Since I started traveling in SE Asia in late January I’ve been tracking all of my expenses in order to better understand where money is going and how I can make changes to save along the way. I’ve tracked expenses in the past, but never on such a long trip before. It’s been a bit of a labor, but I’ve summarized my spending for 30 days in Thailand, most of which was in February. My travels took me from Bangkok, up north to Chiang Mai and Pai, down to the southern islands of Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Lanta, and back again to Bangkok. These are the highlights of my spending, with all prices in Canadian Dollars. If you want to see the full expense report, including prices in USD, EUR, GBP and their original Thai Baht, you can download the spreadsheet at the bottom of the article.

A field of flowers in Thailand

Food and water – $349.08

Food in Thailand is delicious and cheap. Prices range from $1-2 for street food in Bangkok to $6-7 for a half-descent sit-down restaurant on one of the southern islands. There are days when I wanted to keep it local and only eat in the markets, but then others where I just had to have a burger. Bottled water is cheap (about 50 cents per 1.5L bottle at 7/11) but the expense adds up. Overall, $11.64 per day for food and water, with the option to go lower, makes Thailand a very inexpensive place to eat.

Accommodation – $218.79

I stayed mostly in hostels, as I usually do, with the occasional inexpensive guesthouse thrown in there when there’s no other option. This is often the case in small towns that I’ve come across between my major destinations. The average cost for accommodation was $7.29 per night.

Transport – $220.01

I found that transportation in Thailand is not that cheap compared to other South East Asian countries. This could be because I took a few overnight buses where I wanted to splurge a bit to ensure a good-night sleep. It could also be because I was taking ferries between islands and buying combined ferry and bus tickets – these are targeted at tourists and can be very expensive by local standards.

I moved quickly through the country. This was mostly due to the fact that I was traveling with friends who were on a limited schedule. We were trying to pack in as much as possible in the time that they were here. If I had taken it a little slower, maybe the average transportation cost would be a little lower, but as it stands it averaged $7.33 per day.

ATM Fees – $40.08!

These ATM fees are killing me at the moment. I’m with Scotiabank because of their Global ATM Alliance, but they charge me $5 every time I withdraw from a non-alliance international ATM, plus whatever fee the machine charges me. I’ve found out recently that TD has a promotion where if you maintain a high enough balance they will waive all ATM fees, including international fees. Hearing this I’ve tried to get Scotiabank on board with giving me a similar promotion, but so far no such luck. It looks like I’m going to make the switch to TD when I return to Canada. For the time being these fees a necessary evil.

Motorcycle – $55.76

We rented motorcycles for a few days which included a drive from Chiang Mai to Pai. This is a completely unnecessary expense that could have been replaced by a few dollars for a bus ticket, but man was it fun. It was also really nice to have transport while in Pai – many of the town’s sites are far enough away that walking wouldn’t be reasonable.

Scuba – $787.10

Here it is – the big one. The one-time cost that skews the rest of the numbers. I did my open water and advanced open water SSI scuba diving courses while I was in Koh Tao, along with a couple of fun dives. This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for years and Koh Tao is the cheapest place in the world to do it. Obviously this isn’t on everyone’s itinerary for Thailand, but keep in mind that it’s going to add significant cost to your trip if it is. You’re also probably going to dive way more than you originally intend to because, let’s face it, the diving in Thailand is incredible and addictive.

Total Cost – $1153.76 excluding scuba, $1940.86 including scuba

Be prepared to spend just a little over $1000 for a month in Thailand if you’re not going to do any diving, and quite a bit more if you intend to do your open water course in Koh Tao. That’s an average of $38.46/$64.70 per day. Being one of the cheapest tourist-heavy countries in the world makes Thailand a great destination for any budget traveler.

Want the full breakdown of my expenses, including conversions to four other currencies? You can download my detailed spreadsheet here:

BWSB Thailand Cost Breakdown – January February March 2014.xlsx