How Much Spending Money Do I Need for Thailand?
Aside from being home to countless attractions including temples, beaches, food, and nightlife, one of the main reasons Thailand attracts visitors is because you can make your money go a long way there. It's possible to spend a month or more exploring the country on a shoestring budget, while a couple of weeks of luxury is also an affordable option.
From how much is a bottle of beer or wine to how to pay for things, here's our money guide for travellers to Thailand.
Currency and exchange rate
Thailand's currency is the baht (THB). £1=about THB46.
Cash is the most widely accepted payment method in Thailand; you'll need it for smaller shops and market stalls. There are ATMs all over the country; these usually charge a THB200 foreign transaction fee per withdrawal, so consider taking out larger amounts of cash at a time. If you want to take cash with you to change, British pounds and US dollars are widely accepted. For the best rates, change money at private money changers and banks in town and city centres rather than at the airport.
Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit/debit cards. Larger businesses, including chain stores in shopping malls, are most likely to accept card payments, although you may be charged by your issuer for using your card abroad — check fees before travelling. Consider taking a pre-paid currency card; it costs much less to make payments with these. It's a good idea to carry a supply of cash in a money belt to last you a couple of days, especially if you travel to more remote areas.
Tipping is not expected in Thailand, however giving a tip to your waiter, porter, or tuk-tuk driver to recognise good service will be appreciated. Note that some higher-end restaurants and bars already add on a service charge to the bill, so check before paying.
Bargaining isn't common practice in Thailand, except at stalls aimed at tourists, where prices often aren't displayed. Start by asking the price (don't reveal a price you're willing to pay straight away) then make your counter offer. You'll probably end up meeting the seller somewhere in the middle. Knowing a few words of Thai and maintaining a friendly manner, and perhaps starting to walk away if the price isn't low enough, often help seal the deal. Haggling isn't welcomed where prices are set, such as shops not aimed at tourists, and restaurants. You can always negotiate a discount on something like accommodation if you're planning on staying more than a few days and can pay up front.
Thailand is generally safe; the most common crimes encountered by travellers include snatch thefts, pickpocketing, scams, and card skimming.
Make sure you can always see your card if you hand it over to pay, to guard against skimming. If you suspect an ATM of having a skimming device attached, or if the area around the machine looks unsafe, find another ATM — shopping malls and banks are usually the safest places. Don't flash your cash; carry a money belt to keep items like passports, money, and cards hidden.
Backpacker (£25-30 per day)
Accommodation in hostels, beach huts, and guesthouses; limited activities and visitor attractions; travel by long-distance bus and local minibus/songthaew; eating at street-food stalls and cheap restaurants
Mid-range (£30-90 per day)
Staying at 3-star hotels; a few guided group tours and visits to attractions; occasional activities like kayaking or scuba diving; travel by train, low-cost airlines, and taxis; dining in mid-range restaurants
High-end (£90 per day and up)
Staying in 5-star/boutique hotels; visiting spas; extensive private tours; taking internal flights, and hiring a car and driver; going to top restaurants and bars
Accommodation (per night)
Budget hostel dorm bed, £5; guesthouse, £10; mid-range hotel, £25; 5-star hotel, £50-90
5km trip in a metered taxi in Bangkok, £1.50; Koh Samui-Koh Phangan ferry, £4; overnight Bangkok-Chiang Mai bus, £20; low-cost flight Bangkok-Phuket, £10-25
330ml bottle of Thai beer, 75p (convenience store); £1 (bar in Khao San Road, Bangkok); £3 (bar in Sukhumvit, Bangkok). Bottle of wine: £10+ (supermarket); £30+ (high-end restaurant). 500ml bottle of water: 20p (convenience store)
Bowl of noodles from food stall, £1; mid-price meal, £5-10; high-end restaurant 3-course meal excluding drinks, £50+
Activities/excursions: Open Water scuba diving course on Koh Tau, £250; one-day boat trip from Phuket to Phang Nga Bay including James Bond Island, £85; entry to Bangkok's Grand Palace, THB 500 (Thai nationals enter free)
The north of Thailand tends to be cheaper than the south, so head there if you want your cash to stretch further. Costs are usually higher on islands, as many items have to be imported.
Inspired to travel to Thailand? Search our collection of holidays to Thailand and find out more about the country in our ultimate Thailand travel guide.
And read more about:
Going further afield? Find out when to visit Southeast Asia.
Nick Elvin contributed to this post.