Tourists flock to Thailand because low prices make it affordable for many Western travelers. One can spend half the price of a different beach vacation all while traveling halfway across the world. However, not all activities in Thailand are cheap – you have to know where to look!
Cheap things to do in Thailand include hiking through national parks, snorkeling in beautiful clear waters, people watching on Khao San Road, getting coffee at cat cafes, eating street food, visiting temples, and enjoying a Thai massage.
These examples are pretty standard for those who have done their research on Thailand. After reading this article, you’ll be keenly aware of even more affordable activities to do while in the country.
Lumphini Park is often regarded at Bangkok’s Central Park. Located in the middle of the city near the giant Central world Mall, this green lung of Bangkok provides a much-needed escape from the constant smog of the city. Most importantly, visiting this charming and relaxing place is free.
Lumphini Park offers workout equipment for exercise aficionados and playground equipment for young children. However, the most interesting allure of Lumphini is surely the monitor lizards. There are hundreds of 20-70 pound lizards that roam freely in this park. They are absolutely huge (and admittedly quite scary at times).
We’re not quite sure how these reptiles first got to the park. After all, this park is located in the middle of metropolitan hustle and bustle for miles and miles on every side. Just a few years ago, this park was overrun with monitor lizards. Reports claimed that there were at least 500 of these creatures living in the park at one point in time.
Monitor lizards can lay upwards of 35 eggs at a time. With so many of these little guys (read: ‘not so little’ guys), it’s quite clear how the overpopulation issue could quickly become a problem. The city of Bangkok hired a few government employees to handle the issue by capturing these reptiles and relocating them to rural provinces.
While it’s certainly not recommended that you get too close to these animals, they make for a great photo opportunity. A better photo opportunity involves the fearless Russian tourists who try to touch them.
If lizards aren’t your cup of tea, Lumphini Park offers much more. It is often the site where cultural or food-related festivals are held. In the mornings and evenings, there are groups of men and women that meet and practice yoga. At almost any point in the day, you can find several senior citizens practicing their tai chi.
Some of the best nature spots in the world can be found in Thailand. There are island hikes, beach hikes, jungle hikes, elephant hikes, and many more throughout the country. The most popular trails in Thailand are found near Chiang Mai, though they can be found everywhere (except the city center of Bangkok).
Hiking is one of the best activities for those on a budget because it is usually free! It only costs money if your hike will be a journey that lasts a full day (or longer). We highly recommend the following hikes:
Tab Kak Hang Nak nature trail is found near Ao Nang and Krabi. It offers a beautiful vista that highlights the karst mountains that jet out of the otherwise flat land beside the Andaman Sea. This hike is challenging so you can expect to find a sign-in sheet to ensure all hikers are accounted for by nightfall.
Doi Chiang Dao is a great hike for those who want to camp outdoors. This hike does cost money. However, it can still be a cheap option for outdoorsmen visiting Thailand. The cost of the overnight hike is still less than the price of a hotel room. This mountain range boasts the third tallest mountain in Thailand.
Kew Mae Pan is a relatively easy hike near Chiang Mai. The only cost associated with this hike is the taxi ride to the trailhead. It’s quite easy on your wallet. Kew Mae Pan is also known as ‘The Roof of Thailand’ because your viewpoint sits just above the clouds.
The Khao Daeng viewpoint is another cheap attraction to explore during your time in Thailand. If you are visiting Hua Hin, this lookout point is a must-see. It only costs $6 USD to begin the journey through the jungle. All of these hikes are great options for travelers on a budget. Don’t forget the bug spray (locals use Tiger Balm to keep mosquitoes away).
Thailand has several crazy party districts. Whether you’re in Phuket, Bangkok, or Pattaya, you can be sure that you are in close proximity to a street where people release all their inhibitions. If you go visit one of these streets, you can have a hysterical time without ever needing to spend more than $5.
Most of these streets have open container laws. This means that you can buy a beer from a street vendor and walk up and down the road while drinking alcohol. The most fun activity one can do on a street like Khao San Road is people watch.
There are thousands upon thousands of drunk tourists leading extremely different lives. You’ll see hippies and gypsies with dreadlocked hair that goes down to their knees. You’ll observe world-traveling parents who are taking their baby in a stroller through a street filled with nightclubs. If you have a night like mine, you can even see a Chinese visitor bite into the side of a beer can to open it before chugging the drink in 2 seconds.
Whether it’s Patpong, Bangla, or Nana Plaza, these bar districts are filled with crazy stories every night. You’ll observe tourists holding giant balloons filled with laughing gas and street hawkers trying to sell said tourists fried scorpions. People watching at night is always a good time (and most importantly, it’s cheap).
Eat Street Food
Street food in Thailand is unparalleled throughout most of Asia. It’s every bit as delicious for your taste buds as it is for your wallet. A common meal from a vendor with a grill only costs about 30 Baht ($1 USD). I’d even claim that this food is better than what you can find in a restaurant.
People love Chipotle because there is only one type of food. Patrons to the food chain don’t experience paralysis by analysis when choosing their meal. The same is true with street vendors in Thailand. Whereas the typical Thai restaurant offers 75 different meals (and the menu is written entirely in Thai script).
Many Westerners are cautious around street vendors in Thailand. We’ve been conditioned to demand the highest of health standards when we dine out. However, this may be a lesson in overregulation.
The average restaurant that serves 75 different options must have inventory for all of their meals – that inventory is likely to go bad if a specific meal isn’t ordered that often. If the restaurant is popular, the cooking team is opening that refrigerator door every few minutes (which means the ingredients are barely kept cold).
A street food vendor buys their food fresh that morning and only buys as much as she can sell. This ensures a level of freshness that isn’t necessarily sustainable in a restaurant setting. Based off of experience alone, I believe one is more likely to get food poisoning from a restaurant in Thailand than from a vendor on the street.
Be bold! Eat the Satay Pork on a stick. Buy a pineapple that a man tears apart with a machete. Try the octopus in a bag. But be hesitant when offered a fried tarantula! In each of these situations, you’ll never pay more than $3. Your taste buds will thank you.
If you want a relaxing and cuddly way to spend an afternoon, then you should definitely visit one of Thailand’s many animal cafes. There are cat cafes in almost every district inside of Bangkok. Even the suburbs of Bangkok have their fair share of cat cafes to frequent! I am actually writing this article from one right now (HOC near Suttisan — highly recommend).
If you have never been to a cat cafe, I’ll give you an idea of what you should expect. Usually, the cafe will have an entrance fee or require you to purchase a beverage to play with the cats. Most cafes will have coffees, teas, and snacks to choose from. The drinks and food can be a bit pricier than an ordinary cafe, but with good reason! You won’t pay more than $10 each, and the added benefit of getting to interact with these beautiful creatures is well worth the money.
After you have purchased a drink or food, you are free to walk around the cafe and play with the cats as much as you’d like. Of course, these little animals have emotions and free-will and should be treated with respect. Never pick up the cats in the cafes or bother them while they are sleeping. Let them come to you, and if that doesn’t work, buy some cat treats from the cafe. Pro-tip: Bring a sturdy paper shopping bag along with you. The cats love to jump in them, sit in them, and sleep in them.
There are many different types of cat cafes in Thailand. There are the more “instagrammable” cafes like the Caturday Cafe near CocoWalk Plaza in Bangkok. This cafe offers many opportunities for photo-ops and has all sorts of cat breeds, including Persians, Bengals, and Scottish Folds. Caturday Cafe is even home to an Instagram celebrity, Ketchup the Cat.
If you want a more relaxed cafe where you can have a beer or work from your laptop, you can visit HOC or the Rabbito Cafe (not a cat cafe but same idea). Most of the cafes have wi-fi included with your drink or entrance fee. What better way to work than with a fluffy cat sitting in your lap?
Free Muay Thai Matches
When in Bangkok, do as the locals do! If you are looking for an action-packed night on the cheap, then you should definitely explore some of Bangkok’s free Muay Thai fights throughout the city. You only need to pay for transportation, and food & snacks while you are there.
In Thailand, there are several spots to view free Muay Thai fights. The key is looking for a stadium that broadcasts their fights. These stadiums are airing their fights throughout the country, and are receiving crazy money in ad revenues and subscriptions. They have a vested interest in making sure the stadiums look packed. Ergo, free fights for your viewing pleasure.
The key with visiting these stadiums is getting there early though. You want to make sure you get a good spot. And don’t forget to make a 7-Eleven run before you get there. These stadiums allow you to bring in your own food and snacks, so buy a cheap Chang beer and a famous 7-Eleven“toastie” and get ready to watch the fights.
So, where should you go to watch these free fights? There are 2 main spots to hit up. The first, Channel 7 Stadium, is one of the more authentic and famous spots to watch a Muay Thai fight in Bangkok. What was once a “best-kept” secret of Thailand now attracts hoards of tourists.
The good news? Most of these tourists only stay for 1-2 fights max. Once the early-leavers vacate, the stadium gets a lot more comfortable. Channel 7 Stadium hosts fight every Sunday at 2:30 PM.
The other well-known stadium to watch Muay Thai fights is more of a studio. GMM Grammy Studio, to be exact. This studio also broadcasts their fights throughout the country of Thailand, but their style is a bit different. They are high-impact fights with tons of KO’s, loud announcers, and even louder metal music. This studio is quickly picking up popularity with the younger generation of Thais. These MX fights are held every Friday at 8:45 PM, and just like Channel 7, they are BYOB.
Get a Massage
The Thai-style massages one can find throughout the country are world famous. Best of all, they are significantly more affordable than their Western counterparts. You can find a relaxing hour-long massage for $5-$10 in every Thai city. While tipping more than 10% is not customary in Thai restaurants, you should certainly tip your masseuse.
A Thai massage is considerably different than a normal massage. For one, it often hurts. You’ll be given loose fitting spa clothing and will be told to lay on a mat on the floor. From there, a masseuse will begin to do acrobatics, putting her knee into your spine or digging her foot into your lower back. Thai massage works deep pressure points.
Thailand certainly has a seedy reputation for massages of ill repute. If you get a massage in Thailand, do your own research. You can visit Google and check out the reviews to better understand the type of establishment you are visiting. If you don’t have data on your phone, there are a few noteworthy tells to help you avoid an unwanted situation.
If your massage is advertised as a ‘sensual massage’, it’s pretty easy to guess what that truly means. There are also advertisements for ‘bottom massages’ where a man will massage your back but focus on your buttocks. Beware of what is likely to happen during the buttocks massage. Avoid these types of massage parlors.
Visit a Temple
There are temples around every corner in Thailand. Most require a small donation to enter. These entrances fees act as proceeds to the temple’s charity of choice (or help with maintenance). Buddhist architecture in Thailand is magnificent, ornate, and surely unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
You can enter any of these temples for around 50 Baht (< $2 USD). However, the size and popularity of said religious temple will surely have an impact on your entrance fee. I’ve never seen a temple cost more than 150 Baht ($5 USD) to enter. Make sure you wear the appropriate attire (long pants and a shirt that covers your shoulders) otherwise you will be denied entry.
Wat Saket (temporarily closed) is a famous (and cheap) temple in the center of Bangkok. We also highly recommend Wat Pho. Wat Pho (AKA Temple of the Reclining Buddha) houses a reclining Buddha that reaches lengths of 150 feet. The sculpture is absolutely massive.
Wat Pho is esteemed for other reasons, too. Many regard this area as the origin of Thai massages. To this day, you can get massages inside the temple from graduates of their massage school. You’ll be even more relaxed once you find out how cheap the massage at Wat Pho is.
The Sanctuary of Truth is another impressive temple in Thailand. This religious center in Pattaya is one of the most ornate and lavishly decorated buildings I’ve ever encountered. We also recommend Wat Phra That Lampang Luang. They house a single hair from Buddha himself.
Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew literally translates to the Temple of a Million Bottles. The architect himself is a big fan of keeping costs cheap. This fellow frugal individual used over 1 million recycled beer bottles to construct his temple. You can visit this House of Heineken without needing to break the bank.
Transportation in and around Thailand is extraordinarily cheap. If you want to take a taxi around the city, it’s often only $5 for a 30-minute ride. Those who use the ride-hailing app called Grab can save even more money! Motorcycle taxis can be hired for 30 Baht ($1 USD). Tuk-tuks can drive you around the city center for 100 Baht ($3.33 USD).
Bangkok is known for affordable transportation. You can cross this city (which is the same size as New York) for just a few dollars if you use the Metro or the SkyTrain. However, the cheapest mode of transportation is certainly a boat taxi. We only spent 10 cents on our 10-minute boat ride across the river. Some boat stations don’t even offer a place to pay for the service!
If a taxi driver refuses to use the meter, change your destination to the police station. Most taxi services in Thailand are actually named ‘Meter Taxi’ so it’s quite ironic if they deny you standard pricing. Hail a grab in their place. Most taxi drivers are incredibly friendly and don’t wish to take advantage of tourists.
Chatachuk Market is a great activity for those on a budget. This is one of the world’s largest outdoor marketplaces. Thousands of tourists and locals alike swarm to this market in Bangkok every weekend in order to check out the fresh street style clothing being offered here.
It’s a great place for window shoppers as the Chatachuk Market small business owners are certainly known for being creative with the items they sell. You can have a blast at this attraction without ever needing to spend a dime. Whether it’s Thai influenced rave clothing or purses made out of recycled materials, you’ll notice your eyes moving around in a style akin to a middle schooler with ADHD.
If you do opt to begin a shopping spree at Chatachuk Market, you won’t break the bank. The clothing, accessories, and home goods offered here are known for being extremely reasonable on one’s wallet. Quit shopping at H&M and give your money to these small business owners who are starting new trends in Asia out of their very tiny stores.
Full Moon Party
One of the best activities for those on a budget is the notorious Full Moon Party of Koh Pha-ngan. It’s a roll of the dice for your pocketbook. The activity itself is free, however, an intoxicated version of yourself might not be the most financially responsible when roaming the island’s streets at night.
If you can manage to keep the drunk shopping to a minimum, the Full Moon Party is the place to be for frugal travelers. The local islanders are famous for starting small stands where they sell buckets of alcohol. You heard that correctly – you would be drinking liquor out of a bucket.
For an extremely reasonable price of 200 Baht ($6.50 USD), you can buy a small bucket filled with local whiskey, Coke, and Red Bull. Prices vary from stand to stand depending on the quality of alcohol you wish to consume. However, the cost savings from these bad boys are unparalleled.
If you have just two of these buckets, there’s a good chance you will fall asleep on the beach. Thankfully Koh Pha-ngan’s citizens think ahead when it comes to problems like these. They have created designated sleeping zones for those too drunk to find their way home. Hostels here can be quite affordable if you know where to look.
Eat at 7-Eleven
Looking for some cheap eats beyond the normal street-food fare? Then definitely check out your local 7-Eleven in Thailand. Seriously, you can’t miss them. There are over 6,000 7-Elevens in Thailand, with 2,000 of them just in Bangkok, alone. This chain is a staple in Thai culture, and there is no mistaking why. Delicious food at even better prices.
In Thailand, 7-Elevens are very different than the ones that you find in America. Other than a few items like Coke and Snickers, you probably won’t find much “American” food here. Instead, you will find a plethora of delicious, and dare I say nutritious (?), snacks and meals.
The most famous treat inside these Thai 7-Elevens would have to be the “Toastie”. These delicious sandwiches come in a plastic wrapper in the refrigerated section of the store. Once you purchase your “toastie”, the cashier will ask you if you want it heated up. The answer should always be, “Yes!” They take the sandwich and put it in a hot panini maker, and toast the “toastie” on up for you. Amazing.
The 7-Elevens are also home to tons of interesting Thai snacks that every visitor should try out. They have shrimp-flavored potato chips, dried squid, and coconut-covered peanuts. The possibilities are limitless at your local 7-Eleven. The prices are amazing too. You would have to try really hard to spend over $5 on one trip here. Overall, delicious, whether you are on a budget, or not!
What is the Thai currency?
The currency of Thailand is called the Thai Baht. The current exchange rate is approximately 30 Baht per $1 USD. Over the past few years, Thailand’s currency has begun to surge in value compared to other currencies around the world. If you’re leaving for a trip 1 year from now, it might be prudent to exchange your Baht soon.
Is Thailand an expensive country to visit?
Thailand is not an expensive country to visit. The average items consumed by a tourist in Thailand can be very cheap when compared to the cost of these same items in Europe or North America. It’s quite possible to find a hostel for less than $10 USD. Street food often costs $1 USD. There are even Michelin dishes for under $5 USD.