Everything you need to know about visiting Thailand on a budget!
Thailand is truly a budget traveler’s dream.
It’s a gorgeous place, the locals are so nice, the culture is interesting, and everything is cheap!
Literally everything is cheap. Accommodation, transportation, food, drinks, tours, and anything else you could possibly need is affordable in Thailand.
So if you’re looking for beautiful and cheap countries to visit, Thailand is one of the best places to go!
This article will explain how to visit Thailand on a budget.
Even though everything is pretty cheap here, there are still ways to save money in Thailand.
But if you wanted to splurge on nice hotels and fancy dinners, you would still spend less than you would in places like Europe, North America, or Oceania.
So here are my best budget travel tips for Thailand, based on personal experience.
How To Visit Thailand On A Budget
I’ll include a brief overview of a Thailand trip cost, as well as tips for saving money on accommodation, transport, food, and more.
Thailand’s currency is the Thai Baht. 32 Baht = 1 USD.
Just to make it easier, I’ll list all costs in USD.
How much money do I need for a trip to Thailand?
In my experience, I traveled around Thailand for one month and I spent about $2,000 USD. That includes flights, accommodation, and everything else.
My friend and I stuck to a backpacker budget, staying in hostels and eating street food often.
We also didn’t hold back on anything. We paid for lots of fun tours, the Half Moon Party, a Thai cooking class, a day at an elephant sanctuary, and even spent one night in a nice hotel.
Normally when I travel I like to do work exchanges to save money on accommodation and have a cool cultural experience.
But for this trip to Thailand, my friend and I were 100% just having fun, being tourists, and doing it all without restrictions. And $2,000 USD for everything included is pretty cheap!
Here is a quick breakdown of that 2 Grand so you have an idea of what things cost:
- Round Trip flight from NYC to Bangkok: $800 USD
- Accommodation: $300 USD (Average $10 USD per night)
- Domestic flights: $300 USD
- Food, tours, and everything else: $600 USD
This is a super rough estimate, but that’s the general idea.
Now I’ll get into the specifics for traveling Thailand on a budget!
Flights & Transport in Thailand
Depending on where you are traveling from, flights may be your biggest expense.
I’m from Boston, USA, which is super far from southeast Asia. Our round-trip flight cost around $800 USD, which is as cheap as it gets to fly to the opposite side of the globe.
Once we made it to Thailand, transport within the country was very affordable.
How To Find Cheap Flights To Thailand
How did we find such cheap flights to Thailand?
- Use Skyscanner
- Travel off season
- Fly budget airlines
First, we searched flights on Skyscanner. I’ve written a whole article about using Skyscanner because I love it so much. It allows you to keep your search open-ended, so you can see the cheapest time to fly.
Because our travel dates were flexible, we were able to plan our trip around the cheapest flight dates.
Traveling during the off season is another super important budget travel tip for Thailand.
We visited Thailand in August, which is the height of the monsoon season. Because the climate is generally more hot, humid, and rainy, tourism drops and flight prices decrease.
Peak tourist season is November – April. The weather is better and everything is more crowded.
Traveling Thailand in August was great because the crowds weren’t bad, it honestly didn’t even rain that much, and we found that super cheap flight!
Cheap Transport Within Thailand
When traveling between two destinations in Thailand, I recommend checking Rome2Rio.
This website is super helpful for comparing transport methods. Put in your start and end cities, and the website will compare cost and travel time of flights, trains, buses, ferries, driving, biking, and anything else.
That way to you can determine the cheapest way to travel around.
For traveling around the country, we booked mainly domestic flights between major cities.
Thailand has lots of great budget airlines that have domestic flights for anywhere between $20 – $60 USD. We flew from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and Bangkok to Phuket for just over $20 USD.
If you’re short on time, quick domestic flights are great for hopping from one part of Thailand to the other. Check out these budget airlines for cheap flights:
- Nok Air
- Thai Lion Air
- Bangkok Airways
- Thai Air Asia
- VietJet Airways
Most transport in Thailand, like buses, taxis, tuk tuks, songtaews, and minivans, is all cheap.
Buses are most commonly used by locals, and I didn’t even need to take any public buses during my stay.
For longer journeys, I found shared minivans to be the cheapest and most comfortable.
Songtaews are also popular. These are red pick up trucks with long benches in the back. They are like shared taxis and the more people you cram into the back, the cheaper the journey is for everyone.
Songtaews are convenient for day trips outside Chiang Mai or Bangkok, especially if you have a big group.
For transport within a city, and for traveling short distances, taxis or tuk tuks are cheap.
Obviously walking is free, so if you can try to explore on foot. But if you need to hop in a taxi or tuk tuk, you won’t spend more than a couple of dollars.
When island hopping in Thailand, you’ll have to take ferries.
Luckily ferries in Thailand run often and they’re cheap. Most ferries cost between 5 and 20 USD per journey.
You can usually just buy your ticket at the ferry station right before you travel.
There is no need to book ferry tickets in advance. But if you want to ensure they don’t sell out, just buy your ferry ticket the day before from a local tourism office.
Budget Accommodation in Thailand
When you visit Thailand, or any country for that matter, accommodation is usually the biggest expense (after flights).
But Thailand is so cheap that accommodation doesn’t cost much.
As I mentioned earlier, I spent about $300 USD on accommodation for one month in Thailand. That’s an average of $10 USD per night.
Here is exactly how to find budget accommodation in Thailand.
Stay In Hostels
There are so many incredible hostels in Thailand!
Some cost as little as 6 USD per night for a dorm bed. The average is more like 8 or 9 USD per night, and you definitely won’t have to pay more than 15 USD per night.
Private rooms cost a bit more, maybe around $20 USD per night.
But if you browse Hostelworld and choose hostels with lots of positive reviews, you’ll find some amazing places to stay in Thailand.
My friend and I met so many cool people in hostels, and they are perfect for finding other travelers to share transport and tours with.
Lots of hostels also have their own pub crawls, tours, and excursions. We stayed in 8 different Thailand hostels and had a great experience at every single one!
Do A Work Exchange
Another one of the best tips for how to travel Thailand on a budget is doing a work exchange.
Working in exchange for accommodation is an amazing way to save money. You also get to have a super cool experience living with and learning from locals.
Read more about this in my Ultimate Guide To Work Exchange!
As I said earlier, I personally didn’t do a work exchange in Thailand. But I’ve done them in lots of other countries, and this is the cheapest and most exciting way to travel in my experience.
How To Visit Thailand On A Budget: Food, Drinks, and Attractions
This next section will cover how to eat, drink, and explore Thailand on a budget.
Food and Drinks
Thailand has some of the best food in the world, and there is no better place to enjoy Thai food than right at the source.
Luckily for budget travelers, food and drinks are all cheap in Thailand. You can eat out often and party without spending too much money. I’ll now highlight some things to know about eating and drinking in Thailand.
Of course, the cheapest way to eat is to use your hostel kitchen to cook your own meals. But Thai food is so yummy that I recommend eating out at street markets or local restaurants often.
Southeast Asia is famous for its street food. Indulge in it at every opportunity!
From fresh fruit smoothies, to meat skewers, to pad Thai, spring rolls, papaya salad, and much more, this is the best way to try all the local dishes. Street markets are also the cheapest places to eat in Thailand. A small plate costs 1 USD or less.
Eating out in restaurants is pretty affordable. Of course, small local restaurants out of the touristy areas will have more authentic food and cheaper prices. A meal here costs 1-3 USD.
Big touristy restaurants will serve a lot of Western food in addition to Thai food. A meal here costs closer to 5 USD.
Drinking is actually a bit pricey in Thailand. A large bottle of beer from 7-11 costs around 2 or 3 USD, the same as a meal. Imported alcohol is expensive. But in touristy towns, bars and clubs often have happy hours with cheap cocktails.
Thailand is also famous for “drunk buckets”, which are plastic colorful buckets of mixed drink or cocktail. They’re cheap and perfect for partying. Just keep your bucket on you at all times to ensure no one messes with it.
Thai Cooking Classes
Even if youre traveling Thailand on a budget, I highly recommend doing a Thai cooking class. Especially if you’re a real food lover!
Cooking classes in Thailand usually include a tour of the local market to buy ingredients, a detailed class on how to cook classic Thai dishes, and of course you get to eat all the food you make.
You’ll usually cook spring rolls, soup, stir fry, curry, and a Thai dessert like mango sticky rice or fried bananas. Definitely show up to your cooking class on an empty stomach!
Most Thai cooking classes cost around 40-50 USD, but ask at your hostel if there are any cheaper local companies. The money is so worth it, as this was one of my favorite activities from my month in Thailand.
Enjoy Free Attractions
Luckily, many attractions in Thailand are free. Stick to mainly free activities and you’ll definitely save money while traveling.
The following Thailand attractions and activities are usually free:
Temples: Most temples have no entry fee (except for some famous ones, such as the Grand Palace in Bangkok)
Waterfalls: Take a cheap songtaew to the Sticky Waterfalls in Chiang Mai, a cheap and amazing day trip!
Beaches: Swim, snorkel, sunbathe, and enjoy Thailand’s beaches for free
Street Markets: Of course it costs money to buy things, but just browsing the street markets is entertaining
Hiking: Excluding transport and entry to famous places like Doi Inthanon National Park, most hikes are free
Other Popular Thailand Attractions
Even if you’re trying to travel on a budget, don’t miss out on any cool experiences.
Thailand is so affordable that you can splurge on lots of epic adventures and still not spend much money.
Some popular things to do in Thailand include:
- Attend a Muay Thai boxing match
- Watch a Ladyboy cabaret performance
- Visit the Floating Market near Bangkok
- Take a boat tour in the islands
- Attend the Full Moon Party or Half Moon Party
- Go kayaking in the islands
- Rent a motorbike in the highlands
- Visit an Elephant Sanctuary
All of these adventures are part of the backpacking Thailand experience. And though they cost money, they are still very cheap and so worth it.
The most expensive will probably be visiting an Elephant Sanctuary. Because you want to visit somewhere ethical and reputable, it’s worth paying more for a good experience.
Read about my experience here: Bonding With Elephants In Thailand.
Most other activities, like boat tours, kayaking tours, and floating market tours, only cost around 30-50 USD. An equivalent tour in a more expensive country could easily cost over 100 USD.
Tickets to a Muay Thai boxing match or a Ladyboy cabaret only cost around 20 USD.
Don’t be afraid to splurge in Thailand because everything is so cheap!
Now you know how to visit Thailand on a budget!
Thanks for reading! Thailand is one of my favorite countries and the month that I spent there was absolutely incredible. Everything was affordable and I was able to do so much fun stuff for so cheap.
I’ll always recommend Thailand to any other budget travelers.
For more articles budget travel tips, check out these articles:
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