This Phong Nha Cave guide covers the everything you need to know about this small city and the Phong Nha Caves. Cave ticket prices, best caves to explore, a few local food recommendations, where to stay in Phong Nha, and how to get around the city - including how to get to and from the airport, bus and train stations.
Viewing entries tagged
Whether you have one day or two weeks to travel, our Singapore city guide covers the must see sites, local food recommendations, where to stay, how much the city will cost, an example itinerary, and how to get around the city - including how to get to and from the airport.
With an overwhelming amount of tailor shops in Hoi An to choose from, our guide will help you know what things cost, where to get the best things made, and how to prepare for having that snazzy suit or flashy dress you’ve always dreamed of made to order.
The Gili Islands and Lombok Island were devastated by the two earthquakes that struck in August of 2018. This is what they look like now.
Whether you have two days or two weeks to travel, our Laos country guide covers the must see sites, local food recommendations, where to stay, how much the city will cost, an example itinerary, and how to get around the city.
Whether you have two days or two weeks to travel, our Da Nang & Hoi An city guide covers the must see sites, local food recommendations, where to stay, how much the city will cost, an example itinerary, and how to get around the city - including how to get to and from the airport.
We breakdown the 6 most common beliefs about traveling during the monsoon season and tell you whether they’re true or false.
Whether it’s learning how to spot good street food, how to deal with chaotic traffic, or what clothing to wear, our survival tips will help you conquer culture shock in Southeast Asia so you can worry less and enjoy more.
Whether you have two days or two weeks to travel, our Myanmar country guide covers the must see sites, local food recommendations, where to stay, how much the city will cost, an example itinerary, and how to get around the city.
Why Travel To Myanmar?
In late 2017, we decided to visit Myanmar for a two week Christmas/New Years vacation. We decided upon Myanmar, really, because it is a destination that not many tourists visit. For us, after being on the road for two years and exploring more than 17 countries in that time, the thought of going to an entire country that was "off the beaten path" was exhilarating. We had heard from many backpackers and expats that Myanmar was truly a gem of a country, hidden in plain sight of the world. From the welcoming government, the locals who will go out of their way to help you, to the mouthwatering food, lush nature, gorgeous temples and pagoda's, and amazingly cheap prices, Myanmar has it all.
You Went To Myanmar? Was It Safe?
When we got back from our trip, these were the questions we were constantly asked, from our family, friends, and other backpackers and expats. Let us cut straight to the chase, YES, Myanmar is a safe country to travel to and within.
Do You (we) Support The Rohingya Conflict?
No. Of course we don't support the terrible expulsion and treatment of an ethnic people. We wholeheartedly disagree with the way the country (or rather, military) of Myanmar is handling the situation and how the Rohingya people are being treated, detained, murdered, separated from their families, and expelled.
Detailed in the rest of this post, we explain the current Rohingya conflict and the role that both Myanmar and Bangladesh play. Additionally, we give a very detailed, albeit brief, history of the politics of Myanmar, and why you should travel to this amazing Southeast Asian country.
Current Political Conflict: Rohingya Persecution In Myanmar
The more than one million Rohingya Muslims are described as the 'world's most persecuted minority'.
Who are the Rohingya?
The Rohingya are a majority Muslim ethnic group, who have lived in Myanmar for hundreds of years.
Where in Myanmar are the Rohingya?
Nearly all of the Rohingya in Myanmar live in the western coastal state of Rakhine.
Where do the Rohingya come from?
During the time of British rule, many people migrated to the country for work. These laborers came from India & what is now known as Bangladesh. However, after gaining independence in 1948, the new government viewed the migration that took place during British rule as illegal and refused citizenship to many Rohingya.
What is the conflict?
Aung San Suu Kyi and her government does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group or citizens, but rather as terrorists. In October of 2016, violence broke out between the Rohingya people and the military. The military accused the Rohingya of starting the violence by attacking and subsequently killing 9 police officers at a border outpost near the Bangladeshi border. The military responded to the 'terrorist' group much like the state of Israel reacts to attacks from Palestine - with brutal force, disregard for civilian life, and without fear of international response. Since 2016 the military has been accused of killing more than 1,000 Rohingya, displacing tens-of-thousands more, and burning entire villages to the ground, leaving the wounded to die in the blaze.
Why are the Rohingya stateless?
Myanmar: In 1982, Myanmar passed a new citizenship that specified and recognized 135 different ethnic groups - the Rohingya were not included. As a result of the law, their rights to study, work, travel, marry, practice their religion and access health services became restricted.
Bangladesh: Similar to the government of Myanmar, the Bangladeshi government also see's the Rohingya people as illegal immigrants. Most have never lived in Bangladesh and therefore are not legal citizens of the country.
What is being done to solve the problem?
Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi and her government entrusted former UN chief Kofi Annan with finding ways to heal the long-standing divisions in the region. However, many argue that this was just a way for Aung San Suu Kyi to "pacify the global public opinion and try to demonstrate to the international community that she is doing what she can to resolve the issue"...without actually resolving anything.
Bangladesh: Bangladesh has described the treatment of the Rohingya people in Myanmar as 'genocide', yet they are doing little to help or treat them any better. According to numerous news outlets, Bangladesh is refusing to let many Rohingya walk freely into the country. Their solution is to provide the Rohingya people a small, confined, holding camp, on an island that is prone to flooding and has even been called 'uninhabitable' by many Human Rights groups. Bangladesh has told Myanmar that they should "take their nationals back."
*It is important to note that Aung San Suu Kyi and her government do not have control or power over the military. The military acts independently from the rest of the democratically elected national government.
Understanding The Political History Of Myanmar
1824 - 1948: Myanmar, then called Burma, was ruled as a British colony.
1948: On January 4th, Burma achieved independence from Britain, and became a military ruled country, renamed the Union of Burma.
1989: The ruling military party changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar.
1990: General elections were held in Myanmar. The elections were won by Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party: the National League for Democracy (NLD). However, the military refused to recognize the results and continued to rule the country.
2008: After facing criticism from the West, Myanmar's military government agreed to rewrite the constitution and create the "Program of Reform," which allowed other political parties to participate in elections.
2015: Myanmar held elections again. The National League for Democracy won. Again, Aung San Suu Kyi was to become president.
However, Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from being president. Why?
1) Both of her sons are British citizens & according to a clause in the constitution no-one with children of another nationality can be president.
2) The constitution demands the president must have military experience - Aung San Suu Kyi has no such military experience.
If Aung San Suu Kyi won the election, why can't they just make an amendment to the constitution, allowing her to take power?
During the rewrite of the constitution in 2008, the military specified that it would always retain 25% of seats in both houses of parliament allowing the military power to veto any move to change the constitution.
How does Aung San Suu Kyi have Presidential power if she isn't President?
The NLD won the election. Because Aung San Suu Kyi could not be President, all the party had to do was find another suitable and likable candidate to work side by side with her. It would be through him and his legitimate presidency, Aung San Suu Kyi would maintain power. She stated that she "would rule from above” (by proxy).
How Does The Conflict Effect You?
To put it simply, it doesn't.
Are you supporting the oppression of the Rohingya if you travel to Myanmar? No. The only money that you spend that could potentially fund the military and this conflict, would be the money you pay for your visa. Other than that, all the money you spend at restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, on buses, or accommodation will go directly to the locals and their respective companies, not the government or the military.
Can I go into the Rakhine state? No. Access to this area is restricted and secured with 'border' crossings. This includes the media.
Is the Rakhine state the only conflict zone? There are a small amount of Rohingya in other areas of the country but the Rakhine state is where the majority of them are located. If there is conflict in other areas of the country, it too will be restricted to media and tourists.
Do the citizens of Myanmar support the military or oppose the conflict? Like the military, Aung San Suu Kyi and her government do not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group or citizens. Most citizens tend to agree with her. However, you can find opinions on both sides of the political spectrum that support and denounce the way the Rohingya people are being treated.
"Are we willing to live together with them? Of course, if they truly want to integrate with the native people and are willing to sing our national anthem. No country will accept 1 million + of refugees, especially a third world country like Myanmar [otherwise]. We are disappointed at the world medias for portraying us as evil with their one sided biased news like this."
- Pyie Sone, Myanmar National
Why You Should Travel To Myanmar
Myanmar has the power to surprise and delight even the most jaded traveler. You will be absolutely amazed by Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, even if you feel you are 'templed out' after traveling Southeast Asia. Stand in awe of the more than 4000 sacred stupas that are scattered across Bagan. Take hundreds of photos while enjoying a long boat ride down Inle Lake to watch the 'fishermen' perform their unique craft. Fly high over the city of Mandalay or Bagan in a hot air balloon during sunrise, and explore the Golden Rock Pagoda or Mount Popa.
If you want to learn more about traveling to or within Myanmar, check out our Myanmar Country Guide.
We give you a breakdown of how to enter the country & how to get around once you're there, what are the most popular things to do and see, accommodation recommendations, a budget breakdown, and some travel tips and helpful hints for this country.
“This is Burma...quite unlike any land you know about”
- Rudyard Kipling in Letters from the East
Itching For More Information About Southeast Asia?
The islands off the coast of Southern Thailand are famous for a reason. From the pristine beauty of the crystal clear water, the untouched limestone islands, the peaceful private beaches, to the Scuba Diving and Snorkeling, the islands off Thailand really are worth your time, money and effort to get there. We’ve put together this comprehensive Thailand island hopping guide to help you plan your island hopping adventure. We have made sure to include everything you need to know: where to go, how to get there and how much it will cost. We have also included a sample 7 day itinerary, budget breakdown, Thailand island travel tips, and some personal recommendations.
Cambodia (located in between Thailand and Vietnam), and the lesser known Myanmar (to the northwest of Thailand) both offer their visitors truly remarkable ancient ruins. Though the countries of Cambodia and Myanmar are extremely different from one another, one thing is for sure - both countries and ancient sites offer its visitors breathtaking landscapes and a memorable experience. They are both as overwhelming as they are repetitive, uplifting as they are mysterious, and each worthy of a visit.
Whether you have two days or two weeks to travel, our Kuala Lumpur city guide covers the must see sites, local food recommendations, where to stay, how much the city will cost, an example itinerary, and how to get around the city - including how to get to and from the airport.
Whether you have two days or two weeks to travel, our Hong Kong city guide covers the must see sites, local food recommendations, where to stay, how much the city will cost, an example itinerary, and how to get around the city - including how to get to and from the airport.
The most popular tourist sites you can't miss, a couple delicious food and restaurant recommendations, tips on finding accommodation, a quick breakdown of how much this city will cost you, a 48-hour example itinerary, and information on how to get around the city - including how to get to and from the airport .
Making money in any regard takes dedication and a good job. But what if you're job is traveling? How can you turn profits while backpacking? We've done it through a number of different aspects from being digital nomads, blogging, bartending, and now teaching in Southeast Asia.
Southeast Asia offers an opportunity for tourists to responsibly interact with elephants. Visitors can contribute to the well-being and safety of these animals through the right locally run sanctuaries. Booking the best Elephant tour in Chiang Mai means looking for tours that advertise no riding, no hooks, and no chains.
With so much ground to cover in the Angkor archeological park it’s best to have a clear plan, knowing which sites are the most recognizable, the most overrun by the forrest, and the least touristy. Our easy guide for the cheapest way around Angkor, Cambodia and the best places to snap a photo is built from an actual budget detailing the costs for visiting Angkor and the best circuit to take.
With more than 10 million tourists visiting annually, Vietnam is quickly becoming one of the most travelled to countries in Southeast Asia. From the endless rice fields in northern Sapa, the ever famous limestone islands of Ha Long Bay, and the french quarter in Hanoi, to the center of the country where you will meet Da Nang - the fastest growing city in Southeast Asia, which is surrounded by multiple UNESCO World Heritage Cities like Hue, Hoi An, and My Son. Take a trip further south through the mountains of Da Lat, the beach town on Nha Trang and make your way to the biggest, fastest and most populated city of Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City. The country remains one of the cheapest in Southeast Asia and is a great starting point for a backpacking tour of Southeast Asia.
Why Travel To Vietnam
We were captivated by almost everything is Vietnam. The country boasts beautiful beaches leading into crystal clear water, incredibly interesting history, crazy traffic, bustling nightlife, a communist government, and hardworking locals that welcome tourists with a smile, cold fresh beer and a plate of Bún Chả, a local favorite. There's much to do and see in this long and narrow country and we feel like we have just scratched the surface. We love this country for the never ending access to all sorts of landscapes and activities that fit a tight budget. Vietnam is an easy country to travel within and is one of the most accessible countries in Southeast Asia.
The Nitty Gritty Facts
92.7 million people live in Vietnam, 7.6 million of them live in Hanoi, the capital.
The worldwide known food, Pho, is the national dish.
Ho Chi Minh City was called Saigon until 1975 when it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City following its capture by North Vietnamese communist forces.
Vietnam has 3 major religions, Buddhism, Taoism, and Catholicism.
The war in Vietnam war started in 1954 and didn't end until 1975.
Hanoi — Sapa — Da Nang — Tam Ky —Hoi An — Ho Chi Minh City
Roughly a thirty two-hour journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City by bus and costs around $40.
There are many stops in between these two cities (Hanoi in the north and Ho Chi Minh in the south). Most backpackers follow this route (in one direction or the other) and stop at the different cities along the way.
The most traveled cities in Vietnam are: Hanoi, Hoi, Hoi An, Sapa, Halong Bay, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Lat & Mui Ne
Traveling throughout Vietnam is easy because everything is so well connected. It can be very affordable if you're ok with putting in long hours on bus rides. However, there are also regular cheap flights from the north to south or visa versa.
Airlines for Vietnam include:
Vietnam Airlines - The flagship airline of the country
VietJet Air - A budget airline
AirAsiaX - A budget airline
Jetstar Pacific Airlines - A budget airline
The Rugged Budget
The national currency in Vietnam is the Dong 22,800 Dong = $1 USD
Local buses $.50—$2 USD
Intercity bus $5—$25
Accommodation in a 8 bed mixed dorm $4—$6 USD
Private room in a 4 star hotel start at $20 USD
Beer at a bar $1-2 USD
Beer from a shop $.50 USD
Street food $1—$4 USD
Sit down restaurant $4— $6 USD
A pack of 20 cigarettes $3 USD
Vietnam From The Scratch My Pack Lens
Helpful Hints For Traveling In Vietnam
It's more economical to travel by bus, but it does take more time; a lot more time. If you have a limited amount of time to travel through the country by bus the there are a few other options. Depending on the length of your travels, where you want to go, and your route, there are flights into most of the heavily touristed cities, and Vietnam boasts a rail system that is affordable, clean and efficient.
Apply for an E-Visa before your visit. At the beginning of 2017, Vietnam started their E-Visa program (for 25 countries) where you apply for your visa online from anywhere in the world. Before that you would have to go to a Vietnamese embassy somewhere to apply for your journey. It will cost around $25 and only needs 3-5 days for processing. After 3-5 days you can log back into the website and find your approved letter from the government. Print this out and bring it with you upon your arrival into the country.
Buses are a cheap option for local transport, however for $5/day you can rent your own moped and be free to explore whenever you want, wherever you want. But be careful, the traffic in HCM City is brutal. Make sure you always get off to the left, the opposite side as your muffler, or you might end up with what the expats call a "Saigon Kiss" i.e. a burn on your leg from the hot exhaust. If you don't feel comfortable with a moped and buses take too long, download the Grab App. It's Uber for Vietnam: Cheap, fast and efficient.
Buy beer from the local shops rather than the bars or restaurants to save a bit of extra cash.
Vietnam uses the same power plug as in the United States and Europe. I.e. any plug from the US or Europe will work in Vietnam. The voltage is 220v whereas the US is 110V - so your devices may get a little warm while charging.
Ho Chi Minh City is the Bangkok of Vietnam. The ever famous Bui Vien Street is where most backpackers and tourists young and old flock to during the evening. Whether you're looking to suck down a couple nitrous balloons, drink a bucket of beers, rave until the sun comes up, take shots until you can't move, play "find the hooker", or you just want to watch other people do these things, Bui Vien Street is definitely the place to go. If this seems like too much for you, there are dozens of surrounding rooftop bars with a view of the city, complete better sounding music, cocktails instead of shots, waiters instead of an overcrowded bar, and bathrooms that you won't mind using. Of course the price changes with the new scenery as well. Whatever your fancy, nightlife in HCM City is an ever present part of what makes this city so fun and memorable.
Activities That Won’t Scratch Your Budget
Exploring the Rice Fields, Sapa: Free - $4 USD
You have two ways of exploring Sapa, by foot or motorbike. We personally prefer motorbike because the area is vast and there is lots to see. We rented a motorbike from our homestay for $4 a day and were able to explore all day, discovering lonely dirt roads, water buffalo walking the road, children playing in the rain and breathtaking views overlooking the surrounding rice fields.
Women's Museum, Hanoi: $1.50 USD
This is a great museum that boasts five levels of women's history. Each floor has a different theme: fashion, war, marriage, motherhood, and daily life. This museum gives you a great insight into the role the Vietnamese women play in the country and in history. Give yourself about 2-3 hours to enjoy everything it has to offer. You can purchase an audio headset for an additional 50,000 dong, but we don't find it necessary as there are explanations for everything you see.
Hỏa Lò Prison Museum, Hanoi: $1.50 USD
Hỏa Lò Prison was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for U.S. Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War. This museum (which still looks like a prison) exudes Vietnamese propaganda and is full of pictures, videos and audio stories that will almost make you change the way you think about Vietnam history.
Watch the Dragon Bridge breath fire and spit water, Da Nang: Free
This is super awesome. Every Saturday and Sunday, the Dragon Bridge will close down at 9pm. At around 9:05 the dragon will breathe fire for about 5 minutes and then spit water for about 10 minutes. This is a really cool sight so make sure to bring your camera but don't stand to close or you will get drenched.
Lady Buddha & Monkey Mountain, Da Nang: Free
This beautiful white statue of Lady Buddha is taller than Lady Liberty in New York. It is surrounded by Monkey Mountain where you can drive your motorbike for hours searching for monkeys or making your way to the very top for a 360 degree view of Da Nang and the ocean.
Relax on the Beach, Da Nang or Hoi An: Free
Da Nang and Hoi An boast some of the best beaches in Vietnam. Head to the beach and grab a chair under an umbrella for 50,000 Dong ($2USD) or order drinks or food and your chair is free.
Take a ride down the Thu Bon River, Hoi An: $5 USD
This is a rather famous tourist attraction in Hoi An. You can take a long-boat, boat ride down the river either during the day or at night when the city is lit up with lights and floating candles in the water.
Weekend Street Markets, Almost every city: Free
Almost every city you go to i Vietnam boasts a weekend street market. The market in Hanoi in especially long but every market you may go to will feature roughly the same things: lots of food & drink, clothes, souvenirs, and electronics. This is a fun way to interact with locals, try street food, take some action shots with your camera, and practise you bartering skills.
Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City: $20.00
The tunnels are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels and were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped to counter the growing American military effort.
War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City :Cost $0.75
The museum comprises a series of themed rooms in several buildings, with period military equipment placed within a walled yard. One building reproduces the "tiger cages" in which the South Vietnamese government kept political prisoners. Other exhibits include graphic photography, covering the effects of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliant sprays, the use of napalm and bombs, and war atrocities such as the My Lai massacre. Curiosities include a guillotine and three jars of preserved human fetuses deformed by exposure to Agent Orange.
Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral of Asia, Ho Chi Minh City: Free
Established by French colonists who initially named it Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saïgon, the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880. It has two bell towers, reaching a height of 58 meters. During October 2005, the statue was reported to have shed tears, attracting thousands of people and forcing authorities to stop traffic around the Cathedral.
Where Did We Stay (Accommodation We Recommend)
Chien Hostel, Hanoi $5/night for a 20 bed mixed dorm
This hostel is in the center of the old town, minutes away from the lake. The hostel features a free breakfast buffet (which includes eggs, fresh fruit, fried rice, noodles, toast, coffee, and juice). They also give out FREE BEER three times a day for 15 minutes increments. The hostel has wonderful staff, great air-con that is always on, a raging social scene, three rooftop patios, comfortable beds, and is only $5/night.
Barney's Hostel, Da Nang $6/night for a 6 bed mixed dorm
We love this hostel. It is a little far away from everything else in Da Nang, so a motorbike rental is necessary (which they can set that up for you), but is right on the Han River and a five minute ride away from the beach. This hostel has some of the best staff we have ever come across in a hostel, a rooftop patio overlooking the river and surrounding city, lush bathrooms, huge beds, a nice common area and a How I met Your Mother theme.
ZiZi Mekhoo Sapa Homestay, Sapa $6/night for a 8 person dorm
Zizi (the owner) and Meria (who is in charge of hospitality and communication between guests and family) are both really great! They both go out of there way to help you with anything you need and are sure to help you make the most of your stay in Sapa. You are 8km away from town staying in a little village with a real rice farming family so you will need a motor bike, but the family can set that up for you. When you arrive it is clear you enter their world, not the other way around. The house can be dusty, the area loud, & the bathroom a bit dirty, because you are living with a real family, not staying at a hotel. The family dinners and breakfast are amazing and include pancakes, coffee and a huge dinner buffet with multiple food options. This is a true and unique experience.
Mina Le Villa, Hoi An $17/night for a private
Hoi An is very touristy and features lots of accommodation options. We stayed at a hostel and thought is was barely average and didn't want to pay $8/night for a better hostel. Instead we decided to spend the same amount of money we would spend on a better hostel and get a private room. This place was amazing. It was about a 15 minute walk from the crazy part of the city (keep in mind this is a really small city, it shouldn't even be called a city). We had a huge room that features a balcony overlooking the river and road, a huge bathroom, king size bed, tv, mini fridge and floor to ceiling windows. It was a really comfortable room and a nice change of pace from the craziness of Hoi An.
Vy Da Backpackers, Ho Chi Minh City $9/night for a 10 bed mixed dorm or $47/night for a private twin room
"Vy Da Backpackers Hostel is a hub for travellers who wish to meet new people and share stories of their journey around the world. We are located in the heart of Saigon, only a 3-minute walk from Ben Thanh Market and Reunification Palace, the most happening area in the city. Staying at our hostel, you will have full experience of the local perspective as you will get to explore around easily."
Itching For More Information About Southeast Asia?
From the crystal waters of Koh Tao, the riveting jungles in Pai, the nightlife of Bangkok, and the temples in Chiang Mai, Thailand is a playground for all ages. Eat what the locals eat at the many markets that take over cities across the country, learn Muay Thai at one of the many matches that happen every weekend, observe and walk among monks at any of the many monasteries or temples, and swim with fish you have never seen before in crystal clear water next to some of the most breathtaking beaches you have ever seen.
Why Travel To Thailand
Thailand has a very interesting position on the spectrum of Southeast Asia, it’s both wild and crazy and surprisingly organized. It’s a great first taste of Asia where you can ease into the bustle of traffic and street food in Chiang Mai, travel down Khao San Road to experience the nightlife in the electric capital Bangkok, and retreat to some of the most breathtaking beaches in the south near Phuket. We love Thailand for the people, the food, the history, and for the never ending access to all sorts of landscapes and activities that fit a tight budget. Thailand is an easy country to travel within and is one of the most accessible countries in Southeast Asia.
The Nitty Gritty Facts
68 million people live in Thailand, 5 million of them live in Bangkok, the capital
Thailand’s national language is Thai.
The world’s largest golden Buddha is in Bangkok.
Thailand shares a border with four countries: Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia.
The National currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB)
Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that was never colonized by an European country.
Phuket — Ao Nang — Koh Tao — Bangkok — Chiang Mai — Pai — Chiang Ria
Flying, like in most places for Southeast Asia, is relatively affordable between major destinations. You can usually get away with not checking a bag either which will cut down your ticket price.
Budget Airlines include:
Air Asia X
A fun and popular way to explore the country is by bus. You’ll get to see more of the diverse countryside or you’ll save on a nights accommodation by taking an overnight bus. We found that 12go Asia was a trusted site to start our research, get prices and eventually purchase tickets.
The main mode of transportation down south around the islands is by boat. You’ll either take the speed boats during the day that seem to stop running around 3pm or you’ll have to take the slow overnight boats that depart around 10pm. Between some of the closer islands (Railay Beach, Phi Phi, James Bond island etc.) the main transport is the long-tail boat.
There’s also a train that mainly runs from Bangkok to Chiang Mai that is worth checking out if you prefer a bit of extra comfort on the overnight journey between the two cities. The train, though a much longer journey than by bus, can be the cheapest option if you plan far enough in advance. The views are supposed to be magnificent, especially during sunrise.
The Rugged Budget
Thailand’s currency is the Baht 33 THB = $1 USD
Accommodation in an 8 bed mixed dorm: $8.40/night
Private room in a 4 star hotel start at: $30/night
Beer at a bar: 80 THB ($2.40 USD)
Beer from a shop: 50 THB ($1.50 USD)
Street food (like Pad Thai): 30 THB ($0.90 USD)
Sit down restaurant: 100 THB ($3 USD)
A pack of 20 cigarettes: 80 THB ($2.40 USD)
What our specific route of travel cost:
Phuket— Krabi in a minibus: 140 THB ($4 USD)
Krabi Town — Ao Nang local truck: 60 THB ($1.80 USD)
Krabi Town — Suratthani in a minibus: 180 THB ($5.80 USD)
Suratthani — Koh Tao on a boat: 600 THB ($18 USD)
Koh Tao — Bangkok combined boat/bus: 950 THB ($28 USD)
Bangkok — Chiang Mai on an overnight bus: 534 THB ($16 USD)
Chiang Mai — Pai by minibus: 150 THB ($4.50 USD)
Chiang Mai — Chiang Rai: 129 THB ($3.90 USD)
Thailand From From The Scratch My Pack Lens
Helpful Hints For Traveling In Thailand
Flying domestic in Thailand is cheapest when flying from the south to north rather than flying from north to south. We found that international flights into the islands were cheap and then we could work our way north by either busing or flying.
Depending on the city, the method to finding a bus is different. Taking transportation out of Bangkok we found that we could buy tickets easily online. From the islands the the best option was to buy tickets from a tour company that pick you up directly from your hotel or hostel. In other major cities the cheapest way to book transportation was by heading directly to the bus station.
Buses from Chiang Mai to Pai don’t run in the evening because the mountainous three hour journey is dangerous at night. The latest we found a bus was at 6pm leaving Chiang Mai the earliest was 7am.
Renting a motorbike in Thailand requires that you leave your passport upon renting. Technically you’re also supposed to have either a motorcycle license or international driver’s license, but most companies will rent to you regardless. Police however will randomly set up checkpoints to check and fine tourists illegally. *Important note - There is a scam going on in some of the cities regarding your passport and motorbike rental. The scam happens upon the return of the motorbike you rented. They will find damage on the bike (that was already there) and claim you did it. They will then try to charge you money to fix it. Make sure you take lots of pictures or a video of the bike and all its components the moment you rent it (let them see you do this). This will protect you from getting scammed and protect your wallet from having to pay for damage that was already there.
7/11 is the hot spot for cheap food. They often have discounted "buy 2 deals" on snacks, water and food. Surprisingly, they have good frozen meals and their toasties are probably the most iconic Thai meal among backpackers. Only 25 THB ($ .75USD) for a ham and cheese toastie.
In smaller parts of Thailand it’s easier to specify that you require a meal with no meat rather than requesting a vegetarian meal. Buddhist vegetarianism often includes abstaining from eating onions, garlic, leeks and chives, because they may distract one’s path to mediation because of the potent smell.
Travel with bug spray and sunscreen. It will come in handy more times than you think.
Thailand supports all power plugs, but for countries such as the US, Canada, and most of South America, you’ll need a voltage adapter.
Activities That Won’t Scratch Your Budget
Walking Bangla Road, Phuket: Free
A lively and surprising strip off of Patong Beach that offers everything from tourist t-shirts to Ping Pong shows. It’s a spectacle to sit and people watch just around sunset when the lights come on and the dancers come out. Visit side streets for the best beer deals (60 THB for a Chang Beer) and crazy shot deals (6 tequila shots for 100 THB - that's only $3USD).
Thai Boxing Match, Bangkok: Free
On Sunday afternoons you can visit a Thai Boxing match for free at the Chatuchak Market, that usually start around 2pm. It’s best to get there early to get a spot ringside. Otherwise a match will cost you around $15-$30USD any other time, anywhere else.
Karon Big Buddha, Phuket: Free
You can walk up the hill (6km) or rent a motorbike to visit the Buddha following signs off of Chao Fa Road East near Chalong. It’s a great place to watch the sunset.
Monkey Hill, Ao Nang: Free
Heading down the beach with the ocean on your right, you’ll come across a path leading over Monkey Hill. The entrance is kind of tucked away, but ask anyone and they’ll point you in the right direction. It’s roughly a ten minute hike up and over the hill on some rickety bamboo steps. The best part is it leads to a resort beach that’s private looking but anyone can swim at. At the end of this beach is the best place to spot wild monkeys playing along the coast.
Mor Paeng Waterfall, Pai: Free
This is a set of waterfalls and is free to visit. There’s even a part of the rocks that visitors can slide down into the water.
Chatuchak Market, Bangkok: Free
The largest market in Thailand with over 15,000 stalls is an exciting weekend activity. With live music, good food, and great souvenirs it’s a cool place to people watch and get to see a more local side of Bangkok.
Wat Saket, Bangkok: 10 THB ($.30USD)
It’s over 200 stairs to the top, but the whole way up is beautiful with lots of forestry, statues, bells, all leading to the impressive Wat at the top. There’s an amazing view of Bangkok and it’s an experience to hear all the bells chime in the wind at the very top.
Sea Kayak Riley Beach, Ao Nang: 50 THB/hr ($1.50USD)
Awesome way to experience the amazing limestone landscapes in southern Thailand is from the water. You can easily sea kayak from some of the smaller islands or from popular Railay Beach, which doesn’t charge visitors a national park entrance fee. Getting to Railay Beach is 200 THB round trip for a long-tail boat.
Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai: 50 THB ($1.50USD)
The white temple in Chiang Rai is a rather unconventional temple built as an art exhibition that replicates a Buddhist temple. It’s both eerie and beautiful, where every element of its structure reflects on the Buddhist teachings of reaching enlightenment. A cool element to the temple are the hundreds of hands before the bridge. The hands represent desire and are all reaching for you.
Island Hopping, Ao Nang: 370 THB ($11USD)
Traveling from the main port of Ao Nang you have the opportunity to visit 5 different islands by chartering a boat for the day with 6 people (If you don't fill the boat and have less than 6 people, the price will obviously be more per person than listed above). This breaks down to 370 THB/person, before the national park fee of 200 THB. It can get pricey to visit the different beaches, but this is the best way to see a whole range of beaches in one day.
Snorkeling, Koh Tao: 500 THB ($15USD)
Koh Tao is known for diving and snorkeling naturally because the water is so incredibly clear and warm. You can rent your own snorkeling gear or sign on to a day tour that includes five stops around the island, lunch, water, tea and coffee for 500 THB.
Elephant Sanctuary, Chiang Mai: 1,800 - 2,400 THB ($53-$71USD)
Definitely the most expensive tour we’ve done, but we put a lot of work into ensuring that we visited a sanctuary that didn’t abuse their elephants in anyway (no riding, no chains, no loud noises, forced poses, or tying up at night) and we paid a bit more for that. You can hang with the elephants and do a day trip for 1,500— 2,800 THB depending on the company.
Where Did We Stay (Accommodation We Recommend)
Pop In Hostel, Ao Nang $8/night for an 8 bed mixed dorm
We loved the atmosphere of the hostel because it was in a relatively calm part of Ao Nang, but the staff and residents were always lively. The beds were comfortable and we enjoyed that each bed had a curtain. This hostel also provides a free bbq every night. Big upside is Sam, the gigantic and lovable puppy that lives in the hostel.
iSanook Hostel, Bangkok $7/night for an 8 bed mixed dorm
This hostel is in a remote part of town, but it’s really comfortable, clean, and cozy. They have a kitchen which is a huge upside for a hostel in Southeast Asia. They staff was more than helpful here and willing to provide very detailed instructions for off the beaten activities in town. It’s in a more local neighborhood which means cheaper and more authentic street food. There’s a small coffee cart around the corner that sells their homemade iced Thai coffee for only 15 THB and a restaurant down the road that has amazing meals for 30 THB. The hostel is about ten minutes walk from the nearest metro station and just a hop away from a 7/11.
Fundee Hostel, Chiang Mai $7/night in a 7 bed mixed dorm
We enjoyed that this hostel was in a good location inside the walled old city. It had a nice outside seating area, clean and cozy rooms, as well as free coffee and tea throughout the day. It was very quiet, but not too far from the lively parts of town.
Happy House Backpackers, Pai $6/night for a 10 bed mixed dorm
We loved the atmosphere at this hostel. It was very relaxed and open, a bit of a party hostel, but not too overwhelming that it was hard to sleep. The rooms are pretty basic, but they have nice open bathrooms. The hip family that runs the hostel is very welcoming and knowledgable about things to do in town.