Chiang Mai budget: we tell you everything about our budget to live in northern Thailand. Assessment after 5 months in digital nomad mode.
Backpacking Thailand: All our favorite things to see and do in Thailand
Thailand is a country that is really special for us... In all, we have already spent more than 8 months there (2 months traveling and we lived in Chang Mai for 6 months) and each time, we did not really wanted to leave! On this page you will find practical information and advice to prepare your trip in Thailand as well as budget tips and suggestions for itineraries and tours to do in Thailand.At the end of the page you will also find all our blog posts written during our various stays in Thailand. In all we came 3 times and wrote about ten posts:
- at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014: several times during our round the world trip.
- September 2015: we came to Bangkok for a conference and we extended our days by 10 days in northern Thailand.
- October 2016 - march 2017: we came to Chiang Mai for a period of 6 months - we wrote quite a lot of content about Chiang Mai for Digital Nomads.
- Thailand Map
- Our travel budget in Thailand
- Thailand on a budget: our tips
- Wheather in Thailand: When to travel?
- Visa for Thailand
- Get to and travel in Thailand
- A few words of Thai for travelling
- Where to go in Thailand? Our tour ideas
- Thai food
- Our essential to prepare your trip to Thailand
- All our blog posts about Thailand
Map of our trips to Thailand
We spent nearly 8 months in Thailand but we are still far from having seen everything! :) In the map below you will find all our articles about the regions we have been to. This map will be updated as we explore further.
Here is the map with all our Thailand blog posts:
Our travel budget in Thailand
Thailand is definitely not an expensive country to travel to, far from it! But beyond the budget, Thailand is best known as an "easy" destination for a first backpacking trip. The infrastructures are at the top, the transport works well, there are many housing options for all budgets and the cheap street-food is a real institution!
On our blog we are used to sharing our travel budget. As usual, the budget is always very personal and each traveler will have his own according to his travel style, but we thought that sharing our numbers with you would surely help you plan your trip.
The currency used in Thailand is called the Baht. The current price is about 1€ = 38 Baht (average price over the last 3 years). It is recommended that you check the current rate before you leave.
Here is what we spent during our round the world trip to Thailand.
|Expenditure||Daily budget per person|
That is a total budget of about 19.5€ per day and per person.
When we returned to Thailand to live there for 5 months our budget was obviously slightly different. Here is what we have spent per month to live in Thailand:
Note: the numbers below include all our local costs (rent, food, transport) but exclude our travel insurance and taxes. The figures are per month and for 2 people.
|Expenditure item||Monthly budget (2 people)|
That is a total of 949€ per month for 2 people to live in Chiang Mai. If you want to know more about our budget in Chiang Mai we let you take a look at this post where we detail our digital nomad budget in Chiang Mai:
Backpacking Thailand on a budget: our tips
As you can see above, Thailand is clearly not an expensive destination! The flights to get there are relatively cheap (more info below on this page) but above all life in Thailand is really very affordable. The "price-quality" ratio is probably one of the best in Asia if you ask us. We are often asked about our tips for saving money while traveling so here are some tips that are more specific to Thailand:
Accommodation in Thailand: Hotels, Guesthouses or B&BIn terms of accommodation, there is of course everything in Thailand. Thailand is also a country that lends itself very well to the search for "spontaneous" accommodation, i.e. without booking in advance. We find, that this is often how we find the best offers... And above all, we can compare the accommodations on site and not just rely on the online pictures.
When we travel in Thailand we usually always book our first 2-3 nights and then we searching for accommodation on the spot. In big cities or if we know that we will arrive somewhere late in the evening or very early in the morning then we book but otherwise, we prefer to opt for on-site research.
Food in Thailand: the yummy streetfood!
To save money on food in Thailand the easiest way is to eat like the locals: i.e. streetfood! The food sold on the streets in Thailand is one of the best in the world and above all it is really not expensive!
Another good tip: during our stay in Chiang Mai we often went to eat in the markets. We lived close to the one behind the university and there we ate in small restaurants/stands for less than one euro per person and it was delicious!
For water it is definitely better to buy bottled water than to drink tap water (even if in some regions of Thailand the water is officially drinkable). A good alternative to bottled water (for the planet and the wallet) is also to be found in the street: indeed in Thailand there are large water dispensers all over the streets. You can come and fill your bottle by paying something like 1 Baht per liter. The water that comes out is a little less "good" in terms of taste but perfectly fine from a health point of view. Or you can also use a filter bottle like this one.
Limit withdrawal fees at ATMs
In Thailand it is very common for ATMs to take a commission on each withdrawal (this amount is charged by Thai banks and is totally independent of the amounts/costs collected by your bank). The amount of ATM fees is generally around 200 Baht (just over 5€). The best way to limit these costs is often to try to withdraw large amounts of money each time and thus limit the number of withdrawals. (Citybank is the bank with the highest withdrawal amount)
Besides that make sure you have a bank that doesn't charge you extra for withdrawals abroad! With some banks it costs a lot of money to make a withdrawal abroad! If your bank does not offer attractive rates abroad, it may be worth considering subscribing to a neo bank for the duration of your trip.
Weather in Thailand: When is it best to travel?
Thailand is a relatively large and "elongated" country, so the climate is not quite the same depending on the regions and the seasons.... But overall, Thailand is a country with a climate called "tropical", so there is clearly a dry season and a rainy season. It is between March and mid-May that it is warmest there (just before the beginning of the monsoons). Personally I would say that the best time to come to Thailand is between October and February. It is generally at this time that it rains the least and it is a little less hot (but it is still warm enough for swimming don't worry) ;)
If we look in more detail Thailand can (roughly) be divided into 5 climatic zones.
Northern Thailand (red area on the map): In December and January the temperature can drop to 15° C at night but the days remain very pleasant with 23°C to 25°. In summer, temperatures are around 24°C at night and 33°C during the day. The winter months are clearly the driest (it hardly rains at all) while the months of June to August are the wettest (on average 200mm of rain per month).
Best time to visit northern Thailand: November to April
Central Thailand - Bangkok region (green area on the map): The temperature is very stable all year round in Bangkok (between 25°C at night and 34°C during the day). It doesn't seem very hot but Bangkok has a very humid climate and as a result the heat is felt quite strongly. If you want to avoid having too much rain, you must clearly try to avoid the months between May and October... The average rainfall during this period is 200mm per month)
South central (blue area on the map): Temperatures are very similar to Bangkok but on the other hand the volume of rainfall is less important. The rainy season is at the same time but the water volumes tend to be lower. The driest months in this region are December to February with less than 20mm of rainfall per month.
Exception: the far south... just towards the Cambodian border (towards Trat, Koh Chang Island). There the rains are heavier in summer and it is not advisable to go there during the monsoon months!
Southern Thailand - East coast (orange on the map): Located on the Gulf of Thailand, this region receives a little less water proportionally during the summer months... The temperature is between 25°C and 33°C all year round. The months to avoid in this area are October, November and December because it is during this period that it rains the most.
Southern Thailand - West Coast (purple on the map): The part overlooking the Andaman Sea is more exposed to rain during the summer months and it is therefore rather inadvisable to come to Phuket in the middle of August... The best time to get there is between December and March.
Visa for Thailand: the different options
Thailand is a country that requires a visa for French, Swiss, Belgian, American or Canadian citizens. However, for stays shorter than 30 days it is possible to arrive without a visa and benefit from a visa waiver. This stamp is issued on arrival and gives the right to stay 30 days in the country. It is possible in absolute terms to extend your stay once on site by 30 days (more information below).
If you plan to stay 2 months in Thailand there is also a "classic" tourist visa which is valid for 3 months and allows you to stay 60 days in Thailand. This visa costs 30€ (or 40 CHF for the Swiss) which is cheaper than returning with a visa waiver and making an extension. Note: it is also possible to extend this visa and stay for 3 months.
If you want to stay longer (which was our case during our last visit) there is also the METV Visa. This is a multiple entry visa valid for 6 months. The only restriction is that each stay cannot exceed 60 days... In short, it is the ideal excuse to explore the neighboring countries! During our 6 months in Thailand we went to Singapore and spent 2 weeks in Burma. This visa costs 150€ and is available from the Thai embassy in your country. The documents required may vary from country to country, but be aware that you will probably be asked for a letter from your employer specifying that you will be returning, a "return" flight ticket and proof of funds in the form of a bank statement.
|exemption||30 days||free||It is done on arrival. Max 2 per year by land. Can be extended|
|30€ or 40 CHF||Valid for 3 months. Single entry. Extendable once for 30 days for 50€.|
|150€ or 175 CHF||Valid for 6 months. Multiple entries. Each stay cannot exceed 60 days.|
Thai Visa: Air entry, land entry: let's take a look!
There are many rumors and misunderstandings around the topic of entry restrictions in Thailand. So it is true that there are restrictions and that these may have to be modified. In short, always check before you travel! But here is the situation at the end of 2018:
- If you arrive by air, the number of visa exemptions per year is not limited (in theory). Basically you do not take any risk of being turned away if it is clear that you come to Thailand regularly without being established there. On the other hand, if you spend more than 6 months a year in Thailand only on visa exemptions, you may be refused entry at customs.
- To limit visa runs, the number of visa-free entries by land is limited to 2 per year. You can still enter with a visa, but no longer by applying for a visa waiver. In short, be careful if you are on a long trip and plan to "transit" Thailand regularly by land! If you plan to enter by land more than twice it may be appropriate to apply for a METV visa before departure.
Visa extension in Thailand
All Thai visas can be extended directly to Thailand. To do so, simply go to the immigration office with your passport and pay the 1900 Baht for the extension (about 50€). Note: You may be asked for an exit flight ticket and/or proof of sufficient funds in your bank account.
How to get to Thailand?
There are several international airports in Thailand but if I had to give you any advice it would always be to come to Bangkok first! The first reason for this is that Bangkok is a totally crazy city (we like it or we don't like it but it's worth seeing) but also and especially the flight prices to Bangkok are simply unbeatable from Europe! On average the price of Paris-Bangkok flights is around 500-550€ but we can sometimes find crazy offers at 400€ on Skyscanner if we are flexible on the dates (and if we travel a little out of season)
Once in Bangkok it will be extremely easy for you to find an internal flight with an Asian low-cost airline to continue your trip either north or south (although in absolute terms it is also quite possible to travel to Thailand by bus).
How to travel in Thailand?
The most frequent means of transportation in Thailand are bus, train and boat. While it was difficult during our different trips in Thailand, there are now platforms like Bookaway or 12Go which finally allow you to buy this kind of tickets online. It' s very convenient and it allows to avoid comparing or negotiating in different agencies.
See routes in Thailand on Bookaway
See routes in Thailand on 12Go
A few words of Thai for backpacking in Thailand
We are not experts in Thai , far from it! But during our travels we still found it practical to acquire a small basic vocabulary in order to create contact with people more easily (and make them laugh because we have a very bad pronunciation) ;)
On the other hand, in Thai the endings are not the same according to whether it is a man or a woman who speaks... so below I put you the 2 versions with always Mrs. first and Mr. second position :)
|Hello||Sawat di khaa/Sawat di khrap||water||Nam|
Kop khun khaa/Kop khun khrap
|I do not want||
|yes/No||Krap ou Kha / may Khrap ou may Kha|
|How much?||Rakha thao-raï||It's very good||souaille mak|
|My name is||
|not spicy||may phet||chears||Chon-Kaew|
Things to see and do in Thailand? Our tips and advice:
Thailand is a very big and really beautiful country! It is difficult to give a ready-made answer to this question, but here are our favorite things we did in Thailand (we give you suggestions for a tour below).
- Vibrant Bangkok: Bangkok is a vibrant city! We sometimes loved it and sometimes we also loved it a little cursed.... Too much noise, too many people, too hot and yet so beautiful too! In short, a must-see at least once in our opinion! See our ultra complete blog post about Bangkok here.
- Chiang Mai: Our little home where we spent 6 months! To tell you the truth the city itself was not our biggest crush (we are not too much city people in general) but on the other hand, the activities to be done nearby have totally seduced us! The Mae Hong Son loop or the hike to Doi Suthep are only 2 examples.
- We really liked the Kanchanaburi region too! We haven't taken the time to write an article about this destination yet, but the Erawan waterfalls are definitely worth it!
- The island of Koh Chang is the perfect place for a relaxed holiday in Thailand! We don't know the southern islands at all, but Koh Chang is a very good alternative for those who are looking for the beach but don't necessarily want to go down to the south of the country (because it's not the right time of the year of for any other reason)
You don't want to organize your trip in Thailand on your own?
Are you looking to organize a circuit in Thailand? For our part we have always decided to travel "solo" and without necessarily booking in advance. Thailand is a country that lends itself very well to this way of travelling! But if you are looking for a little more structure for your trip we recommend you to have a look at the Evaneos agency. They offer a wide range of tours that are either organized (with a guide) or in a "freedom" packages that is great: they take care of transport, accommodation and you are in charge of the program. The agency works with local tour operators and offers the same rates as the local agencies, but with a English-speaking contact person.
Thai food: eat cheap and local
We've already talked about it several times, but Asian cuisine is really great! Benoit has a preference for Vietnamese cuisine while I am an avid fan of Thai cuisine!
Thailand is also the country that has managed to make me appreciate the spicier food (even if I still tend to use "may phet" when I order because they quickly tend to go a little crazy on the spices ;) )
As far as my favourite dishes are concerned, I think that the prize goes to Khao Soi!!!! Khao Soi is a typical dish from northern Thailand that consists of noodles in a yellow curry with usually chicken and vegetables and is covered with crispy noodles! Seriously, during our 5 months in Chiang Mai this dish was my drug:)
But in general Thai cuisine is just delicious!
Here is a brief overview of the most commonly found dishes (and those I prefer):
- Tom Kha Kai: A coconut milk soup with chili and lemongrass..... it's just incredible!
- Tom Yam Soup: this one I learned to be suspicious! It's a soup with lemongrass and chili... sometimes it's divine and sometimes... well, there's just too much for me and I end up crying ;)
- Phad Thai: The classic Thai dish with sautéed noodles with vegetables and chicken, shrimp or beef. Often served with peanuts and bamboo shoots, it is a safe bet and you can be sure that it will not be too spicy.
- Khao Phad: similar to Phad Thai in general, but with rice instead of noodles (in reality it's probably very different in the recipe, but from my point of view it's fried rice and it's mega good)
- Satay: chicken skewers with peanut sauce... A must-try if you want my humble opinion!
- green Curry: So be careful, don't be fooled... we would tend to think that green is softer than red, but green curry is indeed the spiciest! But its very particular flavor gives it that irresistible "come back" taste.
- Mango sticky rice:I saved the best for the end (and for dessert). The look is not always ultra attractive, but I swear to you that this sticky rice with mango and coconut cream is highly addictive! #YouAreWarned
You see: Thai food is amazing!!!
On the other hand, you have to be careful, because it is not always as healthy as it looks! Many dishes are fried or cooked with coconut milk! Coconut milk is delicious, but it's not really your body's best buddy. ;)
After all the tropical fruits that can be found everywhere on the markets and the street stands are obviously to be enjoyed without any moderation!