Thailand fits easily into my top three destinations among all of the countries I’ve visited on my travels. Serene beaches, big parties, local villages, jungles, waterfalls, metropolitan cities… There’s something for everyone in Thailand, captured in this 30 days backpacking South Thailand itinerary.
It’s easy for backpackers and high-budget tourists alike to find their happy place in South Thailand, which is known for its beautiful islands. If you prefer islands to jungles, or have already spent time in north Thailand, this south Thailand itinerary should be next on your travel bucket list.
For first-timers to Thailand, don’t forget to read my Thailand Travel Tips before backpacking south Thailand!
Thai Visas on Arrival
Many passport holders can get into Thailand visa-free for up to 30 days, which is a perfect time frame for backpacking south Thailand. If you decide to stay 30 days in Thailand, do yourself a favor and don’t try to see the entire country! There’s so much that this beautiful place has to offer, it’ll be a stressful rush to see everything in such a short period of time.
If you prefer to see it all though, read my one-month in Thailand backpacking itinerary.
Timing for two of these locations is important:
- Try to be in Bangkok over the weekend to go to Chatuchak, my favorite market of all time.
- Try to go to Koh Phangan island during the full moon for the Full Moon Party! Many people come a few days early and leave a few (hangover recovery) days later. The best night in my opinion was the Jungle Party which was the day before the full moon. Either way, it’s such a festive time to be on this island! (Consider Thai health guidelines before going)
Days 1-4: Bangkok
Beautiful, bustling, Bangkok. It’s a chaotic mix of old meets new – next to massive malls and streets filled with honking cars and motorbikes, are quiet monasteries, parks, and local street vendors. You’ll likely start, or end, your 30 days in South Thailand in Bangkok.
The Grand Palace should be your first stop in Bangkok. For 500 baht ($15), you’ll experience the architectural and cultural highlight of Thailand. After the death and funeral of the beloved King Bhumibol, there was a massive, intricate funeral pyre on the property.
Take a tour to discover all the architectural wonders of the Grand Palace and surrounding Wat temples, including Wat Arun and Wat Pho.
Other Things to Do In Bangkok
- Golden Mount – Near the Grand Palace with an amazing view over all of Bangkok is the Golden Mount (entry is 20 Baht, or 60 cents). It has a surrounding monastery complex and decorative gardens, but the main attraction is the massive domed temple at the top of the hill. Get 360 degree views of Bangkok at the top!
- Shop till you drop! – Bangkok is famous for its shopping scene. My favorite place to go for all my shopping needs is the Chatuchak weekend market (also known as JJ’s). Grab a map at any of the information stands, and wander through the grid of shops selling everything from antiques to clothes to puppies to souvenirs to street food. It’s worth trying to arrange your travel plans in Thailand so you can come to this weekend-only market.
- MBK market – MBK is popular with locals and tourists for shopping. It is has many small vendors packed into a grid that spans many floors. The majority of what’s sold here is clothing and accessories, but there is an electronics section and some department stores attached to it. It’s a great place to stock up on clothes and goods for the rest of your 30 days in South Thailand itinerary!
- Siam Paragon – This over-the-top, 7-story mall is filled with stores from around the world and worth visiting. There’s a massive food court and supermarket on the ground floor, an aquarium in the basement, and a movie theater on the top floor.
- Khao San Road – another key stop on the backpacker itinerary. Check it out at least once for the experience. There’s music blasting from all different directions in the evenings, a great place to spend a wild backpacker night. Street food stands are located conveniently at the entrance to the street, where vendors sell different bugs and scorpions for tourist consumption!
- Tour to floating markets and train market, two famous spots located near Bangkok, and worth joining a tour to get to.
- You can also day trip to Ayutthaya, a cultural hot spot with many temples and ruins.
Where to stay in Bangkok:
Krit Hostel – centrally located, Krit Hostel is close to the Golden Mount and walking distance from the Grand Palace and Khao San Road. It has great free breakfast and a spacious rooftop to hang out at – highly recommended for backpackers.
Days 5-7: Khao Sok National Park
Next stop on your south Thailand itinerary is Khao Sok National Park. It can be reached by overnight bus or minibus from Bangkok. You’ll be dropped at a small, jungle-y village called Khlong Sok. At any hotel or hostel here, you can book the 2-day, 1-night tour that takes you into Khao Sok National Park.
Many people who visit Khao Sok opt for the overnight tour (2700 Baht or $81 for tour and the park entry fee). It’s expensive but I thought it was well worth the sticker price. It includes a walk in the jungle, through a river in a cave, a boat ride, buffet meals, and an overnight stay in a floating bungalow. For nature-lovers, this is a must-stop during your backpacking Southern Thailand itinerary.
Read about my experience on the overnight tour here.
Budget backpackers can hike around Khao Sok National Park for only the entry fee (300 baht or $9).
Days 8-11: Patong Beach and Phuket Town
The Phuket peninsula is the next stop I recommend during a backpacking south Thailand itinerary. Two main stops are frequented by tourists: Patong Beach which is more commercialized and is known for its nightlife and beautiful beaches, and Phuket Town, which is quieter and more authentically Thai.
Depending on your preference, these four days can be split between Patong Beach and Phuket Town. It’s only a short bus ride from one place to another.
Patong Beach would be a nice (and slightly hectic) first introduction to Thai beaches and the tourist partying beach life. Bangla Road here is similar to Khao San Road in Bangkok where the bars are open all night! There’s also a big mall and many Westerner-oriented cafes and restaurants.
Many backpackers skip staying in Phuket town and just pass through to get to the pier. I recommend staying here for at least one day during your 30 days in South Thailand itinerary to get a feel for local Thai city life.
I really enjoyed walking to the top of the Monkey Hill, where there are many monkey families playing in the trees or eating food that was left for them on the side of the street. Around town there are some local markets to explore, and wonderful street art and murals to see.
I stayed at Bandai Poshtel in Phuket town, which has a great rooftop, air conditioned rooms, a beautifully decorated interior. A free wholesome breakfast where you can try some Thai breakfast delicacies is perfect for budget backpackers.
If I had four days to split between Patong Beach and Phuket Town for my South Thailand itinerary, I’d stay for two days in each town.
Days 12-16: Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta
These are two main tourist islands in South Thailand that are both work a visit during your backpacking South Thailand itinerary. Each one has a completely different vibe to offer.
Both of these islands can be reached from Phuket town by ferry. Check ferries with 12GoAsia, or ask at your accommodation to book a boat ticket for you.
Koh Phi Phi
Phi Phi (pronounced pee-pee, not fee-fee) is more of a party island for tourists and backpackers. Although there’s a tiny local market, there are hardly any locals who live here and the island seems to be overrun with hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Even the people working at these places seem to all be from Western countries.
Things to do in Koh Phi Phi
- Take a boat tour for around $25-$40 USD. These take you to even more beautiful beaches. Reserve your spot in a longtail boat here!
- Hike to the Koh Phi Phi viewpoint, which is a steep 20 minute walk from town.
- In the evening check out some of the island’s chilled out bars with cool rooftops, decorations, and overall good vibes.
- Go to a night time fire show! At night there are endless fire shows put on by the beachside hostels and hotels to draw in people to their bar.
I stayed at Slinky Hostel which put on the biggest, loudest, most impressive fire show that I saw during my whole time in SE Asia. The music is outrageously loud and it vibrates the dorm room beds until 2-3am so I don’t recommend staying there if you’re not going to be out partying until then.
To enjoy some peace and quiet during your Southern Thailand itinerary, head to Koh Lanta. It’s the polar opposite of Koh Phi Phi. Koh Lanta is just a great place to relax, read a book at a beachside restaurant, and go to bed when the sun goes down. If you’re backpacking Thailand looking for some peace and quiet, spend more time in your south Thailand itinerary on Koh Lanta.
I stayed at Sonya Guesthouse, a family-run hostel, guesthouse, and restaurant that had some of the best food that I had in Thailand. It’s a five minute walk to the beach, and there are some great, cheap seaside restaurants close by too.
Be sure to rent a scooter one day to explore Koh Lanta during your 30 days in South Thailand itinerary. There’s a small National Park in the south that is a great spot to picnic, and encounter monkeys and some giant lizards. There’s also a historic town on the East side of Koh Lanta that’s built on stilts over the water. The rest of the island is a lot of forest, rubber tree plantations, and the occasional small village.
Thailand Travel Tip: If you’ve never ridden a scooter before, the roads here are super deserted so it’s a great place to learn how to ride!
Another Tip: If it’s your first time on a scooter, know that accidents do happen! Be sure you’re covered with travel insurance before you go.
If I was to split 5 days between these two islands on my 30 days in South Thailand itinerary, I would stay for three nights on Koh Phi Phi and two nights on Koh Lanta.
Days 17-20: Ao Nang Beach and Krabi
Next up on your south Thailand itinerary is Krabi, a region on mainland Thailand.
Here you’ll be faced with another decision to make depending upon what you like to do! “Choose your own” Thailand backpacking itinerary and adventure:
Similarly to Patong Beach vs Phuket, Ao Nang Beach is the tourist-oriented, party beach in comparison to more local Thai, quiet Krabi town.
Ao Nang is a party/resort/beach town on the southern coast of Thailand very popular with backpackers. The main excursion that people go on is to nearby Railay Beach, which you can only reach by longboat. The round-trip ticket costs 200 baht ($6), and it’s an open return so you can spend all day at this big beach that’s surrounded by cliffs.
At Railay beach are caves to explore, and a beautiful viewpoint hike. Ao Nang and Railay Beach are also hot spots for rock climbers, with many climbing excursions available from both locations.
Ao Nang is home a local street food area, Jame Food Centre, where I had almost all of my meals for incredibly cheap. For amazing Thai noodle dishes, check out Ao Nang Boat Noodle across from Jame Food Centre.
I stayed in the Moment Hostel, a social backpackers hostel with picnic tables in the front and conveniently located next to the big Mother Marche supermarket.
Krabi is a small transit town where you can get a feel for real Thailand, away from the tourists. The most famous attraction here is the Tiger Temple. It’s a long climb to the top, but with stunning views of the whole Krabi valley below.
I stayed at Amity Poshtel in Krabi, which was close to the night market and had great beds and facilities.
If I had 4 days in this area during my 30 days in South Thailand itinerary, I would spend all 4 of them in Ao Nang and rent a scooter to take a day trip to Krabi and the Tiger Temple.
Days 21-23: Koh Samui
Koh Samui might be one of the more famous islands in Thailand because of its popularity as a resort destination. This island has something for everyone though, not just honeymooners. Koh Samui has a huge selection of beaches, waterfalls, and both local and western restaurants. If you rent a scooter, its hard to get lost with one main street that loops around the whole island. The driving here can get a bit dangerous though, so keep at your own comfortable pace on the very right side of the road to let others pass.
There’s a huge backpacker nightlife scene in the area of Chaweng. You’ll find anything from clubs to hippy bars, to local street markets to souvenir shops (to ladyboys) that keep the island lit through the night.
I stayed in Samui Hostel in Chaweng, where I met a dozen other backpackers that I ended up hanging out with on Koh Phangan! It was probably the most social hostel I stayed in during my backpacking south Thailand itinerary.
I also had a wonderful cultural experience on Koh Samui when I visited my friend who owns a wellness center on the north part of the island. We went to a local market and bought some live turtles and fish, then went to Wat Plai Laem, a big temple complex with a lake surrounding it. Behind one of the massive Buddhist temples there is a little pier extending into the lake, where we let the animals go into water one by one. Good karma for us!
Days 24-27: Koh Phangan
A quick ferry ride from Koh Samui is Koh Phangan.
If you timed your South Thailand itinerary for this, you’ll be in Koh Phangan for the famous Full Moon party! (They also have a half-moon party if your schedule falls on that timeframe instead). There are several parties leading up to this day, including a Pool Party, a Waterfall Party, and a Jungle Party. I liked the Jungle Party the best because it was just one venue, vs the Full Moon party was a dozen venues all along the beach, and it was a bit out of control for my liking.
If you’re ready to embrace the party culture for your whole stay here, stay at Arena Hostel. They have strong buckets of liquor, a pool, and different events each night like beer pong or twerking competitions. It’s super social and everyone is there to have a good time. There’s a small beach nearby, but it’s a taxi ride away to the Full Moon Party beach.
If you’re more into day drinking on the beach, stay next to Haad Rin Beach which is where the Full Moon Party takes place. During the day it’s quiet and the beach is actually really beautiful. There are many nice restaurants here and 7-Elevens as well.
Staying at Haad Rin means during the actual Full Moon party you can leave your valuables in the hostel locker and come back whenever you need anything or to use the restroom! Check out Roadtrip Phangan or Long Shot Hostel for budget options.
Koh Phangan isn’t all drugs and alcohol. There’s a nice night market that takes place on the weekends in Thong Sala town on the west side of the island. Than Sadet National Park is worth a visit, where you can do some hiking up a waterfall. There are also a couple temples including Wat Khao Tam near Arena Hostel. It has a great viewpoint especially during sunset (with warning signs saying the monkeys are aggressive so carry a stick to guard yourself with).
Be sure to take one detox day during your itinerary and get a scooter to explore what else Koh Phangan has to offer!
Days 28-30: Return to Bangkok, etc
There are a few options for the last few days on your 30 days in South Thailand itinerary. If you’re like me and like to be on the safe side, head to whichever city you have a flight out of. This is usually Bangkok, but there are big airports in Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui as well.
Option: Koh Tao
One option is to go to Koh Tao for a night or two to finish your south Thailand itinerary. This is a popular next-step for Full Moon Party survivors, and those interested in taking PADI diving courses. Make sure you book ferries to and from Koh Tao early though, because they tend to sell out right after the Full Moon Party.
If you want to spend longer than two days Koh Tao, I recommend reducing your time at the other beach locations such as Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, and Ao Nang.
Beware that Koh Tao does have a nickname of “Murder Island”. There have been some mysterious, sometimes brutal, deaths that have taken place there over the years, usually of foreigners and especially of women traveling alone. Of course most people go there and encounter no problems at all, but it is something to be aware of.
This concludes the 30 Days Backpacking in South Thailand Itinerary!
I really recommend taking all 30 days to be in South Thailand because this is one of the most beautiful parts of the world. This will give you a reason to come back to Thailand to spend 30 days in Central and North Thailand.
Make the most of your trip to Thailand by reading up on some travel tips for first-timers before you go. Come to Thailand to make memories that will last a lifetime!
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Are You Prepared For Your Trip to Thailand?
- Book Your Flights – To find the cheapest flights, flexibility is key. I use both Google Flights and their low fare calendar, and Skiplagged, which uses airfare loopholes to get the lowest prices.
- Book Your Accommodation – Check out Booking.com for the largest selection of accommodation around the world. For backpackers, Hostelworld.com is also a favorite.
- Buy Travel Insurance – It’s better to protect yourself from mishaps when traveling. Get a quote from World Nomads to see how much it’ll cost to get you covered!
- Check Visa Requirements – From E-Visas to Visas-on-Arrival, iVisa has all the info on country visa requirements. If one is required, you can order one hassle-free through their site.
- Book Local Excursions – Don’t miss out on world-class experiences by booking tours and tickets online, ahead of your arrival. GetYourGuide has fun experiences from all around Thailand like visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, day-tripping to Ayutthaya from Bangkok, or island-hopping from Phuket!
- Pack Your Essentials – Check out my posts about Long Term Travel Gear, and Carry-On Luggage Packing Essentials.
- Read my 120+ Thailand Travel Tips blog post to prepare yourself for backpacking Thailand.