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How much does it cost to eat out in Thailand?

Reader’s E-mail

Hi

I am coming to Thailand on January. I just want to plan the budget of my trip. So I just want to know how much bahts needed for food a day. I am an Indian so mainly I am looking for meals and noodles. If I have it from street how much does it cost and if I have from budget hotel how much does it cost ?

Reply from Thailand Life

The price of cooked food in Thailand depends on two things: what type of food outlet you go to, and what part of the country you are in:

  • The cheapest places to buy cooked food are street side food stalls in larger towns, food stalls in cheap markets, and food courts in shopping malls. You can also buy trays of pre-cooked food very cheaply in branches of large supermarket chains, such as Tesco-Lotus and Big-C. 
  • The next cheapest places to food are specialised small restaurants which serve a small range of dishes which take little preparation after a customer has ordered. These types of restaurants tend to serve dishes like noodle soup or chicken or pork on rice with a sauce.
  • The next cheapest places to eat are the basic sit down restaurants which serve a variety of freshly cooked dishes, such as Thai curries. These are the types of restaurants which you tend to find at budget beach bungalow resorts. Often in small beach resort towns, you may not find many food stalls or cheaper specialised restaurants and your only food option is this type of sit down restaurant serving a variety of freshly cooked foods.
Price of Food at Foodstalls

Expect to pay between 30 and 60 THB for a basic meal, such as a noodle dish or rice and curry dish. If you want good value for money then you can buy pre-cooked trays from larger supermarkets in the 30 to 40 THB price range. Alternatively, if you are somewhere where there are shopping malls then do what many Thai people do and head to the food court where you can normally get a decent meal in the 40 to 50 THB price range.  If you want seafood dishes expect to pay more, for instance the prawns fried with garlic and pepper we bought at a foodstall in Hua Night Market cost us 120 THB.

Prawns with garlic and pepper cost us 120 THB

Food hygiene tends to be pretty good in Thailand and few foreign visitors get food poisoning from eating at foodstalls in Thailand.

Specialised Cheap Restaurants

All over Thailand you will find noodle shops selling very filling and tasty noodle soup for around 40 to 50 THB a bowl. The range of dishes is normally limited to just noodle dishes in these restaurants. The other type of specialised cheap food restaurant sells pre-cooked meat or chicken on rice at 40 to 50 THB a plate. These are ‘chicken and rice’ shops selling four basic types of dish:

  • Khao man gai = Chicken and rice
  • Khao khaa moo = Stewed pork leg and rice
  • Khao moo grawp = Crispy fried pork and rice
  • Khao moo daeng = Pork in a sweet red sauce over rice

Khao Man Gai is a favourite dish amongst foreign visitors to Thailand

Chicken and rice shops are easy to identify because they have whole boiled chickens and pork legs hanging in glass cases at the front of the shop.

Basic Restaurants

Basic restaurants, especially the kind you find in budget beach bungalow resorts, tend to be a lot more expensive and they vary in price depending on the location. In some of the more popular beach resorts, away from built up areas, the price of food can often be twice the amount that you would be charged in some of the cheaper locations in Thailand. Eating out in Thailand is still cheap compared to the prices charged in Northern Europe, but unfortunately restaurant food in Thailand is starting to become much less good value for money and in general the price of food is much more expensive than it was was five years or the prices you might expect to pay in South East Asia. Below is basic guide to roughly what you might expect to pay in 2017 for food in a basic restaurant in a bungalow resort or small hotel in Thailand:

  • Can of coke = 25 to 40 THB
  • Small bottle of beer = 50 to 80 THB
  • Instant coffee = 20 to 40 THB
  • Toast and jam = 30 to 40 THB
  • American breakfast = 80 to 140 THB
  • Chicken fried rice = 40 to 70 THB
  • Plain rice = 15 to 25 THB
  • Green curry chicken = 60 to 120 THB
  • Fried white snapper = 140 to 250 THB
  • Mango and sticky rice = 50 to 90 THB

These are only approximate prices intended to give you an idea about budgeting for your holiday. 

General Advice about eating well on a budget in Thailand

A few final words of advice for you:

  • The best approach is to eat cheaply when you can and to occasionally spend a bit more money when you either have no option or when you do visit a restaurant with good food and you get good value for money by spending more than normal. This is what most Thai people do and when they do go out to restaurants (as opposed to a food stall or food court or eating at home) they are often prepared to spend money on eating properly and ordering a number of dishes. 
  • One plate dishes (for instance a curry over rice) are good value. Traditionally in Thailand if you buy a dish separate to your rice the portion you get is intended to be shared amongst several people as part of a meal with several dishes. In Thailand the normal way to eat is to have a plate of rice for each person and for there to be curries, salads etc in the centre of the table which people spoon over the rice in small quantities, a dish at a time.
  • Portions of food can often be quite small in Thailand. This is because many Thai people like to eat lots of small meals and snacks during the day. If you want to experience the real food of Thailand, which is often the cheapest, do what Thai people do and be adventurous and try the small snacks and sweets sold for 10 to 20 THB on food stalls and roadside vendors as part of your daily diet.

Next read about How to buy travel tickets in Thailand