – this, in our opinion, would need a solid three to five days.

Outlining the things you would like to do and see will help you plan your trip to Thailand on a bit more detailed level. Of course, if you want a relaxing holiday, do put this into consideration and allow extra days for just lounging around.

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What do you want to experience?

Thailand has a plethora of unique experiences from island hopping to some of the world’s best beaches, having a culinary experience, going on a luxurious spa retreat, and visiting some of the most stunning sceneries – these are all possible!

Now, after you’ve written down the places, you want to visit and the attractions you want to see, ask yourself this next question: what else do you want to experience in Thailand?

We, of course, have written down some of the best experiences you can do in the Land of Smiles, and you can check it out. Knowing what you want to experience will yet give you more ideas about what to prioritize during your trip.

We suggest finding of what experiences you would like to do mainly to give you an overview and also subtly tell you that the best things in life do take time. By this, we mean that some of the really cool things to do in Thailand are full-day excursions.

Also, this is a good time to check if any festivities are going on. For example, it is awesome to experience Song Kran (water festival) in April or Loy Krathong (lantern festival) in November!

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How long are you planning to travel?

This is now the point where you have everything you want to see and do in a sheet of paper, and now is a good time to calculate the time you’ll need to spend in Thailand if you would like to visit and experience all of these. You can start juggling things around, removing things, and prioritizing the activities you see yourself actually doing.

However, if you have a certain designated amount of holidays and aren’t flexible with your dates, the steps ahead is totally applicable! Doing initial research will give you a good idea of how many places you can visit, how many days you can spend in one destination, and how many cool attractions and experiences you can do.

That said, we do suggest you spend a minimum of two weeks exploring some of the notable places in the country such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and the Southern Islands. This will give you a handful of time on each place and still leaving a few days to just lounge around by the beach sipping on coconuts (or cocktails, because why not!).

So, if you’re coming from the other side of the planet and are planning a trip to Thailand, make sure that you allow yourself a good amount of time if you really want to experience what the country can offer. Allotting only a few days to a week in Thailand plus travel times will leave you crunching for time if you plan to visit several places.

However, if you’re only planning to visit one to two destinations, a week should suffice but still bear in mind that it will feel short.

Now, if you’re traveling from around Asia, give yourself a good amount of holiday time, as well. Travel should not feel rushed, it should be both leisure and an experience!

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Step 2: Creating the perfect itinerary

We all love a good and well-written itinerary! If you’re traveling on a fixed amount of holiday, we highly suggest writing a rough itinerary for yourself. We say “rough” even though we did mention “perfect” in the heading mainly because you should give yourself some slack and do not plan too much! Yes, so counter-intuitive, but trust us – over planning is overkill.

Thailand, except for Bangkok is such a laid-back country and if it is your first time visiting, having a loose but perfect itinerary of all the cool things you want to see and experience will give you a road map to follow with little room to breathe and go with the flow.

Having a Thailand vacation planner ready before you head out is recommended, but just as mentioned above, keep it loose and not tight. Do not over-plan your day with activities because not all plans come to happen, and you might just end up stressing about your day.

The best way we tackle this while traveling around Thailand is by writing down the top things we want to see in certain destinations.

For example, if you’re visiting Phuket, some of the notable things to do there is checking out the beaches, Phi Phi Islands, nightlife, temples, and markets. Let’s say you’re in Phuket for about three days, the best way to plan your itinerary around this place is by noting down the activities and places you actually want to do and see.

Prioritizing what you actually want to do first will give you an idea of what to do first when you arrive in Phuket. This means when you arrive, and in the first two days, you’ll be running around exploring and ticking off the things on your priority list. If it looks like two days is not enough, you still have a day to do the rest on your list.

However, if you arrive and you can already tell that you can do everything in two days, this means you still have one day to see and do whatever is in your second priority list or just simply rest and take it easy.

Of course, this is just an example. But this gives you an idea of how having an itinerary or plan works. There’s even the possibility that you’ll scratch everything off and go with the flow, and that is totally okay, too.

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Where to go and what to see

There are so many places to visit in Thailand, and we wrote a monster post about it, you can read it here. In a nutshell, some of the popular places most tourists go to include Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Chiang Rai, Ko Samui, Phuket, Ayutthaya, Hua Hin, Koh Lipe, and Khao Lak to name a few.

As for attractions and what to see, we also have a mega-post detailing all the cool things to see in the country – read it here.

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What to experience?

There are indeed a lot of amazing experiences in Thailand you can do that includes island hopping, going on a cooking class, waterfall chasing, lounging in beautiful beaches, surfing, hiking, and even camping!

Make sure to read our post about the top experiences in Thailand and see for yourself which ones you’d like to do and participate in.

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Step 3: Plan your route and expense

How to get around Thailand?

If you’re planning to visit multiple places, then it is only a good idea to do a quick research on what would be the best and most reasonable route to get around by checking flights, buses, and train transport routes around the country.

Thailand is a very easy place to move around as all public transport is reliable, cheap, and leaves on time. There are also really good trustworthy websites you can use to book your tickets online, here are some of the good Thailand route panner websites:

Going around Thailand by bus and train are the cheapest options if you’re on a budget, but flying inside Thailand is also reasonable if you’re crunching on time. You can always check Skyscanner for the cheapest options, and you can fly between cities for one to two hours.

When planning for your route, always look at the most time saving and convenient one. You can also plan your itinerary around these routes, so it is easier for you to move around.

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Cost of traveling around Thailand

When you plan your trip to Thailand, it is quite normal to wonder about the cost you might face. We’re glad to let you know that it is generally cheap to travel and adventure around, but with that said, it is still vital to know the importance of coming in with a good budget as you never know what you might encounter along the way.

We suggest a budget anywhere between 30 to 100 USD a day. For 30USD (~1000 Baht) a day, you can easily cover a night in a hostel (150 to 250 Baht), three meals a day from local restaurants (40-80 Baht per meal), a couple of beers (~80 Baht for a big Chang beer), and still have about 670 Baht to spend on exploring and other things you might fancy.

If you want to splurge a little and stay in a nice hotel, eat at a bit more at a nicer/western restaurant, and join tours, then anywhere between 50 to 100USD per day should be your budget.

Honestly, you can easily go by 20USD a day if you really want to do it cheaply or if you’re on a tight budget. With this budget, it will give you the basic needs likes a bunk bed in a hostel and meals for the day and maybe a little extra for something small and cheap.

With all that said, although Thailand is cheap, it is still good to leave some room in your budget and have a little extra just in case you want to treat yourself with something nice on some days.

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Step 4: Documents and Insurance

Now that your Thailand travel plan is set and you’ve done your research where you want to go noted what you want to see, drafted your itinerary, wrote down you possible route, and know about how much money you’ll need – the next thing you need to think about is the boring stuff!

It is important to know that when you travel to a new country involves bureaucracies that have something to do with papers and things we often overlook until it is too late.

Now, it is important to check these two main things before you actually leave for your holiday as it is always better to be absolutely ready when you get to immigration than not.

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Think about applying for the correct visa

Before you book everything, make sure to check if your nationality needs a visa before arriving in Thailand. Quite a lot of countries do get a 30 days visa exemption stamp on arrival and could stay in the country for that long and have the opportunity to extend this for another 30 days at the closest immigration.

However, some nationalities would need to apply for a tourist visa from a Thai Embassy before arriving in Thailand, and this could take anywhere between five days to two weeks, depending on the embassy.

So, make sure you double-check these weeks before your departure or even before booking your whole trip.

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Purchase insurance before you begin your trip

We’re a firm believer in acquiring travel insurance before leaving for your trip! Anything can happen during your journey, and although hospitals in Thailand are cheap in comparison to the west, it is still best to be ready for any health-related financial circumstances you might eventually face.

Of course, travel insurance does not only mean in case you face an accident, but this also serves insurance for a lot of things such as delayed flights, canceled trips, and if you lose your baggage.

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Step 5: Book your tickets and begin your journey!

Now that you’re all set and your Thailand travel plan is all set and solid, it is time to book your trip! If you’re happy with what you’ve planned for yourself, you can start looking for cheap flights from your destination to Thailand and book some of your accommodation, as well.

You can check this post detailing how to find cheap flights. If you want to know how to save money or score deals on accommodation, you can check this post.

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