So we’ve covered the basic monthly expenses for living in the Land of Smiles and some surprising money sucks, now we’re on to how to save money in Thailand.
While most things are very cheap, there are a few little ways to still cut corners and save a couple baht. None of the ideas below are going to help you significantly save (and depending on your budget, may not even be worth the bother), but when you can buy things for as little as 5 baht, then every bit counts! Here are seven little ways to save money traveling in Thailand.
- Refill your water – You may not notice them at first but once someone points them out to you, you’ll see machines to refill your water bottles everywhere. Usually 1 baht fills up about a liter…while a new 1.5 liter bottle will cost 13-20 baht. You do the math.
- Don’t eat at the places geared toward tourists – This is an obvious one, but still worth mentioning. There are two small cooked-to-order Thai food shops right around the corner from each other near where I live. They’re both no-frills places that are good and offer a wide selection of choices. One sells dishes averaging around 50-60 baht (with some items going into the 100s) and the other sells plates for 25 baht. The main difference is that the second shop is smaller with only one sign and caters toward the locals that live and work in the area, while the first shop has better displayed menus…and prices more expensive than many Thais will pay when they know they can get the same thing somewhere else for less. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to eat at a place that’s maybe easier to navigate, but just be aware there are even differences between the places where you think you’re eating ‘like the locals’.
- Drink whiskey – In my post about what sucks up your money I mentioned booze – a large bottle of Chang beer (the cheapest brand) at 7-11 costs more than a plate of street food. Head to a bar, restaurant or club and the price naturally goes up. If you’re set on a night out though, do what the Thais do and buy a bottle of whiskey with ice and mixers for the table. Bottles of beer and cocktails will quickly add up, in fact often single cocktail prices are close to a small bottle of the Thai rum Sangsom, so purchasing a pint, or even a fifth, is the most cost efficient. Most places will have a ‘set’ including the alcohol, ice and mixers for one price.
- Barter – Most prices can be bartered down since just about everything – from tuk tuks to tattoos – is up for negotiation. If you want a cheaper price then ask for it, but be reasonable. It’s not worth your time to haggle over 50 cents and probably means more to the person you’re bartering with. (Certain stores where there are visible prices on products do not barter. Also, items like those you would get at a convenience store – soda, chips, ice, etc. – are a set price.)
- Don’t buy ‘breakfast’ – There are plenty of places that sell Western-style breakfasts…and they’re all at least three times as much as a basic Thai dish. While it just has to be done now and again (it takes a little while to get used to grilled pork and sticky rice in the morning), too many breakfasts can break the budget. Don’t want rice soup? Stock up on fresh fruit and buy some bread or yogurt at a shop.
- Rent a motorbike – If you’re going to be in one place for more than a day and want to see different parts of the area. it’s worth it to rent a motorbike for your transportation instead of relying on public transport or tuk tuks. Depending on where you are, a daily rental can cost as little as 120 baht and most tanks can be filled up for around 120 baht as well, so total you’re looking at around $10 for 24/7 transport. The more days you rent for, the more opportunity there is for haggling and the flexibility and freedom it gives you is priceless.
- Skip the coffee, snacks and sodas – As I mentioned (and many people commented) here, these can quickly add up to quickly cost more than your meals. While they’re not expensive themselves, it’s all relative, and compared to what you can get for the same price (i.e., a can of Coke for 15 baht or a plate of food for 30) skipping the snacks is an easy way to keep some extra baht in your pocket.
What am I missing? What have you done to cut corners and save in Thailand? Let me know in the comments.
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