So, you’ve come to Thailand to teach English and now you want to use your weekends to explore and travel, really discover those hidden gems of Thailand. There is only one slight problem – you’re living on a Thailand budget and need to ensure your rent and bills are paid off, while still being able to put food on the table. Traveling to Thailand on a budget can easily be done, but does require research and planning. We’ve learned a few things during our time here in Thailand and want to share a few pointers from one budget traveler to another.
Thailand Budget Tip #1
When it comes to choosing your accommodation, it is important to remember that you will most likely, only be sleeping here. You will most likely be out and about most of the time exploring all that is Thailand. You’re in a beautiful, amazing country, why would you want to spend all of your time in your room, right? Of course, we all want a clean, comfortable room and bed, but sometimes we have to make sacrifices—especially when you’re on a tight budget. I have yet to come across an affordable hostel that is not only clean, but also accompanied by a gorgeous view. The Thai people take care of their hostels and hotels better than I take care of my place back home. Sure, the bed may not be the most ideal size or comfort level, but you will survive, I promise.
Also keep in mind that you don’t have to stay in the heart of each city or town that you are visiting. The hotels and hostels that you would find here are likely to be more expensive than a hotel or hostel off of a side street, a short walk from the heart of the town/city. If you place yourself in a less populated area, you may also get to experience that town or city from a more true and honest perspective. Whatever you decide to do, make sure to do your research on the hostels in the given area. My favourite website to use for the Thailand budget is hostelworld – it shows you all of the hostels available for the specific dates and locations you want and you are able to sort the results by many different filters (price, room, facilities, rating, type and payment). Hostelworld allows you to book right through their website, has an extremely easy cancellation process, and they give you all of the contact information you need. Not to mention, they provide reviews for each hostel, as well as all of the amenities that are both included and not included. For example, a beautiful hostel (rated 9.1) in Koh Tao island is only $9.70 USD per night for a 6 bed dorm with air conditioning – extremely affordable if you ask me! You just have to take the time to sit down and look at the options available, compare what is offered, and make the smartest decision for yourself.
Pro-tip: Hostels generally have a cancellation policy which requires you to inform the hostel between 3 – 7 days prior to the day you are to arrive; giving many of us more than enough time to change plans, if need be.
Thailand Budget Tip #2
Our given mode of transportation is very important to the Thailand budget. This past weekend I took a van, a bus, and a train so I can tell you all the ups and downs of each. First off…the vans. Not only do they run all over Thailand, but they are extremely affordable, comfortable and air conditioned. I took a van to Kanchanaburi on Saturday and the total cost was 220 baht, which works out to be approximately $6.25 USD – this is for a 3 hour (220km) drive.
Next up…the busses. Now, I don’t mean coach busses, I mean those colourful busses with all of the windows down and the doors open so that you see the streets of Thailand. The bus I took was from Kanchanaburi to Erawan Waterfalls & National Park was about an hour and a half drive from Hua Hin, depending on if the driver is going the speed limit. This mode of transportation cost 50 baht, approximately $1.40 USD.
The Truth About My Thailand Budget
Now, I will be completely honest when I say this trip wasn’t exactly the most comfortable. It was a very hot day, and although there are fans on the roof of the bus, with open windows and doors and long stop lights, it got a little toasty at times. The seats themselves were made of a material that you stick to if you are at all sweaty, and you feel every single bump in the road. Inexpensive – yes, comfortable – no. But it did the job. Although I was happy to get off of that bus, this is not to say I would never take another because of how inexpensive it is.
Lastly, the trains. I took a train from Bangkok to Hua Hin late in the evening one Sunday. From my own personal experience, the trains do not run as often as the vans or busses, however, they are comfortable and air conditioned, and they even give you a blanket and a snack. The price of the train depends on the time you are traveling – as my roommate took the train from Bangkok home to Hua Hin on a Monday afternoon and it only cost her 95 baht per person ($2.70 USD), whereas when I took the train this past Sunday evening, it was 400 baht per person ($11.40 USD). That being said, it is best to book any travels via train in advance to ensure that you get the class and time that you would prefer. Another mode of transportation that I have yet to experience – is the ferry. Using the ferry to get to Koh Tao is seemingly the most affordable option and the easiest mode of transportation. With this, you will embark on a 6 hour catamaran ride. Who wouldn’t love to be on the open water for a whole 6 hours? Perhaps an individual who gets seasick. The price for this, one way, is 1047 baht – approximately $30 USD…so cheap! I believe that, if you can stomach it, ferries would be the most beautiful mode of transportation as the views will be amazing every which way you look.
Thailand Budget Tip #3
The food you choose to eat while in Thailand will honestly make or break your budget. Yes, it is okay to splurge on Western food every once in awhile when you are having a craving from back home, but try not to make it a habit (as this will become a very expensive habit). Eating as the Thais do – street food for every meal – is beyond affordable. One day for breakfast, I got 10 freshly cooked, deep fried pastries and 3 sticks of chicken all for 30 baht – $0.85 USD.
If I compare this to an average western breakfast of an omelette with a smoothie from my favourite western restaurant – The Baguette – this total comes out to be 145 baht – $4.15 USD. Now I know that $4 USD for breakfast is unheard of back home, however, this does add up especially when you have much cheaper options available to you…literally across the road. The same goes for dinner. You can get Pad-See-Ew for 40 baht ($1.15 USD), or you can get a burger and fries for 150 baht ($4.30 USD). Trust me when I say, you will enjoy the Thai food so much more than the Western food – nine times out of ten, it is not exactly how we make it back home, it is better. Why come to Thailand to eat burgers and pizza anyways.
I used to be such a picky eater, and since coming to Thailand, that part of me disappeared – in a good way. When I go to the local markets I am willing to try what I like to call ‘mystery meat’ as I have no idea what I am about to eat, but it is always so delicious. I have been overly pleased with every meal in Thailand so far, whether it is so spicy that I am crying between bites, or so delicious that I eat it too quickly to even enjoy the flavours.