You can certainly get a lot of your bang for your buck in Thailand, and if you’re wanting to keep things on the cheap, it’s relatively easy to travel through the country on a budget. Travel in Thailand is, generally speaking, very wallet-friendly. You can find low-cost buses and airfares throughout the country and load-up on delicious, budget street food. Accommodation is as little as a few dollars a night if you stay in a hostel and it’s also one of the cheapest places in the world to do activities like scuba diving.
All in all, while Thailand is literally on the other side of the world for many, it’s often cheaper to spend time in Thailand (including the price of a long-distance flight) than it would be to stay closer to home in Europe or the Americas. From top street food eats through to transport, here’s our guide on how to do Thailand on a budget:
If you’re looking for a party atmosphere, Thailand is filled with hostels along the backpacker route, which normally runs from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand down to the southern islands, such as Koh Tao (known for its world-class diving), Koh Phangan (known for the world famous Full Moon Party), Koh Samui and then across to southwest Thailand to Koh Phi Phi and Krabi.
Meanwhile, if you’re traveling with friends, or as a couple, it can often be just as cheap to rent a private room instead of staying in a hostel, so check your options before booking. Here are some of our favorite hostels in the country:
PanPan Hostel is our favorite place to crash in Bangkok and gets sparkling reviews from guests. The hostel is clean, spacious and offers private and dorm rooms for great, budget prices.
Slumber Party Hostel is one of the island’s most popular budget options — and it’s also one of the top party hostels on the island, with everything from beer pong to drinking games running through the night. The hostel is so popular that it’s usually sold out every night, so you need to book your bed in advance. Note: it’s not a hostel for those that want to sleep.
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi’s stunning limestone cliffs and perfect turquoise waters make it a top destination in Thailand. Our favorite budget accommodation is Hangover Hostel, where, as the name suggests, you’ll be up late into the night playing drinking games or partying with fellow backpackers.
The relaxing city of Chiang Mai is best known for its temples and laid-back way of life. Our favorite pick is Baan Klan Vieng Hostel, which is a boutique hostel praised for its excellent clean rooms and beautiful views of Wat Dok Kham and Wat Dok Eung temples that can be seen from the property’s windows.
It’s easy to do Thailand on a budget thanks to the country’s low-cost transport.
Tuk-Tuks and Taxis
Tuk-tuks rule the roost in the main cities and islands and are a cheap way to get around, not to mention, great fun to ride around in. Taxis are also great value and some cities, such as Bangkok, have car services like Grab to help you find a ride.
There are several budget airlines operating domestic routes in Thailand and providing bargain deals. The best budget airline is Thai Airways, which is loved for its policy of free checked baggage allowance (up to 30kg for economy class), food, drinks, and in-flight entertainment for all classes. Other cheap flights can be found with AirAsia and Nok Air, who fly routes around the country to the top cities and destinations.
If you’re going island-hopping in the south, ferries and boats between the islands are relatively cheap. To give you an example, the ferry between the popular islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao is around $12 USD.
What to Eat
With one of the world’s best street food cultures, it’s easy to keep your food budget to a minimum in Thailand. The country and its islands are packed with street food shacks serving up delicious Thai cuisine for a few dollars a plate. Some of the top street food dishes include:
Pad Thai is one of the country’s most popular street foods and is best eaten in Bangkok. It’s a delicious mix of noodles, meat or shrimps, stir fry vegetables, eggs, and crushed peanuts.
Kai Jeow is a delicious Thai omelet served on a bed of rice. The omelets are perfectly fluffy inside with a crispy outer layer and can be found throughout Thailand. They are typically eaten at breakfast-time, although you can find them during the day.
It would be a crime not to try one of Thailand’s most-loved street food snacks (unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan, of course). Moo Ping is an on-the-go snack of skewers with grilled pork or chicken cooked in a deliciously sticky, spicy and sweet marinade.
Mango Sticky Rice
If you’re in need of something sweet to round-off your meal, keep your eyes peeled for mango sticky rice, which is rice cooked in a coconut and mango sauce and wrapped in a banana leaf. It’s a delicious, on-the-go dessert.