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Thailand on a Budget

Planning a trip to paradise quickly gets expensive when you fly by the seat of your pants, and for decades Thailand has been an easy, quick, inexpensive trip to see tropical forests and jungles and buzzing cities with exotic food, textures, and traditions. All you would need is a backpack, a couple hundred dollars, and a plan and the trip was set! Nowadays the glamour, glitz, and flash of tourist traps are multiplying in Thailand -- fear not. Traveling through Thailand on a budget is still possible. With a little forethought, some gusto, and a hunger for adventure you too can find paradise in this lush country!

The biggest thing you need to do in order to save money is plan ahead. Look at where you want to go. Some of the most popular destinations can also increase your expenses while others run much cheaper. Big cities established as tourist centers can save some money on lodging, but sets the trap for falling into the comfortable touristy attractions. Be patient with your travel schedule. When going long distances between cities, consider traveling at night on the train. This offers the benefit of lodging overnight while cutting costs on getting around. Whatever you do for transportation be aware that public transportation is not like the western world: it’s usually never on the same schedule you were handed.

Prepare yourself for an adventure in cuisine and you’ll be ready to save some cash as well. Look to the street food, the carts and vendors along the roads through towns and cities. It’s local food. It’s different. And it’s cheap! Food gets expensive when you’re looking for the comfortable things: international cuisine and fancy restaurants. Just remember: you’re on vacation experiencing a different culture and cuisine, so dive in and enjoy! Street food tends to run about $1-1.50 per plate, though the portions are smaller than you’re used to. Eating vegetarian while in Thailand, which is quite easy, will save about 30% on food costs, and supplementing with rice as filler can help save a few bucks along the way. When eating at the international or tourist restaurants you should still expect to pay $10-15 per plate, if not more depending on your tastes. The last little food saving tip to remember: Bring a couple water bottles or canteens and refill as often as possible. Buying water can get quite expensive in hot and humid Thailand.

Once you’ve got your food and travel plans set, it’s time to consider lodging. This is by far the biggest expense you’ll encounter when heading to Thailand. You could stay in resorts and hotels and pay industry prices for those nights, or you can go much cheaper with websites like if you’re comfortable with it. Some Buddhist Monasteries also offer free room and board, but be prepared to have and enjoy a Buddhist Monk experience! When accommodations are acquired your next savings tip is to find the community organized events and activities around where you’re staying. You may have to ask around once you get into town. Stay away from the typical tourist attractions and you’ll save a lot and have a more authentic experience of the culture.

If this all sounds fairly simple, it’s because it is. Thailand doesn’t have to be an expensive trip when you embrace the cultural engagement as your focus on the vacation. Plan ahead! This will save you the most money; but realize that Thailand is at a different pace than the western world. Fly with the winds coursing through the rich jungles and you’ll have an amazing time.


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