Island hopping Thailand is probably the most popular first big trip for young travellers and I can totally understand why an island hopping Thailand adventure is so extremely popular with people from all over the world, but to be honest I never wanted to write about the places to visit in Thailand cause there are already numerous articles out there about what to see in Thailand or the top 10 places in Thailand.
But as I already collected more than 40 Thai passport stamps I do have some knowledge about this country and heaps of people keep on asking me for travel tips. So I decided it was about time to write about my guide to the best places to visit in Thailand. Actually it is more a guide with island hopping Thailand tips only as I have been in the country for 17 times now but never made it further North than Bangkok to for example Chiang Mai. I am really sorry but for me the best things to see in Thailand are the islands, they have always been calling. So if you are looking for the best islands to visit in Thailand and some recommendations for Bangkok then keep on reading.
Best season to visit Thailand
Apart from June and July I have been in Thailand every month of the year. Of course the best season to visit Thailand is end of November till the beginning of April as it supposed to be the dry season. Though this is also the high season and prices will rise accordingly. Rainy season is during the European and US summer. Don’t let that hold you back too much though. I have been there in the rainy season and have been very lucky. It can rain for an hour or 2 but after that its mostly sunny again. The dry season of 2017 was the other way around and heaps of islands were flooded in January. Nature nowadays is unpredictable. Fingers crossed!
Is it safe to travel to Thailand?
Numerous times I got the question: Is it is safe to travel to Thailand? I have never encountered any other problems apart from taxi drivers that were not willing to turn on their meter. Seriously to me there are no safety issues at all. I know I am man and that definitely makes things easier, but even for a girl there won’t be that much hassle. Thai people are genuinely friendly, just be aware of the many scams. Those won’t hurt you, but they will hurt your wallet! Read more about safety issues in Thailand in my blog: Is It Safe To Travel To Thailand?
Places to visit in Bangkok
Most probably you will start your island hopping Thailand adventure in the Thai capital. Bangkok can be intimidating at first, but give it a chance and you will seriously love it. Walk around, take unexpected turns, and get lost to see the best places to visit in Bangkok. There is something to see in every street. Of course make sure you are going to see the temples, enjoy a night out around Khao San Road, find a rooftop bar for a drink with a spectacular view, eat your heart out in Chinatown, explore the city by local boat, roam around one of the many shopping malls, try a luxury Thai cinema or take a bike tour to see a totally different side of Thailand. Read more about it in my article: Bike Tour Co Van Kessel and see the GoPro video for an impression.
If you are interested in markets don’t miss the Mae Klong Railway market or one of the floating markets. You want something more adventurous? Go wake boarding! Click here to read more about my top 10 things to do in Bangkok!
How to get from Bangkok airport to the city?
It is so easy: go down to the lowest floor of the airport and buy for 45THB ($1,30) a ticket into the city and then take a meter-taxi and you will get to your destination for max $4 in total! How to get from Khao San Road to the airport? Do it the other way around or take one of the direct busses that run frequently to both airports BKK and DMK, they cost only about $4.
Buy a Thai SIM card and enjoy cheap and fast 4G internet during your Thailand sightseeing trip. Take a look at one of my most read articles: The best Thailand tourist SIM card! If your phone is locked or buying a new SIM Card is not your thing then check out Teppy.
Island hopping Thailand on the West coast
One of my favorite places to travel in Thailand is Krabi. First of all because of its unique limestone cliffs, stunning nature and incredible laid-back vibe, second because of the many hotspots: Ao Nang, Tonsai, Railay and Koh Lanta. And third because of the many adventures that can be organised like world class rock climbing and incredible hikes. Keep reading for an incredible hike which is definitely among the best places to visit in Thailand.
Ao Nang Krabi
Ao Nang is a touristy little town and is the perfect hub to get to either Tonsai or Railay beach. Plenty of simple nightlife and a lovely street food scene can be found here. The secluded bays of Railay and Tonsai are cut off from the mainland by massive limestone cliffs and therefore only reachable by boat; the ultimate beaches to relax. This is also the place where you can find the best rock climbing in Thailand. From Ao Nang there are many tours to the spectacular surrounding islands. They are so small you can not stay over night, a famous day trip is the one including Hong Island. Read the next blog to find out my favorite beach: Best Beach In Krabi!
On the mainland you can find the best hike in Thailand: Tab Kak Hang Nak hike, see the picture below. A challenging climb with unbelievable views over the limestone cliff landscape, the ocean and the islands around Ao Nang. If you have some energy left there are 600 steps that lead to the top of a mountain where you can find the so-called Tiger Temple. Don’t worry there are no tigers here!
Curious where I stayed in Ao Nang? Check out the affordable Ao Nang Cliff Beach Resort with the most amazing infinity pool looking out over the nearby islands!
Koh Lanta Krabi
It took me a couple years to finally make it to this island but it cannot be missed in any island hopping thailand itinerary. Super friendly people and low-key island life is waiting for you. Some decent party places, long and wide beaches and a scooter friendly island to tour around. I really enjoyed my time in Koh Lanta. It was beginning of May and there was not much going on. If you are looking for an island where it is NOT only party, party, party then try Koh Lanta. Thinking about staying here and want to indulge yourself? The picture down below is from Crown Lanta Resort & Spa, a romantic private villa escape, but still very affordable!
For a little more luxury I am sure you want to check out the no.1 Adult Only Resort in Thailand: Layana Resort & Spa!
Island hopping from Phuket
Island hopping from Phuket is a very popular, but if people ask me what to do in Phuket my answer is: escape! Though island hopping from Phuket should be on your list as the islands around are among the best islands to visit in Thailand, the peninsula itself is not at all my favorite place in the Land of Smiles. It is the most popular island in Thailand and due to its international airport a very touristy place where a lot of party people gather and the beaches are nothing like you have seen in pictures. In fact the pictures that probably lured you to Phuket are from the islands nearby, so please if you decide to come here go island hopping from Phuket. The huge peninsula definitely has stunning beaches and resorts but it is so big it does not give me the island feeling. On the other hand if you are looking for an amazing place to just crash for a week and explore the fabulous islands around on day trips then Phuket can be a great choice.
It is hard to believe but I slept in the same bed as Rihanna at Samsara Phuket, click on the link to see this absolutely cool villa! I also stayed in the amazing Phuket Sri Panwa private pool villas. If you are dying to go on a holiday then don't click on the links! Let me tease you with just two pictures:
Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi
Talking about beautiful islands for a Thailand island hopping adventure: Yao Yai and Yao Noi are hidden gems. A short speedboat ride towards the East of Phuket will take you to these two fairly unknown islands and it was only till my 12th time in Thailand that I made it out here. Nowadays it is my secret travel tip and for sure one of the best islands to visit in Thailand. Come here to get the untouched Thai islandlife. Mass tourism does not exist here yet. Pristine white sand beaches, deserted bays, authentic local restaurants, amazingly friendly people, wild monkeys and great back roads to explore on a scooter. If you want to get away from the tourist trail then these islands are one of the top places to visit in Thailand. Check out the amazing beaches around Glow Elixir Koh Yao Yai! Or read the full article in my blog: Glow Elixir On The Best Beach In Koh Yao Yai.
Party on Phi Phi Islands
Of course this island group has to be included in Thailand island hopping adventure. For party lovers this is heaven with parties all around the island every night. It is the most popular party island on the West coast where young backpackers meet and go wild. A couple days Phi Phi Islands is in many people’s itinerary but if you are coming for the stunning picture perfect beaches you could be disappointed. Of course it is still among the most beautiful places to travel in Thailand but if you ask me about my top 10 I will not mention Koh Phi Phi. The insanely popular islands of Phi Phi are overcrowded and the famous beaches can be a nightmare with thousands of people taking selfies. Just don’t have too high expectations; drink loads of alcohol and you will have an amazing time. I gotta go back.... haha! LOL
Scuba diving Similan Islands
For the best things to see in Thailand on the bottom of the ocean there is no doubt you have to travel to the Similan Islands. These gorgeous islands are luckily pretty well protected by the Thai government. They nowadays close some islands for a couple months a year to give them time to recover from tourism. For your interest staying overnight on the islands is hard to arrange, plus there are only camping options available. This is probably why the Similan Islands are among the best things to see in Thailand. The way to visit these islands are by organised trips only. There are many day trips leaving from Phuket but to see the best of the Similan islands you have to experience a liveaboard boat and go diving every day at the most remote dive spots. The day trips take you to the stunning but crowded standard islands.
Island hopping Thailand in the Gulf of Thailand
The three most popular islands on the East coast are in every list of best places to see in Thailand. The Gulf brings island hopping Thailand to another level with the popular destinations Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao all within a 2-hour boat ride. Every island has its own character and are very different from each other. Read my blog: Where to go Koh Tao or Koh Samui?
For a real islandlife feeling you have to go to Koh Tao. It is the smallest island and the place where getting your scuba dive certification is among the cheapest in the world. There are hardly any cars on the island and hunting down stunning remote bays with a scooter is a must. Snorkeling, hiking and exploring incredible viewpoints are among other things not to miss on this island. For me Koh Tao is one of the best islands to visit in Thailand, most probably because I have visited the island multiple times and lived here for a while as I started my PADI Divemaster training there.
The following articles are all about Koh Tao:
Koh Phangan is famous for its Full Moon parties, which definitely makes it one of those backpacker places to visit in Thailand. But this island is more than parties! Hidden bays in the North are not yet discovered by mass tourism and therefore an amazing place to unwind. Are you a yoga fan or after a detox retreat? Koh Phangan has plenty of those retreats scattered around the island. Discover the beauty of the green and hilly Phangan on a scooter and get lost in search for that laid-back island feeling or party hard on one of the many parties.
Interested in partying in Koh Phangan? Read this first: To full moon or not to Full Moon
Koh Samui is what I call the holiday island. Internationally well know for its luxury resorts and upscale beach clubs and always named in Thailand island hopping list. It is easy accessible as it also has an international airport, though with limited flights compared to Phuket. But therefore also a hub for people travelling to the islands in the Gulf. It is not that low-key as Phangan and Tao and I would not say it is among the best islands to visit in Thailand but it has its own charm. For a little bit more upscale and luxury you have to be on Koh Samui for sure.
Would you want to live in Koh Samui? Living on a lovely Thai island for a little while, just a 30min boatride away from all the great parties on Koh Phangan? And at the same time invest in a future nomadic lifestyle? Then what about signing up for a TEFL course which they teach in Koh Samui? Teaching English as a Foreign Language, with this diploma you can literally teach English everywhere around the world! Imagining working in China for $60 per hour or living in Buenos Aires making great money as a private English teacher. Click on the link to learn more about this course!
Read more about Koh Samui in the following article: Where to go? Koh Tao vs. Koh Samui. There was one time I stayed in Vikasa Yoga Retreat and tried out yoga! It was cruelty. I mean the yoga part of course, it was totally not my thing, but at least I tried. Check out great deals for accommodation through Agoda.
Thailand island hopping tips for the South
The best islands to visit in Thailand can be found all the way South. It is a little off the beaten path and therefore not yet extremely touristy, though more and more tourists are finding its way to what many regard as the best beaches in the country. You may have heard of the stunning islands of Koh Lipe and its surrounding islands with their perfect white beaches. Those ones you post on your Instagram to make the people at home jealous.
The Southern islands can best be reached from Langkawi in Malaysia, it is easier than from Thailand itself. From Koh Lanta it is about 7 hours down south by boat, from Langkawi it is only around 1 hour. It is a perfect stop in an itinerary from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok. Be aware that rough seas in the rainy season cut the islands off from the tourist trail as many boat companies don’t serve Koh Lipe in the off season.
How to start your Thailand island hopping adventure?
Find great flight deals to the country of Smile by checking out the Middle Eastern airlines with great monthly deals to Bangkok. I partnered up with Qatar Airways and Emirates to get you the best deals to reach Thailand cheaper than ever!
Stay online while island hopping Thailand with Teppy? What is that? A portable WiFi device that lets you connect to the internet everywhere around the world for just a couple bucks!
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