A check list for the solo first time backpacker visiting Thailand
Is it your first time travelling? Unsure id Thailand is a good first adventure? Have concerns about travelling solo?
Let’s cover all the bases, from flights to hostel nights.
Booking a flight
Single or return, the choice is yours. With so many options to choose from now, it can feel a little overwhelming when it comes to booking flights.
You finally make the decision to commit to the adventure of a lifetime & the first hurdle can seem like a big one, but it needn’t be!
The first thing you get to decide is if you are going to have an open-ended trip, or set a return date.
2 single fares, when bought in advance can often be a very similar price as the return would be, so it’s not necessarily about saving money.
There is something about a one way ticket than can feel a little daunting, more so for your loved ones than you.
Not knowing a return date grants an incredible sense of freedom & opens up even more travel possibilities.
Your route is free to change in any moment!
Having a return flight doesn’t have to mean less freedom, you just get to be at the selected destination for the date specified – unless you purchase a flexi-date ticket, these cost a little more but some airlines will give you the option to change the date on your flight! Worth it if you think it’s a possibility you may want to have.
If you are incorporating other countries & continents in with your Thailand trip it could also be worthwhile booking a multi-destination ticket, many travel agents have set routes to choose from, again, with flexi-dates available on some.
Top tip- generally, the earlier you book the cheaper the flight will be BUT this isn’t strictly true, it is usually more expensive for a flight in the last few weeks leading up to the leave date, however, booking in advance requires you to be a bit savvy, check the prices each day & when it drops noticeably, book! (clearing your browser history is advised between searches)
Bordering Countries &
A popular travel combination is to visit the countries bordering Thailand; Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore & Malaysia.
If that’s the case, just crossing the borders by land or which cheap flights is simple & cost effective.
One popular flight app is ‘Kiwi’, this allows you to select a whole date range & seek out the cheapest flight, this option saves time re-selecting multiple dates!
You can book domestic flights in Thailand at low cost, again, booking in advance by a few weeks will save money.
If you are on a lower budget, buses, boats & trains will allow you to travel around the whole country without breaking the bank.
A bus from Bangkok (Central) to Chiang Mai (North), takes around 10 hours & costs around 450-800Baht).
Wherever you are staying, the hostel or hotel will usually be able to assist you in onward travel details, in terms of sorting transport, booking buses etc.
Other backpackers you meet will often have recent experience & knowledge too, which is valuable advice.
Getting a Visa
Depending on your country of residence, your visa requirements will differ.
Becoming familiar with your options BEFORE leaving the country is important, you may find that you could get a more suitable visa by gaining It before leaving the country.
Some tourists visas can be longer & more cost effective if granted in your own country.
Some nationalities can have a 15 day visa exempt granted on entry, this is free of charge but only allows 15 days in Thailand before having to leave.
If you choose to get a visa on entry, for most this lasts for 30 days & costs around 1900Baht.
Before the 30 days is up, you must leave the country (by air or land is fine), failure to do so will incur a fine of 500Baht/day.
You can then re-enter Thailand on a new visa (known as a border run).
Some travellers do this in a day & there are tour operators that run bus trips to the border, to gain a new visa & return!
Alternatively, you can plan your route so you are leaving Thailand before 30 days, visiting a neighbouring country & seeing out a visa there,
then on to the next country (or hop back to Thailand) & so on!
When you decide you are definitely going on this adventure, call your doctors surgery & ask to speak with the travel nurse (or state that you are going travelling).
An appointment with the travel nurse will allow you to discuss & arrange all the appropriate vaccinations in good time.
Rabies, hepatitis, typhoid & tetanus are usually recommended.(Rabies is personal preference, the shot will give you an extra 24hrs to get treatment after contracting rabies.)
Malaria tablets are another option to consider, the nurse will make you aware of the higher risk areas, tablets can be taken a day prior to entering a high risk area & for the duration of the stay.
The side effects of malaria tablets are reported to be quite unpleasant for some, so it’s worth doing your own research & weighing up the options – taking extra precautions against getting bitten is an option, this could mean using a more potent repellent containing DEET, covering skin at all times & adapting diet (studies show that eating garlic helps, as does reducing sugars!). The risk in not taking the tablets is of course contracting malaria, so it really is an individual choice.
Dengue fever is another virus contracted through being bitten, you won’t be offered a vaccination for this but it IS available in hospitals in Thailand.
No matter where you are in Thailand, be sure to take preventative measures to avoid getting bitten & treat bites with an anti-bacterial spray or cream quickly if you do.
Tiger balm is great for removing the itch too!
International drivers licence
If you plan to drive a moped or car whilst in Thailand, getting an international drivers licence is advised.
Failure to present a license if pulled over will result in a fine (400-1000Baht).
Although the license isn’t essential, it could save money in the long run. Chiang Mai is particularly notorious for on the spot fines, with its own traffic officer force out in full swing every day!
Currency & Cost of living
The Thai currency is Baht, the conversion for 100Baht is approximately £2.25, $3.75AUS, $3.02US, 2.50Euro.
How much currency should you bring & how?
It’s good to start with some currency, as when you arrive you’ll want some cash for transport etc.
so using an agent to exchange your local currency for you before you leave is a good first step.
There are ATM’s everywhere (in most parts of Thailand), so it’s easy to access your money. But there is a cost involved in cash withdrawals on most bank accounts.
The charge is usually per transaction, rather than amount, so withdrawing large amounts is advised, be it enough for a week, fortnight, or month is up to you.
Ask your bank before you leave how much the card transaction fees are & if there are any alternatives available to you.
Making payments on credit cards is one of the cheapest ways to access your money. Make the payment on the credit card then transfer the balance from your current account!
You can also get a travellers/cash card before you leave your country & load it up from your bank account, this card will be free to withdraw your money from, but will take time (up to 48hrs for some) to process a balance transfer if you need to top it up.
Some stores will accept the cash card as a payment method too.
It is very common to have establishments that only accept cash in Thailand, so it’s not always possible to make card payments.
How much money do you need to travel Thailand?
This is a BIG question with an ever-ending answer!
It is specific to the individual, depending on the quality of accommodation you want, how much you are going to eat out in fancy restaurants & how many tours & experiences you will want to book on to.
On a low budget, staying in cheap accommodation & eating in cheap restaurants/street food, choosing one experience/tour per week, & travelling via bus/train, it’s possible to have a budget of around 15,000Baht/month!
Add regular alcohol consumption to the mix & you can double that easily!
Staying in a more premium hostel, eating in a nice restaurant each day, having a few alcoholic drinks, doing more tours & taking a few domestic flights could cost around 35,000Baht.
The average meal could range between 30Baht-200Baht, it really does depend on the area you are in & the type of restaurant you choose!
Hostels range from 100Baht-300Baht for dorms.
Private rooms usually start at 300Baht, much higher in some hostels.
Hotels start at around 600Baht & can go all the way to premium western prices.
An evening cooking class can start at about 500Baht, going up into the thousand mark (plus) for some. These classes involve you eating your creations! So you can rule out having to pay for foo that evening!
Sim cards in Thailand
If you are staying in Thailand for more than a few days & your own network has restrictions or expensive tariffs abroad, it may be worthwhile investing in a Thai sim card. For a few hundred Baht, or 500Baht pre-loaded with a good amount of usage, you can text, call & use data without worry.
Sims are available to buy in some Family Marts, AIS stores & other network stores found at the airport or shopping malls. (Big C is a common shopping centre in most cities that has a range of shops)
Accommodation is easy to book in Thailand, with so many hostels & hotels to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
With a range of prices, from as little as 100Baht/night to premium prices, there are plenty to choose from depending on your budget,
For a first time traveller, it’s advisable to pre-book your first few nights’ accommodation before you set off, that way you’ll have the initial destination to get to & find your feet!
Most people fly into Bangkok as a start point (it’s the cheapest airport to fly to from most international destinations).
Arriving in Bangkok is an experience you won’t forget! Submerged into city Thai culture, noise, hustle, bustle & street food as far as the eye can see!
Once you’ve arrived, you’ll start to make friends & can choose & plan your next step.
Some travellers have a set plan, so perhaps you’ll already have an understanding of your next move!
Head south to the Islands & experience the incredible beaches or go north to the city of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai & Pai!?
Travelling solo for the first time leaves a lot open to the mind. Rest assured, you’ll soon make friends & they will quite possibly be friends for life!
Travelling seems to attract people to you that are like soul families! Connections that are hard to explain.
People will have your back & be-friend you in a heartbeat. Of course there are a few unsavoury characters, as there are anywhere in the world, but they really are rare to find in Thailand! The magical kingdom rubs off on its residents!
The beauty of travelling solo is that when you make friends, you don’t always have to leave them right away, sometimes you’ll be heading in the same direction, or change your route & head off together!
saying goodbye does become something you get use to though, which can be hard at first! Making connections that become a tight bond so quickly can be hard to part with, just remember that as soon as you do, others will show up & even more friendships will be made!
Before long you have a network of friends all over the world!
P.S – Check your passport expiry date!