A Budget Travel Guide to Thailand

Book affordable bungalows right on the beach!

Book affordable bungalows right on the beach!

From the bustle of Bangkok to the beaches of Phi Phi, Thailand is seeped in the very essence of backpacking. Stunning natural landscapes combine with the locals’ laid back approach to life and create a country that emits a siren call to any self-respecting backpacker.

Thailand, after all, is probably the home of budget travel – this is where fresh-faced students come to cut their teeth, and where hardened backpackers return over and over again. As long as you take in a few rules of thumb on how to save money in Thailand, traveling here can be the life-affirming experience so many talk about…


While transport in Thailand is generally cheap, choosing your methods of getting around can be absolutely crucial to making your budget stretch that little bit further.

For example, taking overland transport when traveling between cities proves drastically cheaper – and more enjoyable – than jumping on short-haul flights. The country’s interior is a fascinating spectacle, and taking it easy on a bus or train as you rattle through the countryside can come to define the experience of budget travel in Thailand.

Carefully selecting the time of these journeys can also help save a baht or three. Many journeys within Thailand last a good six hours or more, which means that an overnight sleeper will not only save you money in comparison with a flight, but it will also save you a night’s accommodation too.

Once installed in one of the major cities, the allure of jumping on tuk-tuks (small bike-and-carriage type taxis) can destroy the budget of even the most experienced of backpackers. While they may look fun, tuk-tuks really aren’t the way to navigate Bangkok on the cheap – that accolade belongs to the MRT and bus system. It may get a little hectic at times, but using public transport is considerably cheaper.


Accommodation is cheap. Really cheap! In fact, along with the Thai’s abiding commitment to hospitality, its probably one of the main reasons Thailand has established itself so successfully on the backpacking trail.

You just have to ride a tuktuk when in Thailand

You just have to ride a tuktuk when in Thailand

Wherever you are in the country, hostels in Thailand can normally be found for around $10 (or even less in some circumstances). Often called guesthouses or inns, these places tend to be small joints run by a family, who take care of their guests in true Thai style.

Food & Drink

Aside from the vibrant color that covers every building, the various smells of Thai food are perhaps what linger most in the memory having spent time here. The food is simply excellent, and it’s wonderfully cheap too…

The one and only rule for budget travelers looking to grab a bite is simple: Don’t eat Western food! Thai cuisine is not only immensely tasty, it’s also much cheaper than the soulless burger joints that peddle bad Western food at high prices to unsuspecting novices.

Simply head to one of the many roadside stalls, and for $3 or so you’re likely to find enough great tasting food to last you the whole day. Wash the food down with a bottle of Beer Chang (the strong local brew) whilst sitting on plastic tables, and you basically reach the nirvana of budget travel!

Fun Time

Thailand is, of course, famous for its nightlife – from gaudily lit sex joints to chilled beach hangouts, it just about has it all. Whatever the flavor of evening you’re looking for, however, a couple of simple rules can guard against blowing too much of the budget in one chunk.

For a start, pace yourself! It’s easy to get caught up in Thailand’s swirling hedonism, but a night on the tiles is always best followed by a night taking it easy. Cinema is an important part of Thai culture, and enjoyable evenings can be had simply sitting in a bar and watching whatever blockbuster is being pumped onto the television overhead.

If you are looking for a big night out, try starting at a supermarket. Beer is relatively expensive in Thailand, so it can be a good idea to grab a couple of bottles from the shop and enjoy them at your own leisure before drinking in the bars and clubs.

And Finally…

Barter! Negotiation is part of life here – it’s not embarrassing or malicious, as some Westerners may think. Try to bear in mind the first price quoted probably isn’t the final one, and never be afraid to walk away if you’re not happy with the numbers on offer.

For the budget traveler looking to do Thailand on the cheap, there can be no better way of feeling good about your budget than hammering a price down to what you think acceptable!

About the Author

Andrew Bond is a travel writer who has been living in Thailand and writing about the region for more than 10 years, contributing to numerous local magazines and major web travel brands. He travels around South East Asia by tuk-tuk, bicycle, cyclo, jeepney, taxi, moto, elephant or foot in search of new smells, sounds, sights, and atmosphere. Share your travel bits with him on Google +

blog comments powered by Disqus