The Total Cost of Thailand
It took me awhile to put this together because I knew I had overspent in Thailand (also, jetlag), but I finally added up all the numbers. My last days in Thailand, I very much had a "screw it" attitude and continued spending money on diving and grabbing dinner with friends. I wouldn't have had it any other way. Here's the final breakdown:
In-country travel: $85
Includes: Bus/ferry to Koh Tao and back to Bangkok, taxis, tuk-tuks, and the subway.
Includes: Hostels for 13 nights; private room for 3 nights. Average cost was $9.30/night.
Includes: A lot of fluffy banana pancakes, banana smoothies, and banana muffins from 7-11. I ate out with friends at a lot of sit-down, Western restaurants. I ate street food for dinner only once or twice. If I had actually liked Thai food, these costs would have been lower. Only about $10 of this was spent on alcohol.
Includes: Ridiculously expensive sunscreen ($12), a hijab scarf ($17), laundry ($3), a necklace ($18), souvenirs ($20), and other random items that I don't remember.
Excursions/Activities (aka All Of The Diving): $711
Includes: $680 for Open Water and Advanced Certifications, 8 fun dives, my mask, and two trips to Sail Rock. Additional activities included the infinity pool, Grand Palace, Wat Pho, a mani/pedi, and a massage.
Total Cost: $1,261 (Updated Expenses Spreadsheet)
This exceeded the original $1,069 I had in my travel account. A week into my trip, I was certain I was going to come back with money left over. But the more I fell in love with diving, and certainly after I paid for the Advanced Certification, my money started going fast! However, with limited time and an upcoming paycheck, I didn't hold back. I started withdrawing additional funds from my Chase account, and knew I would have to tighten expenses for a few weeks back at home. (If you want to compare costs with another trip to Thailand, check out this breakdown by Nomadic Matt).
There are a few things I wish I hadn't spent money on - like that scarf, private room, or sunscreen (which was useless anyways, as everyone keeps commenting on how dark I am). I ate at a lot of restaurants, but I was in good company and had some of the best conversations during those times. And honestly, I would not have been able to live off of street food every night, no matter how cheap.
Koh Tao was also more expensive than the rest of Thailand. Although the only other city I was in was Bangkok, I am sure Koh Tao is more expensive than Chiang Mai or elsewhere, just like any other island. For example, a large bottle of water (sometimes I drank three a day) was 20B in Koh Tao, compared to 14B in Bangkok. Small difference, but it adds up over time.
Overall, I kept the rest of my costs low. I stayed in hostels 90% of the time. I chose the cheapest way to get to Koh Tao, instead of the flight or train. I often chose the least expensive meals at restaurants and drank beer instead of cocktails. And I paid $38 for that plane ticket, thank god.
Another (huge) factor was the fact that my time was very limited. 21 days. 18 days if you take out all the travel time. I knew my time would be up, and there would be a point where I would not be spending all my money on diving, accommodation, and banana pancakes. I had a different mindset than if I was traveling for 6 weeks, 3 months, or 7 months. In those cases, your money has to go a lot further and you have to make choices. But even then, it is totally up to you and the budget you've set for yourself.
I definitely do not regret the amount of money I spent on that gorgeous island, diving in the some of the deepest corners of the world. That's the important part - if there was a point where I was questioning what I spending my money on (trust me, I was definitely questioning how much I was spending), I would have stopped to reconsider. But I absolutely love diving now, and will probably spend a lot more money on diving in my lifetime.
Actually, the more I look at this number, the more my thoughts are shifting about whether my trip to Thailand was cheap or expensive. At first, $1200 seemed like a lot of money for only three weeks. Maybe it was because it was $200 more than I had budgeted for, I'm not sure. But now, after looking back on everything I experienced in Thailand, $1200 feels like a steal. I have lifetime scuba certification that would have cost me over $1000 anywhere else in the world. I saw century old temples in the heart of a major Asian metropolis. I made friends that I sincerely hope I get to travel with again. I soaked up on the sun on an island that is considered one of the best in the world. And, a confession: $1200 is less than what I pay in rent every month. I would go back to Thailand in a heartbeat.
I don't want anyone to look at my expenses and think, Wow, $1200?! I cannot afford Thailand. To me, I look at it and literally think, Damn, I had the time of my life for only $1200. Because that's exactly how I feel, and I am so thankful.
Photo credit to the wonderful Raymond!