Though it’s full of captivating culture, delicious food, and vibrant landscapes, a visit to Thailand shouldn’t break your bank completely.

Having a plan — and sticking to it — will help your travels move smoothly, allow you to get creative, and maybe even extend your trip. And who wouldn’t want that? Here are some tips to help keep you budget within reason while you’re in Thailand !

Create Your Own Itinerary

Visiting an elephant sanctuary in the jungle and island-hopping are activities with huge appeal when considering all Thailand has to offer, but if you want to keep things cheap, you’ll need to get creative. Instead of locking yourself into a regimented, guided tour, travel at your own pace, dig into each place you want to see, and enjoy the free things along the way, like a sunset or a walk through a park. Thailand’s landscapes are some of its most stunning features and, thankfully, taking in your surroundings is completely free. If there is something you really want to do or see, be aware that prices tend to hike during peak season between December and March. Plan accordingly.

Photo by @rockkhound

Don’t be Scared of Crowds

One great thing about travel is how each day can present a new opportunity to get out of your comfort zone. A perfect way to do so is by  forgoing a private room for a hostels’ communal rooms instead. They might not be the most luxurious, but they’ll save you a few bucks and will put you in situations to meet new people.

Eat Local

Food prices will vary as you explore the various cities and regions of Thailand. But one thing will be consistent: local markets and restaurants will always be cheaper than their counterparts in tourist-heavy districts and international restaurants.

Photo by Julie Schleifer
Photo by Julie Schleifer

Those sliced mangos on the corner probably look enticing, but chances are you can grab four or five at a local market for the exact same price. These places may prove harder to find — tucked away from the busy streets and shopping centers — but if you can locate them, your wallet will thank you. To further this tip, try staying in hostels or Airbnbs where you can use the kitchen to make your own meals.  

Avoid Flying Domestically

Geographically speaking, Thailand is the world’s 50th largest country — just a tad bigger than Spain and a touch smaller than France. This means some long-distance travel is inevitable, but planes aren’t your only option for covering ground.

After arriving in Bangkok (the country’s international hub), look to alternative transportation to save money. Trains are a popular option and, if you’re really trying to cut costs, second or third class tickets are always cheaper, as are the longer, overnight routes. The same rule goes for buses. Though they might be a bit more cramped, they’re sure to save you money!

Photo by Kacie McGeary

Indulge, But Not Too Much

This can definitely come in handy in southern Thailand, where the tourism industry booms. When it comes to alcohol, companies are able to charge as they see fit, especially in isolated locations on beaches and islands. These places offer plenty of activities to enjoy, and a certain hike or beach is probably why you traveled to that location in the first place.

Photo by @thiwyyy

So if you’ve gone to Phuket to dive, for instance, stick to your plan. A beer after a long day in the water? Sure. But be smart about why you’re there in the first place. Seeking out quieter hostels or accommodations might also help fight the temptation of overindulgence.

Photo by Hannah Schmitz

Remember that Some Things in Life Are Actually Free

Whoever said “nothing in life is free” must not have ever traveled on a budget. No matter where you go — if you’re willing to search hard enough — you’ll find free attractions. These come in different shapes and sizes, but that just adds to the adventure, right?

Nearly 95 percent of Thai people identify with the Buddhist religion, which can be experienced firsthand in the numerous temples that grace the country. Many of these monasteries don’t charge admission, so be on the look-out when choosing which  to explore.

The tropical, white-sand beaches of Thailand are also open to the public. Hiking is popular, especially in the southern region where mountains poke through jungles and lead to expansive views of the coastline. There are also plenty of festivals throughout the year, which, in addition to being free, are a great opportunity to observe Thai culture up-close-and-personal.

Header image by Vincent Carabeo.

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Brad Donaldson is a writer and editor proudly based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although his roots are in Canada, his desire to see more of the world frequently takes him away from home. His work, both as an editor and writer, has appeared in local newspapers and publications, most recently showcased through the co-founding of his former university's inaugural creative writing journal.