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How to Visit Thailand on a Budget

Updated on February 10, 2020
mxkamlongera profile image

Maxwell has lived in Africa, Asia and Europe. He enjoys writing and sharing about the places he's visited and experienced.

According to Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), as of February 2019 tourism alone accounts for almost one-fifth of the country’s GDP. That is roughly $55 billion. Clearly, the country is a top destination where visitors like to spend. However, this doesn’t mean you have to break the bank, and with a little pre-knowledge Thailand can be a budget-friendly destination.

A street merchant along a strip of road in Bangkok.
A street merchant along a strip of road in Bangkok. | Source

Selecting an Accommodation

Hostels

Instead of splashing out on a hotel room, an apartment block, or even a villa, try out hostels; they come in a variety of packages with different price points. Normally, you have the option to choose between a dorm setup (same-sex or mixed) or a single room. From there, you can sift through what packages come with the selected setup, such as the bathroom situation (shared vs. private) or meal plans (whether they include breakfast or not). There are a number of sites you can use for finding hostels with booking.com, agoda.com, and airbnb.com being great starting points.

Couchsurfing

This is probably a less comfortable option but very cost-effective because it’s free. For those not in the know, Couchsurfing is pretty much living in a stranger’s home alongside them for an agreed period of time. All you have to do is download the app to get started.

Finding Food

Street food

The options available are almost endless: land food, seafood, insects, fruits and desserts. The food on offer is very affordable, although quality and freshness can come into question. Don’t buy blindly, but assess your selections.

Food courts

These offer a more comfortable and diverse alternative to street food. Some examples of food options are Thai, Indian, Malaysian, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. Western food options are also available, however, because they’re not cooked by Westerners don’t expect the cuisine to be exact (especially if you’re from the country where the food originates from). Food courts can typically be found within shopping malls or complexes.

Night markets

This kind of market is another great alternative for finding food, especially because you can do some shopping as you move about with your food or decide to sit on a spot and observe what’s on offer while soaking in the atmosphere. The best part about night markets is that they’re common across Thailand.

Attractions on Offer

Night markets

There are no entrance fees to enter night markets, and because they’re common across the country, depending on your location they offer different attractions for visitors. Outside of purchasing items, night markets are a great spot to enjoy and get a feel of Thai life.

Parks

If you find yourself in Bangkok it’d be a crime not to visit one of the many parks sprawled across the city. On top of being free, the greenspaces have different sights and attractions to offer for families, friends, lovers or solo travelers. Like night markets, parks are a common feature to mainland Thailand, so there is always a nearby option somewhere.

Museums

For those in the pursuit of knowledge there are a variety of museums available. Some of them require an entrance fee while other ones are completely free. Although a little quaint, museums offer a simple avenue to seeing and understanding the country’s culture and history.

Culture and sites

Two of Thailand’s big draws are its culture and sites. This includes temples, ruins, beaches, markets, historical sites and cities. Each of them have plenty for you to see for nothing, and each come with doses of cultural emersion. With all that said, do note that some areas have a foreigner fee where you pay notably higher than visiting locals to enter the space.

Transportation Options

Grab app

The ride app is handy to have on your phone and it comes into great use in any country across Southeast Asia. The best part about Grab is the option to choose between a car or motorcycle ride, where motorcycles are a cheaper option and will allow you to zigzag through potential traffic.

Motorcycles

Alternatively, instead of using an app to find a ride, you can settle for motorcycle taxis alongside the roads. You can spot them by the high visibility jackets the riders have on. A good habit to get into is haggling an agreeable price by leveraging with Grab; at times, if drivers see that Grab offers cheaper transport, they’re willing to drop their price.

Songthaews

These are pick-up trucks with attached roofs and they’re typically bright in color. They’re share-taxis that operate a lot like buses with their designated routes, but the challenge with them is knowing and understanding their route, for you might end up on a side of town you didn’t bargain on. However, if you’re looking for an experience then jump on.

Buses

There are two distinct ways of using the bus systems on offer in the country. The first is riding within a city and getting on or off at stops, while the second is to use buses to travel between cities. If you’re traveling to another city and you’re not pressed on time, using the bus services is an excellent cost-saver.

Metered taxis

Depending on the distance, meter taxis are a viable option. The thing to remember is to ask the driver to turn on the meter when driving otherwise they can swindle you. All you have to do is say ‘meter’ before getting in the vehicle. This notifies the driver that they should charge by the meter rate as opposed to their own judgment and discretion, and they’ll either accept or decline.

Renting

Depending on the location, renting a scooter can be a convenient and inexpensive option. With that said, it’s usually the tourist areas that have the best prices and rental policies due to the regular stream of customers.

Souvenirs and Gifts

Night markets

Perhaps you’re beginning to see a trend here … yes, night markets are very good spots to take care of a variety of needs, with souvenirs and gifts being one of them. Depending on the market selected you can find clothing, electronics, toys and other novelties on sale.

20 Baht stores

A little on the penny-pinching side, but a loved one back home may appreciate the novelty of getting something they couldn’t otherwise access, even if it is cheap. There are 20 Baht stores, 50 Baht stores, and even 100 Baht stores; they’re the equivalents of a dollar store and what they all have in common is that you can find cut prices of almost anything in these.

Miscellaneous

Government hospitals

In case of emergencies government hospitals are an option. The catch, though, is that you may spend an entire day at the emergency center as you go through the numerous protocols to see a doctor and the English proficiency will be sourly lacking. However, at the end of the day, the medical service will be extremely affordable.

20 Baht stores

If you need something quickly and cheaply, and aren’t necessarily ready to pay the associated price, these stores can save you some cash. They contain electronics, plastics, cutlery, décor and other paraphernalia you wouldn’t readily think of.

Where do you normally cut costs on travel?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Maxwell Kamlongera

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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      8 weeks ago from UK

      This is a useful guide for anyone planning a trip to Thailand.

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