Accommodation in Thailand
From thatch hats to private pool villas
For decades, Thailand has been a budget traveller's paradise, and over the last few years, there's been an increasing surge in luxurious options throughout the country. So be you a backpacker looking for the cheapest room in town or a flashpacker gliding in for a touch of pampering, there's bound to be something to satisfy your needs. While the majority of the luxury spots are found in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and the Thai islands, budget guesthouses and cheap hotels can be found throughout the country. Some small islands that are growing in popularity seem to have fewer numbers of budget options each year.
Do I need to make a reservation in advance?
It depends on when and where you are going. Destinations like Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lipe are packed to the rafters in high season and if you arrive without a reservation, you could well end up in a tent -- especially if visiting around the Christmas/New Year holidays. Other peak periods when reservations are a very good idea (though not necesarilly essential) include:
Chiang Mai during the Songkran festival and Loy Krathong
Yasothon during the Rocket Festival
Dan Sai during the Phi Ta Kohn Festival
Sukhothai during Loy Krathong
Ko Phi Phi in peak season
Railay Beach in peak season
Ko Lipe in peak season
Ko Pha Ngan during the Full Moon Parties
Outside of the above, for budget guesthouses and hostels, unless you have your heart set on a specific place, you don't really need to make reservations in advance -- especially if you don't mind spending a bit of time looking around for a bed. That said, having a room reserved can save you a stressful few hours if you're visiting a large destination, like Bangkok, for the first time. In the mid to upper range of resorts and hotels, a reservation remains a good idea.
Accommodation reviews on Travelfish are independent and are written by our researchers who have visited, in person, every property we list. Unlike many travel websites, we do not allow the hotel or guesthouse to write the review and unlike some travel guide publishers, we do not accept any kind of discount, payment or other freebie in return for coverage -- positive or negative. Travelfish always pays its way. Period.
Should I make reservations online?
A comprehensive range of accommodation in most major destinations in Thailand can be booked online. While it's true that securing a room on the spot in peak season can be more difficult than in the past, you will usually be able to find a bed somewhere. Admittedly the bed may be in the twentieth guesthouse you've tried, housed in a fibro shack between the water treatment plant and a garbage tip and managed by a hardened misanthrope, but hey it's only a 45-minute shadeless walk to the beach, so it's not all bad. There are a few pros and cons of reserving in advance and here are some pointers worth considering.
What should you expect for your money in Thailand?
If you're on a tight budget and are willing to forego some creature comforts there are some very cheap guesthouses and hostels in Thailand. The larger centres, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Ko Samui, are all a bit pricier then elsewhere as are some of the heavily touristed spots like Ko Phi Phi, Ao Nang and Ko Lipe, while some of the cheapest beds can be found on certain lesser-known islands and provincial capitals.
As a general rule, using Bangkok as an example, this is what budget travellers should expect for their money:
Under 200 baht: Gets you a bare-bones dorm bed with a fan or a very grotty single room with a smelly mattress, noisy fan and shared bathroom. The sheets, if there are any, will only be changed when you leave. Expect thin walls and dreary drapes and plan on spending as much time as possible outside.
200-500 baht: Gets you a clean air-con dorm or a simple fan-cooled private budget room. The higher end of this range might get you a private bathroom that will be moderately clean. The dorm bed will probably have a private reading lamp and perhaps a privacy curtain. The private room should be big enough for a clean bed with sheets, and a couple of bags, plus maybe a chair or two.
500-800 baht: Gets you a decent fan or basic air-con room, which should be clean and well kept and include a reasonable bathroom. The bed will have a clean mattress and sheets. Generally larger than the lower price range, these rooms often have a desk and chair. You might even get a tiny old TV or some hand-painted wall murals.
800-1,500 baht: Gets you a good room with reliable air-con, a comfortable bed and a clean, well-equipped bathroom. The room may have a few extras such as a mini-fridge and TV with limited cable.
1,500 baht+: As the price rises from here, expect more space and extras, such as LCD TV with full cable, DVD player, a minibar, balcony, breakfast and so on.