In total we spent 38 days in Thailand. The initial 28 days after we arrived and then another 10 days after we left Laos.
Before we left NZ we had paid for 6 days in a resort over the week of Xmas so for this budget I will not include those days or the money we spent. With that in mind, our total days in Thailand for this budget was 32. Our total per day was $135.71 and that averages out to $22.61 per person per day.
Our first 8 days were spent in Bangkok before we headed south east to Pattaya for 6 days and Koh Chang for 6 days (plus the 6 days over Xmas). We then spent 8 days in Chiang Mai after we left Laos and then 2 more days in Bangkok. We spent a few days travelling between places including 2 overnight bus trips and a night at an airport hotel before an early flight to Laos.
While we were in Thailand we used taxis and tuk tuks to get around. Being a family of six this was a much more budget friendly option than using trains and buses. Smaller groups would probably find that public transport was cheaper for them. Transport in Thailand is still very cheap.
Having been invited to spend the day at Ramayana Water Park we decided to head for Pattaya so we caught a bus from central Bangkok which cost $26 for all of us for the 4 hour trip. We just turned up and bought the ticket at the station an hour before the bus left.
We had a really central hotel in Pattaya so we could walk everywhere including the beach. We jumped on a tuk tuk one day to go to big buddah hill which cost us $20. While still in NZ I had read that there was a bus from Pattaya to Koh Chang including the ferry crossing which would cost us $12 each with the 3 boys being only $6. Once arriving in Pattaya I found out that this bus no longer runs so our only option to get to Koh Chang was to take a 4 hour bus trip back to Bangkok then jump on another 6 hour bus down to Koh Chang. Totally didn’t like the sound of this so we decided to just rent a taxi for the 3 hour drive to the ferry terminal in Trat. We then had to buy the ferry tickets plus the tuk tuk fare on the Koh Chang side to take us to the resort. So what I had thought would be a $54 trip turned into a $160 trip!!! Ekkk my poor budget was totally blown!!!
For our return trip to Bangkok we got a bus, ferry, bus combo ticket for the 7 hour trip which cost $142.
While in Chiang Mia we used a few tuk tuks for day trips and also walked a lot of places. After missing out on overnight train tickets back to Bangkok, I booked bus tickets on a VIP bus at a cost of $164. This doubled as our accommodation for the night as well.
Having booked an Air bnb apartment from NZ for our first week in Bangkok, we arrived and found a perfect 2 bedroom apartment in central Bangkok waiting for us. It really was a great score. We paid $60 a night for a beautifully clean place with a fully equipped kitchen, laundry and bathroom plus the best feature of a massive pool which we usually had to ourselves. I could have got a cheaper place without a pool but being our first week out of NZ I really wanted a pool for the kids to cool off in. The owner lived in the apartment next door was amazing and helped us hugely. Our first Air bnb experience was a huge success at a very affordable price.
Agoda provided us with great places in Pattaya and Chiang Mai. Both very central. We got 2 rooms in both places at a cost $50 a night which was right on budget.
Another awesome Air bnb find was our unique and gorgeous beach hut in Koh Chang where we celebrated New Year. For $60 a night we got an open air hut with 2 bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom with hot water and best of all, our own private beach with views to die for. Worth every cent for the memories we created while there.
While in Bangkok we were able to go to the supermarket or the local 7/11 and buy breakfast and lunch items. Having a kitchen was great and meant we could self cater quite a bit with fruit, yogurt and cereal for breakfast and sandwiches and popcorn for lunch. There was a little corner of street food vendors right near our apartment where we ate dinner most nights. It definitely wouldn’t have got any food safety stars back home. I just had to try not to look out the back of the kitchen and focus on the fact that the food was cheap and tasty. We were eating dinner for about $10 a night for the six of us.
In Pattaya we didn’t have a kitchen but did have a fridge so we got into the habit of buying milk and cereal and eating it in our rooms out of the coffee cups they provide. Usually we only get 2 to 4 small cups so we have to take turns. If the kids want 2 cups worth then breakfast can drag on for about an hour some mornings while we all share the cups. This is something we have carried on with throughout our trip as it saves us a lot of money rather than going out for breakfast.
Our accommodation in Chiang Mai, The Rux Hotel, provided free coffee and toast each morning. We took full advantage of this and generally managed to get through a loaf or 2 of toast each morning!!!
In Koh Chang and Pattaya we could generally find easy, cheap lunch food. Fruit smoothies fast became a quick hit with our crew. They are available on just about every corner in Thailand and have a huge range of flavors and fruits. Often we just got 6 banana smoothies for lunch or a quick snack when we needed. At between 80 cents to $1.20 they are almost a daily treat for us.
On New Years eve we were lucky to be invited to our local restaurant on Koh Chang for a huge New Years Buffet dinner including (very strong) cocktails, roast pork, Thai curry, salads, and seafood galore. We enjoyed this with our Norwegian hosts and some other travelers from Germany at only $45 for all 6 for us.
Chiang Mai bought one of our favorite food markets to date. Each night we walked from our hotel along the moat of the old city to a market of street food vendors. Tables and chairs were set up on the footpath and we could choose from a huge amount of dishes. At only around $10 for all of us, it was great value with fresh yummy food.
For our total of 32 days in Thailand we spent $1347.85 on food. This is a total of $42.12 per day for the 6 of us.
We were extremely lucky in Thailand as we got hosted at 2 very cool activities. Ramayana Water Park and Kidzania. We also did a lot of free activities and very much enjoyed the beaches and parks in Pattaya and Koh Chang. We were lucky to have friends to hang out with in Bangkok and enjoyed a great evening in Khao San road with them. While in Pattaya we discovered that the movies were very affordable in Thailand and ended up going twice. Only $30 for all 6 of us, way cheaper than in NZ. We also spent some extra money in Thailand in the built up to Xmas with getting a few things for the kids and each other, plus a couple of things that we hadn’t bought with us and decided that we needed.
In Chiang Mai we visited the Elephant Poo Poo Paper Place for a total of $37 including transport and it only cost us $31 in transport for our day at the Sticky Waterfalls. Our only major activity while in Thailand was our day at the Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai. This cost us a total of $288 and included transport, lunch and our day with the elephants. This is the only cost that is coming out of our Activities Fund of $10,000 while in Thailand as we could incorporate all the other activities into our daily budget.
Our daily budget for South East Asia is $130 per day so Thailand has come in $5.71 over budget. I can put this down to many factors including buying a few Xmas presents, our high transport costs between places and our overall inexperience at working with a budget while travelling with our 4 childern.
Our final weekend in Thailand was spent in Bangkok with some wonderful friends, Elliot and Katherine and their 3 awesome kids, who were so generous and offered us a place to stay with some good old kiwi style food and great company. It was a complete highlight of our time in Thailand and cost us nothing.
Although our tight budget is a constant consideration, Thailand treated us well. We stayed at some great places, did some amazing things and ate some dam good food. Thailand on a budget is totally achievable while still maintaining a good level of comfort. Thailand is so rich in culture and beauty but as always with travelling, the real richness comes from the people we met, the time we spent together and the memories we have created.
All costs are in NZD