Planning a trip to Thailand? Here are 18 things you HAVE to do there

planning a trip to Thailand? here are 18 things you must do ther

It goes without any doubt that Thailand is the most popular destination in Southeast Asia. From the mountainous landscapes to the tropical beaches, from the lights of Bangkok to the ruins of ancient temples in Ayutthaya, Thailand does have it all. So when you’re planning your first trip to Thailand, it might get a bit overwhelming. After all, there are plenty of things to do there — in fact, maybe even a bit too much for one lifetime.

So in order for you to get the best out of your Thailand vacation, here’s an activity plan for you (and a brief mention on where you can do them).

Here it goes…

Rock climbing

“It’s not rope climbing — it’s rock climbing”, I was hearing the voice from somewhere metres beneath me, the voice that belonged to a person that I couldn’t even see anymore. I was being told to relax, drop the rope, trust my gut and keep climbing up that huge cliff — which is what I was clumsily trying to do. In the Krabi area of Thailand, you can find the most gorgeous (but intimidating) looking limestone cliffs. And if you pay attention, you can always spot a little dot of a rock-climber who is going up up up towards the peak, having nothing but a rope to secure him. A great exercise, cliff climbing is also good fun. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced climber, you can explore numerous possibilities to challenge yourself big time.

Where: Railay Beach, Tonsai, Ao Nang Beach, Kog Lao Liang (you can go even go climbing in Koh Phi Phi)

rock climbing in Thailand -- what an experience!!Image source: here

Trekking through the jungle

Looking to embrace your inner Indiana Jones? Then you’re in the right country. Thailand has numerous rainforests full of waterfalls, wild animals, lush jungles, and rich fauna. If you’re lucky, you can also spot Rafflesia, the world’s biggest flower. Not the most beautiful flower in the world, I have to admit, but it’s definitely a sight to see.

Even the easiest trekking routes in the jungle are still difficult to complete, and mosquitoes and leeches is something to beware of. But despite how tiresome it is to walk through the dense jungles of Thailand, it gives you a certain sense of rawness that is somehow very rewarding at the end of the day.

Where: Khao Sok, Khao Yai, and other national parks

Jungle in ThailandImage source: here

Exploring the street food

You haven’t been to Thailand if you haven’t eaten real Thai food. The best way to indulge in it is to visit street markets, where you can enjoy a complete repertoire of Thai cuisine for as much as 50 baht per meal (i.e. 1.25 EUR or 1.4 USD). The famous hot and sour soup, the delicious Pad Thai, the amazing green curry and, my favourite, the nectarous sticky rice with mango is definitely a must-try.

Where: everywhere

Learning how to cook

If you’re a big foodie, you can also take it to another level and go to a proper cooking school where you’ll learn all the basics and the nuances of Thai cuisine. At the school, the teacher will take you to the local farmers market, where you’ll learn how to pick the best veggies for the meal. Just don’t tell your family, friends, and colleagues that you’ve mastered the essentials of Thai cooking, otherwise they’ll turn you into a kitchen slave.

Where: Thai Orchid Cookery School in Chiang Mai

learning how to cook in ThailandImage source: here

Chilling at the beach

Now that you’ve been on the cliffs, gone through the jungle, and learned how to cook, it’s time to relax on the postcard-perfect-looking tropical beaches. Get a book, some coconut water, find a hammock, and spend your evenings watching sunsets on the world’s most beautiful beaches.

Where: Tonsai, Ko Nang Yuan, Hat Pramong (or Sunset Beach), Phra Nang Beach, Freedom Beach and many others!

Checking out the Muay Thai fight

Known as “the art of eight limbs”, Muay Thai is a super famous combat sport that involves kneeing, elbowing, fisting, and kicking. If you like boxing, then you’ll watch the fight of your life in Thailand.

Where: Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok

Feeling spirit of the ruined temples

There are approximately 40000 Buddhist temples in Thailand: many of them date back to thousand years ago and some of them got heavily ruined as time, unfortunately, wasn’t on their side. Despite the shabby looks, the ruined temples are even more impressive than the colorful, newly restored ones of Bangkok, for example. The peace and quiet, the stillness of time, and the surreality of the surroundings leave a somewhat magical effect on you that is hard to explain and hard to forget.

Where: Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, and Lopburi.

Ayutthaya in ThailandImage source: here

Getting a massage

They’re cheap, excellent — and painful. Surprised to hear that? Well, at least you’re prepared now! Thai massages are notorious for the after-pain that they inflict, so don’t expect to be pampered — inspect to be voluntarily tortured instead. They are totally worth it, though!

Where: everywhere (typically costs 200 baht per hour)

Saving an elephant

Did you know that elephants are HUGELY mistreated in Thailand? They get starved, beaten up, caged, and tortured — all that for tourists to be able to ride them and live their perfect dream of a perfect Thai adventure. You can watch this sickening video of elephant abuse to understand why this activity should never be on your to-do plan. What you can do instead, is visiting one of the elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, where you can feed, wash, and take care of elephants, as well as learn about the cruelties that these poor giants are being thrown into.

This is your chance to be a better traveller — and a better person.

Where: Elephant Nature Park, Thai Elephant Conservation Centre, Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary

elephant sanctuary in ThailandImage source: here

Bargaining at the local market

Now, bargaining is a special form of art which requires a certain form of disrespect. It might feel weird to be offering the lowest possible price for the cutest ever pair of pants, but hey, that’s the beauty of it. Here are my few bargaining tips that I learned through trial and error:

— Always offer the minimum of what you’d like to pay at first
— Show the exact money you’d like to pay and say “I pay right here, right now”.
— Instead of asking “Is this a deal then?”, say “This is a deal then!” and reach out for a handshake. Remember: once you’ve shaken hands, the deal is unbreakable.

Where: everywhere.

Visiting the floating markets

Technically, floating markets are the same as any other types of market: you browse around the little stores, dine on the delicious food, and inhale the air of authenticity. But when everything is served from boats, and you see the farmers maneuvering in the canals and negotiating the prices on the go, the whole experience becomes truly different.

Where: Amphawa, Damnoen Saduak, Khlong Lat Mayom, Taling Chan, Bang Nam Phueng (these are considered to be the best ones in Thailand)

floating market in Thailand

Image source: here

Scuba diving in Koh Tao

Koh Tao is renowned for being one of the world’s best diving spots. Ever. So if you’re onto exploring the East Coast of Thailand, make sure to make a stop in Koh Tao for some scuba diving. The place has some seriously gorgeous dive sites, where you can spot barracudas, sea turtles, and even whale sharks.

Where: Bans, Big Blue, Buddha View, Crystal (big schools); New Way, Scuba Junction, Simple Life (medium schools); Sairee Hut, Roctopus (small schools)

Scuba diving in Koh Tao, Thailand

Taking a train on the Death Railway

The two-hour journey from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok is famously picturesque and notoriously dangerous. The railway, also known as the Burma Railway, was constructed in 1942-1943, to support a campaign taking place in Burma during The Second World War. To build the 400-kilometre-long railway, the government used forced labour, which resulted in deaths of around 100,000 people, if not more, within a year only. The railway stopped functioning in 1947, but got reopened after ten years.

Now, decades later, you can take a train ride to the Past — if you dare to look in the eyes of Death. It is a shaking experience.

Where: Kanchanaburi

Death railway in Thailand.

Visiting Karen Hill tribe villages

With over a million of indigenous people living in Thailand, the country it able to preserve its old authentic traditions in the tribe villages up in the North. While there are numerous ethnical minorities all belonging to different linguistic families (Akha, Karen, Lahu, Lisu, Khumu, etc), it is usually the Karen Hill tribe that stands out with its specific appearance. Many of these people are not the citizens of Thailand, since the indigenous regulations are not yet, well, regulated in the country, so most of the villagers are farmers that lead a very rural, simple life.

If you want to learn more about old Thai lifestyle, you can pay a visit to one of the indigenous villages. Just remember to be respectful: after all, this is not a human zoo.

Where: near Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai areas

Long neck tribe in ThailandImage source: here

Watching the Thai Dance Drama

Traditional theatre is still going strong in Thailand, comprising six main forms: khon, lakhon, likay, manohra, lichen lek, and nang. Both drama and dance are strongly intertwined, creating a powerful storyline and an emotive performance.

Thai dance drama

Going island hopping

Ko Yao Yai or Ko Yao Noi? Ko Hai or Ko Raya?

It’s hard to decide which island to go to — especially if they sound a bit similar — so the best way to end the dilemma is to visit them all. Or at least as many as you can. You can choose to travel from an island to an island, and divide your days into different stays in different places. In the meantime, you can also go on tours around the smaller islands, which will ultimately allow you to leave your footprint on Thailand’s all must-visit beaches.

Where: Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta, Ko Samui, Ko Phra Ngan, Ko Yao Yai and many others

Islands in Thailand -- what a bliss!

Creating memories you will never forget

And finally, if you’re planning a trip to Thailand, don’t forget that the most important activity to do there is to CREATE MEMORIES. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, don’t stress yourself out too much if you can’t check everything off from your to-do list. Be spontaneous! And remember: you’re in for an adventure!

Over to you! Have you been to Thailand before? Which other activities would you add to this list?

18 Things To Do In Thailand

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  • Grant Dunlop

    Thanks for that Olga I hadn’t actually ever thought of going there but you’ve changed my mind again thanks for all your posts such great info all the time your so cool.

    • Hi Grant!

      Glad that the article inspired you to visit Thailand! It’s a beautiful country, you’ll definitely enjoy it if you go!


  • Grant Dunlop

    Thanks for that Olga it’s on my list for sure now.


  • Grant Dunlop

    What’s new with you, Olga?

  • Rekha Bisht

    These amazing things to do in Thailand, but what I like the most in Thailand is Bangkok and Pattaya because these two destinations fulfill my desire to explore Buddhist temples and beach activities.

    Recently I read one more blog about Thailand beaches:

    This blog post is as informative as your blog post about Thailand. I hope your readers would love to read this post too :)

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