Irish students guide to backpacking in Thailand

Each year, Irish students have up to four months off for summer holidays giving them plenty of time to work, travel and catch up on sleep.

Over the years it has become a trend to go interrailing around Europe, on a J1 visa to America or travel around South-East Asia, particularly Thailand and Vietnam.

Thailand has everything from beautiful islands popular among backpackers to jungles with wild animals where you can trek on elephants and ride the streams.


From the capital of Bangkok to the golden beaches of Phi Phi island there is something in Thailand for everyone.

If you are planning a trip to Thailand in the future, here are some things you should consider before going:

  1. Vaccinations are a must before going

    When traveling from Ireland to Thailand there are no compulsory vaccines required for entry into the country, however, those planning a long visit, or where their planned trip is likely to bring them to more rural parts of Thailand, should have vaccinations done. For most standard tourists the usual recommended vaccinations include cover against the childhood diseases (Tetanus and Diphtheria, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella), as well as cover against the foodborne diseases of Typhoid and Hepatitis A. For those trekking in the Thai countryside or staying for longer periods then cover against Hepatitis B and Rabies, should be considered. A trip to the tropical medical bureau in Dublin will have you sorted in no time.

  2. The Journey

    There are no direct routes from Dublin to Thailand so be prepared to take at least two long-haul flights to your first destination, most likely to be Bangkok. Emirates fly via Dubai as it’s one of the shorter options it is a popular route with Etihad doing a similar route via Abi Dhabi. However, there are plenty of other options via Amsterdam, London, and Paris. Thailand is 7 hours ahead of Dublin so keep that in mind when trying to get over the jet-lag.

    Try getting an upgrade for real 1st class treatment - Photo credit Hannah Collins
    Try getting an upgrade for some real 1st class treatment – Photo credit Hannah Collins
  3. Bangkok

    As the capital, Bangkok is the most built-up city in Thailand with skyscrapers such as MahaNakhon being over 300 meters tall. A far cry from the modern part of the city lies The Khao San road, the main street you will find here with various street food, clothing, and gadgets for sale along the street. Music is always blaring and nightclubs are always open along the strip. Tuk-tuk cars will take you from your hotel to here while you take in the city along the way.

  4. Accommodation

    You hear the nightmare stories of the horrendous cheap hostel’s people find themselves in Thailand but if you are willing to spend a little more per night you are most likely find some lovely hotels. If you pay the prices you would pay for some hostels in Europe, in Thailand, you will be living like a king or queen.

  5. Do’s and Dont’s

    It is crucial that you avoid the tap water at all costs. Bottled water is very inexpensive and will give you a lot fewer chances of becoming ill. They say to avoid meat but you will know yourself whether the restaurant is going to serve you the good or the bad stuff. The fresh fruit comes in such a variety here and will keep you refreshed in the scorching heat. Immerse yourself in the food, don’t be afraid to try new things, Thai cuisine is one of the most popular around with its bursting flavours and full of vegetables you will need when you’re not having your mammy’s cooking.

  6. Elephant sanctuary

    Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai - Photo Credit Hannah Collins
    Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai – Photo Credit Hannah Collins

    If you visit the north of Thailand you will most likely spend time in Chiang Mai. Here you will find the jungle and plenty of activities such as trekking, zip-lining and visiting the tigers at tiger kingdom. There are plenty of cheap packages that give you access to do all these activities and ride the elephants. If you do this, you should also consider spending a day at the elephant sanctuary that looks after Thailands elephants that have been mistreated by their owners. Here you will bathe, feed and learn about the torture the elephants went through but it is worth it to give back.

  7. Full Moon Party

    Each month on the night of the full moon, the island of Koh Phangan hosts the ever famous Full Moon Party on its Haad Rin beach. This is certainly a night you can’t miss. Again there have been many horror stories about incidents happening on the night of the full moon but if you stick together with friends you are in for a great night. UV paint and luminous clothing are a must. Buckets at the ready!

    Full Moon Party - Photo Credit - Hannah Collins
    Full Moon Party – Photo Credit – Hannah Collins
  8. Maya Bay

    'The Beach' (Maya Bay) - Photo Credit Hannah Collins
    ‘The Beach’ (Maya Bay) – Photo Credit Hannah Collins

    Maya Bay is a very small island found off Phi Phi island and made famous for being home to Leonardo DiCaprio in the film, ‘The Beach‘. A short boat ride away there are many day trips planned from Phi Phi to take you here with stops at Monkey Island and James Bond island along the way. One of the biggest tourist attractions in Thailand is certainly can’t be missed.

  9. Activities

    Cooking Class in Chiang Mai - Photo Credit Hannah Collins
    Cooking Class in Chiang Mai – Photo Credit Hannah Collins

    There is no better way to delve into the culture Thailand has to offer than by doing an authentic Thai cooking class. Found all over the country in all the tourist spots, it’s a great way to spend the day learning about the native cuisine. Cooking not your thing? Try scuba-diving in Koh Tao, the smallest of the islands and home to many scuba-diving schools offering 1-day to 1-week courses.

  10. Shopping

    Thailand is the home of the fakes. Fake designer bags, designer clothing and yes, even designer make-up. If you are all about the finer things in life but can’t afford them head to Bangkok’s largest shopping center MBK to get all the essentials. The island of Koh Samui also offers a wide range of bags and ‘thai-pants‘ the baggy trousers you see young, well-travelled millennials wear when they return home from their ‘gap-year‘.

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