What $500 Gets You in 10 Vacation Destinations Around the World

In Chiang Mai, Thailand, $500 could pay for a sustainable hotel, tie-dye workshop, and a

In Chiang Mai, Thailand, $500 could pay for a sustainable hotel, tie-dye workshop, and a visit to an elephant sanctuary.

A Thai elephant walks in the jungle

An elephant pictured in a jungle in Thailand.

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

With some planning, you can stretch your budget far in Chiang Mai, nothern Thailand’s mountainous city with lush greenery and ancient temples. 

For about $200, you can spend two nights at the Veranda Resort, a boutique hotel near local villages and scenic rice terraces.

The hotel follows sustainable practices like using energy-efficient lighting and water-saving appliances, according to Booking.com, and has a rooftop infinity pool with scenic views.

For a Thai full-body massage or a facial, head to Lila Thai Massage. According to its website, the business employs former inmates to give them a new start, and treatments range from about $10 to $40, depending on the length and type of massage.

And if you want to have an elephant encounter in Thailand, it’s important to do so responsibly and ethically. Tourism-driven practices like riding the animals is considered a form of animal cruelty that can lead to physical disfigurement, according to CNN. Bathing the elephants is also unethical, according to the Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve, as the close interaction can cause the animals stress, and it’s also unnecessary, since elephants naturally bathe themselves.

Avoid businesses that offer riding or bathing elephants, and instead visit an elephant rescue sanctuary like Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary, which is a few hours’ drive from the city of Chiang Mai. As of May 2023, the property is home to six elephants, and the animals are free to roam 4,000 acres of community land, according to the sanctuary.

For about $300, you can book a two-day, one-night stay at the sanctuary, which includes accommodations, food, and transportation to and from Chiang Mai. During the visit, you’ll take guided hikes through the forest to find and observe the elephants in their natural habitat.