After a week darting around Krabi, this province in southern Thailand is one that definitely qualifies for a second go around. With an endless number of things to do you could take two weeks here easily without ever going to the same place twice. If you’re a backpacker who enjoys a bit of off-the-grid feel with the perks of civilization this is the place for you! Krabi has an island vibe complemented by mainland pricing on food, transport, and accommodation which is great news for backpackers looking to visit Krabi on a budget. Here’s a quick how to guide on getting yourself orientated in one of Thailand’s most picturesque destinations.
One of the best things about Krabi is the ability to pay mainland prices but feel like you’re on a tropical island! Food, accommodation, and activities are cheap here even for Thai standards. We rock climbed, snorkeled, island hopped, cliff jumped, and spent time at the spas for under $45 per person per day on average!
Food: $8-12 USD per person, plenty of wonderful local restaurants around to choose from, easily eat a full meal with a fruit smoothie for under $4!
Accommodation: Hostel dorm beds are easily found for $10-15 USD, three star private rooms at guesthouses and hotels are abundant at $20-30USD mark. We never paid over $25 while in Krabi and that gave us a hot shower, A/C, private room, free wifi, and a basic breakfast!
Activities Budget: If you have $15-20 USD a day to spend you’re all set! Most of the island hopping trips run about $15 USD, all food and fees included. This will take up a full day from 7-8am to sunset with food, hotel pickup, etc all bundled in! Rock climbing is a bit pricier at around $25-50 USD for day to half day outings. Canoeing and kayaking can also be done for under $15 USD a day. Authentic Thai massages, even at the top rated outfits, were only $5!
What to Do
Go Island Hopping!
While Ao Nang and Railay Beaches are indeed picturesque, the real beauty of Krabi province lies in the numerous uninhabited islands just off the coast. There are a variety of tours available by an endless number of vendors. Trust me you’ll have no issue arranging a tour once you arrive, but it usually needs to be done at least the day before in order to schedule your bright and early hotel pickup, which is included for free. 600 baht/person ($18 USD) will get you a full day, 6-7 island tour that includes snorkeling, lunch and/or dinner and sunset on a deserted island, and if you’re brave some excellent cliff diving!
How to Book and Save Money: DO NOT book any tours through your accommodation, unless you don’t care about paying 100-200% more than you should! Booking with one of the vendors on the main walking street in Ao Nang, or along the beaches of East/West Railay, are your best bet. Get a clear answer when booking whether national park fees are included in the tour price! If you don’t ask, you WILL pay more!
Rock Climbing at East & West Railay Beach
Krabi is an idyllic, lay on the beach and tan destination but it’s known world wide for rock climbing! There are dozens of shops that offer half to multiple day rock climbing trips, allowing you to get face to face with the cliffs that make those postcard-perfect backdrops for your beach photos. Railay is a rock climbing mecca and people come from all around the world for some of the best natural walls out there. Even as someone with little to know climbing experience I was able to get some incredible views 20-30 meters up overlooking Railay beach and had a blast while getting there! Forewarning: it’s much harder than indoor climbing so be prepared to get a killer workout!
Kayaking Ao Thalane and Bor Thor
While kayaking out from any of the Krabi Province beaches is worth the experience, the must see spots are without a doubt Ao Thalane and Bor Thor, know for their stunning mangrove forests and intricate cave-waterways respectively. Set aside a day or two in order to get the full experience with day trips starting at only 500-800 baht!
Beach Day at West Railay Beach
This is one of the most scenic beaches in all of Thailand in my opinion. No,
you won’t have the place to yourself but it’s popular for good reason. This is hands down the best beach to kick back and relax with its stunning limestone cliffs, calm and clear waters perfect for kayaking, monkeys playing in the mangrove trees, and some great little restaurants along the path between the East and West beaches.
You have to take a longtail boat taxi to access the beaches which can be done from Ao Nang Beach at any hour of the day. It costs about 200 baht/person so it’s worth getting there early and making a day of it!
Hike to the Glass Pool and Emerald Pool
A short trip away from the beaches, these relatively easy and incredibly scenic hikes are good for mixing it up from lounging all day! Located within a wildlife sanctuary you can actually swim in the Emerald Pool’s stunningly blue waters after a quick and easy 1.5 kilometer hike! 200 baht entry fee/person and a 55-kilometer, rather enjoyable motorbike ride from Krabi Town.
Sunset at Ao Nang Beach
We stumbled upon this magnificent scene our first night in town, what an incredible view! The beach and the road running parallel to it serve as the walking district of the town, it really comes alive in the evening and is a nice area to walk around and people watch.
Pro Tip:Walk up the rock formations on the most northern end of the beach and find a nice boulder to take in the sunset from!
Where to Stay
Do your homework before booking a hotel online as Krabi province is quite spread out! There are several areas of the province with accommodation that are nowhere near the attractions, so be careful! I would stay away from Krabi Town proper unless you need a place to crash before/after a late night flight or bus, as it’s not near the hot spots (45 minutes to closest beach via motorbike or tuk tuk) and there isn’t much to do! If you’re looking in this area you can find a midrange hotel for about 650-850 baht, hostels are few and far between in the area.
On the other hand, Ao Nang is a geographically ideal base camp right near the shoreline. You can walk down to Ao Nang beach, which you’ll want to come back to later for sunset. This is also the location from which you will take a longtail taxi over to the pristine East and West Railay Beaches. Here you can find a nice western hostel bed for 500 baht a night and private rooms in guesthouses for 700-850 a night. If you don’t mind spending a bit more money book a spot at one of the resorts on Railay Beach but be prepared for a more remote island feel and less nightlife/food options than Ao Nang.
If you really want to enjoy Krabi province and not feel stuck in the town/area you’re staying in, rent a motorbike! It will turn transportation into an activity of its own and truthfully one of my favorite things to do in Southeast Asia is simply cruise around. This is the only place in Thailand I would even hint at suggesting you “learn” to ride a motorbike/moped so if you’re unsure but want to try do so at you’re own risk! Still probably not a great idea to rent one if you’ve never drove before, think broken bones and Thai hospitals, but if you’re itching to try it out the roads are surprisingly good here and the traffic is bearable.