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A backpacker’s travel guide to visiting Thailand on a budget



Stock photo via Dream Big, Travel Far

Backpackers love trekking throughout the amazing Kingdom of Thailand. Thus, its ancient cities, local markets, exclusive hill tribes, and plethora of natural attractions are a dream for most travellers. However, along with backpacking, is the desire to spend as little as possible. Here, we have the best places to visit on a budget, which offer a great experience while remaining wallet-friendly.

The Best Places To Visit In Thailand On A Budget

1. Pai

Pai is one of the best-kept secrets of those visiting Thailand on a budget. Known as a Bohemian-style, rural town, backpackers can certainly have a relaxing time amidst the striking hills and countryside of Mae Hong Son Province. With natural springs, waterfalls and white-water rapids, the town is a must-see for nature lovers. And, Pai is also home to the exotic Karen hill tribe villages and Yunnanese hill tribes that provide a glimpse into the life of such minority populations. With many cheap places to stay and eat, Pai is a great place for those venturing through the country on a dime.

9 places to see in Pai | The Blond Travels


2. Chiang Rai

Thailand’s most northern and largest city, Chiang Rai still feels very local and has a unique regional identity. Home to the famous White Temple, or Wat Rong Khun, the city features some must-see attractions. Moreover, the city is near the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet. Here, travellers can get a great picture on the meeting point of the triangle, and stay in a cheap hotel that is conveniently located by the night markets. This subdued city gives a glimpse into local Thai life for those interested in the real Thailand.

10 Top Hotels in Chiang Rai | Places to Stay w/ 24/7 Friendly Customer Service

Wat Rong Khun

3. Chiang Mai

Known as the unofficial capital of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is the big city in which many things can be seen and done. Soaked in Lanna culture, it is one of the country’s most beautiful and friendliest cities. The Old City surrounds many exotic temples that exude the ancient Thai lifestyle. Moreover, the city includes Karen Hill Tribes nearby in which visitors can see how one of the most oppressed minorities live. Travellers can find almost anything to do here while staying in budget accommodations. The city is known for having a friendly backpacker community with an exciting nightlife. The city is definitely famous for its temples, in which backpackers can make their way around to these beautiful attractions without spending much.

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai: Best Areas and Neighborhoods | The Nomadvisor

Chiang Mai

4. Ayutthaya

This ancient city was once the second capital of Thailand and is known for its beautiful, ancient temple ruins. For history buffs, this city provides an educational tour of the country’s history while offering breathtaking views. The old town centre is located on an island that was formed by rivers. Here, visitors can see Wat Phra Si Sanphet, and Wat Phra Mahathat, which features a large Buddha head surrounded by tree roots. This is a great place to take a day trip, and if you want to stay the night, the accommodations are definitely wallet-friendly.

11 Famous Ayutthaya Temples, Attractions & Ruins | Toast to Thailand


5. Sukhothai

Known as the first capital of Thailand, this ancient city is also home to many famously beautiful temples and statues. As most are located in the Sukhothai Historical Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the temples are protected and are kept well-maintained. Although Sukhothai is a small city and largely untouched by mass tourism, this is a cultural gem that must be explored. Foodies will also find this town exciting as it is highly recommended to try the famous Sukhothai noodles.

Sukhothai Historical Park: A Handy Guide To Explore The Country's History


6. Bangkok

Thailand’s capital almost doesn’t need an explanation of why one should visit. However, for budget travellers, there are a few places that are the best in which to see and stay. Khao San Road is an iconic backpacker road that features night bars, street food and dirt-cheap hostels that can also arrange the rest of your trip at a great price. Furthermore, the area of Khao San is located in Bangkok Noi, which is close to the stunning tourist attractions of the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Chinatown and unique floating markets. Although Bangkok is huge, settling around this area will help make the city seem smaller while accessing cheap accommodations and nearby attractions.

Thailand eases border restrictions for 56 nationalities – Business Traveller


7. Kanchanaburi

Famous for its Bridge on the River Kwai, this is a must for those backpackers who want a bit of nostalgia. As the bridge is part of the World War II Death Railway to Myanmar, it is a must-see for those who are interested in the area’s history. Here, the city is home to a vibrant backpacker scene, where you will surely find like-minded people that are travelling around the country on a budget. With stunning natural landscapes and scenery, Kanchanaburi is a great place to experience beautiful waterfalls, such as the Erawan Falls. Moreover, for those wanting a bit of a spooky experience, the Hellfire Pass is definitely recommended.

Kanchanaburi | InsideAsia Tours


8. Krabi

Still relatively untouched by mass tourism, Krabi is teeming with natural beauty. Here, you can venture out to nearby islands, while still enjoying a small-town backpacker culture. Ao Nang and Railay Beach are popular strips of sand that boast epic rock climbing and other adventure sports. With plenty of budget-friendly hotels and hostels, Krabi is a much more toned-down version of Phuket. Backpackers will surely appreciate its off-the-beaten-path type of charm, while still accessing plenty of activities and gorgeous landscapes.

25 Best Things to Do in Krabi, Thailand - The Crazy Tourist


9. Koh Samui

Known as the gem of the Gulf of Thailand, this stunning island has everything you need to experience a slice of island life. And, as it is in close proximity to the other famous islands of Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan, it is the perfect place to stay. With cheap ferries departing daily to the surrounding islands, Koh Samui offers all the luxuries of a small city while still being a tropical paradise. With stunning beaches and natural attractions, the island caters to some long-term foreign residents who put a special touch on the island. Locals have also had their hand in developing this pristine piece of land, giving it the much-desired local accents that visitors expect.

Koh Samui (Samui Island) - Thailand - Everything You Need to Know About Samui

Koh Samui

10. Phuket

Although Phuket is much more expensive overall as a destination, it still features cheap hotels that remain part of the backpacker route. The charming Phuket Old Town, serves as the centre of the city, offering malls and all of the developed delights that some may wish to experience. However, Patong serves as a party town in which backpackers can stay close to the beach while enjoying a night out. Besides shopping, those visiting on a budget will find Phuket absolutely stunning with its 30 beaches and nearby islands. This may be the best place to end your trip around the Kingdom as it is one of the more expensive places in which to see, but it also offers an international airport where departing the Land of Smiles is convenient.

Phuket Province - What you need to know before you go – Go Guides


Travelling through Thailand on a budget is definitely possible as many places in the country cater to such tourists. Furthermore, hostels, cheap hotels, and street food are plentiful. Backpackers will surely be pleased with the number of inexpensive things to do and see in this beautiful country.


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Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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