Thailand is a lot of things: beautiful, friendly, surprisingly diverse, and eminently affordable. It’s one of the best countries for affordable luxury and a great place to stretch your wallet.
But what exactly does that mean in practical terms? What kind of experiences can you enjoy in Thailand that may be beyond your budget in other destinations around the world? We’re here to answer that question. Drawing on the expertise of our destination specialists, we’ve outlined some of the many reasons why Thailand is one of the best places for affordable luxury.
What affordable luxury is available in Thailand?
Premium hotels and resorts
A beautiful hotel is usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a luxury vacation. You think of large accommodations, soft beds, a private balcony or patio, and access to on-site amenities like spas and award-winning restaurants. Unique accommodations in interesting destinations are also key. In Thailand, you can enjoy all these things for a great price.
In Thailand, even the most luxurious hotels offer great value throughout the year. The country has long been famous as a destination for backpackers, with students taking a gap year and saving money by staying in hostels and budget hotels. As a result of many accommodations catering to budget travellers, the prices across all accommodation levels come down, meaning that first-class and deluxe hotels are much more affordable in Thailand than in other parts of the world. You can stay in swank digs in Bangkok or go for an all-inclusive resort in Phuket. You can book a few nights at an elephant sanctuary outside Chiang Mai or sleep in tree houses in the jungles of the southwest. The low season from late July to early October is especially affordable, so if you want to enjoy the best accommodations for a reasonable price, Thailand is the place to be.
Exceptional fine dining
Nothing says a premium vacation like visiting a Michelin-starred restaurant. Luckily, Thailand has 28 Michelin-starred restaurants, which are more affordable than counterparts in other nations. Some of the restaurants are street food stalls while others are haute cuisine joints like you’d find in New York or Paris. For instance, the trendy street food restaurant, Jay Fai, named for the nickname of owner and chef, Supinya Junsuta, has one Michelin star and dishes out wok-fried seafood dishes that run between 200 THB and 900 THB, which averages between $4 and $28 US. That’s cheaper than your average chain restaurant back home. On the other end, the coveted Le Normandie, located at the top level of the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, overlooks the Chao Phraya River and offers a five-course lunch starting at 3200 THB, which is around $100 US, a steal for a hearty meal at a two Michelin star restaurant.
There’s also affordable luxury street food beyond Bangkok. Marketplaces across the country are great places to get meals that would normally be high-priced in most international restaurants. For example, in Phuket, you will find many seafood stalls offering great surf and turf dishes starting at 150 THB. The high-end bar scene is also great value. Bangkok has many top-end rooftop bars that offer the finest champagne and cocktails with incredible views of the Bangkok skyline, and prices that are better than your average hipster bar in Brooklyn.
Spa and wellness treatments
Thailand is renowned for its spa treatments. Thai massages have become particularly popular in spas around the world, but there’s nothing like a Thai massage in Thailand itself. On the islands in the south, such as Phuket or Koh Phi Phi, many resorts have luxury spas on-site, as they understand that travellers want to recharge with wellness treatments as much as they want to unwind at the beach. Many treatments are included in the price of the accommodation, while others have packages that offer several treatments each day for great value. Thailand is as good and affordable a place as you’ll find to enjoy spa days at a fraction of the cost of spas elsewhere.
For example, the 5-star resort, Pavilions Phuket, offers massages starting at 600 THB, which is around $20 US—very reasonable for a luxury resort. But this sort of cost is on the high-end. Throughout the country, whether at the famous Wat Pho Massage School or in far-flung places in the north, you’ll find spas that offer 60 minute to two hour massages for between 200 and 900 THB. For that cost, you can enjoy several treatments for the price of one elsewhere and indulge in a half-day or full-day spa experience. Add to that the large number of resorts and spas that offer detox, diet packages, traditional medicine, and health and fitness experiences, such as meditation and yoga, and you have all the reason in the world to seek out affordable, luxury wellness in Thailand.
Intimate and exclusive excursions
We can’t forget the day trips, as Thailand offers many luxury excursions for a great price. In general, private excursions are affordable across the country. They often cost relatively the same as coach or small group tours, so there’s no reason not to upgrade and enjoy the exclusivity and personal attention of a private tour.
The type of private excursion you can enjoy in Thailand is only limited by your imagination. Join a private cooking class with a professional chef at the famous Pantawan Cooking School in Chiang Mai and learn how to make famous dishes like Pad Thai and Pad Kra Pao. Join a small group cooking class at renowned Blue Elephant Cooking School locations in either Bangkok or Chiang Mai. If you don’t want to cook for yourself, dine like royalty at a royal villa. Ride a speedboat down the Chao Phraya River and enjoy a multi-course meal at Chakrabongse Villa, a riverside mansion that belongs to the Thai Royal Family.
Head on a private yacht, sail boat or longtail boat cruise in Southern Thailand, cruising alongside dramatic limestone karsts and swimming off uninhabited islands. One such tour takes you on a private speedboat through pristine Phang Nga Bay and includes a barbeque lunch and plenty of time swimming off a secluded beach.
Feel like you’ve travelled back in time with a glamorous train journey aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express to Singapore, or rise early in Chiang Mai to sip champagne and watch the sunrise and the happenings of this quiet northern city from a hot air balloon.
Thailand offers a great price for unforgettable experiences. It’s an ideal destination to indulge in luxury as its affordability and wide range of options allows you to stretch your budget to upgrade your accommodations and enjoy private experiences. If you’re looking for affordable luxury, this is the place to be.
31 May 2021, 2:47 p.m.