Thailand Travel Cost – How Much to Budget
Thailand lures travellers and paradise-chasers to its beautiful shores and mainland with its gorgeous beaches, lush jungles, intricate temples and friendly locals. However, aside from the beautiful scenery and welcoming culture, a huge appeal of the country is the enticing affordability and low travel costs in the ‘Land of Smiles’. Empty out your piggy-banks and grab a spreadsheet and pencil, it’s time to work out what a holiday in Thailand will cost.
Is the cost of living high in Thailand?
Fortunately, not only is the cost of living in Thailand very low compared to international standards but it is also relatively low even by the standard of other Southeast Asia countries. Although due to the steady influx of tourism, prices have increased in recent years, Thailand’s travel costs per day are cheaper than Myanmar and pretty similar to Vietnam, Cambodia and India especially if the more touristy areas are avoided.
For travellers who like to knock back a few frosty ones, beer in Thailand is quite pricy comparative to the cost of living with 7/11 offering the best value for money. Backpackers on strict budgets will be delighted to hear that accommodation and street food in Thailand is very affordable even for those who are determined to save as many bucks as possible. While many of the countries in Southeast Asia are known worldwide as being some of the best destinations for travel bargains, this is especially true of Thailand’s Chiang Mai. This culture-rich, creative and artsy city is a great destination in Thailand for those looking to make the most of the daily budget.
Getting an idea of prices in Thailand
In order to give you a better sense of what prices to expect, the travel expenses in Thailand will be broken down into transport, food, Thai tourist visas and accommodation.
Transport in Thailand – short distance
Not only are transportation expenses relatively low in Thailand but getting around individual cities and even intercity commuting is surprising comfortable, easy and reliable. In stark contrast to Thailand’s neighbouring Myanmar with its unkempt, old roads and somewhat shabby public buses, Thailand is a well-developed tourism and travel hub.
Getting around while exploring individual cities will mostly be via tuk-tuks or motorcycle taxis for short distances; and taxis, buses or the BTS/MRT (elevated and underground train), for longer distances within the various cities.
Tuk-tuks and taxis are scattered throughout Thailand in chaotic abundance and are surprisingly, perhaps as a result of the tourist-novelty factor, often slightly more expensive than regular taxis.
Regular taxi rates start at an affordable THB 30 and if using a metered taxi shouldn’t get too pricy at all. For budget conscious travellers, it’s essential to insist on the meter before stepping into the cool, air-conned interiors; as taxi drivers (especially in Bangkok), frequently try to charge far more than the metered rate to unknowing tourists. Motorcycle taxis are great for short distances or at times when traffic is congested. Most rates are between THB 50 – THB 150 depending on distance, location and time of day.
In Bangkok a handy and affordable means of exploring the city is via the BTS and MRT, with tickets costing between THB 8 to THB 22 depending on the length of the journey.
In other parts of Thailand, excluding the bustling capital, it is also a great idea to rent a scooter or motorcycle for the day or week and explore the city or town you’re in independently. This is often a great way to save some pennies and to travel freely without time restraints or without the hassle of bargaining and haggling. Many islands hire scooters out for around THB 200 a day, although it can cost as much as THB 350.
Transport in Thailand – long distance
Travelling longer distances within Thailand is fortunately both cheap as well as comfortable. There are an abundance of air-conditioned day buses and minivans, as well as over-night buses that transport locals and foreigners between the various cities. Bus tickets between Bangkok and Chiang Mai or Bangkok and Krabi cost around THB 400 and most journeys shouldn’t cost over THB 700. Travellers will have the option of deciding between the trade-off of comfort versus expenditure; with bus tickets ranging from regular, to first-class, to VIP.
Travelling to other Thai cities or travelling to other bordering countries is also possible via Thailand’s rail services and in recent years the trains and the train tracks have seen much improvement and infrastructure development. Train tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, or Bangkok to Phuket, in a comfy overnight sleeper train, should cost between THB 650 and THB 1000 and take around 11 hours.
Due to the profusion of Thailand’s exquisite islands, ferries and long-tail boats are frequently a means of transportation for the majority of travellers. Due to the there being a number of ferry companies fortunately means that prices are competitive and reasonably affordable. Depending on distance a ferry ticket shouldn’t exceed THB 700 but can start as low as THB 200 for shorter travelling times.
Air Asia also offers very well-priced plane tickets between the cities for those who are short on time and usually range from around THB 700 and THB 2000 depending on distance and time of year. Occasionally the assorted airlines have dirt-cheap promos that you will be able to snag if you book a while in advance.
Food prices in Thailand
For foodies out their wondering how much to budget on meals and drinks, Thailand offers 5-star dining opportunities with western pricing, as well as a copious amount of cheerful, cheap street food vendors and market grub.
Food is spicy, tasty and similar in price and affordability compared to other Southeast Asian countries. In lower-end restaurants an average meal will cost between THB 50 and THB 120 but any meal off the street will only set you back a very low THB 20 – THB 50. Cha Yen (sweet, iced tea) or iced coffee from a street vendor usually rings in at a refreshing THB 20. Cha-Ching!
Cost of a visa to Thailand
There are two primary ways for tourists to enter Thailand and as expected the requirements will vary for the citizens of different countries. By and large, for those coming from developed countries, there will be two predominant methods of entry available for travellers.
The majority of travellers will usually opt for the 30-day free stamp which is offered as an exemption stamp upon arrival into Thailand and is completely free of charge. This is generally a hassle-free and easy affair if you have flight tickets or e-booking confirmation proving that you have a flight out of Thailand within 30 days of arriving. Travellers can also extend their stay an additional 7 or 30 days – depending on your passport – at a Thai immigration centre for THB 1,900.
The other option is a tourist visa valid for 60 days that needs to be organized and approved in advance. This visa is generally payable in your local currency as it’s arranged prior to departure and will therefore vary in price from country to country. It costs THB 1,000 for 60 days and can be further extended for another 30 days at a Thai immigration office for THB 1,900.
Thailand’s accommodation options vary according to wallet size, taste and locations but as a general rule, accommodation prices are very reasonable and affordable for travellers. From pricy and luxurious hotels to shabby beach huts to basic, grubby dorm rooms; all budgets are well catered for. Expect to pay around THB 200 per person for a dorm, THB 600 – THB 1000 in a simple chalet/guesthouse/hotel and around THB 3500 and much higher for a double room in an upmarket hotel.
How much to budget
The total Thailand travel cost per day for those on a budget but not living ridiculously frugally, can easily be under THB 1000 (USD30), excluding major expenses such as long distance transport. This includes basic accommodation, low-key restaurants and street food, one or two beers at dinner, transport and tourist attractions on the cheap. For those on shoestring budgets who are determined to save every penny and are not too perturbed with comfort, you could almost certainly get this daily budget down to THB 700 a day.
To give you a better understanding of the prices and expenses for travelling in Thailand, here is a rough break down of the daily budget of under THB 1000 a day.
- Accommodation – THB 200 to THB 400 per night for a dorm room or per person sharing
- Food – a simple meal in a restaurant with a drink – THB 140. Street food and a drink – THB 60
- Drinks – Local Thai beer bought from a bar or restaurant – THB 80. A beer from 7/11 – THB 40.
- Bottled water – THB 10 – THB 30
- Metered taxis or tuk-tuks – THB 80 – THB 300 depending on distance
- Souvenirs – THB 50 to THB 1000
- Entrance fees – THB 100 – THB 300
- Long distance buses or trains – THB 650 – 1000
- Ferries – THB 200 – THB 700
- Domestic flights – THB 700 – THB 2000
While Thailand, especially Bangkok, definitely has first-class restaurants and plush, swanky hotels, for those wanting to do this multi-faceted country on a budget, Thailand travel costs are pretty affordable and traveling around the country offers decent value for money. Travel budgeting is possible for those willing to sacrifice luxury for adventure; eat local, street food; stay in basic, fan-rooms or dormitories; and forgo frequent cocktails and massages. A bit of research and planning ahead of time will also allow you to save on any domestic flights and allow you to be fully informed on what things should cost and how to cut costs. Thailand is a stunning destination with outstanding natural beauty; rich culture and tradition; smiling locals; and the best part of all of it – it really doesn’t need to break the bank.