Thailand is a developing country with a relatively low cost of living. A holiday in Thailand will thus generally be inexpensive. The country offers high-quality accommodation, restaurants, attractions, and tours, at prices that can match a wide range of budgets.
Hotels in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, or Phuket (3- to 5-star), range from as little as US$ 60 to more than US$ 300 (prices also vary according to season), and food is inexpensive almost everywhere. Eating from street vendors will cost just 3 or 4 dollars, while a complete meal in a cozy restaurant costs about US $ 15.
Popular night shows cost about US$ 20-30, and souvenirs, especially those made locally, are sold for a reasonable price (handicrafts are sold for about US$ 15, while spices are sold in bags for about US$ 4).
- You can fly between popular destinations for about US$ 110
- High-quality accommodation ranges from US$ 60 for a 3-star hotel to more than US$ 300 for a 5-star hotel
- You can have a complete meal from street vendors for about US$ 5
- Choose a more comfortable restaurant and eat for US$ 15 per person
- Have fun at an evening dance show or Muay Thai performance for about US$ 25
Why Thailand is affordable
Thailand is a popular tourist destination, and many tourists choose it because of its affordability.
When doing business or providing services Thai people are usually satisfied with low profits, and this contributes to generally low prices. The median salary in Thailand is about 13,500 THB (roughly US$ 400), and items made in Thailand are inexpensive mostly because of the low labor costs.
Cost of living
A single person living in Bangkok would need a budget of 20,000 THB (about US$ 600) a week, while cities like Chiang Mai are slightly cheaper, with an estimated budget of 17,500 THB (US$ 540).
These figures are suggested for someone living like a local. However, a bigger budget would assure you a better quality of life, living in more luxurious accommodation and eating in more expensive restaurants.
Quality of life
The Thai government is working to improve the quality of life of its citizens. Surveys show that Thai people find things such as family, education, social and economic conditions, very satisfactory.
However, the local population is not entirely happy with the environmental and political situation in the country, and this has resulted in many street protests.
Thailand is still an expat heaven. In 2010, the country topped the Expat Experience Survey on Quality of Life. The criteria used in the survey are food quality, accommodation, health care, transportation, and the like.
Flying is a good way to travel inside the country. Popular destinations like Chiang Mai and Phuket are far from each other, and the best option for traveling between them (if you don’t have much time) is to fly.
Thailand’s flagship carrier is Thai Airways, a four-star airline offering good-quality flights, with snacks and in-flight entertainment even for short trips. A flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket in February (high-season) costs around US$ 300 per person. Other popular routes are Bangkok-Chiang Mai (about US$ 100) and Bangkok-Phuket (US$ 120).
Bangkok Airways, “Asia’s Boutique Airline”, is a smaller airline with a more limited array of flights, offering high-quality service, with private lounges in many airports. The longest route, Chiang Rai-Phuket, ranges from US$ 120 to US$ 330 (depending on the kind of ticket); while shorter routes like Bangkok-Chiang Mai come for something between US$ 60 and US$ 140.
The following are one-way single fares for some key routes. The fares for flights in the other direction are the same.
|From||To||Low Season||High Season||Flight Time|
|Bangkok||Phuket||US$ 85||US$ 120||1h 25m|
|Bangkok||Chiang Mai||US$ 80||US$ 100||1h 20m|
|Chiang Mai||Phuket||US$ 190||US$ 300||2h|
|Chiang Rai||Phuket||US$ 160||US$ 200||3h|
All the major cities in the country have a wide array of hotels, guesthouses, and resorts. No matter your requirements, there will be something to satisfy you.
3- to 5-star hotels in Bangkok cost on average between US$ 70 and US$ 300 dollars a night, depending on the location and services provided. You can stay at a 4-star hotel for about US$ 100, while 3-star hotels can offer you a really nice room for about US$ 70.
Prices in Chiang Mai range widely. 3-star hotels start from US$ 50, while the most expensive 5-star hotels can cost more than US$ 370.
Hotels in Phuket tend to be more expensive. For example, you will find 3-star hotels starting from US$ 70 per night, and 4-star and 5-star hotels with prices ranging from US$ 100 to US$ 300. Accommodation in Koh Samui costs almost the same, with resorts perfect for a leisure holiday.
The busiest (and most expensive) period is from November to January/February. To find good accommodation during this period, we recommend you plan and book well in advance. The low season runs from March to October. Prices are of course lower, and there are fewer tourists.
The following are average hotel fares. The prices are per night, for two adults sharing a room.
|Location||Stars||Low Season||High Season|
|Bangkok||****||US$ 70||US$ 100|
|Bangkok||*****||US$ 150||US$ 250|
|Chiang Mai||***||US$ 50||US$ 75|
|Chiang Mai||****||US$75||US$ 100|
|Chiang Mai||*****||US$ 150||US$ 250|
|Koh Samui||***||US$ 60||US$ 75|
|Koh Samui||****||US$ 90||US$ 135|
|Koh Samui||*****||US$ 150||US$ 250|
Eating and drinking
Food in Thailand is delicious and inexpensive. You can either sit in a cozy and welcoming restaurant, or grab a quick meal from one of the many street vendors. You won’t be disappointed.
On the streets, for a meal with rice, vegetables, and meat (basically a complete meal), you can expect to pay between US$ 3 and US$ 5.
Typical Thai dishes are easy to find everywhere, at affordable prices. For example, on the street, you can have a delicious tom yan kung for less than US$ 3. For US$ 2 you can buy a papaya salad, while US$ 2 will usually get a good portion of mango sticky rice.
Restaurants offer a more formal environment, with more complex dishes and complete service. A good restaurant specializing in Thai food (with air conditioning) can cost from US$ 15 to US$ 30 per person for a complete meal, beverage included.
A lot of tourists like to combine restaurants and street vendors and get a taste of both. We can say that for a good combination of the two you can expect to pay US$ 30 per person per day.
Guided tours are ideal if you want to relax and have someone take you round and explain to you the history and most interesting facts behind the places you are visiting. You can choose from hundreds of agencies, and we recommend looking on websites like TripAdvisor to get an idea about the quality of the tours.
Tours usually include pick-up with a private car/van (with a driver), and a private guide who will be with you during the tour, introducing the attractions and helping you get around.
Tours can be private or for bigger groups. Private tours tend to be more expensive, but you can choose your own itinerary (which you can modify as you please), your own pace (maybe you want to spend more time on an attraction or activity you particularly like), and receive more personal service.
For example, a private day tour of Bangkok, from 9 am to 4 pm, can cost US$ 210 for two people (including lunch). For the same price, you can have a tour of Ayutthaya, everything included (entrance fees, private car with a driver, private guide).
After a long day of visiting tourist attractions, you might want to relax and choose your favorite entertainment. If you like art and dancing, we recommend watching khon, a dance drama performed by an ensemble of male performers. For example, in Bangkok, at Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre, you can watch a 90-minute show for US$ 24-28 (prices vary according to the seat).
In Bangkok, you can watch an entertaining 90-minute performance of Muay Thai, ideal for martial-arts enthusiasts and families as well, for about US$ 30.
A Thai massage costs about US$ 10 per hour, and a Thai cooking class costs about US$ 40.
In Phuket, tickets for the night show Phuket Fantasee cost US$ 67 (US$ 80 with dinner). For about the same price, you can join a completely different activity and play with the elephants in the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary near Chiang Mai.
Many tourists enjoy buying souvenirs in the countries they are visiting. Thailand has plenty of products you might want to bring back home: silk, spices, Buddha statues, Thai spa products, handicrafts, etc.
Thai silk is maybe the most popular souvenir. It is usually handmade, which contributes to higher prices. This soft and delicate cloth may cost US$ 4 for the most inexpensive piece, up to US$ 170 for the highest quality one.
Thai spices are also popular. They are sold in small vacuum-sealed packages, and chili pastes are sold in air-tight containers. Prices vary according to quantity and quality, but you can expect to pay between US$ 3 and US$ 9.
Handicrafts are sold everywhere, especially in the markets of Bangkok. Look out for cushions, baskets, pottery dishes, wooden carvings, and much more. Prices range between US$ 8 and US$ 40.
Photo by Chris Hayashi on Unsplash
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