Here is the review of our 5 months spent in Chiang Mai in digital nomads mode. We tell you everything about the budget and our feeling after this experience in northern Thailand!
Backpacking Thailand: our best travel tips to prepare for your trip!
Thailand is a country that is really special for us! In all, we have already spent more than 8 months there: 2 trips and a 5-month stay in Chiang Mai in the north of the country. Each time, we can't wait to go back! Here, you will find practical information to prepare for your trip to Thailand, as well as budget tips and suggestions for itineraries and tours to do in the country.
At the end of the page, you will also find all our blog posts written during our various stays in Thailand. Our current trips:
- late 2013 and early 2014: several visits during our world tour;
- September 2015: we came to Bangkok for a conference and we extended our days by 10 days in northern Thailand;
- October 2016 - March 2017: we moved to Chiang Mai for 5 months.
- Map of Thailand
- Weather in Thailand: when to travel
- Places to visit in Thailand
- Circuit in Thailand
- Travel to Thailand
- Travel budget for Thailand
- Thailand on a budget
- Thailand entry requirements
- Thailand and Covid
- Vaccines required for Thailand
- Driving in Thailand
- Getting around in Thailand
- Some useful words in Thai
- Celebrations and festivals in Thailand
- Food in Thailand
- Phone and internet
- Our blog articles on Thailand
Map of our trips to Thailand
We spent nearly 8 months in Thailand, but we are still far from having seen everything! In the map below, you will find all our articles about the regions we have been to.
Here is the map with all our Thailand blog posts:
Weather in Thailand: when to travel?
Thailand is a relatively large and "elongated" country, so the climate is not quite the same depending on the regions and the seasons. But overall, Thailand is a country with a tropical climate: so there are clearly a dry and a rainy season. It is between March and mid-May that it is warmest there, just before the beginning of the monsoons. I would say that the best time to visit Thailand is between October and February. It is generally at this time that it rains the least and it is a little less hot (but it is still warm enough for swimming don't worry ;)).
If we look in more detail Thailand, can roughly be divided into 5 climatic zones.
Northern Thailand: In December and January, the temperature can drop to 15 °C at night but the days remain very pleasant at 23 to 25 °C. In summer, temperatures are around 24 °C at night and 33 °C during the day. The winter months are the driest: it hardly rains at all, while June, July, and August, are the wettest (on average 200 mm of rain per month). The best time to go to northern Thailand is from November to April.
Central Thailand, Bangkok region: The temperature is very stable all year round in Bangkok, between 25 °C at night and 34 °C during the day. It doesn't seem very hot, but Bangkok has a very humid climate and as a result, the heat is felt quite strongly. If you want to avoid having too much rain, you must try to avoid the months between May and October... The average rainfall during this period is 200 mm per month.
South-central: Temperatures are very similar to Bangkok but on the other hand, the volume of rainfall is less important. The rainy season is at the same time, but the water volumes tend to be lower. The driest months in this region are December to February with less than 20 mm of rainfall per month. Exception: the far south! Just towards the Cambodian border (towards Trat, Koh Chang Island), the rains are heavier in summer, and it is not advisable to go there during the monsoon months!
Southern Thailand - East Coast: Located on the Gulf of Thailand, this region receives a little less water proportionally during the summer months. The temperature is between 25 and 33 °C all year round. The months to avoid in this area are October, November and December, because it is during this period that it rains the most.
Southern Thailand - West Coast: The part overlooking the Andaman Sea is more exposed to rain during the summer months, and it is therefore rather inadvisable to come to Phuket in the middle of August! The best time to get there is between December and March.
Places to visit in Thailand
Thailand is a very big and really beautiful country! It is difficult to give a ready-made answer to this question, but here are our favorite things we did in Thailand:
- Vibrant Bangkok: Bangkok is a vibrant city! We sometimes loved it and sometimes we cursed it... Too much noise, too many people, too hot and yet so beautiful too! In short, a must-see at least once in our opinion!
- Chiang Mai: Our little home where we spent 5 months! To tell you the truth the city itself was not our biggest crush (we are not city people), but on the other hand, the activities nearby have totally seduced us! The Mae Hong Son loop and the hike to Doi Suthep are only 2 examples.
- We really liked the Kanchanaburi region too! We haven't taken the time to write an article about this destination yet, but the Erawan waterfalls are definitely worth it!
- The island of Koh Chang is the perfect place for a relaxed holiday in Thailand! We don't know the southern islands at all, but Koh Chang is a very good alternative if you are looking for the beach but don't necessarily want to go down to the south of the country (for a question of season or any other reason).
Tours in Thailand
Are you looking to organize a tour in Thailand? For our part, we have always decided to travel independently and without necessarily booking in advance. Thailand is a country that lends itself very well to this way of traveling! But if you are looking for a little more structure for your trip we recommend you to have a look at the Evaneos agency. They offer a wide range of tours that are either organized (with a guide) or in a "freedom" package that is great: they take care of transport and accommodation, and you are in charge of the program. The agency works with local tour operators and offers the same rates as the local agencies, but with an English-speaking contact person.
Flights to Thailand
There are several international airports in Thailand but if I had to give you any advice, it would always be to come to Bangkok first! The first reason for this is that Bangkok is a totally crazy city (we like it or we don't like it but it's worth seeing), but also and especially the flight prices to Bangkok are simply unbeatable from Europe! On average, the price of Paris-Bangkok flights is around 500-550 euros, but we can sometimes find crazy offers at 400 euros if we are flexible on the dates and travel a little out of season.
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Travel budget for Thailand
Thailand is definitely not an expensive country to travel to, far from it! But beyond the budget, Thailand is best known as an "easy" destination for a first backpacking trip. The infrastructures are at the top, the transport works well, there are many housing options for all budgets and the cheap street food is a real institution!
On our blog, we are used to sharing our travel budget. As usual, the budget is always very personal, and each traveler will have his own according to his travel style. But we thought that sharing our numbers with you would surely help you plan your trip.
The currency used in Thailand is called the baht. The current price is about 1 euro = 38 bahts. It is recommended that you check the current rate before you leave.
Here is what we spent each day on average during our stay in Thailand:
|Item of expenditure||Daily budget per person|
That is a total budget of about 19,5 euros per day and person.
When we returned to Thailand to live there for 5 months, our budget was obviously slightly different. It was about 16 euros per day and person. If you want to know more about what we spent in Chiang Mai, we let you have a look at the article where we detail our budget as digital nomads.
Thailand on a budget: our tips
As you can see above, Thailand is clearly not an expensive destination! The flights to get there are relatively cheap, and life in Thailand is very affordable. The price-quality ratio is probably one of the best in Asia. We are often asked about our tips for saving money while traveling, so here is some advice that is more specific to Thailand:
Accommodation in Thailand: Hotels, Guesthouses, or B&B
In terms of accommodation, there is of course everything. Thailand is also a country that lends itself very well to the search for spontaneous accommodation, i.e. without booking in advance. We find, that this is often how we find the best offers. And above all, we can compare the accommodations on site and not just rely on the online pictures.
When we travel in Thailand, we usually always book our first 2-3 nights and then we search for accommodation on the spot. If we know that we will arrive somewhere late in the evening (or very early in the morning) or big cities, then we book. For reservations, we generally use either Hotelscombined to get a hotel at the best price or Hostelworld if we want to be in a hostel and meet people.
Eat in Thailand: long live street food!
The easiest way to save money on food in Thailand is to eat like the locals: i.e. street food! The food sold on the streets in Thailand is one of the best in the world, and above all, it is really not expensive!
Another good tip: during our stay in Chiang Mai, we often went to eat in the markets. We lived close to the one behind the university, and there we ate in small restaurants/stands for less than one euro per person, and it was delicious!
For water, it is definitely better to buy bottled water than to drink tap water, even if in some regions of Thailand, the water is officially drinkable. A better alternative to bottled water (for the planet and the wallet) is also to be found in the street. Indeed in Thailand, there are large water dispensers all over the streets. You can come and fill your bottle by paying something like 1 baht per liter. The water that comes out is a little less "good" in terms of taste but perfectly fine from a health point of view. Or you can also use a filter bottle.
Limit withdrawal fees at ATMs
In Thailand, it is very common for ATMs to take a commission on each withdrawal. This amount is charged by Thai banks and is totally independent of the amounts/costs collected by your bank. The amount of ATM fees is generally around 200 bahts (just over 5 euros). The best way to limit these costs is often to withdraw large amounts of money each time and thus limit the number of withdrawals. Tip: Citibank is the bank with the highest withdrawal amount.
Besides that, make sure you have a bank that doesn't charge you extra for withdrawals abroad! With some banks, it costs a lot of money to make a withdrawal abroad! If your bank does not offer attractive rates abroad, it may be worth considering subscribing to a new bank for the duration of your trip (like N26 or Neon for the Swiss).
Visa for Thailand
French, Belgian, Swiss, and Canadian citizens benefit from a visa exemption for tourist stays of less than 45 days. This exemption is increased from 30 to 45 days from October 1st, 2022 to March 31st, 2023 for these same countries. This stamp is issued upon arrival and gives the right to stay 45 days in the country. It is the easiest option if you want to spend vacations in Thailand without crossing the border. It is possible in the absolute to extend your stay once in the country by 30 days.
But if you intend to stay 2 months in the country, it is more interesting to have a tourist visa (TR visa), which is valid for 3 months and allows you to stay 60 days from the date of arrival in Thailand. This visa costs 35 euros, which is cheaper than returning with a visa exemption and making an extension. It is also possible to extend this visa by 30 days.
If you want to stay longer (which was our case during our 5 months as digital nomads), there is the multiple entry visa (METV visa) valid for 6 months. The only restriction is that each stay in Thailand can't exceed 60 days... In short, it's the perfect excuse to explore neighboring countries! During our 6 months in Thailand, we went to Singapore and Myanmar for 2 weeks. This visa costs 175 euros and can be obtained at the Thai embassy in your country. The required documents may vary depending on the country, but you should know that you will probably be asked for a letter from your employer specifying that you are going to return, a return plane ticket, and proof of funds in the form of a bank statement. This visa is currently suspended due to the pandemic.
From September 1st, 2022, Thailand is offering a visa for digital nomads, which is valid... 10 years! However, the conditions are quite strict: to have earned 80 000 dollars per year for the last two years, to have 5 years of experience, and to work for a company with a turnover of at least 150 million dollars. Yeah... It's not for us ;).
For more information, go to the page dedicated to visas of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
|Visa||Duration of stay||Price||Conditions|
|Exemption||30 days (45 days from October 1st, 2022 to March 31st, 2023)||Free||Done on arrival, max 2 per year by land, can be extended by 30 days (50 euros)|
|TR||60 days||35 euros||Valid for 3 months, single entry, can be extended for 30 days (50 euros)|
|METV||Multiple times 60 days||175 euros||Valid for 6 months, multiples entries, each stay in Thailand cannot exceed 60 days.|
Visa extension in Thailand
All Thai visas can be extended directly to Thailand. To do so, simply go to the immigration office with your passport and pay the 1900 bahts (50 euros). You may be asked for an exit flight ticket and/or proof of sufficient funds in your bank account.
Thai visa and entry by air and land
There are many rumors and misunderstandings around the topic of entry restrictions in Thailand. So it is true that there are restrictions and that these may have to be modified. In short, always check before you travel! Here is what we know:
- If you arrive by air, there is no limit to the number of visa exemptions per year (in theory). Basically, you do not take any risk to be refused if it is clear that you come regularly to Thailand without being established there. On the other hand, if you spend more than 6 months per year in Thailand only with visa exemptions, you may be turned back at customs.
- To limit the number of visa runs (cross the border in one day to obtain 15/30 days of additional visa), the number of entries with visa exemption by land is limited to 2 per year. You will still be able to enter with a visa, but you will be denied visa exemption. In short, be careful if you are on a long trip and plan to "transit" Thailand regularly by land! If you plan to enter by land more than twice, it may be appropriate to apply for an METV visa before departure.
Thailand and Covid
Good news: Thailand has reopened its borders to all tourists, vaccinated or not. Find all the provisions in force in Thailand updated.
Vaccines to travel in Thailand
There is no required vaccine, but some are recommended depending on the area of the country visited and the season:
- Hepatitis A;
- Japanese encephalitis;
You will find more details about the recommended vaccines to go to Thailand on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You will also find the precautions to take against diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.
Driving in Thailand
If you feel comfortable with Thai driving, first of all, we take our hat off to you! To tackle the roads, you will need an international driving license. Attention: if you want to rent a motorbike in Thailand, the car license (B) is not enough!
How to travel in Thailand
Once in Bangkok, it will be extremely easy for you to move to continue your trip toward the north or the south.
The most common means of transportation in Thailand are buses, trains, and boats. There are now platforms such as 12Go that allow you to buy these kinds of trips on the internet. You have to admit that it's quite practical and it allows you to avoid comparing or negotiating with different agencies. And then, you will be involved in Thai life!
A few words of Thai for backpacking
We are definitely not experts in Thai! But during our travels, we still found it practical to acquire a small basic vocabulary to create contact with people more easily (and make them laugh because we have very bad pronunciation).
On the other hand, in Thai, the endings are not the same according to whether it is a man or a woman who speaks (the gender of your interlocutor does not have importance). Below, I have put the 2 versions with always Mme in the first position and M. in the second position.
|Hello||Sawat di kaa/Sawat di krap||Water||Naaam|
|Thank you||Kop khoune kaa/Kop khoune krap||Goodbye||La khon kaa/krap|
|I'll have a pad thai||Ao pad thaï||Yes/No||Chaï kaa ou krap/Maï kaa ou krap|
|I don't want it||Maï ao||Please||Karunaa|
|How much is it?||Rakha thao raï||It's very good!||Ni man aroï maak|
|My name is||Djan cheuu/Phom cheuu||Chicken||Kaï|
|Not spicy||Maï pet||Cheers!||Tchok diii kaa/krap|
Celebrations and festivals in Thailand
In Thailand, there are festivals throughout the year. Here is a small list of the festivities which take place at the national level (some cities have their own festival):
- January-end of February: Chinese New Year, celebrated especially in the big cities;
- February-March: Makha Bucha, a Buddhist festival that pays tribute to Buddha, where processions are organized in the temples of Thailand;
- April: from the 13th to the 15th, Songkran, the Thai New Year or water festival, is famous for its giant water battles;
- May: Visakha Bucha, one of the most important Buddhist festivals in Asia held on the day of the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha;
- July: Ashna Buchat and Khao Phansa, the first one celebrates the first sermon of Buddha while the second one marks the beginning of the Buddhist Lent;
- November: Loy Krathong, or the festival of lights, where the goddess of water is worshipped by launching thousands of krathongs (small boats decorated with flowers and candles) and releasing lanterns into the sky. We had the chance to attend it in Bangkok and Chiang Mai: it was sublime!
Thai food: eat cheap and local
We've already talked about it several times, but Asian cuisine is really great! Benoit has a preference for Vietnamese cuisine while I am an avid fan of Thai cuisine!
Thailand is also the country that has managed to make me appreciate the spicier food (even if I still tend to use may phet when I order because they quickly tend to go a little crazy on the spices!
On the other hand, you have to be careful, because Thai food is not always as healthy as it looks! Many dishes are fried or cooked with coconut milk! It's delicious, but it's not really good for your waistline ;).
Here is the non-exhaustive list of must-tries in Thailand.
Soups and side dishes
- Tom yum: this one, I learned to be wary of it! It's a soup with lemongrass and chili, usually served with shrimp and vegetables. Sometimes it's divine, and sometimes there's just too much chili for me: I end up crying! For Benoit, it's all the flavors of Thailand in one dish!
- Tom kha gai: a creamy soup with chili and lemongrass. It looks like tom yum but with coconut milk: it's just so tasty!
- Chicken skewers, satay sauce: chicken skewers with peanut sauce. A delight if you want my humble opinion!
- Som tam or papaya salad: the fresh and delicious dish par excellence. For me, it is the perfect accompaniment to a pad thai, for example. Be careful: Thais eat it extremely spicy, so beware before the first bite!
- Khao soi: my favorite dish! This typical Northern Thai dish consists of noodles in yellow curry with usually chicken and vegetables, all covered with crispy noodles! Seriously, during our 5 months in Chiang Mai, this dish was my drug ;).
- Pad thai: the great Thai classic with noodles fried with vegetables and chicken, shrimp, or beef. Often served with peanuts and bamboo shoots, it's a sure bet that it won't be too spicy.
- Khao pad or Thai fried rice: like pad thai, but with rice. In short, it's too good!
- Kaeng or coconut milk curry: There are several kinds: green, red, and yellow. It is always served in a bowl, separate from the rice, with multiple variations of vegetables, meat, or fish. Try them all and find your favorite! I'm a big fan of the green curry (the spiciest) with eggplant and chicken. Its particular flavor gives it an irresistible "come back" taste!
- Pad pak boong fai daeng or morning glory stir fry: morning glory is a kind of green shoot that is eaten all over Southeast Asia. It can be eaten at any time of the day, especially for breakfast, and is simply cooked with garlic and soy sauce. It is often served with rice. In short, a simple and very cheap dish that we couldn't get enough of!
- Fruits: Forget the flavors of fruits imported! The real fruits come from Thailand! All the fruits you will find in the markets or on the street stands are juicy and sweet; we literally learned to love fruits again here! For example, on the island of Koh Chang, we practically ate only fruits for one week. So forget your preconceived ideas and try everything you can find: it will probably be delicious!
- Mango sticky rice: I saved the best for last. The look is not always ultra-attractive, but I swear that this sticky rice with mango and coconut cream is highly addictive! #YouAreWarned
Phone and internet in Thailand
Wifi is available almost everywhere in Thailand. Nevertheless, if you want to have unlimited 4G, you can buy a prepaid SIM card for a few hundred bahts in airports, in a 7-Eleven...
Don't forget that in Thailand, there is a 5 hours time difference from Europe ;).