Here is a collection of 25 tips to save you money while traveling to Thailand. Some of the tips may seem extreme, like “stay away from the islands” but, keep in mind there are those that want to save a lot of money and those that want to see what Thailand has to offer as well.
An island trip is highly recommended! Getting to Thailand can be very expensive, but it is possible to live cheaply once you’re here. While you can slip by on just $10 a day, it can be better to economize where and when you need to.
1. Visit Thailand in Low Season
Traveling between May and November is much cheaper than peak season, with rooms, food and vehicle rental often discounted. Also there are fewer tourists about, so you’re more likely to feel welcome or get personal service.
2. Stay Off the Islands
Remember that everything you buy on an island is transported by boat or plane, so island life is always more expensive than traveling on the Thailand mainland.
3. Stick to Basic Accommodation
Simple rooms can be available for less than 150 baht a night, or you can share with another bargain hunter to split costs. Dorm rooms are even cheaper and still available in some areas, or you could travel in traditional Thai style and bed down in a local temple for free.
4. Travel Overnight
You can go a long way for very few baht on overnight trains, and save a few hundred baht by not needing a room for the night. Buses are more expensive, more dangerous, but they cover more routes.
5. Use Local Transport
Local buses and, songthaews (shared taxis) go everywhere, if a little slowly at times. Third-class rail is cheaper and slower still, though the rail network is pretty limited.
6. Thumbing a Ride
A little more daring, and a little more dangerous, but many people do successfully hitchhike around Thailand. It is polite to offer money for gas, but it is rarely accepted.
7. Avoid Western Food
You can buy ten Thai meals for the cost of one pizza in Thailand. Nearly all foreign food is imported at great expense, and it rarely tastes the same as back home anyway.
8. Eat Like the Locals
Thais love food, and you will always be close to a market selling curry and rice, or a small restaurant making Thai food to order. Roadside stalls are everywhere, especially at night, and it’s all very cheap.
9. Don’t Leave Tips
Tipping is not expected in local restaurants, so don’t worry about it. Thais rarely tip.
10. Accept Offers of Food, Drink and Accommodation
Thais really are a friendly and gracious people, and itâ€™s possible you will be invited for a drink or to share a meal. Offering a bed for the night is a very generous gesture, but should be carefully considered.
11. Water is Good for You and Your Pocket
Buy big bottles rather than small bottles, drink plenty of free water whenever you eat a meal, or even fill your water bottle for free in banks, hotel foyers, and and Buddhist temples!
12. Alcohol can be an Expensive Luxury
Though supermarket beer is a third of the price of beer bought in bars, the cheapest drink is the local spirit called Lao Kao. Very cheap. Very harsh.
13. Make the Most of Free Entertainment
Enjoy the sights and sounds of Thailand all around you! Thais exercise at local parks, often there are free aerobics groups, basketball, tennis, tagraw, or some performance going on – especially in the northeast around the holidays. Or you can watch free films at resorts or read a free newspaper in a library or a hotel.
14. Buy Clothes and Personal Items in Thailand
Clothes are very cheap and completely suitable for the hot climate. Toiletries will be much cheaper than back home, with free soap being provided in some rooms and sometimes in shared bathrooms. Keep in mind you may not find the exact brand you’re used to, but with an open mind you’ll find something that works.
15. Consider Bringing Specialized Equipment
If you are planning to do more recreational activities, it could be better to bring your own gear from home rather than renting it. Much of what Thailand has is made in China and not the same quality you’re probably used to. Bring what you can’t do without.
16. Watch Your Money
Keep track of what you spend so you can see where it is going and what you are buying unnecessarily. Though your trip should be enjoyable and not crippled by obsessive budgeting.
17. Avoid Unnecessary Money Charges
If you use a bank card and are charged a flat fee for withdrawing money, make fewer but larger withdrawals. If you have to pay a fee each time you exchange a Travelers Check or cash, order larger denominations before you come.
18. Do You Need a Guide Book?
There is plenty of information on the internet to help you plan before and during your trip. Copy information to a memory stick and print in Thailand at 5 Thai Baht (15 cents) a page or print out the pages you need before you come. Bet it’s less weight to carry around than an entire guidebook! If you can’t do without a book, look for second hand copies in bookstores once you arrive.
19. Haggle Over Prices
Bargaining for some items is expected in Thailand. Anything from a market is fair game, but keep it real when trying to get an extra few baht discount. Room prices can be negotiated, especially in low season or for longer stays.
20. Do Your Own Laundry
A packet of washing powder and a few minutes each day is all that you need. If you buy loose, light clothing here, it will dry in minutes in the hot sun. Buy a sarong here to use instead of a heavy towel.
21. Be Aware of Motoring Regulations
Bring an international driving license with you and always carry it when driving. Always wear seat belts in cars and helmets on motorbikes, or you will be risking an on the spot fine.
22. Obey the Local Laws
Littering is an offense in Thailand, and people have been fined for dropping cigarette butts on the ground. Police will pay more attention to the actions of a foreigner, so be aware especially in Bangkok.
23. Don’t Get Scammed or Robbed
Read about the gem shop scams, the free rides on tuk-tuks, and find out the real price of airport taxis. Ask all taxis to run the meters. Agree on prices for any service before you go anywhere or do anything. Protect your valuables and cash and try not to make yourself an easy target in more dangerous areas.
24. Make Money While Traveling
Working without the necessary paperwork in Thailand is illegal, though it might be possible to get paid as a film extra or to appear in advertising photos. Many people are able to sell their photos or stories of their travels, and even just having advertisements on your blog pages can help.
25. Avoid the Tourist Traps
For real cheap traveling, stay away from places like Pattaya, Phuket and Ko Samui. Instead head off the beaten track to the forest temples and national parks of Udon Ratchathani in the north-east, or try the beaches and unique cuisine of Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south.