Without a doubt, Thailand is the most modern and easiest to visit of all the countries in mainland Southeast Asia. Those coming from any longer distance will first land in Bangkok, which is an excellent introduction to both the country and the region. It's traditional and exotic, while being modern and well equipped to deal with English-only speaking tourists.
Though Thailand isn't quite as cheap as the others in the area, it will seem very cheap for anyone coming from Western Europe, North America, or Australia/New Zealand. Bangkok and Phuket are the most expensive parts of the country for visitors, but even those will cost half or less what you'd pay in most of the rest of the world.
This article was originally published in 2010 and has been recently updated in December, 2016.
Thailand travel prices
Bangkok costs – The capital is huge and sprawling, but most of the interesting attractions are clustered together near the river and the infamous Kho San Road backpacker district, making it easy to visit one after another. World-class shopping malls are also clustered together in the center of the city, along with many upscale hotels. Prices here do vary a bit, but you'll have no problem finding something within your budget. With that said, you do want to avoid the bottom prices for hotels here as they're not places that anyone would want to stay at. Street food is the way to go when looking for a nice lunch or dinner, though there are fantastic dining choices as well where you can get a nice sized meal for next to nothing.
Though Bangkok itself offers a lot to do and see, many who visit like to day a trip or two outside of the city. If you're looking to add a trip into your itinerary, check out some of the best cheap day trips from Bangkok.
Chiang Mai costs – This picturesque city is even more exotic in many ways, plus it lacks most of the madness that can become tiring in Bangkok. It's also among the cheapest cities on earth, and one of the world's great travel bargains. In addition, Chiang Mai hosts a large variety of expats and tourists who choose to stay longer than the normal length holiday, making Chiang Mai perfect for those who love to meet others with similar backgrounds. In fact, Chiang Mai is listed as one of the best cheap destinations according to expert travel bloggers. As far as accommodations are concerned, you'll find many great choices here, with most at great prices. The same can be said of the area's attractions and activities as many of them are either free or incredibly cheap. Though food prices can vary a bit more, most will find that the street food is not only a cheap option, but a tasty one at that.
Pattaya costs – This beach just south of Bangkok is a common weekend getaway for locals and is considered the closest beach resort to Bangkok itself, but it's even more commonly known as the paid-sex capital of the world. There are family resorts and plenty of other things to do, but honestly it's easily most famous for the bar and go-go girls. With that said, Pattaya is a great destination for those on a budget as hotels, food and drink prices are relatively cheap, meaning you can get a lot for your money here. Prices also tend to be a bit cheaper here than in Bangkok making it so that a weekend here will save you more money than a stay in Bangkok. Interested in a fun fact? Pattaya is considered one of the cities in the world with the most hotels, allowing for lots of choices.
Phuket costs – This large island near the southern tip of Thailand is home to a number of different beach towns plus interior towns. Nearly everyone goes for one of the hundreds of beach resorts and hotels, and some are far more posh and expensive than others. Not only do the prices vary, but what each hotel offers as well. If you're visiting on a smaller budget, but still would like to stay in a 5-star resort, you'll want to check out some of Phuket's cheapest 5-star luxury resorts. Those who are traveling with kids in tow will want to check out some of Phuket's family friendly options.
When booking a stay, you'll also find that most of the resorts offer some sort of access to the water sports in the area, whether they have the equipment themselves or can lead you to a tour guide. Most of these activities are relatively cheap like snorkeling, however there are a few that are higher in price such as scuba diving and deep sea fishing. This simply means that you'll want to do a little planning ahead of time.