Wow. I spent much of our time in Thailand with this nagging feeling that we were probably spending too much… But I had no idea how much until I just did the math on our Thailand budget. We spent over $68 per day for 25 days in Thailand. Sure, that may not sound like much, but for a country where I’ve read that a couple can get by on a budget of just $50 a day, and after spending only $51 per day in Malaysia (which is supposed to be much pricier), that came as a bit of a shock. Below, I’ll break down where we spent, and how you can save.
Total Thailand budget for 25 days: THB59601.5 / $1700.66
Per day: THB2384.06 / $68.03
At the time of our visit, US$1=THB35; unless otherwise noted, all costs are for two people traveling together.
Street food in Thailand can be ridiculously cheap. We often spent around THB100 (US$3) per meal in Bangkok. However, other cities, like Chiang Mai and Kanchanaburi, had fewer street food options, and we ended up spending a good deal more on meals in nicer restaurants. This is also, in part, due to the fact that it’s really easy after a long day of sightseeing to say “Oh, who cares, what’s a $10 dinner here and there?”
Total: THB12421 / US$354.42
Per day: THB496.84 / US$14.18
Average prices: THB30-50 for local street food, THB20-40 for a cup of coffee, THB80-120 for an entree at a budget restaurant
We heard tales of 30 cent beers all over Thailand, which were — by and large — unfounded. Alcohol is definitely cheaper here than, for example, Malaysia, but prices under US$1 per drink in a restaurant or bar were rare. We drank, on average, every couple of days, and mixed up convenience store beers with drinks at bars and restaurants. That said, we were not big drinkers in Thailand and rarely had more than 1 or 2 drinks in a sitting, so partiers will definitely spend a good deal more than we did.
Total: THB5042.5 / US$143.88
Per day: THB201.70 / US$5.76
Average prices: THB50 for a cheap, big beer in a convenience store, THB100-plus for a drink in a bar
I have mixed feelings about our transportation expenses. We took 3 cheap domestic flights within Thailand, which, while inexpensive for flights, were still a huge dent in our budget. Though costly on the one hand, they also allowed us to see and enjoy much more of the country. You could certainly get to all the same destinations by bus or train, but where we lost half a day to transportation time, you’d lose 1 to 1.5 days per trip. In addition to these bigger jumps, we also took the occasional taxi (usually to and from airports or bus terminals) or tuk tuk, but mostly public transit where available.
Total: THB21548 / $614.85
Per day: THB861.92 / $24.59
Flights alone: US$434.46, or $17.38 per day
Average prices: THB10-40 for Bangkok public transit, THB50-300 for taxi (depending on distance, obviously), THB50-100 for a third-class train
Lodging costs in Thailand are hugely variable. As it’s all so heavily touristed, you can easily pay over $100 per night for a 4- or 5-star hotel in a good location, or as little as $3-5 for a dorm bed. We mostly opted for 1 or 2-star hotels with private rooms with A/C. We got an AirBnB in Bangkok with a little more space, since we were there for a week, which cost about US$13 per night, and a nicer 4-star hotel that I found for a steal at US$19 per night on Koh Samui. A couple of the activities we did (see below) included free lodging, so that saved us some cash as well.
Total: THB10901 / US$311.05
Per day: THB436.04 / US$12.44
Pro tip: Spending on a nice hotel can sometimes save you a bundle on activities and transportation. For example, our Koh Samui hotel had a nice pool and a free shuttle to the beach, so on some of those days, our only expenses were food.
Attractions & Activities
Thailand is the land of excursions and attractions. It is by far the most tourist-friendly of the Southeast Asian countries, which means that the options for things to do are bountiful, and the prices can be high. Our “big ticket” activities in Thailand included a cooking class (THB1600 / US$45.65), meditation retreat (THB1600 / US$45.65 including purchase of required all-white attire), and the full moon party on Koh Pha Ngan (THB2000 / US$57.07 for ferry, included in transportation above, and THB889 / US$25.37 for entrance and drinks, included here). We also went to a Muay Thai fight (THB800 / US$22.83), I took a couple yoga classes (THB200-250 / US$5.71-$7.13), and we paid for entrance to a handful of museums and temples. Finally, we did an absolutely amazing overnight trekking and elephant excursion, but this was a birthday gift from my mom, and is below in the “Not included” section.
Total: THB7648 / US$218.23
Per day: THB305.92 / US$8.73
Average prices: THB20 for entrance to a temple, THB100-200 for museum entrance
In addition to the expenses listed above, we did some souvenir shopping, sent some postcards, and purchased some other necessary items, like toiletries and sunblock.
Total: THB2041 / US$58.24
Per day: THB81.64 / US$2.33
I never count transportation in or out of a country in the daily budget, as that can vary enormously depending on whether you’re coming overland from a nearby country or from across the globe. I also don’t count our particular screw-ups in the regular budget. Additionally, in Thailand we had one enormous expense, which was covered by my mom as a birthday gift. Here’s what’s not included above:
- Chai Lai Orchid 2 Day Amazing Mountain Camping Adventure (w/ elephants!): THB10,000 / US$285.34
- We broke and/or lost lots of random things we had to then pay for (e.g. our bike lock in Ayutthaya, etc.): THB290 / US$8.27
- Shipping heavy stuff home: THB1010 / US$28.82 (This was the absolute cheapest/slowest option from Thailand Post; take it from me: don’t overpack!)
- Flight: Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok: US$98.60
- Flight: Bangkok to Phnom Penh: US$153.15
Total including these: THB79724.5 / US$2,274.85
Per day including these: THB3188.98 / US$$90.99
Where you can save money in your Thailand budget
There are some very easy ways you could spend less than us. Here’s where I’d recommend shaving a few bucks first.
- Skip the alcohol: When I consider how close our daily alcohol and activity budgets were, it makes me wish I’d drank less and put that money toward more excursions and activities.
- Skip the coffee: If you’re not a coffee drinker, you could save about THB100 per day off of our meal budget. That’s crazy!
- Be stricter about the restaurant meals: Looking back at my expense log, I’m shocked by how many meals we had in the THB300-500 range. It didn’t feel like that much! If we’d been stricter about avoiding restaurants and eating street food, we could have saved a lot.
- Shave off a few of the activities: I definitely don’t regret any of the activities we did, but a lot of them are specific to our interests. You don’t, by any means, have to go to a Muay Thai fight, take a cooking class, or do yoga at a fancy studio when you’re in Thailand. That said, if those things match your genuine interests, do them! They’re some of my favorite memories of our trip so far.
- Don’t fly: I feel very conflicted about opting to fly so much. I’m really glad we had the easy and fast transportation, given our itinerary. That said, I could have traded the day in Chiang Rai or one of the days in Chiang Mai in order to save $100 (i.e. an extra couple days in another country later on). Instead take sleeper buses or trains, which are popular to get from the South to the North, or visa versa. They would cut out the expense of lodging that night without costing you a lot of sightseeing time, although it isn’t the most comfortable sleeping arrangement.
Where you could splurge in Thailand
I definitely don’t feel like I missed out on anything in Thailand, and we did travel pretty comfortably, on the whole. That said, if you had room in the budget, here’s where you can spend:
- Upgrade your lodging: If you wanted to spend $20 per night vs. the $13 we spent, you could have some more consistently well air-conditioned and comfortable hotel rooms.
- Party! We did not do much drinking compared to the average Thailand backpacker. If you plan to go out past 11pm, like, at all, you will spend more than us.