It’s no secret that Thailand is a favourite destination for backpackers wanting to pitch up on a beach-side hammock, but you don’t need to be a backpacker to keep the cost of travel in Thailand low.
If like me and Luke you’re not into the backpacking scene but are still budget conscious, it’s easy find low cost double rooms, eat good food and enjoy cultural activities all day long. We didn’t keep our costs quite as low as in Vietnam, but Thailand has still come out as one of the most affordable places we’ve travelled.
Our travel budget for Thailand covers the price of budget accommodation for two, 3 meals per day, local transport, and a fair range of activities. Flights are not included in the budget.
Where We Travelled in Thailand
We travelled to four places (not including the places we went on our press trips): Bangkok, Koh Samet, Chiang Mai and Chiang Dao.
To be honest, although we still stuck to a low budget, we were a little less concerned with keeping down costs in Thailand compared to when we were budgeting like crazy in other countries. We only had a short time in Thailand and because we’d flown out for a press trip with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, we weren’t so stringent with our travel budget. In reality, the cost to travel Thailand could’ve been kept much lower.
To give a clearer picture of what the real cost to travel in Thailand on a budget would be, we decided to take four days during our time in Chiang Mai to budget hard – and that’s the cost information which I’ve used in the infographic above. Even though this infographic is based on the cost of travel in Chiang Mai, we found that the other places we visited in Thailand were very similar on price, with Bangkok being slightly pricier.
Budget Accommodation in Thailand
Budget accommodation in Thailand is pretty easy to find, but I spent a really long time searching out budget options that had awesome reviews because I was intent on having a friendly place to stay as well. We found the best deals in Chiang Mai, where we were able to sleep in a private en-suite double room for as low as 450 baht / £8.20 per night at the very friendly Banilah. An upgrade on this was the even more friendly Plern Plern Bed & Bike for 700 baht / £12.80 per night, which also included unlimited use of their bikes.
Bangkok was the only place where it was harder to find low cost accommodation, which is to be expected. On our first few nights we ended up staying in the smaller Luxx hotel in Silom, which we later realised (after some not so lovely accommodation) was a really good deal for 1200 baht / £22 per night. The best budget option we found though was a city-based homestay in a non-touristic neighbourhood which was couple of MRT stops away from all the things you want to see.
For the most part, budget accommodation for a couple in Thailand means a double room with a fan and sometimes a shared bathroom. We always had hot showers in our rooms. Breakfast not included.
Least Expensive Sleep: Banilah in Chiang Mai – 450 baht / £8.20 per night
Eating Vegetarian Thai Food & Street Food
You can eat a street meal in Thailand for under £1 pretty much anywhere you are. For vegetarians, street food is still possible but you have to be a little more vigilant about what exactly is going into your food and whether it’s being fried in the same pan as meat. There are vegetarian and vegan street food stalls around but they’re not overly common. If you want to eat clean then you can always buy fresh fruit and fruit smoothies (ask for no sugar). If you’re lucky you might come across small grilled bananas.
In restaurants, remember that traditional Thai dishes are always going to be cheaper than Western style plates. You can usually get a really good meal including a drink for around £1.80. For the cheapest options, look for Thai curries and rice, stir fries and noodle dishes like Pad Thai.
Least Expensive Meal: Yellow Thai curry at ‘Organic Vegetables’ local eatery in Chiang Mai (next to Anchan restaurant) – 40 baht / 73p each
Getting Around Thailand on a Budget
We quickly found that renting a scooter or a bicycle was a much cheaper alternative to taking taxis or tuk-tuks. The cheapest option is to hire a bike, which can cost less than £2 per day. If you want to go a bit further afield, then rent a scooter. Scooter rental is around 300 baht / £5.50 per day, but if you rent for two days you can get a deal at 500 baht / £9, or even less for more days. The only place that is an exception to this is Bangkok where the completely manic roads would make driving a scooter or riding a bicycle a near death experience, and you’re better off just taking the MRT or BTS.
Budget Activities in Thailand
A fair amount of the activities that we got up to in Thailand were actually really low cost! We found that Bangkok especially had lots of good sized parks that you can walk or cycle around for free, and on Koh Samet we spent time at the beach.
There are temples everywhere you go and often the entry to these is a token amount of around 60 baht / £1. Remember to wear trousers or a skirt that covers your knees, or have a scarf handy to wrap around if you’re wearing shorts.
Hands down our favourite activity in Thailand – which took our average daily spend in this cost breakdown up from £13 to £18 – was a Thai cooking class. We went to a full day class at the vegetarian and vegan friendly Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai. The instructors were lively and welcoming, the produce was fresh and organic, and we cooked up some beautiful Thai food. If you’re at all into cooking, it’s worth the spend.
Bag a Bargain in Thailand’s Markets
Thailand has some beautiful and vibrant markets, some are more touristy than others and prices vary between them because of this. Khao San Road is the backpacker hotspot in Bangkok and the stalls there have higher prices than most other markets.
I loved the more local orientated Chatuchak weekend market at Mo Chit, which was unbelievably cheap. For something a bit different, try the colourful tent clad stalls at Rot Fai Ratchada night market in Bangkok. In Chiang Mai, the Sunday night market walking street is huge and definitely worth going to for the experience.
Haggling at all markets in Thailand is a must. Don’t ever accept the first price you’re quoted. I found that I could always knock about a third off of the original price.
If you’re not one for shopping, then markets are still fun to browse as there are often street shows and street food stalls. If you find your feet getting a bit sore from all the wandering around, you can get a half hour long foot massage at most markets for just 70 baht.
Watch your budget!
Out of all the countries which I’ve travelled in, Thailand is the only country where I’ve found myself completely forgetting about budgeting and getting a bit too cash happy. A lot of this is to do with the fact that pretty much everything in Thailand is amazing and also really cheap. You end up just being a little bit like why not? I’m just quibbling over £2 here – but it all adds up. I’m not the only traveller who has had this experience in Thailand, so if you want to keep the overall cost to travel Thailand down, watch that budget.
Are you travelling to Thailand soon, or maybe you’ve been before? I’d love to hear how much it cost to travel Thailand for you!