The 8-Day Guide to Island Hopping in Thailand

Updated: May 1, 2020

After my 7-day adventure in Bali, I did a bee-line to Thailand. First stop, Phuket! Before I get into my new adventure, be very mindful of the time of year you plan to visit Asia - especially Thailand. Mother Nature was not kind when I landed in Phuket. It was late September to early October so you could definitely expect heavier rainfalls this time of year until the end of October. The best times to visit is between November and February when it is dry and a little more tolerable to wander about. Expect high heat temps so bring and wear lots of sunscreen.

I had booked 15 vacation days off of work so I had spent 7 days in Bali and booked the rest of my trip in Thailand to explore the islands. I haven't visited any of the islands when I visited Thailand eight years ago so Phuket and Krabi were the islands I must see from my bucket list. The islands are widely known for its natural beauty - the white sandy beach, plentiful sunshine, clear turquoise sea and soft breezes. However, the country itself is hugely commended for its wide range of services and facilities - accommodation, restaurants, shops, all kinds of aquatic sports, variety of nighttime entertainment, including transvestite cabaret shows and nightclubs and bars that stay open until sunrise.

My 8-Day Itinerary:

Girl posing in an open field during golden hour on a cloudy day
We stopped on the sideroad to capture the sunset

3-Days in Phuket

Hotel I stayed in:

Chanalai Garden Resort, Kata Beach 247 Koktanode Road, Kata, Phuket, Thailand

Review: Very large hotel and away from the hustle and bustle. Minutes away from a variety of seafood restaurants that didn't really cater to vegans so I had to ask them to specially make a couple of dishes without meat and fish or oyster sauce. There is a large pool on the terrace accessible to all guests. I didn't have a chance to use the pool as it rained everyday.

Phuket translates to a mountain (phu) of jewel (ket). Today, the island is very well-known as a tourist paradise. With its magnificent long white beaches, its luxuriant vegetation, crystal blue sea water,

fantastic undersea scenery, and freshwater seafood ready at your fingertips, Phuket brings many travellers and wanderers back to her again and again.

If you want to make the most of your stay here in Phuket, I recommend renting a motorbike as you could reach to each destination a lot faster without relying on a Grab or taxis. I love commuting around local areas like a local, hence the motorbike is much more convenient to power through the island with ease.

Some of the major towns to visit are Kata, Karon and Patong. You should not miss the opportunity to have a taste of Phuket's many kinds of famous seafood, shop til you drop at the neverending stretch of shopping markets and sunbathe along the largest crystalling blue waters. So here is how I would make the most out of the 3 days in Phuket:

Day 1: Let's explore the beach route today! Drive along the beach route running parallel to the west coast from Rawai Beach in the South to Bangthao Beach in the North. You will appreciate the fascinating views of the beaches along the Andaman Sea.

swing on palm tree on Kata beach, Phuket
Found this random swing on Kata Beach

One of my favourite beaches in Phuket is Kata Beach, which is composed of two stunning beaches called Kata Yai (Big Kata) and Kata Noi (Small Kata) separated from each other by a small headland. To be honest, I couldn't distinguish the separation nor could I locate the small headland they speak of. Regardless, I had to spend more time in the sun as I know it was going to rain a lot while I was going to be in Thailand for the next 7 days at the worst time of the year.

If you continue to drive up north, there is the Karon beach - second largest beach in Phuket. Also, check out Patong beach and Naihan beach. It's another must-visit beach ideal for swimming all year round.

Between Naihan and Kata Noi beaches, go up to the Kata Viewpoint for a panoramic view of Kata Noi, Kata and Karon beaches. For a clearer view, visit in the morning versus the evening.

Day 2: Let's go swimming with exotic sea water creatures at Ko He (Coral Island), one of the most popular destinations for a one-day tour from Phuket. Snorkeling and scuba diving is a great way to wander the sea waters and discover the underwater beauty of Thailand's coral reefs. There are air-conditioned bungalows and restaurants for you if you want to stay the night or two.

Day 3: Let's go shopping before we depart to the next island. There is an abundant of quality goods and souvenirs on Ratsada Road, Montri Road, Yaowarat Road, Phang-nga Road, Thalang Road in town, on Thepkasattri Road north of town, and in Patong, Kata and Karon beaches. There are an abundant of night markets so save your stomach for an amazing variety of delectables.

2-Days in Phi Phi Island (Optional)

Two days and one night in Phi Phi is the best way to appreciate the beaches, aquatic sports and enjoy the nightlife on the island. From Phuket to Phi Phi, the ferry ride is approximately 2 hours long, if not more. You won't need more than two days to explore the entire island if you're an avid traveler. It is a fair amount of time to discover most of its notable sites and attractions.

Start to explore Tonsai Village on foot as there are no cars or motorized vehicles on the island. There are plenty of restaurants and entertainment. Spend the other half of your day on a long-tail boat to Bamboo Island for snorkelling, swimming and sunbathing. Later comes the evening, enjoy dinner and some nightly entertainment at Loh Dalum Beach.

Next day, after your breakfast, head up to the Phi Phi viewpoint to take in the last breaths and views of the island. Then catch the last ferry that leaves to Krabi at 15:30 or earlier if you're ready for the next island adventure.

2-Days in Krabi

Hotel I stayed in:

Centra by Centara Phu Pano Resort Krabi

New hotel with amazing staff and very clean facility. The restaurant was amazing and fairly priced the same with local restaurants. Motorbike rental was easy and fast. In and out parking is free. Wish I could have used the stunning pool but time was limited to explore the island. Would recommend this hotel and would definitely stay here again.

Take the ferry from Phuket to Krabi (Phuket ferry). This trip involves five hours stop-over in Phi Phi Island, but the total trip was 4 hours and 45 minutes long. We skipped this island because we weren't very good swimmers and didn't think we would get the most out of the island for its aquatic sports and adventures. (I have a fear of getting deep into the sea). The ferry travels very fast and has the necessities you may need for the ride (washrooms, snacks and water for sale and movie entertainment). It is very well air-conditioned so bring a sweater if you get cold easily like myself.

Swinging around on Ao Nang beach

Krabi is one of the most popular islands to visit. The island is small but is packed with the most stunning sunsets I've seen Thailand thus far. The skies burns bright orange, pinks and purples and it brings everyone out to Ao Nang beach just to watch the sky transform and transition to different colours at night. Don't miss it!

If swimming isn't your forté, but rock climbing is - try climbing the cliffs in a remote setting that is popular for rock climbing at Railay Beach. It is accessible only by boat due to high limestone cliffs cutting off mainland access. Maybe try one of those long boats, which they also serve lunch or dinner.

I spent a majority of my time in Ao Nang as I do not rock climb nor swim so I did a lot of eating and beach bumming, but most of the time it was raining during the two days I was there. So I drove my motorbike around a lot to explore and try to discover different pockets of Krabi.

3-days in Bangkok or 1-day in Bangkok

Why 3-days or 1-day in Bangkok? Well if you're going back home to North America like I am after Thailand then you'll need to fly home from one of the major international airports, for instance BKK (Bangkok's international airport). Also depending if you plan to stop in Phi Phi Island or not, you could adjust your itinerary to your own schedule. So I decided to spend 3-days in Bangkok to meet up with my friend from Toronto who was flying in the same time I was.

Note: This is just a guide to help you plan your own island-hopping adventure.

Hotel I stayed in:

Solitaire Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 75/23 Soi Sukhumvit 13 Sukhumvit Road

The hotel was very clean and very beautiful. The staff were very friendly and helpful. The location was excellent and walking distance to Terminal 21 shopping mall and three subway stops away from Siam Paragon. The hotel was located in a lively area that comes alive by nightfall. Plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants within walking distance.

Carousel in Asiatique

This is my second time in Bangkok so I have already been to most of the major sights and attractions. But I had to revisit some of the sites again as my memory of my time was too far away to remember my experience and I had many friends with me that have no been to the attractions and temples I've visited. So it was wonderful to walk down memory lane and see that most has never changed since I left.

Some of my favourite places I highly recommend for travelers who are visiting Bangkok for the very first time are:

Wearing a traditional Thai dress at Wat Pho
  • The three major temples: Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Pho, next door to the Grand Palace and famous for the biggest Reclining Buddha statue. Photography Tip: Take a photo from the Reclining Buddha's feet for a full view.

  • Asiatique - get ready for endless of shopping at this biggest shopping market in Bangkok. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, a night market, and a large carnival by the river with my favourite carousel.

  • Talad Rot Fai Train Night Market Ratchada, also known as the Train Night Market. It inherited its name from the colourful tents equally lined up in rows when looking from a birdseye view. Thus far, this is the largest night market I've ever been to in Thailand. There were so many options that it made decisions a lot more difficult to narrow down. So we tried to have a bit of everything. Well for my friends at least. There weren't many vegan options for myself so I stuffed myself with a tropical fruit drink and fruits - pomelo and jackfruit.

Talad Rot Fai Train Night Market Ratchada; view from the parking garage
  • Siam Paragon - a high-end, luxury shopping centre. I didn't shop this time around but I really enjoyed the food in the food court. There were better vegan options here than most restaurants and other shopping centres. If I could eat here every day, I would.

  • Terminal 21 - A airport themed concept shopping centre with 30 floors! You could get lost in here and forget which floor you're on. It certainly brings the dream of traveling the world to one place. Each floor is themed a different city in the world. You could have a bit of Paris, London, New York and Milan if you've ever dreamt about the four fashion capitals.

  • Experience the floating market - the one I visited was the Amphawa Floating Market. You could cruise through the market on a rented boat and make any stops you want to shop the fresh farmed fruits and vegetables, eat homemade food and buy souvenirs for keepsake.

  • Khaosan Road - this street comes alive by nightfall so save this one for the evening time. Come grab yourself a Pad Thai for dinner by one of the street carts, drink away at The Club Khaosan Bangkok and relax your mind, body and soul at one of many massage spas along the street. Try a Thai massage if your body is truly tensed and knotted. This should help your body regain its strength for the rest of your trip. Warning: it's an aggressive massage. I loved it because I could handle the pain.

  • Patpong - I know you've heard of ladyboys and what they're all capable of. If you haven't then I'm not here to tell you what happens behind those doors if you do enter. Three words: Ping-Pong Show! That's all I'm going to say. My friends were super curious, so we strolled up and down the streets of Patpong and were harassed persistently with non-stop ads and hosts of the clubs chasing after us to come sit inside their business for a "fun time". We were very annoyed within 5 minutes and ran for cover inside a cafe to block them away.

  • Soi Cowboy - where the boys play and won't speak a word of what happened to their girlfriend or wives. Beware ladies! It caters mainly to tourists and expatriates. Here, you could find plenty of girls or maybe, ladyboys. Other places in Bangkok like this one include Soi Nana Tai.

If there is one thing I really enjoy doing when I am traveling is to dress up in traditional dresses of the country I am visiting. I think it is beautiful to admire and appreciate the cultural dresses women wear on special occasions. The designs, colours and fabrics are very important in constructing a traditional dress. I loved the vibrancy, style and fabrics of the Thai traditional dresses so much that I almost bought one for keepsake.

You could play Cinderella for the day like me by renting your own Thai costume at Sense of Thai. The costume rental ranges from $70-120 CAD.

I didn't give you a day-to-day guide on Bangkok as you could decide which sights and attractions you want to see most depending on how much time you have in Bangkok. The breakdown of my favourites spots in Bangkok should give you an idea of how much time you want to put into each attraction.

How to commute in Bangkok:

You would purchase a BTS transit card (Rabbit card) to commute via the subway train. For an unlimited day travel card, it is 120 Bhat ($5 CAD) or 15 Bhat ($1 CAD) per stop.

Or download the Grab App onto your mobile phone and request for a ride each time you need to get somewhere. It is fairly inexpensive and convenient to call for a Grab when traveling in larger groups because it ends up costing just as much as traveling via the subway.

How much money should you have with you for 8 days?

From my experience of having visited the island twice, you don't need much money if you're traveling on a budget. You could comfortably hop islands at any budget - high or low. To be honest, on a low budget, you will only need money for your daily meals that shouldn't exceed $30 CAD or even lower than that depending on where you dine. It could be more if you plan to have a couple of drinks (alcoholic), so be mindful. Accommodations is very inexpensive for hotel accommodations and there is a price for every budget. Hotels and resorts could get pricey depending on location and star levels. Also consider transportation, flights, tours and excursions like the popular Floating Market, and admission fees for the three temples (Wat Arun, Wat Pho, & Grand Palace + What Phra Kaew) and renting a traditional Thai dress (optional).

Here is a breakdown in CAD $ from my trip:

Motorbike rental in Phuket & Krabi: $15 x 5 days = $75

Food: $30 x 8 days = $240

Hotel transfers: $30 x 2 trips = $60

Shopping: $300

Massages: $100

Admission fees: $20.80 (500 THB for Grand Palace + Wat Phra Kaew) + $4.15 CAD (100 THB for Wat Arun) + $4.15 CAD (100 THB for Wat Pho)

Hotels: $105 (Phuket) + $82 (Krabi) + $204 (Bangkok) = $391

Ferry: $31.20

Flight to Bangkok: $39

Total: $1,234.10

Hopefully all of this information will give you a better insight into planning your next trip to Thailand. If you do find this post helpful or not helpful in any way, please let me know what your thoughts are below in the comments section. If you've ever been to Thailand, please also share your experience with me and tell me some of your favourite places you've been to that I haven't shared on this post.

Thank you for reading and good luck on your fun filled adventure!


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