The costs are cheap, the entertainment is second to none and the parties are never-ending, Thailand is the number one backpacker destination for travellers from all over the world.
I have made the following list below of the top 26 things to do in Thailand based on my experiences and recommendations and I would love to hear more ideas from you which I could add to the list. If you enjoy this list, you should also check out my ultimate bucket list.
1) Phang Nga Bay
Similar to Halong Bay in Vietnam, this area reminds me of something out of a pirate scene, with the steep limestone cliffs and the deep blue waters.
This is also the scene you might recognise glamorised by the James Bond film recently. My recommendation would be to take a boat trip from Northern Phuket, which should last the entire day. The standard bus boat tours aren’t as great, so definitely go from Northern Phuket.
2) Similan Islands
Not ridiculously far from Phang Nga Bay (about an hour and a half by speed boat), the Similan Islands are great for scuba diving and spotting tropical fish. There are nine islands and the area has been considered a Marine National Park since 1982. Once you’re near Phuket, you really do have to tick off Phang Nga Bay and the Similan Islands.
3) Phi Phi Islands
The Phi Phi Islands are made up of 6 islands, situated 40km south east of Phuket. The islands are some of the most beautiful sights in Thailand and are an unbelievable experience you cannot miss out on. Their coral reefs are also great for diving and snorkelling.
However, I’d recommend skipping Maya Bay, made famous from the movie ‘The Beach’, as it has become overwhelmed with tourists and the experience is abysmal.
4) Eat street food
You will be able to find food stalls for almost anything, my friends favourite was the pineapple stand, where they would cut up an entire pineapple for you and charge you almost nothing, making it a very cheap portion of fruit.
What you should notice is that the food isn’t being constantly cooked (which is dangerous), it is left at the side, and when it needs cooking it is thrown onto a very hot pan, which is much safer, tastier and cleaner. Providing this is the case, you shouldn’t have to worry about an upset stomach. Besides, you’re travelling, so shh and tuck into some noodles!
We had Pad Thai so often, never once getting ill, while there are so many interesting curries you have to try.
5) Big Buddha – Chalong
It cost 30 million Baht to construct, but the giant religious statue is a tremendous sight. Overlooking Kata, Rawai and Chalong, the giant Buddha is located on the Nakkerd Hills (or Nak Kerd Hill). You can also gain an insight into what Thailand is really like as you drive towards the Big Buddha.
6) White Water Rafting
Easily my favourite activity in the world, white water rafting is so much fun, however it’s not something we planned on doing while in Thailand. We headed up to Chiang Mai and when planning out our visit to the elephant sanctuary, we came across the white water rafting venues.
This is definitely worth a go, even if you’ve never done it before and feel nervous, I was the only person on the raft (ignoring the guide) that had done white water rafting before. The rapids were relatively small, but it’s still a great adrenaline rush, followed by the calms of the water.
7) Chatuchak weekend market
You either love it or hate it (normally based on whether you grew up in a city with busy crowds or a quiet village), but I love it! You will find thousands of stalls selling plants, food and drink, clothes, in fact just about anything.
One thing to remember is to not take photo’s, as sadly a lot of the animals in the market are illegally sold, such as the reptiles and fish, while market stand owners can get angry if photos are taken.
Also, keep your hands in your pocket so no-one else’s hands can get in, I saw a few pickpocket attempts. These are just words of warning that could be said for most markets around the world, therefore it shouldn’t put you off going. This is something that should definitely be ticked off if you are in Bangkok.
8) Watch Thai Boxing / join in
Forget the tourist rubbish that gets offered to tourists, you can watch some really impressive matches, with fighters who represent their nation, while the tickets will obviously be a lot cheaper than back home to watch a sporting event.
Forget the ringside seats as well, get right into the crowd and cheer along with everyone.
If, however, you fancy a bit of a laugh, a number of bars in touristy area’s will offer tourists a crate of beers to fight each other in the ring (a number of bars in Bangkok have boxing rings in). Everyone wins as you get a crate of beer, some great photos and some absolutely bizarre memories, while they get to laugh at the silly tourists hitting each other while they get a spectacle for all their customers at the cost of a few beers.
9) Elephant Nature Park
While most people will fly into Bangkok and will then travel down to the islands, a fair few people will head up North to Chiang Mai for one key reason, the elephants!
While there are a number of dubious options available, the elephant nature park is the perfect option as this is where the elephants are properly looked after, while you can help out feeding and washing them.
These are much more ethical than some others you will spot dotted around and it is definitely worth a visit. Meanwhile, riding an elephant is very bad for the elephants back, while these elephants are normally badly treated and beaten.
10) Bangkok Sea Life – shark diving
This is a brilliant aquarium filled with penguins and sharks, but the main highlight of visiting Siam Ocean World is to dive with the sharks. I have always wanted to do shark diving, while this offers you an opportunity to do so at a reasonable price.
The shark diving is available from 10:30am to 6pm daily, however if you’re not brave enough to jump in, then you can watch your friends take the dive or others around you. This experience is available for anyone from the ages of 13 to 55 years old.
You will get to swim alongside a number of sharks, such as tiger sharks, blacktip reefs and leopard sharks, not to mention round ribbontail rays and eagle rays.
11) Grand Palace and Wat Prakeaw in Bangkok
Another attraction in Bangkok, this is undoubtedly one of the main sights in the city that you have to see, built in 1782. Remember if you decide to visit the Grand Palace that you should be wearing clothes that cover yourself up, as they will refuse entry to anyone in loose clothing.
12) Floating Markets – Bangkok-ish
Would you guess, another attraction for Bangkok. You will recognise the views from pretty much every tourist book and travel guide based on Thailand.
The floating market boats are filled to the brim with fruit and great tasting, healthy drinks. If you prefer, you could try a guided boat tour, where you can haggle with a group of tourists, stopping you feeling under pressure to buy. The Damnoen Saduak floating market, 50 miles southwest of Bangkok, is meant to be absolutely amazing.
13) Relax On The Beach
I know the majority of people Googling ‘things to do in Thailand’ are like me, you’re trying to make sure you pack in as many amazing activities as possible, to create a holiday you will never forget.
But sometimes it’s important to relax and just embrace the beautiful beaches of Thailand. So find yourself a cosy spot, get yourself a tasty cocktail and relax on the white sandy beaches or have a swim in the turquoise waters.
14) Party in Phuket
The all night, 7 days a week parties in Thailand are known around the world and cannot be missed if you are up for a wild experience.
Patong beach is known to have some of the best clubs and the wildest scenes in the country. Whatever you do, don’t drink too much too early, as you’re going to be out till 8am, so you don’t want to tap out by 10pm!
Tip: Don’t take anything illegal as if the police catch you, they will demand either a gigantic amount of money or 5 years in jail! If you don’t pay the fee upfront, the fee will rise once you get to jail. Don’t be an idiot, take the illegal stuff back home, but just drink in Thailand, the rules are different!
15) Tribe Villages
Travel to the north of Thailand and spend a couple of nights with a local family to learn the way they live and their cultures. This will offer you a much stronger image of the real Thailand, while it will also be something different to the stereotypical tourist activity.
It’s amazing to hear their stories, how they grew up and how they handle every day lift, compared to back home. Make sure to give a nice tip at the end as well.
16) Bridge On The River Kwai
The 1957 film ‘The bridge over the river Kwai’ made this location famous to the Western world, while it was constructed during World War 2, as part of the Japanese Siam-Burma death railway. Allied prisoners of war were made to build the bridge, however it is believed around 16,000 died during the process due to the terrible conditions and the Allied bomb attacks.
17) Thai cooking lessons
Thai food tastes absolutely amazing, beaten only by Indian food for me personally. There are a large number of Thai food classes available for tourists, teaching how they cook their food and which ingredients are required to get that great flavour.
If you are in Thailand for an extended period of time, this is worth throwing in. You could however skip this step if you make friends with locals in Thailand who are skilled in the kitchen.
18) Stay At Ammatara Pura
Easily the nicest place I have ever stayed in my life, read my review of the Ammatara Pura Pool Villas if you do consider going. Based in Koh Samui, you will have your own private swimming pool, a villa the size of a house and a jacuzzi in your room. For days I had the giggles as I felt like a school kid, I honestly have only felt like that a few times in my life and I’m touched I got to experience this place, very much somewhere to go on a honeymoon.
19) Virtual Reality Arcades
These were available in a couple of spots, most notably Phuket, while I couldn’t help but try out a number of the virtual reality games on my birthday.
You do need plenty of space and you may want to record your friends as they freak out when zombies charge at you.
20) Swim In An Infinity Pool
With numerous options available in Bangkok, it is hard not to highlight an activity that doesn’t even involve leaving the hotel, as you look out at the skyline with the giant towering buildings, as the sun starts to settle.
Rooftop pools are always amazing, while you can also have a drink once it gets a bit more nippy at the roof terrace. If you don’t have a rooftop pool at your hotel, there are a number of hotels that offer access for a price.
21) Watch Sunset
Ok, the picture above isn’t perfect, but it was a sunset I caught while staying at the Ammatara Pura Pool Villa while heading for dinner.
Choosing a beach or a bay is hard as you are spoilt for choice in Thailand, however having a couple of brewskies on the beach as you watch the sun settle, with close and new made friends, pondering the facts of life; nothing sounds better to me.
22) See a ladyboy show
This isn’t to everyone’s taste, however I have been told it is actually pretty impressive as they really are incredibly believable. The ladyboy’s of Bangkok can be found at the Calypso Cabaret, strutting their stuff in some outrageous and quite humorous costumes. This is once again a must if you are in Bangkok, the city that seems to have everything.
23) Eat Bugs
This is one of those activities you will be reluctant to do, but will make for a great story once you get home.
I often find, the person willing to try all these wild activities returns with the best experiences, so push the boat out and bite a bug. Grubs and locusts are commonly made, while my friend told me that the cockroach fried with garlic is mouth-wateringly good…I’ll take his word for it.
24) Ride on a Tuk-tuk
These are not always cheaper than taxis, so agree your fee before you get in, and have the exact destination you want in mind. They’re noisy and dangerous, but they really are an experience you have to have in Thailand and great fun as well.
Also, be careful about getting into a tuk-tuk near a tourist destination, as they are relying on picking up extravagant people and will charge you ten times the price, so negotiate beforehand.
25) Have a massage
From my experience, Thai massages tend to be a bit more brutal, but there are a number of different types to suit your wants and needs. My personal recommendation would be to go for a foot or a head massage, as it is difficult for them to inflict pain in these areas (the shoulders is the most painful part of a Thai massage, as they dig their elbows into your joints).
Still, if done right, you can feel relaxed for the rest of the day and spend your evening watching sunset and drinking cocktails.
26) Watch A Snake Tamer
Go down a busy touristy road and you will find a number of street performers, including snake tamers with highly dangerous snakes. Whether they have had their venom removed is debatable, however the fear and danger definitely add a hint of excitement. If you’re in Bangkok, you can go to the Bangkok snake park show, which has shows constantly on the weekend from 2pm. Watching a king cobra attempting to bite someone is quite a scary, yet thrilling experience.
I was reading your post to inspire the remainder of my trip here in Thailand. All was going fine until I saw number 10! Ride an elephant. You go to the effort of photographing ‘spaghetti traveller’, to writing a blog, and yet you over look that ‘riding elephants’ is possibly one the most disgusting forms of entertainment that the traveler contributes to. Just search ‘cruelty riding elephants’. You’ll see that not only is it damaging to their backs, but they are tortured to be accepting of people riding them.
I won’t waste anymore time explaining this and urge you to look into yourself, maybe watch some videos of the ‘training’ that the elephants undergo. It is also directed at other points on your list about the snake tamers and crocodiles.
All this blog is doing is contributing to the torture of animals. Elephants don’t want to be around humans, if they are, it’s because they are now scared!!
Hi Nick, I do apologise 🙁 animal cruelty is something I absolutely despise, I think sometimes I end up being a dreamy tourist and forget the reality, I went to a park where I swam with dolphins in Egypt, but later learnt how bad the conditions they were kept in and felt horridly guilty. I will try and remove that option and replace it with another one at some point when I get a moment, it is a very good note so I thank you for pointing it out to me. It just always felt like something really fun to do, but you rightfully point out it isn’t ethical at all, so my sincere apologies. It was written a little in ignorance, and to be brutally honest a little with a child’s heart thinking back to the Jungle Book :). Thanks for your post
Hello the picture you have of the Big Buddha in Chalong is not a correct photo of the Big Buddha in Thailand. Just thought I’d let you know!