1. Look for signs
Be wary of vendors that don’t have the items priced. They may be making up the price based on how green you look. Signed stalls – When visiting food stalls and markets around Thailand, try to buy items from the stalls that clearly signpost the prices of items.
2. Go North
Do not overlook the north of Thailand! The islands are a lot more expensive than the north. While in the north you can go out to eat three times a day and sleep in nice hotels, in the south you have to be more careful with your money. Restaurant Prices in Phuket are 78% higher than in Chiang Mai. Taxis are 150% more in Phuket vs Chaing Mai. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid the beautiful Thai Beaches. The islands of the South of Thailand are still cheap compared to the rest of the world. Enjoy the less touristy beaches like Koh Chang or Ko Lanta rather than the tourist spots of Phuket and Koh Samui.
3. Travel out of season
The months of November until February is the high season in Thailand. It will be very busy and booking hotels, plane tickets and tours will be considerably more expensive than during the low season. Hotels can be up to 30% cheaper in the offseason especially in smaller cities.
4. Travel by night
Night buses and night trains are ideal for travellers looking to save money. You’ll be saving the costs you would otherwise be paying for your accommodation. The overnight trains even have private cabins with beds and aircon. Trains are not the fastest but they are the cheapest way to travel long distances across Thailand.
5. Go where the Thais go
Just because you are a tourist in Thailand, doesn’t mean you can’t shop like a local. Try to go to places where the Thais go. In Chiang Mai, there is Malin Plaza a night market near the university where the students go trendy clothes and eat cheap. The fashion is fresh and the prices are rock bottom. If you see a restaurant packed with Thais chances are the prices are fair and the food will be fresh because of the high turnover. Every destination has places meant for tourists, and that is perfectly fine, but those are usually the most expensive shops too.
6. Refill your own water
Tempting as it is to fresh coconuts all day, if you want to save money, it’s best to drink water. You can refill your bottles anywhere in Thailand for as little as two baht. This is great because it’s cheap and it helps the environment. Many local restaurants have free water for dine-in guests. Look for a big silver tank where guests serve themselves. For just 30 thb you can get Pad Thai and free water!
7. Save together
Is the tour you want to book out of your budget? Many tour operators give group rates for parties of 5 or more. See if other travellers want to join you and everyone benefits. You can ask people to meet along the way or post in online groups like Bangkok and Thailand Travellers or Backpacking Thailand. Best of all you get to make new friends.
8. Book direct
Avoid taxi drivers and street-side travel agents claiming to know the best deal on elephant trips, trekking or national parks. The best rate will always be with the company actually hosting the experience as they don’t need to pay high commissions to a 3rd party.
9. Cheap Drinks
Take advantage of the happy hours – Most bars and restaurants in Thailand offer some type of happy hour for you to take advantage of. At Chai Lai Orchid (buy 2 get 1 free) guests can sip cocktails while feeding elephants. Imported beers are expensive so stick to the local favourites.
For short distances, you can hop on a songthaew for 30 thb per person (babies are free). For longer distances ask fellow travellers if they are keen to share. This not only benefits your wallet but also cuts carbon emissions. If you are coming to Chai Lai Orchid let us know at least 1 day in advance if you are open to ride-sharing and we can try to match you with guests coming or going around the same time.
11. Stay updated
Many airlines or booking sites ask to sign up for their newsletters or some frequent flyer programs, to get the notification of any discounts or seasonal offers. Some like Agoda even have lower prices they only show to members. Signing up won’t cost anything.
12. Eat street food
Street vendors save money not renting a building and pass savings on to you! If you are willing to be adventurous with what you eat, you can save a lot of money on food in Thailand. Street food is a great way to enjoy the country’s famed cuisine without spending too much. Everywhere we went during our trip, we found food stalls and pop-up cafés selling noodles, bbq, sticky rice, papaya salad, and many other local favourites.
13. Know the baht
This may seem obvious but take time to familiarize yourself with the bills and coins. This is to help make sure you don’t overpay or accept the incorrect amount of change. Memorize the value of the most common bill you will be using ie 100 thb is $3.20 500 thb = to $16.00 Keep an exchange app downloaded on your phone so you can quickly understand if something is affordable.
14. Do your own laundry
You can have your laundry done in a little street shop. A cheaper option is to do your own laundry in the sink. Many hotels have a line in the bathroom to hang clothes and the heat in Thailand will dry things quickly.
15. Avoid ATM fees
Pay with your credit card to get points wherever possible and take out large amounts from the ATM. Using the ATM costs money, quite a lot of money even. We’re talking about 200 baht ($6.50 USD) per transaction. That’s not even taking into account an unfavourable exchange rate.