The beginning of most travelers S.E. Asia trips begins with Thailand. The land of a thousand smiles is like a siren call for travelers. An unavoidable stop on the backpacker trail. With it’s extremely convenient Suvunarbhumi Airport and cheap flights, Thailand is the travelers gateway drug. A first taste of some of the worlds most beautiful islands, with a reliable and affordable bus and train system it just a hop skip and jump away from many other beautiful countries.
Backpackers and travelers alike have been flocking to Thailand to explore since the late 60’s early 70’s, to find a type of freedom and beauty they couldn’t afford back at home. Blazing a trail for others to follow and travel in their footsteps. Nowadays, many still dream of flying to Thailand to start their own epic adventure for months on end and when they return (if they ever do) they will forever be changed in some way.
Together, Megan and I got to do just that. In seven weeks, we knocked five Thailand islands off our bucket list, traveled to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pai. The total price tag might just surprise you.
A couple things hurt our budget and kept us from being under our goal of $55 a day. The major one being all the boats getting to and from Islands. Travel by boat definitely isn’t cheap. My birthday was that month so that gets added in there. A failed hard-drive set us back another $150 and a couple times we splurged on flights where the difference was only $20 but saved you a day. Lastly three months worth of birth control and contact lenses added another $48. Totaling over $500, and if you subtract that from our expenses we would have came in at $54 a day. Overall while we definitely could have been a bit more diligent and done better. We are happy with the amount we spent. There is definitely room for improvement but this only goes to show you, you don’t have to be rich to travel to your dream destinations. It just costs about $30 a day, per person.
How You Can Save Money in Thailand
Where you stay is always one of the biggest expenses when you are traveling, but in Thailand there is a lot of competition and competition is good for helping you get better prices. Here are tips we use to get our prices down.
STAY LONGER – It’s common to negotiate for room prices by staying longer. By staying in one spot a 3 days ore more, 9 times out of 10 we get an extra night for free. Sometimes r a room at half the asking price. If they serve breakfast, you can tell them you will eat breakfast there every morning as an incentive. Just make sure they have reasonable prices otherwise it might be more expensive.
AGODA.COM – Agoda is awesome. We use it whenever we are about to go to a new city and save 2 or 3 places that we want to stay at for a price that we are cool paying. But when we go to the hotel, we offer to pay cash, stay longer, and they will often drop their rate so they don’t have to pay fees to agoda. Saves you time, guessing, and money.
PARTNER UP – You can partner up multiple different ways. Almost all travelers are looking for two things, companionship, and good deals. You often get off the bus at the same time, same place and then go to the same hotels trying to find rooms for yourselves. Why not use the other traveler to your advantage. If a place is selling a room for $10 a night, tell them you need two rooms for $8 a night and you’ll stay for 3 nights. All the sudden instead of losing $10 for a night they will for sure lose $48 if they don’t accept and will often be willing to negotiate. We’ve done this with other couples we’ve met and gotten rooms down to $4.
Under Construction – Places under construction may not have any guests in them at all. Or the noise and construction may make them lower their prices dramatically. When we were in Pai we found an amazing boutique guesthouse that went for $25 a night that we got down to $12. We felt like kings and queens in that room for 4 nights. There are cheaper options in Pai, but we were there when everyday it was in the 100’s and needed more than a fan, plus we got a room we would otherwise never be able to afford that made our trip more memorable.
Visit less places – I know it is tempting to want to see and do every freaking thing you see and hear. But honestly, in just 30 days, you can’t. Unless you have unlimited amounts of money (which then I must ask why are you reading a post about saving money in Thailand?) it’s just not possible. The countries are big, places are far apart and you will just be exhausted forcing yourself to see things and going way over your budget. Do some research and find a few places that you really want to see more than the others. Do those first. You’ll spend less money and be able to see more.
Buy a motorbike – If you have a motorcycle license and know how to drive manual, buying a motorbike should be able to make your trip a dream come true. Gas prices are cheap and you plan your own route with the flexibility to stop when and wherever you want. At the end of the trip you can sell your motorbike for almost the exact same cost!
Sleeper Busses – Take advantage of the sleeper bus. In Thailand almost all of the buses are single cell so you will have your own little recliner chair to sit in without worrying about having a neighbor to share your bed (sorry Nick.) You can save money on room and get there while you sleep.
Hitch Hike – While we have never done this we’ve read about it here on Hitchwiki. Could save you a ton if that is your thing. Just be careful.
Food ended up being our biggest expense weighing in at $1131 for seven weeks. That’s a lot, but not if you consider your monthly groceries. Plus we are also eating out for every single meal. I am even afraid to think of what it would cost to eat out everyday for seven weeks in the states in touristy areas. The biggest culprits we discovered are breakfast and beer!
Make your own meals – Budget hostels and backpacking hangouts in Thailand tend to have common areas where you can make food. They won’t have much, maybe a shared burner, microwave or just hot water. But you may be able to whip up something for yourself, whether it’s ramen, some sort of microwavable meal, or something you know how to whip up from scratch real easy.
Start Your Day the 7/11 way – Breakfast is unfortunately expensive in Thailand. Luckily you can go to 7/11 and build your own breakfast. Two yoghurts, cornflakes and a coffee will set you back $1.50. You can eat all meals there if you are really tight on your budget. We’ve done it a few times!
Breakfast Included – You see hostels/guesthouses alike offer free breakfast if you stay. These are almost always worth at least checking out if you pass one. If breakfast is costing you $4 a day a person and the room is only $10 and you both get free breakfasts! That my friend is a win!
A trip to Thailand is a fun way to experience a new culture and knock out quite a few items off your bucket list. Thailand isn’t a very expensive country to travel and it’s food and sites will leave you speechless.
Can you imagine living/traveling the world with your best friend for just $55 a day for the both of you? It’s what Megan and I have been doing for the last seven months and let me just tell you it has been the most freeing, exhilarating, and exciting time of our lives. We don’t want to write this stuff to brag in your faces, we want to inspire you to realize that there is another way of life out there, and it’s way cheaper than you can imagine. You would be surprised to see how quickly you realize money isn’t the major obstacle, it’s your job or the fact you only get two weeks year off, if you’re lucky. It’s time to realize there are other options out there, other jobs, countries, people, and opportunities. You just have to change the way you see the world. We hope this inspires those of you inflicted with wanderlust to start exploring other opporunities for yourself. We are living proof you don’t need to be rich to have the chance to see the world, and you don’t need to wait until you retire either. Give yourself a head start with these three ways you can start saving for travel right now.
Check out the Broke Backpacker for their backpacking Thailand travel guide for more helpful information!
Going to Phuket? Check out the best places to stay in Phuket here.
Heading to S.E. Asia?
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