Backpacking Thailand : Cost of Travel Thailand

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So you wanna backpack Thailand on a  budget? Perhaps you want to know a one month Thailand budget?  Your travel to Thailand cost will totally depend on how you plan to spend your money. If you stay in hostels, slow travel Thailand, limit your alcohol and eat locally then you can definitely keep the cost of your Thailand budget trip low.

Here are some tricks to keeping things wallet friendly and as cheap as possible, giving you more money to spend on activities and adventures in Thailand. The cost of living in Thailand is incredibly cheap and you can make your money go far by following the budget Thailand tips below.

How much is the cost of a holiday in Thailand?

It completely depends on your lifestyle, your accommodation and the activities you choose to do. I have included general prices for things below so that you can get a gist of the cost of living or staying in Thailand. You can plan for a daily budget for Thailand from as little as 400 baht per day.

Thailand Cheap Food : How much is food in Thailand?

If you eat local you can eat extremely cheaply in Thailand. Thai street food is delicious and cheap. Most dishes will cost between 30-60 baht ($1-2 US dollars). When on the islands, the most expensive restaurants are normally on the beach front, so I’d avoid these touristy restaurants if travelling Thailand on a budget. Western dishes such as pizzas and burgers etc are generally made using imported items which means they are much more expensive. Stick to noodles, rice and soup if you want to eat cheap in Thailand.

Thailand Cost of Travel : Transport
Cheap Transport: Take the Bus

Travelling by bus or minivan is the cheapest way of travelling Thailand. Package deals for Thailand island hopping routes can often be booked which include the minivan + ferry or bus + ferry. This is a good idea as they often take you all the way to the pier rather than dropping you in a town near the coast. You then would need to add in the cost of a taxi from the town to the ferry terminal. From Bangkok you can leave from Mochit 2 Terminal (to go North), Ekkamai or Sai Tai Mai/Southern Bus Terminal (to go South). Some tourist companies leave from Khao San road and these tend to be the more comfortable buses in my experience.

Travelling cheaply by bus or minivan can cost from 200 baht upwards depending on distance.

A friend has a travel company and you can get great discounts by booking multiple tickets and group tickets as well, as each time you add a trip it decreases in price, saving you money. 

Cost of Visiting Thailand : Night Trains

Travelling by night train can be slightly more expensive than a night bus but it depends and it is still a budget way of travelling Thailand as you save on one night’s accommodation. Bear in mind trains are very slow and often delayed so use night trains if it doesn’t matter what time you arrive the next day if you slow travel Thailand. Night trains can start from approximately 400 baht per bunk.

Thailand Cost of Travel : Drinking Water

No so unfortunately many tourist buy bottled water from convenience stores, adding to the plastic problem. Luckily there is a way to be environmentally friendly and drink water SUPER cheap in Thailand.  Bring your own reusable water bottle at a water filling machines. You can fill up ONE large bottle for ONE baht ($0.03). You can find these machines all around the country, often at the side of roads, in condos and on the street. If you’re consuming around 5 bottles a day then that’s a serious saving and definite help for the environment. Consider buying a refillable bottle instead, like these from Amazon. I bought my mum this one for Christmas as I think it is a great size, contains a filter and is available in various colours. 

Cheap Stuff to Buy in Thailand : Haggling and negotiating

Negotiate. Many prices in Thailand are up for negotiation, not only at the shopping markets but also accommodation. If you have unlimited time then you can haggle with hostels and hotels and if you stay longer then they might give you a discount. Always haggle with patience and a smile. My advice is to get an idea of a reasonable price to pay for something, otherwise you can insult people if you are unsure of the price and suggest a price that is too low.

Having said that, you can find fantastic accommodation deals on both booking.com and Agoda. I usually compare both of them to find the best deal. Agoda also do ‘insider deals’ once you have an account with them which I find to be very reasonable rates. It also means you can be organised if you are on a 2 weeks Thailand budget trip. Backpackers there for longer can afford timewise to just show up and negotiate.

Is Thailand Cheap to Travel : Alcohol

Drink local. Most travellers find that their biggest expense in Thailand is spending money on alcohol. While Thailand is generally cheap for alcohol, it can add up when people decide to drink every night. Thai beers are great – Leo and Singha (usually around 80-100 baht in a cheap restaurant or bar ($2.5-4). Chang is usually the cheapest beer on the menu. Thai rum Sangsom is also delicious with coke and costs approximately 200 baht ($5-6) for a small bottle. Imported beers or wines are incredibly expensive so avoid these if you want to keep it cheap. Tax is high on most imported goods so drinking local beers and spirits is the best way to drink alcohol cheaply.

Cost of Visiting Thailand : Cost of tours  and excursions

Shop around different tour operators when booking snorkelling/island hopping/day excursion trips. Hotels, hostels and guesthouses can often charge more for trips than small local tour operators on the  street.  Snorkelling tours in a long tail boat are often cheaper than in a speedboat. For the cheap tours, the agencies will fill up the boat as much as possible so be prepared for the boat to be busy and to make some new friends. Make sure to enquire if National Park fees are included as they can be expensive and sometimes double the cost of the snorkelling trip in Thailand. National Park and Marine National Park fees are fixed by the government and tour operators cannot reduce the cost of National Park fees. Many national parks are well worth the fee! Read more about National Parks in Thailand here.

Cost to Visit Thailand : Cheap Shopping in Thailand

Thailand, in particular Bangkok, is my favourite place in the world to go shopping and find budget clothes. Shopping in markets is fantastic, so many interesting finds and all at a cheap price with money going straight to locals. You can find clothes such as dresses, bikinis, T-shirts and shorts from 50 baht upwards. As a general rule, if the price is written on the items then haggling is not possible. The best haggling tip for Thailand is to negotiate the price down for one, and then consider buying two or more to make it even cheaper again.

Cheap Thailand : Travelling Thailand by Boat

For travelling to Thailand’s many islands there are often multiple options concerning boats. There are slower ferries, faster ferries, long tail boats and speed boats. The cheapest options are obviously the slower transport so if you aren’t in a hurry and enjoy slow travel Thailand, then always take the ferry or a long tail boat. Speedboats and catamarans are the fastest but always more expensive. Like with the snorkelling trips, get some quotes from different tour operators and see if you can get a pick up from your accommodation included.

Thailand Cost of Travel Backpacking Thailand Cheaply

Taking public transport is the best idea when on a budget.  It’s an obvious one but taxis can be at least three times more expensive than local buses and songtaews (trucks) so stick to public transport to save a lot of money. If you’re in a group then a taxi might be worth sharing however as they still are very reasonably priced when on the meter. I try and avoid taxis in Phuket unless I am sharing as they will never go by meter and are very expensive.

 

 

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Pinterest Graphic for Budget Trip to Thailand with photos of National Parks and beautiful beaches Pinterest Graphic for visiting Thailand on a Budget with photos of national parks and islands

 

Thailand: Be aware of Culture

Planning to backpack Thailand? It’s important to be aware of culture in Thailand and how visitors can show respect to locals and their customs and traditions. For the last three years I have been trying to understand the strange, alien behaviour that can be part of culture in Thailand! Some aspects are amusing, others infuriating but I’m always learning more!

DISCLAIMER: sweeping generalisations and talking about Thai people like everyone is the same is clearly not ok. These are some things I’ve found to be true…and wish visiting tourists would take note!

  • Don’t point the soles of your feet at people. Especially Buddha! To respect local culture, if in a temple, sit mermaid style or cross-legged. Particularly do NOT stretch your legs out in a tuktuk and point your shoes at the driver (my personal peev!). Moving things with your feet is also frowned upon.
  • Don’t wear shoes into someone’s house. This also applies to certain shops where the owners live in or above it. If you see flipflops outside a small convenience store on an island then do the same.
  • Cover your shoulders and knees when you are in a temple. This applies to both men and women #equality
  • Ask at least 3 people for directions. Thai people don’t like to lose face and admit they don’t know something, so will tell you the WRONG directions to not cause themselves embarrassment. Yes, unhelpful. Yes, annoying. But kind of endearing as well? Just me?
  • Thais HATE rain. It is not uncommon to see adults with paper bags on top of their heads in rainy season and no-one is laughing at them. (except me…and I’m already soaked!)
  • The Thai Walk: If you walk fast people will think you are mad. Also I really feel that people know I’m behind them and start walking in a zigzag so I can’t overtake. ( yes I’m paranoid…and often late ha!) Slow down and walk at ‘market shopping pace’.
  • Generally confronting people, shouting, losing your temper will only reflect badly on you (as in most cultures I assume!). Try to be patient, explain the situation and KEEP CALM (jai yen as the Thais say).
  • Bangkok Traffic – plan your day around rush hour traffic! Generally 6-9am and 4-8pm.
  • Visiting zoos/tiger temples/elephant riding camps – BIG no no and you are just funding animal abuse. Read reasons why
Travelling Thailand Culture What to Know
Visiting ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Bitching about the difference between ‘Thai price’ and ‘foreign prices’. If you know one of these people then please enlighten them. The average local Thai salary is 300 baht a day. I personally think it is fantastic that so many tourists in Thailand are Thai and it is because of these low prices that people can afford to travel in their own country.
  • Haggle with a smile. Shopping in Thailand is a pleasure and I find it frustrating to see tourists getting angry in markets. I used to dread haggling when I first arrived in South East Asia and now I’m in my element at JJ market, even haggling in Thai! Keep things light, smile and never go less than half the offered price. See more on JJ market shopping. Read more about Bangkok markets and more
  • Haggling TOO MUCH. You will offend people and ultimately think about what the item is worth and what you are happy to pay. This is a developing country and people need to make a living.
  • Treating Thailand like it is your own country. I see this over and over again. Tourists with no respect for local culture, customs, traditions and religions.
Travelling Thailand Culture Backpacking
Be Respectful of Buddha: Buddha Statue in Ayutthaya, Thailand
  • Taking Bangkok taxis who refuse to use the meter. Don’t do it. It is illegal. Just laugh at their inflated price and take another one. My record is 10 taxis before ONE of them would take me home. Perseverance is key! 😉 More on Travel in Thailand here
Travelling Thailand Culture Backpacking
Thailand culture- Taking Taxis in Bangkok
  • Taking taxis in Phuket. Very over-inflated prices and I’ve heard rumours about who pockets the money and it’s not the taxi drivers. Try and take minivans or songtaews (trucks).
  • Smiling – Thailand’s nickname is indeed the Land of Smiles. However, I found it VERY useful once I realised that people don’t always smile because they are happy but also because they are embarrassed, uncomfortable or confused!
  • Criticising the Monarchy or, for that matter, the government at the moment can get you on very dangerous ground. I’m talking jail time.
  • Tipping – a little for you and a lot for them. If in doubt go for 20 -50 baht for taxis/restaurants.

Any cultural quirks or differences you’ve picked up on in Thailand?

Full Moon Party Tips

I feel like I’m not supposed to like the Full Moon Party. It’s a bunch of drunks ruining one of my favourite islands, Koh Phangan. I’m over 25, I live in Thailand and I prefer to avoid dirty backpacker places. Yet I’ve been to FIVE Full Moon Parties so far…

Check this website to check your Full Moon Party dates and plan your trip around a few days on Koh Phangan. One to party and the rest to recover. And explore the beauty of Koh Phangan.

Ultimately, the Full Moon Party is a giant party on a beach, attracting up to 30,000 people! So enjoy and stay safe using my tips!

  1. Do stay till sunrise
  2. Do wear shoes – I go for closed in pumps as there can be glass around as one of my mates’ can testify!
  3. Do take a bumbag or just no bag! I take money in my pocket and that’s it!
  4. Do get covered in dayglow paint and drunkenly think you are the next Pablo Picasso.
  5. Do be patient with songtaews (trucks) when leaving. They will wait to fill up to make the most money possible. Remember the party can bring a lot of useful income for locals.
  6. Do eat food! While it’s all about the buckets, the street food is pretty good and will help you keep going until 6am!
  7. Do dance until the sun comes up
  8. Do consider staying in the north of the island. It takes 40 minutes by truck but accommodation is cheaper, nicer and they don’t have that ridiculous “you must stay minimum 4 days” crap that Haad Rin hostels try on.
  9. Do arrange a meeting point with your mates…you WILL get separated at some point!
  10. Do pay entry, it’s only 100 baht and think of all the cleaning up people have to do the next day!
  11. Do make new friends (coz you’ll probably lose your old ones!)
  12. Do stick to one spirit in your bucket…yummy Sangsom (Thai rum) is my favourite!
  13. Do kiss a dirty backpacker but…
  14. Don’t have sex in the sea…ew. People are pissing in it!
  15. Do NOT ride a scooter. People are killed every Full Moon and mostly from drink/drug driving.
  16. Don’t take a nap in the nap area…Full Moon is NOT for sleeping!
  17. Don’t wear your favourite dress! That neon paint does NOT come out.]
  18. Moving on after the Full Moon Party? The day after can get busy with people leaving the island so book your boat in advance.

Useful Things to Bring

    1. Bum Bags – very useful to have your hands free for drinking and dancing and to have your phone and money directly infront of you as the Full Moon can be a time for robberies. Buy your Waist Bag from Amazon.
    2.  Adorn your head with flowers to blend in with this backpacker crowd Flower Crown for Festival
    3.  For a classier version that neon paint, buy some cheap Boho Tattoos Flash Aztec Collection tattoos to take with you here on Amazon

How to get to Koh Phangan? Get your night bus/train ticket and ferry combo here.

After a quieter island after all that partying? Try visiting these quiet paradise beaches

 

Top 15 Chiang Mai Activities

Take a night train, sleeper bus or flight and head to Thailand’s second biggest city – Chiang Mai! Surrounded by mountains, most of the city is walkable and squared in by canals so it’s easy to find your way. Take song thaews (trucks) for around 30 baht or haggle for tuktuks. With a cooler climate and fresh air, you definitely should not miss a visit here! I lived here for 2 months and despite the hard work I was doing, I really enjoyed it!

1.Elephants elephants elephants! Head to Hug Elephant Sanctuary and spend the day with these gentle giants, feeding, bathing and observing them. Read here for why you should choose your sanctuary carefully! This is one f my favourite sanctuaries that I’ve been to twice! http://www.hugelephantssanctuary.com/Chiang Mai Activities Thailand

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Chiang Mai Grand Canyon – not quite as Grand as the U.S version but it’s still pretty sweet! Rain waters have filled up an old quarry and the result is stunning blue water where you can go cliff jumping (if you dare) or just float around on wooden rafts for the afternoon. Take a tuktuk

Chiang Mai Activities Thailand

3. Sunday Walking Market…night market…or just any market in Chiang Mai! Quirky, unusual stuff that you don’t normally find in Bangkok or the rest of Thailand!

4. Ziplining – spend the morning whizzing through Chiang Mai’s jungle, over natural scenery and valleys below.

Chiang Mai Activities Thailand

5. White water rafting – better in rainy season (May – October), hold on tight to your dinghy while sweeping down rapids and admire monkeys and elephants on the river banks on the gentler river swirls

6. Tubing – Vang Vieng it isn’t but plonk yourself into a rubber tube, attach yourself to your mates and, more importantly, the tube with the ice bucket full of beers and float your worries away down the Ping river – watch out for the occasional nibbling fish!

Chiang Mai Activities Thailand

7. Day trip to Doi Inthanon – the highest point in Thailand and the foothills of the Himalayas, stopping at a few waterfalls on the way!

Chiang Mai Activities Thailand

8. Day trip to Chiang Rai and the white temple – one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand! Stunning on the outside and just plain weird on the inside!

Chiang Mai Activities Thailand

9. Eat Khao Soy – my favourite Thai dish. Think yellow curry with egg noodles, crispy noodles and a chicken drumstick.

10. Visit Street Pizza – it’s true, you can eat too many noodles. Check out this restaurant that I personally claim to be the BEST pizza in Thailand!

11. Try a cooking course – even if, like me, you prefer eating to cooking, this is still a fun way to spend the day and you get to eat a lot too!

12. Brunch at Chiang Mai Breakfast World – amazing European bread, cheese, cold cuts of meat…not cheap but worth the investment!

13. Party at Zoe in Yellow area with the dirty backpackers! Be warned, most bars close by midnight. It’s an army thing.

14. Celebrate Songkran – Thai New Year from April 13-16th with a massive city-wide waterfight! I’m talking water guns, pistols, ice buckets, hoses, a Buddha procession that comes down from the hills and being solidly wet for three days. The most fun you will ever have in a Hawaiian shirt! Chiang Mai is arguably the best place to celebrate and party and a lovely mixture of tourists and locals!

Chiang Mai Activities Thailand

15. Celebrate Yi-peng and Loy Kratong in November in Chiang Mai – one of the best places! Watch thousands of floating lanterns wind their way up into the sky for hours like something from a magical Disney movie.

 

Chiang Mai Activities Thailand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok:

For getting to Chiang Mai by night bus or night train, book via this website for great discounts on multiple bookings or tickets.

Or if you prefer flying, compare prices using skyscanner here

 

 

Best Diving in Thailand

Disclaimer: This Thailand travel blog contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a booking I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Best Dive Sites in Thailand : Scuba Diving Thailand

Thailand has some great dive spots and while some of them may not be as incredible and colourful as they once were, the reasonable prices and wide availability of dive centres will always keep visitors coming back and exploring more of the best dive sites in Thailand.

If you are not a qualified scuba diver yet, then consider doing your Open Water course through SSI or SSI at a dive centre in Thailand. Koh Tao still claims to be one of the cheapest places in Thailand to get scuba certified.

Best Dive Sites in Thailand : Diving Koh Phi Phi

Known as a party island, Koh Phi Phi often surprises divers with some great underwater marine life. Koh Phi Phi is home to some of the best dive sites in Thailand around their Marine National Park.

On some of these amazing dive sites in Thailand I have been lucky enough to see a leopard shark. Turtles and black tip reef sharks are often fairly common on these top dive sites in Thailand. The coral reefs are fairly healthy for Thailand. In between Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh it always seems to be a bit choppy so I recommend taking some seasickness travel bands like these from Amazon Travel Sickness Wristbands (Black).

diving with turtles in Thailand
Diving with turtles in Thailand – best dive sites in Thailand

Getting there: Fly or take a night bus to Krabi, then approx 2 hour ferry to Koh Phi Phi. You can book joint bus and ferry tickets here. The more tickets you book the cheaper they get.

Best Dive Sites in Thailand : Diving Koh Similan  or The Similan Islands

Diving the Similan Islands is usually on the bucket list for divers in Thailand. While the Similan islands are no longer covered on coral and marine life, they still have some of the best dive sites in Thailand. Whale sharks and manta rays can be spotted around this area. Day trips here are extremely expensive (last trip I paid 6000 baht for two dives, compared with 2500 baht average in other dive spots around Thailand). Similan Liveaboards are very popular here and you can often get great deals at the end of the season (April, May) if you can be flexible. This whole area is closed during the rainy season (end of May to October) and even in October you are not guaranteed diving (my liveaboard was cancelled due to enormous waves one October). If you are considering a liveaboard around the Similan Islands then make sure it includes Richelieu Rock or Koh Bon for a chance of manta rays. Koh Similan is one of the best place to scuba dive with whale sharks in Thailand.

whale shark thailand
Best Dive sites in Thailand : Diving with a whale shark at Richelieu Rock, Thailand
Best Dive Sites in Thailand : Similan Islands Diving Richelieu Rock

Arguably the best dive site in Thailand, I was lucky enough to spot my first whale shark here and therefore it will forever by up there in my memories of great dives. The dive site has lots of pretty purple coral and is claimed to be one of the best spots for whale sharks in Thailand. North of the Similan Islands, it’s about a two hour, fairly bumpy, speed boat ride to get there. It is possible to do this via a diving day trip.

diving thailand
4 metre ‘baby’ whale shark at Richelieu Rock, the best dive site in Thailand

Best Dive Sites in Thailand : Dive Sail Rock Koh Phangan

Diving on Koh Phangan can be both great and disappointing in my experience. Sail Rock dive site has a lot of shoals of fish so if you’re looking for quantity then diving here can be impressive.  The coral is fairly pretty, although expect a lot of divers underwater around the time of the Full Moon Party.  The visibility is always worse around Full Moon and, unsurprisingly, there is no diving on the whole island for the day after the Full Moon party. 

Best dive sites in Thailand

Stay: I loved staying at Seaboard Bungalows in the North and Sail Rock Divers also had some good value, nice rooms. I always use Agoda for finding the best deals.

Don’t miss:  Bottle Beach Koh Phangan, it’s one of my favourite quiet beaches in Thailand. Read more about it and other quiet beaches here

Best Dive Sites in Thailand : Chumpon & Diving Koh Tao

Koh Tao remains one of the cheapest places to get your Open Water Certificate as a beginner scuba diver in Thailand and there are 75+ dive centres to choose from. If you just arrive on the island, use your negotiation skills to get your diving qualification and accommodation throw in together. Be prepared for it to get very busy underwater. Koh Tao is one of the best places to scuba dive with whale sharks in Thailand.

Best Dive Sites in Thailand : Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe dive sites are the best dive sites in Thailand in my humble opinion. Stonehenge is one of the most beautiful coral reef dive sites in Thailand and I thoroughly recommend a visit to Koh Lipe as it is an amazing island to stay on and dive from. Read my full Koh Lipe Guide here.

Frogfish spotting in Koh Lipe dive sites – some of the best dive sites in Thailand

 

 

For more about marine life in Thailand, read the following articles:

Into sea animals? Read about how and where to see pink dolphins in Thailand year round.

Whale watching in Bangkok

And for more island advice, check out my honest island summaries here to help you decide where to visit

For what to take on a dive boat when scuba diving and experiencing the best dive sites in Thailand read this article

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How to Travel Thailand, the Maldives and Asia