A budget travel guide to save money in Thailand.Â
When I started my first job I had only one thing I wished to do. No, I did not want to be employee of the year. I wanted to gather money and go travel. After getting paid for the first month, I booked a flight for 6 months later to the sin city of asia, THAILAND! I thought that 6 months was enough time to save for a short vacation. For context, I’m Indian, and a this point, I had freshly graduated. We have atrociously low wages for fresh graduates. I couldn’t save the amount I planned to save but I was determined to go anyway and budget travel. With less than $1200 in hand, I left for thailand. What started out as a plan for 15 days, ended up being a 2 month long adventure. This when my notion of budget travel changed.
Here are a few tips to help you budget travel in Thailand.
1. Book flights in advance.
The main reason why I booked flights 6 months in advance was because they were dirt cheap. Always book your flights at least 3-4 months in advance. Also keep an eye for flight offers and sales. It is also advisable to check the flight rates from nearby airports. Sometimes it is cheaper to take a connecting flight from another airport than the one nearest to you. You can also try to book hopping flights as they cost substantially lesser than direct ones but, end up gnawing into precious travel time. This step is very necessary to make budget travel possible
2. Stay at hostelsÂ
The best way to save money and yet have a comfortable stay is by staying in hostels. Hostels are the melting pot of culture and the best way to get in touch with fellow travelers . You end up making friends from across the globe and understanding different cultures, who are also exploring budget travel. Most hostels in Thailand have air conditioners to beat the sultry heat. Additionally, they provide free breakfast almost everywhere. Having a heavy breakfast helps you save tons of money on food. Many hostels also let you use their kitchen for preparing meals. I personally preferred cooking my own food (it has nothing to do with superiority of Indian cuisine).
3. Mingle with other travelers
While traveling, always interact with fellow travelers. Most of them are budget traveling too. They are not hard to spot in Thailand and usually the traveler community is very helping and friendly. From providing information on places to eat, stay and drink to sharing cab rides and tuk tuks, they are always a good bunch to be around. They often have the best suggestions on places you should visit and places you should avoid.
4. Use public transport
Although a little hard to understand, but traveling on public transport is the best way to get around Thailand. Their capital city of bangkok has a train network, a bus network and also a series of canals. Other than saving you money, I would highly recommend using public transport to experience how an average Thai national commutes. The canal boats were my personal favourite with the occasional monitor lizard to spook you out. Yes, you read that right. Perks of budget travel, I suppose.
There is no better way to discover a place than by walking around it’s streets. Thailand has a lot to offer and discover when travelled on foot.Â The world renowned thai street food and the endless lines of massage parlours and bars are strung across the streets of Thailand and are a delight for budget travel. The roads are also littered with shops selling a range of products like quirky t shirts, watches, fidget spinners, beauty products and even scorpions on a stick. Every corner has something that leave you in awe or utter disgust. Need I mention the health benefits of walking?
6. Strategize dining out
Dining out tends to burn a hole in your pocket. But there are a variety of restaurants suitable for every budget and palate. Choose local restaurants over chains like Mcdonalds and Starbucks. The local thai cuisine is absolutely delicious and is very cheaply available.
Also, try finding deals when you dine out. Many restaurants offer combo deals for lunch and few offer free drinks with food and vice versa. Planning out your meals can help you save more money than one imagines when budget travel is the goal .
7. Allocate a daily budget and stick to it
Allocating daily budgets helped me manage my finances for the entirety of two months. Usually I would end up spending less than my budget and it would roll over to the next day (which means an extra beer for the next day!!). Note down the expenses on your phone to keep a track of your money. I divided my expenses into food, commute, stay and activities/beer. You can also go for weekly budgets. budget travel teaches you how to be responsible with money.
8. Shop at local markets
The local markets of thailand are a sight to admire. It is a capitalistic paradise and a shopper’s dream. A wide range of products can be found in local markets. These markets also have small meat, vegetable and fruit vendors. You can buy food supplies and cook your own meal. The supplies are fresh and provide you with essential nutrients to keep up with your daily activities and avoid falling sick. As a vegetarian, thailand can be merciless and these little shops proved to be saviours of my budget travel plan.
9. 7 eleven is budget traveler’s heaven
You can find everything you need in a 7 eleven stores. they are departmental stores and can be found on every single major street in Thailand. And that is not even an exaggeration. Thailand has over 10,000 of these stores. You can find everything here. It is a saviour for travelers who do not have a grasp of the local markets and need something urgently.
10. Discover local cuisine
Thai cuisine is loved all over the world. The streets are bumbling with vendors selling an assortment of sea food and the occasional creepy crawler like scorpions or centipedes. The pad thai was my favourite thai cuisine. Closely followed by papaya salad. The thai curry served with rice were to die for. The flavour and texture of thai cuisine is unique and is one of the highlights of my thai experience. Also go for local alcohol over global brands. Thailand has many local beers like chang, singha, leo. They all taste amazing and as the ancient thai saying goes ” a cold chang a day would definitely keep travelling blues away!”
11. Plan around the off season
I personally prefer going places during off season. Thailand sees the highest inflow of tourists from november to february. During this high season, prices are sky high. Even hostels charge 2 to 3 times more than usual. During the off season, there are fewer tourist crowding popular spots. This makes discovering these places more intricately. It is also cheaper to get food, accommodation and travel during these times.
12. Avoid spending on sim cards
This is not a must do. But disconnecting from an evermore interconnected world for a while was a treat. There is wifi available in most parts of the country to stay in touch with loved one sat home. But letting go of the urge to check or update facebook or instagram and just absorb the emerald blue waters of Koh Tao while sipping on chang beer is the image that comes to mind when I look back at my trip to Thailand.
13. Learn to haggle
It is very common to bargain for things in Thailand. Whether you’re booking a hostel or buying a t shirt on the streets, on needs to bargain as the locals tend to overcharge tourists. Being indian, it comes to me naturally but a lot of my european friends found it particularly intimidating. I suggest you let go of the inhibitions and fight for your right to get a cheaper deal. Or just make an indian friend, whichever is more convenient. Although the latter is a rarity
Hope this list helps you in taking the leap of faith to travel to this beautiful country.