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Backpacking Thailand for Christmas Break

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As a college student, you've had to plan your time minute by minute for the whole fall semester. Now you want to take a vacation but don't want the hassle of planning extensively. You've also got a student's budget to worry about. But it's Christmas vacation, and you want to go somewhere hot!

Thailand is an extremely affordable destination, with incredibly varied climates depending on the time of year and proximity to the ocean. Here are five great ideas to spend two weeks Christmas in Thailand on a backpacker's budget (around $1000-1500).

Khao San Road

Allianz - Khao San

Your flight will almost certainly land in Bangkok, and your journey through a different world starts as soon as you exit the airport. Flag down a tuk tuk, a three-wheeled motorized rickshaw, whose driver will zip you through the congested streets of Bangkok. Tuk tuks are essentially motorbikes with a passenger compartment bolted on the back, and even though they seem harrowing, the drivers know what they're doing.

Khao San Road is a backpacker's paradise. There are literally dozens of low-budget guest houses and hotel rooms, although the quality of your room will vary greatly depending on what you pay. You can easily rent a room for the night for $11 USD, and sometimes even less.

The real Khao San Road comes to life after dinnertime. Street vendors line the streets, selling their wares using amusing tactics. Be prepared to say "no" and keep walking. You can get really inexpensive and delicious food every step of the way along the one-kilometer stretch of Khao San Road. From several varieties of pad thai and spring rolls to traditional American style food, there is something for everyone.

Koh Tao

Allianz - Koh Tao

When it's time to move on from the capital, book a night coach to the southeastern coast for around $25 USD, and take the ferry from Surat Thani to Koh Tao for another $20 USD. It's a little island full of travelers, and it's known especially for its scuba diving. As one of the top ten destinations in the world for diving, tens of thousands of vacationers get certified here every year. Diving outfits such as Roctopus Dive take you out to local dive sites like Sail Rock, Shark Island and the Japanese Gardens. You'll see angelfish, sea turtles, coral and barracuda. If you're really lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive whale shark. Best of all, dive instruction on the island of Koh Tao costs much less than at home. SSI Open Water Diver certification costs just $240, including your four full dives. Most dive shops will even book your accommodations for you.

After a long day of diving, enjoy the night life and the excellent casual food at one of the local shops. A favorite hangout is Fizz, a restaurant and lounge right on the beach where bean bag chairs are the most comfortable place on the island to enjoy the sunset.

Koh Samui

Allianz - Koh Samui

After your diving certification, relax and enjoy the island pace at another close-by island, Koh Samui. Take the ferry, and find one of the many scooter rentals in the area. Scooters are an extremely popular way for tourists to get around inexpensively, so make sure you have a travel insurance policy from Allianz Travel. The roads are winding, with numerous blind corners, and speed limits are suggested more than obeyed.

Sunbathe on the beach once you've found a guesthouse or hotel room. Koh Samui is definitely one of the most relaxing places during your stay in Thailand. If you're ready to take in something a little out of the ordinary, sign up for Thai cooking classes at SITCA — Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts. You'll learn to make a variety of authentic Thai food, including Tom Yum soup, chicken patties and red curry.

Koh Phangan

Pronounced "Koh Pan Yang," this is the party island, especially when the full moon rises. Don't bother booking a hotel room; you won't be sleeping much.

Plan your visit to Koh Phangan around the Full Moon Party. Imagine a Thai equivalent to Daytona Beach during college spring break; that's what you can expect. All night, the music will be pumping, and the dub step beat will resonate in your chest and ears well after the music stops. Here, you can find cheap drinks and thousands of people to dance with. When the party stops at dawn, grab a cup of java and American breakfast at one of the local diners.

Chiang Mai

Allianz - Ching Mai

If you have some time and a few spare dollars left over, take a flight for under $100 USD from the south of Thailand to Chiang Mai, a northern city that appeals to the bargain shopper especially. Known as the "Rose of the North", Chiang Mai has a relaxed atmosphere that isn't seen in most bustling Thai cities. Accommodations are cheap and plentiful, although the cooler night temperatures of the north play host to the largest night market you will ever lay your eyes on, particularly on Sunday nights. Called the Night Bazaar, you will find yourself amid thousands of ex-pats, tourists and Thai people alike looking for a great bargain. Small electronics, food and drink, art, silk, clothing, shoes, and DVD's are among the offerings you'll find here. If you find yourself wooed by an exotic item, be sure to check with Customs to see if you can bring it home.

You can spend a couple weeks over the college Christmas break in a scenic, hot climate, and it doesn't have to cost a fortune. Throw some shorts and a bathing suit in a backpack and head for Thailand!

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