How Much Money Do You Need to Spend in Thailand

It’s not often I answer a question with a question, but when I’m asked How much money do I need to spend in Thailand, my usual response is How long is a piece of string. I recently stumbled upon an article on the Thailand Business News website and now have enough statistical information to at least give that general question some kind of reply.

How Much Different Nationalities Spend in Thailand

The post on Thailand Business News dissects a report from Thailand’s Immigration Bureau, which lists the number of European tourists who visited the Land of Smiles in 2010. The report states there was a total of 15.84 million worldwide visitors to Thailand last year, of which 4,341,447 arrivals were from Europe. The article then breaks down each country’s total visitors and their average daily expenditure per day in the Kingdom.

Below is a list of the top five European countries in terms of total visitors to Thailand in 2010 with their average daily expenditure in US dollars and Thai baht alongside. The report quotes daily spending only in US dollars, but I have used a conversion rate of 30 baht to one dollar to represent Thai baht as well.

Country Visitors Expenditure Conversion
United Kingdom 818,303 $108.37 3,251 THB
Germany 612,620 $101.45 3,043 THB
Russia 611,019 $122.14 3,664 THB
France 458,292 $102.39 3,071 THB
Sweden 316,406 $102.58 3,077 THB

Those figures show tourists from Europe’s top five visiting countries to Thailand spend on average just over 3,000 – 3,600 baht each day they stay in the Kingdom. However, it doesn’t answer the question as to whether their expenditure includes hotels too, though the online article does give out a big clue.


Russians may top the spending charts, but out of the ‘Big Five’, they trail a long way behind in terms of individual travellers to Thailand. My interpretation of single travellers (the article’s terminology) is those tourists who arrive in Thailand on self-tailored holidays and not package ones which include pre-booked accommodation. Most individual travellers tend to book their accommodation on arrival or at best have a hotel pre-booked for the first two or three days of their stay. Short stay hotel bookings translate to more flexibility to chop and change holiday plans but also eats into a holiday budget as we.

UK Top Largest Individual Travellers List

The United Kingdom headed the individual travellers’ list with a score of 94% from their 818,303 Thailand tourists in 2010. They were closely followed by Sweden (93%), Germany (92%) and France (90%). Russia trailed way behind with 56%, making their daily expenditure appear more impressive with so many of them not having to pay out for hotel accommodation from their average daily allowance.

Of course, there are many different factors to weigh up when deciding your holiday budget, but on a personal note, I set an allowance of 3,000 baht a day for my trips to Thailand. However, my set budget does not include internal flights, hotels or car rental, although they are expenses which apart from hotels, not all tourists would typically incur.

Thailand is still a relatively cheap holiday destination, but most people when they travel abroad find the urge to splurge their cash irresistible. There is a compulsion to wine and dine too much, and Thailand’s shopping malls and markets are a great temptation also. Add in day tours to places of interest and your holiday budget can soon start to appear stretched.

Lifestyle, location and standard of accommodation are some of the factors which can make or break a holiday budget, and the locale is probably the most significant factor of all.

I feel comfortable with my daily allowance in provincial cities like Udon Thani and also tourist hotspots such as Pattaya and Chiang Mai but feel 3,000 baht a day is sailing too close to the wind in specific locations throughout tourist Thailand. I would require more resources in Bangkok, Hua Hin and a holiday island such as Phuket. Having a limit of only 3,000 baht a day in those three tourist spots would bring me out in a cold sweat.

How about you. What figure would you put to a tourist’s daily expenditure in Thailand, or would you simply throw life’s proverbial ball of string at such an impossible question?



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.

18 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Martyn, interesting, especially the Russians. For some reason I got this vision from the cold war days. Groups tours to visit such exciting sites as the Victory Monument in BKK. Of course nowadays its more likely to be the brothels of Pattaya I fancy. Perhaps they get group discounts?

    On a slightly more serious note, personally I have mostly travelled independently and would easily manage on the budget quoted. Although possibly not as a first timer here.

    I am unsure how accurate the figures are but they would seem to sound reasonable.

  2. Martyn says:

    Mike there is a lot of Russian activity in Pattaya and I’m talking about when I used to visit there. Heaven knows how many of them flock there now. I was surprised by their status as the number one spenders.

    I can manage no problem in places like Pattaya and Udon Thani on a 3,000 baht budget but I would struggle at your very own Hua Hin.

    You are right about the first timers because they have the bright lights and ‘pretty sights’ to contend with and every country in the world rips off a newbie.

    Accuracy…..the figures read about right to me.

  3. I-nomad says:

    Hi Martyn, interesting stats. It would be even more interesting to compare these with holiday spendings in other countries. I know I spent a lot less in Vietnam and probably would in Cambodia too.
    I guess the figures not only conceal the fact that a lot of arrangements are pre-booked, it also masks families which will usually spend less money p.p. (disregarding those with shopaholic wifes) in contrast to singles, especially when they like to hit the road at night.
    In Phuket, preferably in the low season I would say that surviving on a 3000 Baht budget including a good hotel would allow me a decent stay.
    And then ofcourse we have Talen who gets by in Pattaya on 200 Baht/day.
    (Not counting the occasional free drinks and food he gets from friends which tend to built up as a kind of IOU.)

  4. Martyn says:

    I-nomad – I was quite surprised at the high figures for individual travellers because I’d assume most couples would be on package tour trips, obviously not. And there are a lot of couples who hit Thailand, including swingers to Pattaya. Surely couples wouldn’t spend 6,000 baht a day between them and so their ‘change’ is obviously consumed in the figures by single travellers. I know of quite a few people (single men) who have hit Thailand for the first time and averaged spending of over 5,000 baht a day.

    I’m following Talen’s exploits on 200 baht a day with great interest.

  5. Steve says:

    Martyn the 3000 a day not including hotels seems just about right when I think back on trips Golf and I have taken to Thailand. And that is mainly for Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai. That being said, we could have easily spent 5-6000 a day if we weren’t watching our baht!

  6. Martyn says:

    Steve I wouldn’t feel comfortable on 3,000 baht a day in Bangkok. I like a good English breakfast and a few beers during the day. I guess that’s 1,000 baht taken care of and there’s still the evening to go. Add in transport etc. and I’d be back in my room by ten.

    The 3,000 baht does me nicely in Udon Thani, has in the past in Pattaya and more recently in Chiang Mai it was comfortably enough.

  7. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I guess it would be down to what my holiday was for, where I landed, and who I was with.

    Bangkok or one of the overbuilt tourist islands like Phuket would be a lot more expensive than most places in the easy countryside. So I have more than one reason to avoid the touristy places.

    When I go on overnight trips with Thai friends all three of us can eat fabulously and sleep comfortably for around 2000 baht a day.

    Renting two decent hotel rooms is less than 1000 baht. Three meals for three people, with beer, comes to around a 1000 baht.

    Throw in a driver and car for 2000 baht and it comes to an even 4000. Not too shabby.

    But when I take off cruising with man of the house, the hotel bill alone eats a chunk out of 4000 baht. Easy.

  8. Martyn says:

    Catherine – Hotels can take a big bite out of a holiday budget, but in my case I have a separate pot for hotels, internal flights and car hire. Nevertheless I do try to trim that budget where I can. Wilai and myself spend about 4-5 nights in Udon Thani city during a typical stay in Thailand and three years ago we changed our usual 900 baht a night hotel for a 350 baht apartment room.

    The cost cutting exercise was done because the hotel wasn’t great value for money and the apartment block was. It’s not about being a tight wad but more about applying common sense. Travelling to Thailand isn’t so much a holiday for me anymore because I’ve been there over 40 times. It’s more of a going home and common sense has to come into that.

    Your car hire and driver is pretty cheap, is that discounted or a normal price for the Big Mango. A thousand baht is the going rate for car hire in Udon Thani and I’m guessing your fee is split down the middle.

  9. Catherine says:

    I usually don’t stay longer than two nights in a hotel in Thailand. If I stayed a week I’d do the same as you – get an apartment. That’s what I do overseas as well. Anything beyond 3 days and I’d rather have the privacy and ease of an apartment.

    The cost for a car and driver is something I’ve worked out with the driver I use in BKK. Of course, if it’s a long day driving (8am to 10pm) the cost goes up by 1000. It’s only fair. Oh, and that includes gas (his car doesn’t use petrol).

  10. Martyn says:

    Catherine sorry about the delay in replying…just one word….make that two….bloody nights.

    I’ve got a bit of catching up to do on blog posts and comments to the Juice. I’ll tackle some tonight and make a big push early tomorrow morning.

    Your driver and car hire are very reasonable and more than that Khun Pissout is a friend as well. That’s reassuring and adds even more value to the deal.

    I’ve read your latest post and will comment tomorrow. I’m feeling extremely kee-giat myself having just finished nights this morning.

  11. Talen says:

    Martyn, very informative article. After hotel and travel expenses 3000 baht a day is certainly reasonable for the majority of Thailand except as you say some of the islands. When I was in tourist mode I always budgeted for at least 5-6000 baht a day to be on the safe side but after the first trip I tended to stay to the 3000-4000 baht side.

    As for the Russians, they are coming on strong in Pattaya and have pretty much taken over Jomtien Beach. More and more Russian establishments are opening and more and more businesses are cropping up catering solely to the Russian tourist. The Russians are here to stay and they are spending their money in the shopping malls and upscale eateries not the bars.

  12. Martyn says:

    Talen the post does contain some useful information, most unusual from me. I’ll have to try and correct that some time soon.

    When I used to be a regular in Pattaya, some 7-8 years ago, the Russians were just getting their foot into the Pattaya door. I can imagine their presence is very heavy now, both tourist and business wise.

    Many newbies to Pattaya can easily blow 5,000 baht a day and more. Like you say after a few trips most folk tend to wise up and limit their spending to about 3,000 baht a day.

    Maybe you should try a new series…Living Like a Russian in Pattaya.

  13. Snap says:

    Martyn, I guess as tourists we’d allow an average of between 1500 – 2000 Baht per day (each), not including hotels. In recent years we’ve down graded hotel wise. If it’s clean, comfortable and in a good location, it’ll do us.

    Not as a tourist and not including rent, I try to stick to 2500 – 3000 Baht per week…but nowadays, I don’t have to ride elephants or see the tigers etc. 😉

  14. Martyn says:

    Snap you’re latest post has given me such a headache trying to figure out what’s up with the photograph. I’ll pop by shortly and have another look.

    Your budget of 2,500-3,000 baht a week is an interesting figure. I think I could just about manage on that if I was living in Thailand. Cheap beer and cheap cigarettes would be my main expenditure.

  15. When I first came to Thailand as a tourist I stayed for 6 months (not really your typical vacation) with my wife. On an average we spent about 100k baht per month, but I wasn’t really concerned with spending too much money. We were staying in Patong/Karon and going out in Phuket Town every night. It seems like a lot of money now that I live here, but that kind of money would probably last only a few days in the UK or the States partying as much as we did.

  16. Martyn says:

    Lawrence Michaels – 100,000 baht is one helluva lot to blow in Thailand in one month especially as I think in English pounds. That’s living in Thailand in holiday mode. I stayed in Pattaya for four months back in 2002/3 and blew £6,000 (at the time 420,000 baht). We live and learn.

  17. @ Martyn – Yeah, well that was a holiday, albeit a long holiday. Now that I’m living here, I spend about 20-25k / Month, and that is including rent/electric/water. It’s very easy to spend a lot of money because it doesn’t feel like a lot of money (and it really isn’t by comparison), but once you get over the whole going out every night, this country becomes very cheap.

  18. Martyn says:

    Lawrence Michaels – Your figure of about 20-25K a month is good for Phuket, I’d have thought you would have needed a little more living on such a select island. You must have integrated well into Phuket society and know all the good food places where Thais like to eat.

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