Visiting Thailand on a budget? As ex-pats in Bangkok, we share the best ways to save money in Thailand and plan a budget Thailand trip!
Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for young people and budget travelers; it really is possible to visit Thailand for $20 a day! It may not be as notoriously cheap as it use to be but there are still many ways you can save money and bag a bargain when traveling to Thailand. As ex-pats living in the country, we share the best ways to save money in Thailand.
Thailand on a budget
1) Travel during the Low Season – When possible, travel to Thailand between April and September to save money on airfares, accommodation, motorbike/car rentals, and even food. Prices rocket up during the high season from October through to March. However, this is the rainy season so visit in September and October to avoid the heavy rain and the heat of April.
If you are paying for hotels and hostels on arrival, it is easier to haggle prices during the low season as many rooms will be empty around this time of the year. To plan your trip, read these tips before you travel to Thailand.
If you know the craft of haggling well, you realize that speaking in the local language can help you in getting the price you want. Learning Thai will allow you to try to get cheaper prices not just for accommodation but other useful things such as food and transport.
If you are visiting in the high season, make sure to book hotels in advance and check deals directly on the hotel websites, especially when booking a 4 or 5 star hotel.
2) Avoid Tourist Traps – The islands of the South of Thailand are still cheap compared to the rest of the world but they are expensive for Thailand. Enjoy the beautiful Thailand destinations like Koh Chang or Ko Lanta rather than the tourist spots of Phuket and Ko Samui to save money on practically everything.
Additionally, there are touristy areas in the city that are worth staying in but staying just outside of these areas will get you better value hostels and hotels. For example, you can get cheap hostels near Khao San Road but they can be run down and dirty. Instead, book a hostel along Sukhumvit Road or even find a private room in a budget hotel in more residential areas like Thonglor and Phrom Phong.
3) Leave the Taxi – During rush hours and in certain areas of Bangkok, Taxis are known to quote high prices for a journey. Even in Bangkok traffic, it is still cheaper to use the taxi meter, which all taxis should be doing anyway. Some taxi drivers even like to take you via a friend’s tailor shop which is just a hassle!
If a taxi driver refuses to use the meter then just get out and find another taxi, chances are there will be one driving past within a few minutes. Make sure you can see the meter clearly and once in your destination, if the driver starts adding ‘extra service fees’ then just pay the meter price and leave.
Our best tip for taxi travel is to stick to using Grab. This app is very similar to Uber and is cheap, and easy to use so make sure to download it before your trip and use it to get around.
EXTRA TIP: Another way to save money and time when traveling across the city is to find the nearest BTS or MRT stop near your chosen destination, head to that stop then get a taxi for the rest of the journey. This is especially helpful during rush hour.
4) Travel on overnight buses but get second-class tickets – Overnight buses and trains can be much cheaper than day journeys whilst also saving you money on a hotel or hostel for the night.
Buses around Asia are now pretty comfortable (for a bus) and come with air conditioning. The bus will still stop at convenience stores on the way so you can buy hot food, drinks, and snacks. There are also plenty of options to choose from and trips rarely sell out.
Second-class buses aren’t too different from first-class buses, with the main difference being a little more room on first-class buses as well as a reclining seat and footrest. First class or VIP buses can be faster as they often have an on-bus toilet, meaning they don’t stop as much.
EXTRA TIP: You can also compare and book train, bus, and mini-van tickets on the 12Go website, a popular choice in Asia.
5) Visit Northern Thailand – Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are considerably cheaper cities than Bangkok and its nearby cities. A night bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai costs around 900 Baht with apartments costing as little as 200 baht per month (£40 or $60!). Plus, food and transport around the city is cheaper and taking buses to nearby locations can also be found for under 500B.
In general, visiting the lesser-known, off-the-beaten-track destinations in Thailand will always be cheaper than the more popular destinations.
6) ATM Withdrawals – Take out large amounts of cash, preferably enough for your time in that area rather than small amounts from an ATM. You will often get charged a flat rate for withdrawing money from your bank as well as an exchange rate.
7) Haggle – No matter where you are in Thailand, you will notice that items are one price for locals and another price for foreigners. Make sure you haggle the price down to what you are happy to pay (even if it is more than a local) and if the vendor doesn’t budge on price then walk away – they will often call out a decent price if they think they are losing a customer.
A general rule for haggling is if a stall doesn’t have a price listed, it is probably because they are going to give different prices. In this scenario, either be prepared to haggle or move along and find someone else who does list their prices. (see the next tip)
8) Signed stalls – When visiting food stalls and markets around Thailand, try to buy items from the stalls that clearly signpost the prices of items. In Chatuchak Market, we once saw a crepe stall selling crepes for 40 baht then went to buy one a little further up and he tried to charge us 300 baht. Needless to say, we just carried on walking until we saw another place with the price displayed.
9) Negotiate with Tuk Tuk drivers – Tuk Tuk drivers can be found in the popular cities of Thailand, particularly in Bangkok. If you are taking a Tuk Tuk, make sure you negotiate a decent price with them, finalize the price before you get in, AND make sure they take you exactly where you want to go.
10) Buy a local sim card – Like most places, if you are staying in Thailand for some time, then pick up a local sim card and make sure your phone is unlocked so you can use the sim card. True Move is a popular choice but all package deals and pay-as-you-go deals are pretty decent. These are especially helpful when booking GRAB taxis to get around the city.
11) Hunt around for accommodation – Use Agoda, booking.com, and Hostelworld to search for the best deals before you start your travels. Booking accommodation in advance is usually much cheaper and not all hostels are cheaper than hotels. In Bangkok and Northern Thailand, you will often find cheap private bedrooms in small B’n’Bs, which work out cheaper than a dorm bed if you are traveling as a couple.
12. Rent a motorbike – If you are in the small towns and cities of Thailand, rent a motorbike. These are much more fun than taking taxis and can save you a small fortune. However, always make sure to wear a helmet and avoid traveling in wet conditions when possible, especially in the mountain regions up north.
13. Free attractions – No matter where you are in Thailand, there are always temples, monasteries, buddhas, farms, beaches, waterfalls, forests, and so on, that are completely free. Do your research and spend time visiting these.
For example, Bangkok has plenty of markets that are free to explore but also have cheap food and affordable souvenirs. Bangkokian Museum is a free place to learn more about the city whilst Wat Saket is a free monstery and a picturesque place to see in the city.
14. Take the local bus – Whilst in Bangkok, it can be so much cheaper if you use the local bus system to get around the city. Half an hour trips start at 20 baht and more and more buses are being modernized; meaning you even get aircon!
15. Jump on the BTS/MRT – For fast, easy, and cheap transport around Bangkok, jump on the BTS or MRT to your chosen destination. If you are far from a stop or your destination is far from a stop, it may be worth getting a taxi or river boat to the nearest station to avoid traffic.
Either way, get yourself a Rabbit card and stick to the BTS/MRT as much as you can. You can download the BTS SkyTrain app to navigate your way around the city with ease.
16. Hand-out Flyers – In the south of Thailand, some bars are known to give you free drinks if you spend a few hours handing out their venue flyers during the afternoon. Speak to those at the bars, this is more likely to happen with bars run by ex-pats.
17. Couchsurfing – This is a website that gives you an opportunity to find free accommodation with people living in Thailand. This works particularly well in places like Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya, and Chiang Rai where there are large amounts of ex-pats with spare rooms! Browse the hosts to find accommodation options but also check out the meet-up groups to meet other travelers in the city.
18. Avoid Western food – We all like a pizza or a Mcdonald’s from time to time but if you are trying to save money in Thailand then don’t start hitting up western chain restaurants. Head to a local restaurant or market and eat like a king for very little.
The best Thai street food on a budget: Most street food in Thailand is cheap and affordable, meaning you can try plenty of the local flavors without spending a fortune. Some of our favorites we would highly recommend are Sam Tham, Phra Kra Pro, and Moo Ping.
19. Don’t leave tips – It is not the norm to leave tips in Thailand so don’t worry about leaving tips in restaurants, bars, or cafes. However, we found the locals to be very grateful when we did.
20. 7/11 Stock up – The first thing we learned about Thailand when we arrived in Bangkok, was how cheap the beer in 7/11 is! A big bottle of beer costs around 55 baht (£1.10) whilst whiskey and wine bottles are as cheap as 250 baht (£5!). There are also these stores EVERYWHERE; ideal for stocking on water etc for your hotel room.
7/11 also has plenty of food options that they happily heat up for you. This includes local meals like green curry and Pad Thai as well as quick bites like sandwiches and toasties and western food like pasta, burgers, and burritos. This is a great way to save money when you aren’t near a food stall or fancy something a little more familiar.
21. Lotus Water – If you are staying in an area for a while, buy a big bottle of water and fill it up from the water machines outside the supermarkets like Lotus, costing 1 baht per liter. This will save you quite a bit on water bottles that normally cost 30+ baht in-store.
22. Visit the side streets – head down side streets and alleys to find the cheapest street food and often the tastiest. This is often where locals can be seen picking up food and you should follow their lead!
23. Drink the local beer – Singha, Tiger, and Leo are all considerably cheaper than imported brands so stick to them when drinking out in bars and restaurants. Also, check out the Facebook pages of western bars to find their happy hours; ideal if you are looking to save money and have a drink or two.
24. Travel by train – Trains are the cheapest way to travel long distances across Thailand but take some time and offer less comfort than buses. Compare train journeys on 12Go.Asia, with various routes, classes, and ticket prices available. You can also check out overnight train options to save even more money.
25. Skip the Guidebooks – I love a good guidebook and will always find the extra cash to buy at least one and read it from front to back and back to front before a trip. When visiting Asia, the best information I found about traveling to Thailand was online at various different travel blogs and youtube videos. Skip the guidebook for Thailand because everything you need to know can be found online.
Plus, one of my favorite things to do in Thailand is just to wander. Around every corner, there will be something unique and interesting.
26. Fly AirAsia – We aren’t big fans of the overnight buses and long train journeys and if you’re not either then check out the flights on AirAsia.com. We managed to get Bangkok to Phuket flights for just 1000 baht (£20). Don’t miss out on the beautiful islands of Thailand like the beaches of Krabi and Koh Lanta.
As always, compare flights on Skyscanner then check prices directly on the Air Asia website. The website often does flash sales too, if you want to get very cheap flights.
27. Shopping Mall food courts – You can find shopping malls all over Thailand with so many scattered around the Sukhumvit area in Bangkok. These malls often included food courts that serve delicious meals usually including a drink for under 100 baht (£2).
28. Work – Working in Thailand
without the correct Visa is illegal but if you want to stay in Thailand for an extended period of time then you can take an online TEFL course
and bag yourself a job over there. If you speak English well and are from an English Speaking country, you could earn upwards of 50,000 baht a month.
29. Avoid Khao San Road – Unfortunately, this infamous road is no longer the cheap hub of Bangkok so avoid staying in this area or drinking in this area. Some of the pubs in this area are great for happy hours but you’ll find cheaper and better drinks in the Sukhumvit area. Also, the food stalls here are overpriced and often, of lesser quality than other food stalls in the city.
30. Take advantage of the happy hours – Most bars and restaurants in Thailand offer some type of happy hour for you to take advantage of. Wander from one bar to the next during their happy hour times and enjoy!
What to pack for Thailand
Most beautiful places to visit in Thailand
Budget Thailand FAQ
How much should I budget for a trip to Thailand?
If you are staying in hostels, eating local food, and sticking to free attractions in Bangkok and Thailand, you can plan to spend ฿2000 a day; $64 or £45.
Is Thailand a cheap place to visit?
Thailand is a much cheaper destination than places in Europe and North America but visiting in the high season ca expensive (compared to other Asia destinations) when visiting the islands.
How much does it cost for 10 days in Thailand?
When sticking to these budget Thailand trips, you can expect to spend around ฿28,000 for 10 days in Thailand (or $900). It is possible to spend as little as $600 if you are staying in hostels in Northern Thailand or the less touristy beaches.
What is the cheapest month to fly to Thailand?
September, October and April are cheaper months to fly to Thailand with January, November and December being the most expensive time to fly to Thailand.
What is the best airline to fly to Thailand?
Depending on where you are flying from, there are lots of different airlines to choose from when flying to Thailand. Via the UK, you can use British Airways whilst Eva Air have affordable rates throughout the year.
- We LOVE this camera for our travel photography.
- For a cheap, easy, and compact camera, we use this to vlog and take photographs.
- We use this microphone for all our Youtube voiceovers.
- We use this travel drone (but make sure to check drone laws in your chosen destination first).
- This is our favorite travel insurance because it covers so many activities and travel situations that could arise on longer trips but also offer year coverage.
What to pack
- No matter where we travel, I always take these trusty hand sanitizers and a mini first aid kit.
- We love these toiletry bags (especially great for smaller bathrooms) and choose a laptop bag like this as our hand luggage.
- We keep our devices charged on long travel days with these lightweight battery packs and bring these worldwide travel adaptors on all our trips.
- I still struggle not to overpack so stick to using an expandable suitcase like these and always take my trusty luggage scales to avoid being charged at the airport.