Thailand is the country that has it all. Beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, unspoilt landscapes and frenetic cities make travelling in Thailand one of the most enriching experiences a backpacker can have. Best of all, by western standards and if you know what you’re doing, it’s cheap as chips!
So, how much does it cost to travel in Thailand?
Although this amazing country didn’t make it onto our list of the cheapest countries to visit in Southeast Asia, setting a budget for travelling in Thailand is a simple enough task.
Make sure you’ve read our budget travel guide for general hints and tips about saving money while travelling and if you haven’t quite got your travel funds together yet, have a read of our guide on how to save money for travel!
Suggested Budgets For Travelling In Thailand
Shoestring Backpacker: $20-$30USD per day
A shoestring backpacker will comfortably get by on $20-$30 per day in The Land Of Smiles. This will involve staying in big dorms, eating street food, doing minimal partying (not none, I’m not a sadist) and travelling everywhere by bus or public transport. If you are planning on doing a lot of tours or trying your hand at diving in Koh Tao, you’ll need to budget extra.
Living It Large Backpacker: $35-$55USD per day
If you see yourself as more of a livin’ it large kind of backpacker, then $35-$50 per day will be the kind of money you can expect to spend. On this budget, you’ll find yourself staying mostly in dorms but you will be able to treat yourself to a private room regularly. Expect to be predominantly travelling on buses and be keeping the partying to a few nights a week. Providing you splash out on expensive tours sparingly, you shouldn’t need to exceed this budget.
Flashpacker: $60+USD per day
This budget will suit any traveller who wants to stay in private rooms, either in hostels or hotels (although hotels are much more costly). Domestic travel will usually be done by flying and we suspect there will also be a lot of partying and all-round good living! Think swanky restaurants and rooftop bars. Of course, the more you spend, the shorter your trip is likely to be.
Costs of Backpacking Thailand – Quick Answers!
- Cost of Street Food: 30-100THB ($1-$3USD) per meal
- Cost of Local Food in a Restaurant: 70+THB ($2.50USD) per dish
- Cost of Western Food in a Restaurant: 150+THB ($5USD) per dish
- Cost of Water: 7-15THB (25-50 cents) for 1.5 litres
- Cost of Beer: 60-180THB ($2-$6USD)
- Cost of a Hostel Bed: 100-200THB ($3-$7USD) per night
- Cost of a Private Room: 200-600THB ($7-$20USD) per night
- Cost of a Tuk Tuk Ride: 50THB-150THB ($2-$5USD)
- Cost of Scooter Hire: 150-1000THB ($5-$30USD) per day
- Cost of Long Distance Buses: 30-100THB ($1-$3USD) per hour on the bus
Currency in Thailand
Thailand uses the Thai Baht as their main currency and you are unlikely to be able to spend anything else within the country. Whilst it’s almost always a good idea to bring US dollars travelling, you’ll struggle to use them in Thailand. If you do find somewhere that accepts dollars, check the exchange rate first! Chances are it’ll be terrible and you’d be much better off paying in Baht.
Thai Baht Conversions
All these conversions are accurate as of July 2020. Unless anything major happens (would you be surprised, 2020 has been rough so far) these conversions will give you a rough idea of how much your money is worth in Thailand.
- $1USD = 31THB
- £1GBP = 38THB
- €1EUR = 35THB
How Much Does a Trip to Thailand Cost?
Cost of Street Food in Thailand
30-100THB ($1-$3USD) per meal
By far the cheapest way to eat in Thailand, street food is not only budget-friendly but also bloody delicious! I’m not talking fried scorpions, spiders on sticks or handfuls of deep-fried crickets either. Although most of those are also delicious, you are most likely to see them sold in places like Khao San Road, where they are overpriced and essentially a tourist trap… Much like the rest of Khao San Road. That’s not to say cooked insects are always a tourist trap in Southeast Asia, just avoid buying them from streets crawling with tourists.
Eating from street food stalls throughout Thailand is a great way to see what the local cuisine is like. You can’t go more than a few metres in most cities without seeing something frying, boiling or roasting on a rickety old cart surrounded by tiny plastic chairs. I can honestly say that these stalls sell some of the most delicious rice, meat and noodles I’ve ever eaten.
There are also carts dedicated to sweet treats and fruit juices, keep your eyes peeled for the ones surrounded by locals to ensure you are getting the best food and drinks possible!
Cost of Restaurant Food in Thailand
70-150+THB ($5+USD) per dish
While eating in local restaurants is only a little pricier than eating at street food stalls, the cost will skyrocket if you visit swanky joints or stick to western food. Somewhere like McDonald’s may seem cheap when you compare their prices to the USA and Europe but you’ll still be paying way over the odds when you compare it to the local food.
Cost of Water in Thailand
7-15THB (25-50 cents) for 1.5 litres
Water is cheap in Thailand, providing you don’t get it from tourist hotspots. If you have to buy bottled water, pick it up from 7-Eleven or other convenience stores for the best prices. A good way to save on water when travelling in Thailand is to pick up a filter water bottle so you can filter water from almost any source and not have to worry about buying single-use plastic bottles every day. Failing that, some hostels provide clean drinking water for a small fee. If you have a reusable bottle, make the most of it!
Cost of Beer in Thailand
Generally, beer in Thailand is cheap, especially when compared to western prices. You can keep your booze costs low by sticking to local beers instead of imports and by making the most of happy hour deals where you’ll see the prices slashed by up to half!
Cost of Accommodation in Thailand
Prices of accommodation in Thailand vary wildly depending on the level of luxury you are looking for.
- Hostel Dorm (per night)
You’ll find a bed in a shared dorm in an average Thai hostel for very little money. If you want to head to some of the best hostels in Thailand, expect to pay a little more but the facilities and atmosphere in the more popular hostels really make it worth spending the extra money!
- Hostel Double Room (per night)
The largest factor in the cost of a private room in Thailand is usually whether the room has air conditioning or just a fan. Fan rooms are usually significantly cheaper than those with air-con and for good reason. Not only is an air conditioning system expensive to run (and terrible for the planet) but they are also super popular in Thailand’s sticky heat. Consumer demand drives prices up so if you can deal with a few sweaty nights, forgo the air-con and save yourself some pennies!
- Double Hotel Room (per night)
Hotel rooms can easily end your trip prematurely thanks to lack of funds. That’s not to say don’t ever treat yourself but often, private rooms in hostels are just as good if not better. Plus, they come with the banging hostel atmosphere that backpackers love!
The prices above are based on a standard hotel room. Properly swanky hotels will come in way more expensive than this but as backpackers, we don’t spend much (read: any) time in Bangkok’s 5-star hotel scene anyway!
Cost of Transport in Thailand
There are plenty of different choices when it comes to getting around Thailand. Whether it’s local transport in cities or travelling large distances across the country, there’s always a cheap option and a tourist option!
Short Distance Transport
Starting from 30THB ($1USD)
Taxis are a great way of getting around Bangkok and other cities. They are cheaper than tuk tuks but make sure your driver puts the meter on! If they refuse and you have no other option, negotiate a price BEFORE you get in.
If the driver refuses and there are other options available, or you’re not in a rush, walk away. They’ll either miraculously realise their meter does work after all or they’ll move onto the next unsuspecting victim!
- Tuk Tuk
It’s a common misconception that tuk tuks are the cheapest mode of transport in Thailand. In reality, they actually cost more than taxis in most instances. They are predominantly used by tourists and to be honest, they sort of suck. Being open, they allow the heat, exhaust fumes and elements to get to you while also offering very little protection should the worst happen and you end up in an accident.
So why use them?
Because they are bloody great fun of course! Zipping around little back streets, avoiding the worst of the traffic, in a brightly coloured three-wheeler is a great way to get yourself immersed in Thai life! Just be aware of the common scams that unscrupulous tuk tuk drivers try to pull on fresh-faced backpackers.
As with taxis, make sure you agree on a price first and don’t pay more than 150THB for a ride anywhere in Bangkok. Tuk tuks are plentiful so if at first, you don’t succeed, just wait for the next one!
- Trains (BTS/MRT — Bangkok)
20-40THB (70 cents – $1.40USD)
Central Bangkok is well covered by the BTS (Skytrain) and the MRT (Metro). These two train systems do not stretch much further than the centre of the city but are an affordable way to travel short distances across the city centre. The Skytrain is an overhead line offering a birds-eye glimpse of life in this busy city while the MRT is Bangkok’s underground metro system. Both trains give passengers a speedy way to get to their destination because (unless something has gone terribly wrong) they don’t get caught up in Bangkok’s almost constant rush hour!
7-20THB (30 cents – 75 cents USD)
Local city buses can be confusing to the uninitiated traveller but they provide an affordable way to get to the further reaches of Thailand’s cities. It’s heavily recommended that you pick up a route map before you jump on a bus, or follow directions from a trusted local!
- Scooter Hire
150-1000THB ($5-$30USD) per day
Hiring a scooter or motorcycle in Thailand is almost a rite of passage for backpackers. These vehicles allow you the freedom to explore on your own and get to places that are almost impossible to reach with public transport. They are super budget-friendly and blasting along the mountain roads in Northern Thailand is a dream come true!
The cost of motorcycle hire will vary depending on where you are in the country and what type of motorbike you want. For example, a fully automatic scooter (aka a moped) will be between $5-$10USD per day whereas a fully geared dirt bike (aka A REAL motorbike) might set you back closer to $30USD a day.
If you are planning on renting the bike for longer than just one day, try your hand at haggling as it is often possible to get reduced rates for weekly or even monthly hire.
Long Distance Transport
30-100THB ($1-$3USD) per hour on the bus
While different bus routes will vary slightly in price, the largest cost influencer for bus transport in Thailand is the class of bus that you choose to travel on. Those snazzy “VIP” buses with air-con that sometimes work and chairs that probably recline will set you back more than travelling on standard class buses. Despite this, the “VIP” option is often worth the extra expense. Travelling on cramped, stinky, slow-moving standard buses can be pretty soul-destroying at times. Or, as is the case between Chiang Mai and Pai, bloody terrifying.
20-100THB (75 cents – $4USD) per hour on the train
Trains are a less common mode of transport for backpackers in Thailand. This is down to two factors: price and speed. The cost of a long haul train journey is almost the same as the cost of flying domestically within the country and the journey time is usually longer than going by bus.
The advantage of trains is safety and comfort. They are way safer and more reliable than buses in Thailand and providing you’re not in third class, they’re more comfortable than either flying or being on the bus.
Even if you’re travelling a long distance overnight, the sleeper trains are plenty comfortable and allow most average height backpackers to lay flat and enjoy a good night’s sleep. If, like me, you are a touch over six foot, prepare to be a little squashed but this is still way better than being contorted into a sleeper bus!
700THB – 4,000THB ($22-$125USD) per flight
If you book in advance and are short on time, domestic flights in Thailand can be a lifesaver. Rather than sitting on a bus for 12 hours or on a train for 14, jump on the 1 hour 15 minute flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. It will set you back just over $20USD and you’ll land before you’ve even digested your airport breakfast!
If you are not pressed for time, consider saving yourself a few pennies on accommodation and get a night bus or train instead of flying. Not only will your wallet be thankful but the planet could really do with less of us flying! Check out our guide for more tips to backpacking responsibly.
Cost Of Activities In Thailand
The activities in this list are just a small sample of the most popular things to do in Thailand. There are way too many amazing and budget-friendly things to do across the country to list them all here (check out these Thailand itineraries for some ideas) but this should give you a good insight into the costs of things for your trip.
- Visit The Grand Palace – 500THB ($16USD)
A visit to the Grand Palace in Bangkok is something you will not forget in a hurry. While the price is pretty steep, the memory of this white and gold masterpiece will glitter on for eternity.
- Thai Massage – 200-500THB ($6-$16USD) per hour
No trip to Thailand (or any destination if you ask me) is complete without a traditional Thai massage. Or two. Luckily, Thailand is one of the best countries in the world to find high quality, low cost massages in every town and city.
However, you can expect this cost to go up if you are searching for “additional services…”
- Ethical Elephant Experience – 2,500-28,000THB ($80-$900USD) depending on how long you stay
Yes, you can see elephants in Thailand for cheaper than this but those elephants are often not cared for properly and are treated purely as a way to make money. Choose an ethical sanctuary such as BEES Ethical Elephant Sanctuary, to make sure your visit will actually benefit these tremendous beasts!
- Dive Course – 2,500-25,000THB ($80-$800USD) depending on qualification and length of course
If you have been wanting to learn to dive for a while, or fancy getting your PADI open water certificate (other certifying bodies are available) then stop waiting and start doing! Thailand, along with much of Southeast Asia, is one of the most cost-effective places to learn to dive. Plus it’s bloomin’ stunning!
- Full Moon Party – 2000THB ($60USD) – Includes entry 100THB ($3USD, bucket 350THB ($12USD), transport to Koh Phangan from Bangkok 700-900THB ($20-$30USD) & hostel bed on Koh Phangan from 90THB ($3USD) per night
Have you even been to Thailand if you haven’t been to a full moon party?!
It’s hard to work out how much a trip to Thailand’s infamous Full Moon Party will cost an individual backpacker. It all depends on how much you drink, where you are coming from and where you want to stay.
On the budget end (this includes a bucket or two at the party), you can expect to pay less than 2000THB for a few days on Koh Phangan as well as your night at Haadrin Beach and transport to the island.
Not bad for what could be the party of your life!
- Muay Thai Fight Night – 500-2,000THB ($15-$60USD)
There is a strong visceral reaction to watching two fully grown adults going hammer and tongs in the ring. It’s a strange feeling that I really didn’t expect to enjoy but I have to admit, sitting in Chiang Mai’s Los Kroh Boxing Stadium, I was swept up in the moment.
For your money, you’ll get a solid three hours of fights as well as table service. Trust me, the barman will keep the drinks flowing as long as you want them!
- Muay Thai Training – 2,500+THB ($80+USD)
If watching Muay Thai has got you thinking you’d like to try this combat sport out, you’re in the right place. Thailand has some of the most prestigious training camps on the planet and they are surprisingly good value for money!
The above cost is for a week’s training only but if you want the fully immersive, live in experience, expect to pay more. There are even schools that offer full live-in training camps for up to a year at a time!
Where to next? Check out the average costs for Southeast Asia here!
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