Cheap Trips: 10 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Trip to Thailand

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

After my EPIC Failure on the Thailand challenge, I wrote down everything I've learned from the experience so I can share it with you guys. Travel need not be expensive. In fact, it can be pretty affordable especially for tightwads like the Sole Sisters.

Here are a few things to get you started:

1 Learn to take public transportation especially in Bangkok. The BTS or Skytrain offers one day Smartpass that allows you unlimited rides for 120THB. We took advantage of this on our first day around the city. We probably used our Smartpasses for over 300 THB worth of rides! Buses always offer the cheaper (though less comfortable) option. If you're traveling on long trips, take the overnight bus/ sleeper train so you can save on hotel costs. I was torn between taking the 2nd class sleeper train to Surat Thani en route to Koh Samui (which meant a bunk bed in a semi private room) and just taking the overnight bus. After checking the prices on Khao San Road , they offered me the bus option for a killer price of 400 THB (more than 50% cheaper than the train option) which I couldn't refuse.

2 Bring dollars to exchange instead of making ATM transactions. Most ATMs charge 150THB per withdrawal on top of the percentage your bank charges for using your ATM access abroad. You can also scout around for better exchange rates in the local banks before making a decision. Airport money changers generally offer the lowest rate compared to other money changers and banks. So stick to the latter.

3 Steer clear of touristy areas. Most of these places charge more for food, shopping, internet, etc. We paid 85 THB for an hour of Internet use at a shop on Khao San Road only to find out later that they only charge 20 THB/hour at a cafe on the next block.

Khao San Road Thailand

4 Eat street food. It's usually cheap, clean, fresh and as authentic as it gets in Thailand. I learned this after having a pad thai at a posh resort on the beach for 260 THB. Then I had a pad thai at the wet market the next day for a measly 40THB. Guess which one tasted better? I'm posting more photos of street food later on so watch out for those gastronomic delights.

Bangkok Street Food 1

Bangkok Street Food 2

5 Don't be afraid to haggle. I learned to say: Tao rai? (How much?) and then: Peng mak mak! Lotnoy Lotnoy! (Which roughly translates to: Too expensive, lower the price!) This never fails to bring a smile to the vendor's face and eventually bring down the price with the added bonus of 'For you only, I give discount!'

6 Get a hotel as close to the city center or public transportation as possible. This saves you on cab fare and can be pretty convenient especially when you're going home in the wee hours of the morning after a few beers on Khao San Road or shows on Ping Pat Pong. This was the inconvenience of our hotel as we chose it specifically because they advertised that it was going to be a stone's throw away from the New Skytrain (Punnavithee Station) which would available in September 2010. After checking their website prior to the trip, the site now declared that the Punnavithee Station would open in October 2010, just a few weeks after we were to leave Thailand. Bummer.

7 Find cheap free accommodation. Thailand has the most variety in terms of places to stay. From a luxury hotel room that costs 7,000THB a night to a lowly bungalow on the beach for 350THB a night. Then of course, it's always nice to have friends in different countries. But if you don't, you can always crash on a nearby couch.

Rich Resort Koh Samui

Surfed Mr. G's couch on Lamai Beach in Koh Samui. (Doing a feature on him later) He was so generous. I got my own room and this relaxing view of the beach!

Rich Resort Koh Samui 2

8 Bring your water bottle wherever you go. Not only is it eco-friendly, it also saves you money on bottled water and juices. Don't forget to buy snacks for long trips. My favorite are those little buns filled with goodness like taro, read bean, chicken bits and pork floss that you can get in any 7-11. They also have sweet looking cakes that are pretty cheap for 10THB a pop!

Bangkok Boat Food

9 Having said that, easy on the fluids, as restrooms charge anywhere between 2-10THB. I am the unfortunate owner of a hyperactive bladder so I tend to spend a small fortune on hong nam use. I did realize after a few days, that some high end restos and hotels don't charge to use their restrooms. So sneak into those every chance you get! My line at the front desk always starts with: 'I'm waiting for my friend.' Which eventually leads to: 'Hong nam yoo tee nai?' (Where is your restroom?)

10 Be friendly to fellow travelers and locals. You never know when you can share cab fare or get tips on travel deals. If there's anything I learned about traveling, it's that you are at the mercy of (kind and occasionally generous) strangers.

Couch Surfing Bangkok

Wherever I am in the world, I try to meet up with fellow Couchsurfers. Had a serendipitous opportunity to hang out with the CS community in Bangkok. Wonderful people.

So next time you visit Thailand, you can spend less on traveling and more on shopping.

Are there any budget travel secrets you would like to share with the Sole Sisters?
Leave us a comment!

Next stop, Ayutthaya! I'll be sharing travel snapshots from our day trip to these temples in the old city of Ayutthaya.

Until the next trip,

Sole Sister Lois

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7 sole trails

  1. haven't been to thailand but will surely be here by 2011.

  2. I'm sure you'll like Thailand. We have yet to explore other countries in SE Asia...

  3. I've been to Thailand twice and I love the sleeper trains there. It saves so much time and money. I actually saved a huge amount on my plane ticket there the first time I went. SARS was in the news at the time. The number of travelers to Asia in general went down and I got a plane ticket at less than half the regular price.

  4. Wow, you've been lucky Steve! That's a really cheap ticket. Not to mention brave for traveling at the time.

  5. Wow, you've been lucky Steve! That's a really cheap ticket. Not to mention brave for traveling at the time.

  6.  Thank you for sharing this! =D

  7. Just came from a trip to Thailand! It's amazing! I'm definitely going back!


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