3 week Thailand: A Budget Guide
For many people, Thailand is seen as an exotic dream location. Magazines are filled with images showcasing the countries endless opportunities to experience the hospitality, culture and historic sights of this beautiful country. Although mostly from 5 star boutique resorts and Spa’s. However Thailand is also a very budget friendly country which can be enjoyed even with the smallest of budgets! This 3 week Thailand Itinerary guide will show you how you can enjoy the best of Thailand without blowing the budget!
The majority of people who travel to Thailand, do so by booking pre-organised package holidays or tours that can usually work out quite expensive. However travelling independently can work out around 60% cheaper. Many people believe that organising an independent trip can be risky and complicated but I’m here to persuade you otherwise. Over the years I have spent over 3 months in Thailand and have learnt a few things about travelling around this amazing country.
For ease I have noted most prices in British Pounds and smaller prices in Thai Baht (current exchange rate £1 – 43 Baht) Prices as of Jan 2019.
Affiliate Disclosure – Lou Does Travel contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself.
3 Week Thailand Itinerary: Budget
Flights to Thailand
For most people the biggest expense travelling to Thailand will be the international flights. However by booking in advance and using a search engine such as Skyscanner you can find some really great deals. If booking 6 months in advance you can usually find return prices from Europe with airlines such as Emirates or Ethihad for around £450.
If travelling from other Asian countries, you can usually find cheap fares from the likes of Air Asia or Nok Air.
Most people will arrive in Thailand via Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport. Once at the airport there are a number of options to get into the city.
Taxi – The public taxi stand is located on level 1 (ground level). Receive a ticket from the ticket machine and then proceed to the taxi lane indicated on the ticket. Fares will be metered with extra costs for airport surcharge (50 Baht) and expressway fees. Average fares into the city cost around £10. Although I have heard of some tourists being ripped off and charged around £40.
Rail Link – Bangkok Airport Rail Link is a commuter rail line connecting Suvarnabhumi Airport to Phaya Thai (BTS) station via Makkasan Station (MRT Phetchaburi). Fares cost between 15-45 Baht. Bear in mind that if staying in some parts of Bangkok such as the Khao San Road you will also need to get a taxi or bus to your final destination.
Bus – There are a number of public buses to various parts of Bangkok. To get to the khao San road you can now get the new S1 Link bus form exit 7 for 60 Baht. The last time I went to Thailand I got this bus and would very much recommend it, very comfortable and convenient.
Private transfer – There are many companies offering private transfers, however if on a budget these may not be the best option. Prices range from £20
Accommodation in Thailand
There are a vast array of accommodation options in Thailand ranging from hostels to 5 star resorts.
For many budget travellers, hostels are the way to go costing anything from £3 to £30 a night for a dorm room. However if travelling as a couple it may be more cost effective to get a private room in a hotel. If apprehensive about staying in hostels then check out my guide on surviving hostels here.
Hotels range from £10 to upwards of £100 a night for a private room. For the best deals on accommodation costs I recommend using Booking.com and Hostel World for more budget friendly options such as hostels. However, If you are looking for something more luxurious then I recommend using Hotels.com as you will get one free nights’ accommodation for every 10 nights booked!
Food costs in Thailand
Thai food is one of the reasons I keep going back! Thai food is amazingly tasty and is available everywhere and is extremely cheap! Hardcore budget travellers can get by on a £5 a day food budget but I wouldn’t recommend this option as you will be restricted to street food. Although tasty it could quickly become boring. My advice is to up your food budget to around £10 a day. This would mean enjoying the fabulous street food during the day but also the chance to eat in a lovely restaurant in the evening.
The most popular street food options include fried rice, noodle dishes, chicken sticks and spring rolls. All available for around £1 a dish. Don’t be scared of trying the street food, its some of the tastiest food in Thailand and very safe to eat. Just make sure you buy food from vendors who look busy and food hasn’t been left out for long periods. In all the time I spent in Thailand I was never sick. If in doubt stick to the veterinarian options.
Meals in a local Thai restaurant will usually set you back around £5 and more western type dishes costing slightly more. Throughout Thailand you will also find all the usual fast food chains but with all the amazing Thai food around I wouldn’t recommend visiting.
If you want to find out more about Thai cuisine, then check out these fabulous food tours below:
Drinking in Thailand
Thailand is well known for its drinking and party culture. However if you are not a big drinker you can still enjoy all the sights this beautiful country has too offer.
For those who do like to have a drink, this is where you budget could quickly be eaten up.
- Large bottled beer costs around 50 Baht in a 7-11 to around 100 Baht in a bar.
- Spirits cost around 100 – 400 Baht depending on brand.
- Buckets made for sharing cost anything from 150 to 500 Baht again depending on brand used.
Just be aware when drinking in Thailand, especially drinking buckets. These drinks have been known to include drugs as well a fake alcohol. Men should be especially aware when drinking in “girlie” bars as these girls have been known to drug and rob Western men. Always be careful with any drink and don’t share with strangers.
3 Week Thailand Itinerary
Day 1 – Bangkok (3 nights)
Check in to your hostel or hotel and depending on how long you have been travelling either take a nap or go out and explore. For first timers and budget travellers I recommend staying in the Khao San Road area.
My favourite hostel in Bangkok is Nap Park located a block away from the Khao San Road. From just £8 a night for a dorm bed, this hostel has everything you need. Extremely clean and comfortable dorm room, with excellent shower facilities. Friendly staff and a communal area, great for meeting other travellers.
If a private room is more your thing then I recommend a stay in the Dang Derm Hotel situated right on the Khao san Road. This hotel is slap bang in the middle of the action so don’t expect it to be quite. However, you can easily escape the craziness of outside whilst chilling at the fabulous rooftop pool. A night in this hotel is around £30 for a twin room with air-conditioning. Excellent value if sharing with a friend or partner!
Day 2 – Bangkok Temples
Today I recommend a visit to Bangkok’s most famous temples, The Grand Palace and Wat Pho, home to the reclining Buddha.
The Grand Palace is a series of buildings and temples that have been the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782. The king no longer lives here but its still used for state ceremonies. Inside you will be in awe of the beauty of the place and the intricate detailing within the architecture. Try and visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Entrance is 500 baht.
Scam alert: If any tuk-tuk drivers tell you the palace is closed and offer you alternative trips, ignore them! The Palace is open every day.
Wat Pho, the reclining Buddha is also know as the Golden Buddha. This site is only a short walk away from The Grand Palace and is famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 meters long. Entrance is 100 Baht.
Next head over the river to Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, probably one of the most photographed temples in Bangkok. It has an imposing spire over 70 meters high, beautifully decorated with tiny pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain placed delicately into intricate patterns. To get there take the boat from pier 8 directly across from Wat Pho for only 3 Baht. Entrance is 100 Baht.
Note: Remember to dress appropriately when visiting religious sites throughout Thailand. Shoulders and Knees should always be covered.
After visiting the temples head back to the Khao san Road for lunch and maybe a few beers! In the evening check out some of the local night life. The Khao San road is the place for cheap drinks and lively nights but if you fancy something more special then you could always grab a taxi to one of the many Sky bars, my favorite being Octave. Be sure to arrive around 4.30 pm ready to enjoy the 2 for 1 coctail offers and watch a beautiful sunset over Bangkok.
Day 3 – Bangkok tours
Depending on what you are interested in, I would use this day to either take a tour, go shopping or just wander around the city taking in all the sights. Tours I recommend are visiting the floating markets or the ancient capital of Siam, Ayutthaya.
Personally I would take a trip to Ayutthaya Historical Park just a few hours drive from Bangkok. This historic city is a UNESCO world heritage site, founded back in 1350. This is a fascinating trip and a must see for those interested in Thai history and culture. For more information about visiting Ayutthaya historical Park check out my guide here.
Day 4, 5 & 6 – Kanchanaburi (2 nights)
Kanchanaburi is a couple of hours drive from Bangkok and is a beautiful part of Thailand to explore. Spend a few days exploring the countryside or visiting some of its historic sights. To get to Kanchanaburi you can get a minibus from many of the bus stations around Bangkok for around 200 Baht. You can also arrange transport from any of the tourist agents either at your hotel or around the area, expect to pay an extra 50 Baht if using an agent.
One hotel I recommend in Kanchanaburi is the Sky Resort Kanchanaburi. For around £20 a night you get lovely clean air-conditioned rooms and access to a refreshing swimming pool. Across the road the hotel also owns a restaurant serving great Thai food with wonderful views across the River Kwai.
Kanchanaburi is famous for ‘The Bridge over the River Kwai’ and ‘Hell Fire Pass’ as well as other monuments and museums dedicated to those who lost their lives during WW2. Other thing to do include:
- Exploring the beautiful Erawan National Park
- Taking a train ride along the ‘Death Railway’
- Taking a boat ride along the River Kwai
- Exploring many of the museums
- Making the most of the tranquil environment and taking the chance to relax and maybe enjoy some cocktails by the pool.
For more information on Kanchanaburi check out my guide here.
In the evening of day 6 catch the overnight bus to Chiang Mai. If you have never taken a trip on an overnight bus before then you may be pleasantly surprised. These buses offer comfortable almost fully reclining seats, a blanket, pillow, water and a snack for around £15. For tickets you need to visit the bus station in Kanchanaburi in person, I recommend buying them the day before.
Day 7, 8, 9 & 10 – Chiang Mai (3 nights)
Surrounded by beautiful mountains and a relaxed vibe, Chiang Mai is everything Bangkok isn’t! Chiang Mai was once the capital of Thailand explaining the sheer amount of temples and ruins dotted around the city. The old part is surrounded by its historic city walls and is known for its cafes, restaurants and sightseeing options.
I recommend finding accommodation within the walled city, however these will be more expensive. I stayed in the Pai Residence Chiang Mai Gate which was inside the walls close to the main walking street. The rooms were small but adequate with a small pool to cool off in, however are air conditioning was broken for the duration of our stay which meant uncomfortable nights. For only £20 a night I wasn’t too aggrieved.
Things to do in chiang Mai include:
- Check out the fabulous markets, if possible try and stay in the city over the weekend in order to check out the Sunday walking street market.
- Check out the Chiang Mai Art and Cultural Center dedicated to preserving (and educating people about) the history and culture of Chiang Mai.
- Have a Thai massage, I recommend visiting the Women’s Massage Center run by ex-offenders. This center trains ex-prisoners in Thai massage in order to help them reintegrate into society and provide an income.
- Explore the temples. Either take a bicycle tour or set off on foot and get lost in the cities side streets. No mater which way you turn you will find a temple!
- Take a cookery class. Chiang Mai is famous for its Thai cuisine and what better way to learn about Thai food than taking a cooking class.
- Grab a coffee in one of the many coffee shops around the city, you will be spoiled for choice!
- Explore further afield by taking a local tour. Get your Guide offer value for money tours to many of the popular options in and around Chiang Mai.
3 Week Thailand Itinerary
Thailand Island’s – Day 10 – 20 (10 nights)
Once your time in Chiang Mai has come to an end you have a few choices. You can either take a cheap flight down to Krabi (around £30) and check out Thailand’s West coast or take a more expensive flight to Koh Samui (around £120) and check out Thailand’s East coast. With 10 days to spare before having to return to Bangkok for the flight home, I recommend sticking to 2 separate island’s within the same area. Which ever islands you choose you will have plenty of opportunities to relax on beautiful beaches as well as hiking, snorkelling, fabulous restaurants and excellent nightlife.
Here’s my round up of island’s to discover:
Thailand’s East coast
Koh Samui – One of Thailand’s more touristic islands, Koh Samui has everything from, beautiful white sandy beaches, temples, cafes, restaurants and great nightlife. However as the island is more geared towards the luxury crowd, accommodation can be more expensive than some of the other islands. Even so you can still find plenty of budget options. My favourite is Cheeky monkeys where you can have a private double room, fabulous rooftop pool and restaurant, all for only £20 a night.
Koh Phangan – Famous for its full moon parties, however there is more to this island than partying. Around the island there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, exploring waterfalls and relaxing on almost deserted beaches. However if partying is your thing then make sure your around for the ‘Full Moon Party’. These parties are held on Haad Rin Beach and known to attract between 5000 and 30,000 people depending on the season. For accommodation you will find plenty of low cost budget options. Be sure to check out Serena Bungalows offering bungalows right on the beautiful Baan Tai beach.
Koh Tao – This island has to be one of my favourites in all of Thailand! Made famous for its snorkelling and scuba diving, this island is a beach lovers paradise. For budget stays you won’t find a better hotel than the Montalay Beach Resort. This hotel sits directly on one of Koh Tao’s most beautiful beaches offering some of the best snorkelling directly from the beach! The only downside is that the location is away from the main town which means you are limited for places to eat etc, however the hotel can arrange taxi’s as well as free pick up and drop off from the pier. The secluded location also meant hardly any tourists meaning the beach was almost empty, the perfect place to chill out and relax!
Thailand’s West coast
Krabi – The gateway for Ao Nang and Railay beach. The area is famous for its natural beauty, with spectacular mountains and rain forest inland and over 150 islands along it coast.
Many people opt to stay in Ao Nang and visit the nearby islands as a day trip. Access to the islands is extremely easy as there are plenty of vendors taking you across in the traditional Thai long tail boats. Boats from Ao Nang to Railay beach cost 60 baht and take 15 minutes. There are plenty of budget options around Ao Nang, I personally recommend Chic n Chill bed and Breakfast, not only does it provide spacious clean rooms but gives you access to the 4 star hotel across the road including breakfast and use of the fabulous pool all for £22 a night.
Koh Phi Phi – This island is know for its party atmosphere as well as its accessibility to The famous ‘Maya bay’ featured in the movie The Beach staring Leonardo DiCaprio. I was originally going to give this island a miss thinking it would be too touristy for my liking but in the end decided to check it out. Accommodation in Koh Phi Phi is known to be a lot more expensive than the rest of Thailand with standards far shorter. With this in mind we increased our budget and checked in to the lovely Panmanee House. This hotel had no pool but offered lovely clean air-conditioned rooms in a central location for £40 a night. Well worth the extra considering some of the stories we heard about other cheaper establishments on the island.
Although Koh Phi Phi is extremely busy with tourists I found it to be a fabulous island. Although accommodation is more expensive we found the cafes and restaurants to be just as cheap as the rest of Thailand. Boat trips around the island and to Maya bay were surprising cheap as well. We took a long tail boat trip around the island stopping a various snorkelling stops as well as a couple of hours on Maya bay to chill out and explore. on the trip back we were even offered the chance to see the glow in the dark plankton which was amazing all at only 400 Baht.
Koh Phi Phi is also know for its night life. Although I don’t see myself as a party animal it didn’t take long for me to be pulled under the Phi Phi spell. Before I knew it I was drinking buckets of cheap vodka watching fire shows on the beach and even woke up with a new tattoo! Be warned the night life can be wild!
Koh Lanta – If needing to recover from the party island of Koh Phi Phi then Koh Lanta is the perfect destination to relax and enjoy the beautiful white sandy beaches. We stayed at Lanta Sunny house in a lovely little bungalow just a 2 minute walk from the beach. There was also a very inviting pool to enjoy all for only £15 a night. There is not a lot going on in Koh Lanta but its the perfect place to relax and enjoy some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen!
So there you have it, my 3 week Thailand Itinerary. Of course, there are lots of other places to explore in Thailand but I believe this itinerary is best for first time visitors offering a good mixture of things to experience in this beautiful country. After all, after one trip you are sure to be back to the ‘Land of Smiles’ again and again!
Have you been to Thailand? If so let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed this guide please give it a like or a share and be sure to subscribe to be the first to hear about my future travels.