How Much a Holiday in Thailand Costs

Ruins and a statue in Sukkothai, ThailandThailand can be as expensive or inexpensive a country to visit as you want it to be. This is a country where you can stay in $3 USD rooms or $1,000 USD resorts. Street food for pennies or gourmet dinners for hundreds. Thailand really runs the gamut. When my friends came to visit last December, they budgeted $1,700 USD for their three-week trip. “No problem,” I said, “that’s more than enough for Thailand. This country is cheap.” But what I realized as I traveled with people on a limited time frame is that there’s big difference in budgeting for a backpacking trip versus budgeting for a holiday.

It requires a whole different mentality. It’s a lot easier to stick to a low budget when you can average out your expenses over a few months instead of a few weeks. On a vacation, you tend to race around trying to see as much as you can, which can drive up your costs a lot.

Thailand is a cheap country to live in and travel around. I spend very little money here. But that changed when my friends came, and why that changed is important for anyone planning to come to Thailand. While my friends were here, I spent a lot of money. For the 24 days we traveled, I spent $1,596.27 USD or $66.51 dollars per day. Here’s the breakdown (all prices are in in Thai baht):

  • Accommodation (cheap guesthouses, nice beach bungalows, luxury jungle huts) – 13,565
  • Flights around Thailand – 4,200
  • Transportation (public buses, trains, taxis) – 1470
  • Ferry to, around, and from the islands – 1875
  • Diving in Ko Tao – 800
  • Hiking in Khao Sok – 1200
  • Movie and popcorn (Sherlock Holmes 2—don’t see it!) – 320
  • Misc. (bug spray, toothbrush, etc.) – 363
  • Drinks (it was the holidays!) – 10,115
  • Jim Thompson House (museum in Bangkok) – 100
  • Medicine (I popped my ear drum scuba diving!) – 1,890
  • Food (street food, seafood dinners, amazing international meals in Bangkok) – 11,000
  • Web stuff for work – 890
  • Water – 100

Total Spent: 47,888 Baht or $1,596.27 USD

Note: $1 USD = 30 Baht.

For Thailand, that’s a lot of money. I tell people that backpacking around Thailand costs $30–35 USD per day, depending on how much alcohol you consume and how many days you spend on the islands, where costs are higher. Most of the time, I spend less than that. I just stayed a week in the northern city of Chiang Mai and only spent about $25 USD per day. That included accommodation (private room with bathroom), local food, Starbucks, the occasional Western meal, and a few drinks.

So Why Did I Spend Double?

Sunset in Ko Lanta, Thailand
Though my intention was to do “Thailand on a budget,” as I traveled with my friends, I realized something I’d forgotten. When time’s limited and this is one of two big trips all year, you don’t want to scrape every penny. Vacations don’t need to cost a fortune, but if you aren’t traveling all the time, staying in the cheapest place to make your money last becomes less of an issue. You want nice things.

You travel faster. You take planes, not 12-hour trains. You cram more activities into your day. You pamper yourself more. You eat nicer meals.

And my friends definitely wanted all of the above.

How Much Do You Need?

Beaches near Ko Lipe, Thailand
That’s not to say I don’t think a vacation in Thailand can’t be done cheaper. It can. I think a budget of around $50 USD per day would be perfect for a short vacation to Thailand. You don’t need to spend as much as I did. I spent a lot of money going out, using the Internet for work, and seeing a doctor. If I cut out those expenses, my average drops to 1,421.16 Baht or $47.31 USD per day. That’s more expensive than a backpacker budget but really good for a trip to Thailand.

Throw in some extra money for shopping, and a maximum of $55 USD per day would give you a very, very nice budget vacation in Thailand. For that price, you would get:

  • Flights so you don’t have to spend time on long bus rides.
  • Meals that include local restaurants and cheap street food as well as delicious seafood dinners and some delicious international food in Bangkok.
  • Budget guesthouses with a few “splurge” nights thrown in.
  • Some tours and activities.
  • A few drinks.
  • And a little extra wiggle room just in case.

Pretty much the essentials of any fun, relaxing holiday.

While all the money-saving tips mentioned on my website can be applied to any style of trip (saving money is universal), how fast you travel on a vacation changes how you spend money. We could have saved a lot if we’d skipped the flights and taken the train, but my friends didn’t have the time to spend 12 hours on a train. We flew, which is expensive during peak season.

A river in Khao Sok

This experience reminded me that accelerated travel requires us to be more vigilant in our efforts to save money. In the rush to see everything, you can spend a lot of money before you even realize it. I’ll admit that the budget traveler I normally am went out the door on this trip. I would normally never fly around Thailand, would skip the expensive resorts, and wouldn’t eat as much international food as I did with my friends.

A three-week vacation in Thailand might not be as cheap as a three-month backpacking trip, but it can still be inexpensive as long as you watch where your money goes and don’t forget about keeping to a budget in your quest to see everything.

Continue planning your trip with these articles:
? Thailand Travel Guide
? Ethical Elephant Tourism in Thailand
? Seven Reasons to Visit Thailand

      • Parva

        Hey, could you possibly pass me an address of the guest house you stayed in? I am looking for an affordable place to live there but its quite hard to find one.


        • Christiaan

          I will go in 6 weeks to Thailand and found some really cheap ho(s)tels.
          Check the website of

          As i am going to the touristic places which cost higher, i would say 60 Euro per day, but that is really too high.

          But better to have something spare when something unexpected happens, so that wont scrape of your budget that you have in mind. For me that was 50 Euro per day inc. accomodation.

          If you go to Thailand, i would recommend eat often streetfood. It is fresher (daily from markets) then hotel or restaurant food.

          But you really can do it for half price 25 euro a day or less when you look well.
          Advise, dont nagociate with taxi(meter) drivers about the price. They are the cheapest and most comfy for short distances, only city-busses are cheaper, but way more slow. Tuktuk ride is nice for a time, but they are asking too high prices, but is a fun experience.

          When arrive in Bangkok and go to Kao San area, i would suggest to take the taxi instead of the Airlink Rail, saves a lot of hassle and carrying with bags. from train to center to take a buss to Kao San. Cost about 400-450 bath + 50B airport tax for taxi and 50B for the tollway. That would be about 17-18 dollar i think, not sure, i pay here in Euro.

          Have fun all in Thailand.

      • Adil Mujawar

        Hi I am travelling to Bangkok & Pattaya with my wife and daughter of 3yrs.

        Mine Flight Ticket, Hotel Booking, & ll sightseeing are pre paid.

        Can you please advice me how much thai bhat will be sufficient for all 3 of us for lunch and dinner.

    • Catherine raina

      The one thing we found on our récent trip to thailand was that the drinks( water, soft drinks and beer, coffee etx) cost almost as much as a regular meal at an average restaurant.
      You can get a pretty good meal for 60-120 baht and coffee( latte) was 80-100 baht, water 40-50
      We drank so much bottled water while there- at least 4-5 Bottles each. Just a little something to factor into your budget.

  1. Gregory

    Am leaving for permanent travel this summer and this logic is exactly how I’ve been thinking. Thank you for boosting my confidence.

  2. “…and seeing a doctor. If I cut out those expenses, my average drops…” Hopefully you’re alright and you don’t have to cut out seeing a doctor to save money!

    Good post though about how the decisions we make while traveling can greatly impact our bottom line. It’s all about what kind of experience we want to have and what we’re traveling for.

    • Catherine raina

      We travelled for the month of February 2015 and were told to book hotels etx while there as you get better rates. We found this to be untrue especially in busy season. It was hard to find good availability while there an we spent many hours booking flights and hotels for our next leg of thailand adventure. I would reccomend booking some of your hotels ahead and flights( within thailand) as well. I paid a lot more for flights than if I had booked it months before going.
      Also, saw many backpackers going from hotel to hotel to hostel looking for rooms. Waste of your vacation time. The travel to get one place to another is generally long and hot and would be annoying having to roam around looking for a place

  3. I noticed Thailand is cheap when $10 at a convenience store gets you more than you can possibly carry. Matt, I would be interested to here your thoughts on Cambodia prices, relative to Thailand.

      • I’m not Matt, but I’ve traveled Thailand and Cambodia a few times (I L O V E Cambodia) and I would say that Cambodia is significantly cheaper. A three hour bus (local bus) runs at around $3 USD. You can get meals for well under $1. The beaches are nice – I stayed on a cute little island called “Rabbit island” for a few dollars – it’s a pretty quiet island, but awesome if you go with a big group of people and it has those glowing fishes at night. Dorms aren’t very common so often you wind up with a private room, which you can get for $5-10usd, if you’re being really cheap. I had a nice 4 star hotel in PP for a night (to sort myself out) which was around $50usd. I prefer traveling in Cambodia money wise not only because it’s cheap, but for me spending USD gives me a better bearing of what I’m actually spending.

        I spent a month in a rural town in Cambodia and spent around $300 usd for the month. I was busy volunteering, but that did include a weekend trip to Rabbit island and a few trips around the region (Takeo). I think upwards of $500 usd a month would be a fine very bare budget for Cambodia, factor in more for Siem Reap (Angkor pass is kind of expensive, and you’re likely to enjoy Western comforts there which will bump up the price)

        I miss the fiery red roads of Cambodia and the big, beaming smiles. I think it’s an underrated destination for sure! :) Hope that helps. xx

        • NomadicMatt

          I love Cambodia. I’m here again for the 2nd time and I would agree with you – it is a lot cheaper. It’s sort of hard to spend money here. You really need to try.

  4. catmonkey

    I just came back from a 9 day trip in Thailand, I spent $250 for the whole trip for which I believed I could have spent less compared to my bf who was there with his mate and had spent $1000 for the same amount of time with all the partying nights

  5. You gotta teach me your secret to tracking/categorizing your $$ spent so thoroughly. Rather than not having the organizational skills to track it (details are not my thing), I’m hoping I just don’t have the system in place…

  6. Betti

    great points.
    it also makes a big difference if you travel alone or with a friend. accommodation, motorcycle rental, taxi rides…. not all the same if you share or have to cough it up by yourself.

  7. I think I am torn between budget travel and spending a little more for certain experiences. When I did my RTW trip – I opted for the more expensive where I thought best in exchange for time!! I had one year to travel or a particular dollar amount – I opted to do it all til I hit my magic number and then call it a day! I did 7 months and never regretted it. Admittedly, I was sad to have missed certain countries, but I did everything I wanted in the countries I visited. It was the 3 months travel in Canada than killed the budget! I know I can go back to the countries I missed. While in South America I met a trio of girls doing everything on the super cheap – they did not look as is they were enjoying themselves nearly as much as myself and the person I was traveling with. Guess it depends on your goals.
    Love your breakdown on costs – great way to really see where those travel dollars are going.

    • NomadicMatt

      I don’t think people should go super cheap. I get you might not have a lot of money but go for a shorter time and experience more instead of going longer and experiencing less. I’ve met the same types of travelers on the road too and in my opinion, they would get more out of their trip if they did more in a shorter time frame.

  8. This is great info. My husband and I are going to Thailand February 17th-26th. We’d like to see Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Would you suggest that we book our flight from BKK to Chiang Mai prior to getting to Thailand, or can we do it there? The problem is that we’re not sure how long we want to stay in each city since we have such a short time in the country. This cost break-down is really helpful for us. Thanks for posting!

  9. I absolutely loved travelling around Thailand. I had budgeted around $30-$40 per day but found by the end of my trip that I was getting by on closer to $20 per day. Like you say though, the islands are the most expensive area, while the north seemed to be the cheapest. Great post!

  10. Thanks for the heads up! We’re headed to Bali soon (Work Holiday in AU is almost over ;P … ) and my sister is going to meet us there. It’s good to remember not to try to “cheap” her out of a fun time abroad!

  11. Hi Matt,
    When I was in Thailand, we saved every little penny we could because we were doing the RTW. However, there are things that we regret we did not do for save money.
    In our next trip to Thailand we will be much more then “flashpacker” as our visit will not last three months but only a couple of weeks and this time, there will be no regrets :-)

  12. I’m going through this exact thing in Thailand as I write this. Traveling alone I could budget my money and live on almost nothing. As soon as my friends arrived, It’s been resorts and expedited traveling. The tough part is finding a balance.

  13. bernie

    Went to Thailand with one of my sons last year.. we had 7 weeks.. which i thought was quite a long time!! but no!!!! could have done with at least double that!!! lol. Both loved it there! Can not wait to go back! Was not too happy with the guest house in Chiang time will get another one..

    • NomadicMatt

      Thailand takes a lot longer to explore than a lot of people realize. I tried to do it in 2 weeks the first time I went there.

    • Catherine raina

      We stayed at khamon Lana resort in Chiang mai a few weeks ago and this place is fabulous! We paid about 70$ per night including a great breakfast, shuttles 4 times a day to markets or shopping malls! The hotel was so incredible and clean with 15 foot ceilings. A huge 36 degree pool, amazing food and restaurant!
      Highly reccomend- a bit expensive but worth every penny!!!
      Hired a driver for the day to tour longneck, elephants , temples, silk factories etx- super cheap and great day!

  14. I can’t wait to visit Thailand, definitely next up on my list of destinations. I tend to go for cheaper accommodations to help save for the more enjoyable experiences and, of course, food! Good to see it broken down though, thanks!

    • Catherine raina

      You get what you pay for with the food and accommodations.
      If you don’t want to get sick- you have to spend a little more for food-

  15. William

    Thailand I rated good on my first visit, but then I went to Vietnam and Camboda, which was so much better than Thailand.
    Not good to travel around Thailand too cheap, Value for money not great. I never stay in top hotels but middle ones..backpackers too rough for money. Food is all the same over-rated.
    I am not in a hurry to return now, Vietnam offers so much more and they need the Dollars more.
    In South America try Uruguay..nice places in this small country.

    • Catherine raina

      Agree! Just got back! You get what you pay for there! Spend a little money you get crap food and accomodations.
      Found we had to spend twice as much as we thought for an average hotel- still bugs and dirty for the most part except Chiang mai

  16. I’m heading to Thailand in a couple of weeks as the last leg of a backpacking trip through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I’m hoping I might be down to the last of my savings by then! However, it might be a good place to put my TEFL certificate to use and teach English for a while

  17. Chris

    Thanks Matt,

    Great read!

    I spent 3 months travelling around SE Asia about 5 years ago and absolutely loved it.

    Thailand was my favourite.

    I’m thinking of taking a break from work on some online stuff myself next year for about 3 months. I’ve already travelled, so my motivation is different to most backpackers and just want to find a decent/cheap place (preferrably on one of the islands) to hang out.

    What’s the internet coverage like? Is wifi common?

    Any suggestions for longer term stays in single locations?

    • NomadicMatt

      Internet coverage is everywhere in Thailand. You can’t take a step without finding free wifi. A lot of people set up shop in Chiang Mai but I am partial to Bangkok.

  18. Kyle

    hey matt,

    planning my three month trip starting February 2013 as that’s about the time I think I’ll have the money to do so lol. but if you think my budget is more than okay for three moths let me know so I can leave sooner than later! been planning/slowly saving since I was 17 and wanna go for my 21st. If I were to leave now I’d be going with about $4000/$5500 Canadian. I’m just scared I’ll get there and not have enough money so planning for February so I have about double that if not more. I do want to rough it out the entire time I’m there though. I want the full experience of backpacking (can you tell this is my first time haha). maybe a nice hotel here or there a couple excursions (scuba diving, elephant rides so on and so forth) but nothing to crazy over the top. also as of right now I’m going alone. good or bad idea? should I be waiting until a friend can afford to come with me?

    you have a great article and any information you can give me would be wicked!! thanks!

  19. Leigh

    Hi Matt

    This has been the most helpful post I’ve come across!
    I’m planning a 15 day trip to Thailand in March 2013 and I was wondering if it will be cheaper for me to book my flights between cities now or rather wait until I land in Thailand (visiting Bangkok , Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket)?

    Another question: I want to do the whole tourist thing in each city, do a bit of shopping&party a l

  20. Leigh

    Hi Matt
    This has been the most helpful post I’ve come across!
    I’m planning a 15 day trip to Thailand in March 2013 and I was wondering if it will be cheaper for me to book my flights between cities now or rather wait until I land in Thailand (visiting Bangkok , Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket)?

    Would you recommend booking my hotel rooms now (Agoda has some great deals) or should I rather wait until I arrive in Thailand.

    Another question: I want to do the whole tourist thing in each city, do a bit of shopping&party a lot. Do you think a $20 budget per day would enough or should I rather budget on $40. This amount excludes flights and accomation.

    Again thanks for awesome posts!

    • Alex

      Great post Matt, very informative. I will keep an eye out for future updates from yourself. I do have a similar query to above though.. Would it make a big difference financially to book hotels in advance – Reasonable hotels to my taste in Bangkok seem to be 15-30 GBP in advance (dependent on location/quality), will this change dramatically on arrival? (Nov 2012) I would rather not over plan my trip if at all possible. On your trip, were you booking in advance (if so how far in advance)? Or were you simply ”winging it” – Again great post..

    • Steve

      My wife and I are going to much the same places in late march. We live in Northern Territory Australia maybe we can have a drink together .

  21. Ben

    Extremely helpful to see all your figures. I guess you always end up spending more on a holiday when you don’t know the shortcuts and places to go locally.

  22. Peter

    Great post Matt. Yet I have been wondering. I am planning on going to thailand soon and Im looking to spend up to a max of $20 per day. One thing Im thinking that could drive the cost down would be couchsurfing or some other websites available. Might work but it depends. Would that be enough?

  23. Liz


    My partner and I have booked a 3 week holiday in Thailand for August. We have the flights booked (including internal) but were wondering whether it was best to book hotels in advance or sort out when in Thailand?

      • N. White

        Hey Nomadic Matt,

        Planning our 2 week honeymoon we originally thought of going to Thailand however I have also heard great things about Cambodia. We would love to have some sight seeing with temples and spend some time on the beaches. We have a connection in Thailand for some missionary work but we will have to just wait and see how things play out there. I don’t plan on trying to “see everything” we want to chill out, enjoy the culture and the food! Maybe catch a local market somewhere. Any recommendations would be appreciated – thank you!

  24. Nicole

    Excellent information and love how you put everything out on the table. I’m thinking about planning a 2 week trip to Thailand in June (mainly island hopping), but see how some websites mention that the weather might not be that great. What would you suggest?

  25. Hi there

    Firstly thank you for such an awesome and informative sight. We are planning on going to Phuket in June 2014. I have looked up the weather and some sights say its warm, some say it’s rainy and some say thunderstorms. I would hate for my first trip overseas to be restricted indoors because of the weather. Could you please advise?

    We are also going with the resort type accommodation and would like to know if we should buy a package with a travel agent – is that the cheapest option or to book accommodation for about 3 days and then source our own accommodation while there? Is it best to book tours though the travel agency or when we get there?

    Look forward to your response.

  26. Robert C

    I am travelling to Thailand in Febuary 2014 for 1 month on my own
    Love this country spent 20 days in Febuary 2013
    I plan on going to Phuket this time as I spent to much of my last trip in doors
    At Bangkok been there done that need to see Bond island and floating village
    Ride an elephant
    Can any one recommend good cheap accommodation in patong
    Best method of travel to Phuket cheap
    Should I fly into Phuket rather than Bangkok

  27. Kristian

    Thanks for the insight! Learning a lot from your different posts.
    Girlfriend and I are going to SE Asia next month, 3 months – first backpack for both of us, so your writings are of great interest! Thanks.

  28. Allisha

    I’m planning my Thailand holiday for the end of the year with a group of friends, this has helped a lot ! Thanks soo much.

  29. K2hawaii

    Aloha Leaving hawaii to go to Thailand in december Is that a good idea?
    whats the best way to get there?
    I have Hawaiian Miles lots.. Any advice would be appreciated…

  30. Javi

    Thank you so much, this is just what I was looking for. I’m going to thailand for new years and was stressing out over the money issue.
    Great article!

  31. Hi,

    Thanks for this. Makes me want to go to thailand more. Anyway, what do you think is the best place in thailand where there are alot of nice beaches but you can spend less?

  32. Daniela

    This post is great! I am planning to travel to Thailand and get to know a lot of places there, so I would do it by plane, but I have a question on you, could you recommend me a flight/train company? Where should I book the internal flights?

  33. Hana

    I just received 3 quotes from the travel agent for £1800pp
    Uk to Dubai – 1 night
    Dubai to BKK – 3 nights
    BKK – Chaing Mai – 2 nights
    Chaing Mai – Puket – 3 nights
    Pucket – Dubai – London.

    Including all transfer….I thought this is VERY expensive. Tough we want to
    stay in 4* accommodation,but I thought this is too expensive. Any ideas…

  34. Matt

    Hey Matt,

    My girlfriend and I are travelling Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam in starting in May through to mid July, how much USD would you expect to spend /plan on taking, on a backpacker budget, with a few things thrown in, I.E elephant ride in Chiang mai and a few island activities? I’ve been looking through a few websites trying to gather some info, you seem to have “been there, done that”

  35. Dolly Lama

    Ok – here’s my challenge…I’m athletic and adventuresome, but not well-travelled. My husband and I love to dive – I’ve been mostly to Caymans, Belize, Roatan. But nothing in South Pacific. We have 2 teenage boys (14, 16) good hikers, swimmers and snorkelers. We live in Southern California – and are into the beach – enjoy water sports. I am turning 50 this year and would like some great experiences to mark the year. One of them is a trip to Thailand this December 2014- early Jan 2015. I would like to maximize our time doing awesome, cultural things and seeing the beauty of this area of the world. I would also love to dive and see a whale shark (I know – no guarantees.) My initial plan is lax-Bangkok for a few days – Chan Mai bicycle/hike for a few days (elepahants?) Then the beaches and water/diving/relaxing. We have approx 2 wks 12/20-1/3 – we don’t need strict budget (which I totally admire) – but want good times and VALUE/interesting experiences. Please help – especially what islands? Thank you VERY much :)

  36. Choudhry

    Hey all..! I’m heading to Bangkok, Phuket and Samui in early July. I’ve also planned for Cambodia. I hope everything goes well. I have budgeted my 12 days vacation for $1200. And I hope this amount would be enough for this trip :)

    • Rachel

      Hey Choudry- I am planning the same trip in the end of July for 3 weeks…do you plan to use flights to get around? I am nervous because I feel like 3 weeks is not enough time to see Bangkok, Chaing Mai, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui and Cambodia (Ankor Wat)
      What does your itinerary look like? I’m curious…
      Also, does 1200$ include the flights?

  37. Rachel Pratley

    Hi matt! I want to travel after I finish my last semester of college in mid-may. I want to fly into the northern part of the country and end in the islands. I know Thailand has a heavy rainy season in summer but would you recommend going to Thailand may-june? I

  38. charles

    Hi, Matt
    I am planning for Thai trip in mid or end July 2015 from Oman. I would like to booze and enjoy the beaches. not very much into cultural or sightseeing. Luv shopping & looking forward to taste all variety food, drinks, booze in Thailand. So please can you provide details for stay and budget per day. I am planning for a travel of 6-7 days. Wud prefer medium range accommodation.

  39. Moriah Hendrix

    I’m planning to stay with friends in Chiang Mai, but want to take a quick jaunt to the beach before I leave. What beach would you recommend? Would a flight be the best way to get there? And what accommodations should I use? I’ve been looking at airbnb as an option. Would that be a good/safe choice?

  40. Exactly, Thailand is so cheap that you often get carried away with yourself. For anyone looking to keep fit while they’re travelling, you can get a month’s training at a muay Thai gym for around 8,000-12,000 baht.

  41. Rae

    Just like everyone, Im traveling to Thailand this year but we’re going over Christmas for two weeks. The cheapest flight is listed at 1350. Is that reasonable or should we wait for it to go down? I can’t seem to find any sites that tell me what a reasonable price is. I know many people who got theirs for anywhere from 700-900 but they weren’t traveling over the holidays. Any help would be awesome! Thanks!

  42. ZUF

    Great tips matt

    Im planning on a trip with my wife , twin boys (8ys) n my lil daughter (4ys).

    It bkk n some other close by areas child friendly ? Like theme parks n shallow beaches n stuff like that ? Cause i had initially planned for dubai ( atlantis n ferrari world etc )

    What do u recommend ? Im on a budget of approx $6,000 all inclusive

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