Hawaii vs. Thailand as a Vacation Destination – Who Wins the Battle of Costs?


Video: A breakdown of what a vacation in Thailand costs when compared to Hawaii

The Cost Difference between Hawaii and Thailand

Most Americans see Thailand as an exotic location that is totally out of their budget. The sheer distance from the US and the rising costs of air travel have wrongly made Thailand out to be seen as a once-in-a-lifetime, expensive vacation to undertake.

The fact is that Thailand can be much more affordable than a tropical vacation taken to one of the most popular destinations in the US – the Hawaiian Islands.

We’re going to give you a breakdown of what a couple staying in 3-star accommodations and traveling via economy flights can expect to spend on a 14-day trip to Hawaii. Then, we’ll compare it to what they would spend during those same 14-days in Thailand.

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Getting to Both Places

We’re going to use the example of a couple of vacationers from Los Angeles as a point of comparison. Both trips will fly in and out of Los Angeles’s (LAX) airport.

The one big elephant in the room, which there isn’t any getting around, is the travel distance from California to Thailand. It’s a long flight. It will take you an average of about 19 hours to reach Bangkok from LAX with one stop along the way.

The flight time from LAX to the Honolulu airport is just over 5 hours. So, if you simply hate flying, read no further. However, if the thought of saving up to $4,500 over your 14-day vacation makes you hate flying a little less, please read on.

The round-trip flight costs to Thailand on several Asian airlines can be as little as around $1,000 per person from LAX. United and Delta, the two main carriers to Hawaii from the continental US, offer flights from LAX starting at around $600. So, the scoring starts at 1-0 in favor of Hawaii.

Getting Around Once You’re There

To keep the playing field as fair as possible, let’s assume that you’ll be renting a car for the entire 14 days in both locations. The cost of a rental car in the Hawaiian Islands is around $450, for a two-week period.

The cost of a rental car in Thailand is around $300. You’ll also need to visit your local AAA branch in the US before you leave and pay $20 for an International Driving Permit. So, Thailand levels the score at 1-1.

Although, we have to point out that renting a car in Thailand is not so much a necessity and more of a luxury. Inexpensive buses, taxis and even flights between cities in Thailand make getting around less expensive than in Hawaii.

Accommodations and Food – and We Have a Winner

The area where Thailand comes out as a slam-dunk winner is in the costs of accommodations and food. We researched the top 3-star hotels in both Hawaii and Thailand. They don’t even compare.

The average price in Hawaii of a 3-star hotel room is around $300 per night, depending on which hotel and which island you choose of course. This means you would spend $4,200 over your 2-week vacation.

In Thailand, we took the average prices of a 3-star hotel room on the island of Phuket and the city of Bangkok. Since we’re feeling a little bad about how much of a no-contest this is becoming, we’ll just use the room prices in Phuket, which are 40% higher than in Bangkok.

The average prices of a 3-star hotel room in Phuket are $100 a night. $100 per night works out to $1,400 over 2-weeks.

Adding Insult to Injury – It’s a Rout

Not to rub it in, but let’s take a look at the food and beverage prices. Food is one of the things that you pay dearly for in Hawaii because of its remote location and limited agricultural land. We’ve read that you should be prepared to spend anywhere from $100-150 per day for food and drinks at your hotel and outside restaurants.

While we’re sure that you could feed yourself for much cheaper in Hawaii by just seeking out the more local restaurants and avoiding the tourist areas, we’re still going to use the lower figure of $100 per person. This works out to $2,800 total for the length of your vacation.

In contrast, Thailand is an agricultural country and has some ridiculously low food prices when compared to Hawaii (as well as the US in general).
A lot of 3-star accommodations in both countries also offer a breakfast included with the price of a room. But, let’s say that you wanted to eat breakfast outside of the hotel. You’d still find that a huge western breakfast in Thailand would set you back less than $10.

The average cost of a Thai food lunch in a local restaurant in a tourist area is less than $3 and that’s including a soft drink. If you ventured into a non-tourist area you’d spend slightly less than $2.

So, let’s say that you’ve saved so much money during breakfast and lunch that you wanted to splurge on dinner. You could eat seafood and steak and still not have to spend more than $30 for a meal in Thailand. The total cost of a couple’s meals in Thailand would come to $1,162. Let’s round that up to $1,200.

Of course, there are many ways to work around these prices and we’re just using easily available pricing from the internet as comparisons. But, all in all, including the cost of a rental car, accommodations and food, the difference in prices favors Thailand by $4,530. It’s certainly something to think about the next time you’re planning a vacation.

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