How to Save Money in Thailand
As one of Southeast Asia’s top destinations – offering breathtaking sights and a fascinating culture throughout – Thailand features on many a bucket list. But while it remains an affordable trip there are always hidden costs, especially in the more popular areas. I spent just under a month in this magical country, and have pulled together some top tips to help you manage your back balance, while still experiencing the best of what the Land of Smiles has to offer. Here’s how you can save money in Thailand:
Wait to buy new clothes when you arrive
I made the mistake of stocking up on a brand new summer wardrobe before I arrived in Bangkok, only to discover a city full of stylish clothes at a fraction of the price. Most urban areas offer rows upon rows of great-value outfits, and the thin fabrics are perfect for the hotter climate.
Be prepared to haggle
The thought of entering a shop in the UK and haggling for a lower price seems fairly awkward, so I struggled to get used to bargaining in Thailand. However, you soon come to realise it's the norm. In fact, prices are often inflated to allow for it. A stroll through the popular markets or street stores actually becomes a fun activity and you can save a lot of spending money while still paying a fair price. Check out our haggling guide to get some help with embracing your inner bargain hunter.
Embrace local food and restaurants
It's always tempting to order your favourite dish on holiday, and Thailand has plenty of western restaurants on offer. But with some of the tastiest local dishes across the world, it's well worth stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Sampling street food and checking out a few smaller, local restaurants is a great way to tighten the purse strings while also making the most of your destination.
Hire a moped or take public transport
As with anywhere in the world, public transport is much better value than taxis, and Thailand offers a reliable network of trains and buses at incredible prices. However, navigating the right routes can sometimes add a bit of stress to a relaxing day out. If you prefer more freedom and a chance to get off the beaten track, hiring a moped or motorbike is a great solution. While rentals are extremely affordable, fuel is even more so and saves a string of taxi fares to get you round the area.
If you're worried about driving one yourself, there are often motorbike taxis available, or shared tuk-tuks to show you around the popular sights. At times when taking a taxi is unavoidable, insist the driver turns the meter on to ensure you get the fairest price.
Sleeping on a moving vehicle isn't for everyone, it certainly isn't for me, but I was pleasantly surprised by Thailand's sleeper buses and trains. Expecting little more than a rickety bunk bed, I found luxury carriages and a friendly atmosphere when I travelled by train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. If you can manage a few hours sleep, this can free up an entire day for activities in your chosen destination, and saves the cost of a night in a hotel.
Avoid the tourist traps
Many of the popular tourist attractions are worth a visit, but I was shocked with the amount of temples and other sights I came across that were completely free to enter – right across the country. Whether it be waterfalls or days out to see the stunning architecture, just taking yourself off somewhere slightly less touristy for the day means you can discover some of the best sights you could wish for.
Visit Thailand in low season
While the weather is more reliable in high season, low season (typically across the UK's summer) has plenty of sunshine too, and the prices are dramatically lower. If you're flexible with your itinerary, it's best to spend longer in the north away from the busier islands, as prices have increased there with more tourists.
Use major banks and make larger withdrawals to avoid charges
No-one wants to carry a pocket full of cash while abroad – I actualky took a travel money card with me for this purpose. However, a lot of Thailand's hotels and restaurants still only accept cash so it's almost impossible to avoid withdrawing money while you're there. If you need to, try to take out as much as you'll need in one go – preferably at a bigger bank branch or ATM – to avoid expensive charges. Most hotels offer safes, so you can keep your money hidden away between trips.
Embrace the local lifestyle with a homestay off the beaten track
If you're keen to experience local life, especially in the smaller villages, Thailand offers lovely homestays with some very welcoming families – all at great prices. Depending whether you want something basic, or with a few more home comforts, there's accommodation to suit anyone, with many homes offering a chance to experience cooking classes, visit schools nearby, and meet the children staying in neighbouring homes. Chat to a Flight Centre Travel Expert about including this in your Thailand holiday itinerary.