For tourists, Thailand presents an overwhelming amount of destinations to visit. It’s impossible to see everything – especially when one is time constrained and on a budget. If you have 10 days in Thailand, it’s entirely possible to see the highlights while simultaneously getting an authentic taste of the local culture.
Our ideal 10-day vacation itinerary to Thailand will give you a highlight reel that shows there is more to the entire country than meets the eye. We’ll discuss the cost, what to pack, must-see attractions, and the best season to visit.
Many tourists who visit Thailand underappreciate Bangkok in their attempts to visit the Southern islands. The islands are unparalleled, so in some respects, this mentality is justified. As a travel writer who currently lives in Bangkok, I’ll make sure your time in the big city isn’t wasted.
Day 1 – Arrive in Bangkok
You’ve just arrived in Bangkok after a long flight. There’s a good chance that you had a layover in Hong Kong or another big Asian city. You’re excited to explore the city but likely are very tired and jet-lagged. Bangkok is a large and often overwhelming city so you don’t want to do anything too intense quite yet.
First thing is first. You need food. After checking into your hotel or Airbnb to drop your bags off and lay down for a few minutes, hail a taxi to go eat lunch. We highly recommend starting off your culinary experience by dining at the quirky Cabbages & Condoms restaurant.
This casual diner is centered around a philanthropic cause – sex education. The proceeds from your meal directly benefit rural villages that don’t have the proper tools or education to ensure their young adults know how to approach sexuality. As such, the entire restaurant has a funny condom-oriented motif.
You will walk in to find countless mannequins with ornate clothing made from condoms. Despite the humorous nature of this eatery, the food is out of this world good. The Northern Thai Curry is honestly better than any Michelin dish I have ever eaten.
Now that you’ve had a proper meal in addition to being jet-lagged, you’re probably feeling exhausted. You might even feel a little guilty about being so tired while you are in a brand new city. The ultimate solution – caffeine. I’m traditionally a little grumpy after being jet-lagged. While coffee might pick me up, we recommend getting coffee at a place with a twist.
Animal cafes are huge in Thailand. Stop by Caturday Cat Cafe to play with some of the cutest cats you have ever laid eyes on. If cats aren’t for you, there is also the Rabbito Cafe (rabbits) and the Little Zoo Siam (fennec foxes and meerkats).
Day 2 – More of Bangkok
When you wake up, go get breakfast at Kope Hya Tai Kee. It’s delicious and not very far from Khao San Road. In fact, it’s exactly halfway between Khao San Road and the Grand Palace. Authentic Thai breakfast food is somewhat hard to find, but it’s readily available at this charming cafe.
After breakfast, go observe the architectural beauty of The Grand Palace. This former home to the king is always crowded. Make sure you dress appropriately (no shorts or tank tops) or else you’ll be denied entry.
Wat Pho is right beside the Grand Palace. There are multiple structures that resemble giant gold thimbles. Reclining Buddha resides here and is absolutely giant. This tourist attraction is typically quite crowded, as well.
At Wat Pho, there is a massage school on the grounds. Between the jet lag and the Khao San hangover, treat yourself by getting a massage at this temple. They’re more expensive than elsewhere in Bangkok, however, the massages from Wat Pho students are superior as they have just finished learning from the best of the best.
No trip to Bangkok is complete without visiting one of their giant outdoor marketplaces. These are an epicenter of culture within Thailand. If it’s the weekend, go to Chatuchak Market. Chatuchak is the largest outdoor market in the entire world. If you want something less urban and more culturally fascinating, visit one of the many ‘floating markets’ in the city.
At dinner, go visit a must-see restaurant named Krua Saap Flying Chicken. This is a weird place but everyone who visits gives it rave reviews. If you order the flying chicken, they place your friend chicken into a catapult. When they shoot it out of the catapult, a man who has a helmet with a giant spike catches it on his head (while riding a unicycle).
Day 3 – Drive North of Bangkok
There are several great attractions to see just North of Bangkok. Assuming you don’t leave during rush hour traffic, you should be able to reach some of these great locations within 1 or 2 hours. You can hire a private driver, take a tour, or if you’re feeling risky, you could rent your own car.
One of the best places to visit in Thailand is Ayutthaya Historical Park. These historical ruins have held their ground for hundreds and hundreds of years. While slightly dilapidated, the causes are natural. The roots of large trees have disrupted the stone structures and large vines hang over these ancient temples.
It’s a Thai version of Angkor Wat – a holdover from the Siam empire that tourists must observe. Most people are aware of European history throughout the past thousand years. However, these same individuals are often unaware that Asian history in this region dates back thousands of years. There is nothing as fascinating as seeing these structures firsthand.
After Ayutthaya, have your driver take you to Khao Yai National Park. As mentioned above, this park is unofficially titled the ‘Best National Park in Thailand’ by both locals and tourists alike. Some people opt to hire a guide for a night safari. Whether it is daytime or dark outside, this park is a great place to see monkeys, birds, and elephants in their natural habitat.
Day 4 – Fly to Koh Samui
It’s time to fly South to visit the islands. If you’re interested in seeing Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan, and Koh Tao, the fastest way is to fly from Bangkok to Koh Samui. Even if you are planning to visit the other islands, Koh Samui has a lot to offer and shouldn’t be ignored while you are there.
Visit the beach and try to get some sun. Rent a bike and explore the island. Eat at street food stalls in the busier part of the city. Get outdoors!
There is a significant amount of natural beauty on this island. As you fly in, you’ll instantly notice the emerald ocean juxtapositioned beside the karst limestone cliffs. As you’re about to land, you’ll observe a 40 foot tall Buddha on a tiny island right beside Koh Samui. The name for this gold temple is Wat Phra Yai.
There are many waterfalls in this chain of islands. Na Muang is regarded as the most beautiful waterfall on Koh Samui. You should absolutely make a point to visit this natural beauty while in Koh Samui. Technically, Na Muang is two separate waterfalls with one being 30 minutes further uphill. If you’re on a budget, this is a great choice as the activity is free.
Day 5 – More Koh Samui
If you’re planning a romantic getaway or honeymoon, The Library Koh Samui is arguably the nicest 5-star hotel in Southern Thailand. The pool is actually dyed red and the area overlooks a beautiful bay in the distance. This ultrahip resort offers a Thai take on minimalist luxury.
One of the most interesting activities to observe while in Thailand is the many ladyboy shows. While the term is politically incorrect in Western culture, it’s a commonly accepted phrase among the gay community in Thailand. Despite the idea you may have in your head, most of these shows are not sexual in nature.
More often than not, the performers are lip-syncing Beyonce while wearing extremely beautiful and ornate costumes and contour makeup. Most visitors are surprised to discover the performers wish to bring tourists on stage. This type of show (like the one at Paris Follies Cabaret) is extremely light-hearted and non-nude.
Day 6 – Koh Pha-ngan’s Full Moon Party
Spend the better part of your morning resting and relaxing in order to prepare for the debauchery that will ensue at night. The Full Moon Party is an all-night affair and you should expect to be out until the sun comes up (some parties continue until 4 in the afternoon).
In order to reach Koh Pha-ngan from Koh Samui, you’ll need to spend an hour on a ferry. We recommend that you stay in the isolated Bottle Beach. Your hotel staff will be happy to take you to and from the main party on Haad Rin.
Drink buckets of alcohol, cover yourself in neon paint and dance to your heart’s content.
You need to spend the night on Koh Pha-ngan if you visit the Full Moon Party. The ferries run at many different hours however being intoxicated on an hour-long boat ride is never a good idea (unless you fancy yourself a pirate).
Day 7 – Snorkel
If you’ve just visited the Full Moon Party, you are certainly hungover. Nothing is quite as authentic as nursing your hangover with giant water bottles and a toastie from the local 7/11 (seriously). You can find a 7/11 on almost every corner in Thailand – they’re a staple. You can buy a toastie (grilled cheese or grilled pork sandwiches).
After settling your stomach, you can embark on a slow-paced snorkeling tour of Ang Thong National Marine Park. The coral gardens here are magical and absolutely worth visiting. You can expect to see turtles, colorful fish, bright coral, and during the right time of year, even the rare whale shark.
There are countless snorkel guide options available while you are on the island. The prices are competitive and these tours can often be booked directly through your hotel. After you are done snorkeling, you should be fully recovered and ready to take a ferry back to Koh Samui.
Day 8 – Last Day in the Islands
It’s your last day in the islands and you’ll likely want to spend time on the beach and exploring the natural wonder of the landscape around you. After you’re exhausted from the sun, try taking a group cooking class. Bring the delicious food back home with you and show your family how to make Pad Thai or Tom Yum soup.
At night, you have to see a Muay Thai fight in order to properly complete your Thai experience. These fights have an interesting blend of religious ceremony and man-eating violence. Muy Thai fights traditionally feature several matchups. Foreigners don’t often participate – but when they do, they normally lose.
Day 9 – A Bizzare Bangkok Experience
Fly back to Bangkok! Get in a taxi and visit Lumphini Park, the Central Park of Bangkok. During your romantic stroll, you might notice a few creatures that remind you of Jurrasic Park. It’s more fun if you keep this a secret from your travel partner.
Lumphini Park is filled with monitor lizards. Some of these giant creatures are the size of adult humans. The park has historically overflowed with monitor lizards. If one creature lays eggs, she lays 50 of them. Naturally, it doesn’t take long for a breeding situation like that to get out of hand.
Since the population expansion, the park has taken steps to control the number of monitor lizards in the park by transporting the eggs and babies to rural provinces. The lizards are peaceful so you don’t have to be scared (unless you’re one of the idiots who tried to touch them). The combination of prehistoric reptilians and a beautiful skyline makes for a great photo opportunity.
Finish your night at Khao San Road. This is Bangkok’s premier party hub. If the jet lag and coffee has you feeling sleepless, this street has a special ability to help its visitors sleep like a baby (likely all the alcohol). If the street is too overwhelming, check out the street that runs parallel to Khao San for a quieter but equally fun atmosphere.
If you’re looking for somewhere close to Khao San Road, check out The Secret Service hotel. It’s a small and charming place to rest your head for the night. Just a 2-minute walk from the commotion of Khao San Road, you won’t have to worry about how you get home at night.
Day 10 – Fly home
You’ll likely be exhausted. Get a travel pillow and sleep like a rock on your plane ride back to the states.
What to pack
If you’re a young and adventurous couple trying to stay frugal, opting for a big backpack could actually suit your needs better than more traditional luggage. If you have big suitcases, our only recommendation is to avoid public transportation at rush hour. It’s guaranteed that your ride will be in close quarters so hail a taxi instead.
Unless you’re in Chiang Mai in the wintertime at night, Thailand doesn’t get cold. There’s no need for you to pack a big winter jacket. It will take up way too much room in your luggage and is completely unnecessary. A rain jacket, however, is absolutely vital for your trip to Thailand.
It’s frequently scorching throughout Southern Thailand and Bangkok so it is tempting to only pack shorts and tank tops. This would be a bad move. Most Americans are not aware that most Asian cultures require long pants in order to enter any religious building. If you want to see Wat Pho or the Grand Temple, you need sleeves on your shirt and pants that cover the knees.
Unless you’re heading to an upscale bar to hobnob with the upper echelons of Thailand’s socialite scene, a dress code won’t be enforced. While customary for locals to wear pants even in the summertime, no bar on Khao San Road will exclude you from entry because you’re wearing shorts or a semi-revealing top.
Bring swimsuits, obviously. Pack your own sunscreen. If you try to buy sunscreen near the beach in Koh Pha-ngan, you can expect a travel size option of American sunscreen to cost about $10. A large American brand sunscreen would cost closer to $30.
Asian culture, in general, has a bizarre obsession with skin whitening. This Michael Jackson reminiscent desire to be more porcelain skinned is odd to most Americans (particularly because American culture idolizes the opposite – the more tan, the better). It’s a false belief that stems from a colonial-era hangover in which those who work outside in the hot sun are less desirable than those with indoor desk jobs.
You’ll see advertisements for skin-whitening Thai sunscreen everywhere. In fact, every single Thai sunscreen highlights the fact that they come with skin-whitening chemicals. If this isn’t your cup of tea, you need to pack your own bottle of sunscreen. Save yourself the money (and the bizarre chemicals).
It would be prudent to bring a dirty pair of shoes. Whether you are hiking or walking through some of the crowded streets of Bangkok, you’ll be turning your white shoes 100 shades of brown, black, or grey.
Bangkok is known for occasionally having a tremendous amount of smog. If you visit The Home Depot or Lowe’s, buy a few cheap pollution masks. In addition to looking like a street style fashion icon, you’ll be doing your lungs a favor. On the Metro and the Skytrain, you’ll see more Thai citizens wearing these masks than those without. Follow the crowd.
You do not need to bring a special adaptor for your electronics. Every hotel offers both American and European outlets so your chargers will work perfectly. If you have valuable electronics in your bag, ensure your bag is able to protect your belongings from several splashes of water. It’s quite common to use boat taxis in Thailand and these modes of transportation can create quite a splash.
The cost of a trip to Thailand is entirely dependent on the financial desires of each individual tourist that visits the country. Some people who visit opt for the cheapest hostel they can find while others prefer to live in luxury for a week. We’ll give you a rundown of different prices for food, accommodations, and nightlife.
There are 173 Michelin restaurants in Bangkok. Let me repeat that. There are 173 Michelin restaurants in Bangkok. Of those 173 restaurants, 68 of them cost less than $7 per meal. If you ate a Michelin meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 1 week, it would only cost you $150.
While that may be an unrealistic (yet tasty) goal, it just proves how affordable good food is in Thailand. On the contrary, not all food comes with a small price tag. There are 24 Michelin restaurants in Bangkok that cost over $50 a plate. Phuket is a much smaller city but still boasts 38 of these starred restaurants.
A nice Airbnb will cost around $40/night. This is a cheaper alternative than hostels if you are traveling as a couple. Instead of paying for 2 beds at the hostel, you can split the cost of an Airbnb while sleeping together in a room (one that doesn’t have 8 bunk beds). Nicer Airbnbs that can fit a family cost closer to $100/night.
An Airbnb often offers more space than your traditional hotel room (and it costs less). Though, if you’re used to luxurious customer service, stick to hotels. A hotel in Bangkok can cost anywhere from $35/night to $300/night. If you’re wishing to have the trip of a lifetime, Bangkok even offers hotel suites that run customers upwards of $1200/night.
The cost of flights within the country are extremely reasonable. If you wait until the last minute, you can expect to pay about double. During the low season, flights from Bangkok to Phuket can cost about $40-50 per person if you book in advance. During the high season, these costs are closer to $80 per traveler.
Nightlife in Bangkok can be a big drainer of one’s money. It’s extremely common to wake up in the morning after a long night on Khao San Road wondering where all your money went. No, you weren’t pickpocketed – you kept buying buckets of mixed drinks.
If you’re wishing to save the most money, buy your buckets of alcohol on the streets that run parallel to Khao San Road. This quieter avenue boasts the same sort of wildness but at a much cheaper price.
If you’re looking for a normal night out, look into RCA’s bar district. This area is more of a hipster hangout. As is the case anywhere, hipsters tend to be college-aged kids from upper-middle-class families (and are willing to pay upper middle-class drink prices). Another great bar for an authentically Thai experience is a bit out of town but worth the trek. Look for a bar named ‘SuperHit’ North of Chatuchak market.
For the wealthier crowd, Silom District is the place to be. This financial center of Bangkok is known for pricey views and clubs at the top of skyscrapers. If you can afford it, this is the place to be. Silom Road is the cosmopolitan nightlife scene for Thai socialites and Westerners with money.
Best time to visit
If you want to make the most of your time in Bangkok, the best time to visit is during the dry season. In Phuket, the dry season is from November to March. These months represent the wintertime in America so the great weather in Thailand presents the perfect escape.
However, the term ‘best’ is certainly relative. If your aim is to keep your trip as cheap as possible, you don’t want to visit during the dry season. The rationale behind this logic is that dry season is the same as ‘lots of tourists season’. If you visit during these months, you can expect higher prices and more crowded beaches.
With this in mind, you might enjoy visiting during different months. The reality of the situation is that it won’t be raining every single day if you visit during the off-months. However, the rain is certainly likely to eat up a day or two of beach time. You’ll certainly need to check the Weather channel for tropical storm updates.
It’s important to remember that Southern Thailand has two starkly different climates. The East coast and the West coast both experience different seasons. The West coast is better during the winter and the East coast is pretty reliably solid all year (except for November).
Enjoy your trip! There is a reason Thailand is called ‘the Land of Smiles’. You’ll soon know why.
What is the best island in Thailand?
There are countless options to choose from in Thailand. If you’re looking for the best snorkeling, visit Koh Tao and Koh Pha-ngan. If you want the most isolated experience, visit the Similan Islands. If you want the most jaw-droppingly beautiful natural features, visit Koh Phi Phi.
Is Thailand cheap?
It is very easy to travel and live in Thailand without spending a lot of money. If your diet consists of street food and local restaurants, you won’t spend more than $20 a day. Taxi rides are $5-8 for a 30-minute drive. However, not all of the country’s restaurants and hotels are this cheap. Some are quite expensive and luxurious.