How To Travel To Thailand On A Budget
Thailand is an incredible place to travel and explore, from bustling city centers brimming with a range of shops, bars, restaurants, and fragrant food markets to dense jungle settings or tranquil beaches, Thailand has it all. And best of all, it’s very affordable to travel in Thailand!
No matter what budget you are working with, Thailand offers an extensive range of activities and sights to explore and can cater to even the tightest shoestring budget. Let’s look at a few handy tips and information so you can stretch out your vacation money further in Thailand!
1. Travel in Low Season
By far one of the best ways to travel to Thailand on a budget is to travel in the low season. Thailand has three very distinct seasons: summer, winter, and rainy seasons. If you’re prepared to travel to Thailand from July to October, you’ll be visiting in the rainy season, although this doesn’t mean it rains all day.
The low “rainy” season has warm, humid weather and predictable rainfall that usually occurs in short, rapid bursts either during the late afternoon or at night, so it is easy to plan activities around those times.
Travel during low season and you’ll still enjoy warm weather, avoid the busy crowds, plus you’ll have a far greater choice of hotels available without the need to book ahead, with many offering heavily discounted rates for longer stays.
2. Work Out a Budget
Before you travel or book, you’ll need to budget how long you intend to stay in Thailand and how much you’re planning to move around. Set up a daily budget and remember, some days you’ll need to budget more than others to take into account for activities, or more expensive travel within Thailand.
Here are some average costs to help you budget your trip to Thailand:
- 3-star hotel in Bangkok: $20-30 per night (Low season)
- Internal flight from Bangkok to Phuket: $50-200 each way (Low season)
- Lunch or dinner at a Thai restaurant: $3-10 per meal
- Lunch or dinner for international cuisine: $10-20 per meal
- Street food: from $1
- A bottle of beer at a bar or restaurant: $1
- Overnight bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (12 hours): $15-25 (Low season)
3. Getting to Thailand
Thailand is very accessible with 7 international airports that are mostly located on the islands or in the larger cities, such as Bangkok. Traveling internally is also very easy with many domestic airlines flying several times each day to internal destinations.
Websites such as Skyscanner, Expedia, and Kayak are a great place to start when researching your flights. Be sure to check an airline website directly too, as they can offer special deals and discounts, especially around the low season.
Flying from any US city to Thailand is at least 19 hours with one connecting flight. With this in mind, it makes sense to base your trip around a 3 week Thailand itinerary. That way, you have a few days when you arrive to recover from any jet lag from being in a different timezone.
4. Getting Around Thailand
If you arrive at either international airport within Bangkok, you can take the Skytrain (Bangkok’s metro) or a bus directly to the city center which will be your cheapest option.
Getting around the main cities of Thailand is very easy and affordable. Walking is a great option to take in the sights at a slower pace. Tuk-tuk’s (small motorized carts) are also a popular and cheap way to get around a city.
For larger distances, Thailand has an extensive network of public and private busses, with many private companies offering long-haul overnight buses that are convenient, cheap and a relatively comfortable way to get around. Local and international companies also offer Thailand backpacker tours to the whole country.
Short-haul domestic flights are often less than 2 hours anywhere within Thailand and can be found for less than $20 depending on the season and where you are traveling.
Accommodation options are plentiful no matter where you are in Thailand, they vary from the most budget-shared digs to gleaming palatial suites in the most renowned international hotel chains.
The good news is Thai hotels and hostels are very affordable. A bed in a hostel in Bangkok starts at just $3, and as an example, an average 3-star hotel costs around $22 per night and slightly more if you’re staying on the Thai islands.
A budget room can be very affordable, especially when booking during the low season. If you’re planning on staying on the islands on a budget, look for a hotel that’s a few streets back from the beach and they’ll be considerably cheaper than beachside accommodation.
Before you travel, check websites such as Hostelworld, Booking.com or Airbnb for a range of accommodation options
Eating out in Thailand is very inexpensive and offers some incredible options for tasty local and international cuisine. If traveling with a 3 week Thailand itinerary, you’ll still be hard-pressed to try all of the local dishes on offer, there are so many new flavors to explore!
There are lots of vegan destinations in Thailand perfect if you don't eat meat. By visiting any of the local food markets or street food stalls you will find the most diverse and affordable options, with many street dishes costing less than a dollar. Most street stalls charge around $1-2 so you can be as frugal as you like.
Visit one of the many restaurants, and you’ll find a range of cuisines on offer, with most Thai restaurants being the best value. A simple and incredibly tasty Thai noodle dish such as Pad Thai can be found for around a dollar in most places throughout Thailand.
If you’re looking for more familiar American food, Thailand has plenty of fast food options. They are not as cheap as local street food or traditional Thai food, but they’re an affordable option when you’re looking for your burger fix! Plus, you’ll find 7-Eleven’s everywhere to grab a quick snack or drink.
7. Phones ; Internet
Buy a local Thai SIM card as soon as you arrive at the airport. They are inexpensive and Thailand has a wide range of cell phone carriers. Some SIM deals are cheaper than others, so find one with a good amount of data.
WiFi is also very common in Thailand and can be found in virtually every hotel, bar, and restaurant all over the country so to really save money, you could virtually rely on free internet.
8. Free/Low-Cost Things to do in Thailand
Thailand offers a great range of activities, from exploring elaborate temples and religious sites to visiting the many stunning beaches and famous landmarks that have made Thailand a hotspot for travel.
If you’re more of an urban explorer, walking through the various districts of Bangkok is a great free activity, and there are plenty of cultural delights to discover. Be sure to venture to any of the free food markets scattered throughout the capital. They offer a fantastic insight into Thai culture and an excellent opportunity to sample the many world-famous Thai dishes.
If you’re looking for some sun, make a beeline straight to one of the islands, where you’ll find everything from relaxed coastal villages providing a delightful insight into Thai culture to stunning beaches and crystal blue water that is excellent for swimming and sandy havens for reading books all day.
You might want to volunteer in Thailand helping elephants which is a magical experience!
The Perfect Thailand Itinerary
Thailand is an incredibly diverse country with so many things to see and do that it’s hard to experience the best the country has to offer in much less than 3 weeks.
A 3 week Thailand itinerary offers a lot of time and flexibility to visit and explore the capital of Bangkok, visit popular tourist areas such as Chiang Mai in the mountains, and cool off for a few days at one of the many islands that are a must for any first-time visit to Thailand.
Allow for a few days in each major city, island, or tourist destination. Always allow a day for internal travel to reach each destination, as while it’s easy to get around within Thailand, you’ll want to feel relaxed while making transport connections and enjoy the journey.
Have you ever been to Thailand? Do you have any recommendations you would like to share? Let us know in the comments section below.