Thailand Spending Summary
Overall score (Dan) = A
Overall score (Jocelyn) = B
Total days = 24 nights, 25 days
Total cost = $1,916
Cost per day = $76.6 / day
Flight costs = none, took train in from Malaysia
Cities visited: Krabi, Railay Beach, Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai
Thailand is the most visited country in all of Southeast Asia, and they have the tourist infrastructure to prove it. It’s very easy to travel around and a great place to get acclimated to the craziness of SE Asia.
Although Thailand is a great destination in it’s own right, it ended up serving as a resting spot and transportation hub as we traveled around the rest of SE Asia. We started by visiting Krabi and Railay Beach in southern Thailand as we made our way north from Malaysia on the train. After that, we flew to Bangkok where we stayed a few days before heading off to Cambodia by bus. After Cambodia, we visited Vietnam and Laos before ending back in northern Thailand and visiting Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. After a quick flight back to Bangkok, we flew to Myanmar for the final leg of our SE Asia journey.
Thailand somewhat matched our expectations, but our perception was skewed as we didn’t fully treat it as a vacation spot and instead hopped in and out of it. One thing we heard over and over as we visited Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar was “this is what Thailand was like 10-25 years ago.” Apparently, Thailand has changed as it has become a global hotspot. To the “hardcore backpacker types” that translates to “it’s lost its authenticity”. However, to us it meant our chances of getting food poisoning was lower and our travels would be easier!
Thailand is a beautiful country that can make anyone’s vacation great – from the incredible beaches and islands in the south, to bustling Bangkok in the middle, up to the cultural hubs in northern Thailand around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, Thailand will make your vacation memorable and fun, but it won’t be the type of place where you won’t see other westerners or where you will walk through a village with children chasing you because they’re curiosity propels them to.
How far does your money go in Thailand?
Thailand is a world famous tourist destination that’s known for its offering of paradise on a budget. From cheap, yet delicious food to clean and affordable hotel options, the pricing didn’t disappoint. 1 USD equals roughly 30 Thai Baht and it was not uncommon to find the national tourist dish of Thailand – pad thai – for 40 Bath (just over $1) on the streets of Bangkok.
I’ll include the full spending details on the bottom of the post; here are our per day spending highlights:
Lodging = $21.6 / day
Transportation = $20.6 / day
Food = $14.5 / day
Excursion = $9.5 / day
Total hotel points used = 46,000 for 14 free nights
Aloft bangkok (3 nights for 7,000 points)
Le Meridien Chiang Mai (5 nights for 16,000)
Four Points Bangkok (6 nights for 23,000)
Our spending was incredibly low in Thailand due to a combination of hotel points used and one thing we really needed… rest! In a combined 11 nights in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, we literally went out only a few times and only did a few things. It was like in the good ol days when we used to hang around the house for a weekend and make it out only to get Dat Dog or Taceau Loceaux (New Orleans reference). It was just what we needed.
In total, we used hotel points for 14 free nights and while it cost us 46,000 points, it provided some excellent opportunities for rest and relaxation after the rough hotels in Laos. Another major perk of the Starwood hotels stays is my status allows us free breakfast and access to lounges in the evening with free drinks and food!
We felt more comfortable eating off the street carts in Thailand than we did in any other SE Asian country – in fact, we preferred getting Pad Thai from the carts because it was $2 and better than many of the restaurants!
As mentioned before, our perception was a little skewed after we visited so many other SE Asian countries, but Thailand does offer visitors a total cultural immersion where monks still frequent the temples, elephants and tigers can be ridden/petted (in that order), and beaches can be enjoyed. For us though, it meant more of what we’d seen the previous weeks… so if it sounds like I’m trying to overhype Thailand, it’s because we don’t think we did it justice!
Another reason Thailand didn’t reach full potential for us was weather issues. When we started in the south, we planned to hop across many of the beautiful islands and get plenty of beach time. However, we also visited during monsoon seasons, and it turns out those things are legit! In fact, as we headed to Railay Beach, our small long-tail boat nearly cap-sized as the wind and waves proved almost more than it could handle. Due to the monsoon, we had to change our plans and head north to Cambodia instead, and we were never able to get back to the islands like we hoped to.
While Thailand is very easy to get around and most routes offer you the choice between planes, trains, or buses, you have to be careful about what you choose. While we were there, there was one train derailment, and at least two bus crashes where dozens of people were killed (including tourists). In fact, this dictated how we traveled as we opted to fly instead of risking the under-regulated roads and under-maintenanced train rails. Don’t get me wrong, thousands of people choose these options every day with no issues, but we didn’t want to put ourselves in the position to be the unlucky ones!
The worst part of Thailand, much like Bali, is what westerns have made it. Bangkok is known as a city where anything goes, but we never got used to seeing old white men walking around with young Thai girls. We loved the city, its abundance of personality and culture, but we just couldn’t buy into the mentality that anything goes; at least anything goes for westerners who have enough money. The most shocking part for Jocelyn happened while researching spas when she stumbled upon blogs about which spas perform special services (use your imagination).
In conclusion, next time we want to go back to Thailand to treat it more as a vacation instead of jumping around so much. If we were to do that, we’d probably visit the islands on the China Sea side and maybe even learn to scuba dive… but then again, if we all we want is to visit a beach destination, we’d probably stay somewhere closer to the US.