Idyllic islands, spectacular temples, and opportunities for epic outdoor adventures — it’s clear why Thailand figures high on many travellers’ wish-lists. Chances are, if you’re considering visiting Thailand, a crucial question is at the forefront of your mind. Namely: is Thailand expensive? So, to answer that crucial question, here’s a rundown of the costs of travelling in Thailand. From accommodation, food, transport and activities, to the price of tours and organised trips, this will serve you well when working out your Thailand travel budget.
Is travelling in Thailand expensive?
In a word, no. Travelling in Thailand doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, it’s one of the most budget-friendly destinations.
From low-cost accommodation options and inexpensive street food, visitors to Thailand can easily plan an affordable trip. That’s good news for those of us whose Thailand travel budget is on the small side.
At the same time, Thailand isn’t short of higher-end places to stay, fine dining restaurants, and immersive activities you could choose to splash out on.
In essence, when planning your Thailand travel budget — one of our top Thailand travel tips — you need to compare the costs of accommodation, food, transport and activities.
So, to come back to our original question — is Thailand expensive? — the simple answer is: no. It really doesn’t have to be. Read on for a breakdown of costs.
Cost of accommodation
In general, one of the biggest costs of travelling is accommodation. When figuring out your Thailand travel budget, keep in mind that a room in a mid-range guesthouse will set you back around £20–50 ($25 to $65) a night.
Looking to bed down for less? Budget options in dorms and hostels can be bagged for £5-10 ($6 - $12) a night.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking to splash out, expect to pay £100-200 per night for a luxury hotel or villa.
Looking for somewhere to stay? Read up on accommodation in Thailand.
Cost of food
Still wondering “is Thailand expensive”? When it comes to the cost of food, we have plenty of good news.
Tasty, filling street food can be bought for just £1-2 ($1,50 - $3) a dish, while eating out in mid-range restaurants will see you pay £3-5 ($4 - $7) per dish.
When you fancy dining in more upmarket style, expect to pay £5-20 ($7 - $20) a dish.
Love your grub? Find out more about eating and drinking in Thailand.
Cost of transportation
Planning to get off the beaten track? You can take local buses from just 50p, with motorbike rental costing £5-10 ($6 - $12) a day.
To hire your own car, expect to pay £20 ($24) a day. If you want a private driver for a bespoke journey, you’re looking at a cost of around £50 ($60) a day.
For more on transportation, read our guide to getting around Thailand.
Cost of activities
When it comes to the cost of travelling in Thailand, many top activities can be done for absolutely nothing.
For example, lots of hikes can be done without the services of a guide, and it’ll cost you nothing to visit some of the country’s best beaches.
To travel further afield in the company of a guide, you’re looking at paying anywhere from £20-200 ($24 - $240) per trip. The price will obviously depend on the distance you’re travelling, and the nature of the activity.
Happily for water babies on a budget, Thailand remains one of the cheapest — and best — places to dive. For example, shore dives start from £35 ($43), while a full open water dive certification course costs in the region of £230 ($285).
On the subject on activities, check out the best things to do in Thailand.
Average cost per day for travelling in Thailand
Backpackers on a shoestring could stay in a dorm, eat street food and travel on public transport for around £20-30 a day — as long as you keep partying to a minimum.
Staying in relative shoestring territory, if you’d prefer a private room, fancy socialising a bit more, and want to take a few tours, budget for £35-50 ($25 - $37)a day.
Meanwhile, mid-range visitors staying in tourist-oriented accommodation should plan to spend £50-80 ($62 - $100).
Looking for luxury? Your Thailand travel budget will be anything from £150-300, ($185 - $370) depending on how much cash you have to splash.
Average cost for organised travel in Thailand
Though Thailand has a reputation for attracting independent travellers (more on that below), it’s also well-served by operators that specialise in organised travel.
This will be of particular interest to families, visitors who aren’t sure how to begin planning their trip, and those who are looking to immerse themselves in their chosen destination, hassle-free.
Going a step further, tailor-made travel to Thailand enables you to customise your trip to your exact needs, taking into account the places you most want to visit, and your interests.
Travelling with kids? Our Family Time in Thailand trip will see you and your loved ones explore Bangkok and encounter elephants in the Chiang Mai region before heading to the beautiful Khao Lak beach resort.
As for the costs, you’re looking at 3-5-day trips costing from $600 USD, through to 10+ night experiences from $1200 USD.
For this, you’ll enjoy a number of benefits — local expertise, the convenience of having someone else take care of booking accommodation and activities, and a totally personalised experience. Sounds pretty priceless.
Cost of travelling independently in Thailand
When it comes to the cost of travelling in Thailand, on balance, travelling independently comes out cheaper.
By independent travel, we mean finding your own way around the country as opposed to rocking up to join a pre-booked, pre-organised trip. It also means booking your own accommodation.
For many travellers, this offers longed-for freedom, flexibility, and a more budget-friendly experience. For example, as highlighted above, if you stick to dorm accommodation, street food and public transport you could live on £30 ($38) a day.
That said, travelling independently in Thailand comes with non-financial costs. You’ll need to spend time planning your route, and researching all the costs you’ll incur along the way.
In practical terms, this means working out the cost of getting around, and what you’ll pay for accommodation in every stop.
You’d also do well to earmark (and cost) activities and excursions you’ll want to take in each area you plan to visit.
While travelling independently in Thailand is cheaper than organised travel, bear in mind that it can come with unexpected costs, no matter how well you think you’ve budgeted.
Tailor-made travel vs independent travel
While it is often cheaper to travel independently in Thailand, with tailor-made travel you know exactly what you’re paying for.
In contrast, while you can, of course, plan your Thailand travel budget for independent trips, you will want to factor in contingency cash.
And the reasons? If you’re planning to wing it and find places to stay while on the road, you could face unexpected higher accommodation costs. And, in all likelihood, there’ll be days when you’ll want to skip street food for a local restaurant, or go on a bucket-list excursion.
What’s more, tailor-made travel comes with invaluable benefits, such as having a local expert plan and book your trip, offering local insights, and taking the stress out of travel every step of the way.
Tips for budget travel in Thailand
Consider visiting in low or shoulder season
If you plan when to go to Thailand wisely, you'll save a stack on the cost of flights and accommodation. For example, consider visiting in the July—September low season.
Research homestay and hostel accommodation
Hostels and homestays are drastically cheaper than hotels and resorts. What's more, they offer opportunities for more immersive, social experiences.
Avoid internal flights and tourist minivans
If you're on a budget, you'll be much better off using local buses and trains, or hiring a bike.
Eat at street stalls and night markets
One of the easiest ways to spend less in Thailand is to buy food from hawker carts and stalls. Some of the best bargains can be had at transport hubs and night markets.
Make the most of national parks
Thailand's national parks usually have low entry fees, and pleasingly affordable accommodation costs for stays in tents and bungalows.
Make the most of Thailand’s more minor monasteries
While the likes of Bangkok's Wat Pho come with pretty pricey entrance fees, lesser-known monasteries are often free to enter, and free from fellow tourists.
In summary, the cost of travelling in Thailand can be pretty darn low — if you plan your Thailand travel budget wisely.
This means making choices about where to stay, what to eat, and how to get around according to your budget. It also means deciding which activities you really, really want to do, and can afford.
If you’re not restricted by a rock-bottom budget, booking an organised, tailor-made trip is well worth considering.
Going tailor-made takes the hassle out of planning and booking. It also gives you the freedom to customise your trip with support from a local expert who really knows their stuff.