Is Thailand Still a Cheap Holiday Destination

When God handed out brains I was definitely at the back of the queue. I was probably bartering with some of his helpers over a good deal on some ” In the beginning God created Me ” t-shirts.  In the 50 years since, I’ve managed to get by with the Teflon brain I was handed. Plenty gets put in it, but nothing sticks.

One of the things which has confused me lately is the strength of the Thai baht. How can a country with so much political turmoil have a currency which is at present so strong against the US dollar, UK pound and Euro.

This past week’s rioting in Bangkok and sad deaths of those who have been caught up in the shocking scenes coming out of Thailand’s capital has hardly weakened the baht at all. I can’t understand it. I’m obviously missing something. However, this week I think I may have found a decent answer to my query.

I wish someone out there would pit the Bangkok Post up against The Nation. Thailand’s two English-language daily newspapers are to me very similar with my own slight preference being for the Post due in my opinion to its better sport (my passion) coverage. How about one of my fellow bloggers laying out each of their merits in a winner takes all head to head. I think that would make a very interesting read. I haven’t got the all round reading depth to do it myself. Over to one of you.

So why is the Thai baht so strong. A read of The Nation newspaper’s Thai Visa forum slot earlier this week shed some light on the answer for me after reading one of the forum’s topics concerning the strong Thai baht. Here’s an extract from one of the forum members responses. Click on the above link to read the full content.

In Layman’s Terms, Why is the Baht Still so Strong?

The Thai economy is in pretty good shape and as has been pointed out earlier it has a surplus in its current and trade accounts and it also has substantial foreign currency reserves.

At a time when the major economies and currencies of western countries are under stress, Thailand is an attractive investment option and as such it attracts substantial inflows of foreign capital, capital that might otherwise have been invested in US, UK or European equities and the like.

Those positive factors create two effects; the first is that as private and institutional overseas investors sell foreign currency and buy Baht, it causes the Baht to strengthen because it is seen to be in demand – the second effect is that action also causes the Thai stock indices to rise.

Going back just a couple of years the Thai Baht- UK Sterling exchange rate was steady at around the 70 baht mark to the pound, checking today’s rate on my sidebar widget shows my pound worth only 49.72 baht, a depreciation of nearly 30%. That’s a huge hit for anyone to take and with other major currencies suffering similar falls many people are now starting to wonder if Thailand is a cheap holiday destination any more. To trial Thailand’s holiday value I thought I’d take a look at the price of a few of the things which form the necessities of most peoples holiday in Thailand.

A taxi from Suvarnabhumi Airport to the resort of Pattaya is a well worn route and one which has now been made a little cheaper by the flushing out of illegal ‘mafia” type taxi operators at the international airport.

A ride to Pattaya’s coastal resort from one of the authorized taxi stands will cost you about 1,500 baht and that works out at about £30 or 46 US dollars. For a one and three quarter hour journey from an international airport that’s a fee which shouldn’t have too many complaining.

Hotels in Thailand are available from the highest standard to the bare basics and even at today’s poor exchange rates finding somewhere to suit your budget shouldn’t be a problem. The holiday brochure islands and the capital Bangkok will be more pricey but booking a room in Thailand’s mainland resorts and cities in the 600 – 1,500 baht price range will give you a room of average to decent standards.

The accommodation in the photo on the right is the President Hotel in Udon Thani and a room there is just 900 baht per night. That’s £18 or $27 and includes breakfast. Hotel rates in Thailand are generally quoted per room and not per person making them amazing value.

Eating out in Thailand can be as expensive as you wish but long term travellers and those on cheap budget flights generally settle for standard restaurants which offer good value and decent food. Thailand has those in abundance and more.

The English Sunday roast on the left weighs in at only £3.40 or $5 which is an excellent price and with a couple of glasses of cold Thai beer your bill would still fall short of the £6 ($10) mark. The cost of an evening meal for two in a city restaurant is harder to gauge because of the vast differences in cuisine and location, but 1,200 baht (£24 or $36 ) should be more than enough for a decent slice of a Thai or European menu and enough drinks to leave both of you a little merry. Piling on the pounds in Thailand is a low cost option.

Here’s a few other rough costs to some of the things that just might persuade you to part with your cash in Thailand. Prices obviously vary depending on location.

  • A 30 minute jet ski ride 1,500 baht (£30 or $46)
  • A gentleman’s haircut 60 baht (£1.20 or $1.8)
  • One hour foot massage 150 baht (£3 or $4.6)
  • 2 day PADI scuba diver course 8,820 baht (£176 or $269)
  • Car hire per day 1,000 baht (£20 or $31)

Thailand’s high flying currency has dramatically increased the expense of a holiday in the Land of Smiles but with its excellent low cost hotels and glut of decent restaurants, a little economizing  and common sense makes it still well affordable. A little depreciation of the Thai baht would be a major help too.


Photograph Money concept   by Milas Jokic /


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

17 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Martyn a timely post given that a major international credit rating agency is looking at lowering Thailands standing-I believe they are currently A- (might be wrong).

    The strong Baht certainly affects me since I transfer a set amount each month. There are ways to buy currency in advance at a set rate which might suit someone like yourself but are not useful in my own circumstances.

    My UK bank charges me a whopping £25 to make a SWIFT transfer in Sterling to the Bangkok Bank who themselves make a small charge but offer better exchange rates.

    I think the situation in Thailand(troubles) is more likely to affect tourism than the value of the Baht, since as you point out in your post relatively speaking things are still good value here.

    One final point about the newspapers you mention(I rarely buy-just read online). certainly a good idea for a future post. Incidentally the Nation is winning hands down on reporting the troubles, especially online and via Twitter. I think BKK Post reporters go home at 5pm!
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Cultural Divide. =-.

  2. malcolm says:

    Martyn, I thought all the time that Thailand had hiered you to promote tourism in the LOS and now I know for sure that you are on their payroll, ha ha . Great artical and it is true that Thailand is still one of the most affordable, and I believe safe places to vacation , once out of BKK , prices go down and for the most part theres no sign of any unrest or uprisings in the small and out of the, as you call it “the big mango” . I am happy to report that on our recent trip down south that (some things were paid for ) we found the prices very reasonable and even if we did have to pay some things there were no complaints from the Burgess’s .Thanks for the post and all of Thailand thanks you too. Malcolm
    .-= malcolm´s last blog ..A LONG , LONG AND WINDING ROAD ( BUT IT WAS WORTH THE RIDE ) =-.

  3. Hoo Don says:

    Mike I know the strong baht must be affecting you and the majority of pension funded ex pats, in fact it’s probably crippling some. To drop from 70 baht to the pound down to below 50 is a major blow to take. Hopefully things will improve but even 60 baht to the pound may be many years away.

    For any money transfers to Wilai I went for the cheap option a long while back by opening a UK savings account and giving her the ATM card to it. When I need to feed her some cash I put some money in it. The charges are minimal and the baht rate is only 2.75% below the on the spot rate.

    I didn’t touch much on the troubles in Bangkok because I think anyone who’s heading for Pattaya, Hua Hin or one of the islands shouldn’t be affected by it at all. But yes, the troubles won’t help tourism one bit. Nor will governments issuing over the top warnings about safety in Thailand.

    Perhaps the head to head newspaper post might be one for you to consider.

  4. Catherine says:

    How can a country with so much political turmoil have a currency which is at present so strong against the US dollar, UK pound and Euro.

    Driven by China, Asian currencies are considered to be in the ascendency. But due to this ongoing crisis, the Thai baht is actually considered weaker than it should be. And if things ever do settle down in Thailand, there just might be a problem controlling the further appreciation of the baht.

    To trial Thailand’s holiday value I thought I’d take a look at the price of a few of the things which form the necessities of most peoples holiday in Thailand.

    In Thailand, it seems like swings and roundabouts. On Friday I flew down to take photos of Harley-Davidson’s at Phuket’s 2010 Bike Week. There, I didn’t find prices cheap at all. I mean, 200 baht for a five minute taxi ride to my hotel? Crazy prices.

    The following day I drove to Khanom, which I found more reasonable. But… my resort did offer a wine dinner for 2000 baht each. Each. No thanks.

    Instead, a walk down the beach to a Thai resort produced a four course meal + 2 large Singhas for 550 baht. And that, I like.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Red Shirts. A Sofa Rant. Of Sorts. =-.

  5. Hoo Don says:

    Malcolm I wish somebody would hire me in Thailand, it would be great to earn a living there.

    I do try and push the Thailand promotion boat out a little because I believe it’s a great place to visit and still fairly cheap. Hopefully this post will give a few prospective visitors a little insight into the price of things although they do vary on wherever you lay your hat. I paid 90 baht for a small beer in one bar in Hua Hin (great resort) two years ago and I know certain bars in Pattaya where I’ll get the same beer for 40-50 baht next month. I am also hoping the post will get me a few keyword search hits.

    Phuket…I’ve never been there, and probably never will. It smacks of commercialism to me. Family holidays and people who expect clean towels everyday. A call to reception…” There’s a lizard in my room, get someone up here quick. I want to speak to the manager, this is disgraceful “…….maybe I’m wrong. The kind of community trip to Phuket which you went on would interest me. I’d enjoy that, seeing the real bits of the island.

  6. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine one of the responses in the Thai Visa link on my post does mention the China effect and that’s worrying if your stay or holiday is funded by foreign coin. When the current troubles subside I fully expect the baht to kick on and strengthen even more.

    The cost of food and drink in Thailand is very hard to put a price on and the examples you quote are fairly typical of the big resorts. Like you Wilai and myself tend to settle for the lower end of the scale because the food is normally of a very high standard. We can eat at a restaurant in Udon and listen to live music at the same time for a bill of about 600-800 baht, that’s value with a capital V. During the day we sometimes eat at a Thai curry restaurant (great food there) and two bowls of green curry with a large beer and coke doesn’t get anywhere near 200 baht. Amazing Thailand.

  7. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I skimmed through the TV link and didn’t see a mention of the China effect (maybe the heat is getting to me? 😉

    The resort I stayed at was not large, just chi-chi (and I have to say this – it was amazing in its multiple design snafus). There was a strip of buildings leading into the ocean, not miles of golf courses and such (I’m not a fan). It was a pre-opening special offer (no TV, no wifi)… I’ll write a post… but… later. After this kerfluffle dies down.

    You and I think alike – good value for money is priceless.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Red Shirts. A Sofa Rant. Of Sorts. =-.

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine perhaps the cold UK wind is getting to me, I must of read it on another link whilst researching the reasons why the baht is so strong, I’ll check again….You’re right I was in fact thinking of this reference to China by another forum member.

    ”The Baht is so strong and will get stronger, because the fiat money printing presses in Thailand are running much slower than in the USA and Europe. When the Chinese let their money float, and rise in value against the Euro and Dollar, the Baht will also rise in value. Back to the 20s by year end.”

    Not sure what ” fiat money printing presses ” means.

    I think good value for money is priceless because I haven’t got a wheelbarrow full of it and I don’t mean to imply you have. I’m lucky in that even if I suggest myself and Wilai stay at a 2,000 baht a night hotel she poo poo’s the idea saying it’s too expensive. She’s the same with restaurants and it’s rare the two of us dine and get a bill over 1,000 baht unless it’s a very good seafood one. Hua Hin was excellent for its seafood restaurants, we plan to go back there one day. We were going next month but Wilai reckons it will be too pricey with the low pound and so we’re off to Pattaya. It’s much cheaper there when you know your way around.

  9. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I wasn’t sure either, so I googled ‘fiat money printing presses’, and it’s just paper money.

    I found it in: Examples of Fiat Money Failures Throughout History – Could the US Repeat This.

    So it’s paper valued on gold, silver, or whatever (with value).

    Interestingly, the Chinese call it ‘flying money’ because it flys away so easily. Isn’t that the truth.

    But it didn’t explain it 100%, so I went for a dictionary…

    fiat money
    inconvertible paper money made legal tender by a government decree.

    fiat |ˈfēət; ˈfēˌät|
    a formal authorization or proposition; a decree

    So now I know more than I did this morning (and that’s pretty rare these days).

    This year I’m dubbing my ‘good value for money push’ because saving has become a priority. Stashing money away has always been a concern, but now the push is becoming more concentrated. And every month so far, there has been something financially pressing. Maybe next month will be ‘the’ month…

    Have fun on your next trip to Thailand (as I’m sure you will 🙂
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Red Shirts. A Sofa Rant. Of Sorts. =-.

  10. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine thanks for clearing up the ‘fiat money printing presses’ bit, you probably saved me face. I was going to edit fiat to flat but as it didn’t make much sense either I was still thinking it over.

    Thanks for the education…..and get your hair off the sofa cushions. Aren’t you trying to save money.

  11. expatudon08 says:

    is Thailand still cheap yes it is if you have the means to replenish your funds hoo don
    but wherever you go on holiday or decide to live try and live to your means isn’t living beyond them been a factor in the credit crunch taking a bite out of everyone.s backside
    once apon a time i was buying 1 ticket to Thailand now i buy 3 but the cost of my holiday as probably gone down lets be honest most of us probably spend more money on beer and western food when we’re flying solo and of course some company then things can spiral out of control
    remember last year rubber half price of what it is now who knows where the Thai baht will be in another year or should i say where will the uk pound be its not so much the baht is strong its more like the pound and other major currencies are as weak and lifeless we’re now paying the price for the so called good years which left us with bigger loans to banks and massive debt but its ok your house is worth more but you can’t afford to sell it because your salary will not get you a mortgage on a larger place did anybody gain only the ones who sold up and left
    Thailand still looks good to me
    .-= expatudon08´s last blog ..are journey and flight via dubai to bangkok/ udon thani =-.

  12. Talen says:

    Martyn, Spot on…Thailand is still great value even with the strength of the baht which is definitely hurting the American and British travelers and expats.

    I think you are very right that the baht will only strengthen further in the future especially as trade links strengthen even deeper with China.

    It’s always a struggle as I love to see Thailand do well but my American money has a different idea.
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..The Faces of Songkran: Thai New Year =-.

  13. Hoo Don says:

    Talen you’re spot on as well about wanting Thailand to do well and about hoping your own currency is strong.

    The current strength of the baht must be worrying for some ex pats and I would imagine some have probably had to flee the country already. When your 50,000 baht a month is diminished down to 35,000, places like Phuket and Pattaya become a bit expensive. The heavy drinkers and womanisers must be struggling if their pensions aren’t that great. It’s also a bad time for the 50’s and over to put 800,000 baht into a Thai bank account to secure a retirement visa. Things just might get a lot worse. Fingers crossed the baht loses a bit of its value.

  14. expatudon08 says:

    hoo don issan is seeing a continued influx of westerners as others have pointed out at least you can kick back and ride it out in places like ban dung the pound goes a lot further and if you stay off the sauce then more the better
    most guys are married and the girl thing plays a small part like you say uk pension.s from the state non indexed if you reside in Thailand and no chance of that changing with the European union agreeing with the uk government on no increases for uk pensioners some have and some more will go back for at least the time it takes to get the increase
    .-= expatudon08´s last blog ..songkran ban dung issan Thailand =-.

  15. Hoo Don says:

    John my apologies, I thought I’d replied to your comment (first one). Living to your means is a must especially if you are planning on a future outside of your own country. There’s no benefit payments in Thailand to be had and any health care has to be paid for.

    I can’t see any real improvement in the pound for a good few years but I hope I’m wrong on that one. As far as housing goes then you are right, most people are mortgaged up to the hilt and can’t upgrade. Bank loans and credit cards are now an accepted part of most peoples monthly bills. The banks cleverly manipulated us all into that one.

  16. Hoo Don says:

    John I think it’s bloody wrong that someone’s pension should be frozen depending where they settle in the world. If you’re living for example in Thailand then you are more liable to get minor illnesses sorted out there than back in the UK. That frees up time and money for UK hospitals and the government but that doesn’t seem to matter at all.

    I know only too well that life in somewhere like Ban Dung is one hell of a lot cheaper than for example Bangkok. Some Thais live on 3,000 baht a month and so 25,000 is going to go one helluva long way.

  17. James Jones says:

    Although most of the protests and clashes have finished in Bangkok and throughout Thailand, a lot of places are still in a declared ‘state of emergency’ which will prohibit groups of more than 5 people in some areas and will restrict travel. It is still being said to only go there if it is necessary.

    Hopefully it all gets back to normal soon though because it is a lovely place to visit

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