This week? Charts. This post started as a brief tip on another topic entirely – a helpful note about Thailand travel costs that you’ll often find better hotel deals in Phuket than on Koh Samui. That used to be true, but did it remain so? That led to Googling, more Googling … which led to …. the glamourous life of a Thailand travel blogger? Exactly. Excel spreadsheets.
Taking current data from hotel and ticketing sites Booking.com and 12Go Asia for every corner of Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pai in the north, plus all the ‘Kohs’ (islands) – Chang, Kood, Lanta, Mak, Phangan, Phi Phi, Samui, Tao, Yao Noi and Yao Yoi) a better picture emerged of Thailand’s hotel costs specifically and its travel costs more generally.
Below, find an easy way to compare Thailand’s best hotel rates against Thailand travel costs for the bus, train, ferry and domestic air travel – as well as travel time and comfort. Hopefully, they’re useful reference points, whether or not you already have any destinations in mind for Thailand. Remarkably, not once do I say “just choose Koh Samui” – a first in the ten years of this website. With that – enjoy!
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Top photo: Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort (credit: Booking.com)
Thailand travel costs
How much are hotels in Thailand?
While real science tends to despise averages as data for lazy people, I like them for that very reason; they’re a useful starting point for the rest of us. Taking current data from Booking.com (plus two cups of coffee plus one very long spreadsheet), the following might be a useful reference to plan your Thailand budget.
Thailand hotel costs (avg/night)
Where to find the best-value hotels in Thailand?
I’ve long held the theory that the harder a destination is to reach in Thailand, the better the hotel deals you’ll find. Dabbling with this data has proven this – to a point. The destination in question needs to have sufficient inventory for some competition. Thus, Koh Tao and Chiang Rai (with 250 and 262 respective hotel choices) routinely came out as offering the best value, while equally remote locations like Koh Mak and Koh Kood were amongst the priciest options. I presume this is due to their much smaller inventory: just 35 and 50 hotels on each island.
Across three-, four- and five-star hotels in Thailand, Phuket and Bangkok were consistently the best-value options, while Koh Samui and Khao Lak remained at the higher end of the price scale. Again, unsurprising, as Phuket is double Koh Samui’s size with far greater inventory (234% more, to be exact).
Three-star hotels in Thailand (avg/night)
Four-star hotels in Thailand (avg/night)
Five-star hotels in Thailand (avg/night)
Why is Koh Kood so pricey? Thirty-five pool villas at Soneva Kiri will do that to your data. Note, as well, that Koh Samui’s five-star figures were skewed by Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui – which could charge ‘First-Born Child and Both Your Kidneys’ kind of rates and would still be worth it.
Thailand travel costs: hotels, flights, ferries & more
As for getting around Thailand, I’ll assume you’ll use Bangkok as your base and explore from there. Whether you want to head north or explore the islands, the following are average costs for buses, trains, and domestic flights from Bangkok to the rest of Thailand. For island destinations, tickets include ferry transfer:
- Long-distance bus travel: US$22+ average ticket (cheapest fares for all of the destinations below range from $8-$38)
- Train travel: US$35 average ticket (cheapest fares for all of the destinations below range from $12-$59)
- Domestic flights: US$55 average ticket (cheapest fares for all of the destinations below range from $30-$104. It’s almost always cheaper to fly from Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport and nicer to fly from Suvarnabhumi).
- Chiang Mai
- Chiang Rai
- Hua Hin
- Khao Lak
- Koh Chang
- Koh Kood
- Koh Lanta
- Koh Mak
- Koh Phangan
- Koh Phi Phi
- Koh Samui
- Koh Tao
- Koh Yao Noi / Koh Yao Yai
- Krabi (incl. Railay)
- Phang Nga
Travel costs from Bangkok’s airports to the city centre/downtown:
- Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK): While it’s easy to hop on the Airport Rail Link to downtown (it runs from 6 am to midnight), if you have a lot of luggage or prefer to have somewhere waiting for you in arrivals, you can pre-book private van transfer for approximately US$30. Depending on traffic and your destination, it will be a forty-minute drive to Bangkok city centre – give or take. Licensed taxis are of course also available with clear signage in the arrivals hall.
- Bangkok Don Mueang Airport (DMK): Don Mueang, as the older airport, is located closer to downtown and can take as little as twenty-five minutes in good traffic. As at BKK, you can pre-book your airport transfer in a van (up to 9 passengers), SUV or sedan for approximately US$30. Taxis are also available but the queues can be long at peak periods.
Bangkok hotel costs (avg/night)
Travel costs from Bangkok to Chiang Mai:
- Bus: US$16+ (10- to 12-hour journey. Quick cultural tip: Don’t put your feet up on anything, like another seat – it’s extremely rude in Thailand).
- Train: US$26+ (11- to 14-hour journey. Sleeper cabins are available on all trains and the 9/10 train offers a ladies-only section. If you’re a solo female traveller you’ll be paired with another female in this compartment or you can book two tickets to have it to yourself. Tip! For this journey, plus onward journeys to Chiang Rai and Pai book as far in advance as possible – the first class seats go quickly).
- Flight: US$30+ (1h15 minute flight on budget and boutique carriers from both Don Mueang [DMK] and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi [BKK] Airports)
Chiang Mai hotel costs (avg/night)
Travel costs from Bangkok to Chiang Rai:
- Bus: US$18+ (11- to 14-hour journey)
- Flight: US$30+ (approx. 1.5-hour flight from either DMK or BKK)
Chiang Rai hotel costs (avg/night)
Travel costs from Bangkok to Hua Hin:
- Bus: US$8+ (a 4.5- to 5-hour journey)
- Train: US$12+ (a 4-hour journey on an “ordinary” train that stops at every station. Only hard seats are available so the bus – or a private car – is preferable).c
- Taxi: US$8+ (a 4-hour drive in a van-taxi departing from a Sukhumvit bus depot for US$8+ or US$60+ for hotel pick-up from any Bangkok hotel in an SUV or traditional sedan taxi)
Hua Hin hotel costs (avg/night)
Travel costs from Bangkok to Khao Lak:
- Bus: US$27+ (approx. 13-hour journey)
- Other options: Get yourself to Phuket first (see below), and then it’s a quick taxi transfer from Phuket Airport to Khao Lak – about two hours.
Khao Lak hotel costs (avg/night)
- 3-star: US$61
- 4-star: US$185
- 5-star: US$282
- Most booked this month: JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort and Spa
Travel costs from Bangkok to Koh Chang:
- Ferry: US$13+ (a 7.5-hour journey takes you by van from Bangkok, then by ferry directly to Koh Chang pier)
- Taxi: US$150+ (a 5-hour door-to-door journey to between your hotels, arranged to your schedule)
- Flight: US$104+ (a 1-hour Bangkok Airways flight from BKK to Trat Airport)
Koh Chang hotel costs (avg/night)
Travel costs from Bangkok to Koh Kood:
- Taxi + ferry: US$27+ (Take a scheduled van from Khao San Road or for US$144+ enjoy a door-to-door private taxi. Both include ferry transport to Koh Kood. A 7-hour journey.)
Koh Kood hotel costs (avg/night)
- 3-star: US$126
- 4-star: US$181
- 5-star: US$784
- Most booked this month: The Beach Natural Resort Koh Kood
Travel costs from Bangkok to Koh Lanta:
- Bus with ferry: US$38+ (an 18-hour journey, mostly by overnight bus)
- Better option: Get yourself to Krabi Airport first (see below), a then take a van + ferry combo direct to Koh Lanta in just 90 minutes.
Koh Lanta hotel costs (avg/night)
Travel costs from Bangkok to Koh Mak:
- Taxi + Ferry: US$24+ (A 7-hour journey with schedule van + ferry service).
Koh Mak hotel costs (avg/night)
Travel costs from Bangkok to Koh Phangan:
- Bus + ferry: US$27+ (a 13- to 18-hour journey)
- Train + ferry: US$41+ (an approximately 16.5-hour journey. Important! Before booking, please see this tip about how to get a good seat on this route).
- Flight + ferry: US$67+ (The cheaper option is a 7-hour journey with flights to Surat Thani Airport, then ferry to Koh Phangan. The quicker option is to first fly to Koh Samui Airport, and then take a 30-minute ferry to Koh Phangan).
Koh Phangan hotel costs (avg/night)
Koh Phi Phi
Travel costs from Bangkok to Koh Phi Phi:
- Bus + ferry: US$30+ (A 15 – to 19-hour journey)
- Train + ferry: US$49+ (19 hours in either first or second class sleepers. The booking company recommends train number 85/86 for its speed, comfort and most convenient arrival time )
- Better option: First fly to either Phuket or Krabi, then take a short ferry journey: 2 hours from Phuket (US$13+) or 1h45 minutes from Krabi (US$13+)
Koh Phi Phi hotel costs (avg/night)
- 3-star: US$85
- 4-star: US$150
- 5-star: US$211
- Most booked this month: Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort
Travel costs from Bangkok to Koh Samui:
- Bus + ferry: US$23+
- Train + ferry: $US44+ (as with travel to Koh Phi Phi, train number 85/86 is recommended for its speed and comfort)
- Flight: US$67+ to US 149+ (The budget option including ferry takes 4.5 to 6.5 hours depending on ferry connection time. Flights from Bangkok’s secondary airport, Don Mueang, go to Surat Thani Airport on the mainland with a bus + ferry connection taking you to Koh Samui. Alternatively, it’s a quick 1-hour direct flight from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) direct to Koh Samui Airport. For a quick trip, I don’t consider the hassle of the former option worth the savings – easily recouped with a good hotel deal).
Koh Samui hotel costs (avg/night)
Travel costs from Bangkok to Koh Tao:
- Bus + ferry: US$27+ (A bus and ferry combo will take anywhere from 8h45m to 15h45m)
- Train + ferry: US$33+ (A journey of 14+ hours with first- and second-class sleeper options for the train portion. Important! Before booking, please see this tip about how to get a good seat on this route).
- Flight + ferry: US$72+ (Take a 1-hour flight on a budget carrier to the little-known Chumphon Airport on the mainland, then a 6+ hour ferry crossing to Koh Tao. If you’re prone to seasickness, you might prefer the shorter ferry crossing from Koh Samui or Surat Thani – see below).
- Another option: Use any means to get yourself to Koh Samui first, and then take a 2-hour ferry from Koh Samui for US$15+.
Koh Tao hotel costs (avg/night)
Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai
Travel costs from Bangkok to Koh Yao Noi:
Note – to get to Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai from Bangkok, you’ll first go to Phuket and then it’s a quick journey across to either island. The ferry itself is fifteen minutes to Koh Yao Yai and twenty minutes to Koh Yao Noi from Phuket, with an optional joint ticket for a van connection from Phuket airport. It’s also possible to reach the islands from Krabi but takes longer (six hours from Krabi Airport compared to one hour from Phuket Airport).
- Van + ferry: US$29+ (from Phuket, approx. one hour)
- Van + ferry: US$39+ (from Krabi, approx. six hours)
Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai hotel costs (avg/night)
Krabi (incl. Ao Nang & Railay)
Travel costs from Bangkok to Krabi:
- Bus: US$19+ (The quickest option, an express bus, takes about 12 hours)
- Bus + ferry: US$22+ (To get to Railay, you’ll need to add a short ferry ride to your journey – bringing the total travel time from Bangkok to approximately 15.5 hours).
- Flight: US$23+ (As with flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui, you’ll find cheaper fares on budget carriers departing from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport direct to Krabi Airport for US$23+. Flights on Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport to Krabi are typically US$45+, and the latter is Star Alliance. Flights from both DMK and BKK to Krabi are approximately 1h 15m and 1h30m with Bangkok Airways as they take the time to feed you).
Krabi hotel costs (avg/night)
Travel costs from Bangkok to Pai:
- Bus: US$22+ (Most journeys are a 12-hour bus ride to Chiang Mai, and then a minivan drive to Pai for a total of 15- to 18-hours of travel time).
- Train: US$59+ (Take the first-class sleeper overnight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, stretch your legs as you change stations, then take a 3-hour minivan ride to Pai. Total travel time is 19 hours – much of it spent sleeping).
- Flight: US$61+ (Cut your travel time in half – or more – with a one-hour flight to Chiang Mai Airport and a three-hour minivan ride to Pai).
Pai hotel costs (avg/night)
- 3-star: US$44
- 4-star: US$80
- 5-star: US$132
- Most booked this month: Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm
Travel costs from Bangkok to Pattaya:
- Bus: US$4+ (A 3-hour bus ride is just $4 in Premium Class or approximately $12 for Express Service)
- Taxi: US$50+ (Door-to-door hotel transfer between Bangkok and Pattaya in a van, minivan or private taxi. Depending on your Bangkok departure point – and traffic – the journey can take as little as 1h 40m. Good news for the return journey should you decide Pattaya’s not quite your cup of tea).
Pattaya hotel costs (avg/night)
- 3-star: US$43
- 4-star: US$57
- 5-star: US$134
- Most booked this month: Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort Pattaya
Travel costs from Bangkok to Phang Nga:
Note: Travel to Phang Nga here refers to the town of Phang Nga (the capital of Phang Nga province). Though more of an administrative hub, it’s just a short drive from Phang Nga Bay and Ao Phang Nga National Park.
- Bus: US$21+ (A 12-hour journey in ‘VIP’ Class which offers reclining seats and usually a pillow and a blanket. Expect the air-conditioning to be set to ‘Arctic’ – bring a sweater or two).
Phang Nga hotel costs (avg/night)
Travel costs from Bangkok to Phuket:
- Bus: US$19+ (A 12-hour express bus. Quick cultural tip: never sit next to a monk, especially if you’re a woman).
- Flight: US$19+ (Unless you’re keeping your travel budget under Martial Law, I recommend flying to Phuket rather than taking the bus – and keeping for yourself the 22 hours you’ll save in return travel time. An entire day of your vacation to save $26? Don’t do it! Flights depart nearly nonstop from both Bangkok airports and take just one hour. As with Koh Samui, budget carriers depart from Don Mueang and the nicer options from Suvarnabhumi. While ‘steal-deals’ can be as low as US$19, fares are typically in the US$45-55 range from Don Mueang and $85-$125 from BKK).
Phuket hotel costs (avg/night)
- 3-star: US$35
- 4-star: US$58
- 5-star: US$129
- Most booked this month: Phuket Marriott Resort & Spa, Merlin Beach
Travel cost data from 12Go Asia; hotel and food costs from Booking.com (current at the time of writing, October 2018).