A First Time Thailand Itinerary

I’ll be honest: Before I went to Thailand, I just kind of imagined it as one big beach. The reality is that Thailand is just about as diverse as a country can get. The beaches have very little in common with the big cities and likewise, the rural towns also feel like a completely different world entirely. This first-time Thailand itinerary begins in Bangkok and moves more-or-less south to Railay. From there, you can likely fly out of the airports in either Krabi or Phuket, or easily grab a cheap flight or bus back to Bangkok.

Bangkok: 2 days

Bangkok - The First Stop on Your Thailand Itinerary

For most travelers, Bangkok is the wild, brash, out-my-god-I’m-can’t-believe-I’m-in-Thailand introduction to the country. It’s dirty and gritty around some corners, and extremely modern and sophisticated around others. There are plenty of temples and other attractions to see in Bangkok, but I’ve always preferred to just wander around and eat street food. Particularly when you first arrive, there’s no better way to get acclimatized to Thailand.

Ayutthaya: 1 day

Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand in the 14th century and should be on your Thailand itinerary

It’s easy to visit Ayutthaya as a day-trip from Bangkok or, of course, you can stay overnight too and it should definitely be on your Thailand itinerary. The city was an ancient Thai capital between the 14th and 18th centuries, and its Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Personally, I’m more enthralled with historic religious monuments than modern ones, so Ayutthaya was the perfect place for me to experience the more cultural side of Thailand. For a few dollars, you can rent a bike and then ride around and explore the ruins at your own pace.

Curious how much a trip to Thailand costs?  Check out this breakdown of 24 days of travel in Thailand.

Kanchanaburi: 3 days

Add Kanchanaburi to Your Thailand Itinerary

Kanchanaburi is a chilled-out little riverside town, probably best known for its association with the book and movie the Bridge Over the River Kwai. The town is home to a number of memorials and attractions, including the infamous bridge, connected to the dark events that took place here during WWII. On a lighter note, the surrounding province (also called Kanchanburi) has over seven national parks, so the city is a great base for trekking to jungles, rivers, waterfalls, and lakes. Although Kanchanaburi is not exactly off-the-beaten track, it does give you a small taste of what Thailand looks like outside the big cities and beach resorts.

Koh Chang: 3 days

Be Sure to Put Koh Chang on Your Thailand Itinerary

Koh Chang is one of my favorite Thai islands. The colors of the water and sand aren’t as dramatic as you’ll see on the islands further south, but the beaches are still beautiful nonetheless. There’s no denying that development is happening quickly here – I saw construction almost everywhere I went and new hotels seem to be opening every day – but it’s still much more relaxed than tourist-tired islands like Phuket and Koh Samui. On the east coast of the island, you can still find traditional fishing villages where locals continue on with their way of life in spite of the backpackers drinking Chang beers on the beaches nearby. Plus, the interior of this large island is still mostly dense rainforest, so you can mix a few hikes in with your beachside time.

Koh Phangan: 3 days

Koh Phangan is More Than Just the Full Moon Party - Put it on your Thailand itinerary and find out why!

Koh Phangan is most often associated with the Full Moon Party, but there’s a lot more to this island than buckets and body paint. Of course, that’s not to say you shouldn’t go to the legendary party – I definitely needed to experience it just once – but it’s definitely worth hanging around the island for a few days before or after to see Koh Phangan in its less-frenzied form. There are more than a dozen beaches scattered around the island, many of which live up to all those tropical beach fantasies of pearly white sands and turquoise waters. The island is relatively small and the roads are decent, so you can base yourself on one beach, and then rent a bike or motorbike to explore the rest of the island. Another option is to split your time between here and Koh Tao, which is only a short boat ride away.

Railay: 2 days

Iconic Railay should definitely be on your Thailand itinerary

Railay feels like an island, but it’s actually just separated from the Krabi mainland by a stretch of massive limestone cliffs. If you’ve ever spent time day-dreaming over Google images of Thailand, you’ve probably seen Railay’s iconic Phra Nang Bay and it is on almost everyone’s Thailand itinerary. Aside from being really darn pretty, Railay is one of the world’s top rock climbing destinations and, in the evening, you can watch groups of wild monkeys descend from the trees and make their way down to the beach. It’s as good a place as any to finish a trip; or, if you have more time, you can reach a number of islands within a few hours by boat from here, including Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta and Phuket.

 

Anything else you would add to this first time Thailand itinerary?

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A First Time Thailand Itinerary

 

 

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travel fairy
travel fairy

Good guide for those who want to visit Thailand for the first time. Cheers!

Carlo
Carlo

Thanks for sharing this article… I know there are lot of places left to visit but this is a good start.. thanks again…

Michelle
Michelle

This is good. But I feel like 3 days for kanchanaburi is a bit long. And you forgot chiang Mai!

Sarah Attaway
Sarah Attaway

You’re so right! Thailand is such a diverse country. I went there last summer and had a different itinerary than yours…because there’s so much to see, how can you choose! If you are planning another trip add Khoa Sok National Park to your list. There’s a giant lake in the center and the only accommodations are floating “bungalows” on the lake. Spend your days snorkeling, kayaking and cliff jumping. One of my favorite Thailand destinations.

Also wishing I’d made it to Koh Chang!

Sammi Wanderlustin'
Sammi Wanderlustin'

Interesting. I have only just started thinking about SEA recently….. I didn’t know much about Thailand except that I don’t want to spend a huge chunk of time there.

Steph
Steph

Thailand is great and there is a reason it is so popular, there is a lot else to explore too though.

Rebekah Voss
Rebekah Voss

I LOVE the photo gallery. Such incredible sites, doesn’t even look real! I’ve been spending a lot of time in Southeast Asia and am continuously amazed by my surroundings. Great stuff, Jessica!

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