If you are planning a trip to Thailand you are probably overwhelmed trying to decide where to go and what to see. Three weeks is a short amount of time to cover such an incredible country. To help you out keep reading for my guide on how to see Thailand in 3 weeks.
Why listen to me?
It was my trip to Thailand that inspired me to start this blog. My aim was to help others plan their trips. Reading different blogs helped me when planning no end and I wanted to give something back by writing about my travel experiences. The things I struggled with the most was deciding where to go, for how long, and planning without being so rigid that we couldn’t be flexible about dates. I have written a few different guides on Thailand which you can read here:
So here’s my three-week Thailand itinerary including recommendations of places to stay and a few things not to miss:
Day 1 – 2 Bangkok
Bangkok is crazy and if you are a first timer to Thailand it can be pretty overwhelming! My advice would be to spend a day or so here and then move on. Make sure you have a few days to return at the end of your trip to really explore the city. I found I was to jet lagged and a little culture shocked to really appreciate it. I have written a post on Bangkok you can read by clicking here.
Recommended place to stay:
The Yard – I really cannot recommend this place enough. It is amazing and the people who run it as so incredible. Trust me and book in there, you will be sad to leave and eager to return! Make sure you pre-book your accommodation, the last thing you will want to do when you arrive is be hunting around for accommodation.
We decided to get a taxi as we were too tired to even attempt public transport. Getting a taxi is easy, you go up to the correct level, get a ticket and head to the bay number on the ticket. They will tell you how much it will cost before you travel. If you decide to stay at The Yard then you can get the sky train, there is one change and its a 5-10 min walk from the station.
Day 3 Ayutthaya
You don’t need more than a day here. I would recommend travelling there around lunch time give yourself a few hours to explore the temples on a bike (cost 40 tbt), eat some dinner and then get the night sleeper train to Chiang Mai. Read more about my day there by clicking here.
If you aren’t planning on staying the night in Ayutthaya you will need to store your bags somewhere. You will have three options;
- Take it with you (no thanks)
- Pay for a hotel for the day so you can leave it there, take a nap and have a shower before the night train
- Pay a few tbt to store it at the train station
We choose the latter option and had no issues with baggage security, but do make sure it’s locked up.
To get there you have a few options; train, bus or taxi. We were hung-over (cheers Koh San Road) and tried so we ended up getting a taxi for 1000 tbt which we were happy to pay the state we were in!
From here you should head to Chiang Mai on one of the Sleeper Trains – it’s cheap and what and experience!
Day 4 – 6 Chiang Mai
Fresh off the sleeper train we dropped our bags off at our hostel and explored the city on bikes. We then spent 2 days hiking up and down a mountain! I feel like Chiang Mai passed us by. I have heard so many amazing things about it but we didn’t really experience any of them. We didn’t have time to go to Pai and I wasn’t blown away by and of the places we stayed at. So my recommendation would be staying for 4-6 days here and don’t pre-book your accommodation.
I feel like Chiang Mai passed us by. Having heard so many amazing things about it, sadly we didn’t really experience any of them. We didn’t have time to go to Pai, and I wasn’t blown away by any of the places we stayed at. So my recommendation would be staying for 4-6 days here and don’t pre-book your accommodation. The best accommodation can be found wandering around.
You will arrive early in the morning to a crowd of Tuk Tuk and taxi drivers shouting ‘where are you going’. Check your bags into left luggage, grab a map from the tourist info desk at the station. Then walk to the closest café for some breakfast to plan your next move. This way you will let the crowds die down. Once refreshed you can then head into town find a nice place to stay and go back later to get your bags. Make sure you do a cookery class, visit Pai and do some shopping at the market.
Make sure you do a cookery class, visit Pai and do some shopping at the market! I didn’t and I still regreat it!
Recommended places to stay
I actually don’t have one! We stayed in two places and they were ok but I wouldn’t recommend either one. Both were pretty far out-of-town and the staff weren’t particularly helpful.
From Bangkok, you can travel by day train, night train, bus or you can fly from Bangkok airport to Chiang Mai airport with Air Asia.
Day 7 – Phuket (or Krabi)
This was a transit day for us as we were just stopping off before heading out to the islands. We paid for a fancy hotel suite and lazed by the pool all day recovering from our mountain trek and early morning flight.
Recommended place to stay
We stayed at The Village Resort and Spa. It cost us 3276 tbt for two of us for one night (expensive in Thailand terms). However, it was so worth is and the only time we really splashed out on accommodation all trip. It had a pool bar, breakfast buffet and the biggest bed I have ever seen…it felt like we were on honeymoon!
We flew from Chiang Mai to Phuket with Air Asia.
I would recommend NOT getting an early morning flight, we had a lot of trouble finding a taxi to pick us up at 4:30 am for a 6 am flight! Pay a little extra to fly in the afternoon.
You should also book your flight before you get to Thailand. The earlier you book the cheaper. This does mean you have to fix the date you are leaving but it will save you a whole day of travel on a train or bus! I think my flight was about £30.
If you aren’t bothered about seeing Phuket then fly to Krabi and give it a miss.
If you need transfers between airports and boats then make sure you pre-book a car. You can do this online or via a travel agent and it will save you a few hundred tbt.
Day 8 – 10 Koh Yao Noi
If you want a time out head to one (or both) of the Koh Yao islands. We spend 3 nights at an amazing Yoga Retreat but you could just as easily stay at any of the resorts there. Hire a bike or scooter, explore the island and take a boat trip or two.
Island Yoga – you get accommodation, breakfast (the best one I had in Thailand hands down!), morning Thai Chi and 2 yoga classes a day, the rest of the day and evening are yours to explore the island and hang out with your fellow travellers. I wish we could have stayed longer.
From Phuket, you need to go to Bangrong Pier. From there you can get either a long-boat or a speed boat to the Koh Yao Islands. For more information and timetables click here.
Day 11-14 Koh Jum and Koh Lanta
I actually spent 2 days on Koh Jum, if I had the chance again I would spend a day and night on Jum and then 3 days on Koh Lanta.
Hire scooters, explore the islands and the stunning beaches and fill up on the amazing food. You can also do lots of boat trips from here and if you aren’t fussed about Krabi stay on Jum or Lanta longer and do the trips from there.
We hardly spent any time in Krabi as we just used it as a base to do the trips to Phi Phi, Maya bay, kayaking and the 4 islands all of which you can do from Jum or Lanta.
I stayed at Jungle Hill Beach bungalow and it was great, basic accommodation with a nice place to eat and stunning views. The beach was pretty rocky but we just walked a bit down the road and used the next beach along. We didn’t make it to Koh Lanta but I really wish I has as I have heard so many things about it.
I travelled from Koh Yao Noi to Krabi, from the pier take a taxi to the pier where the 11 am boat goes to Koh Jum and Koh Lanta. Keep your wits about you though as our driver tried to drive us to Koh Lanta!
Make sure you buy a return ticket or if you are planning on going to Lanta from Jum. If you don’t have your ticket it will cost you double to buy it on the boat (I found this out the hard way!). There is only one boat a day so don’t be late! You can find more information here.
Days 15-16 Krabi
I wouldn’t recommend staying here for more than 2 days if you do all the trips from Jum or Lanta. We stayed pretty central and enjoyed eating at the night markets but we didn’t spend much time in the days there as we were out visiting Phi Phi or the Islands.
We stayed at Baifern Mansion and although it’s pretty basic the Wifi was good and the staff were really helpful in organising all of our trips and onward travel. Took all the stress out of it for us. We were also able to check in early and then let us check out late.
To get back to Krabi you will need to get a ferry and then grab a taxi or a transfer from the pier into town. Book your onward travel to Koh Samui asap as coaches fill up. There is also a night ferry (which we wanted to get but it was sold out) and you can fly. To be honest the coach was fine only took a few hours.
Make sure you book with Lomprayah and if you have booked your accommodation already pay the extra for a transfer to your accommodation when you get there.
Days 17-19 Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao
When visiting these islands it really depends on what you are looking for. If you want to party Koh Samui and Koh Phangan if you aren’t too bothered and just want to relax I would do a night in Koh Samui, staying in fisherman’s village. Travel to Koh Phangan early the next morning stay for 1-2 nights and then do 1-2 nights in Koh Tao.
On Koh Samui, I would recommend staying in Fisherman’s Village. Every Friday they have a walking street, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, and the beach is small but nice and clean.
On Koh Phangan, I would pre-book somewhere or at least know what area you are going to before you get there. Transport around the island isn’t cheap and if you are going to spend a few days here I would recommend hiring a scooter or a car as it’s really expensive to get taxis everywhere and impossible to walk. So choose which beach you want to go to and head there! If I could do it again I would stay close to the north-west or northeast beaches.
We didn’t make it to Koh Tao and I really regretted it but there just wasn’t the time. If I could do it again I would skip Koh Samui and Koh Phangan and head straight there.
There are many daily ferries run by different operators throughout the day. You can book through one of the travel agents who will also organise your transfers from where you are staying to the pier. As I’ve said travel around the islands is easiest on a scooter but if you don’t fancy that hire a car (preferably a 4 wheel drive as some of the roads are pretty rough and ready).
Days 20-21 Back to Bangkok
By the time you make it back to Bangkok you may feel completely different about it. I know I did anyway. We stayed at The Yard and I didn’t want to leave. I only had an overnight stay which I really regretted. In hind site, I wish I could have had a few days there to explore the city with a new understanding and outlook on Thailand I had gained over the weeks travelling around and lack of jet lag. I think I would have had a totally different experience.
I wrote a whole post on that (How to Eat in Thailand for under £5 a day) but if you are looking for a more comprehensive guide to some of the best meals that you need to try in Thailand then you really need to check out Travel Moments post on their favourite Thai dishes to try.
The Yard (see above)
To get from the islands back to Bangkok you will need to either get a ferry and a bus, ferry and train or ferry and night bus/ train.
We chose ferry and bus as it fitted in with our schedule best. This is really easy to book either online or through an agent. The cost should be the same either way. If you want to travel by train you can only book a ticket in person at a train station. This makes it a bit more effort as you would need to get a ferry then a bus to the station. Once there you will need to book your train ticket and if it’s sold out you could be stuck there for a while.
Enjoy your trip!
I really hope this is helpful in planning your trip to Thailand. In all honesty, three weeks just isn’t enough time, three months would have been great!
But if like me you only have a few weeks my best advice would be to prioritise what you want from your trip, if you want to party head straight from Bangkok to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. If you want more of a cultural experience then spend more time in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and other places in the north. If you want beautiful beaches and relaxation stick to the southern islands. Wherever you go I’m 100% confident you will fall in love with Thailand just like I did.