Visiting Thailand on a budget? As expats in Bangkok, we share the best ways to save money in Thailand and plan a budget Thailand trip!
Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for young people and budget travellers. It may not be as notoriously cheap as it use to be but there are still many ways you can save money and bag a bargain when travelling Thailand. As expats living in the country, we share the best ways to save money in Thailand.
Thailand on a budget
1) Travel during Low Season – When possible, travel to Thailand between April and September to save money on air fares, accommodation, motorbike/car rentals and even food. Prices rocket up during the high season from October through to March. However, this is the rainy season so visit in September and October to avoid the heavy rain and the heat of April.
If you are paying for hotels and hostels on arrival, it is easier to haggle prices during the low season as many rooms will be empty around this time of the year. To plan your trip, read these tips before you travel to Thailand.
2) Avoid Tourist Traps – The islands of the South of Thailand are still cheap compared to the rest of the world but they are expensive for Thailand. Enjoy the beautiful Thailand destinations like Koh Chang or Ko Lanta rather than the tourist spots of Phuket and Ko Samui to save money on practically everything.
Additionally, there are touristy areas in the city that are worth staying in but staying just outside of these areas will get you better value hostels and hotels.
3) Leave the Taxi – During rush hours and in certain areas of Bangkok, Taxis are known to quote high pricers for a journey. Even in Bangkok traffic, it is still cheaper to use the taxi meter, which all taxis should be doing anyway. Some taxi drivers even like to take you via a friends tailor shop which is just a hassle!
If a taxi driver refuses to use the meter then just get out and find another taxi, chances are there will be one driving past within a few minutes. Make sure you can see the meter clearly and once in your destination, if the driver starts adding ‘extra service fees’ then just pay the meter price and leave.
Our best tip for taxi travel is to stick to using Grab. This app is very similar to Uber, is cheap and easy to use so make sure to download it before your trip and use it to get around.
4) Travel on overnight buses but get second class tickets – Overnight buses and trains can be much cheaper than day journeys whilst also saving you money of a hotel or hostel for the night.
Buses around Asia are now pretty comfortable (for a bus) and come with air conditioning. The bus will still stop at convenience stores on the way so you can buy hot food, drinks and snacks. There are also plenty of options to choose from and trip rarely sell out.
Second class buses aren’t too different to first class buses, with the main difference being a little more room on first-class buses as well a reclining seat and footrest. First class or VIP buses can be faster as they often have an on-bus toilet, meaning they don’t stop as much.
5) Visit Northern Thailand – Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are considerably cheaper cities than Bangkok and its nearby cities. A night bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai costs around 900 Baht with apartments costing as little as 200 baht per month (£40 or $60!). In general, visiting the lesser-known, off-the-beaten-track destinations in Thailand will always be cheaper than the more popular destinations.
7) Haggle – No matter where you are in Thailand, you will notice that items are one price for locals and another price for foreigners. Make sure you haggle the price down to what you are happy to pay (even if it is more than a local) and if the vendor doesn’t budge on price then walk away – they will often call out a decent price if they think they are loosing a customer.
8) Signed stalls – When visiting food stalls and markets around Thailand, try to buy items from the stalls that clearly signpost the prices of items. In Chatuchak Market, we once saw a crepe stall selling crepes for 40 baht then went to buy one a little further up and he tried to charge us 300 baht. Needless to say, we just carried on walking until we saw another place with the price displayed.
9) Negotiate with Tuk Tuk drivers – Tuk Tuk drivers can be found in the popular cities of Thailand, particularly in Bangkok. If you are taking a Tuk Tuk, make sure you negotiate a decent price with them, finalise the price before you get in AND make sure they take you exactly where you want to go.
10) Buy a local sim card – Like most places, if you are staying in Thailand for some time then pick up a local sim card and make sure your phone is unlocked so you can use the sim card. True Move is a popular choice but all package deals and pay as you go deals are pretty decent.
11) Hunt around for accommodation – Use Agoda, booking.com and hostelworld to search for the best deals before you start your travels. Booking accommodation in advance is usually much cheaper and not all hostels are cheaper than hotels. In Bangkok and Northern Thailand, you will often find cheap private bedrooms in small B’n’Bs, which work out cheaper than a dorm bed if you are travelling as a couple.
12. Rent a motorbike – If you are in the small towns and cities of Thailand, rent a motorbike. These are much more fun than taking taxis and can save you a small fortune.
13. Free attractions – No matter where you are in Thailand, there are always temples/monasteries/buddhas/farms/beaches/waterfalls/forests and so on, that are completely free. Do your research and spend time visiting these.
14. Take the local bus – Whilst in Bangkok, it can be so much cheaper if you use the local bus system to get around the city. Half an hour trips cost from 20 baht.
15. Jump on the BTS/MRT – For fast, easy and cheap transport around Bangkok, jump on the BTS or MRT to your chosen destination. If you are far from a stop or your destination is far from a stop, it may be worth getting a taxi or river boat to the nearest station to avoid the traffic.
16. Hand out Flyers – In the south of Thailand, some bars are known to give you free drinks if you spend a few hours handing out their venue flyers during the afternoon. Speak to those at the bars, this is more likely to happen with bars run by expats.
17. Couchsurfing – This is a website that gives you an opportunity to find free accommodation with people living in Thailand. This works particularly well in places like Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya and Chiang Rai where there are large amounts of expats with spare rooms!
18. Avoid Western food – We all like a pizza or a McDonalds from time to time but if you are trying to save money in Thailand then don’t start hitting up western chain restaurants. Head to a local restaurant or market and eat like a king for very little.
19. Don’t leave tips – It is not the norm to leave tips in Thailand so don’t worry about leaving tips in restaurants, bars or cafes. However, we found the locals to be very grateful when we did.
20. 7/11 Stock up – The first thing we learnt about Thailand when we arrived in Bangkok, was how cheap the beer in 7/11 is! A big bottle of beer costs around 55 baht (£1.10) whilst whiskey and wine bottles are as cheap as 250 baht (£5!). There are also these stores EVERYWHERE; ideal for stocking on water etc for your hotel room.
21. Tesco Water – If you are staying in an area for a while, buy a big bottle of water and fill it up from the water machines outside Tesco, costing 1 baht per litre. This will save you quite a bit on water bottles that normally cost 30+ baht in store.
22. Visit the side streets – head down side streets and alleys to find the cheapest street food and often the tastiest. This is often where locals can be seen picking up food and you should follow their lead!
23. Drink the local beer – Singha, Tiger and Leo are all considerably cheaper than imported brands so stick to them when drinking out in bars and restaurants.
24. Travel by train – trains are the cheapest way to travel long distances across Thailand but take some time and offer less comfort than the buses.
25. Skip the Guidebooks – I love a good guidebook and will always find the extra cash to buy at least one and read it from front to back and back to front before a trip. When visiting Asia, the best information I found about travelling Thailand was online at various different travel blogs and youtube videos. Skip the guidebook for Thailand because everything you need to know can be found online.
Plus, one of my favourite things to do in Thailand is just to wander. Around every corner there will be something unique and interesting.
26. Fly AirAsia – We aren’t big fans of the overnight buses and long train journeys and if you’re not either then check out the flights on AirAsia.com. We managed to get Bangkok to Phuket flights for just 1000 baht (£20). Don’t miss out on the beautiful islands of Thailand beaches of Krabi and Koh Lanta.
27. Shopping Mall food courts – You can find shopping malls all over Thailand with so many scattered around the Sukhumvit area in Bangkok. These malls often included food courts that serve some delicious meals usually including a drink for under 100 baht (£2).
28. Work – working in Thailand without the correct Visa is illegal but if you want to stay in Thailand for an extended period of time then you can take an online TEFL course and bag yourself a job over there. If you speak English well and are from an English Speaking country, you could earn upwards of 2500 baht a month.
29. Avoid Khao San Road – Unfortunately, this infamous road is no longer the cheap hub of Bangkok so avoid staying in this area or drinking in this area. Some of the pubs in this area are great for happy hours but you’ll find cheaper and better drinks in the Sukhumvit area.
30. Take advantage of the happy hours – Most bars and restaurant in Thailand offer some type of happy hour for you to take advantage of. Wander from one bar to the next during their happy hour times and enjoy!
Things to know before you go to Bangkok
Planning a trip to Thailand
What to pack for Thailand
Budget Thailand FAQ
If you are staying in hostels, eating local food and sticking to free attractions in Bangkok and Thailand, you can plan to spend ฿2000 a day; $64 or £45.
Thailand is a much cheaper destination than places in Europe and North America but visiting in the high season ca expensive (compared to other Asia destinations) when visiting the islands.
When sticking to these budget Thailand trips, you can expect to spend around ฿28,000 for 10 days in Thailand (or $900). It is possible to spend as little as $600 if you are staying in hostels in Northern Thailand or the less touristy beaches.
September, October and April are cheaper months to fly to Thailand with January, November and December being the most expensive time to fly to Thailand.
Depending where you are flying from, there are lots of different airlines to choose from when flying to Thailand. Via the UK, you can use British Airways whilst Eva Air have affordable rates throughout the year.