We spent 29 days in Thailand and averaged $66 per day or $33 per person, per day. Overall, Thailand is great value for your money. Completing a PADI certification was one of the biggest expenses during our stay. However, this large expense was offset by the house sit we did near Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park for about three weeks.
Where we spent our money
There are tons of great activities to do in Thailand. Most of which, such as snorkeling, relaxing at the beach, and hiking in the jungle, are free! As I mentioned before, Anna and I decided to get our PADI SCUBA diving certification with New Way Diving while on Koh Tao. We spent about $550 for certification training, three amazing dives, heaps of laughs and an overall FANTASTIC time! In addition to diving, we also indulged in those famous Thai Massages, and after days of hiking in the jungle and diving they were worth every penny.
The food in Thailand, I’m talking REAL Thai food, consists of dishes so perfect, it is like the Gods themselves constructed them. Most Thai dishes have a beautiful balance of sweet and savory, cooling and spicy, soft and crunchy. And the cherry on top is that Thai food is super inexpensive! We spent about $5 per meal for the two of us in Thailand. While not all restaurants will serve it, typically, the well known overseas dish of Pad Thai tends to be one of the cheaper dishes along with other noodle dishes and soups. Even though we house sat for about two weeks and had access to a kitchen, it was still cheaper and much more tasty to go out to eat at local stalls. While ordering can be tough in rural towns, you will likely get some nice surprises:
We spent most of our time at the house sit and scheduled overnight trains to save on our shelter budget. The only time we stayed in a hotel was on the island of Koh Tao and it was horrible! We opted to stay at a hotel called Asia Divers. It got decent reviews on sources like TripAdvisor, but after we arrived, we started to second guess our research. We found that most people were writing good reviews about the SCUBA courses located at the hotel, and the shitty reviews were for the hotel. Unfortunately, there is only one entry for Asia Divers on Koh Tao on TripAdvisor so they all get lumped together. In a nutshell, it cost us about $45 /night for a smelly room that had mold on the ceilings and facilities that were in pretty bad shape.
There are hotels and guest rooms all over Thailand and especially on Koh Tao, so make sure you do better research than us and don’t hesitate to move if you aren’t comfortable. In retrospect, we wish we would have! If you are not traveling during peak season, we recommend booking one or two nights at a place in advance. Once you arrive, you can easily take tours of a few places and decide from there.
Transportation in Thailand is generally good and inexpensive. We spent the bulk of our transport budget on getting to and from Koh Tao.
From Hua Hin to Koh Tao we spent $63, which included a bus and ferry.
From Koh Tao to Bangkok, we spent $49, which included a ferry, bus to the train station, and overnight train to Bangkok.
Buses in Thailand – The buses are nice and inexpensive and if the trip is over a few hours they will normally hand out waters and snacks. Timetables and bus schedules are not even a guideline, they are a lofty goal. When we took a bus from the Bangkok airport to Hua Hin to meet our house sitting hosts, our bus was over 2 hours late!!! When we arrived and profusely apologized to the couple who were about put their two dogs and home in our care, they laughed and said, “this is Thailand, the buses are always late!”
Trains in Thailand – Our train experience had something to be desired. I’ve ridden on multiple overnight trains throughout China and this was by far the worst overnight train experience I had. There is little room for baggage, and the ride from Chumphon to Bangkok is extremely bumpy. There were multiple times that we thought the train had jumped the track on our way up to Bangkok. You can’t purchase train tickets online, but seat61.com has great information about the train system and how you can book tickets in advance.
Personal Care & Travel Insurance
Since we were in Thailand for almost a month, we stocked up on items like shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen, ect. Our bulk travel insurance through World Nomads stayed the same at just under $4 per day.
As we’ve mentioned in our New Zealand Budget post, house sitting is a great way to not only meet similar minded people living in the communities you are traveling to, but also gain a sense of community and routine as you care for someone elses home and pets. It is also really nice that it can really save you some money while traveling. We use TrustedHouseSitters.com to find and connect with those in need of a house sitter and we highly recommend their service for any responsible traveler with somewhat flexible dates and plans.
Buying Water Jugs
You can’t drink the tap water in Thailand, so similar to Indonesia, you will end up spending about $3-$5 per person per day on bottled water. This can add up over the course of a few weeks or months, not to mention the horrible impact it has the environment.
The solution? – Instead of buying lots of little bottles of water, you can do what many locals do, purchase one large 5 gallon (20 liter) bottle and use that to refill your own personal water bottle. Not only is this better for the environment, but you will also save money. By purchasing the 5 gallon jugs, we saved about $50 over the course of our week long stay in Koh Tao!
There are some pretty convincing and elaborate scams in Thailand. Bangkok.com and Lonley Planet provide you with some good information about what to look out for. Luckily, we didn’t get hit with any scams, but we heard about a few. One that seemed omnipresent on the island of Koh Tao, was the “Scooter Rental Mafia.” Basically, the companies that rent you scooters collude with each other and the police. They fix the price, take your passport as “insurance” and then if there is any damage which may or may not have been there before you rented the scooter, they charge you hundreds to thousands of dollars (USD)!!! Google Koh Tao Scooter Scams and you’ll find all sorts of things like this.
*All the amounts posted are for two people and in USD unless otherwise mentioned.