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10 tips for backpacking in Thailand

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In 2014 Thailand was voted the top backpacking destination by students, and with such a diverse landscape it’s easy to see why. Whether you want to party hard at the full moon or trek through the jungle and camp with tribes it’s worth reading up on all Thailand has to offerbefore you go. Here are 10 top tips to get you started.

1. Pack light – Clothes are cheap as chips in Asia and you’ll want to bring a whole heap back once you’ve stopped by the dazzling Chiang Mai Night Bazar. Plus the more you bring, the more you have to carry around for months!

2. Take a backpack – A suitcase just isn’t practical! A backpack is much easier to carry when you’re hiking uphill to your treehouse. Plus, you’ll have compartments to make it easier to access important things. Choose a pack with a side opening for easy access, although be sure you can secure it with TSA padlock.

3. Plan ahead… but not too far – Part of the travel experience is just “going with the flow”. Have a loose plan of where you’d like to go, but be flexible and ask fellow travellers for their tips on tourist hotspots, hidden gems and good places to stay.If you’re planning to go to the full moon party on Kho Phangan (and I recommend you do!) pre-book your accommodation and transfer off the island – don’t just arrive and hope to find somewhere to stay in Haad Rin. As 30,000 people descend you’ll soon find all the decent places will be full!

4. Explore as much as you can -Thailand is such a diverse country, with jungle, city and white-sandy beachesall at your fingertips,so it would be a waste to stay in just one place. The heady Khaosan Road in Bangkok is a must-see: known as the ‘backpackers ghetto’,it’s the perfect place to start your travels, especially if you’re travelling alone. However, just around the corner, a couple of streets away, is the lantern-lined Rambuttri Road which has a completely different feel. Rave until dawn on Khaosan and the next day swap hard trance for acoustic soul.

5. Ditch the hotel - If you’re travelling solo, opt to stay in hostels with 4-8-bed dorms, as it’s much easier to make friends in this environment. Any more than 8 beds and it gets a bit chaotic – trust me you’ll never get to sleep withpeople popping in and out of the dorm all night.

6. Think ethically – Avoid anything that promotes wild animal entertainment, for example, elephant riding or photos with tigers. It is animal abuse (although they’ll tell you otherwise!) If you want to see an elephant up-close, volunteer to help out at an Elephant sanctuary like Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.

7. Eat like a local – It’s quite likely that you’ll get an upset tummy if you travel in Asia, it’s just a given, but don’t let that put you off the street food. The local food tastes the best and from my experience is always the safest option. Pad thai, massaman curry and papaya salad are three must-tries.

8. Use the Songthaew – Getting around Thailand is really very easy and cheap! But if you want to make you budget stretch even further, travel on songthaew (public buses) when there’s a group of you instead of by taxi or tuktuk. Just remember - never accept the first price you’re offered. You can usually get 25-50% off whatever you’re quoted if you haggle!

9. Get your PADI – Thailand is one of the cheapest places you get a PADI diving qualification, so take advantage of this and budget to do it on your trip. The cheapest place (and one of the most spectacular coral spots) is Koh Tao. I recommend the Big Blue Dive School where an open-water course will cost you 9,800 THB (approx. £200). If this isn’t in your budget, the next best thing is to book onto asnorkelling boat trip. The marine life is stunning all around Koh Tao and if you know where to look you’ll spot Nemo and Dori fish!

10. Pamper yourself- As it comes to the end of your trip it’s worth checking into somewhere a bit more luxurious. The price of luxury in Thailand is nothing like luxury back home in the UK. Massages, facials and pedicures are all a fraction of the price at home so make the most of it while you’re there. For as little at 120 TBH (approx. £2.50) you can indulge in a half an hour foot massage!

Finally, before you go, download a free copy of How to be a Gadget Savvy Traveller: Thailand from Endsleigh, it’ll come in handy if you’re targeted by thieves or accidentally lose valuable gadgets.

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