The Ultimate Thailand 10-Day Itinerary for First Timers
For my honeymoon I was looking for a destination that offered a mixture of cultural experiences, sightseeing, food and relaxation. Thailand checked all those boxes. We spent a week relaxing on the beaches in Krabi, ringing in the Thai new year (Songkran) with a huge water flight in Chiang Mai and enjoying the culture and food of Bangkok and Pattaya.
The country is filled with friendly people, great food and amazing photo ops but the best part is, it won't break the bank. In this travel guide I’ll share my 10-day itinerary, along with travel tips on what to eat, where to stay and how to get around.
GO IF YOU LIKE:
BEACHES | MARKETS | JEWELLED COLOURS | EXOTIC FOODS | BOAT RIDES | BUDGET TRAVEL
MY Thailand 10-Day ITINERARY
10 days in Thailand will be just enough to scratch the surface of a culturally rich and diverse country. I structured my itinerary to get a little bit of urban life, mixed with relaxation on a beach and cultural excursions.
ITINERARY AT A GLANCE
Day 1-2: Bangkok
*Option: Consider flying from Bangkok to Siem Reap and visiting Angkor Wat
Day 3: Pattaya
Day 4-6: Krabi
Day 7-10: Chiang Mai
Expand the legend in the map for a detailed itinerary.
My favorite things to do in Thailand
Get Soaking Wet in Chiang Mai For Songkran
We were lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai during the Thai New Year, Songkran. This festival lasts three days and is in mid-April. During these three days the entire city gets in a massive water fight. You can soak tuk tuk drivers, shop keepers, little kids, basically anyone on the street is fair game, especially tourists. Everyone is well equipped with water guns and buckets. People will sell water guns, buckets and even water on the street.
Our hotel gave us a little water pistol and bucket. The pistol did nothing so we used the bucket the entire day.
I need to mention, there is no avoiding it, you will be drenched within minutes. So if this doesn’t sound like your thing then don’t visit during this time. I have to say it was a welcomed relief when dealign with the Thai heat. Most of the activities occur in the heart of the old city and extend outwards. There's also a parade with dancing and traditional outfits.
Sit Ringside for a muay thai fight
Having trained in muay thai for 6 years there was no way I would miss a fight at one of the iconic stadiums in Bangkok. I got tickets online for Rajadamnern stadium and ringside tickets weren't too pricy. In fact most of the tourists seemed to be ringside.
What a thrilling atmosphere. The fights were technically more beautiful than anything I'd seen before and the fans were so loud. They were all taking bets.
If you don’t know anything about Muay Thai let me give you a little crash course. Muay Thai is known as the art of 8 limbs. That’s because you strike your opponent through punches, kicks, elbows and knees.
The training is rigorous often starting with long distance running as a warm up, conditioning exercises to strengthen muscles and drills to build muscle memory and endurance. They will spar with other fighters to practice both offensive and defensive skills and get them mentally prepared for the rounds in a ring.
In Muay Thai they also use the clinch. This is when two fighters grab each other behind their necks and either deliver a barrage of knees or elbows and may try to trip their opponent onto the ground through a sweep. Judges score on power, technicality, dominance, how many strikes are landed and sweeps are made.
The beginning of each bout the fighters will do a prayer called the wai kru. This starts with the fighters walking the ring to the sound of the sarama music. They run their gloves on the rope as a sign of closing the ring to negative forces. After they perform the ritual which varies depending on their coach and training. This is done to thank their friends, family and coaches and of course to pray for the win. The traditional music that goes along with this will stick in your mind forever.
Muay thai is easily my favourite martial art. Because it is just that, an art. When you watch great fighters it’s powerful yet graceful. They’re light on their feet, fast and the winners are usually pros at timing their opponent. They’ll wait, for the perfect moment, then bam. Deliver the knockout strike.
So have fun, get into it and remember, every time a fighter lands a punch, kick or sweeps their opponent to the ground let out a big "oooooooweeeeeeeeee"!
Walk with, don’t ride, elephants
While you’re in Chiang Mai check out The Elephant Nature Park. I highly encourage you to read my blog post on why riding elephants is bad and it will give you a better understanding of the day at ENP. If you don't have time to read it, just know the overall takeaway is you don't want to visit a “sanctuary” where they offer elephant rides.
Elephants are not built to be ridden. With that in mind The Elephant Nature Park was established to take care of sick or retired elephants from the tourism industry. We spent the day walking with a group of females, we fed them and bathed them in the river. There are many different options, for how to spend your day and if you've got more time consider some of the volunteer opportunities.
Make the best Green curry at a cooking school
If you’re the type of person that has their local Thai restaurant on speed dial then this experience may be perfect for you.
The Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai is where you can spend a day cooking and eating delicious Thai classics.
In the morning you’re picked up for your hotel and taken to a market where you learn about some essential Thai ingredients. It’s also a great moment to stock up on anything you think will be hard to find back home.
The cooking school itself is on a farm so they grow many of their own ingredients. In fact the owner of the school was out tending to the garden while we were there. You could tell everyone who worked there was extremely passionate about the farm and Thai food.
Our guide was Garnet (picture below) and she gave us a tour of the farm before we started cooking. She was a riot, and made the experience so much more fun! They also give you a recipe book so you can replicate everything back at home.
I promise you, to this day, it’s the best green curry I’ve ever had, and I made it!
Where to Stay in Thailand
The links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a booking. As always, I only recommend products and services I trust.
We loved all the hotels we stayed at in Thailand. Since it was our honeymoon we didn’t do budget hotels but we found the value in all our hotels to be good.
The room was clean and spacious and it was only a few minutes walk from the subway line. The entire staff was very friendly and helpful.
This place was quite the romantic spot. The decoration was based on the old colonial style. The rooms were large and the pool was a welcomed relief from the Thai heat.
We had an entire pavilion to ourselves. Even the most basic accommodation there is beautiful. Our pavilion had two floors and since it was our honeymoon our room was setup with champagne and an already-filled bath. There were also tons of amazing soaps and oils, plus delicious snacks and teas.
The Food at Rayavadee
The food in all their restaurants was delicious so you’re not going to get bland resort food. Our favourite experience was the grotto dinner. This is their restaurant in a cave, overlooking the beach. Make sure to reserve for sunset because the view is beautiful.
They offer private excursions including rock climbing and visits to other islands where they can plan private picnics. We opted to spend the time relaxing and just enjoying everything the resort had to offer.
The Infinity Pool
The best feature was the main infinity pool which overlooks Railay Beach and the limestone rocks. It was my favourite place to hang out. And when we went first thing in the morning we had the entire pool to ourselves.
When you book with them you can organize transportation to pick you up from the airport. We were picked up in a comfortable cool van.
There’s no way to access the resort by road, so you need to take their high-speed boat. I’m horrible on the water but this ride was really enjoyable. I loved The Rayavadee so much, I cried when we left.
If the Rayavadee appeals to you or if you’re planning a honeymoon but need some inspiration, then check out this list of romantic getaways.
Fill that Belly
Thailand is known for great street foods. Night markets are a great place to try street foods. A fellow travel blogger, Danielle Farideh, recently talked about her experience at the night markets in Chiang Mai. You can read about her experience on her blog.
In Bangkok we were advised to check out a place called Eathai (in above map). This was a Thai food court in a mall with tons of street foods. What I loved about it was that we were able to get an idea of the different types of food in one visit. It’s a great way to prepare you for the streets.
If you're more adventurous, then get your proteins from the roaches and grubs offered by street vendors. If you do this I’d love to hear about how it tasted. If you're safer, then opt for the curries and noodle dishes. In Chiang Mai try Khao Soi which is a soupier curry but a specialty of the North.
And don't forget the mango and sticky rice for dessert.
If you're looking for a meal with a view then check out the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. This restaurant offers views of the Chao Phraya river. Make sure to follow their dress code. No casual wear like shorts, and short skirts are allowed. My husband and I weren’t aware of this rule and we were given a wrap skirt, shawl and pants so they could accommodate our reservation.
Also, if you’re a hardcore foodie and love the show Chef’s Table, then consider stopping by the Bangkok featured restaurant - Gaggan.
When in Pattaya and Krabi, seafood is a great option. One of the best meals we had was a place on the water in Pattaya called Preecha. Order the garlic grilled fish, tom yum soup, papaya salad and the shrimp, which was so fresh we ate it raw. Our local friend took us here and it was packed so you know it’s good.
Also, remember, food in Thailand is extremely flavourful and can get quite spicy so don’t be afraid to ask for no spice.
Getting Around Thailand
Getting between different cities in Thailand is pretty easy and affordable. We flew with Thai Air Asia and the flights were as budget as they come. I got some severe flying anxiety in Thailand, but after interviewing a pilot, she’s helped put my mind at ease.
Taxis and Tuk Tuks
Once you're in a city you can easily arrange with your hotels for pickups or take taxis. The one thing that really bothers me in Thailand is having to negotiate prices for transport. I hate feeling ripped off and I know I always am.
I liked to arrange the taxis with my hotel to get a set price, this may not be the most cost effective means but it takes the negotiation out of the transaction.
Your taxi should start their meter at THB35, so when you enter a cab be confident in your tone to avoid getting ripped off. If you're a skilled negotiator or like to bargain then consider the tuk tuk rides. Negotiate your price before starting your journey and hope for the best.
Chiang Mai was pretty walkable and Bangkok also had a good subway and boat taxi service.
Thai is the main language but everyone we met had a good grasp of English. A few essentials:
Hello: Sa-wat dee kap (if you're a man) Sa-wat dee kha (if you're a woman)
Goodbye: Lah Gorn (la-gon)
Thank You: Khop koon kap (if you're a man) Khop koon kha (if you're a woman)
How much?: Gee baht?
Don't want: Mai ow
Not spicy: Mai pet
Photography Tips for Songkran
If you plan on being in Thailand for their new year then you're going to need water resistant camera gear. Even if you don't want to join in the water fight, you'll inevitably get soaking wet. Note, my FujiFilmXT1 withstood the water fight, though it was never "dunked".
Bring lots of extra wipes, lens cleaner and put on any lens hoods which will helps shield the lens from splatter.
Safety in Thailand
Be weary of pickpockets and it's best to wear cross body bags.
There are also tourist scams, like taxis that take you on a round about way for more money and tour guides who oversell. Do your research before and you'll be fine.
Remember to stay hydrated and wear lots of sunscreen - I feel like such a mom saying that but you don't want to learn the hard way.