Thailand is the most popular destination in Southeast Asia. For decades, travelers have been flocking to this part of the region with the lure of cheap getaways and a chance to find that perfect hideaway. Thailand is an adult’s playground with something for everyone. Jungle trekking, scuba diving, zip lining, rock climbing, kayaking, cooking courses, island hopping, all night partying, incredible street-side dining, shopping, the list goes on. So it goes without saying that after years of reading and hearing about how amazing Thailand is, we came into the country with very high expectations.
We entered Thailand from the north, after a two-day slow boat journey from Luang Prabang, Laos. Getting our 60-day visas in advanced was imperative since we would have only received a free, 15-day visa on arrival by entering the country overland. Our first stop was Chiang Mai where we stayed for 5 nights in a fan cooled, double ensuite room. We learned to cook Thai food, meandered the old city streets, and had our laundry done. We hooked up with one of our “family members”, whom we met in Laos, rented a car, and tackled the 1864 curves of the Mae Hong Son Loop. For 4 days, we drove clockwise from Chiang Mai, stopping in Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son, and Pai. We visited the Doi Inthanon National Park, reached the highest spot in Thailand, and came face to face with the Karen Hill Tribe famous for the Long Neck Women.
After our road trip, we hopped on an overnight bus down to Bangkok where we stayed for 4 nights in a very basic room (with shared bathroom), about a 5-minute walk from the famous Kao San Road. In Bangkok, we checked out the huge MBK Shopping Mall and saw a movie, visited the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun, did some shopping at the Chatuchuk Weekend Market, and shipped a 5kg parcel home.
We then grabbed an overnight bus /ferry ride combination down to Koh Tao, an island off the east coast of Thailand. Between the lack of sleep on the bus, being dropped off at the ferry terminal around 5am, and fighting back a serious case of sea sickness on the ferry, we arrived on Koh Tao feeling wrecked. In total, we stayed on Ko Tao for 6 nights in a 6-bed dorm room at Big Blue, a scuba diving school. We took advantage of the cheaper cost to get scuba certified in Thailand, and after 3 days out in the water, were SSI Certified Divers!
We celebrated Christmas on the island and then headed back to the mainland. We grabbed a ferry/bus combo to Krabi and stayed for 8 nights in a basic double room (with shared bathroom). We spent the majority of our time in Krabi with friends on holiday from South Korea. We checked out the Tiger Cave Temple, Ao Nang Beach, a day trip to and around the famed Koh Phi Phi Island, a half day kayaking trip, and enjoyed our first Thai massages.
We rang in the New Year in Krabi with our friends and then headed south for one last island stop, Koh Lipe. After another bus/ferry combination to the island, we only stayed for 2-nights in the cheapest and cleanest room we could find ($40/night), due to the fact we had arrived during peak season and prices were very expensive for our budget. We managed to relax on the beach and do some snorkeling, but we were ready for a change of scenery and less of a drain on our wallets.
Once again, to break down our travel costs, I’ve split our spending into these categories:
- Visas: the cost to get into the country
- Accommodations: places we stayed
- Transportation: everything from buses within a country and to another country, to bicycle/motorbike rentals, to ferry rides, and subway fares
- Food: everything we ate and drank
- Sites: entrance fees to museums, temples, ruins, day trips, overnight trips, cooking courses, and even a scuba diving course
- Entertainment: seeing cultural performances, going to the movies, etc
- Laundry: laundry was available everywhere we went for very affordable prices, we really didn’t feel like washing our clothes in the sink
- Miscellaneous: all our souvenirs, massages, parcels shipped home, and toiletries
Prices are shown for two (2) people and are in Canadian Dollars, unless otherwise specified.
Thailand: 30 Days, $88.88/day ($1 CAD = 30 THB)
- Visas: $67.00 (USD) (depending on how you enter the country, this could be $0.00)
- Accommodation: $350.75
- Transportation: $412.98
- Food: $639.77
- Sites: $950.40
- Entertainment: $36.62
- Laundry: $9.32 (we had it done twice)
- Misc: $199.77
- Total: $2,666.28
So in total, we spent $2,666.28 for 30 days, averaging $88.88/day.
Big-Ticket Items: 3-Day scuba certification course on Koh Tao ($300/each, included 3 nights in a 6-bed dorm room), and our 4-day road trip in Northern Thailand ($154 for our share of the car rental and gas).
Our cheapest accommodation was our fan cooled, ensuite room in Mae Sariang (200 Baht, or roughly $6.50/night) and our most expensive accommodation was our fan cooled, ensuite room on Koh Lipe (1,200 Baht, or roughly $40.00/night).
We were really watching our spending in Thailand, so we took full advantage of the array of street food available and also cut costs by picking up milk, cereal, and instant coffee from the 7-11 shops for breakfast.
We had (and still do have) mixed feelings about Thailand. For starters, since we had high expectations coming into the country, along with seeing what our daily averages were through Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, we weren’t prepared for how “expensive” Thailand turned out to be.
To be fair, there were two main factors that contributed to Thailand being our most expensive daily average. For starters, we did more activities in Thailand than we did in any other Southeast Asian country; a cooking course, a 4-day road trip, a scuba diving course, a day trip to Koh Phi Phi, and a half-day kayaking trip. These all added up. If you were to take away what we spent just learning to scuba dive ($600), our daily average would be on par with Singapore.
We also arrived in Thailand during peak season. Peak season means everything, as a result of the influx of travelers, becomes more expensive. I personally don’t think $5 huts on a beach in Thailand exist anymore, unless you’re traveling during low season and contending with monsoons. We were also surprised at how much more expensive it was for transportation around the country, almost double any other country we traveled through.
We also had mixed feelings about Thailand because we didn’t get the same friendly vibe from the locals as the other countries we visited. While we found they were much more friendly in the north (where not as many tourists venture), at times they were downright rude in the south. Thailand was also the first time we felt like walking dollar signs.
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This post is part of a 7-day series on travel costs through Southeast Asia. Tomorrow I’ll breakdown the costs for traveling through Malaysia.