Thailand flag in Phang Nga Bay

10 Day Thailand Itinerary for First Time Visitors (Beyond the Beaches)

Food, culture, temples, beaches, islands, boutique hotels, rooftop bars and more: experience the highlights in 10 days in Thailand!

Thailand is a must-visit stop for anyone planning a visit to Southeast Asia, and a personal favorite destination of mine. The Kingdom of Thailand has something to offer every type of traveler, from rich culture and vivid landscapes to mouthwatering delicacies.

Longtail boats in Thailand with text overlay Thai flag with islands in the background and text overlay Thai street food in banana leaf with text overlay Temple in Chiang Mai in Thailand with text overlay
Khanom Krok at Phang Nga Night Market in Thailand

Whether it is your first time to Thailand or your 10th, the country never fails to deliver with warm hospitality, beautiful beaches, culinary delights, tropical islands, gilded temples and incredible wildlife. The thing is, Thailand is a big country and there’s simply no way to see and do everything it has to offer in a single trip.

Beach in Koh Samui Thailand

However, if you are short on time and it is your first time to Thailand, then look no further for an easy 10 day Thailand itinerary (complete with easy day trip options) to help you plan your travels! Though you may only scratch the surface of what the country has to offer in a 10 day trip to Thailand, this itinerary will give you a good taste of the country’s highlights, with room for plenty of servings of mango and sticky rice! Read on for how to plan a trip to Thailand.

Important things to know before visiting Thailand

SIM cards in Thailand
  • Thailand visa requirements: Thailand currently offers visa-free travel to nationals of nearly 60 countries. Visitors from ASEAN or Western countries, including most European, Commonwealth, and North American citizens, are not required to have a Thai visa for visits less than 30 days in Thailand.
  • Stay connected and buy a local SIM card at the airport: I usually go with DTAC and get excellent connectivity throughout Thailand. You can get great deals on local SIM cards by clicking here, simply show the voucher and pick up your SIM card on arrival at the airport.
  • Get around cities easily by tuk tuks, taxis or Grab (similar to Uber): Make sure you download the Grab app ahead of your trip.
  • The currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht: The exchange rate is approximately US$1 or 1 Euro to 32-35 Baht. Cash is king so exchange some money when you arrive at the airport or withdraw cash from an ATM. There are many ATMs available in the major cities.
  • The main language spoken in Thailand is Thai: You may experience a language barrier in Thailand, though most people working in the hospitality sector will speak English. You should take a photo of your hotel’s address in Thai just in case, or call the hotel if you need any help with translation.
  • You cannot drink tap water in Thailand: Make sure you boil the water before drinking or use a water bottle that filters water.
  • You pretty much never have to pay full price for admissions tickets in Thailand: Just click here and search for places you want to go, and book online for discounted entry or head on over here to read more about how to use Klook to book travel experiences.
  • Dress code in Thailand: Thailand is a majority Buddhist country. I recommend dressing on the conservative side – it’s not a problem to wear sleeveless tops and shorts when you’re walking around town, but I don’t recommend wearing any extremely revealing clothing in public. However, if you are visiting any places of worship and temples in Thailand you will have to cover your shoulders and knees so bring a long skirt or pants and a scarf to cover your shoulders.

Looking for even more Thailand travel guides and tips? Click here!

How to get to and around Thailand

Tuk tuk in Bangkok Thailand

Thailand is well connected by air and land, and many international airlines fly direct to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. It’s also possible to enter Thailand by land crossing if you are in a neighboring country.

Once you have arrived in Thailand, it is easy to travel between cities by air, train, bus or private transfers. If you only have 10 days in Thailand then I recommend sticking to domestic air travel as the flights are frequent and reasonably priced. You can pick from several domestic Thai airlines including Thai Airways, Thai Smile, Nok Air, Bangkok Airways and Thai Lion Air. Domestic flights tend to be under 2-3 hours and the seats are comfortable enough, but you may need to pay extra for check-in baggage.

Taxi stand at Chiang Rai International Airport in Thailand

You’ll also want to sort out your airport transfers in advance so you don’t end up wandering around at the airport trying to find a taxi or bus – this is an easy way to be overcharged for transportation! One of my top Thailand travel tips is to use Klook. Klook is a great website where you can pre-book a variety of services in Thailand and Southeast Asia, from airport transfers and tours to local SIM cards, often at a major discount. Click here to read more about how to use Klook.

You have several options when traveling within a Thai city, from private cars and tuk tuks (three-wheelers) to getting around on foot. My biggest tip would be to download GrabTaxi in advance as it is a commonly used taxi hailing and ride share app across Southeast Asia (instead of Uber). If you are traveling by songthaew (shared pick-up trucks) or tuk tuks, make sure you agree on a fixed price with the driver before hopping in.

Many people also opt to rent a car or scooter to get around in Thailand. My recommendation would be to only rent a scooter if you are a) an experienced scooter driver, b) have a valid international driving license and/or motorcycle license and c) are covered by travel insurance. Note that some insurance companies will not cover scooter damage and injuries overseas if you do not hold a valid motorcycle license.

If you’ve driven in Australia or the U.K., you shouldn’t have any major issues driving in Thailand. Thai drivers drive on the left (the steering wheel is on the right), and the highways are well paved with multiple lanes. However, the traffic can be hectic in major cities with limited street parking and scooters that appear out of nowhere, so you may be better off taking a taxi or tuk tuk to get around.

Looking for the best prices for rental car companies around the world? Click here to book your rental car ahead of your trip. Bookings can be cancelled or amended if your plans change!

For day trips in Thailand, I recommend checking out TakeMeTour, a tour booking platform that pairs you with local experts, or Klook. The majority of these tours organize your transportation for the day, which means you can take a hands-off approach and sit back and relax!

Best time to visit Thailand

Doi Inthanon National Park Chiang Mai

The best time of year to visit Thailand is between November to February during the dry season, but this also happens to be the most popular time of year which means that places can be crowded. The rainy season in Thailand tends to hit from June to August and the country experiences heavy rainfall during these months. If you want to avoid the crowds and visit Thailand when the crowds thin out slightly then you should consider traveling during the shoulder season from March to May and September to November.

Phang Nga Bay in Thailand_feature

Thailand is a warm country in general, with temperatures ranging between 25-35 degrees Celsius (approximately 77-95 Fahrenheit) all year round. If you are visiting northern Thailand or the mountainous areas and national parks you might want to bring a light jacket as it can be slightly cooler in these regions.

Safety in Thailand

Chiang Mai Night Market

The vast majority of visits to Thailand are trouble free, and tourism is a major source of revenue for the country. Violent crime against foreigners occurs infrequently, but petty crime is not uncommon. You should keep a close eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas. There are a number of common scams in Thailand: if an offer seems “too good to be true” or overly convenient, it could very well be part of a scam. If you run into any issues, Thailand has dedicated tourist police which you can reach by calling 1155.

I have traveled to Thailand as a solo female traveler on many occasions, and have not experienced any issues. However, I do recommend taking certain precautions such as pre-booking airport transportation, using GrabTaxi, watching your drink when you are out and about, and letting friends and family know of your travel plans and hotel contact information. Read more about safety in Thailand by clicking here and here.

Dos and Don’ts in Thailand

Dress code at temples in Bangkok

It is extremely important to respect local culture and religion, and brush up on your knowledge of do’s and don’ts in Thailand. Here are some important travel tips for visiting Thailand: you should never touch a Thai person’s head, don’t point your feet at people or statues or images of the Buddha, dress appropriately when visiting Buddhist temples, don’t drink at any religious sites, and be mindful about attending alms giving ceremonies just to name a few.

Chiang Mai Temple Dress Code

There are a small handful of temples that women are not allowed to enter, and women should also avoid physical contact with Buddhist monks. You should also be aware that it is a criminal offense to disrespect or speak ill of the Thai monarchy.

Thailand 10 day itinerary

White Temple Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai Thailand

There’s a lot to see and do in Thailand, and it’s hard to condense everything within just a few days – you would need a lifetime to experience everything the country has to offer, but you’ll get a great first taste of Thailand in 10 days. Read on if you’re wondering how to spend 10 days in Thailand – this itinerary not only covers the idyllic beaches and islands that spring to mind when you think of Thailand, but also the cultural capitals and temples, markets and national parks. Here is a quick overview of what to expect from this express Thailand 10 day itinerary:

  • 2 days in Bangkok (with a day trip to Ayutthaya)
  • 1 day in Chiang Rai
  • 3 days in Chiang Mai (with a day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park)
  • 2 days in Phuket
  • 2 days in Koh Samui

Note: This itinerary for Thailand is also do-able in reverse! If you have 1 week in Thailand or 2 weeks in Thailand make sure you check out some tips at the bottom of this article for how to modify this itinerary to better suit your travels.

1. 2 days in Bangkok

Wat Pho Bangkok Thailand

Kick off your 10 days in Thailand in the country’s capital city, Bangkok. To get into Bangkok you can either fly into Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) or Don Mueang International Airport (DMK). To get to the city centre you have several options including airport shuttles or hopping into a taxi, which is the fastest and easiest way to get to your hotel. At BKK airport, there are taxi stands and flat rates to specific areas, you just have to pay a little extra for highway tolls. At DMK airport, head to the end of the terminal to catch a metered taxi. Alternatively, book a private airport transfer from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport or Don Mueang International Airport.

Chao Praya Boat Bangkok Thailand

Bangkok is best explored over the course of 2 to 3 days, so don’t try to check off every single thing there is to do in the city! Instead, get your fill of delicious food, indulge in a Thai massage and do a little sightseeing to top it all off. If that sounds like your kind of trip, click here for a quick guide to Bangkok.

King Power Mahanakhon rooftop bar in Bangkok Thailand

Spend 1 full day within Bangkok visiting Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, take a ferry over to Wat Arun, take a river cruise down the Chao Praya, stuff your face at one of the many food courts, and check out the King Power Mahanakohn SkyWalk and rooftop bar.

Wat Chai Watthanaram in Ayutthaya

On your second day, I recommend doing a day trip to Ayutthaya to explore archaeological ruins from the kingdom’s second capital city. Once an important center of diplomacy and commerce from the 14th to 18th century, Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring well preserved temple complexes, towers and pagodas. Don’t miss Wat Phanan Choeng, Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, Wat Mahathat and Wat Chai Watthanaram. Ready to plan an amazing Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok? Click here to book an Ayutthaya tour with Jareya, a local expert on Ayutthaya history.

Where to stay in Bangkok: Bangkok is a sprawling city with various districts that are well-connected by skytrain and taxis. I recommend staying at Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20, a beautiful boutique hotel with a rooftop bar and pool, or Ad Lib, a hidden gem tucked away in the Sukhumvit Soi 1 district.

Ready to book your stay in Bangkok? Click here to check current rates at Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20, head on over here to check current rates and availability at Ad Lib or click here to check out some other highly rated hotels in Bangkok!

2. 1 day in Chiang Rai

Blue Temple in Chiang Rai Thailand

From Bangkok, head north to Chiang Rai – the domestic flight only takes 90 minutes! Chiang Rai is a former capital city of the Lanna Kingdom under the reign of King Mangrai in the 13th century; it is also sometimes referred to as the “Art Capital” of Thailand, and was the birthplace of many Thai artists including Thawan Duchanee and Chalermchai Kositpipat. Chiang Rai is worth a quick visit for its unique temples and landmarks showcasing design features that you wouldn’t find elsewhere in Thailand.

White Temple Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai Thailand

Don’t miss the iconic “White Temple” or Wat Rong Khun, see Wat Rong Suea Ten, visit the Black House Museum and eat your way through the night market. Read more about what to do in Chiang Rai here.

Note: I recommend staying a minimum of 1 night in Chiang Rai. Though many people opt to visit Chiang Rai as a day trip from Chiang Mai, the 200-kilometre drive takes approximately 3.5 hours each way with no stops, which means you will spend nearly 8 hours on the road if you do a Chiang Rai day trip from Chiang Mai.

Where to stay in Chiang Rai: I had a very pleasant short stay at Meesuk Residence, a 5-minute drive away from the main town and just 10 minutes away from Chiang Rai airport. It is a small budget hotel located in a quiet neighborhood without a pool or restaurant, but the rooms are spacious and very clean, and the staff are incredibly friendly. Click here to see current rates and availability at Meesuk Residence or click here to see other highly rated hotel options in Chiang Rai.

3. 3 days in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Temple

Take a private car or bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai has been voted one of the top cities in Asia several years in a row by Travel + Leisure and is one of my personal favorites. As a religious epicentre in Thailand, it has more than 300 temples scattered around town as well as incredible natural landmarks and sites such as Doi Inthanon National Park. It is also one of the most popular places to visit for anyone hoping to observe the Yi Peng Buddhist lantern festival which typically takes places in November.

Doi Inthanon National Park Mae Ya Waterfall Chiang Mai

In my opinion, Chiang Mai absolutely needs to be on your 10 day Thailand itinerary. You can easily spend your time in Chiang Mai wandering around the Old Town to visit one of the many gilded Buddhist temples (Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Pra Singh, Wat Chiang Man and Wat Phan Tao are unmissable), climb up a sticky waterfall, take a cooking class, get a massage and much more. Read more about what to do in Chiang Mai by clicking here.

Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai Thailand

With 3 days in Chiang Mai, set aside half a day to visit an ethical elephant sanctuary such as Elephant Nature Park, and don’t miss out on a day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park. Because of its proximity to rainforests and the practice of logging, Chiang Mai is home to many elephant and animal attractions.

Looking for ethical animal experiences around the world? Check out this article or read more about visiting rescued elephants at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.

Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

When you are researching ethical elephant experiences in Thailand, make sure you dig deep and do your research because many places have caught onto the “trend” of ethical tourism and simply stick “sanctuary” or “orphanage” in their name in an attempt to market themselves as such. In reality, they still offer elephant rides, encourage non-natural behaviour and chain up their animals when tourists aren’t looking.

Where to stay in Chiang Mai: There are many boutique hotels and guesthouses in Chiang Mai, and the best place to stay in Chiang Mai is within the “Old Town”. I can highly recommend See You Soon Chiang Mai, a boutique hotel located above a fantastic cafe and right next to Wat Chedi Luang temple, or Nawa Sheeva, a few steps away from Tha Pae Gate with a private pool. Click here to check current room rates at See You Soon Chiang Mai or click here to check availability at Nawa Sheeva.

Alternatively, I can also recommend BED Chiang Mai Gate Hotel just outside the Old Town. This boutique property is an adults only hotel in Chiang Mai and offers clean and spacious rooms. Click here to check current room rates at BED Chiang Mai Gate Hotel or click here for other accommodation options in Chiang Mai’s Old Town!

4. 2 days in Phuket

Sino-Portuguese shophouses in Phuket Old Town Thailand

Hop on a domestic flight from Chiang Mai to head south to Phuket, one of the top beach destinations in Thailand. Phuket offers a buffet of accommodation options including some of the world’s most luxurious hotels and is also a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy with a rich culinary heritage.

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

With 2 days in Phuket, explore the Old Town for spectacular Sino-European architecture, funky street art, galleries and a fascinating heritage museum. You can also visit Phuket’s Big Buddha statue, check out the neighbouring Phang Nga city, go on a mangrove tour, lounge on one of the many beaches, or do a day trip to Phang Nga Bay (don’t skip the “James Bond Island”) or the Phi Phi Islands.

Though Phuket can get extremely crowded, it’s not hard to get away from the hordes of people if you know where to go during your 10 day Thailand trip. Read on for the best Phuket tours and day trips (minus the crowds!)

Where to stay in Phuket: I recommend checking yourself into the Angsana Laguna Phuket on Bang Tao Beach on the west coast of Phuket. The hotel offers spacious rooms, a number of excellent on-site restaurants and a beach club with unparalleled sunset views. Click here to check availability and rates at Angsana Laguna Phuket or head on over here to check out some other highly rated accommodation options in Phuket. I recommend staying on Bang Tao, Surin or Kamala Beach.

5. 2 days in Koh Samui

Koh Mae Ko View Point Ang Thong National Marine Park Koh Samui Thailand

Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s most popular island destinations and the perfect place to finish your 10 day Thailand itinerary. Bangkok Airways operates direct flights between Phuket and Koh Samui, and the flight takes just under 1 hour.

Ang Thong National Marine Park Koh Samui Thailand

Once you’ve arrived in Koh Samui, I recommend spending as much time as possible soaking up the sunshine and lounging on the white sand beaches, visiting the Bophut Fisherman’s Village, interacting with rescued elephants at Koh Samui Elephant Sanctuary, and heading to the stunning Ang Thong Marine National Park for a day of snorkeling, kayaking and swimming in crystal clear water.

Where to stay in Koh Samui: I usually stay at Villa Waimarie in Lipa Noi – it is my family’s timeshare property and is on one of the most pristine and uncrowded beaches in Koh Samui. The beachfront villa has 6 bedrooms, a tennis court, an indoor and outdoor lounge area, pool and amazing kitchen. It’s a fantastic luxury villa in Koh Samui to book if you have a large group of people, and serves up the most incredible Thai food. Click here to check availability and rates for Villa Waimarie, or click here to see other highly rated hotels in Koh Samui!

Koh Samui sunset in Thailand

After your unforgettable 10 days in Thailand, head back to Bangkok to hop on a flight home, or hop on over to another destination in Southeast Asia! Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Indonesia and Cambodia are within a hop and skip away from Thailand.

1 week in Thailand

If you need to modify this itinerary for Thailand into a 7 day itinerary then I would recommend spending 2 days in Chiang Mai (instead of 3), skipping Chiang Rai or choosing to visit either Phuket or Koh Samui (instead of both). 7 days in Thailand may not feel like it’s enough time to properly explore the country, but that just means you have to plan another trip (or two) back!

2 weeks in Thailand

Buddha statues in Ayutthaya Thailand

Have a full 14 days in Thailand? Lucky you! Modify this 10 day Thailand itinerary by extending your time in each of the destinations mentioned above, or add on a few new places. If you have more time in Phuket, you might want to visit the Koh Yao islands (Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi) for an overnight trip or head to the Similan Islands in the Andaman Sea. Alternatively, head to Khao Sok National Park for a relaxing immersion in nature.

If you are keen to do some world-class diving, you might consider visiting Koh Tao from Koh Samui, or maximize your beach time on Koh Lipe or Koh Lanta. If you’re feeling adventurous, head west to Trat, Udon Thani or Sakon Nakhon, lesser-visited destinations in Thailand.

Singha Beer in Thailand

I hope this Thailand travel guide has given you some ideas for how to plan your Thailand itinerary and prioritize what to do and see if you’re short on time.

Ready to plan your epic visit to Thailand? Click here for even more Thailand travel guides and tips!

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4 Comments

  1. I had been planning on a trip to Thailand before the pandemic struck. I read your article then and thought we could totally do a 7 day, if not a 10 day trip to Thailand. Now that some other countries are opening up, hope to plan again.

    1. We have to just keep monitoring the situation as it does seem to change from time to time. I hope you get to start planning again soon!

  2. We are about 3 to 4 ladies and want to go to Thailand. Can you do a quotation for me and best time s to visit I see that September might be best.

    1. Hi Silvia, apologies but I am not a travel agent. I have shared a recommended itinerary and places to stay – best of luck with planning!

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