How Much Does it Cost to Travel Thailand on a Budget? [Infographic]

Thailand is my number one recommendation for budget travellers. If you’re a budget backpacker, you can keep the cost to travel Thailand really low.
 
It’s no secret that Thailand is a favourite destination for backpackers. In Thailand, you can pitch up on a beach-side hammock and swim all day. But you don’t need to be the hippy kind of backpacker to travel on a budget in Thailand.
 
If you’re a budget-conscious traveller, it’s easy to find low-cost double rooms. You can eat good food for cheap. And you can enjoy cultural activities all day long without spending much money.
 
We didn’t keep our travel costs as low as in Vietnam, but Thailand is still one of the best budget travel destinations we’ve visited.

How Much Does it Cost to Travel Thailand?

How much is a trip to Thailand? Backpacking Thailand costs £18 a day on average. A cheap meal costs as little as 40 baht (73p) and you can get accommodation for as little as 450 baht (£8.20) per night for a double room.

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.

Cost of Travel Thailand

Our Thailand Travel Budget

To be honest, although we 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. We’d flown out for a press trip with the Tourism Authority of Thailand. After that, we were less stringent with our travel budget. In reality, the cost to travel Thailand could be even lower.
 
To give a clearer picture of what the real cost to travel in Thailand on a budget would be, we took four days during our time in Chiang Mai to budget hard. That’s the cost information which I’ve used in the infographic above. This infographic is based on the cost of travel in Chiang Mai. But, we found that the other places we visited in Thailand were very similar on price. Bangkok is the exception and is pricier.

Let me break down our Thailand travel budget:

Where We Travelled in Thailand

We travelled to four places in Thailand: Bangkok – Koh Samet – Chiang Mai – Chiang Dao.

Budget Accommodation in Thailand

Budget accommodation in Thailand is pretty easy to find. But I spent a long time searching out budget options that had awesome reviews as I wanted to stay in friendly accommodation.

Budget accommodation for a couple in Thailand is a double room with a fan and sometimes a shared bathroom. We always had hot showers in our rooms. Breakfast isn’t usually included in budget accommodation. Breakfast is sometimes included at the higher end of budget.

Luxx Silom Bangkok 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 stayed in the smaller Luxx hotel in Silom. We later realised (after some not so lovely accommodation) it was a good deal for 1150 baht / £24 per night. Breakfast not included.
Mooncome Homestay Bangkok The best budget option we found was this city-based homestay in a non-touristic neighbourhood. It’s located a couple of MRT stops away from all the things you want to see. We loved this accommodation and it cost us 848 baht / £19 per night. Breakfast included.
Banilah Chiang Mai We found the best deals in Chiang Mai. 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. We got a better room rate by asking in person rather than booking online in advance. Breakfast not included.
Plern Plern Bed & Bike Chiang Mai An upgrade on Banilah was the even more friendly Plern Plern Bed & Bike. We paid 700 baht / £12.80 per night, which also included unlimited use of their bikes. We also got a better deal here by turning up and staying for multiple nights. Breakfast not included.
Chiang Dao Roundhouses Chiang Dao Chiang Dao was a fun weekend away for us (as we didn’t have to work), so we decided to book somewhere more unique. We had a good stay, watched frogs in the pond and ate scones for breakfast. We stayed in hand-built mud hut roundhouses. It cost 892 baht / £20 per night, but I’ve seen that in 2017 the price are now up to £30 per night. Breakfast included.

Least Expensive Sleep: Banilah in Chiang Mai – 450 baht / £8.20 per night

Plern Plern Bed & Bike in Chiang Mai

Bright and clean room at Plern Plern Bed & Bike in Chiang Mai

Eat Thai Street Food & at Local Restaurants

You can eat a street meal in Thailand for under £1 anywhere you are. For vegetarians, street food is still possible. But you have to be a little more vigilant about what is going into your food and whether it’s fried in the same pan as meat. There are vegetarian and vegan street food stalls, 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. For the cheapest options, look for Thai curries and rice, stir fries and noodle dishes like Pad Thai. For vegetarians, ask for the “vegetable” or “tofu” options. There’s often a vegetarian dish available in budget local Thai restaurants.

Average Cost for Budget Meal: A really good meal including a drink costs 80 baht / £1.80.

Average Cost of a Beer in Thailand: 45 baht / £1 for a local beer (such as Chang or Singha)

Least Expensive Meal: Yellow Thai curry at ‘Organic Vegetables’ local eatery in Chiang Mai (next to Anchan restaurant) – 40 baht / 73p each.

Transport in Thailand

Transport between cities in Thailand is cheap. Most of the time, we took the bus as this was the cheapest transport option. Be aware that buses aren’t always quick. The trip between Bangkok and Chiang Mai is a long one and due to limited time, we took a budget internal flight. Flights between the two cities run multiple times per day and are increasingly budget-friendly.
 
When you arrive at your destination, rent a scooter or a bicycle. This is the best budget travel option in Thailand. A bicycle or scooter is 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. 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. In the capital, the manic roads would make driving a scooter or riding a bicycle a near death experience. You’re better off taking the MRT or BTS trains around the city.
Cycling in Chiang Mai - cost to travel Thailand - Charlie on Travel

Budget Activities in Thailand

A fair amount of the activities that we got up to in Thailand were actually low cost

Free Activities – We found that Bangkok especially had lots of good sized parks that you can walk or cycle around for free. On Koh Samet, we spent most of our time at the beach and swimming in the sea.

Temples – There are temples everywhere you go and often the entry to these is a token amount of around 60 baht / £1. Remember as a sign of respect you should cover your knees. Wear trousers or a skirt that covers your knees. Or have a scarf handy to wrap around your legs if you’re wearing shorts.

Thai Cooking Class – Hands down our favourite activity in Thailand, but not so cheap. Our Thai cooking class cost £25 per person for the day. The class cost took our average daily spend in this cost breakdown up from £13 to £18. We went to a full day class at the vegetarian and vegan-friendly Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai. The instructors were lively, the produce was fresh and organic, and we cooked great Thai food. If you’re at all into cooking, it’s worth the spend. If you’re not, you can make a big saving here.

Bag a Bargain in Thailand’s Markets

Thailand has some fun, vibrant markets. Some markets are more touristy than others and prices vary between them because of this.

Khao San Road – The backpacker hotspot in Bangkok. Because of this, the market stalls there have higher prices than most other markets.

Chatuchak weekend market at Mo Chit – I loved this more local orientated market and it was unbelievably cheap. The locals we stayed with recommended this market to us. I bought most of my souvenirs and gifts for friends here. The market has everything.

Rot Fai Ratchada night market in Bangkok – For something a bit different, try the colourful tent clad stalls at the Rot Fai Ratchada night market. This market is a little hard to find as it’s set back behind the shopping centre. It’s popular with the younger generations who come to drink beer and listen to live music.

Sunday night market walking street in Chiang Mai – The Sunday night market in Chiang Mai is huge. It’s definitely worth going to for the experience. It’s busy and crowded at this market.

If you’re not one for shopping, then markets are still fun to browse. There are often street shows and street food stalls. If you find your feet getting a bit sore from walking, you can get a half hour long foot massage at most markets for 70 baht.

Haggling in Thailand

You must haggle at markets in Thailand. Haggling is part of the culture in Thailand, like in Vietnam and China. Locals want to sell their good for as much as possible. The sentiment is that an item is worth whatever a tourist will pay for it. 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 by haggling.

Rot Fai Ratchada night market in Bangkok Thailand - Charlie on Travel

Rot Fai Ratchada night market in Bangkok

Watch your budget!

Out of all the countries I’ve travelled, Thailand is where I found I lost track of budgeting and got a bit too cash happy. A lot of this is to do with the fact that pretty much everything in Thailand is amazing and cheap. You end up 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. If you want to keep the cost to travel Thailand down, watch that budget.
 
Are you travelling to Thailand soon, or have you been before? I’d love to hear how much it cost to travel Thailand for you!

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    • Glad that you also reckon that Thailand is an easy place to spend money without realising! I’d definitely say we got good value for money when it comes to comfort/cost. Thanks, Katie :)

  1. Hi Charlie,
    Beautiful infographic! Based on my memories of travelling in Thailand a few years ago, your figures are right in line with the budget we stuck to. I know what you mean about not being into the backpacking scene but still being budget conscious. I do call myself a backpacker because, well hey, I carry all my stuff in a backpack, but I’ve definitely grown out of partying in loud and dirty hostels. Budget hotel rooms are much more my style :-)
    Wendy@TheNomadicVegan recently posted…Dazzling Sights, Lacklustre Vegan Food in MéridaMy Profile

    • Thanks, Wendy! That’s cool to hear that you managed to stick to a similar budget when you were in Thailand. Yeah, “backpacker” definitely has those unfortunate connotations of party hostels and cheap beers which unfortunately isn’t what most of us budget conscious “backpackers” are really all about. Ditto!

  2. Your photography is stunning and tips invaluable. I don’t think that I will ever get to Thailand, so I’ve enjoyed reading your experiences. The colourful tops of the stalls at the Rot Fai Ratchada night market in Bangkok is very inviting!

  3. Thailand is indeed an affordable place to visit. :) One place that might be considered pricey is Bangkok and like you mention getting around can be a bit expensive. If you take the time to learn to travel on public buses the costs will be very low though as fares average around $0.3 to to l little less than $1 per trip. The non-air conditioned ones costs less but they are very uncomfortable .

    Taking a taxi around Bangkok starts at $1 and can go up to $4 or $5 per trip. An average BTS ride is around $1 – $2.5 per trip. Tuk Tuks will charge you per trip and the price can be bargained. A lot of bargaining is recommended though as a many Tuk Tuk will overcharge foreigners.
    tonyholidays recently posted…Thailand’s Islands Are Some Of The Best Places To Visit In ThailandMy Profile

  4. Having done several trips to Thailand, including a stint of 3 months in Chiang Mai, I’ve realized that it’s actually NOT a cheap country.
    Yes, for sure it has the potential to be cheap IF you are a budget-conscious traveler but for those who get “cash-happy”, it can really get out of hand!
    I love Thailand but damn I wasn’t so much cash-happy as cash-delirious! Granted, Phuket and Phi Phi are much more expensive than Chiang Mai, but I managed to blow waaay more than I would have in Australia over 2 weeks. To live cheap in Thailand, it’s important to look for cheap accomm and restaurants, which isn’t always easy when that vacation vibe is so prevalent, breathing the party mode into your soul!