Over the course of the last decade, Nick and I have traveled to Thailand over a dozen times. Not only because it’s one of our favorite countries, but also because it is the most common country that our friends and family from back home want to visit. And since we’ve been so many times, we always help plan our friends’ Thailand itinerary and act as tour guides.
Through all of those trips, we have been able to perfect a Thailand 2-week itinerary that allows people to see the best that Thailand has to offer – culture, beaches, temples, and a little nightlife. We have also accounted for ease of travel in our itinerary to avoid long, uncomfortable bus or train rides. All of our destinations are accessible via plane or a short ferry ride.
So if you’re planning 2 weeks in Thailand and looking for guidance, look no further than our perfect 2-week Thailand itinerary for everything you need to get started. And don’t forget to check our list of Thailand travel tips!
- How to Spend 2 Weeks in Thailand
- Bangkok: 2-3 Nights
- Chiang Mai: 4 Nights
- Koh Tao Island: 4 Nights
- Koh Samui Island: 2-3 Nights
- Back to Bangkok and Fly Home
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How to Spend 2 Weeks in Thailand
Bangkok: 2-3 Nights
Bangkok is home to over 9 million people and is an absolutely gigantic city! Here you’ll find lots of temples to explore, canals to tour by boat, rooftop bars offering gorgeous views at sunset, plenty of shopping, and the lively backpacker area of Khao San Road where you can party all night long!
We would recommend spending at least 2 nights in Bangkok because there is so much to see and do. However, if you like big, bustling cities, you may want even more. The biggest challenge with traveling around Bangkok is the traffic so be sure to choose a hotel that is centrally located. Plan on walking, riding the Skytrain, or taking advantage of the absurdly inexpensive Chao Phraya water bus.
What to Do in Bangkok
Bangkok is a huge city filled with spectacular golden temples, enormous night markets, and some of the best street food in the world! Your senses will be overwhelmed with the sights and smells of this bustling metropolis.
Some of the not-to-miss highlights of Bangkok include a visit to the Grand Palace and The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, a cruise through the river canals, shopping in the night markets including the Rot Fai Train Market, enjoying a cocktail from one of the many rooftop bars, and wandering down Khao San Road after dark. Plus you can’t miss Wat Arun and Wat Pho, two of our favorite sites in the city.
You may be surprised to learn that Bangkok is quite a player on the foodie scene and you’ll find quite a few Michelin Star rated restaurants here. Plus there are loads of swanky bars, cute coffee shops, and countless street food vendors where you can get your favorite Thai dishes for only a few dollars.
Our list of top things to see and do in Bangkok is coming soon so stay tuned!
Getting to Bangkok
Most people that visit Thailand fly into and out of the large international airport in Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK). There is a smaller airport in Bangkok that is technically international as well but is more commonly used for domestic flights called Don Mueang (DMK). The two are not at all close to each other so be sure you pay attention when booking connecting flights or flights in and out of Bangkok.
Getting Around Bangkok
The cheapest and easiest form of transportation in Bangkok is Grab which is the Uber of SE Asia. Just download the app (iPhone | Android) and input your current location and your destination. Of course, you’ll need internet to call drivers but SIM cards are available at the airport and any convenience stores around town.
Oddly, Grab is technically illegal in Bangkok but there are still plenty of entrepreneurial Grab drivers that choose to accept the risk of a police fine. One thing that is 100% legal is using the Grab app to call a taxi. This forces the Taxi driver to use their meter and you can just pay with your credit card through the Grab app. If you choose to hail a taxi just note that many taxi drivers will refuse to put foreigners on the meter so you’ll need to negotiate a fixed price before getting in.
Tuk tuks are the most expensive, but also the most entertaining method for getting around Bangkok. They are pretty pricey and you’ll have to negotiate the price upfront, so it’s best if you only use them for short distances.
Where to Stay in Bangkok
After staying in many hotels around Bangkok, I’ve finally landed on a favorite – Casa Vimaya Riverside. It’s walking distance to Khao San Road but in a more peaceful and relaxed area of the city. The rooms are impeccably clean and beautifully decorated and the rooftop pool offers amazing views!
Chiang Mai: 4 Nights
Chiang Mai is one of the most visited cities in Thailand due to the high concentration of temples in the very compact old town area. It is also a great place to visit an elephant sanctuary if you are so inclined. And it’s a great place to experience nature in Thailand as there are many parks and waterfalls right nearby.
We would recommend spending 3-4 nights in Chiang Mai to give you time to check out all of the temples, shop in the night markets, play with some elephants, and get out into nature. If you have some extra time to spare, there are a few good day trip or overnight options nearby that are worth a visit!
What to do in Chiang Mai
The Old Town of Chiang Mai is packed with beautifully ornate temples sandwiched in between cute coffee shops, boutiques filled with handmade treasures, and gourmet restaurants. You’ll be amazed by how much you can see and do in such a small radius!
If you choose a hotel that is centrally located in the Old Town you’ll have a relatively easy time getting to the most impressive temples such as Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phan Tao, and my personal favorite, Wat Rajamontean. Check out all of our favorite things to do in Chiang Mai here!
People also love Chiang Mai for the landscape that surrounds the city. Northern Thailand is full of beautiful parks and waterfalls to visit, as well as elephant sanctuaries where you can feed and bathe rescued elephants. And you’ll definitely want to head up to Wat Doi Suthep for spectacular views of Chiang Mai in the valley below.
Any excursions outside of the Old Town can easily be booked on Get Your Guide or through one of the many tour agencies around town.
Getting to Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is about 430 miles north of Bangkok in the northern region of Thailand. And there are several methods of getting there depending on your preference. If you prefer to travel by land, there is a VIP bus option that takes about 10 hours or a more scenic train option that takes 12 hours. You can check prices and book tickets in advance on Bookaway.
We personally prefer to fly between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Thailand has several low-cost airlines that operate `multiple daily flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It’s relatively easy to find one-way flights for less than $50 on Thai Airways, AirAsia, Bangkok Airways, Nok, or Smile as long as you book them in advance.
Getting from the Chiang Mai Airport to the Old City is quite easy – there is a fixed rate of 150 Baht per car (a bit more if you need a large vehicle). This rate is actually cheaper than catching a Grab car from the Chiang Mai airport so you’re best off just getting in the taxi queue.
If you’re staying outside of Chiang Mai’s old city then the taxi rate rises quickly so you’ll probably be better off with Grab. Also, many Chiang Mai hotels provide free airport pickup and drop-off service so make sure you check with your hotel before arriving in Chiang Mai.
Getting Around Chiang Mai
As with Bangkok, there are several transportation methods to choose from in Chiang Mai. We always find the cheapest and easiest to be Grab although you may have a bit of a wait for a car. Tuk-tuks and taxis are also readily available, as well as large red trucks called songthaews. You’ll have to share the back with a few other folks, but you can generally get a reasonable price quote from the driver.
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
The Inside House is a good choice if you’re not on a budget since it’s rather pricey (especially by Thailand standards). But if you want to splurge during your time in Chiang Mai, get yourself one of the elegant rooms with its own private pool at this spectacular hotel and prepare to be amazed!
Pastell Oldtown Chiang Mai is a good choice for a mid-range hotel in Chiang Mai. The location is perfect – right inside the old town and close to plenty of quaint bars, restaurants, and shops. Rooms are clean and bright with modern decor and comfortable beds. And the pool is the perfect place to relax in the afternoon!
Optional Trips Around Chiang Mai
If you have some extra time to spare, consider traveling to a few other popular towns in northern Thailand. Pai is just a short 3-hour minibus ride from Chiang Mai and it’s a popular stop with backpackers looking to experience Northern Thailand’s rugged landscape and ethnic minority groups. Hilltribe trecking is the most popular activity in Pai, but you’ll also find plenty of laidback coffee shops and cozy hostels overlooking the scenic rice paddies.
And if Chiang Mai didn’t provide enough temples for you to explore, consider checking out the nearby Chiang Rai, about 120 miles north of Chiang Mai. Here you’ll find several temples, the most notable being Wat Rong Khun – better known as the White Temple. You can do this as a day trip but expect to encounter crowds.
Koh Tao Island: 4 Nights
Koh Tao is an island in the Gulf of Thailand that has some of the most beautiful beaches in the entire country. This little island offers some of the best scuba diving in Thailand, and is one of the best places in the world to get your PADI certification. It’s also the perfect place to splurge on a fancy resort and lounge on a white sand beach while sipping fruity cocktails.
We recommend spending 4 nights on Koh Tao Island so that you have ample time to relax and enjoy the white sand beaches. There are so many amazing resorts on Koh Tao where you will have access to a pristine pool with a swim-up bar and a semi-private beach. You’ll probably find that you never want to leave!
What to do in Koh Tao
Koh Tao is really known as a spot to relax on a beach chair with an ice-cold beer in one hand and a good book in another. If you’re going to splurge on accommodations during your trip to Thailand, it’s definitely worth doing here!
The water surrounding Koh Tao is warm and calm enough to swim, snorkel, or kayak. Many people choose to get their PADI open-water certification in Koh Tao as the conditions are near perfect and prices are quite reasonable.
Most hotels offer various water sports from their semi-private beaches or you can book a diving or snorkeling boat tour. Small white sand beaches are nestled all around the island so it’s easy to find your own little piece of paradise.
You’ll also want to visit the incredibly picturesque Koh Nang Yuan where two narrow strips of perfect white sand connect 3 tiny islands. It’s located just a few hundred meters off the shore of Koh Tao and easily accessible by long tail boat.
If you do find the energy to hop on a motorbike and cruise around the island, you’ll find incredible viewpoints, amazing snorkeling spots, and a few lively bars. Read all about the top things to see and do on Koh Tao Island here!
Getting to Koh Tao
From Chiang Mai you can take a direct flight to Koh Samui via Bangkok Airways. You’ll want to book well in advance as there is only one direct flight each day. Your other option is to change planes in Bangkok.
You’ll also want to book your 2.5-hour ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Tao in advance using Bookaway. There are multiple ferry companies to choose from but our preferred company is Lomprayah because the boat is larger so when the waves are rough you’ll have a more comfortable ride.
We would also recommend paying the extra fee to arrange transport from the airport to the pier so you don’t have to worry about getting a taxi.
Getting Around Koh Tao
The island of Koh Tao is very hilly so while the most convenient way to get around the island is via motorbike, it may not be the easiest depending on your driving skill level. Most hotels that are located away from the main strip offer a free or very cheap shuttle a few times each day. Taxis are available but have set rates so they tend to be quite expensive.
Where to Stay in Koh Tao
Koh Tao Cabana is a unique resort conveniently located at the northern end of Sai Ree Beach. These stunning treehouses offer views of the sea and semi-open-air bathrooms so you’ll feel like you’re bathing in the great outdoors! The pool and the peaceful private beach are both perfect for an afternoon of relaxing.
Sensi Paradise Beach Resort is a great option if you want to stay closer to town. These rustic bungalows overlook Mae Haad Beach and are conveniently close to the pier as well as lots of shops and restaurants. You’ll fall in love with these quaint little bungalows, the beautiful pool, and the super friendly staff!
Koh Samui Island: 2-3 Nights
Depending on your preference, you can spend these final few nights in Thailand on either Koh Samui or Koh Phangan as they are both just a short ferry ride away from Koh Tao (and each other). Both offer some adventurous activities and a fun party scene. If you’re looking to attend a famous “Full Moon Party“, they take place on Koh Phangan Island and you can find the dates here.
We generally choose to spend these days on Koh Samui as there are many lovely resorts and white sandy beaches for lounging. Plus the airport is here so we don’t have to stress about catching a ferry on the morning of our flight. But both are wonderful options, you really can’t go wrong.
We would recommend spending 2-3 nights on Koh Samui. Opt for more time on Koh Tao as the beaches are more scenic and the vibe a bit more relaxed. But you’ll still want a few days to see everything that Koh Samui has to offer!
What to do in Koh Samui
Most people who visit Koh Samui simply spend their time lounging on the beach or sipping tropical cocktails at their hotel swim-up bar. And we have to agree, those are two of the best things to do here.
The most popular beach on the island is Chaweng Beach. It has the longest stretch of sand and the most amenities, but you’ll also find that it’s the most crowded. Further south is Lamai Beach which is an equally inviting stretch of sand with fewer people. Or to the north, there is the small, relatively unknown, Choeng Mon Beach which many locals claim is the best beach on Koh Samui.
The most famous tourist attractions in Koh Samui include the Big Buddha (Wat Phra Yai), a mummified monk, and a few waterfalls and gardens. If you rent a motorbike it’s fairly easy to see most of them on your own. Or you can join a group tour that will transport you to all of the highlights in a comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle.
On Friday afternoon you should head to the hip Coco Tam’s bar on Bophut Beach to watch the sunset while sipping cocktails. Then wander through the Fisherman’s Village which turn’s into a lively night market on Fridays. Here you can shop for any last-minute Thailand souvenirs for friends back home.
Check out all of our favorite things to do in Koh Samui here!
Getting to Koh Samui
To get from Koh Tao back to either Koh Phangan or Koh Samui you’ll need to take another ferry boat. Ferries to Koh Phangan fill up during high season so we would highly recommend getting tickets in advance using Bookaway (especially the day before and after a Full Moon Party).
Again our preferred ferry boat is Lomprayah but there are several ferry services choose from at various times and price points.
Getting Around Koh Samui
The easiest way to get around Koh Samui is to rent a motorbike either through your hotel or through one of the smaller shops around town. The island is flat and the roads are good so you’ll have no trouble getting around on a bike.
Where to Stay in Koh Samui
We love Zazen Boutique Resort & Spa because it is a smaller resort so you’ll receive a more personalized level of service by the incredible staff. Plus the property is gorgeous, the rooms are large and comfortable, and the location is close to some of the best bars and restaurants on the island!
If you want to splurge on a luxurious resort during your stay on Koh Samui Island, then you’ll definitely want to book a few nights at SALA Samui Choengmon Beach! You’ll love your own private balcony surrounded by lush gardens, and the open-air bathrooms are incredibly unique!
Back to Bangkok and Fly Home
From Koh Samui you’ll want to catch a flight back to Bangkok to head home. It’s been a busy two weeks in Thailand and no doubt you’ll need to catch up on some sleep!
We hope this 2-week itinerary helps you plan your Thailand vacation!
Planning a trip to Thailand? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!