Save or Splurge: Exploring Thailand on both budgets

Welcome to Thailand - an intoxicating melting pot of golden beaches, emerald mountains, zipping tuk-tuks, exotic animals, sizzling street food and everywhere you look – smiles.

Thailand is well-known for being a budget-friendly destination for New Zealanders. It does seem however, that regardless of whether your budget is big or small, you can still enjoy unique experiences that you’ll lock away in the memory box forever. From sleeping under the stars to tasting them in your champagne, Thailand is your ticket to life-changing experiences.

So, we thought we’d take a deeper dive into this remarkable country and offer up some of the best experiences you can have no matter the size of your budget.   

Save: A backpacker's paradise

Backpacker Thailand Landscape image template 1

Picture yourself navigating busy and bustling streets, bartering shop-owners at local markets, and bunking up in hostels – this is the quintessential backpacker's experience. Thailand is well-known for its budget-friendly opportunities, and here's a glimpse of what you can expect.

Where to lay your head

Backpack Most likely your first stop will be bustling Bangkok, so we suggest laying your weary head at Chern. Its calming white interiors and spacious rooms provide real value for money. If you’re heading to the popular island of Ko Pha-ngan, travel south to the Infinity Beach Hostel. With beds as low as $15 per night, you’ll get real bang for your buck as this hostel features roomy dorms, a vibrant restaurant and a central bar that envelopes a large blue pool.  Alternatively, you could try your hand at Muay Thai lessons, when you stay at the Jungle Gym & Ecolodge

Where to eat 

Eating Feeling nervous about diving head first into the Thai street food scene? You could first indulge your rumbling tummy at MBK Food Island in Bangkok - a food court located in the mall where a mouth-watering Pad thai or Massaman curry will only set you back around $3-$5. 

Eating like a local offers you a culinary adventure and spares your wallet too, so don’t miss out on the street food on offer. Try a mixed platter of barbecue and iced seafood delights at the Thanon Phadungdao Seafood Stalls – also found in Bangkok.

How to get around

Transport There are plenty of low-cost options on offer, including rót daang (‘red trucks’ as shared taxis), buses or tuk-tuks. Don't forget you can island hop by taking a boat for around $15 per person. 

What to see

Sights You're simply spoilt for choice here with stunning temples, lush jungles, and pristine beaches all on offer. The good news? most places are free, while others can come with a small entrance fee. Don't miss the jaw-dropping Wat Saket (Golden Mount) Temple in Bangkok, or the Khao Phra Thaew Royal Wildlife & Forest Reserve in Phuket – home to wild boar, langurs, gibbons, deer, flying foxes, and cobras. Not quite your everyday experience!

Where to head out 

Cocktail Being a haven for backpackers, Thailand's nightlife produces an electric energy, offering plenty of places to let your hair down, while keeping your savings up. One such place is Sky on 20 where you can sip on a delicious fruit based beverage (26 floors up!) at the rooftop lounge that overlooks the Sirikit lake and Benjasiri Park. 


So what would you likely spend in a day?  Around $80 to $120 per day on a low-cost budget.


Splurge: Indulgence and luxury

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© Peninsula Hotel, Bangkok

Even though we may have differing views on what 'luxury' means to us (it may be the stillness of being amongst nature, or the glitz and glamour of the city) Thailand caters to all definitions of luxe. You can gaze over Bangkok's cityscapes from your penthouse hotel suite or share a one-on-one interaction with an elephant in the jungle. Here are some of our top picks for indulging your senses. 

Where to stay

Luxury hotel If you are in the mood to ‘treat’ yourself, do so in the Peninsula Suite at the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok. Consistently ranked as one of the world’s most lavish hotels, it will set you back a cool $10,000 a night, but at this bargain price you will receive treatment worthy of royalty and a spectacular suite that oversees the Ghao Phraya River.

Equally exquisite is the Kupu Kupu Phangan Beach Villas & Spa by l’Occitane in Ko Pha-ngan. This resort is straight out of a luxury travel magazine and ticks all luxury wish list boxes - beach front, privacy, swimming pools, spas and at the end of the day, epic sunsets. 

What to eat

Eating Savour modern Michelin-starred Thai cuisine at Nahm in Bangkok, whose chefs expertly balance hot and cold and sweet and salty. All up, the price for a 5-course dinner, service fee, and drink would set you back around $160 to $200NZD dollars. 

How to get around

Luxury transport Travel in the lap of luxury with private chauffeurs, limousines, yachts, first-class train compartments, and even private jets and helicopters. VIP Luxury Services offers all these options with prices ranging from $260 for a limousine service around Bangkok to $17,000 for a private jet (Bangkok to Phuket).

Consider a private tour

Tours Discover the hidden gems of Thailand (like the Elephant Nature Park) with tailored private tours by local experts. A 10-day comprehensive tour that takes you through Bangkok to Chiang Mai can start from $7,500 and includes accommodation, flights, guides and meals. You can check out some luxury tours options here. 


Wellness Pamper yourself with the ‘Signature Yao Noi’ ritual – an indulgent 3.5 hour scrub, massage and facial blend at the enchanting Six Senses Spa in Yao Noi. This highly regarded ‘spa village’ will bring you back in touch with nature, as you take in breath-taking views of Yao Noi Bay.  


So what would you likely spend in a day? This really is up to you! But an average 'luxury' Thailand experience would be hitting around the $1,000 per day mark. 


*Currency shown is NZD. $1 equals ฿21.15 (as of 25 October, 2023)