Island hopping Thailand is probably the most popular first big trip for young travellers and I can totally understand why! Traveling to Thailand is hot! Some may say the islands are overcrowded and the authentic Thai lifestyle is gone. I am the last one to deny this as it definitely changed a lot over the years but I am guilty as well. A Thailand island hopping itinerary is always something to look forward to. I have never been able to say no to such an adventure because of the amazing travel vibe I experienced on every trip to the islands in Thailand.
Over the last 8 years I collected more than 40 Thai passport stamps, been there 17 times and wrote almost 50 Thailand travel blogs. Somehow I mostly headed south to the beaches and the islands. I still have not seen all the Thai islands but for sure I can give you a lot of island hopping Thailand tips. With so many places to visit in Thailand it is hard to pick the right destinations, but whatever Thailand itinerary you will plan, I am sure you are going to have a great time!
Best month to travel to Thailand
Apart from June I have been in Thailand every month of the year. The best season for a trip to Thailand is end of November till the beginning of April as it supposed to be the dry season but it 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 island hopping in Thailand in the rainy season before and it was not that bad at all. 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 so always bring a light rain jacket on your trip. What to pack for Thailand? Check this link for a list of 40 packing items.
Most rain on the West Coast in Thailand mostly falls around July and August, while the East Coast suffers most rain in October and November!
May you decide to add Chiang Mai to your island hopping itinerary then plan it at the end to safe money on flights. Flying north is 50% cheaper than flying south! These and more tips and tricks about booking domestic flights in Thailand in my latest Thailand travel blog.
This was Thailand in September! Where? What? Chilling is one of the best things to do in Koh Tao.
This is a picture from Thailand in December.
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 meters. 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, apart from drunk backpackers. 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.
What is the best way to get around Thailand? The below Thailand transportation engine was a tool I wish I had discovered much earlier. It will find the best mode of transport for you and finds you the most convenient route. 12Go Asia compares bus, boat, train and flights and gives you time tables, prices, luggage allowance, trip duration and more. Try it below yourself!
Start in Bangkok
Most probably you will start your island hopping Thailand adventure in the crazy 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. There is something interesting 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, go to a pool party, 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. 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!
Accommodation suggestion for Bangkok
How to get to and from Bangkok
From the BKK airport 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! From the city to the airport there are also direct busses that run frequently to both airports BKK and DMK, they cost only about $4.
How to get to the islands? There are many ways: train, bus, plane. Read in from Bangkok to Koh Tao what type of transportation I choose. For examples of an itinerary for 2 weeks in Thailand, click on the link.
Buy a Thai SIM card and enjoy cheap and fast 4G internet and show your friends back home the best places to visit in Thailand. In my article The Best Thailand Tourist SIM Card I will tell you which provider to choose. If your phone is locked or buying a new SIM Card is not your thing then check out Teppy!
Island hopping Thailand tips for 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 it has some of the best islands in Thailand: Ao Nang, Tonsai, Railay, Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. And third because of the many adventures that can be organized like world class rock climbing and incredible hikes.
Island hopping from 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 plus this is the place where you can find the best rock climbing of the country. From Ao Nang there are many tours to the spectacular surrounding islands, take a look at my suggested Thailand Island Hopping routes for more island hopping Thailand tips around Krabi or read about the best beaches in Krabi.
Close to Ao Nang you can find two spectacular hikes: Tab Kak Hang Nak and the Tiger Temple. Try the challenging climb with unbelievable views over the limestone cliff landscape, the ocean and the surrounding islands. 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!
Accommodation suggestions for Ao Nang:
It took me a couple years to finally make it to this laid back 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. Perfect to rejuvenate after partying in Koh Phi Phi.
Accommodation suggestions for Koh Lanta:
Mid Range: Crown Lanta
Budget: Journey Hostel
Party on Koh Phi Phi
Of course this island group has to be included in any Thailand island hopping itinerary but I admit it is not my favorite! 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, so if this is what you are looking for you will have a blast. Koh Phi Phi can also be visited if you are island hopping from Phuket. Beaches are still stunning but far from picture perfect nowadays with so many travelers. Of course it is still among the most beautiful places to visit in Thailand but it is not in my top 5 of best islands in Thailand. Just don’t have too high expectations; drink loads of alcohol and you will have an amazing time. I gotta go back.... LOL!
Accommodation suggestions for Koh Phi Phi:
Budget: Panmanee Hotel.
Island hopping from Phuket
Island hopping from Phuket is a very popular and if people ask me what to do in Phuket my answer is: escape! The islands around are among the best islands in Thailand, while the peninsula itself is not one of the best places to visit in Thailand, just incredibly popular due to its international. In fact the pictures that probably lured you to Phuket are from the islands nearby, so please decide to 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. I created 4 times a Thailand backpacking route for 2 weeks and in every itinerary there is a spot for Phuket. Check them out in the link.
Accommodation suggestions Phuket:
Budget: Memory Boutique Patong.
Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi
Talking about beautiful islands for an island hopping Thailand 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 among my secret island hopping Thailand tips and for sure has one of the best beaches 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.
Budget: Koh Yao Seaview Bungalow.
Welcome to one of the best places to visit in Thailand for scuba diving. These gorgeous islands are luckily pretty well protected by the Thai government and they nowadays close some for a couple months a year to give them time to recover from tourism. For your interest staying overnight on the islands is almost impossible. Only overnight camping trips are available, but very limited. The best way to see the Similan islands are through a liveaboard, for non-divers there are day trips from Phuket.
There is no best way to travel Thailand and its islands, but if you have a week in the West coast then go island hopping from Phuket towards Koh Yao Yai, Koh Phi Phi and Ao Nang and back with a day trip to Similan Islands. This is an example of a 14 day tour of Thailand islands, click on the link to see more of them complete with maps for a better orientation.
Thailand island hopping guide for the East coast
There is no Thailand island hopping guide that forgets about Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. The Gulf of Thailand brings island hopping Thailand to another level. No limestone cliffs, but green hilly islands all within a 2-hour boat ride from each other. Every island has its own character so try to visit them all.
For a real islandlife feeling you have to be in Koh Tao. It is the smallest island and the place where getting your scuba dive certification is among the cheapest in the world. This is one of the reasons I added this little island to my list of best places to go backpacking alone. There are hardly any cars on the island and hunting down stunning remote bays on a scooter is a must do in Koh Tao. Snorkeling, hiking and exploring viewpoints are among other things to do in Koh Tao besides diving. To me Koh Tao is one of the best islands in Thailand, as I have lived here for a while to do my PADI Divemaster training I might be biased, and I understand that all the horror stories about tourist muders in Koh Tao put you off. Shitty thing happen everywhere, just be cautious and use common sense. Don't act like one of those tourists who think they own the island after 3 beers and 1 shot.
For Koh Tao accommodation suggestions go to Where To Stay in Koh Tao.
Everyone who plans a trip to Thailand comes across Koh Phangan as this is where the world famous Full Moon parties originates. This party mecca is not just about the Full Moon party, there is a Jungle Party, a Black Moon and a Half Moon Party too. That said this island is more than only parties! Mostly a Thailand island hopping guide doesn’t mention the hidden bays in the North or the yoga and detox retreats in the green hills.
Going to party in Koh Phangan? Read this first: Full Moon Party Guide Koh Phangan.
Accommodation suggestions Koh Phangan:
Budget: Cookies Salad Hotel.
Welcome to the holiday island. Internationally well know for its luxury resorts and upscale beach clubs and always named in any Thailand island hopping itinerary. Since it has an international airport it is easy accessible, though with much less flights serving the island compared to Phuket. It is not that low-key as Phangan and Tao but it has its own charm. This is where you go for a little more upscale and luxury islandlife.
One of the better Island hopping Thailand tips is that you can easily stay on Koh Samui if you want to go to the Full Moon party. There are boats all night and it is only 30 minutes, but choose your boat wisely. Go for the big catamarans and avoid local boats for safety reasons. Normally I would say always support the locals, but not in this case!
Read more about Koh Samui in the following article: Koh Tao or Koh Samui.
Accommodation suggestion Koh Samui:
Thailand island hopping tips for the South
The best islands in Thailand can be found all the way South on the border with Malaysia. It is a little off the beaten path and therefore not yet extremely touristy. This is where you find the best beaches in Thailand. You may have heard of the stunning Koh Lipe and its surrounding islands with their perfect white sand beaches. The Southern islands can best be reached from Langkawi in Malaysia, it is easier than from mainland Thailand itself. From Koh Lanta it is a 7-hour boat ride, from Langkawi it is only 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 and many boat companies don’t serve Koh Lipe in the off season.
How to start your Thailand island hopping adventure?
I hope this Thailand island hopping guide gave you an idea of where to go. If you need help let me give you some Tips For Traveling To Thailand. Island hopping Thailand will be as expensive as you make it yourself. In my article How Much Does It Cost To Vacation In Thailand I break down the prices for transport, tours, alcohol, accommodation and food.
Get your bus, boat, train and flight tickets for Thailand online!
Make sure you reserve a seat for the bu/boat combination tickets in time. Click here to book them straight away or to see how much they cost.
Still not sure which islands to choose then take a look at Where To Go In Thailand with a more comprehensive explanation what to expect on every island. Safety Issues? Let me tell you How safe it is to travel to Thailand. Similar to island hopping in Thailand is a trip to Bali. Let me tell you what is special about Bali in this article. Or still in doubt whether to visit Thailand or Philippines.
Cheap flights to Thailand
Find great flight deals to the country of Smile by checking out the Middle Eastern airlines with great monthly deals to Bangkok. Once in Thailand then there are numerous low-cost airlines in Thailand to take you around.
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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