10 Great Ways to Save Money In Thailand
Thailand, like much of Asia, is renowned to be very cheap. However, there are still plenty of ways to save a shed load of money and gain much more out of your experience by following these simple guidelines...
1) Eating - Eat Like a Local
While living, working or travelling in Thailand on budget, the biggest thing to remember is avoid western foods, whether it be at fast food centers (Mcdonald's, Pizza Hut, KFC etc.) or restaurants. Unlike anywhere else in the world, these fast food chains are much more expensive than local cuisine and western restaurants can be on average triple the price of local food.
Rather put your taste buds to test and enjoy a new, mind opening experience by going to the local markets where you will find some of the tastiest foods at a fraction of the price.
Furthermore, Shopping malls always have large food courts that sell the same food sold at markets, for the same price, at an added benefit of being more hygienic in nature.
7 Eleven and Minimart are also great alternatives as they sell anything from cheap croissants (maximum 30 baht), hot dogs, burgers and pizzas, to Thai food including curries, fried rice and much more for up to 60 baht.
They also sell yoghurts, milk, ice cream and general toiletries that save you a trip to the local supermarkets. Don’t forget to hold onto the free stickers you get when purchasing products at 7 Eleven as these can be handed in for discounts on your next shop there!
2) Drinking - Go Easy on the Booze
Bottled water is very cheap, usually 14 baht for a 1.5L bottle. However, most places have water machines that charge 1 baht per Litre of water. Take you empty bottles and stock up your fridge for under 10 baht. Most apartment blocks in and around Bangkok have these machines.
When going out on the town, find out where the cheapest bars are. Khao San Road in Bangkok is a party hub for travellers, with a wide variety of bars and cheap drinks. Phuket have great deals for clubs such as Seduction when entering as a group. Always go for deals. It does end up being cheaper, although it may appear expensive at the time. THB800 for open bar is worth it!
3) Transport - It’s Cheap & Easy
Public transport in Thailand is definitely cheap & easy. Instead of spending more money than needed on taxis or tuk tuk’s, get a map and use the local bus systems as a half an hour trip can cost you as little as 20 baht. Bus transit maps can be found online or at major bus terminals.
If you do use a taxi, make sure to ALWAYS ASK FOR METER! Many taxi drivers will push their luck and quote you a ridiculous price, such as 1000 Baht for a 200 Baht journey. If they refuse meter, rather wait for another taxi as someone will stop for you.
Another popular form of public transport that is cheap, quick and efficient are the scooter taxis. Especially during rush hours, you will skip the traffic and pay minimal for your journey. However, always remember to negotiate your price before you set off, and always barter down!
Trains are also very useful and cheap. Bangkok has the MRT, BRT and BTS Sky Train. You can either buy one way tickets or purchase a Rabbit card that enable you to top up to skip the paying queues.
In places such as Bangkok, there are also water taxis that cost as little as 70 baht for a long journey. If you are staying in an area such as Ramkhamhaeng or Ladprao, take the water taxi to Pratunam that is then within walking distance to the BTS.
But better than trains, scooters, taxis and buses, google map your area to see what is in close proximity. there is nothing cheaper and healthier than using your own legs and walking to places! Not only will you get a better sense of direction, but you will probably end up finding new areas/ things to explore along the way.
4) Living - Get an apartment near your job
Since most of the foreigners that come to places such as Thailand are English teachers, or looking for teaching work, living costs are one thing that you want to keep to a minimum in order to enjoy other things that are on offer.
Whichever industry you are in, try look for accommodation that is within close proximity to your office/ school. This will save you in the long run on transportation costs as well as time and energy. If you are not a morning person, it also allows you an extra few minutes with the light off!
Research the average prices for your area to make sure you are getting a good deal. If it is a private rental/ buy, try negotiating your price to get it as low as possible. If you are not sure how long you are going to be in the country/ area for, try sign a contract no longer than 6 months.
5) Reducing Utility Bills and saving on furnishings - become a hoarder!
One of the greatest ways to reduce costs of utility bills is by purchasing a fan for you pad. You can save anywhere between 500 and 1000 baht on electricity by using a fan instead of aircon. fans can be sold at any supermarket from as little as 300baht. I highly recommend doing this!
If you have rented out a non/ semi-furnished place, you probably won't have cutlery, plates, cups etc. Instead of buying these, keep the containers you are given when you buy food or drinks. Often marketplaces will give you food in plastic bowls which you should hold onto, take home and wash.
Whenever you buy food from places such as 7 Eleven or Minimart, they will give you plastic spoons/ forks. although they may not be as aesthetically pleasing as silverware, they are easy to accumulate and do the job. Also save your plastic cups/ coffee cups. You can save immensely by doing so!
To buy linen, pillows and general utensils, most markets or roadside stalls will sell what you need at a fraction of the usual price of home ware stores. If they don’t, any of the big supermarkets such as Tesco’s, Big C, Makro etc. will sell and are usually quite cheap. Like food, always look for local Thai products instead of top of the line. If the Thai’s can use it, so can you!
6) Communication - It’s Free to Skype!
Don't waste money on roaming rates for international calls, the best form of communication at the cheapest price is Skype. Most places in Thailand have free wifi areas, in either shopping malls/ cafes or other local places. Connect online and call for free from video skype, or put airtime on to call for only a couple of cents a minute.
There are also several phone apps such as WhatsApp, Viber and many more that are low cost chat services. Download these and keep in communication with friends and family all over the world.
I always advise buying a local sim card for the country you are in. Thailand has several networks that provide pre-pay, pay as you go, or packaged deals for cheap prices. True Move is the most popular, but any other network is good to use while living/ working/ travelling around Thailand.
7) Visa Runs - We all have to do them
Anyone that has lived in Thailand for at least 3 months will most probably have had to go on a visa run. Visa runs are great as it gives you an opportunity to explore the neighbouring countries and experience different cultures within Asia. However, there are always costs involved.
To make it as cheap as possible, first of all look at your passport and see which surrounding countries you do not need a visa for. Visas usually cost 40-60 USD depending on which country you are going to, so choose a place where you don't need one to avoid this.
Choose a country that is in close proximity to Thailand and has a cheaper currency. Vietnam is a beautiful country, only 1.5 hours away, and your Thai baht can double when you go there. British passport holders DO need a visa for this, which you can get online, however because it is so cheap, the money you spend on a visa is compensated. So look at both factors when booking.
Although not cost related, i feel it is important to emphasize when doing your visa run, choose a place that is safe before anything else. I have heard from many people and read on several blogs places such as Cambodia are not safe to go if you are a solo female traveller.
Always read up on the place you are going to go to before you arrive for your own safety and cheaper costs when there. One of the best websites to use is lonely planet.com for any form of information regarding traveling in and around Asia.
8) Travelling: booking accommodation & tours
When you travel, never book accommodation longer than one night. I have found through personal experience that if i had just booked my first night and took an hour out of my next day, i could have saved a lot on cheaper deals in even better locations/ hotels.
If you like you accommodation and area, you can always go back online and book through agoda.com at a discounted price, but if you dont like where you are staying, for whatever reason, this was you dont lose money and your open to move around.
If you book yourself into a hotel/ backpackers on a main road, always walk one or two roads behind and i can guarantee you will find something cheaper. Don't be put off by the size of the place, often the smaller guest house types are the most comfortable stays and the owners usually have great contacts that provide discounted prices on local tours/ expeditions.
With that being said, always talk to the owners of your accommodation and speak to locals in the area. They are the ones that will be able to point you in the right direction for any tourist related activities. By being friendly and talkative, they can sometimes give you discounts on your accommodation if you stay for a while! This has happened to me a number of times!
When it comes to tours/ sightseeing, the best advice i can give is if its not a good packaged deal, skip the guided tours where possible, or look for all inclusive options. Many things you can do yourself (if on land) and you do not need a guide. This will save you time, money and give you more freedom to do what you want.
For Island tours in the South: Angthong National Marine Park, Phi-Phi Island, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan etc., one day trips are always worthwhile and in these cases definitely go for packages that include pick up, lunches and activities. You can get different quotes from different travel shops.
9) Travel Light - Pack for a Long Weekend, Not for a Year
Travel Light!!! This needs to be mentioned in its own category because it is that important for traveling/ working/ living on budget. Cosmetics are ten times more cheaper in Asia than Europe and western countries in general. Don't bring from home, rather buy here.
In Bangkok, Chatuchak Weekend Market sells Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and designer perfumes for 120 baht a bottle. It may not come in the packaging, but the smell is the same and for discounted prices you won't be able to resist!
Shampoo’s, conditioners, toothpaste, sun cream and all the toiletry things you will need are sold everywhere here, from markets to 7 Elevens, to supermarkets, by street vendors. Don't waste space in your luggage or pay for excess weight for anything that you can buy cheaper here!
Also, don't bring heavy jackets or thick clothing. Thailand is hot! you will not need it! It will just irritate you if you have to lug winter clothing around. Rather bring enough summer clothing and thin work clothing with you so you don't need to buy here. But again if u do buy, markets are the way to go!
10) Set Your BUDGET !
The last and most important piece of advice i can offer you that sums up everything that has been said is BUDGET! BUDGET! BUDGET! You cannot save money or control your finances if you do not give yourself a daily/ weekly/ monthly limit!!
When you get a job, or are still seeking a job, you need to know how much money you can spend first of all, then how much you are willing to spend, and try to see how much you can save. If you are not in a position to be bailed out by friends/ family, you have to do this!
I am not here to give you financial savings advice, but what you need to look at is once you have paid your rent, paid your utility bills and any other fiscal duties you may have, put aside at least 3000 baht per month for food and spread the rest over everything you need in your daily living experience.
So to give a quick summary of what has been said, if you want or have to live on budget in Thailand, the most important things you need to remember are:
- Don't eat western food, eat locally - the food is always better in any case!
- Look for accommodation that's convenient, cheap, but liveable!
- Become a hoarder! recycle plastic bottles, cups, bowls, cutlery.. anything you can!
- Negotiate rent before moving in. There's no harm in asking.
- Avoid using aircon! fans are much cheaper and doesn't make you too cold at night!
- Use the public transport systems on offer - buses are cheap and easy, as long as you know.
- where you’re going.
- If you use a taxi - METER! METER! METER!
- Use Skype and cell phone apps for international communication.
- Invest in a local sim card.
- Travel light and use water machines to refill bottles of water.
- Don't pre-book accommodation for too long (1-2 nights max).
- Choose safe, close, convenient places for visa runs.(remember to check visa requirements according to your passport).
- Know your exchange rates to know how much you have to spend.
To your adventure
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