It is almost impossible to answer questions like "How much does it cost to spend a vacation in Thailand?" and "How much spending money should I bring for my holiday in Thailand?".
We are all different, and we all have different needs and preferences. Therefore, instead of giving you a clear and unambiguous (and probably wrong) answer, I will give you a variety of prices for various items and services, and you can then try to figure out how much you need to bring. Below you will find prices in different categories: food and drink, clothing, wellness, electronic devices, and various necessities.
The prices below are in Thai baht and in the currency of your choice. Your choice will be saved in a cookie for your convenience to be used in other articles too.
The prices are from February 2018, and the exchange rates are the latest rates from Bank of Thailand (). Please be aware that your bank or exchange service may offer slightly different rates.
Visiting this articles several times, you may find that the prices fluctuate, maybe even dramatically; this is not because they change in the stores or the restaurants, but due to fluctuations in the exchange rates. The prices in baht in the stores and the restaurants have not changed much since I began checking them in 2014 for the Danish version of this site. I update the prices in baht once a year.
Some of the prices are from convenience stores, as they are usually the most available outlets for tourists. There are mainly two competing chains of convenience stores in Thailand, 7-Eleven and Family Mart, and their prices are similar.
In some countries, the prices in convenience stores like 7-Eleven are much higher than the prices in a supermarket. However, in Thailand, many of the prices in convenience stores are the same or only slightly higher than in a supermarket. For instance, typically, a can of Coca-Cola costs 13.5 baht (13.5 baht) in a supermarket and 14 baht (14 baht) in 7-Eleven.
Food and Drinks
In Thailand, eating out can be very cheap – and it can be relatively expensive. If you like the local rice dishes, you can eat at a restaurant for between 100 baht (100 baht) and 200 baht (200 baht) per person.
However, if you want to have a nice steak and a fine red wine, the price may easily be as much as or even higher than in a restaurant at home. The local cattle are not suitable for a nice steak; thus, the meat has to be imported, and the same goes for the wine. That means you get western prices topped up by import taxes.
Where you eat can make a big difference too. In small restaurants, a soft drink, like a cola, may cost 30 - 40 baht (30 - 40 baht); in a big hotel or in a big international restaurant, it can easily cost more than 200 baht (200 baht).
In addition, the prices vary quite a lot between different areas in Thailand. A meal that costs 160 baht in Patong may cost only 100 baht in Chiang Mai and even less away from the tourist areas.
Not even a Big Mac has a fixed price. I do not know where The Economist gets the Thai price for their Big Mac index; however, if they get the price for a Big Mac burger from Patong, it will be 140 baht while it may be 115 baht in Bangkok and away from the tourist areas.
The prices below are from Patong; thus, you will probably be pleasantly surprised if you are staying elsewhere. Restaurant prices are for small local restaurants, so expect to pay a lot more if you are eating at a large 5-star hotel restaurant or at international restaurants. Especially international restaurants in Bangkok can have extreme prices considering they are in Thailand. Conversely, the street kitchens are usually cheaper than the prices below.
Tipping is not a tradition in Thailand. In most restaurants, the prices on the menu are the prices you are supposed to pay. You can round up, as if the bill is 385 baht, you can pay 400 baht, but you are not expected to add 10 percent or more as a tip.
However, some restaurants, typically restaurants catering for tourists, add an extra 10 percent service charge, and 7 percent VAT to the prices on the menu. In those cases, there is a note with small letters at the bottom of the menu, or you may see "++" next to the prices, indicating that service charge and VAT will be added to the bill. Of course, the reason for not including service charge and VAT is to appear cheaper than they are.
|Big Mac Menu, McDonalds||225||225|
|Lobster, per. 100 g.||300||300|
|Typical Thai disk||160||160|
|Ice cream cone, McDonalds||25||25|
|Popsicle, local brand||15||15|
|Coffee, 1 cup, restaurant||50||50|
|Soda, 1 can, convenience store||14||14|
|Soda, 1 can, restaurant||40||40|
|Soda, 1 can, bar||80||80|
|Beer, 1 can, import (Heineken),|
|Beer, 1 can, local brand,|
|Beer, 1 can, restaurant/bar||80||80|
|Cigarettes, local brand||60||60|
|Chips, 90 g.||30||30|
|Mars bar, 36 g.||24||24|
|Toblerone, 50 g.||42||42|
|Ritter Sport, 100 g.||98||98|
|Ferrero Rocher, 5 balls||85||85|
|Gummy bears, 80 g.||35||35|
Clothes can be very cheap in Thailand, especially if you know how to haggle. Thus, you can pack light and then buy clothes when in Thailand.
However, do consider where you buy the clothes. We tend to believe that markets are cheaper than stores, but that is not always the case, and certainly not regarding the tourist markets in Thailand. Here, small shops will often be cheaper, although they do not offer the same shopping experience as in a market. Stores in large shopping centres, however, will often be more expensive than both the small shops and the markets.
If the goods you are considering buying do not have a price tag, it means you should haggle. Do not be afraid to offer a much lower price than what the seller is offering; often the seller's first offer is double or triple of the real price, depending on how touristy you look. Always haggle with a smile, and if the seller will not lower his price, say no thanks and walk away, often he will follow you and offer a lower price.
The prices below are from tourist stalls in Patong, and they are the prices first offered to me, that is, before haggling. If you look very touristy, for instance, if you are having a camera strapped around your neck, you may be offered considerably higher prices.
|Crocs (original in Jungceylon)||1890||1890|
|Large bath towel||300||300|
|Big lady hat||300||300|
Beauty and Wellness
Massages, facials and the like can be very cheap in Thailand. The prices below for massages are from small massage parlours, the prices for a facial and a manicure are from the JungCeylon shopping centre in Patong. Please be aware that the prices offered in big hotels or in spa resorts easily can be double or more.
Tipping is not a tradition in Thailand; however, at the tourist places, they have learned that tipping is usual in many other countries; thus, they may expect a tip from you. If you tip, please be aware of how much you tip. A 100 baht tip is a lot in Thailand, even if 100 baht is not much for you. A typical salary for a Thai is 300-400 baht a day – would you tip 25 percent of a days' salary at home?
|Massage, 1 hour||200||200|
|Oil massage, 1 hour||300||300|
|Foot massage, 1 hour||200||200|
There is not much to save on electronic devices; be it cameras, smartphones, game consoles etc. The devices may even be more expensive than at home. Even if you could save 10-20 percent, it can prove to be an expensive saving, as you, typically, cannot get a refund or a repair if the device does not work.
Some branded products may offer a global warranty; however, you have no guarantee that the purchased product is an original product.
Some electronic components may be a lot cheaper than at home, such as a memory card for your smartphone or a webcam for your computer. However, you risk that the product is a pirated copy and it may not work; even if you buy the product in a big store. I will discourage buying electronic products in Thailand unless you really need it and you cannot wait until you get home.
Original games and movies are not especially cheap in Thailand, and you may experience problems with language and region locks. In addition, it can be difficult to tell if a game or a movie is original or if it is a pirated copy.
The obviously pirated copies of movies and games can be very cheap; however, you cannot be sure they work.
Typically, general necessities such as deodorant, toothpaste and sunscreen are cheaper in Thailand than in many other countries.
Regarding laundry, you will find many offers of day-to-day laundry service in the tourist areas; be it laundries or shops offering a laundry service besides their chief offerings. It is not unusual for a tourist stall or a massage parlour to offer day-to-day laundry. Please note that the prices below are for those laundry offers, not the laundry services offered by the hotels. A hotel's laundry service may be much more expensive.
|Toothpaste, 40 g.||15||15|
|Deodorant, Axe for men, 50 ml||75||75|
|Sunscreen, Nivea, 125 ml||459||459|
|Laundry, 1 kg.||50||50|
|Laundry, 1 kg with ironing||80||80|
The prices for transport are very much dependant on where you are. In Bangkok, taxis are very cheap; in tourist areas, they can be very expensive.
If you take a tuk-tuk in Patong in Phuket, it will probably cost you 200 baht (200 baht) to wherever you want to go in the city – even if it is only a 1-minute drive. You cannot get a fare with a taximeter here.
Never ever use local transport without agreeing on a price beforehand, except if you ride in a taxi with the taximeter on. In addition, when you negotiate a fare, be sure to get a price for all passengers; in some places, they add an extra charge if there are more than 3 or 4 passengers.
If you share a cab with a stranger, for instance, if you share a cab from the airport to Karon in Phuket, the driver may refuse to stop at more than one place, or he may insist that you both pay what the meter says. Be sure to have an agreement with the driver beforehand.
As the prices for local transport vary a lot depending on where you are, I cannot list the prices in this article. Please read my articles about the different places in Thailand; typically, they will have information on the prices for local transport.