So you wanna backpack Thailand on a budget? 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 my budget Thailand tips below. As I live in Bangkok, I’m a frequent backpacker and like to keep things cheap so I can travel as much as possible and spend my money on scuba diving and other awesome activities in Thailand.
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.
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.
Buying toiletries and goods in Thailand
7-11 convenience store is your new best friend. Snacks, alcohol, toiletries…there’s nothing you can’t do here. (You can even pay in cash for flights here with Air Asia or Nok Air). Beer is obviously much cheaper here than at a bar (approximately 50 baht per beer ($1)and a large bottle of water costs around 13 baht ($0.42)
Can I drink tap water in Thailand? How much is 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.
Haggling and negotiating in Thailand
Negotiate. Most prices in Thailand are up for negotiation, not only at the 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 only have a short holiday in Thailand. Backpackers there for longer can afford timewise to just show up and negotiate.
What is the cost of alcohol in Thailand?
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 80-100baht in a cheap restaurant or bar ($2.5-4). Chang is always the cheapest beer but I can’t stomach it most of the time…it always leads to a “changover” for me – even if I only have two! 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 tours and excursions in Thailand
Shop around different tour operators when booking snorkelling/island hopping/day excursion trips. I often find your guesthouse charges you more than buying a trip from a tour operator who has a stall 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 I have been caught out many times. For example, I have previously booked a snorkelling trip for 400 baht ($13) which is a great price, only to find out the morning of the trip that National Park fees are an extra 400 baht, doubling the cost of my trip. These are fixed by the government and tour operators cannot reduce the cost of National Park fees. Many national parks are well worth the fee though! Read more about National Parks in Thailand here.
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. I have discovered 100 baht ($3) dresses and bikinis at Thai markets. As a general rule, I find that if the price is written on the items then haggling is not possible. My 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 Transport: Take the Night Bus
Travelling by night bus is not as comfortable as trains or planes but they are generally the cheapest way of travelling around Thailand. Package deals can often be booked which include ferries which I think 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. 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.
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 the 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.
Backpacking around 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 or other areas of the country as they will never go by meter and are very expensive.
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