Thailand is a nation in Southeast Asia, while Taiwan is part of East Asia. Based on this difference alone, it's possible to guess which country is cheaper. However, there is some nuance, and a lot of it has to do with trade policy, population size, and fertility rates. To assess which country is cheaper, this article will look at the most relevant categories, including food, cost of living, and cost of activities.
Cost of living is the most important factor in determining whether a country is budget-friendly or not. For decades, budget travelers, globe trotters, and backpackers have regarded Thailand as one of the best destinations to visit without breaking the bank. A big reason why Thailand has this reputation is the relatively low cost of living. With the same budget, a tourist can comfortably stay in Thailand for months longer than they would be able to in Taiwan.
This is not limited to property prices, rents, or leases, as hotels are also cheaper. For the same amount of space, luxury, and proximity to commerce, a visitor can stay in a hotel room in Thailand for a lot longer and cheaper. It's also not just local hotels that are cheaper, as chain hotels, that offer a globally standardized experience, offer materially different prices in Taipei and Bangkok. A good example to illustrate this point is by comparing the DoubleTree Hilton hotels in the respective capital cities of Thailand and Taiwan. Looking at the exact same dates of booking for the King Double Room, it becomes very clear how much cheaper Thailand is.
• Price Per Night: $225
• Price Per Night: $92
This is an indicative example of the price disparity between Thailand and Taiwan. For the same hotel chain, type of room, dates, and capital city location, Thailand is $133 cheaper, or 60% less expensive per night.
Taiwan and Thailand are both island nations that offer similar activities. Scuba diving is one of the most popular activities to draw visitors from all over the world. However, instead of Taiwan, most prospective divers come to Thailand in order to get certified so they can become coaches or even discover hidden treasures on the seafloor. It's rare to hear of someone going to Taiwan to do this, even though there are plenty of opportunities to do so. The main difference is price.
To ascertain the price difference, visitors can compare three-day scuba diving certification courses that are offered in both countries.
In Phuket, Thailand, the SSI Open Water Diver Course includes a theory test, diving equipment, pool practice, boat trips, insurance, and lunches. The course lasts for three days and involves personalized attention and professional instructors. The SSI Certificate is valid all over the world.
• Cost: $400 - $450
The Open Water Diver course at Taiwan Dive Center is very similar to the course in Thailand in terms of certification, time, and features included. However, it costs more.
• Cost: $540+
This clearly demonstrates that in Thailand, activities tend to be cheaper. In this case, a diving certification course in Thailand costs $140, or 26%, less than in Taiwan. This isn't necessarily too much of a disparity, but for a budget traveler, it could make a world of difference, especially when compounded with living costs.
Interestingly, on the Big Mac Index, Thailand is higher up on the list than Taiwan, meaning that it costs more to buy a Big Mac in Thailand than it does in Taiwan.
Big Mac in Taiwan
• Cost: $2.57
Big Mac in Thailand
• Cost: $3.90
This incorrectly implies that the same amount of money carries more purchasing power in Taiwan than it does in Thailand. While it is true that international fast-food chains are more expensive in Thailand, almost all other food is cheaper. Thailand has a protectionist economy, which naturally leads to higher costs for international companies and higher prices for imported goods.
Local food in Thailand, compared to local food in Taiwan, is significantly cheaper. There are simply more people in Thailand, so by sheer numbers, there are more people who work in the agricultural sector. A vast portion of the economy caters to millions of Thai people who, on average, earn significantly less than anyone in Taiwan. For open-minded and adventurous tourists, this part of the Thai economy is where everything will be relatively inexpensive. For example, food on Khao San Road in Bangkok is significantly cheaper than anywhere in Taiwan.
To answer the main question, it's safe to say that Thailand is more affordable to travelers. This doesn't mean that Taiwan is necessarily unaffordable or unworthy of visiting, but rather that the same amount of money will take tourists a lot further in Thailand.