14 Tips for Budget Travel in Thailand

Thailand is one of the most budget-friendly and luxurious destinations for honeymoon celebrations. There are hills, busy beaches, secluded beaches, lively urban life, animal sanctuaries and more for every couple there. As a result, travel enthusiasts are quite impressed with which one to choose! Thailand has always been considered a cheap destination to live and to travel.

But how cheap is it? You decide. We'll just share some information and some tips from the insiders.

cheap trip to Thailand

But first check out our recommendations on building itinerary around Thailand.

1. Visa

As soon as you enter, immigration is smooth. Just have the right size photo to fill out their immigration form. Else you will have to pay at that time and have your photo taken as per their requirement.

Visa On arrival is very easy to get or you can get EVisa before. The required documents to get EVisa are passport, flight tickets, hotel bookings, and bank statement of last 3 months.

Most people go with Visa on Arrival as they don't have minimum balance maintained in their account for 3 months. Thailand’s visa on arrival doesn't even check anything. They just take your passport, stamp it and hand it over to you.

2. Food

Apart from being cheap, Thai food is also very tasty. Although the street food that you see is more of a hybrid style of food. The original curry with rice, pad thai noodles, tom yum soup made with fresh lemongrass, ginger, coconut milk, and lime leaves makes my head dizzy with aroma.

Thailand is a real paradise for adventurous eaters. You can find all cuisines of the world here and of course, the local national cuisine is definitely worth trying. But we are talking about the money here, right? So, how much is it? Street food in Thailand is cheap as hell. But restaurants are bit costly if you're going for sea food items.

The food is the best, stick to local cuisine as much as your system would allow. If you can try those fried scorpions. Street side Mango Rice, Pad Thai, Coconut Ice Creams are an absolute must. The fruits are incredible fresh and just 50 baht will give you a bowl full of them. If you step into any shopping malls the variety of food is always making you unable to decide what to eat. The world's best-known street food in Chinatown, at affordable prices, will never disappoint anyone.

  • All sorts of BBQ – chicken, pork, seafood, mushrooms, vegetables start from only 10 baht (~30 US cents) per stick.
  • A decent serving of Thai soup may start from 30 baht (~1 USD) up.
  • Fried rice, pad thai (noodles fried with seafood, chicken, pork or vegetables) ~40 baht up.

The above prices are valid for Thai-style places with metal tables and plastic chairs. Be prepared that the cook will put the food into your plate with the hand they've just taken money from a buyer with.

Food courts are very popular in Thailand – both among the local people and tourists. You can find them in every big supermarket. Double the above prices to have your meal in air-conditioned premises where cooks don't deal with money. The food courts usually have a booth where you can get a payment card to shop in the food court.

There are also a lot of western standard fancy restaurants with nice interiors, excellent service, and food. Prices are about average European level with main dishes starting at 20-25 USD and up depending on the restaurant class. You can also use food apps to check the restaurants and street food prices.

If you are going to stay for quite a long period you might miss home-made food. Modern condominiums often have kitchenettes but not always. So if you want to have a stove make it clear with the owner/agent. Very often they call it a kitchen but it actually only has a fridge and a microwave oven.

3. Supermarkets in Thailand

Never a single day, a Thai don’t visit 7-Eleven store. It has been one of the national symbols along with Thai street dogs and street food as it is considered cheap, as prices, like a banana costs 10 Baht individually wrapped, a cup of fresh brew Americano for 27 Baht, and your breakfast, lunch and dinner can be found as well, among other items.

Avoid Tesco or 7–11 on payday. Many Thais will arrive in droves at these businesses to pay their water bill, electricity bill, phone bill or tons of other services that have barcodes or QR codes. This technology is great and fast but between the confused customers and repeated explanations it seems to take forever.

Prices at the supermarkets

  • milk ~ 50 baht/l
  • almond milk ~ 85 baht/l
  • coconut milk ~
  • pork ~ 150-300 baht/kilo
  • chicken ~60- 160 baht/kilo
  • fish ~ from 60 baht/pcs.
  • salmon ~ from 900 baht/kilo
  • shrimps ~ 240 baht/kilo
  • bread ~30 -100 baht /baguette or a loaf
  • oats ~ 40 baht/ 400 gr
  • rice ~ 20 -100 baht/kilo
  • butter ~ 120 baht /200 gr
  • cheese ~ from 160 baht/200 gr
  • ham ~ from 600 baht/kilo
  • eggs ~ from 40 baht/10 pcs.
  • spaghetti ~ from 50 baht/500 gr

Fruits and vegetables are usually fresher at the farmer's markets

  • mango – depending on the season and the destination from 30/kilo baht during mango season in Hua Hin to 120 baht/kilo by the beach on Phuket.
  • papaya – 30 baht/kilo up
  • bananas 20 baht/bunch up
  • mangosteens 25 baht/kilo up
  • durians 180 baht/kilo up depending on the durian sort. The price is usually per kilo before peeling.
  • pine-apples from 10 baht unpeeled, 20 baht peeled/pcs up.
  • coconuts from 20 baht/pcs. up.
  • tomatoes ~ 60 baht/kilo
  • potatoes ~ 40 baht/kilo
  • carrots ~ 40 baht/kilo
  • onions ~ 40 baht/kilo
  • cucumbers ~ 20 baht/kilo
  • pumpkin ~ 25 baht/kilo
  • cabbage ~ 30 baht/kilo

4. Transport in Thailand

Although Bangkok’s traffic could make anyone go nuts, there are always other transports, motorcycle taxis, boat rides, Tuk Tuk ride which squeeze in the alleys where car is out of bounds, BTS Sky trains and MRT subways. You can pre-book cheap flights, to travel inside Thailand. There are tourist agents on pretty much every street of main cities in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket.

You can get deals on buses as well. However the difference will not be much, may be a couple hundred baht. Getting around Bangkok before the Skytrain was chaotic at best. Trips across the Big Mango would take biggest part of the day due to the seemingly endless traffic jams. Now the same trip takes less than an hour.

Initially when the BTS started running, the rides were free. At first many of the Thais were reluctant to ride the train. The fares are fairly cheap but more importantly riding the BTS saves a bunch of time.

Taxi: In Bangkok you can see a lot of bright-colored taxi cars. You can either bargain before you get into the car or make sure the driver has put the meter on. Keep in mind that they will charge toll roads extra – on top of the amount on the meter. Apps are the most convenient and hassle-free way to call a taxi as you don't have to explain where you need to go and you can see the price in advance. In toll roads you will be charged extra.

How to identify mafia taxis? Bangkok’s Taxis who make cabbies in New Jersey look like amateurs. Bangkok’s taxi drivers are shrewder and sharper they won’t use force on visitors nor use amateur tricks, mind you, they are better class above that. Stationary taxis could be mafia taxis. They form a long line with a minimum of 3 taxis.

Taxi’s drivers who strike a conversation with you, like: Do you need a taxi? A Samaritan driver who helps you to unload your luggage from a public van or any transport you come with. Taxi drivers who say, I am a Grab or Uber driver. In fact, they have no idea how Grab or Uber works.

Tuk-tuks: You can take tuk tuks just for the fun of it and are usually more expensive than a regular car-taxi. But if you want to try it as a tourist thing you can first check the approximate price in your ride sharing app and then haggle.

Every journey will not be completed without a Songthaew, a transport that runs in every town across Thailand. Fares are a minimum of 7 Baht in Bangkok or 10 Baht in other provinces. A catch is foreigners bound to enjoy standing at the rear with one hand holding a grab bar while the other hand playing Facebook like locals indeed.

The VIP buses and trains are top notch and safe. Many tourists don’t know this and are afraid to travel by land. It’s a pity as you’ll see the countryside and have interesting conversations with locals and travelers when you go by land.

When you arrive at a city or village, rent a motorbike and take the red truck Songtaws that transport people locally for only $1USD. You don’t ever have to take taxis.

5. Best time to visit Thailand

Remember, there is no special season to visit Thailand. It's a party house on all 12 months, 30 days and 24 hours.

Did you know that Thailand has an annual festival of monkeys? Last Sunday in November is celebrated beyond the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi village in northern Thailand. A large buffet of fruit and vegetables are laid out, the monkeys to glory.

6. Accommodation

How much do you expect to spend in a good room with the bathroom attached, in Bangkok? Would you believe that you will pay only one-third of Singapore's price and half of the KL's room rate of the same quality?

Yes, we all know online booking sites claiming to guarantee best prices. But trust and verify. If you prefer to stay at private apartments to have the benefits of feeling at home use airbnb or couchsurfing to get a welcome discount. If you're a bachelor, I would suggest a hostel. There are crazy hostels in Bangkok that are available including breakfast. And you can even meet new people from different countries in your dormitory.

When I say hostel, don't get the impression of those filthy dormitories with the messy washrooms attached. Thailand hostels are by far the most hygienic places I've ever been into. They wash it every hour. You'll find an ocean of cheap hostels. When booking accommodation in Bangkok keep in mind that it's a huge city not always designed for walking.

That means that you either have to rent a motor bike or you'd better make sure you can get from your place to BTS/MRT walking. It's clean as a newly constructed room. If you're going with family, then book a resort. Resorts in Thailand are crazy places to provide leisure. And they are not too costly. Try to get deals, there are decent hotels with roof top pools at decent prices.

The map may show that it's only about 1 km way but in fact there may be no walking pass there and you'll have to look for a taxi every time you need to go explore the city or get back home.

There are also districts taxi drivers do not like again meaning you'll lose time and money every time. A cheap apartment may total you times more due to those unforeseen transport issues. So, just read the reviews carefully and don't be shy to ask the host.

Accommodation price in the beach areas depends on how far the place is from the beach. 2-3 km from the sea may save you hundreds if you're OK with renting and riding a motor bike. While reading reviews also pay attention to any mentions of stray dogs. Take a flight to Bangkok and have your accommodation booked in advance. Khao San Road and Banglumpu areas are still Backpackers' havens.

7. Alcohol

Try the Local Beer Leo, Chang and other’s. Just pick them up from 7/11 and sit by a beach. Since this is a party capital the bartender at the shittiest bar or club also is a pro and experienced one. They can make any bloody drink or cocktail in the world and serve it to you.

8. Nightlife

Thailand comes to life at night. The ultimate Bangkok nightlife has never bored anyone yet and it's time to move on to other parts of Thailand. You will find full moon party in Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, beach parties in Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, and Krabi and even bustling night markets with community dancing in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Same in Pattaya but a little more intense.

Same with Walking Street, Pattaya (although that's not it's claim to fame). There is lots of partying going on the streets late into the night. Granted most of it is by the Western tourists, but still the energy on the streets is very welcoming and cheers the moods up. These are of course apart from the different moon parties in Koh Phangan, most famously Full Moon Party.

9. Beaches

You cannot compare the lovely beaches of Thailand to any place in the world, except maybe with Philippines. The shiny turquoise colored coral beaches, the local wooden boats on top of them, cheap snorkeling and scuba diving and great beach parties make Thailand really popular.

Most beaches offer all kind of water sports, again be ready to bargain for the price. You can try all the water sports that you want to. If you can try everything and do not miss a thing. Remember to collect beach towels from your hotel. All hotels provide with beach towels. Visit as many beaches you can while backpacking in Thailand. Take a self driven bike or hire a cab and go to Pattaya. Pattaya is only 150 kms from Bangkok.

10. Islands

Getting to see the hills and the natural beauty is good if you choose Northern Thailand. You can even go to Krabi from Phuket if you want to. If you don't want to go with above options, visit Chiang Mai. Beautiful place with lots of floating markets, monastery and many more things. There is no shortage of forests, wildlife sanctuaries and royal hills.

The top attractions in Thailand are the Kauai River Bridge, Erawan National Park, Mooka Hong, Hat Karon, Khao Phanom Bencha National Park, Ko Muk, Thum Morakot (Emerald Cave), Catholic Church of Chanthaburi.

11. Temples

Amidst of partying and scenery, it’s easy to forget the history and cultural magnificence of Thailand. The temples, palaces say their own story, paint there own picture. And there are plenty of these although after sometime every temple looks the same. Every temple every time is just breathtaking. The Bangkok Palace and the Buddha temple next to it is a must visit.

Who are Thailand’s good Samaritan? These are smartly dressed, middle aged Thai men who speak solid English. What about them? They are capable of draining the money from your wallets into theirs. These are people, although not paid by the Tourist Authority of Thailand to assist tourists like you for FREE but they are a self-appointed to appear like a Samaritan. What will they do to you and where will you find them?

The men will station themselves where newly arriving tourists get their first glimpse of Bangkok. Places like the areas below the Airport Link Terminal station in Bangkok (Phaya Thai BTS Station), or the areas outside the lobby of Hua Lampong railway station or Mo chit Bangkok bus terminal and the Arrival Hall of Bangkok Don Muang Airport.

Another notable place is around the Grand Palace. Do not entertain them, although your sixth sense tells you that they are super kindhearted people. The admission price for Wat Arun, Wat Pho is 100 Thai Baht, entry to Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew is 500 Thai Baht and Wat Traimit is free of charge.

Go to Loei in the rural North of Thailand and stay in a temple. You’ll be the only foreigner there.

12. Massages

Well, there are literally some gazillion types of massages. Get the relaxing foot massage and whatever other type of massage you want. As long as you can spend nothing is off the table. Well, you’ll figure out once you’re there.

13. Shopping

Ask any visitors- where are the good and cheap shopping malls for clothes? None other than The Platinum mall and Pratunam market. Meanwhile, Bangkok has the Central World, the largest mall in Southeast Asia. Besides many countless upscale Malls, like Siam Paragon, Siam Center, Siam one, Siam discovery, EM Quartier including the most popular for Asian tourists-Terminal 21.

Bangkok has the world’s largest weekend market, Chatuchak market where there are always things for everyone, besides countless markets like train market, flower market, the flea market at Khlong Tom, you name it.

14. Money

First off, avoid any ATMs around payday which is usually at the end of each month. This is what typically happens. A tourist heads to an ATM to make a quick withdrawal in order to continue their journey through the Land of Smiles. It shouldn’t take long to get some cash as there are only a couple of Thais at the machine.

But each person also has a long list with their friends’ ATM cards, pin numbers and transactions needed. The ATM is not going to be free anytime soon and sometimes they do run out of cash.

And finally avoid parking your car or sitting underneath a coconut tree. Now go enjoy Thailand...
Kalyan Panja