Backpacking Thailand, Ultimate Guide

Backpacking Thailand

Welcome to our Thailand travel guide, We could write a nice long speech about how Thailand is one of the world’s biggest backpacking destinations. Or about the sheer abundance of exotic temples, monasteries, islands and jungles. But we can leave that for another article. You are here because you want to know how much it will cost you backpacking Thailand. Luckily for you, it is not as much as you might think. 

How much does it cost to travel Thailand?

Daily Budget

On an average budget of 30$ per day you could make your dream backpacking Thailand adventure, a reality. If you are planning to spend only a couple of weeks, push this up to $40. Then you could do pretty much whatever you would like.

People do travel Thailand for a lot less. We have known people to scrape by backpacking Thailand on $15 a day. This is a budget that you could choose if you do not want to move often. Catching buses and boats are one of the main expenses when you travel through Thailand. You will also have to stay away from alcohol and not really do any activities. If you wish to visit Thailand for the sake of visiting Thailand, which we very much doubt that you do. Then yes, you could make this budget work. But if you want to have fun ….

Have a budget of $30 per day and you will have a far better time. Keep in mind that this is a budget for backpacking Thailand. This is a country where all tastes are catered for. From hostels and guesthouses all the way up to five star hotels. So be careful. This is a Southeast Asian paradise where it is very easy to blow your weekly budget on a crazy Thai night out. Be careful and watch your expenses and you will be fine.

However do note that if you are traveling around Christmas and New Year time, prices do go up.

How To Travel Cheap

Here are some tips on how to travel the world on the cheap. No matter if it is a family holiday or a Backpacking adventure, these tips and tricks can save you hundreds. Always use these apps and websites when traveling. Even if you are just going on a short weekend in your own country. Use these secrets and you will find cheaper prices. The Secrets Of Budget Travel, The Websites And Apps That You Need To Be Using!

If you are not a backpacker, you probably wonder how they do it: travel the world and have adventures of a lifetime. Well here we will show you how. Here are some of the tips that we have learnt after years of traveling and backpacking. Use them on your next adventure. Backpacker Tips, How To Travel On The Cheap

Where To Visit?

Although cheap by western standards. Backpacking Thailand is more pricey than say, Vietnam or Cambodia. Thailand is the most expensive country in Southeast Asia, not counting Singapore. The cost of traveling also varies throughout the country. The north for example is a lot cheaper than the south, and the islands are more expensive than the mainland. The Island of Koh Phi Phi is probably the most expensive place in Thailand. Although if you are careful and watch your budget, you can still travel here to see the world famous Maya Bay. Though do be warned Koh Phi Phi has become a tourist trap in recent years.

Thai-budget-buddha-thailand-travel

Pai

Pai is northern Thailand’s backpacker paradise. A small little town nestled in the beautiful mountains of the north, it has become synonymous with travelers. Some people hate Pai and some people love it. If you are a backpacker looking to have fun times with other backpackers, then you will love Pai. However if you prefer the more quieter destinations, then you may want to stay away from the hustle and bustle of this mountain town. If you do visit Pai, take a motorbike ride through the beautiful national park that stretches in every direction. We rented motorbikes and rode a four hundred kilometer round trip to the border of Myanmar. Here it is possible to meet with members of the Karen Hill Tribe. For people backpacking Thailand and looking for a good time. We can not recommend Pai enough.

Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi is a beautiful little town to the west of Bangkok which is a great place to get a taste of the Thai culture. Here you can have a more relaxing time than in the backpacker paradise of Pai and explore the surrounding countryside. Kanchanaburi is the start of the death railway. This is the remnants of the railway line that the Japanese forced prisoners of war to build during world war two. This is also where the world famous, bridge of the river Kwai is located. If you are a history buff, this is the place for you. If history is not your thing, rent a kayak and paddle down the beautiful river Kwai. Or head to Erawan national park where the seven tiered Erawan falls will take your breath away. All in all Kanchanaburi is a great place to visit.

Krabi Town

Krabi town is not much in it self. It is the location and the surrounding areas which make this a great place to visit. Just a short motorbike ride from Krabi takes you into the Thai countryside, which is so beautiful that words cannot even begin to describe. Temples, monasteries and caves dot the area and they like nothing more than to show tourists around. There is a hundred things to do near Krabi town, the most famous of which is to visit Riley beach. If you have seen pictures of limestone cliffs sticking out of the water in Thailand, this is probably Riley beach. Google the name and see for yourself how beautiful it is. Krabi town also has a brilliant night food market, where you can get pretty much any asian food that you desire. If you do make it to Krabi, you will not regret it.

Koh Phangan

If you are thinking about backpacking Thailand, you will have no doubt come across the name Koh Phangan. If you have not, then let us enlighten you. Koh Phangan is home to the world famous Full Moon Party. Held once a month … on the full moon. This is the biggest party in Thailand, drawing thousands to Haad-Rin beach. The home of the Full Moon Party. If you do not like HUGE parties, then stay away. This place becomes crazy come full moon. Koh Phangan is not only about this party however. This is a beautiful island and also one of the cheapest. Because of the Full Moon Party. During the month when the thousands are not here you can find dorm beds for just a couple of dollars. If you are looking for the party of your life. Then Koh Phangan is for you.

Current Exchange Rates

USD = 34.7 THB 

GBP = 44.9 THB

EUR = 37.7 THB

Accommodation, the costs

You will have no trouble finding accommodation, whether it is a backpackers dorm room you are looking for or a 5 star mega hotel. Like we said, all needs are catered for.

  • Dorm beds: 100 – 250 THB ($2.87 – $7.19)
  • Single rooms 150 – 300 THB ($4.30 – $8.63)
  • Double rooms with fans: 250 – 350 THB ($7.19 – $10.06)
  • Double rooms with air-con: 350 – 550 THB ($10.06 – $15.82)
  • Hotel rooms: 600 – 2000 THB ($17.25 – $57.52) (depending on the quality of the hotel)
  • Beach Hut 500 – 1500 THB  ($14.38 – $43.14) (depending on the quality and time of year)

If you are in the north of the country you can find cheaper prices, this is an average for the country as a whole. Also some of the islands are cheaper than others, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta are expensive places, where as Koh Phangan (the party island) and Koh Chang are cheaper. Sharing a double room is also a way to keep your budget in check.

cheap-beach-huts-thailand-cost

 

Transportation, the costs

Scooter (motorbike)

There are many options for transport in Thailand. One of the best being by Scooter (motorbike). Riding through this beautiful country on the back of a scooter is a brilliant experience that will stay with you for your whole life. Renting a motorbike is normally around 200 THB ($5.75) per day.

Buses

For a general idea of the bus prices, a VIP bus heading north from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, taking 10 hours, costs around 800 THB ($23.01). A normal class bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai costs just 350 THB ($10.06).  

A VIP bus heading south from Bangkok to Krabi taking around 12 hours, will cost 900 THB ($25.88). Where as a normal class bus from Bangkok to Krabi will cost around 450 THB ($12.94). 

For a cheaper option you can take the local buses, though often you can have many connections. So if you are here on a holiday and want every minute to count, we would advise taking the tourist buses.

When taking long and expensive bus rides, always book your ticket for a night time journey. That way you save on accommodation costs and can sleep on the bus.

Just one of the many beautiful temples you will see if you travel Thailand

backpacking-thailand-price-cost-budget-guide

Trains

You will rarely use the train system in Thailand. Most people only use it to reach Chiang Mai from Bangkok. A 1st Class Sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai with your own bed and air conditioned, will cost 1200 THB ($34.51). 2nd class which will get you a comfortable seat will cost you 500 THB ($14.38), and 3rd class around 250 THB ($7.19). But like we said, you will rarely travel on a train in Thailand.

Planes

Air Asia is a real gem in this part of the world. If you book far enough in advance, you will easily find a seat for between 1200 THB ($34.51) and 1700 THB. ($48.89)

Food Prices

Street Food

Street Food in Thailand is incredibly cheap, you can eat at one of the many night markets that are in almost every town in the country, sampling several different foods for just a few dollars. For as little as 40 THB ($1.15) you could eat the world famous Pad Thai, or grab some pork on a stick. For 80 THB ($2.30) you could get yourself a full meal of rice and vegetables. If you would like to see some of the more stranger delicacies of Thailand, read our other article The Weird & Wonderful Food of Thailand

Restaurants

You will find many different styles of restaurants around the country. In a normal Thai restaurant with none of the fancy furnishings, you can grab a tasty meal for between 100 and 250 THB ($2.87 – $7.18).

In the more fancier restaurants, you will pay between 300 – 500 THB ($8.62 – $14.37) for a meal. A great bargain for some of the most tasty food in the world.

backpacking-temple-Thailand-budget-how-much

Cost of drinking

Where Thailand does get expensive for most people is the cost of drinks. Where in other Southeast Asian countries you can buy a beer for only a dollar, in Thailand it can cost you 3 dollars. 

A big bottle of local beer bought in a cheaper place will cost you between 50 – 90 THB  ($1.43 – $2.58).

A 1L bottle of whiskey will cost you around 150 THB ($4.31) for a cheaper brand, and up to 400 THB ($11.50) for a better brand. 

A 7-11 store is a good place to find cheap alcohol and food for your bus journeys. 

When you are partying it up on the islands you will come across buckets of alcohol, yes BUCKETS. Filled with spirits and a Thai version of Red Bull, they often come with three or four straws so that you can share them with your friends. 

Entrance Fees

Thailand, like all other countries charges entrance fees to visit the countries sites. Like most other Asian countries, they also charge tourists a different price to the locals. When you compare the salaries of say, westerners and Thai people. You can see why.

When backpacking Thailand, it is the entrance fees that you will have watch out for. Though individually they are small, if you see 4 sites a day, this can damage your daily budget. For example, to visit the grand palace of Bangkok you will pay 500 Baht $14. To see the reclining Buddha in Bangkok you will pay 100 Baht $3 . That is half of your daily $30 budget right there. You can see that if you do not have a big enough budget, paying entrance fees everyday would cripple you. Luckily, most of the countries sites are just a few dollars. So if you are careful, your budget will be fine.

This photo alone is enough to make anybody want to travel Thailand

backpacking Thailand travel paradise-asia-price-guide

Tricks and scams to watch out for

Tuk-Tuk Marijuana scam

We will start with this scam, as this is the one that could end up ruining you life. This is no exaggeration. If your Tuk-Tuk driver thinks that you look like the type of travellers who smoke weed. And that is pretty much most backpackers nowadays. Then he may offer to sell you some.

This is a scam that is often done in Bangkok. If you say yes, he will take you to his house to get the weed. He will come out, give you the stuff and then take your money. He will tell you to wait while he takes the money back inside.

The Scam begins

It is at this point where (normally) two guys pull up on a motorbike and flash a police badge at you. Are they police? sometimes yes. Can you take the risk of getting violent with Thai police, NO! They will tell you that you are going to jail unless you give them 50 thousand Baht. That is $1500.

Now what do you do. You are screwed if they are police, because if you do not pay you are going to jail. Also you are screwed if they are not police, because they will take you to the local police station. If you are after weed, the best place to look is on the islands or ask at your guesthouse. Thai people know that travelers smoke weed and do not mind you smoking it. Also DO NOT SMOKE WEED OUTSIDE.

We have heard stories of backpacker being sent to jail because they were caught smoking on beaches. If you do not have the money to pay your bail, you will be staying in jail for six months or possibly more. If you are going to smoke. Do it wisely. 

Ferry Scam

This is scam that seriously pisses you off. When backpacking Thailand this is one scam that you will have to look out for, or you could lose a big chunk of your daily budget. Always book your journeys with a big travel company. One that has its own website as well as stores. In Thailand, tourist travel companies are a major business and most are local shops run by Thai’s. To use these local shops is not bad. Many times you will have to use them. But DO NOT buy more than one connecting ticket with them.

On our first trip to Thailand we caught a bus from Malaysia to Hat-Yai, a city in the south of Thailand. From here, we booked a ticket to take us four hours to the ferry terminal. We were traveling to  Koh Phangan. Once we arrived we were dropped off twenty kilometers from the ferry terminal at a small travel shop. Here we were told that we would have to wait ten minutes until we were to be taken to the ferry port. 

The scam begins

Now this is the part where the scam starts. Once our bus had driven away, a Thai woman came over and asked us for our tickets. She then told us our ferry leaves at 8pm, it was 1:30pm. We knew that we had booked our tickets for 2:30pm, but she refused to take us until we bought another ticket. After arguing for 10 minutes we gave her 250 Baht $7, then she took us to the port. Here we found out that we had booked the right tickets at the start. She wanted us to pay 700 Baht $20.

This was a bad way to start our backpacking Thailand adventure. We hope after reading this that you do not have the same experience as we did.

Border Bus Scam

This is one that is similar to the scam above. This time though it is played when either entering or leaving Thailand. If you pay a company for travel, say from Bangkok to Siem Reap in Cambodia, everything will be fine until you hit the border. If your driver tells you that from this point you will change drivers… the scam is underway.

Once you have passed through customs, you will board a bus which will take you the local terminal. Here is where all of the mini buses leave to take tourists across Cambodia. You will show your onward ticket and then be told that your bus is coming later. Mini bus after mini bus leaves with tourists all heading to your destination, and some of the buses have spare seats. Ask why you can not get on these buses and you will be told that you can …. if you pay. Which you will end up doing or you will be sat there for five hours.

Never take an onward ticket unless you have specifically asked if the same bus continues beyond the border. If not, pay for half of the journey. Then pay the other half when you cross the border.

A Few Final Tips

ATM’s: 

You will have no problem finding an ATM when backpacking Thailand. Even in the most far flung corners of the country you will still find an ATM. However it is always a smart idea to have a few spare dollars, pounds or euros on you just to be on the safe side. Thai banks do charge a fee for each and every transaction, so try to take out as much as possible. 

Tipping:

Tipping is expected. If you stick to the ten percent rule you will be fine. Do however make sure on your final bills that there is no sneaky service charge thrown in. If there is, take this into account. For street food you do not need to tip.

Bargain/Haggling:

 When you are traveling in Asia, haggling and bartering is a must. You will always be told a higher initial price. Sometimes up to five times the normal price. Always aim for a 50% drop and you should be okay. Many times in Thailand however, this is a hard ask as there are just too many tourists. There is always another backpacker to take your place. Just try to haggle and if you are not happy with the price, apologise and walk away. Nine times out of ten you will be shouted back and given the item for the price that you asked.

Stay Calm: 

Try to stay calm and friendly at all times. When you are backpacking Thailand you may get overwhelmed by the amount of timed you are hassled. You will have Tuk-Tuk drivers constantly asking where you are going and stall owners trying to sell you things. As well as Thai’s trying to sell you tours or people trying to get you in bars. Just remember to stay calm and polite. Anger will get you nowhere. 

Cheap vs Expensive

Like we said above, whether backpacking Thailand or holidaying. The prices vary in whichever part of the country that you are in. Cities and towns like Kanchanaburi, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and the beautiful Pai are far cheaper than the likes of Bangkok, Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi and Krabi. We found Koh Phangan, the world famous party island where the full moon party is held, to be the cheapest island. There are Dorms here that cost just 70 THB. ($2.00).

Thanks for reading this Thailand travel guide. 

All in all Thailand can be a very cheap country to travel. Keep an eye on your budget and you can relax on the beaches, explore the jungles and sample the delicious food. You will make memories that will last a lifetime, all for around 30$ a day. Just take into account those days where you spend over 30$ on transport and activities, make it up the next day where you visit the beach and spend hardly anything at all.

Considering everything, backpacking Thailand is still one of the great adventures that you can do in life. Now you know exactly how much it costs. What are you waiting for? Start planning your next backpacker adventure now!

Thanks for reading, We hope this has answered all your questions on backpacking Thailand. However if you have any further questions, do not hesitate to ask.

Check out our some of our other great price guides. 

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18 comments

  1. Great review of things which are practical, useful and of interest to other travellers. More useful than a Rough Guide, especially if it’s updated!?

      1. Really no problem Dave, do take your time. We are slowly recovering from our USA trip and not even remotely organised yet for anything except food shopping, eating, sleeping!

  2. Thank you for following Indifferent Ignorance!

    I loved my time in Thailand, and I actually used the trains quite a lot – I came in from Vientiane on the train, (all the way down to Suratthani), and did Chumporn to Chiang Mai on the train too. After months of buses in Vietnam and Laos, I was more than happy with the rail service!

    Best of luck with your blog and travels. 🙂

  3. Thailand is arcane, your blog does provide great insights, I have written something as an Indian according for the cost, slightly differs though, do check out my blog, tia 🙂

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