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Pai | © Kelly Iverson
Pai | © Kelly Iverson
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How to Plan the Perfect Thailand Itinerary

Picture of Kelly Iverson
Updated: 27 October 2017
There are an abundance of seemingly small details on a travel itinerary that can make or break a trip. If only someone with local knowledge could spare you the pitfalls – that is where we come in. Here, a complete guide to creating an itinerary for Thailand for an unforgettable trip, instead of one you’ll want to forget.
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Bangkok, Thailand | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

When to come

Not every traveler has the luxury of choosing when they are going to visit Thailand. For those who do, be sure to touch down in the Kingdom between the months of November through March. Thailand is always hot, but these months are graced with the coolest of temperatures. Be aware that at this time, however, Thailand is the most crowded with visitors. Some businesses take advantage of this as well and raise prices slightly on things like excursions and accommodation.

Those who want to avoid inflated prices and tourists should make their way to the Kingdom during the rainy season from July to October. Fret not, as the monsoon season is not as wet as it sounds. Visitors will probably have to steer clear of the islands, but there are plenty of things to see and do in the central, northern, and northeastern regions during this time. The hot season falls during the months of April, May, and June. If visitors know they cannot handle the heat, it is best to avoid Thailand altogether during this time.

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Koh Nangyuan, near Koh Tao, Thailand | © Courtesy of Dan Searle/Flickr

Fill your days with excursions

There are so many affordable excursions to partake in all over Thailand. In the north, check out white water rafting, trekking, various animal sanctuaries, and delicious cooking classes. In the south, spend the day diving, snorkeling, or island hopping. Most of these excursions have full and half-day experiences available. The more packed each and every day is, the more noteworthy your trip will be. If you find yourself getting tired from being so active, recharge with Thai coffee. It is cheap and delicious.

Eat like the locals

Do not be tempted to splurge on international cuisine while visiting Thailand. The country is home to some of the most unique and mouthwatering dishes in the world. Want to know if a vendor or restaurant is any good? Just take a look at the crowd. The more locals, the better the food.

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Vegetarian food stall in Bangkok | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

Plan ahead (or don’t)

The means of transportation in which visitors plan on taking to explore the country will be the deciding factor as to whether or not they should plan or book ahead of time. Those planning on flying around the country should purchase as far ahead as possible if they want to save money. That said, flights like AirAsia are incredibly cheap. Even booking flights on the day of departure should not cost more than about $100. Another great way to city-hop is by bus or train. The overnight trains are luxurious in comparison to the night buses, so take those instead, whenever possible. Visitors can also take buses when traveling to cities within a few hours of one another, for an incredibly affordable price.

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Thaïlande – Krabi – Railay Beach | © Courtesy of Nicolas Vollmer/Flickr

Where to go

Thailand is roughly the size of Texas, and visitors are going to want to explore as much of the country as possible before heading home. With so many noteworthy cities, it will be a difficult feat deciding which ones to axe from that epic itinerary. Here, the most memorable of cities worth visiting and why.

Bangkok

The capital has the best nightlife in the country. Gay nightclubs, red light districts, sky bars: you name it, Bangkok has it. The city is also home to a handful of stunning temples, the most epic shopping malls, and a wonderfully diverse cuisine.

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The Grand Palace | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

Chiang Mai

Think nature is neat? Then head to Chiang Mai. The city is renowned for its amazing trekking tours found just outside its city center. Visitors can also explore the Lanna temples, go white water rafting, zip line through the jungle, visit an elephant sanctuary, and more. The city is best suited to history buffs who also enjoy being outdoors.

Pai

From magic mushroom shakes to an abundance of vegetarian-friendly restaurants, any self-proclaimed hippie needs to add Pai to their travel itinerary. Other top attractions include the Pai Canyon for photographs, the hot springs for relaxing, and the Pai Land Split for some good company (the staff is awesome).

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Hot springs in Pai | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

Kanchanaburi

This city’s main draw is the seven-tiered waterfall at Erawan National Park. Those who enjoy learning about World War II will also enjoy visiting this city, as it is packed with historic relics, from the bridge over the River Kwai to the JEATH War Museum.

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Erawan Waterfalls — 7 Steps to Heaven | © Courtesy of Todd Huffman/Flickr

Krabi

This stunning southern province is home to an abundance of limestone cliffs rising out of the clear blue water. This city is best suited to photographers, rock climbers, and anyone who loves a good beach.

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Limestone cliffs in Krabi | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

Sukhothai

You only need a day or two to explore Sukhothai. The city is chock full of 13th to 15th-century temples. This place is best explored by bicycle.

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Parc historique de Sukhothai – Wat Sa Si | © Courtesy of SurLaRoute.fr/Flickr

Ayutthaya

The historic and quaint city of Ayutthaya is about an hour away by bus from the capital. Those visitors with a few days to kill in Bangkok should definitely add the second Siamese capital to their itinerary. There are many temples and historic ruins visitors can explore via motorbike or bicycle.

Phuket

From epic nightlife to stunning dive sites, Phuket is one of the most frequented islands in the Andaman Sea. Other top attractions include the Big Buddha, the Wat Chalong temple, and, of course, the beaches. There is an airport on the island as well, making it easily accessible in comparison to other islands off Thailand’s immense coastline.

Koh Samui/Koh Tao/Koh Pha Ngan

These are the three most popular islands located in the gulf of Thailand. These islands are a bit more complicated to visit than Krabi or Phuket, but they are surely worth the trek for visitors with some time on their hands. Koh Samui is best for travelers wanting to spend their vacation beachside. Koh Tao is home to many of the best dive sites in the country, including Sail Rock. Koh Pha Ngan is best for the party crowd, as this is where the famous full-moon party is held every month.

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Koh Nangyuan, near Koh Tao, Thailand | © Courtesy of Dan Searle/Flickr

Be flexible

This is the key component to having the perfect travel itinerary. Even the most delicately of constructed plan can derail at any given moment. Another thing to keep in mind is that many of the locals run on what is referred to as “Thai time.” Rushing these people will prove to be fruitless, so attempt to go with the flow as much as possible, and you will have an amazing time in Thailand.