I have no shame in admitting that I’ve been backpacking in Thailand SIX TIMES! Thailand has so much diversity and beauty to offer travelers with all types of interests. Travelers from most countries can stay visa-free in Thailand for up to one month (30 days). To make the most of a month in Thailand, this is my ultimate Thailand backpacking itinerary!
This backpacking #Thailand Itinerary will take you to busy, busy Bangkok, temple-covered Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, Thai island paradises of Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, and more. This is a Thailand backpacking itinerary, so travel that is budget- and adventure-focused!
Check out my other backpacking Thailand itinerary posts:
One Month in Thailand Itinerary: Backpacking Thailand Route
- Bangkok – 3 Days
- Chiang Mai – 3 Days
- Pai – 2 Days
- Chiang Rai – 2 Days
- Chiang Mai to Phuket – 1 Day
- Phuket – 2 days
- Khao Sok National Park – 3 days
- Ao Nang/Krabi – 2 Days
- Koh Phi Phi – 2 Days
- Koh Lanta – 2 Days
- Koh Samui – 3 Days
- Koh Phangan – 2 Days
- Koh Tao – 2 Days
- One Extra Day – Extend your stay in the town/island you love, or use this day to return to Bangkok/Phuket to fly to your next destination.
Before you start your Thailand One Month Itinerary...
Get an International Driver’s License
One of the easiest ways to get around as a backpacking in Thailand is by scooter or motorbike. To rent a motorbike in Thailand, often you only need to give the tour company your passport or a 2000+ baht ($66 USD) deposit. No license check necessary. However, in case of accidents or random police check-points, it’s best to have an International Driver’s License on you. If you’re based in the U.S., any AAA office will make one for you on the spot.
Have a Flight Booked to Leave Thailand
Before you board your flight to Bangkok, or any other Thai city, you will probably be asked to show “proof of onward travel” for Thailand. This can be an email or print-out of your flight leaving Thailand. So far, I’ve heard that having only a bus or train ticket out of Thailand is not enough “proof”. Check out more important Thailand Travel Tips like this.
Purchase Travel Insurance
Anything can happen when you’re traveling in Thailand, especially when you’re riding your first scooter, snorkeling, or sliding down waterfalls. Be prepared for anything by purchasing travel insurance before you depart. I used World Nomads insurance, which can even be purchased after you’ve hit the road. Find a quote below for your one month in Thailand:
Thailand One Month Itinerary
Bangkok - 3 Days
Bangkok is the beating heart of Thailand, and is a great introduction to all the wonderful things Southeast Asia has to offer backpackers. Hostels in Bangkok are high-quality and plentiful, the street food is cheap and amazing, and there’s a social buzz to the city that will excite you as soon as you touch down. Even though it’s a large city, it would be a mistake not to spend time in Bangkok during your Thailand one month itinerary.
Bangkok Tip: Try to be in Bangkok on the weekend, to check out Chatuchak (or JJ’s) weekend market. It’s the largest market in Southeast Asia, perfect for buying a new Thailand travel wardrobe or buying souvenirs during your month in Thailand.
Explore central Bangkok and its must-see attractions including the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun. T
he Grand Palace was the former administrative and religious center of Bangkok. It is home to a variety of temples, including Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the Emerald Buddha. Wat Pho, which is home to a massive reclining Buddha, and Wat Arun “The Temple of Dawn,” are impressive temples near the Grand Palace. You can book a walking tour of the Grand Palace and Wat Pho here.
Discover the modern side of Bangkok by jumping on the BTS Skytrain to Siam station. This area is home to a multi-story local market, MBK, as well as two mega-malls, Siam Paragon and CentralWorld. Connected to Siam Station by BTS is Chatuchak Weekend Market, if it’s open during your visit!
Other places to check out this day could include Bangkok’s floating market, China Town, or the Golden Mount, a temple overlooking central Bangkok.
Head to the ancient city of Ayutthaya, the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam. Ayutthaya is most famous for its sprawling archeological site covered in old temples, monasteries, and palaces. Many tours to Ayutthaya depart from Bangkok.
Where to Stay in Bangkok
Stay close to the center of Bangkok, such as walking distance to the Grand Palace or the Golden Mount. Check out the beautiful Once Again Hostel with spacious common areas, cafe, and rooftop. Another highly-rated option is the Printing House Poshtel, with amazing rooftop views, and a large cafe/bar attached.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Transportation
Next stop on this backpacking Thailand itinerary is Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand!
There are a few different options to transfer from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. For budget backpackers, the most popular option is to take an 11-hour journey by bus or train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. There are both day bus/train, and overnight bus/train options available to get between the two cities.
Check available transit options for your travel dates and reserve your seats at 12GoAsia.
The quickest option to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is to fly, which is a great option for those who don’t want to miss 11 hours in their Thailand one month itinerary.
There are dozens of flights running between these two cities every day, and prices are often very reasonable.
Check low-cost airlines like AirAsia and Nok, for flights starting at $30 USD (but carry-on only).
Thailand One Month Itinerary:
Chiang Mai - 3 Days
Chiang Mai is a cultural and religious hub, located in Northern Thailand. It is an unmissable stop on the Thailand backpacking route. The city was the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom, and is home to dozens of old temples and monasteries that can be visited today.
Chiang Mai’s most noticeable landmark is the Old City, which is a large area, a perfect square, surrounded by a water moat. In the center is a half-crumbled Wat Chedi Luang, a 15th-century pillar that was built to protect the city.
Chiang Mai Tip: Try to visit in time for the Sunday Night Market, one of the largest markets in Thailand. Hundreds of vendors from the region come to showcase their handicrafts and souvenirs.
Start by exploring Chiang Mai’s Old City, which means visiting a LOT of temples. Wear shoes you can easily slip on and off, and keep your shoulders and knees covered.
Must-see temples include Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh. I loved the more hidden Wat Chet Lin, with a large lotus pond and bamboo bridge, and Wat Phantao with its many hanging lanterns.
Rent a scooter (or hop on a tuk-tuk) and head to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a temple build into the side of a small mountain West of Chiang Mai. Go first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, hopefully get a good clear view of the city from the temple. This temple is very sacred to many Thai people, and although there are many tourists here, there are also many devout Buddhist locals coming here to pray and be blessed.
Other attractions in this region include the Hmong Hill Tribe Village and the decorative Bhubing Palace.
Booking at least one tour in Chiang Mai is a common experience during a Thailand backpacking itinerary.
Another popular activity while backpacking Thailand is to join a cooking class and learn how to make the delicious food you’ve been eating!
Where To Stay in Chiang Mai
Stay close to the action in Chiang Mai by staying at a backpacker hostel within the Old City. You’ll have quick access to tourist offices, restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops here.
I LOVED my stay at Sherloft Hostel, which has an incredible free breakfast and beautiful common areas you’ll never want to leave. You can also try highly rated Green Sleep hostel, with a large common area and social backpacker’s vibe.
Pai - 2 Days
A small town in north Thailand, Pai is known for its hot springs and waterfalls. Pai shouldn’t be missed during your Thailand one month itinerary, especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian. This hippy village is home to amazing plant-based restaurants and cafes, as well as a daily night market with plenty of street food for all types of diets.
Book transport from Chiang Mai to Pai here.
To reach Pai from Chiang Mai takes a strenuous 3-4 hours on a windy mountain road. After you arrive in Pai, you’ll just want to chill for a bit to recover from car-sickness. Spend the rest of the day exploring Pai’s Walking Street, checking out its river and Bamboo Bridges, and eating great hippie food. In the evening, go for some street food at the Pai Night Market, which occurs along the Walking Street.
Rent a scooter (or join an all-encompassing tour) to head to some of the famous landmarks around Pai. These include:
- Santichon Village, an old Chinese settlement
- Yun Lai Viewpoint overlooking the Pai valley
- Mo Paeng Waterfall, perfect for swimming
- Chedi Phra That Mae Yen, or the White Buddha Temple which can be see from Pai town
- Pai Canyon, a small hiking excursion where you can climb around on cliffs
- The World War II Memorial Bridge, or Pai Historical Bridge as it’s labeled on Google Maps
- Tha Pai Hot Springs
Where To Stay In Pai
Many beautiful accommodation options in Pai put you right in the heart of nature or agricultural terraces. Ideally, you’ll want to stay at a hotel or hostel within walking distance from Pai’s Walking Street, but most of Pai fits the bill anyways.
Backpackers should check out the unique, treehouse-like Spicy Pai Backpackers. Alternatively, get your own private cottage for only $15 at Pai Country Hut! For a luxurious escape in Pai, you can’t go wrong with the highly rated Pai Island Resort.
Chiang Rai - 2 Days
Chiang Rai is another small town in Northern Thailand, close to both the Myanmar and Laos borders, and famous for its intricate temples. From Pai, vans backtrack through Chiang Mai to reach Chiang Rai, but most make a stop at the famous White Temple for a quick 15-20 minutes of siightseeing. If you’d prefer, you can stay in Chiang Mai instead and take a full-day tour to Chiang Rai’s highlights.
After arriving from Pai, you’ll have about half a day to explore Chiang Rai. I recommend jumping on a scooter or hiring a tuk-tuk for the day, and heading to the White Temple, Blue Temple, and Black House. These are three unique attractions that you won’t see anywhere else in your one month in Thailand itinerary. The White Temple is an elaborate and intricate vision of heaven, and the Blue Temple is a place of worship fit for royalty. Black House is an interesting art exhibit north of Chiang Rai, home to several black buildings with interior decorations made of animal horns, skins, and bones to make your skin crawl.
Take a tour or drive up to the Golden Triangle, 1-2 hours north of Chiang Rai where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet. You’ll make a stop at the Opium House Museum, to learn about the history of the drug trade through these three country’s borders.
In the evening, head to Chiang Rai’s Night Bazaar, a small market near the bus station where you can do a bit of souvenir shopping while watching local performances on the Bazaar’s center stage.
Where To Stay In Chiang Rai
Backpackers shouldn’t miss Mercy Hostel, which has its own gym, pool, pool table, and movie room. The trendy Busket Hostel is another highly rated option in a great location. For luxury options, check out Nak Nakara Hotel and Le Patta Hotel Chiang Rai.
Backpacking Thailand Route - 1 day in transit from North to South Thailand
This Thailand backpacking itinerary continues to South Thailand, where you can experience world-class island destinations.
For a realistic Thailand one month itinerary, I need to include one day in transit to get from Northern Thailand to Southern Thailand. Especially if you’re taking public transportation, and even if you’re flying, it’ll take a big chunk of time out of your day.
From Chiang Mai, I recommend catching a flight to Phuket, the largest airport in Southern Thailand. Since Thailand is well-connected by public and tourist transportation, you could also fly to Krabi airport, or Surat Thani airport to continue this backpacking Thailand itinerary in the south.
Thailand One Month Itinerary:
Phuket - 2 Days
Continue along the Thailand backpacking route to Phuket, a peninsula which has something for every traveler to Thailand.
Depending on your taste, you can stay at Patong Beach or in Phuket Town, which are about 45 minutes apart. Patong Beach is the wild, beach party side of Phuket, while Phuket town is a quiet local town known for its Portuguese architecture and street art.
Regardless of whether you’re staying in Patong Beach or Phuket Town, you can join a tour to go to James Bond island, a Thailand bucket list destination. This standard island-hopping tour includes spending time on the beach, snorkeling, and kayaking on the brilliant blue waters. In the evening you can catch a show, the two most famous ones in Phuket being the ladyboy Cabaret Show, and the Siam Niramit show which showcases Thailand’s cultural heritage.
If you’re in Patong Beach, chill on the beach and enjoy all the amenities that this tourist town has to offer. Great restaurants, cafes, and bars are open all day and night, perfect for chilling and splurging on your favorite Thai or Western foods.
If you’re in Phuket Town, spend the day wandering the old town, admiring the Portuguese architecture and the large street art and murals around every corner. Feeling adventurous? Head up to the Monkey Hill, where you’re sure to see many families of monkeys hanging out by the side of the road and in the trees around you.
Khao Sok National Park - 3 days
Transfer from Phuket to beautiful Khao Sok National Park, tucked away in the forests of southern Thailand. This national park is home to a massive man-made lake, and is famous for its rainforest wildlife, limestone caves, and scenic boat tours.
Arrive from Phuket and relax in Khlong Sok town, where the Khao Sok National Park tours start. Book a budget hostel, or stay in a jungle bungalow for cheap! You can walk to Khao Sok National Park and hike some trails independently, or rent a bicycle to get around too. If you haven’t booked a Khao Sok National Park tour ahead of time, you can book a cheap, more basic one once you arrive in Khlong Sok.
Day 2 & 3
Take the 2-day, 1-night tour to Khao Sok National Park from Khlong Sok. You’ll stay overnight on a floating bungalow, and be treated to buffet-style meals at your accommodation. Nature adventures including walking through cave tunnels, kayaking, jungle trekking, and going on sunrise and sunset boat tours of the lake.
Ao Nang Beach - 2 Days
It’s back to the beach for your Thailand backpacking itinerary! Ao Nang is a popular beach location close to Krabi town. It has all the amenities you’d want during your Thailand holiday, including great bars, a large supermarket, cheap street food, and a small stretch of sand to lay out on.
Ao Nang beach is actually not much to write home about, but the neighboring Railay Beach is. This beach is only accessible by longtail boat, so buy a two-way ticket from Ao Nang and pack a swimsuit and towel to spend the day at Railay Beach. Here, you can chill on the shore or hike to a viewpoint, go snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, even rock climbing.
If you need more beach time, it’s easy to chill for a second day at Ao Nang or even back at Railay Beach. Alternatively, if you want to work up a sweat, rent a scooter and head to nearby Krabi town, home to a 1237-step climb to the Tiger Cave Temple. You can also hike to Dragon’s Crest for more incredible views over South Thailand.
Where To Stay in Ao Nang
I always stay at the social and nicely-located Moment Hostel in Ao Nang. Just next to a large supermarket and street food court, it’s also walking distance from the beach. If you prefer to stay in a quieter place, book accommodation ahead of time to stay at Railay Beach!
Koh Phi Phi - 2 Days
Koh Phi Phi is a small island known for its island-hopping tours and its party vibes, and a must-visit during a backpacking Thailand itinerary for party-goers. Koh Phi Phi is perfect if you’re looking for a relaxing time at the beach with a cocktail (or six), then spending evenings getting wild backpackers.
If you’re looking for cultural and religious experiences in Thailand, you won’t find much here. I recommend skipping ahead to Koh Lanta if you’re not looking for parties during your Thailand backpacking itinerary.
Must-see during your Thail a full day or half-day tour from Koh Phi Phi’s main island to the many smaller, uninhabited islands near it. There are crystal-clear waters at the base of towering limestone cliffs, perfect for snorkeling. Tours will take you to the infamous Monkey Beach too, where you’ll need to keep an eye on your belongings!
In the evening at Koh Phi Phi? Gotta go to a party! The main beach strip will be covered in fire shows and neon glow parties. Just walk up to enjoy the show.
After a hearty breakfast, sweat out the toxins by hiking up to the Koh Phi Phi viewpoint. Only about 30 minutes from the center of the town, the viewpoint gives you a whole panorama of the shades of blue water below.
Spend the rest of the day hanging out at the beach, at any of the great rooftop restaurants. A popular sunset activity is to take a boat to see bioluminescent plankton, which also call the area home.
Koh Lanta - 2 Days
Koh Lanta is the opposite of Koh Phi Phi: the perfect place to experience peace and quiet. During my backpacking Thailand itinerary, Koh Lanta may have been the quietest place I visited. A sense of local community is still strong here, and although it’s frequented by tourists, it’s not over-the-top.
Rent a scooter to circle the outskirts of Koh Lanta. Highlights of the island include Koh Lanta National Park to the very south (a perfect place for a picnic) and Koh Lanta Old Town where you can see local homes and businesses built over the water on stilts. You can also check out Lanta Animal Welfare, an animal shelter that you can spend some time volunteering at or just take a dog on a walk!
You deserve a rest day by now during this busy one month in Thailand itinerary, right? Grab a cabana by the sea, a fruit juice and a good book to spend the day Koh Lanta style.
Where To Stay On Koh Lanta
I loved my stay at Sonya Guesthouse, owned by a lovely family and with an attached restaurant. It’s just down the street from the beach, perfect for relaxing during this Thailand backpacking itinerary!
Koh Samui - 3 Days
No backpacking Thailand Route is complete without stops at Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao. Now that your Thailand itinerary is winding down to the end, take it a bit slower to enjoy these islands before heading back to reality.
Koh Samui is the first of the three islands that you should see during your Thailand one month itinerary.
The most popular place to stay on Koh Samui is the Chaweng area, home to plenty of restaurants, massage parlors, backpacker hostels, a night market and of course – the beach!
Rent a scooter and go waterfall-hopping. The most popular waterfalls to see on Koh Samui are Na Mueang Waterfall, Hin Lat Waterfall, and Tan Rua Waterfall. Bring a swimsuit because they all have a variety of swimming holes for taking a soak. If you prefer the ocean, you could join a tour to the nearby National Marine Park.
In the evening, check out the night market along Chaweng Walking Street. There’ll be plenty of street food and cheap souvenirs to bring home from your one month in Thailand.
Beach day! Hang out at the popular Chaweng beach if you’re staying near there. Other beautiful beaches on Koh Samui include Bophut Beach and Maenam Beach in the north, and Lamai Beach along the coast south of Chaweng.
After relaxing all day you’re ready for a party right? My clubbing experience on Koh Samui consisted of alternating nights between Ark Bar and the Green Mango Club, which are classic stops on the Thailand backpacking route.
Rent a scooter and go temple-hopping to some of the great temples on the outskirts of the island. Famous temples on Koh Samui include Wat Plai Laem, home to towering statues of the Buddha and gods and goddesses, and Wat Phra Yai, home to a Buddha statue you can see from miles away. Wat Khunaram is an interesting temple home to a mummified monk, 40 years dead but still sitting and greeting visitors in a meditative position.
Another night, another night market: Check out the Fisherman’s Village Night Market and walking street. This area is home to the stunning contrast of old fisherman’s homes built over the water that are now modern and eccentric restaurants and shops.
Where to Stay on Koh Samui
If you’re on the Thailand backpacking route, I recommend staying in the Chaweng area on Koh Samui, where backpackers tend to accumulate. I stayed at the basic but cheap and very social Samui Hotel.
Koh Phangan - 2 Days
Koh Phangan is the most famous stop along the Thailand backpacking route for party-going backpackers for one reason: The Full Moon Party.
Many backpackers plan their one month in Thailand itinerary to be in Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party, and the days leading up to it. This means many friends you make at backpacker hostels along the Thailand backpacker route will all accumulate on Koh Phangan!
You could easily spend all your time parting on Koh Phangan. If you’re looking for other things to do on Koh Phangan, here are some ideas:
Rent a scooter to circle the island. Since most people stay near Haad Rin beach (home to the Full Moon Party), there are many less touristy parts of the island great for exploring including hidden beaches and quiet local neighborhoods.
Head to Than Sadet National Park, which is home to a great big waterfall that you can hike up the side of. At the very top is a rewarding lookout over Koh Phangan’s jungles.
Spend some time in the water at one of the best snorkeling destinations in Thailand: Nang Yuan Island. Take an island cruise and snorkeling tour from Koh Phangan and have the whole day to spend swimming with colorful fish in crystal-clear water.
If you’d prefer to have a chill beach day, most accommodation in Koh Phangan is within walking distance of some beach or another. You can find a beach of your own, by hopping on a scooter to head to the West and North sections of Koh Phangan.
At night, head to the Thong Sala Night Market, which is located on the opposite side of Koh Phangan from the Full Moon Party. This is one of the larger and more local-oriented night markets of Thailand’s islands, a great place to experience some Thai culture.
Where to Stay on Koh Phangan
If you’re looking for a social place to stay, check out Arena Hostel, which includes a hostel bar, gym, and pool. Koh Phangan is also home to a Mad Monkey hostel, a famous chain around Southeast Asia.
Koh Tao - 2 Days
The last stop on this Thailand one month itinerary is Koh Tao. This is a popular island to visit on the Thailand backpacker route right after the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan. Note the ferries between Koh Tao and Koh Phangan sell out quickly, so reserve tickets ahead of time!
Note: Koh Tao has a nickname “murder island” due mysterious deaths that have occurred there, along with tourist disappearances. It’s best to visit and stay in groups here, although the majority of people have a safe and wonderful time on Koh Tao.
Join a one-day scuba diving experience to marvel at the sea life around Koh Tao. No experience is necessary to tick this item off your bucket list! If you want to take an open water diving course, plan at least four days in Koh Tao. (You can do this by shaving off some time in the other islands and beach destinations: Phuket, Ao Nang, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, etc.)
In the evening, check out the Koh Tao pub crawl, famous among backpackers in Southeast Asia for being one of the best. Don’t plan on going scuba diving after going drinking: puke in your mouthpiece would not be pleasant.
Get an early-morning hike in to the John-Suwan viewpoint, to work up a sweat and see the small Thai island from above. Koh Tao has several beautiful bays and beaches that deserve a visit. The best thing is, they are all within walking distance from each other!
If you’re into scuba diving, there are many cheap diving schools here that offer PADI courses to backpackers. Be sure to shift around a few dates during your Thailand one month itinerary to accommodate a few more days in dive school!
Where to Stay on Koh Tao
Last Stop During One Month in Thailand - ???
If you’ve been counting the days of my Thailand backpacking itinerary, you’ll notice I’ve left one day open! Make the most of your one month in Thailand itinerary by spending this extra day in a place you love.
Note that if you’re traveling from South Thailand back up to Bangkok or even to Chiang Mai to fly home, you’ll actually need this day to transit! Remember on a 30-day visa to Thailand, you will need to leave before Day 31.
Spending One Month in Thailand? Pin This Post!
Are You Prepared For The Thailand Backpacker Route?
- 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.