Perhaps the number one question that Southeast Asia travelers want to know: How much money do I need for Thailand?
How much money you spend in Thailand obviously depends largely on what you do, how much luxury you expect, and which parts of the country you visit. Budget travelers can often get by in Thailand for $20 to $30 per day, while others with higher budgets and less time can spend that much on one meal in an upscale place!
Note: All prices are US dollars rounded from Thai baht. The current exchange rate may affect prices, and you'll always find exceptions for the prices below.
Understanding Expenses in Thailand
Finding the best prices and spending less in Thailand is ultimately up to you. Patronizing upscale restaurants and hotels that cater only to tourists will obviously cost more, as will doing more activities and paying entrance fees into sites.
You'll find better prices based on where you are staying. A bottle of beer in the more expensive Silom or Sukhumvit areas of Bangkok will cost $3 to $6, while you can find the same thing in the Khao San Road backpacker area for around $2. You will also find better prices away from the tourist areas.
The islands cost more. Plan to spend slightly more while in the islands on food, basics, and accommodation. Islands cost more for a reason: Anything and everything must be brought to the island from the mainland either by boat or plane.
Unless prices are fixed (e.g., inside of minimarts) you can often negotiate for a better deal. You should not try to negotiate for consumables such as water, snacks, and street food.
- Get help planning your first Thailand vacation.
Accommodation in Thailand
The cost of your accommodation depends largely upon how much luxury you expect. Remember, with such an exciting country waiting outside, you'll probably only be at the hotel to sleep! You can save money by taking rooms with only a fan rather than air conditioning.
Moving around frequently adds to the cost of your trip. If you intend to stay in a place for a week or longer, try negotiating for a better nightly rate. You may get a better deal -- particularly during the slow season.
You'll find backpacker guesthouses in Thailand for $10 a night and less, as well as five-star accommodation where the sky is the limit.
- Learn more about what to expect from accommodation in Asia.
Eating Western food nearly always costs more than Thai food in restaurants. Street carts and simple, open-air restaurants will always be cheaper than eating at your hotel or in air conditioned restaurants. Even with miles of coastline, adding seafood to traditional dishes increases the cost. The default meat served with nearly every meal is chicken; beef and pork are usually the same price.
A basic meal of pad thai noodles with chicken can be found at street carts and from simple restaurants for $1. One of the famous Thai curries can be enjoyed for $2 to $3; sometimes an additional 50 cents is added for rice.
The average cost of a basic Thai meal in a restaurant is $3 to $5.
A 1.5-liter bottle of water from any of the ubiquitous 7-11 shops found all over Thailand costs less than 50 cents. The tap water is unsafe to drink in Thailand and hot temperatures will mean that you will be drinking far more water than you do at home.
A nostalgic glass bottle of Coke costs between 50 and 75 cents.
A large bottle of Thai Chang beer can be found on special for $2. Other beers such as Singah and imports will cost $3 and up, depending on how nice the venue is.
You'll find no shortage of offers for transportation from taxi and tuk-tuk drivers. Hailing a taxi on the street is best; always make the driver use the meter! If the driver refuses and tries to name a price, simply pass and wait on the next taxi. You'll eventually find an honest driver willing to turn on the meter.
Although riding in tuk-tuks is a fun experience, you must first negotiate a price before getting inside. In the long run, taking a sweaty, exhaust-choking tuk-tuk is rarely cheaper than a taxi with air conditioning.
TIP: Beware of tuk-tuk drivers who offer to be your dedicated driver for the day! Be prepared by knowing about the common scams in Asia.
Ferries running the Chao Praya River in Bangkok can get you around the city for far cheaper than a taxi. Depending on the destination, a single ride averages $1. You can also purchase an all-day ticket for $5 to make unlimited hops.
The BTS Skytrain and MRT subway in Bangkok are cheap and modern ways to move around the city. The fare rarely exceeds $1. An all-day ticket can be purchased for $4.
Night buses and trains are a good way to move across Thailand; both save a day on your itinerary and double as accommodation for the night. Overnight buses from Bangkok to Chiang Mai can be found for $20 or less. Trains cost more than long-haul buses, but offer a more comfortable experience.
Other Expenses in Thailand
- A pack of Marlboro cigarettes costs around $2.33 in Thailand; you'll also find cheaper brands.
- You can purchase prescription medication, birth control pills, and medicine directly from local pharmacies without a prescription. The prices are far cheaper than those found in the US.
- Outside of luxury hotels and nicer restaurants, tipping is not expected in Thailand. Read more about tipping in Asia.
- Using any ATM in Thailand now comes with a $5 bank fee for each transaction. See how to access money while traveling in Asia.
- Coin-operated laundromats can be found in the cities. Laundry is charged by the weight and is typically air dried. Two pounds of laundry service costs around $1.50.