Backpacking for beginners….Thailand

If you have ever dreamt of taking some time out to relax on a picture perfect beach, ride an elephant through a tropical jungle or soak up the vibrant culture of another country, then delay no more…head to Thailand. In this blog we will look at what attractions and activities Thailand has to offer to backpackers.

First things first, travelling to the other side of the world with your worldly possessions tucked away in your backpack to a whole other continent with a very different way of life requires some pre-planning.

Remember the backpacking essentials:

  • mosquito repellent
  • sun cream
  • Imodium & Paracetamol
  • phrase book / guide book
  • first aid kit
  • travel towel
  • plug adaptor
  • travel insurance

Bustling Bangkok:
Most backpackers start their journey in the Thai capital Bangkok and are most likely to stay in the tourist hub of Khao San Road. The area is packed with a plethora of bars and guesthouses making it a great hang out spot for backpackers to share travel stories and experiences with one another. It is best to arrange your first night accommodation before you arrive, after a 13 hour flight the last thing you want to be doing is trundling around with your backpack in the tropical heat trying to find a bed for the night!

Try to get over your jet lag by adjusting to local times as soon as possible, fight the urge to sleep during the daytime by throwing yourself into something active like taking a walk. You’ll feel the benefits of getting a good night sleep and will be refreshed for your first full day of exploring this amazing new country.

Be sure to visit the street markets, browsing through the narrow rows of clothes and jewellery stalls, you’re bound to pick up a great bargain ideal for a souvenir. For a spot of sightseeing, head to the golden spires of the ‘Grand Palace’ and the spectacular ‘Temple of the Emerald Buddha’ – Thailand’s most sacred site! Metered taxis are the easiest way to get around the city; each taxi company has their own coloured cars ranging from pink, to orange and blue so they’re easy to spot. For more information on Bangkok sightseeing visit the Lonely Planet website.

Southern islands:
The South is mostly about the white sandy beaches and water activities in the warm sea making it the perfect place to relax and top up your tan. The pace of life on the islands is slow, a far cry from the hustle bustle of Bangkok. For truly breathtaking views head to the Phi Phi islands where the movie ‘The beach’ was filmed.

Culture of the north:
There are plenty of cultural activities to do in Northern Thailand ranging from visiting the centuries old Buddha temple of Wat Chedi Laem and browsing through the various local crafts stalls. To sample a slice of Thai history, travel north to Thailand’s former capital city Chiang Mai.

Feeling peckish?
You can’t go to Thailand and not sample some of the legendary Thai foods. Maybe even unleash your inner chef by taking a Thai cookery course?

Here are a few mouth watering suggestions to try:

  • Sticky coconut rice with mango- sticky rice soaked overnight, served warm mixed with coconut milk and fresh mango
  • Pad thai – rice noodles pan fried with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice or tamarind pulp, chopped peanuts, and egg combined with chicken, seafood, or tofu
  • Green curry – made with fresh green chillies and flavoured with Thai basil, and chicken or fish meatballs. This dish is one of the spiciest of Thai curries!
  • Banana smoothie- fresh fruit gently blended with milk

Something to tell your friends about:
The Thai word for fun is ‘sanook,’ so you’ll never have a dull moment in Thailand! There really is an activity to suit everyone which will make a good story to tell friends about at home! Capture your imagination by listening to the mystical sounds of chanting monks in remote hillside temples, snorkel in the warm turquoise sea, pet tigers at the famous ‘Tiger Temple,’ discover remote mountain villages by elephant back in the lush landscapes of Northern Thailand, float along the river on a handmade bamboo raft, or the more adventurous backpacker can go on a 3 day jungle trek. Remember to check that you have the right insurance cover before you do such activities!

Check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website before you travel. For up to date travel information visit: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/ta-relevant-to-you/backpackers

This website contains information especially for backpackers going on a gap year: http://www.gogapyear.com/

Backpacker Travel Insurance:
For those going on a gap year, the cheapest option is most likely to be a Backpacker travel insurance policy which allows you to choose cover up to a maximum of 18 months. It is important that you remember to check that the Backpacker travel insurance policy offers you the level of cover that you need for your trip before you buy it.

24/7 Backpacker travel insurance is available from only £16.79!* – great value for peace of mind whilst travelling!

* Premium £16.79 includes Insurance Premium Tax based on 1 adult aged under 36 taking out a 24/7 travel insurance “Standard” (Worldwide excluding USA, Canada & Caribbean) Backpacker travel insurance policy for 2 months in Thailand. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press (January 2009) and are subject to change.