Food in Thailand
To be sure, one of the first things that comes to mind when most people think of Thailand is the food. Aromatic spices, and a distinctive blend of sweet, sour, salty, and savory flavors characterize Thai cuisine.
The typical Thai meal consists of rice served alongside various curries, sauces, and vegetable dishes. Soups are an important part of the meal, and often include a unique blend of spices and flavors. Noodles are also popular.
Of course, there is a huge variety of food, with different dishes coming from Thailand’s different regions, so you’ll never be bored when it comes time for a meal!
Whether you are grabbing a quick meal on your own or sharing a dinner with friends, quality food is an essential part of life in Thailand. It will also make up an important part of your budget. Don’t worry—food in Thailand is quite inexpensive. In fact, some of the most authentic, high quality dishes can be bought from street-side vendors for only 20-30 baht—less than $1USD. Even a nice meal out at a restaurant won’t set you back too much.
Street Food in Thailand
Thailand’s markets and street food are a huge part of Thai food culture. These small food stands, often without any seating, might seem strange to people unfamiliar to Asian culture. However, they often have some of the most authentic—and cheapest—food around.
A basic meal of rice or noodles, meat, and vegetables can cost as little as $1.00 from a street-side vendor, and can be quite delicious!
Here are some of the common types of Thai street food you will find:
Noodle soup: Filled with aromatic spices and abundant flavors, Thai noodle soups may include pork, beef, chicken, or sea food, as well as an abundance of vegetables. They make for a filling meal, and will typically cost somewhere between $.70 to $1.50.
Satay: Delicious skewers of pork, beef, or other meats, accompanied by peanut sauce make a great meal or snack. At only a few Thai baht per skewer, you can easily eat your fill for less than $1.00.
Spicy Salads: Thai spicy salads often include green papaya, grilled chicken, and an ample supply of spices. You can get a green papaya salad for around $1.00. Adding some meat will only cost a few cents more.
Rice meals: It’s easy to find a full meal for one, including rice, vegetables, and meat, usually for around $1.00. The different options for flavors and varieties of meat and vegetables are endless.
Thailand also has a huge variety of inexpensive tropical fruit that you can pick up from markets or small stands. Fresh, sweet, and totally delicious, this makes for the perfect dessert. A single serving can be as little as $0.50.
You may plan on getting most of your food from markets, street-side vendors, or from your own kitchen. But there are times when you just want to go out with some friends for a nice sit-down dinner. Luckily, restaurants in Thailand are generally quite inexpensive.
A typical meal at an average sit-down restaurant costs around 50 to 100 baht, or around $1.00 to $3.00. For a nicer meal, including a number of Thai dishes, drinks, and dessert, you should expect to pay a little more.
Of course, you can find restaurants offering food for as much as you are willing to spend. Hotels often have western style buffets for $10-20 per person. Bangkok and other large cities have plenty of western-style restaurants, which tend to be pricier than local Thai-food establishments. A full English breakfast with coffee runs around $4-$5. A glamorous multi-course dinner with drinks at an up-scale, 4-star restaurant can be $50-$60 per person—far from cheap, but much less than you would spend in many western countries.
With the prevalence of local, fresh food markets, as well as more western-style supermarkets, you can easily get ingredients to cook your own food for fairly cheap. Once you are set up with a few basic cooking supplies, you can prepare a fresh curry or stir-fry for a fraction of what you would pay in a restaurant.
Western ingredients are available in most cities as well, although they tend to be fairly expensive. If you plan on cooking western-style meals often, then your cost for food will be considerably higher.
How Much Will You Spend on Food In Thailand?
Most people find that cooking simple meals for themselves, eating at the inexpensive but delicious street-side vendors, and occasionally going to a nicer restaurant as a treat allows them to have delicious meals for 100-200 baht, or about $3 to $8, a day. This might vary depending on whether you are living in downtown Bangkok or out in the countryside, and it also varies depending on your lifestyle and food preferences.