How to travel in Thailand on a budget and avoid the typical tourist traps

Even when visiting countries that are world-wide known as cheap travel destinations, you still need to make a plan and learn as much as you can about the costs related to the journey or you’ll find your money disappearing a lot faster than what you imagined! For example, a lot of travelers write about how cheap it is to travel in Thailand but there are still a lot of things you should know before visiting. There are a lot of tourist traps, traveler scams, and tips and tricks about traveling Thailand on a budget that you should be aware of. If you’re planning to visit Thailand soon and want to make the most out of your money, keep reading. This article will tell you everything you need to know! For starters, let’s see…

Just how expensive is Thailand?

nangyuan island

This is a summary of the average costs related to traveling in Thailand. However, keep in mind that this is the average.

Accommodation for one person ฿1,018 ($32)

Accommodation for two people ฿2,035 ($65)

Food Three meals per day ฿958 ($31)

Water for one day ฿51 ($1.65)

Local Transport estimated weekly costs for local buses, subway, tuk-tuk, etc. ฿375 ($12)

Entertainment shows, events, etc. ฿543 ($18)

Tips and Handouts for one day ฿105 ($3.50)

Intercity Transportation average cost of transport between cities ฿966 ($31)

Scams, tourist traps, and mishaps ฿1,070 ($34.50)

Alcohol daily budget ฿220 ($7-8)

฿220 ($7-8)Millions of people visit Thailand every year and they come with a different purpose and different expectations. Some people want to enjoy luxury, others are backpacking, etc. So, for your trip to Thailand, you can spend more than this article suggests but it’s also completely possible to travel to Thailand for less. It depends on what you want to do.

And in the crazy place that is Thailand, you’ll often find luxury right next to budget. Dorm rooms & ‘Five Star’ hotels on the same street – with prices ranging from a few hundred a night to a few thousand a night. Luxury private tours and basic budget-friendly options are often sold by the same vendors! Things can quickly get confusing in ‘The Land of Smiles’!

However, despite this, it’s completely possible to experience Thailand with a limited budget and this article will show you how.

Cheap accommodation in Thailand

thailand on a budget

One great way to save money on accommodation in Thailand is staying in hostels. Opting for hostels over hotels isn’t just for college kids backpacking across the country. Not only are they a less expensive, no-frills alternative (most hostels charge less than $3 per night), but they also help to lend a more authentic touch to your travels. When you stay at a hostel, what you give up in amenities is paid back tenfold in opportunities to meet new people and effectively immerse yourself in the Thai culture. While a hostel is admittedly not as restful, it serves its purpose so you can focus your energy on getting the most out of your travels.

Most people think that traveling Thailand on a budget is only possible if you share a room in a dorm with 15 other sweaty, snoring backpackers. However, that’s not the case. You can find a lot of private rooms for a price far less than the average $30 per room. There are budget hotels and guest houses that rent rooms for as less as $5 per night. Additionally, if you’re planning to stay in one place for longer, you can always bargain for a lower weekly/monthly rate.

What about camping?

thailand camping

If you read some of my other budget travel articles, you know I always encourage people to go camping when traveling abroad. However, to be completely honest, camping in Thailand isn’t recommendable. Firstly, because Thailand has a high population density and there aren’t that many good camping spots. The camping spots that are available often charge campground fees that are sometimes even more expensive than hotels and finally, there are a lot of mosquitos around. If we add camping gear to the mix, you’ll see that the costs of camping will be unfeasible most of the time.

Looking for some Thailand travel inspiration? Check out our comparison between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Finding the cheapest accommodation

Thailand temple

Even though camping isn’t an option, there are some other ways to save money on accommodation in Thailand. Of course, one way of this is Couchsurfing but in this section, I’d like to address an option that not a lot of bloggers suggest; staying in monasteries. Thailand has hundreds of monasteries and temples spread across the country and most of them are open for visitors. You don’t need to be Buddhist to stay in a Thai Monastery and you can get free accommodation and food, as long as you respect the rules of the monastery and perhaps help with a few chores.

Alternatively, another way to get free accommodation in Thailand is using websites likeLove Home Swaps.

Transportation in Thailand

Thailand buses

Thailand has a great tourist infrastructure and there are a lot of tours that can take you around the country. Even though this is a very convenient way to explore most of Thailand’s territory, costs can add up rather quickly. That means you’ll have to take care of your own transportation.

The first rule of thumb when organizing your transportation in Thailand is “never pre-book anything”. Don’t use any agencies or intermediaries but book your ticket by yourself on the bus/train station. The cheapest way to get around Thailand is traveling by train but not every city in Thailand has a railway. Buses, on the other hand, are a bit more expensive but go to every corner of Thailand. A 12-hour train journey in the third class on a train costs between $6 and $8, while a ride for the same distance with a bus costs between $8 and $22, depending on which bus you’re taking.

thailand train

If you want to travel with your vehicle, you can always rent a car. Sure, this gives you more flexibility, but if you ask me it just isn’t feasible if you’re planning to travel in Thailand on a budget; there are a lot of buses and trains that can take you practically anywhere for only a fraction of the price. If you’re traveling light, you can always rent a bike; this is probably the cheapest transportation option in Thailand. However, if you decide to do this, be VERY careful, always wear a helmet, and make sure the bike you’re renting is prepared for the length of your journey. Renting a bike in Thailand is super easy and that’s one reason why there are so many bike accidents on the roads.

Cheap dining in Thailand

thai street food

I just can’t understand people that come to Thailand on all-inclusive arrangements. Don’t get me wrong, these arrangements are convenient, but in a country with such a rich street food scene, it’s like booking a flight to Venice that comes with a car rental. I’ve visited Thailand on several different occasions and with a different budget but despite my budget, street food is always my go-to choice. I’ve learned (the hard way) that western restaurants and continental food is often overpriced and not as tasty as you might think. Not a big surprise, considering that most of the ingredients to prepare these dishes need to be imported.

So, if you’re traveling Thailand on a budget, I would suggest avoiding western restaurants completely. Another great reason to go for street food is the fact that you can try several different dishes for only a few dollars. Even if you don’t like something, it’ll only cost you $1-$2. Much better than ordering a bad $20 meal at a restaurant, isn’t it?

What about drinking and partying?

party thailand

Thailand is famous for its wild nightlife and fortunately, there are a few tricks about partying in Thailand without breaking the bank. First and foremost, avoid all trendy bars, clubs in downtown, and rooftop bars. Most bars that don’t belong to the above-mentioned categories don’t need reservations and don’t charge entrance fees. However, alcohol is still a lot more expensive in bars compared to 7/11s. For example, a beer in a bar can cost between $2 and $3.50 depending on where you are, but in a 7/11 store, you can get that same beer for $1.50. And that’s just beer. The price difference for whiskey and other hard liquors is even more drastic.

So, if you want to party in Thailand on a budget, it’s always a good idea to do some pre-drinking before going out.

When to visit

You can’t always control your schedule, but when possible, be mindful of the peak travel times. Prices will fluctuate and go up during the popular tourist season, which is typically December to March in Thailand. Oftentimes, it’s the weather that dictates the demand, so keep an eye on the weather forecast. Saving some money is not worth it if you’re stuck in your room the whole day during the monsoons.

How to save money while traveling in Thailand

travel thailand on a budget

  • Get off of the beaten track. It’s simple, the further you are from the more touristy places, the lower the prices are. Overall, the towns in Northern Thailand are far cheaper than the Southern part of the country. Sure, you won’t find any beaches in this part of Thailand but you can learn a lot more about Thai culture and get a glimpse of authentic rural life away from the westernized cities and islands of the south.
  • If you want to book tours, do it after you arrive. Whether you want to go on a jungle trek, try scuba diving, or just want to take a cooking class, it’s best to book your tour after you arrive. Travel agencies are easy to find and you can always negotiate rates with them. A rule of thumb is the more you buy, the better discount you get. If you bring a few friends with you and book multiple packages (ex. buy a Phi Phi tour and combine it with a jungle trek, and/or several different tours in Bangkok)  from the same agency, you can always get a better deal.
  • Bargain, bargain, bargain. When you head to the markets, want to buy some souvenirs, or even take a tuk-tuk ride, you have to prepare to bargain. Never accept the first price a vendor/driver gives you unless you’re buying some fruits or street food. If you can, ask a local what are the prices for certain items before you go shopping. Finally, remember that bargaining hard doesn’t mean being a jerk.
  • Don’t get scammed. Some people end up spending a lot of their money on tourist scams. Don’t be one of them and make sure you’re informed before you go. I recently published an article about the most common scams in Southeast Asia. Make sure to check it out before you go. Talking about scams, you should also learn…

How not to waste money at the ATM

ATMs in Thailand use DCC (Dynamic Currency Conversion). DCC basically means the ATM converts the local currency to the currency you have in your card. However, this is something you can avoid. Every time you take out money from ATMs in Thailand there will be a small popup asking you if you want to continue with conversion or not. Most people are in a rush and just click the OK button (placed on the center of the screen) every time they take out money without knowing that they can complete the transaction without conversion (by clicking the button in the corner).

How much money do you need for your trip to Thailand?

thai baht

If we take the prices we mentioned at the beginning of this article, we’ll come to a daily budget of $70 per day. However, it all depends on what your expectations are and what do you plan to do on this trip.

If you’re a backpacker and you plan to use mostly public transport and stay in hostels, you can survive with $25- $35 per day. With this budget, you can get a bed in a good dorm or an independent room without an AC in a budget hotel, you can afford a couple of drinks per day, eat food from street food stalls, and take a few tours here and there.

If you want to stay in nicer hotels and travel more comfortably (with flights or luxury buses), eat more seafood, and take more tours and activities, this is doable with a budget of $50-$60 per day.

Finally, if you want to stay in luxurious hotels, eat continental food, fly around the country, and encounter some unique experiences and do more typical tourist things, prepare a budget of +$100 per day.

However, keep in mind that if you plan to spend more time on some of the islands in Southern Thailand, increase your daily budget as everything is more expensive there.

If you’re a backpacker and you plan to use mostly public transport and stay in hostels, you can survive with $25- $35 per day. * If you want to stay n nicer hotels and travel more comfortably (with flights or luxury buses), eat more seafood, and take more tours and activities, this is doable with a budget of $50-$60 per day. * If you want to stay in luxurious hotels, eat continental food, fly around the country, and do more typical tourist things, prepare a budget of +$100 per day.

Helpful resources for visiting Thailand on a budget

If you need a cheap flight to Thailand, Qatar Airways has some great deals but this coupon can get you additional 20% off on all flight bookings.

For cheap accommodation options in Thailand, use this Booking discount code and get 15% off. And if you need something more fancy, book three nights at all Radisson hotels in Thailand and get one free with this coupon.

Planning to rent a car in Thailand? Get 15% off on all car rentals in Thailand with my Sixt coupon.

If you want to save money on buses and trains in Thailand, check out Bookaway.

Make sure to check whether you need a visa. And on IVisa you can not only check if you need a visa but also apply and get one for only $15 and 3-4 days.

And last but not least, use this World Nomads discount code to get a great travel insurance deal.

Did you ever go to Thailand? How did you like our ultimate guide to visiting Thailand on a budget? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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9 thoughts on “How to travel in Thailand on a budget and avoid the typical tourist traps”

  1. Gosh, I did not know about that button on the ATM. Wish I had this post to warn me before I did my transaction. In any case, will be useful to the others. Very useful tips on the bargains and how not to get scammed. In general, I found that Thailand is quite affordable – one just needs to be a little mindful,

    Reply
  2. This is such amazing information. Thailand is already a fairly reasonable place to travel, but this guide makes it accessible to just about everyone. I literally pre-book just about everything when it comes to transportation, tours, and accommodation, so it’s great to know NOT to do that and wait until you are in the area – and hostels are SO CHEAP! Great tip about the ATM conversion, so many people make that mistake and it’s a good tip just about everywhere!

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  3. Thanks for this very detailed post Daniel. I’m hoping to explore the eastern countries in a couple of years and obviously Thailand is in the list. Thanks for the tip about booking the tours after we arrive there. Good to know that the prices are not fixed and bargaining is possible.
    Oh wow!! You can stay in monasteries? Wow! I didn’t know that at all! That’s a super useful tip. But, how do you do that? I mean, do they provide blankets and mats or do you have to carry that? Are women allowed to stay in these monasteries (not the safety point of view, but coz there are monks there)?

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  4. That is an interesting idea to stay in a monastery in Thailand. I would have never thought of that. I like the idea of staying in a hostel to meet other people, but I think at $30 a night I would probably choose a hotel. The cost still would be cheaper than a month’s rent in the US! I totally agree with you about the dining. I don’t get why people (especially Americans) eat at American type restaurants abroad. The street food is one of the main reasons I want to go to Thailand.

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  5. I didn’t realize that a trip to Thailand could be so inexpensive. All of your tips make my planning and budgeting so much easier! Thanks for all your tips for avoiding scams and unnecessary spending (the ATM conversion button is great to know!)

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  6. Very helpful tips. I too agree with the tip on having local street food. I found them quite tasty. 😛 The tip on conversion of currency is useful.
    I have never tried hostels, but you have convinced me with your supporive arguments that I must try it.

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  7. Wow, this is such a helpful article. I am planning to visit Thailand soon and this will help a lot. Living in a monastery is something that I want to try. Having done that in India, I am sure it will be an equally good experience in Thailand. The tip on currency conversion is quite useful. Infact, I did the same thing on my last visit to Thailand. Now I know better!

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  8. Thailand is one of the best country in Asia that is best for tourism. When you opt to visit the cities, yes the prices are not cheap and that is expected. Visit the more rural areas and you will get value of your money, with good hospitality too. Be flexible, and not a fussy tourist coz locals hates it.

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  9. Wow awesome article. I have visited this two time last week I have visited for 5 day trip. Really enjoyed a lot in Thailand it is one the best country. Liked your blog I will follow for my next visit. Thanks for sharing

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