Budget Travel

How to see Thailand's temples, rainforests and reefs on a budget

Travelers looking for adventures on a shoestring flock to Thailand because of its heady blend of pocket-friendly travel experiences, cultural surprises, easy transport and spicy-not-pricey food. Add in among the world's friendliest backpacker scenes, and Thailand is possibly the perfect budget-travel destination.

However, the cost of a visit can vary wildly depending on in which you go and also the levels of comfort you insist upon when you are getting here. Spend over our limits time in Bangkok, accrue the scuba dives, take plenty of tours and drink plenty of bottled beer, as well as your budget will shoot northward.

Here are our some tips to go somewhere with further at a lower price in Thailand.

What are cheap times to visit Thailand?

Prices for accommodation and transport skyrocket from November to March, coinciding with the driest weather and travel-friendly temperatures. The July to September low months are the rainiest time of year; some ferry routes and island resorts close down completely, but accommodation prices drop significantly. Hotel rates also dip throughout the spring and fall shoulder seasons, which may be a satisfying time to visit with no winter crowds.

Air travel into Thailand can be surprisingly low

Bangkok is one of Asia's cheapest destinations to achieve by air, specifically if you come with Qatar Airways, Etihad or any other Gulf carrier, but prices creep upwards during the peak winter season. If flights to Bangkok are searching costly, investigate flights to Singapore, Kl along with other Asian hubs, and see if you can find a cheap link with Bangkok on Air Asia or another budget carrier.

Alternatively, connect to Bangkok by train. Regular trains run from Johor Bahru – just over the causeway from Singapore – to KL, Butterworth (for Penang) and north across the isthmus to Bangkok, for around US$80 one way. It's certainly one of Asia's most fun rail journeys.

Get out of the airport having to break the bank

Most new arrivals fly into Bangkok's busy Suvarnabhumi International Airport, 30km (19 miles) east of Bangkok, though a few budget carriers still use Don Mueang International Airport near Chatuchak Weekend Market. At either hub, eager agents will try to speak you into expensive airport taxis.

Instead, take trains and buses: Suvarnabhumi has Airport Rail Link trains that interact with the downtown Skytrain and MRT network, along with a free passenger bus to some local transport terminus with cheap city buses in to the center. Don Mueang has regular overground trains and slow but inexpensive local buses to the middle of Bangkok.

At airports all over Thailand, it is possible to find a cheap taxi ride by flagging down a cab on the road away from airport-terminal complex, avoiding airport charges. Just remember to see if any highway tolls apply for the journey into town.

Stay in homestays or hostels

Accommodation prices in Thailand happen to be climbing steadily for a long time, in line with rising standards. Many backpacker places are edging into boutique-hotel territory, with cafés, bars, Wi-Fi and pools, and the US$5 box rooms of old really are a dying breed.

To keep a lid on costs, sleep in dorms; rates start around 250B (US$7.50). Because of not too much more, you can find basic rooms and bungalows with shared bathrooms and fans rather than A/C (or central air-conditioning rather than a unit in every room). Sharing triple and quad rooms could be a great way to save if you are going with friends.

Camping could be astonishingly cheap, with rates at many national parks beginning with 30B (US$0.90) per person. Homestays are another inexpensive option in rural areas; rooms tend to be rustic but comfortable, and also you get authentic home cooking and cultural immersion in to the bargain. Also look out for discounted rates at hostels and budget hotels via booking sites such as Booking.com and Agoda.

Skip internal flights and tourist minivans for local buses and trains

Even if you stick to budget airlines, flying internally in Thailand and making use of those oh-so-convenient tourist minivans will ratchet your travel costs. Instead, use public buses or travel in second- or third-class carriages around the trains.

If you do not mind over sleeping a reclining seat, you can save the cost of a berth (and a hotel room) by taking a slow overnight train or overnight bus. Buy tickets directly from bus and train operators to prevent travel-agent fees.

Buses run by the state transport company Baw Khaw Saw (BKS) are often cheaper than private buses. Most bus stations have ticketing halls where all the companies advertise their destinations, so that you can compare fares. Ordinary and express buses are cheaper (but less comfortable) than VIP buses or luxury VIP24 or VIP32 buses, named for that quantity of seats aboard.

Take taxis, not tuk-tuks, or make use of a sorng@taa@ou

For local trips, regard tuk-tuks (motorized rickshaws) like a travel experience rather than a serious way of transport. Prices are routinely hiked for tourists, even though you bargain hard, and trips often involve detours to commission-paying souvenir shops and other dubious establishments. Sǎamláw – three-wheeled pedicabs – also work on the bargaining system, however they are not too expensive for short hops.

A metered taxi is usually a more stable bet – just be conscious that congested zones could make even a short journey slow and dear. Rideshares could be summoned through Grab and other apps, but you'll often pay a lot more than you'd for any regular taxi. For trips around town (or from town to nearby villages), undoubtedly the least expensive choice is the sorng@taa@ou – a pick-up truck with benches that operates like a local bus.

Rent a motorcycle or scooter, but ride carefully!

Renting a scooter or motorcycle is really a remarkably cheap way to get around in Thailand, designed for local exploring. In many traveler centers, you can get a ride for as little as 150B (US$4.50) per day, and petrol costs around 40B (US$1.20) per liter. Thailand includes a shocking rate of traffic accidents so ride cautiously and slowly, and ensure insurance is included as part of the hire.

Eat in the pub to save

If you discover restaurant dining is eating through your stock of baht, eating the go at street stalls and wandering hawker carts is always gratifyingly inexpensive. Stick to busy stalls and avoid uncooked fruit and veg.

Be wary of drinking a lot of beers – government taxes keep prices high. If only a beer is going to do, Chang is generally cheaper than Singha. For a real bargain, seek out the meals courts attached to bus stations along with other transport hubs, where bowls of noodle soup along with other tasty local snacks can be had for penny prices.

Restaurant lunches, night market dinners

Eating where locals eat is definitely a good way to save. As dusk falls across Thailand, street corners, parking lots, boat jetties and station forecourts transform into bustling night markets, where the best food around can be purchased for tiny prices. Indeed, grazing from pàt tai noodle stall to sà@dé (satay) are in position to d^om yam soup vendor is one of Thailand's great pleasures.

Expect high tax on alcohol

Going out in Thailand could be surprisingly expensive because of the taxes on alcohol. Knocking back the bottles of Singha or Chang beer can easily double your meal bill, so sip slowly, or do as locals do and share a bottle of Thai whiskey or rum (usually enjoyed with ice and soda or cola).

For inexpensive evening entertainment, a vacation to an active music bar provides a lot of bang because of not many bahts. There's rarely a cover charge, and many venues have a rotating line-up of bands playing technically adept covers of popular songs.

Seeing Thailand's rainforests on the shoestring

Entry fees to Thailand's many national parks are not too onerous – typically 200 -300B (US$6 -9) – but they can add up. The big costs are usually related to transport into nature and arranged activities for example guided hikes, boat trips and diving. If you're searching to save several baht, competition between operators keeps prices down at Khao Sok National Park and Khao Yai National Park.

Accommodation at national parks, on the other hand, is extremely reasonably priced, with bungalows opting for 350-500B (US$10.50-15) and tent spaces costing from 30B (US$0.90) per person. Tents in many cases are readily available for rent for approximately 150B (US$4.50). Most national parks with accommodation also have simple canteens offering simple Thai dishes at budget prices.

Spas versus hot springs

Thailand's spas are world-famous, and the sky is the limit when it comes to prices in the luxe end of the market. However, you can find therapeutic treatments for a song at dozens of natural hot springs dotted around the hills of northern Thailand.

Chiang Mai within the north is ringed by government-run hot-springs complexes, where therapeutic baths and other treatments come at highly agreeable prices. At Pha Daeng National Park, access to the pools costs just 100B (US$3), and you may camp for 30B (US$0.90) per person; entry costs are similar at San Kamphaeng Hot Springs.

Seek out economical Thai massages

Having a vigorously relaxing Thai massage is de rigueur on a holiday to Thailand, and you may spend the money for earth at posh hotels and luxury spas. In the opposite end of the spectrum, you can enjoy a pocket-friendly pummeling from former convicts at Chiang Mai's Vocational Training Centre of the Chiang Mai Women's Correctional Institution, and Lila Thai Massage, where many graduates work full-time.

Alternatively, go to the massage pavilions in the grounds of Thai monasteries, where massages are performed by people been trained in traditional Buddhist massage, as taught by the monks of Bangkok's Wat Pho, the spiritual birthplace of Thai massage.

Visit Thailand's minor monasteries

Thailand's most well-known monasteries – including Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok – charge pricey entry fees for tourists. If you are watching the pennies, smaller monasteries are often totally free to go to, and arguably more interesting because of the absence of photo-snapping crowds. In any town you go through, ask a local for tips on probably the most interesting wát in the region – there's always something intriguing to see.

If you need to learn how to scuba dive, get it done here

Budget travelers can breathe easy – Thailand is one of the cheapest places on the planet to understand to scuba dive. A wide open water dive certification course on Ko Tao will cost around 10,000B (US$300), and dives start from 1500B (US$45) should you go in off the beach.

While Ko Tao may be the cheapest dive hub, other inexpensive spots include Ko Lanta and Ko Phi Phi. Another tip: bring your personal snorkeling gear and you can see the underwater world for free at beaches across Thailand.

Where to find inexpensive outdoor thrills

Every imaginable adrenaline activity can be done in Thailand, from canyoning and kiteboarding to horseriding, zip-lining and jungle trekking. However, prices can be steep, designed for organized, tourist-oriented trips that include transport. If you would like thrills at least cost, visit Railay near Krabi, Thailand's favorite mountain climbing playground, where epic limestone routes start right off the beach. There's no charge to climb with your own gear (or it can be rented cheaply), and budget rooms can be found at Hat Ton Sai.

Daily costs in Thailand

  • Basic guesthouse room: 500 -1000B (US$15 -30)
  • Market/street-stall meal: 40 -100B (US$1.20 -3)
  • Bottle of local beer: 80B (US$2.40)
  • Organized tour or activity: from 1500B (US$45)
  • Motorbike or scooter hire each day: 150 -300B (US$4.50-9)

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