It’s no secret what attracts many people to Thailand on their holidays is the idea of cheap getaway and Thailand does have the reputations of being a cheap destination. It’s also true to say many residents will tell you Thailand is anything but cheap with dual pricing for tourists and locals, over inflated prices in tourist areas and high inflation over the last few years.
I thought I’d do a little investigation into this trickly question and started by researching the prices for a single adult in comparison to the nearest equivalent in the UK.
All prices were calculated 60 baht to the pound, since the article was written the pound has dropped to 50 baht, so the Thai prices will be around 12% higher.
In most places a dual pricing policy operates. Thais and South East Asians pay one price, western tourists another. The tourist price is on display, the other price hidden. Western tourist prices range from double to in the extreme 10 times what Thais pay, but is usually 5 times at most government owned sites and a little less at private ones. This article shows western tourist prices
More Expensive in Thailand
Jungle Flight £45 – Thailand
Arial Extreme £22 – UK
Go Ape £27.50 – UK
Siam Ocean World £18 – Thailand
London Aquarium £8.25 – UK
Brighton Sea Life £8.40 – UK
National Parks £4 (for Tourists) – Thailand
National Parks free – UK
Beauty Spot outside national park 50p – £2 (for Tourists) – Thailand
Beauty Spot outside national park free – UK
Jim Thomson’s House £2 (fee to charity) – Thailand
Wallace Collection Free – UK
National Museum £2 – Thailand
British Museum free – UK
Sukhothai £2.50 – Thailand
Avebury free – UK
Roughly the same price
Safari World £10 – Thailand
Woburn Safari Park £10.50 – UK
Corrections Museum free – Thailand
Science Museum free – UK
National Gallery 65p – Thailand
National Gallery free – UK
Grand Palace £8 – Thailand
Buckingham Palace £10 – UK
Ayutthaya 50p (per ruin) – Thailand
Stonehenge £6.60 – UK
The Prasart Museum £6 – Thailand
Design Museum £6 – UK
Bangkok Art & Culture Centre free – Thailand
Tate Gallery free – UK
Cheaper in Thailand
Crocodile Farm £5 – Thailand
London Zoo £16.50p
Ancient City £5 – Thailand
The Eden Project £16 – UK
Wat Po 50p – Thailand
Westminster Abbey £12 – UK
Wat Arun £1 – Thailand
St Paul’s £12 – UK
Accommodation (per night)
Guest House – Thailand £8 – UK £20
Hotel – Thailand £25+ – UK £29+
Tourist Resort – Thailand £50 – £40 (Spain)
For single accommodation the cheapest option in Thailand is a guest house, they can be booked in advanced or checked into on the spot, they range from as little as £2 per night and go up to over £20. The former offers little more than a bed in an old wooden house and the latter decent room with air-con, cable. Realistically good price to pay would be between £6 and £14 depending on how touristy the area. The resort is an average four star location in Phuket, booked from the UK.
For the UK the prices are a Bed and Breakfast in Blackpool, Premier Inn and an equivalent resort in Spain booked from the UK.
Food (per head)
Street Food – Thailand 50p (street noodles) – UK £2 (slice of pizza)
Local Cafe – Thailand £1 – UK £4
Tourist Cafe – Thailand £2 – UK £8
MacDonald’s Burger – Thailand 40p – UK £1
Non-Tourist Restaurant- Thailand £4+ – UK £10-20+
Tourist Restaurant – Thailand & UK £10-20+
Thailand is the home of cheap eats. With the exception of western food you’ll enjoy high quality food at low prices. If you’re not stuck in a resort where you’ll be charged the hyped up prices there will be cheap food everywhere.
Taxi – Thailand £10 (Airport to Bangkok) – UK £55 (Airport to London)
Local Bus – Thailand 12p – 36p – UK £1
Long Distance Coach – £12 (Bangkok-Chaing Mai) – £14 (London-Newcastle)
Long Distance Train -£15 (Bangkok-Chaing Mai) – £60-150 (London-Newcastle)
Underground – Thailand 20p – £1.20 – UK £2 – £5.00
Sky Train – Thailand 20p – £1.20 – UK £2 – £5.00
The Thai coaches prices are from the official bus stations not private operators who are best avoided. Taxi is on the meter or pre-paid including toll way fees.
If you’re doing anything but coach trip around the country, Thailand wins hands down. If travelling by coach in Thailand expect to pay more once you realise the luxurious options available and decide you like them. VIP 24 is a good place to start.
British Rail companies should be rounded up and shot.
Thailand wins hands down over the UK in the basics. Accommodation, food and travel if you keep out of the resorts and travel more independently, however if you are going to do something Thai prices go up. State run places are not too expensive but still more expensive than the UK as most things in the UK are free. Private tourist attractions are often rip-offs worldwide so we shouldn’t be surprised many in Thailand are too. With the exception of temples there are very few good deals in Thailand and some genuine rips offs. In a country where the operating expenses are a fraction of that in the UK a lot of these prices are pure profiteering. One can wonder why it is twice as expensive to run as the UK when the employees wages are probably 1/10.
Whether Thailand is expensive also depends of what kind of holiday you are going to have. Are you a backpacker travelling for a month staying at guesthouses and travelling by local bus or a family of four looking for a two week holiday in a four star hotel expecting to do and see everything. If you’re the latter you may find two weeks in Spain would have worked out a whole lot cheaper.
For the whole time I have been in Thailand it has been seeking to abandon its reputation as a cheap backpacker location and become a package tourist rival to Spain, and has largely failed. It has made a number of moves to do this from Amazing Thailand to making visas harder to get for backpackers but one thing it doesn’t seem to want to do is offer a good deal. Thailand’s whole motive to attract more high spending tourists is of course no different to any other country, to make more money, but the idea of actually having to win the business over with a good deal and rather than tourists just appearing out of thin air has been the point the Thai tourist industry has been missing for years. The fact is western tourists can go to a plethora of cheap locations from Turkey to Cuba offering what Thailand has, what will attract them to Thailand is a good deal.
I remember being in Thailand when the Asian economic crash occurred in 1997 and the Thai Baht halved in value vs. western currencies in days creating the possibility for cheap holidays. I thought hey presto, Thailand has the opportunity to become one of the hottest destinations of earth. This was scuppered by the tourist industry which doubled the prices of almost everything in tourist areas the very same week and legions of tourists attracted by the supercharged currencies found they had no more spending power than before the crash and told everyone back home. With the exact opposite happening in 2008 and the Thai baht almost doubling in comparison to western currencies and tourists drying up I wondered if the opposite would happen and the prices drop. This largely did not happen and Thailand now to me looks pretty uncompetitive in the world market.