Thailand can cost as little or as much as you want. This is a country that meets all budgets, where you can stay in $5 dorm rooms or $1,000 luxury resort suites.
You can dig into street food for pennies or dine on gourmet dinners for hundreds. Thailand runs the gambit.
On the whole, it’s a very affordable place to visit and, unless you are keen on expensive resorts, upscale restaurants, and imported goods, you aren’t likely to spend a lot of money. Things just don’t cost a lot.
But even so, like anywhere, there are plenty of ways to save money, and in this article, we’re going to talk about how you can do so in Thailand.
How much does it cost to travel around Thailand?
Your Thailand costs will vary greatly depending on the kind of traveler you want to be.
I’ve been visiting since 2006, and I’ve seen it change a lot. Now, there are way more budget accommodations, dining options, and organized tours and activities.
But while costs have gone up, Thailand still remains are really inexpensive destination.
If you’re backpacking, plan to budget 800–1,125 THB per day. This will get you a hostel dorm, street food (which is delicious, by the way), a couple of drinks per day, a few tours, and local transportation.
If you’re spending more time on the islands, I’d add about 30% more to this daily budget. (For accommodation tips, check out this guide on where to stay in Bangkok.)
On a more midrange budget of around 2,500 THB per day, you could have private hotel rooms, delicious seafood dinners and international meals, paid activities, and more private transportation and domestic flights.
This would allow you to do anything you want but without really splurging.
If you’re looking to stay in Western hotels or expensive resorts, eat mostly Western food in tourist areas, drink a lot, take a lot of tours, and fly a lot, you should budget at least 6,000 THB per day.
After that, the sky is the limit.
Like I said, this country does luxury really well, and if money isn’t an object, you can find lots of ways to spend it!
How to save money in Thailand as a Backpacker
Since Thailand already is pretty affordable, there are not a lot of ways to save money.
If you live “like a local” and just eat Thai food, take public transportation, and don’t stay at fancy resorts, you won’t spend a lot of money.
However, if you’re on a really tight backpackers budget, here are ways you can save money:
Live a like a local – The easiest way to save money in Thailand is to live like a local: take public transportation, eat street food, and drink beer instead of other (more expensive) alcohol. Do what the Thais do, and you’ll save a lot of money.
Get off the beaten path – Lots of Thailand goes unexplored, since people tend to stick to just a few major cities and islands. However, if you head to smaller islands in the gulf or near Cambodia, visit Isaan in the northeast, or stick to the regions in the interior, you’ll find fewer crowds and cheaper prices.
Book tours when you arrive – Want to take a cooking class, try zip-lining, or head out on a jungle trek? Or maybe you want to try scuba diving near the islands.
No matter what you’re looking to do, wait until you get into Thailand to book the activity.
Travel agencies are everywhere, so they are easy to find. Sure, you could just purchase these tours online before you arrive, but you’ll be paying a lot more.
Eat at the street stalls – Everyone agrees that the food from street vendors in Thailand is the best in the country. Plus, it’s ridiculously cheap. You can easily find a bowl of soup or noodles for under 50 THB.
Street stalls line every block, making them a simple and cheap option for any meal.
Skip the Western food – Western food venues are always more expensive when compared to Thai food. Since some of the ingredients need to be imported, you should expect the prices to be higher than any Thai dishes you’ll find.
And since most Western offerings also pale in comparison what you get back home, it’s best to just skip it altogether and enjoy the delicious local cuisine.
Limit your drinking – Alcohol in Thailand can be quite expensive. If you are going to drink, be sure to take advantage of the many happy hour deals for half-price drinks and 2-for-1 specials when you can and stick to beer instead of cocktails. (If you visit the areas frequented by backpackers, you’ll find even more drink specials.)
Buy beer, drinks and snacks at 7-Eleven – Buying beer, drinks and snacks at Thailand’s ubiquitous 7-Elevens and drinking outside will save you quite a bit on your bar tab.
While you can’t get wrecked on the street, you can take drinks with you to sit outside your guesthouse or while on the beach. These stores are usually 50% cheaper than drinking at the bar, and they have tons of snacks.
Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier comes in particularly handy in Thailand, where the tap water isn’t potable.
My preferred bottle is LifeStraw, which has built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe (it’s good for the environment too).
Negotiate with your tuk-tuk driver – Unlike taxis, tuk-tuks do not have meters. This means you need to agree on a price before you take off.
If you don’t, they’ll be able to jack up the price on you. Drivers are always friendly, but if you’re going to act like a clueless tourist, they will definitely take advantage of you. (For more transportation tips, visit this article on how to get around Thailand.)
Bargain – When you head to the markets, know that you’re going to have to bargain hard. Never take the first price, and don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel like you’re getting ripped off.
If you can, ask a local what prices you should expect, so you can have a point of reference.
Thank you for reading Thailand on a backpackers budget
Thailand is one of the best countries in the world. It’s got a rich, deep culture, incredible food, and gorgeous landscapes.
Don’t wall yourself away in a resort or stick to tourist activities. Immerse yourself in the daily life, and walk away with incredible memories. If you use these tips when you go to Thailand, no matter your travel style, you’ll also save money!
This article was put together by Matt Kepnes who runs the award-winning travel site nomadicmatt.com, which helps people travel the world on a budget.
He’s the author of the NYT best-seller How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and the travel memoir Ten Years a Nomad. His writings and advice have been featured in The New York Times, CNN, The Guardian, Afar, Budget Travel, BBC, Time, and countless other publications.