Thailand on a Budget: the ultimate travel guide


Discover Thailand without breaking the bank: follow in the footsteps of Marion and Jeremy

To those that haven't visited Thailand before, living vicariously through Instagram photos, it may seem an unreachable paradise located in some foreign land... A paradise filled with palm trees, sandy white beaches and crystal clear waters. It's not only the spectacular scenery that enchants those who travel here, as it's also steeped in history and culture.

Perhaps a lot of you dismiss Thailand as your next holiday destination because you think it's out of your budget? Luckily, we have evidence that proves otherwise. Thanks to Marion and Jeremy, the travel blogging couple that we owe this article to, we can reveal to all you loyal readers that Thailand really doesn't have to be an expensive trip! Without further ado, let's leave it to them to tell their story...

We chose Thailand as our first couple's trip away because it is one of the easiest Asian countries to visit in terms of value for money (easy to barter), communication (the people speak good English) and of course due to its high level of development compared with neighbouring countries. The flight was very long, but let us tell you that is is more than worth the journey! We discovered breathtaking places and beautiful people who maintained customs of the utmost respect.

Thailand Bay

A bay in Thailand

Arriving in Thailand

After several hours on the plane, we finally touched down in Bangkok. First impressions once stepping foot outside the airport? It's HOT! We really felt as though we were inside an oven. Although the heat and humidity was a force to be reckoned with, it beat being back home in cold, rainy France.

Tip: invest in a portable battery-powered fan which you can take around with you!

In order to reach our accommodation we decided to take a taxi, as with all our luggage it was much more convenient than by bus. The taxis are regulated here so don't worry about being charged more than what is necessary. Once outside the airport, head to the 2nd or 3rd floor where you'll find both pink and yellow/green taxis.

Thai taxis

Thai taxis

We decided that for our first trip to Thailand it was only right to go and visit the most famous spots, including the islands of Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, as well as the city of Chiang Mai, although there are also many other places to see.

Chiang Mai

To get up to the North of Thailand, we booked our bus directly with the guest house we were staying in. Located on Kao San Road, this is a very touristy area of Bangkok where you can buy great souvenirs, and where young people come to party.

We decided to take an organised bus tour that took us to visit several other symbolic places of Thailand, such as the White Temple, before we finally reached our hotel in the city of Chiang Mai.

White Temple

The White Temple, Wat Rong Khun

Tip: booking in advance is the best solution if you want to make the most of special offers on hostels, hotels and guest houses... we did just this, securing many cheap deals on accommodation whilst travelling around Thailand.

>>> Do like Marion and Jeremy and find your cheap hostel in Thailand now

Waterfall in Chiang Mai

Waterfall in Chiang Mai during a trek, photo credits to Marion & Jeremy

We chose Chiang Mai because we're not really 'big city' people. This beautiful city brought us both the peace and scenery that we desired. We visited the old town, walked through various temples and wandered around the shops.

We also made an obligatory visit to the Night Bazaar, the main commercial and nightlife district of the city. Upon our arrival we were greeted with a very positive and relaxed atmosphere, which in turn made for a lovely evening.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

We tried dishes like the Massama and Pad Thai, two of the most famous and delicious Thai specialties. You can find these in any restaurant, as well as the food stalls lining the sides of the road.

The Night Bazaar has a lot of options when it comes to accommodation, ranging from small and inexpensive hotels to five star establishments, making it a perfect destination for any kind of traveller.

Chiang Mai is a very quiet, relaxing city where you can rest your head for one or two nights on your journey from Bangkok to the islands, which is exactly where our journey leads to next...

Chiang Mai

Nature in Chiang Mai during our trek, photo credits to Marion & Jeremy

>>> Hostel Lullaby will welcome you to the heart of Chiang Mai old town. Breakfast is included, and guests have the opportunity to rent bicycles in order to explore the city. You can enjoy Thai cooking classes, and even take part in the yoga sessions in the garden.

The Islands

To reach the islands, we decided to take the night bus to reach Surat Thani port, where we then took the fast boat to reach Koh Phangan.

Tip: we booked this journey directly through the guest house we slept in. Booking transport directly through your accommodation is always the best option, as it ensures you pay a fair (and low) price. For us, if we remember correctly, it cost around 35 euros for the bus and boat combined.

Surat Thani Port

Surat Thani Port, photo credits to Marion & Jeremy

Koh Phangan

Compared to its neighbours, the island of Koh Phangan was the one we preferred the most. Indeed, for our first trip to Thailand, it's the place that truly exceeded our expectations, especially with regards to the people and their relaxed way of life.

We were lucky enough to meet Thai people who had lived on the island for years, and even shared meals together with them, discussing our different lifestyles and cultures. Sharing different stories with them was a very rewarding and eye-opening experience.

Hopping on our scooter that we purchased at 7.50 euros for the day, we were able to travel across the entire island. You'd be lucky to find a lower price than this!

Scootering around Thailand

Scootering around Thailand is the best option!

Tip: We decided to rent a scooter to explore the island as it really is the easiest way to get around, letting you access roads and paths that are sometimes inaccessible by car. With the wind in our hair, that free feeling remained with us for the entire ride!

Another tip for those whose favourite subject was never maths, use the currency app! It allows you to see the euro / baht conversion clearly at the most current exchange rate. This enabled us to be wise with our expenses as we made sure we knew the exact value of our purchases. It also helped with bartering, a very popular practice in Thailand...

Small Thai shop

Small Thai shop

The first time we tried our hand at bartering was quite difficult, as we were not used to it and we didn't want to insult the sellers unintentionally. But, the locals told us not to hesitate or hold back, so we followed their advice.

We started negotiating with tuc-tuc drivers, travel souvenirs and even with the prices of organised tours... bargaining is the key to ensuring a cheap trip to Thailand!

A little bit of advice, know that there are no rules when it comes to bartering! The only thing you need to know is to offer the lowest price possible (without overdoing it) and you'll find that you'll arrive at the basic price you wanted to pay in the first place.

View of Coma

View from Three Sixty bar, photo credits to Marion & Jeremy

Koh Phangan is perfect for any type of traveller. We could explore the island, its many beaches, bars, clubs and neighbourhoods. We went to the Three Sixty bar overlooking the island for a calm and enjoyable evening.

We also went to Ban Sabaï, Mercaba and Lighthouse (where we partied to techno music). We visited the beaches, including Coma in the north of the island, which, in our opinion, was one of the most beautiful.

We enjoyed our time here so much that after several days we really started to feel at home. This was a great feeling, and one we never expected to have on our first trip to Thailand.

>>> Looking for a hostel to party? Then the Lazy House Shenanigans is for you! Pool parties, BBQs on the beach... it's somewhere you'll make some unforgettable memories.

Koh Tao

Koh Tao is one of the little sisters of Koh Phan Gan. Although the island is much smaller than the others, it offers certain activities that the others don't!

Indeed, it's on this island that you can try scuba diving for the first-time! French Kiss Divers, for example, is a great scuba diving school offering cheap prices for wallets like ours!

We were also able to admire the island from many different viewpoints, and we couldn't help but feel so incredibly lucky that these sights were right before our own eyes!

Scuba Diving Thailand

Diving in Koh Tao

Tip: If you want to spend your New Year doing something slightly different, then we suggest the Experience Festival. It's a music festival lasting around 3 to 4 days where you can dance, chill, buy handcrafted jewellery and leather clothing... why not spend an extraordinary few days surrounded by people from all over the world?There are, of course, many more events such as this that are not to be missed on a trip to Thailand...

Koh Tao Bay

Koh Tao Bay from above

>>> Book a room at the Indie Hostel and you'll enjoy a view of the mountains and the sea. They also organise diving courses, kayaking, fishing, hiking and massages... it has a bar, restaurant, terrace and even its own nightclub! Located on the beach of Sairee.

Koh Samui

Regarding Koh Samui, it didn't have the same effect on us. We only stayed here 3 days so didn't really get to see much of the island, which perhaps distorts our judgement and first impressions of the island.

But, from what we did see, it is a very very touristy island, mainly full of people wanting to flash the cash. We had to be very careful with our expenses here, as prices were definitely a lot higher here than in the other islands we visited.

Koh Samui Bay

Koh Samui Bay

During one evening we decided to walk around the bars of the neighbourhood, however we only stayed a few mintues as it was quite an unpleasant experience for us.

Tip: If you're confronted with prostitutes, extortion or intimidation, the only way to deal with the situation is calmly. If you don't want to go to a certain bar but you are being bothered and pressured into entering then you don't need to do what they say! It's always your decision so don't feel as though you have to please them. Koh Samui island, for us, was the worst part of our trip to Thailand.

>>> Not everyone who goes to Koh Samui has had the same experience! It's worth remembering that one must remain vigilant whilst travelling, as you can be confronted with unpleasant experiences, however this should definitely not be a reason as to why you don't visit the country. Feel free to take a look at our articles about how to stay safe while travelling alone and travelling alone: solo travel for women (although this article is aimed primarily at women, the advice still applies for male solo travellers).

Koh Samui beach

Koh Samui Beach

>>> The hostel where you choose to spend the night is very important to guarantee that you feel safe during your stay. We recommend Sirin Samui Boutique Hostel. Lockers, keycards, private rooms and dorms. You will also appreciate its outdoor pool, games area and restaurant.

In the end, Jeremy and I are very happy to have chosen to travel Thailand together for our first trip as a couple. We felt as though we fully experienced 100% of what Thailand has to offer in terms of scenery and tranquility, but also some more lively moments. It's a country we now recommend to everyone we meet, because a cheap trip to Thailand definitely is possible, full of discovery and easy to become accustomed to the culture and traditions.

Boat Thailand

Has the story of Marion and Jeremy convinced you to take your own cheap trip to Thailand? Well we recommend organising your trip by reserving your accommodation sooner rather than later through our booking panel below. Lucky for you, HostelsClub offers one of the lowest commissions on the market, ideal for your budget trip abroad!

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