'How I travel to Thailand and only spend $30 a day.'

In November 2022, Rachel Davey and her partner, Martina 'Marty' Sebova, completed a long-standing dream: to travel to all 195 countries in the world.

Aside from being among the only 300 or so people who have done so, Rachel is the first Australian woman to take the title, and Marty is the first Slovakian woman.

The pair, who founded the blog Very Hungry Nomads to document their travels, met more than 16 years ago – fittingly, while on a 49-day overland tour of Europe. Marty was the tour guide and Rachel was the on-road chef.

Since then, they've scaled Mount Everest, trekked with mountain gorillas in Uganda, sat among the ancient ruined Pyramids of Sudan and learned a lot about themselves in the process.

Including which countries they'd go back to, time and time again.

For Rachel, there's only one answer: Thailand. 

Watch Marty and Rachel talk about their trek around the world on The Project. Post continues after video. 

Video via Channel 10.

"It was one of the first countries I ever went to when I was in my 20s because it is so easy to get to from Australia," Rachel tells Mamamia. 


"We've since gone back a dozen times, easily! But we're exploring different islands and regions now. It's my favourite place. I love the beach. I love the weather. I love the people, the food, the culture — everything." 

Out of all the cities in Thailand, her favourite is Chiang Mai — the largest in Thailand.

"Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand is probably my favourite place in the world," she says. "It feels like a second home to me. Whenever I see it, I love it. It brings a sense of Zen.

"Also helps that it's the best food in Thailand."

To get to Chiang Mai isn't too difficult – especially from Australia. 

"If you're coming from Australia, you're coming through Bangkok," Rachel notes. "We use Skyscanner to book everything. We put in our departure city or just put Thailand in the origin toolbox. You can also put Bangkok in there and you'd be good [to go]." 

From Bangkok (also a great city to travel to, says Rachel), you can grab a flight for $40 or get up there cheap via a 10-hour train ride if you're really on a budget.

"If you want to save money, it's good to be flexible when it comes to your departure and arrival dates. Go to 'month view' on Skyscanner and you'll be able to save quite a bit of money by doing so," Rachel explains. 

"Chiang Mai is cheaper than any other place in Thailand and definitely cheaper than all the islands. Especially Bangkok," she adds.

Clearly, Rachel knows a thing or two about travelling in Thailand, so we asked for her tips on getting the best out of a visit, whether you are a solo traveller wanting to explore, a couple hoping for a romantic getaway, or a mum looking for tranquillity on your family trip.


What does a budget in Chiang Mai, Thailand look like?

Super budget-friendly: $15-$20 a day.

Family-friendly budget: $40-$50 a day. 

Bougie traveller budget: $50-$60 a day.

There are actually a few ways to travel in Chiang Mai. You could go budget-friendly, and spend $15-20 per day (and still have a comfortable sleeping arrangement and a full belly, says Rachel), or you can live in luxury – a cost she estimates to be about $40-50 per day.

Being in her 40s, Rachel's hostel days are long behind her. Instead of paying for a decent sleep in a dorm bed with several other solo travellers for about $10 a night, she and Marty prefer more luxury accommodation, which is where the budget takes a bit more of a dent.

"For a nice place to stay [in Chiang Mai], it's about $30-40 a night," she explains.

Where to stay in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Rachel's top recs by budget:

Budget-friendly hotels: $10-15 per night.

Mid-range hotels: $20-45 per night.

Luxury hotels: $45-$70 per night.

Where to eat in Thailand.

Rachel doesn't have one favourite restaurant in Thailand.

Instead, she recommends hitting the night markets and trying out street food for meals, adding that she lives, eats and travels like a local wherever she goes.

You can get a hearty meal for about $2-3 a plate in Chiang Mai, she says.

"I know street food anywhere scares people," Rachel tells us. "But in Thailand, the locals are beautiful, caring people who care about their food and they care about representation." 


If you're a little wary of eating food from a street vendor, Rachel's tip is to check out the kitchen. After all, these are usually very open spaces.

Rachel recommends Thailand's street food. Image: Instagram @veryhungrynomads.

"We're eating on the streets," she says. "You can see the kitchen is open. You can see how clean it is. So it's up to you to decide, but it's the best food. Food that will blow your mind."


And if you want to see everything there is to see in the Thai city you're staying in, Rachel suggests using ride-sharing apps like Grab as your mode on transport.

It's a lot like Uber, but... in Thailand!

"You're spending maybe $10 a day to get around, whether you're walking or getting a car," she says. "That's an important thing – figuring out how you're going to get around, because there's so much you want to do in Thailand.

"You can walk," she adds. "We walk everywhere, but we also use ride-sharing apps."

Where to go in Thailand, outside of Chiang Mai.

Koh Lanta, a perfect spot for families.

"It's quite a large island, has long beaches and isn't overly touristy," Rachel says. 

It's famous for its coral-filled sand, wetlands, rainforests and natural limestone formations. Unlike the hustle and bustle of Bangkok or Phuket where nightlife is popular, Koh Lanta is known for being a reprieve.

"Koh Lanta isn't a hassle. It's more chilled. A place you can really relax," Rachel says.

Kata Beach, Patong Beach's quieter friend.

"I loved Patong Beach, but I'm not in my younger days anymore," laughs Rachel. "Instead, I would go half an hour down the road to Kata Beach. It is one of my favourites in Phuket."

Karon Beach is perfect for families. 

"Also on the island of Phuket is Karon Beach. I would totally recommend that for families or couples in their 30s or 40s," she advises. "It's a bit more chilled, with nice food."

Rachel says there is so much to do and see in Thailand. Image: Instagram @veryhungrynomads.


What to do in Thailand.

Chiang Mai is a mountainous region and is popular with tourists who really want to experience the culture of Thailand. 

You can do a day trip to Doi Suthep and Hmong Hill Tribe Village, go on a tour of famous temples and even trek a mountain for a day, per Rachel and Marty's blog.

Here are some of Rachel's recommendations. 

A food tour. 

Go on a food tour and try out new flavours, tastes and cuisines you've never had an opportunity to try before. Thai cuisine is much more complex than many realise. So why not let a local lead the way? 


A Chef's Tour: Northern Flavours: $118 per person for a four-hour-long tour where tourists try out 16 tasting menus.

Try the street food.

As Rachel mentioned, Thailand is all about great food. The people are passionate about cooking, eating and sharing it with those they love. Rachel loves street food and some of the best meals she's ever eaten have been made by local vendors.

Explore the temples. 

There are elaborate temples all over Thailand – from Chiang Mai, where ancient Buddhist ruins are still standing today, to Ayutthaya, where there are more than a dozen large sites filled with temples. In a city like Ayutthaya, there are so many temples, it will take you a whole day to explore.

Day Trip to Doi Suthep and Hmong Hill Tribe Village: $138 for a four-hour-long private tour through the temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on Doi Suthep mountain (plus more!).

High Mountain Day Trek: $90 per person for an eight-hour-long hike where travellers get to walk through the rainforests of Chiang Mai on a full-day mountain hike.

You can follow Rachel Davey's travel adventures with her partner Martina Sebova at @veryhungrynomads, or read about it on their blog here.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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