A quick search of airfare shows that roundtrip flights to Bangkok from the United States can easily be found for around $500. Obviously, prices vary by the season, but the ideal time to head to Thailand is between November to February when the weather is at its best. Try to avoid the country between June to October since it’s considered the rainy season
Ground cost estimates
The official currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht. At the time of this writing, 1 USD = 35 Thai Baht. To keep things simple, prices in this article will be listed in U.S. dollars.
Minimum cost of accommodations for three weeks – $315
For $15 a night, you can get a simple room with a fan, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get hot water. $40 will get you a boutique hotel, whereas a night of luxury can go for as little as $85. If you stay in a single location, you can even rent a furnished apartment for around $350 – $500 a month.
Prices also vary based on location, if your goal is to stay for as cheap as possible, avoid the tourist areas such as Khao San Road. Actually, just avoid Khao San Road altogether since everything there is a ripoff.
Minimum cost of food for three weeks – $315
Pad Thai or fried rice from popular street vendors will only cost you $1 – $3. At food courts in the mall, a decent meal still won’t cost you more than $6. Restaurants that have their signs in English will most likely charge more since they’re targeting tourists.
Big bottles of beer at a bar will cost you $3 – $4, but they’re about half the price at markets and convenience stores. Cans of pop are closer to 50 cents, and a small bottle of water is just 35 cents. Depending on how much and what you like to eat. You could spend just as little as $15 a day – maybe even less.
Estimated transportation cost for three weeks – $200
Getting around Thailand can be incredibly cheap. Both Bangkok and Chiang Mai have good public transportation networks where the metro trains average just over $1 a ride. Buses are even cheaper and cost about 30 cents. Taxis are pretty reasonable too, meters start at $1 and then it’s about 20 cents per kilometer. Only use metered taxis, if the driver refuses to use the meter, they’re totally trying to scam you.
Long distance trains and buses are also cheap. A 3rd class overnight train ticket from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is about $10. If you need to get to the islands, you’ll need to take a combination of trains and boats, but it’ll only be $20-40 depending on where you’re headed. Flights from the major cities to the islands shouldn’t cost you more than $100 on one of the discount carriers (Air Asia, Bangkok Airways), the convenience and time saved may be worth it.
TOTAL minimum cost for three weeks in Thailand = $1330 ($63.33 a day)
The above prices are based on the minimum amount and doesn’t factor in the cost of any attractions that you plan on visiting. Even though you can get by on less than $65 a day, it’s recommended that you budget more so you can enjoy your time in Thailand. Splurging in the country won’t exactly cost you a small fortune
The sites to see
Thailand is a vast country with plenty of things to see so we’ve highlighted of a few of our favorite spots below. It’s relatively easy to plan your own itinerary, but do check out Claire Summers’ blog post on how to see Thailand in 3 weeks for a detailed trip plan.
Bangkok is admittedly overwhelming, but you can’t see Thailand without exploring what the city has to offer first. The Grand Palace & Wat Prakeaw is an absolute must. The Thai King doesn’t reside here anymore, but many Thais consider this a holy place – don’t miss the Emerald Buddha. Not too far from the Palace is Wat Arun, one of the most stunning temples in all of Bangkok. The reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is also popular, but if you plan on visiting other parts of Thailand, you may want to skip this one. Many tourists also visit the floating market to take pictures, but it’s unlikely you’ll be buying anything here.
As the former capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya has plenty of temples which are well preserved and not nearly frequented as much as the ones in Bangkok. Seeing 3 – 5 temples is about all you’ll have time for a day, the most popular one being Wat Mahathat since there’s a Buddha head wrapped in the roots of a tree. There’s no need to stay overnight so visit Ayutthaya as a day trip from Bangkok or catch a sleeper train to Chiang Mai after you’ve seen all the sites.
A lot of expats prefer Chiang Mai since it’s nowhere near as crazy as Bangkok. Prices are a bit lower here compared to the capital, and there are still plenty of temples that you can check out. That’s assuming you’re still interested in seeing temples after going through Bangkok and Ayutthaya. If you’re more of a night owl, head over to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar where haggling over prices is expected.
Any of the islands
You could stay on one island the entire time you’re in Thailand, or jump around to as many as possible, either way, you won’t be disappointed. Each island has areas which are full of tourists and of course beaches that are much more secluded. Koh Samui and Phuket are arguably the most popular islands while Koh Phangan and Koh Phi Phi are famous for their full moon parties. Travel blogger Claire Summers of clairesitchyfeet.com recommends Koh Yao Noi for amazing yoga retreats. Krabi which is on the mainland is a little more luxurious if you have a larger budget. Transportation is limited on the islands so you’ll need to hire a scooter or get a taxi if you want to explore.
Preparing yourself for Thailand
Visas – U.S. citizens staying in Thailand for less than 30 days don’t require a Visa, but your passport must be valid for at least six months upon entry. In the past, travelers would make border runs if they wanted to stay past 30 days, but Thai authorities have started to crack down on that loophole.
Vaccinations – Childhood vaccinations, as well as Hepatitis A&B, are all you need. Some people suggest malaria pills, but others would argue that’s going over the top. Consult with your family doctor if you’re not sure what vaccinations you currently have.
Packing – If you’re staying in just Thailand, the odds are you won’t need to pack a lot of stuff. The weather in Thailand is pretty consistent so there’s no need to overpack – you’ll just need to factor in some laundry days during your travels. A standard travel backpack will easily fit all your stuff, but you’ll obviously need to bring a day bag too. Tip and Tarah of the Fit Two Travel blog recommend the Osprey Porter 46 Travel Bag and packing cubes to keep all your stuff compact.
Visiting Thailand on a budget can easily be done, but like with any other trip, surprise costs can come up at any time. It’s always wise to budget more so you don’t feel guilty when you splurge.