Is Thailand expensive as a travel destination? The short answer is no – however it certainly can be. While Thailand in general is still a budget-friendly destination, you can definitely spend some serious cash if you choose to do so. It all depends on what kind of holiday you’re after, which part of Thailand you’re holidaying in, and in particular what type of accommodation you want to stay in.
During our recent stay on popular Koh Samui we found that the island, just like the rest of the country, fits many budgets. We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb apartment in the Bo Phut area of Samui. The apartment had a very well equipped kitchen and there was a great veg & fruit market nearby, so we ended up cooking at home quite a bit. When we felt like eating out, the fun & fabulous ‘walking street’ evening market in Bo Phut Fisherman’s Village offered many very cheap and tasty treats (hello amazing grilled chicken & veggie skewers for $2!). You can eat out very cheaply on Samui if you stick to humble street food and local eateries.
To give you an idea of Koh Samui prices, below is a sample daily budget for us. We didn’t participate in any organised tours during our stay on Samui. Instead we opted to rent a car, which we thought was a great way to see the island rather than joining a tour. Having said that there are many tours available and they seem to be competitively priced.
Koh Samui Prices – How much can you expect to spend on your holiday?
Sample expenses for a day for 2 in $US (excluding airfare), as of February 2015:
- Accommodation: $50/night. Spacious 2-bedroom Airbnb apartment in Bo Phut.
- Food and Drinks for 2: $20.85. Three meals and a snack included. Breakfast and lunch ‘at home’, dinner out.
- Transportation: $49.28. Car rental/Sixt Thailand $45.78 including full insurance. Petrol (gas) for the day $3.50.
- General admission: $1.28. Entry & parking fee for a lookout.
Total costs: $121.37/day for 2 people (or about $60.70/person/day)
The average daily cost was obviously significantly lower on the days we didn’t have the rental car. It’s also good to note there are many cheaper accommodation options available on Samui if you really want to stretch your dollar; please see below. The above gives an idea of a daily budget for two people staying in modern, comfortable accommodation, eating well and exploring the island by car.
A shoestring budget for Samui
Samui accommodation prices start from around $12/night in backpacker-style accommodation (and probably even lower in low season or if you’re good at negotiating!). You can get a meal at a humble roadside Thai eatery for less than $2.
If you’re happy to stay in very simple accommodation, eat as cheaply as possible and not do a whole lot more than relax on the beach or explore the island by foot or by catching a songthaew (adapted pick-up truck), you can get by on about $20/day per person. But if you’re like us and like a bit of comfort then you probably want to spend a bit more.
Wikitravel Koh Samui and Samui Holiday have comprehensive information on prices on Samui if you are interested in finding out more, and lots of other great Samui info too.
Some notes on renting a car vs. scooter on Samui
Scooters can be rented pretty much anywhere on Samui and they are very cheap to rent (around $5-6/day). However after taking one look at the traffic and reading some pretty scary statistics on how many people are killed on Samui in road accidents (reportedly up to 30 road deaths/month, mostly on motorbikes) there was no way we were getting on a scooter. We’ve been renting scooters in other parts of South East Asia but Samui was where we drew the line. You see lots of tourists on scooters, and they can be a scary sight. No helmets, no shirts, no brains…
Our rental car from Sixt (pick up from Koh Samui Airport) was a pretty reasonable price at about $US45/day including optional, additional comprehensive insurance – cheaper if you forgo the additional insurance. A car is a great way to get around the island and offers a lot of flexibility. Petrol (gas) is reasonably priced (about $1.20/litre) and the island is compact so you won’t be breaking the bank when you fill up.
Or, you can catch one of the many ‘meter’ taxis around the island (‘metered’ only in name – you actually have to negotiate your fair with the driver before you get in) or the much cheaper songthaews that drive mainly around the Samui ring road.
Koh Samui as a holiday destination: Our verdict
You can have a very expensive holiday on Samui, especially if you are staying in one of the high-end resorts. But you can also get by on very little. Samui, just as the rest of Thailand, can be a very budget-friendly destination if you choose your accommodation and holiday activities accordingly. As an island (and a very popular one at that) Samui is a little more expensive than mainland Thailand and certain things such as taxis are a lot more expensive than elsewhere in the country. However generally we found it relatively inexpensive.
We enjoyed our stay on Samui and found the island truly beautiful. Whilst we didn’t enjoy the crowds and very developed parts of Chaweng and Lamai in particular, and not to mention the rather scary traffic, we still thought Samui had a lot to offer. The upside of being so developed is that Samui has many services including several hospitals and fast internet, which may be lacking on more rustic Thai islands.
For a small-ish island (25km/15.5mi long and 21km/13mi wide), Samui is very versatile. Depending on which side of the island you’re staying on, you can have a very different holiday experience – see my post on the 3 personalities of Koh Samui. You can easily go and spend a day at any of the many beautiful beaches around the island if you feel like a change of scenery and pace from your ‘home’ beach. Throw in the lush interior of Samui with waterfalls and endless coconut trees, and you have yourself an island paradise that can also be easy on the travel wallet.
What’s your experience on prices in Koh Samui and Thailand? What do you think would be an absolute lowest daily budget you could survive on?
Wikitravel Koh Samui (great general info and cost details)
Also check out our Thailand travel videos on the Coconut Compass Youtube channel!
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