Thailand remains the premier backpacking destination of choice for travellers. It has built great infrastructure catering to tourism. A forever favourite of backpackers for decades now, it is a starting point for many journeys into South-East Asia. Here, I present some practical tips to save money and travel across Thailand in the best possible manner.
Bus, Train or Flight?
Trains are the most economical method of travel in Thailand, definitely cheaper than buses. Before you book that internal flight ticket to go from one place to another in Thailand, remember that if you take the night train for destinations that are far; you end up saving on hotel costs during the travel journey as you can sleep comfortably in the train. We may think that booking cheap flights in advance can maximise the time spent in the destination but that may not always be true in terms of value. The hotel cost saved by taking a night train is a cost-effective and practical tip. Also, the train network in Thailand is quite extensive so a train to your destination is more than likely.
Tuk-Tuk prices should be agreed before getting in one of them. Songthaews (large tuk-tuks) are the cheapest means of public transport and the best way of going around town at proper local prices. In big cities like Bangkok, download the app Grab (its like Uber). The prices are quite reasonable and there’s no chance of getting scammed this way by the notorious taxi drivers of Bangkok!
Where to stay?
Remember than hostels may not always be the cheapest places to stay. If you are two people travelling together, a guest house will usually turn out to be much cheaper than a dorm. Plus, you get your personal space that you may not always get in a dorm setting. This tip may not be useful for those who stay in hostels to actively seek company for travel and local sights.
Except Bangkok, one can find accommodation in all other popular tourist destinations like Chiang Mai, Krabi, Koh Samui etc for 300 THB to 600 THB per night. If it is shoulder season, it might be a good idea to just land up in the destination and work a price directly with the guest house or hotel. That way you can see the room before confirming and get it at the best possible price, and also work out if a room price (including breakfast or without breakfast) is better.
Packing Light is a universal trip for backpacking but it is never more eminent as in the case of Thailand. Thailand is blessed with warm weather in most places that you are likely to visit and that eliminates the need for a jacket and winter clothes that occupy a lot of space. Also, if you are travelling long term then you can buy clothes on the street in Thailand (P.S. They are very cheap).
If you carry less weight on you, it increases your mobility for moving around and you end up exploring more. Also, when you pack light you understand there are only so many things you need, freeing up space for shopping (if you end up liking something enough to buy).
Sim Card for Phone and Internet
Although, these days wi-fi is ubiquitous in restaurants and cafés, at hotels and guest houses, I still recommend buying a sim card so that you can access the internet at your convenience. Having a sim card with internet ensures that you can book a Grab taxi in Bangkok, search accommodation on the go and research about the right places to eat and see while on a bus or train. dtac Happy Tourist Sim Card is the no.1 sim card in Thailand and is easily available at Thailand’s major airports, Family Mart and 7-11. Indian travellers can avoid every hassle and buy it in India itself at Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata airports.
Check the link here : dtac Happy Tourist Sim Card
dtac Happy Tourist Sim Card is perfect for tourists and has suitable 4 day/8 day/15 day packages and is priced reasonably at 149/299/599 Baht. Among the reasons why I recommend it are – 0.6 THB per minute for calls, special offers at shops and restaurants across Thailand, 8 days unlimited data for 299 Baht package, 8 days free chat on 5 apps, free 15 baht call credit included, with good network across Thailand and the internet at fast 4G speeds.
Experiment with local Thai Food
Try and look for stalls where the locals are eating. It sort-of guarantees that the food will be tasty and fresh. If you are unsure of the rates, always remember to confirm the price before eating the dish. That way you can’t be conned. Eating at a local stall is generally the best way to immerse into the local food culture and Thailand is no different. Just use your common sense and eat where it appears neat and clean and looks hygienic. Street food tends to be fresher than restaurant food in Thailand because of the faster turnover of locals eating the cheaper street food. Below is a short list of dishes that you can try.
Pad Thai – The most popular and ubiquitous Thai delicacy. It is a noodle dish mixed with tamarind, spices and lime juice. It can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Priced in a range from 30THB to 80THB.
Tom Yum Soup, Som Tam Salad (Green Papaya Salad), Khao Soi, Tom Kha Soup are some other Thai dishes that you can try in the local street food markets. Available from 20THB to 50-100 THB. For vegetarians, ask if they have tofu. Mango Sticky Rice for dessert! Also, the fruits in Thailand are super tasty and super cheap.
Avoid buying a plastic bottle for drinking bottled water; instead, carry your own water bottle and refill it at one of the shops where they are happy to refill it at 1 Baht or for a similar sum of money.
Exchanging Local Currency THB – Thai Baht
Thai ATMs are known to make a fixed charge on cash withdrawals of around 200 THB (over and above your local bank charges), hence withdrawing money from an ATM may not always be the best idea in Thailand. I’d recommend either carrying cash or one of the pre-loaded cards with unlimited cash withdrawals.
Also, carrying THB – Thai Baht from your home currency may be convenient but the exchange rate will most likely involve a 3-4% exchange loss. If you are ok with the hassle then its better to carry USD from your home country into Thailand and exchange into Thai Baht locally. Usually, converting to the Dollar involves 0.70% exchange loss and USD to THB rates in Bangkok are excellent and convertible at an exchange loss of 0.60%. So, total exchange loss is 1.3% which is really good. As you know, every penny counts and the extra THB you save on the currency exchange might be enough for a night’s stay or an entire day’s meals!
Learn Basic Thai
Download Google Translate or an app that has translation of simple, everyday use basic phrases from English to Thai. Below are some useful words translated in Thai.
Watch where you Drink
Avoid that cocktail on the beach! Beers (Singha, Chang, Leo) in Thailand are available at shops (say 7-11) for 40-50 Baht (THB) while the prices for the same beer can go up to 150 Baht in the bars or restaurants. Although this is true for every city in the world, sometimes its the simplest things that can help us save money. Hence this basic tip.
Note : This post has been written in collaboration with dtac Happy Tourist Sim Card. However the content, photographs and words are all mine.