If you’re heading to Thailand and want some suggestions of where to go then keep reading, here is my South Thailand itinerary. Amend it as you please…
Your heartbeat races as you have finally decided on where you are going to explore next. You’ve booked your annual leave from work and you get down to researching. Soon you book your flight to a far and distant land. No doubt influenced by watching a nature documentary and being amazed if you are anything like me. Although now the time has come to decide what to do with your precious time in this foreign land.
For me, it all started with a BBC programme called Thailand: Earth’s Tropical Paradise. After seeing those limestone cliffs in South Thailand there was no going back. I just had to persuade my friend that Thailand was to be our next destination, she was easily persuaded, luckily.
Night 1 – Onboard
From London Heathrow we were on our way to Phuket.
Night 2 – Start your adventure in Phuket Old Town
Eventually, we landed in Phuket at 06:00 the day after we had left London. We had been told by our pilot that it was already about 30 degrees outside and we smiled. That was until we walked outside the air conditioned airport doors and we were hit by the wall of heat. Our glasses steamed up, our clothes started soaking up our sweat and our backpacks suddenly felt a lot heavier.
Getting there: 100bht per person one way ticket
An army of white minibuses fill the roads outside the International Terminal. If you want to enter Phuket in a lot less style then get the airport bus. It drives down the centre of the island stopping off at various towns and ending up in Phuket Old Town. To start your South Thailand itinerary then I would recommend only staying in Phuket for one night. To find the airport bus you need to walk across to the Domestic Terminal which is about a 5 minute walk from the International Terminal. Find a small orange bus. The first bus leaves at 08:00 and run every hour or so until 20:30. All for the tiny price of 100bht compared to the 600bht plus we had got quoted for a minibus.
Stay one night in Phuket Old Town. We arrived in the morning so we had a whole day to familiarise ourselves with the town. Find out what bus we needed to catch to get to our next town. There is plenty to do on the island of Phuket, so it’s worth deciding what you want to do whilst here.
Nights 3 – 4 – Head to the previously Tsunami destroyed area of Khao Lak
From Phuket head towards Khao Lak, an area situated on the western coast of the mainland. A lot of the towns here were completely destroyed by the 2004 tsunami. This is still a popular beach destination. Khao Lak is a series of small villages some with very luxurious hotels. Khao Lak is a popular stop off destination within a South Thailand itinerary because you can easily reach the Similan Islands or the Surin Islands from here.
Getting there: 20bht pp to Bus Terminal 2 + 100 -170bht pp to Khao Lak
To get to Khao Lak you need to get to Phuket Bus Terminal 2, located 25 mins outside the Old Town. Therefore catch a public bus (Pink or Blue) locally known as a songthaew to bus terminal 2. If you stay in the Old Town then the local bus station downtown can be found on Ranong Road. Here you can find local buses that can take you to most places, we found the bus drivers quite helpful. Once you get off at terminal 2 you need to go and buy a ticket from inside. Ideally catch a bus that goes to Surat Thani as this will pass through Khao Lak. There are other buses that pass through as well.
The bus driver should tell you when you are in Khao Lak or Bang La On. This is the central town where a lot of people stay due to transport links and cheaper hostels. The whole area has just been simplified and is known as Khao Lak. Bang La On is really just one large and busy main road. The town is built either side of road running towards to mountains and on the other side the beach. Maps.me comes in handy here.
Nights 5 – 8 – Discover the ancient jungle of Khao Sok
Next up, travel further North, leave the beaches behind and enter into the jungle! Specifically the Khao Sok National Park which is the largest area of primary forest in South Thailand. It is a remnant of rainforest which is older than the Amazon, bet you didn’t know that! It is also home to the Cheow Lan Lake a 165 square km lake. A previously forest area that was flooded when the Ratchaprapha Dam was built. Khao Sok offers you the opportunity to get back to basis during your South Thailand itinerary and allows you to become familiar with the Thai wildlife, all those geckos. Many of the hotels here offer activities for guests which include river tubing to spending a night on the Cheow Lan Lake in a bamboo hut floating on the water. Which I would highly recommend!
Getting there: 140bht pp to Khao Sok + 50bht pp taxi from main road to your hotel
From Khao Lak catch a public bus onto Khao Sok, ideally you can catch the same bus as you got from Phuket to Khao Lak as it passes through Khao Sok. You just need to guess the time that it will arrive in Khao Lak (1.30/2hrs we estimated). There aren’t really any bus stops in Khao Lak/Bang La On so just make sure you are on the right side of the road (heading North) and flag down a bus when you see it. Check with the bus driver and hop on.
Nights 9 – 12 – Retreat back to the beach and explore Ao Nang and beyond.
Enough is enough, the mosquitoes are driving you mad and the wildlife has freaked you out, it’s time to head back to the beach. Next up in your South Thailand itinerary is to spend the next 4 nights in Ao Nang or nearby towns located in the Krabi Area. Krabi is a town in itself but if you want that sunkised tan you need to head to Ao Nang. It is a town built for tourist and it is not pretty in some places. But if you look past this, the beach is beautiful at sunset, you can enjoy a drink right on the beachfront, walk through the muslim street and discover local Thai restaurants that serve the best spring rolls I personally have ever tasted. Ao Nang is an ideal location. There are plenty of things to do here and in the surrounding areas from island hopping, climbing up to tiger temple and exploring Railay Beach.
Getting there: 450bht pp minibus to Ao Nang
The easiest way to get to Ao Nang is by ordering a minibus from your hotel. It will be about a 3/3.5 hr journey in all and may involved getting off in a somewhat random location, however this should be the tour companies switching location where you will get divided up into groups depending on your final destination. Don’t panic as much as we did and start freaking out about being conned.
Nights 13 – 15 – You need to visit Phi Phi Islands as least once.
Conveniently located in the Andaman Sea in-between Ao Nang and Phuket are the famous Phi Phi islands. Party central but also home to beautiful views as well as Maya Beach. You should visit here at least once to see what all the fuss is about. You can either indulge in the party atmosphere and stay in the centre of Phi Phi Don (you cannot stay on Phi Phi Lei). Or you can easily find a hotel further away from the hustle and bustle. Diving is a hugely popular activity here, as well as speedboat tours to Maya Beach. Alternatively, you can decide to sweat off half your body weight and climb up to Phi Phi viewpoint.
Getting there: 300bht pp ferry transfer to Phi Phi Island
From Ao Nang you will again need the help of a tour agent and you are spoilt for choice with choosing one. You need to buy a transfer to Phi Phi which should include hotel pick up and transfer to the pier which is normally Krabi Pier and the ferry journey, which takes about 1.5hrs.
Nights 14 – 16 Back to where it all started from!
From Phi Phi it is so easy to get back to Phuket, where it all began on your South Thailand itinerary. We had already booked a sunset cruise on a Chinese junk boat for our penultimate night of our trip. So we decided to spend our last two nights back in Phuket Old Town. There plenty of things to do in the town such as the trickeye 3D museum but you can easily hop on a Songthaew and head to one of the many beaches to get those last rays of sunshine or even visit the Wat Chalong Temple.
Getting there: 400bht pp ferry transfer to Rassada Pier Phuket + 200bht pp minibus to your hotel in Old Town
From Phi Phi you need to buy a ferry transfer to Phuket and again you will have no trouble finding this in the centre of the town. You may even be able to get a discounted ferry ticket if you have brought another tour from the same agent. The journey again is about 1.5/2hrs. Once you reach Rassasa Pier in Phuket you will need to buy a minibus transfer to your onward destination. It is like a cattle market when you get off the ferry so ignore most people. Find a vendor you are happy to talk to but getting to Phuket Old Town is very easy and quick.
If you have an early morning flight you may need to get a taxi in the early morning to the airport. Costing around 750/800bht per taxi to the airport from Phuket Old Town.
Night 17 – Home Sweet Home!
Need more travel tips for your South Thailand itinerary then check out my travel tips for visiting the stunning Khao Sok National Park – https://www.travelwithpip.com/khao-sok-tips/