Over the years I’ve travelled to Thailand 3 times and explored it from top to bottom.
Along the way, stopping off at the most popular towns, cities and islands and having an unforgettable time!
Based on my experiences, I wanted to put together what I believe to be the ultimate way to spend 3 weeks in Thailand.
It includes a mixture of everything, along the way you’ll experience:
Excited to get planning your own adventure?
You should be!
Strap yourself in and prepare for the ultimate 3 week Thailand itinerary!
First up: Do you even need a visa for Thailand?
Well, it all depends on where you are from.
If, like us, you are a British or Irish citizen then you get 30 days in without a visa, as part of the visa exempt programme.
This can be reset once you stamp out of the country and back in again.
For example, our 3 week itinerary was actually broken into two parts:
As such, we never actually needed to get a visa as you can travel in twice from land borders in one year, but air travel borders are different and I don’t believe there is a limit.
You can extend to 60 days in the country by going to an immigration office; learn more about the process here.
Of course, things are regularly changing in Asia, so be sure to check whether or not these are the most up-to-date visa regulations for Thailand.
Now down to the good part … the ultimate route for 3 weeks in Thailand!
As a rough idea, this itinerary is going to first take you down south, where you can hit the beaches and islands of Thailand first.
Then from the bottom, you can either bus your way back to Bangkok and head North via bus, or you can make life easier and get a cheap internal flight from Phuket to Chiang Mai …
But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves!
Here’s a summary of what to expect ...
Bangkok > Hua Hin> Koh Samui > Koh Phangan > Koh Tao > Krabi > Koh Phi Phi islands > Phuket
Chiang Rai > Chiang Mai > Pai > Chiang Mai
To join parts 1 & 2 between Phuket and Chiang Rai, you can either bus up to Chiang Rai, which will probably require a bus change in Bangkok. Or you can fly with Air Asia or Thai Airways for cheap up to Bangkok (which is what I did) and then get a bus to Chiang Rai from there.
Okay, let’s break this Thailand Itinerary 3 weeks route down.
We have 21 nights and a lot of ground to cover!
As it’s such a central hub for the rest of Thailand, there is the chance to make 3 individual stops in Bangkok as a part of this itinerary.
But don’t worry, there is so much to do in Bangkok, so I will break it down into what to do there.
Start with 2 nights in Bangkok; use your first night to recover from your flight and go visit Koh San Road (maybe see a ping pong show if you’re not shattered).
Then the next day in Bangkok, go see some of the top temples such as the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, and the Leaning Buddha.
It will be a day of temple hopping then in the evening hit one of the amazing markets and eat street food and drink Thai beer!
Alternatively, if you don’t want to organise your schedule, then check out this awesome Bangkok Instagram tour that takes you to the best photo spots in the city!
From Bangkok you get a cheap bus to Hua Hin (taxi was 2000 baht in 2015), bus is a lot cheaper and the journey is around 4 hours.
Head early so you get the full day in Hua Hin: you can go visit the amazing elephant sanctuary that allows you to walk, feed and wash the elephants (no riding here!).
Then in the evening hit the fantastic Hua Hin night market.
Here you will find amazing food galore!
There is also a nice beach in Hua Hin (if you get the time!)
Koh Samui is a beautiful island and you get there via bus and boat from Hua Hin.
Buy your tickets online with Lomprayah and get ready to see some beautiful beaches.
In Koh Samui you can check out Big Buddha, beautiful beaches and party your heart out if you want to!
Koh Phangan is well worth a spot on any Thailand itinerary for one reason … the Full Moon Party!
It’s the main reason many people head down south in the first place.
Head there by boat a day before the Full Moon Party for the “pre moon” party, and if you really want to you can stay an extra night for the jungle party.
But in the interests of this being a strict 3 week thailand itinerary, I’m suggesting 2 nights!
Koh Tao, best known for its snorkelling and beautiful beaches, is the smallest of the islands in this region and is well worth a night's stay.
It’s actually the only island I haven’t been too, mainly because I kept running out of time.
BUT, I have friends who have been and loved the snorkelling, and it’s definitely somewhere I will make a stop next time I am at the Full Moon Party.
I am suggesting two nights because by the time you get to Krabi, you’ll have wasted a day travelling.
Despite the journey, Krabi is definitely worth visiting and has the brilliant Railay beach which is beautiful and iconic.
It’s also got an awesome strip of bars and restaurants.
Phi Phi is a small island, now best known for partying.
You can also visit other islands off Phi Phi, so 2 nights is good if you want a day for recovering then an actual day of sightseeing.
Be sure to book accommodation far in advance as it sells up!
Other than Patong Beach, Phuket is actually quite a dire place to visit.
Because of a strip called Bangla Road, which is like the party capital/weird sex capital/ ping pong/sex show capital of the area.
If you want cheap shots, then there we go! However, O just found the whole strip to be so seedy, with fat old guys grinding on young Thai girls selling themselves; each to their own I suppose.
The main reason to visit is because Phuket has got an airport, and you need to get back to Bangkok.
The quickest way to get back north is to fly back up to Bangkok.
Whilst in Bangkok for a night, go and organise your bus to Chiang Rai then head and see a Thai boxing match in the evening!
Tomorrow, it’s time to head north …
Alternatively, it’s now possible to fly directly from Phuket to Chaing Rai (check prices here).
Chiang Rai is home to some of the best temples anywhere in Thailand, and probably Asia (in my opinion).
The White Temple is iconic architecture, and absolutely beautiful, and the blue temple is peaceful, stunning and, best of all, free.
I think more and more people are beginning to visit the Blue Temple so it might be more crowded nowadays, and they may have even started charging.
Afterwards you’ve got the black temple, amazing waterfalls and mountains to chase; read more in my guide on what to do in Chiang Rai.
Tour option: If you want to see the awesome White and Blue Temple, as well as the Black House, but don't feel confident on a moped, then this is a great value and highly rated tour for less than $20.
Chiang Mai is quickly becoming the digital nomad capital of the world (due to cheap rent and low cost of living), but it’s also got some fabulous temples, waterfalls, waterparks, swimming areas, markets and much more!
My favourite memory is from visiting the Grand Canyon, just outside the city, where you can dive from heights of up to 7 metres into a vast, rain-filled canyon!
I also loved the Old City walls, and the food at the night market which runs every day.
I love Chiang Mai, and you probably will too.
For more ideas of what to get up to, read my guide on how to spend 3 days in Chiang Mai.
Pai is in the far north of Thailand, and you can get there by only one road.
So you’ll need to either rent a moped and drive these winding roads yourself, or you get a little mini bus from the Arcade Chiang Mai bus station for 150 baht.
You can buy them in person, or instead get them in advance online here.
There is a good chance you will throw up on the journey, or if you don’t throw up, you’re going to be close to it; so take motion sickness tablets.
But trust me when I say it’s totally worth it!!
Pai is beautiful and just filled with natural beauty and unforgettable things to do!
It has a fantastic night food market (my favourite in the world), amazing natural hot springs dotted everywhere, stunning Buddha's to climb and see, strawberry fields, the Pai Canyon and much more.
Simply put, Pai is amazing and the perfect spot to end your 3 weeks in Thailand.
To get the most out of your time there, you’ll ideally need to hire a moped when you get to Pai.
It’s how everyone gets around, and there aren’t a lot of taxis; plus they are very cheap.
Don’t forget that international driving licence before you fly to Thailand (which in the UK you get at the Post Office for £5.50).
After Pai, you’ll probably need to make your way back south to Bangkok, which is the central point for flying to your next destination (or back home).
From Pai, you’ll need to catch a bus back to Chiang back and then fly or bus back to Bangkok (find all your transfer options here).
I recommend you to spend your last night in Bangkok with dinner and drinks at a rooftop bar with the stunning skyline of Bangkok beneath you.
Stay in a hotel with a rooftop swimming pool for an extra special send off.
You could do this 3 week route from back to front and when you end in Bangkok after the islands, you fly home then from there.
If you want to do a Full Moon, then I would do it first and then work my way north.
It’s personally a nicer way to do it.
Both south and north Thailand offer great things, but they are very different.
South is much more about partying and beaches, and generic backpacking, but the North is filled with natural beauty in the form of waterfalls, hot springs and mountains and I love it!
So now you’ve got the ultimate 3 week Thailand trip, you’re almost ready to go, but check out the rest of my information below to help you make the most of your trip.
Getting around Thailand is pretty easy, as all routes are well trodden by thousands of backpackers each year.
To visit everywhere on this itinerary, you’ll need to make use of ...
Within cities you can get tuk tuks (which are a great experience in themselves!)
It saves you the hassle of getting ripped off and you know what you’re in for.
Also, in every place apart from Bangkok, it’s worth renting a moped to get around and explore. It’s safe and hassle free. You can find out more about renting a moped in Southeast Asia here.
For most destinations listed, I’ve linked through to a guide on that part of the country and within that I’ve listed some top things to do. For the islands, they don’t have their individual guides, but my complete guide on island hopping covers them all individually.
BUT, to get you excited, here are some things you should not miss on a Thailand itinerary.
If you complete at least all of these 10 things, then you’ll have done some of the best things Thailand has to offer.
So, how much does 3 weeks in Thailand cost?
Well, Thailand isn’t that expensive anywhere, even Bangkok.
The most expensive site there is the Grand Palace and it’s only around 500 baht.
You could survive in Thailand on a budget of $USD20-30 a day and this would include accommodation, food and transport.
Bradley and I spent around that, then a little extra for nights like the Full Moon Party.
Food is dirt cheap, especially if you are eating street food: which is typically safe as long as you use common sense and don’t eat anywhere too unhygienic.
If a stall is empty and everywhere else is busy, then avoid it.
Thai red curry is amazing and Pad Thai is the go-to cheap common dish; I’m craving it now as I write.
Our 3 weeks itinerary takes you through all of the country, not just a focus on the south or the north and you will see a slight variation in price.
The north is cheaper than the south, but alcohol is cheap across Thailand; you just need to exercise caution and check you are drinking genuine branded alcohol
So watch your drinks being poured, and if buying buckets at the Full Moon Party, make sure you make the bucket yourself with a sealed bottle of spirit at purchase.
Read Also: How To Save Money For Travel
The reason I’ve included both north and south Thailand is that those who only go to the south can sometimes feel disappointed in their experience.
This is because the south of Thailand is very well known.
We’ve all seen the pictures on Instagram many times, and most of them are overly edited and don’t look like that in person; so people are disappointed when they go.
Actually, in the north, with the Blue Temple, I see high travel profiles share photos of the blue temple and they edit the colour so much it turns the temple into sort of a light blue, which looks pretty, but the temple doesn’t have that colour; it doesn’t need a new blue, it’s already beautiful. So, yes, use Instagram to inspire you to go to a destination, but do not expect it to look like the picture with the Lightroom preset on it!
If you find yourself with only 2 weeks in Thailand, then I’d maybe suggest sticking to the south. You’ll get to explore Bangkok and a lot of beautiful temples, islands and beaches.
Here’s a decent route
Bangkok > Hua Hin > Koh Samui > Koh Phangan > Krabi > Phi Phi > Phuket
Or if you want a 2 week northern Thailand itinerary, try this one:
Bangkok > Thung Salaeng Luang National Park > Chaing Rai > Chiang Mai > Pai > Bangkok > Hua Hin >Bangkok
A 1 week Thailand itinerary will need to follow the highlights, which you can do, but you’ll need to fly!
Bangkok > Koh Samui > Koh Phangan > Koh Tao > fly back to Bangkok
Or the north option is ...
Bangkok > Chiang Mai > Pai > Chaing Rai > Bangkok
I thought I’d include a few final tips/things to know in order to help your Thailand trip go smoothly!
So, there you have it! My ultimate 3 week Thailand itinerary!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and if you’ve got any other suggestions, then pop them below.
For help planning your journey in Thailand, check out these other guides we put together: