The answer: Yes… and no.
Ok, the real answer is sort of.
We did travel for 2 months in Thailand on US$65/ day and I will tell you how we did it, but first a short rant.
Before leaving for our travels, I read many travel blogs. Many of them would post about their budget in different countries. I was always curious to know how much money a family of 5 would need in the places we would be traveling.
It was frustrating because many families would quote $50/day in southeast Asia or $100/day in Europe. Those figures seemed low to me. Sometimes it would be that they had a smaller family than ours with younger children. A family of 4 with little kids can fit in a triple room, where as we need at least 2 double beds, so we often have to book two rooms.
But some families were sneakier. Yes, their budget for food and lodging was $50/day in southeast Asia, but they also had an “activities fund” and a “transportation fund.” It felt a bit deceptive.
So I am going to try and be honest here.
Yes, we did live in Thailand for 3 months on $65/day as a family of five. The only expense not included in this figure is overnight train travel to and from Chiang Mai and Bangkok. One leg we purchased before we left and the other I purchase erased with our Capital One Rewards credid card.
So a family of 5 can travel in Thailand on $65/day, but it is not always fun. We called this budget “austerity mode”. We forced this budget on ourselves because we had overspent before we left and in Borneo just before we arrived in Thailand and because we needed to save money for our flight home.
Here is the deal: $65/day is enough for food and lodging and not much else.
It worked for us because we knew we would be traveling in Asia for 9 more months on a reasonable budget ($100/day) after this 3 months of austerity mode. And because we had already traveled in Bangkok and Chiang Mai three years ago and had done most of the touristy stuff then.
But it was still hard to watch the students we were traveling with at the time go ride elephants and buy souvenirs and get massages and be able to afford a whole tray of soup dumplings for themselves, when we could not.
We did manage to include some activities in this small budget and here’s how:
Eating mostly street food
We often ate Pah Tong Koh (a kind of doughnut) for breakfast, which cost less than a dollar for a dozen. For lunch and dinner we got plates of street food that cost about $1 each. Three dishes was often enough for 5 of us.
Staying in long term lodging
We stayed in Bangkok for 6 weeks in an apartment on a short-term lease and only paid 600 baht/night (about 20 USD) instead of our normal 1000 – 1200 baht (about 30 USD)
Saving up during the week for activities on the weekend
We would live cheaply during the week and then go places on the weekend like Ayutthaya, Amphawa, and Kanchanburi. This wouldn’t work for short term travel, but it worked out OK since we are traveling long term.
Using public transportation to get to destinations outside of Bangkok
We took the local train to Ayutthaya and Kanchanburi and the local minibus to Amphawa instead of booking with more expensive tour agencies.
So, yes, while it is not easy or ideal, it is possible for a family of 5 to travel in Thailand on $65/day.