Asia/ Thailand

The ultimate Thailand two week backpacking itinerary [2024]

If you want to know the best Thailand two week backpacking itinerary, I’ve got you covered.

Thailand’s beauty, affordability and culture make it a hugely popular destination that never loses its appeal. I spent a month in backpacking in Thailand in total and even that time only scratched the surface. There’s so much to explore but how do you spend two weeks in Thailand? That’s what we’re here to talk about today.

If you’re constrained by annual leave or a tight timeframe before moving to your next destination! Two weeks is plenty of time to see Thailand’s highlights – let’s get stuck in.

Thailand travel guide

The BEST two week Thailand itinerary

Spend your first 3 nights in Bangkok

As Thailand’s biggest international transport hub, if you’re flying into the country then Bangkok will almost definitely be where you start your adventures! It’s made up of many distinct districts from cosmopolitan Sukhumvit and Siam loaded with mega malls to the backpacker haven of Old City. Staying in the Old City is definitely the most budget friendly option and it’s in walking distance to the most famous temples – I book most of my accommodation on for the Genuis rewards if you’re looking for places to stay!


Three nights in Bangkok gives you plenty of time to relax after your flight, eat some great food and generally get acquainted with Thailand. It’s full of things to do too – here are just a few.

Khao San Road

It’s a little trashy, full of touristy shops, salespeople and cheap bars, but it’s got to be seen. It’s a renowned place to party so if you want any sleep, stay on a surrounding street rather than the road itself! Here you’ll enjoy the cheapest street food in Thailand – it’s around 30 – 50 baht (70p – £1) for Pad Thai at the time of writing. Take in the action and enjoy before you move onto calmer locations in our next destination!

Grand Palace

Grand Palace Thailand

In comparison to the other temples in Thailand, the Grand Palace entry fee is extortionate at 500 baht (£10) each for tourists (it’s free for Thai nationals) but hasn’t changed since the time of writing which is a positive. However, despite it being expensive comparatively, it’s a stunning complex filled with incredibly grand, detailed architecture so it’s definitely worth a visit. Remember to charge your camera unlike me!

Grand Palace Bangkok

Inside the grounds, Wat Phra Kaew is the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand. Translated as ‘Temple of the Emerald Buddha’, it contains a beautiful Buddha statue carved from a single block of jade – no photos are allowed inside but it’s very special to witness.

Bangkok Grand Palace

Wat Pho and Wat Arun

Two more famous temples in the area are Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). You’ll have to cross the river if you want to visit Wat Arun but you’ll undoubtedly catch a glimpse of it as it looks spectacular lit up across the water. Unfortunately, it was covered in scaffoding when we visited but that’s well gone now!


If you’re all templed out within a couple of days, head to Siam Square and experience the huge mega malls. It’s really interesting to look around such a different part of the city and the area’s cafes are notoriously fantastic.

Next stop: Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. 3 hour train, 100 baht (£2.30) per person (price correct as of 2024).

Spend 1 night in Kanchanaburi

On a train with wooden seats and wide open doors, the journey to Kanchanaburi was the first time I felt like I was experiencing ‘real’ Thailand. Most people visit this city because of the history regarding the Thai-Burmese ‘Death Railway’, built by British, American and European prisoners of war in WWII.

It’s slightly less off the traditional tourist trail, but the sights you’ll experience include:

Bridge over the River Kwai

Featured in the film of the same name, the Bridge on the River Kwai is a famous location in World War II history and can be visited for free – it’s a symbol of the local province so definitely stop by.

Bridge River Kwai

Hellfire Pass and Memorial Museum

During the building of the Death Railway hundreds of prisoners died at the Hellfire Pass, a 500m section of rock that was dug out by hand. It was really interesting to visit the museum and walk down the section of railway still visible in the Earth.

Other attractions commemorating the POWs include the Jeath War Museum and Dok-Rak War Cemetery.

Pushed for time? If you’re prepared for a slightly long day of travelling, you can visit Kanchanaburi as a day trip from Bangkok instead!

We caught the train back to Bangkok and took a night train to Chiang Mai but apparently it is now possible to take a night bus straight to Chiang Mai! I can’t vouch for its comfort in comparison to the night train but it’s one to keep in mind if you’re doing a similar journey and looking to save some time.

Next stop: Kanchanaburi to Bangkok. 3 hour train, 100 baht (£2.30) per person.
Next stop: Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Overnight 2nd class A/C train, 1,100 baht (£24) per person (sleeper seat) – price correct in 2024.

Spend 3 nights in beautiful Chiang Mai

Sunday market walking street at Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I LOVE Chiang Mai. In a country so different to the UK, I instantly managed to feel at home in the relaxed atmosphere of this Northern city. If you want to chill out, do some trekking and eat amazing food, this is the spot for you. We actually stayed here for 10 days but if you’re on a stricter timeline, three days should be enough to relax a bit while also seeing Chiang Mai’s key attractions!

Visit an ethical elephant sanctuary

Animal tourism is very much a big part of the industry in Thailand and unfortunately, much of it is still horrifically cruel. However, visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary can help to support better practises so while I was a bit on the fence, it was unbelievable to spend time with these majestic creatures – one of my absolute favourites – in real life.

If you’d like to read more, I’ve written a whole blog post about my experience visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary.

Elephant Sanctuary Thailand

Shop in the night markets

I stayed right next to the Chiang Mai night markets and had a fantastic time exploring and eating there most evenings. It’s the place to go to get your souvenirs, elephant pants and enjoy the variety of food stalls. Think fruit smoothies, fresh noodles and international cuisine too!

We also spent a lot of time at Boy Blues Bar, a brilliant little place above the night market with the most adorable owner. Update: I was really sad to read on Facebook that Boy passed away in 2023 but the bar still lives on in his memory, with regular jazz nights still taking place!

Visiting the Sunday walking street on Thanon Ratchadamnoen is also a worthwhile experience. You can often find goods here that are more authentic than at other markets but it also gets seriously packed!

Temples, temples, temples!

There are a ton of stunning temples in Chiang Mai – way too many for me to describe here! For a pick of the best, check out this article: 10 Must See Temples in Chiang Mai.

Pad Thai May Kaidee

Take a cooking class

The foodie scene in Chiang Mai is amazing and there’s an abundance of vegan and vegetarian cafes throughout the city. There are also a huge number of cooking classes on offer so explore your options for a really fun afternoon – plus you get to eat your efforts afterwards. Read my review of May Kaidee vegetarian cooking school.

Next stop: Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. 3 hour bus, 184 baht (around £4)

Spend 1 night in Chiang Rai

White Temple Chiang Rai

I knew that I couldn’t leave Thailand without seeing the White Temple and it’s 100% worth the visit to Chiang Rai just to explore it in more detail. Want to know more? Read my full blog post on seeing the White Temple in Chiang Rai.

There’s not a huge amount going on in the town so if you aren’t fussed on visiting the White Template (although I’d question why) or are really pushed for time, this is one you can skip. However, one night is definitely enough to catch the main attractions or you could even book a day trip from Chiang Mai to save time that way.

Travelling for longer? Add Pai to your itinerary! It’s got a reputation for amazing vegan food in a stunning countryside setting and if I was to go back to northern Thailand, it’d definitely be on my list of places to visit.

Next stop: Chiang Mai to Phuket. Flights from £40.
Note: Chiang Rai does have an airport too but flights are often way more expensive from here!

Spend 2 nights in Phuket

I’ve struggled to find a Thailand two week backpacking itinerary that doesn’t include Phuket but it might be a bit of a culture shock coming here from Chiang Mai – it was for me! It’s the complete opposite to the relaxed, green charm of Thailand’s more jungle-esque north but travellers are drawn to Thailand’s beaches in the South and Phuket is the destination that makes the most sense to access the rest of the country.

The main tourist spot you’ll hear about is Patong Beach but to be honest, it felt comlpetely soulless. The beach is full of litter and overrun with guys trying to sell you trips and watersports. I have heard however that staying in other areas is much nicer though so don’t completely write off Phuket on this account only. I’d have been happy staying one night but if you’re down to party, two nights will be plenty too.

Bangla Road

Phuket Patong Beach

What I was expecting from Khao San Road came to life here on Bangla Road in Phuket. Let’s put it this way, it made Khao San look like a classy, sedate street! It’s filled with pumping music, pole dancers and tons selling the infamous ping pong / sex shows. If you’re looking for a party, you’ll find it here!

Ladyboy shows

Ladyboy show Phuket

You’ll find more ladyboy shows in Phuket than anywhere else in Thailand catering for all tastes, including the free cabaret-style show we went to at Cocktails & Dreams! It’s definitely a typical Phuket tourist experience but check out the reviews online so you know what you’re getting beforehand.

Big Buddha

Big Buddha Phuket, Thailand two week backpacking itinerary

If you’re desperately in need of some culture – I definitely was – head out of town up to the iconic Big Buddha statue. Stepping away from wild Phuket is a wonderful feeling as it’s incredibly peaceful up there with the sounds of chanting monks inside and tinkling bells all around.

Two weeks in Thailand, Thailand two week backpacking itinerary

Next stop: Phuket to Krabi. Bus transfers around 350 baht (£8) per person

Spend 3 nights in Krabi

Krabi is another popular location on any Thailand two week backpacking itinerary and this one is another kettle of fish altogether compared to Phuket! This was a bit more what I was expecting from tourist Thailand: Ao Nang is still lined with similar restaurants and touristy stalls, but the beach is absolutely stunning and the water is amazingly warm! It’s still something I remember vividly years later and I’d absolutely go back to Krabi.

Krabi Ao Nang Beach

Krabi is the perfect place to relax and spend a few days on the beach. You can also take tons of trips out and about – whether it’s the Four Islands, Maya Bay as made famous by The Beach or a longtail boat around to Railay Beach. We did a kayaking day trip, as well as spending a day on Phi Phi island!

Ao Nang Beach Krabi

Next stop: Krabi to Koh Phi Phi. Return ferry transfers around 500 baht (£10) per person

One night on Koh Phi Phi

We only took a day trip to Koh Phi Phi but most people will come and spend a night partying on the beach! In all honesty, it made me a bit sad to wander around a beautiful island that has been so built up.

Between old hotels and new ones springing up everywhere, it had completely lost that authentic island feel and if that’s what you like, I’d recommend maybe checking out a different island. However, that’s not to say we didn’t enjoy our day on the island – here’s what we got up to.

Phi Phi Viewpoint

Koh Phi Phi Lookout

The walk was hot, sweaty and totally worth it. The view from the top was unbelievable and I’ll never forget being surrounded by such blue water. There are even monkeys at the top sometimes, although I was embarrassingly too busy posing to see one!

Koh Phi Phi

While I was gutted that we didn’t have enough time to visit any of the other islands, I’ve summarised a few of the most popular ones here:

Koh Tao: Head here for some of the best diving in Thailand – it’s one of the world’s cheapest places to get your PADI.
Koh Pha Ngan: Home to the Full Moon Party, this island gets packed out with thousand of party animals once a month.
Koh Lanta: It’s got a reputation for the best of both worlds: great beaches and plenty of activities with a fun beach bar scene.
Koh Samui: Supposedly one of the most Westernised islands with plenty of luxury resorts and spas, this has a paradise-feel.

And there you have it, my Thailand 2 week backpacking itinerary – or see as much of it as possible in two short weeks! As you can see, it’s definitely possible cover the country’s main highlights on a holiday and you can tailor this itinerary to your preferences easily – although I always recommend leaving plenty of time to relax as well as hopping too quickly between places can take away from your experience.

If I was to go back to Thailand, I’d explore more of the different islands in the South before bypassing Phuket and Bangkok to spend more time hiking in Chiang Mai and Pai.

Laura x

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How to spend two weeks in Thailand: the ultimate Thailand two week backpacking itinerary

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