Aug 30 2011
Enjoying Bangkok on a budget is very possible, and my favourite part? There’s no need to sacrifice comfort or delicious meals. Compared to Southeast Asian cities like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok is a bargain. However, if your point of reference is the rest of Thailand, or neighbouring countries, Bangkok starts to look a little steep. Taking a few minutes to plot out your day will help to save baht in the long run. Here’s what you might like to consider.
Eat local. A big way to pilfer away money is on pricey food. Avoid a gamble on a not-so-tasty mid-priced restaurant and go for some good old-fashioned street eats. Street food is everywhere and it’s delicious — don’t be afraid of it! Look for a stall that seems popular and you will not be led astray. Local markets as well as food courts, which can be found in every mall, are other great places for affordable grub. And snacks? Opt for fresh fruit from street vendors.
Plan your lodging. I don’t mean MONTHS in advance but plan at least far enough in the future that you’re not wandering the sweaty streets looking for any place of refuge you can find. There are tons of great hostels for under 500 baht a night, and if you book in advance you can guarantee that at least that part of the equation is taken care of. The longer you wait to book, the more likely it is that the cheap places will be all filled up meaning you’ll either end up somewhere overpriced or, worse, somewhere cage-like.
Pre game. Go back to your university roots and pre game. While alcohol at a bar might be a little pricey, booze from somewhere like a 7-eleven is extremely cheap. Save on the bar tab and grab a six-pack at the convenience store. You can’t bring it into the bar but you can save money by drinking up before you get there. (Or: just don’t drink!)
Take public transport. The MRT and BTS are both very simple and worth using if they go near your destination. Unfortunately, these two modes of mass-transit don’t go to all of Bangkok’s must-see spots. If the MRT and BTS are out I’d recommend the bus. The BMTA has a great site where you can plug in your destination to find out which buses you need to take. Additionally, save on coming in from the airport by hitching a ride on the very affordable Airport Link.
Shop at markets. Whether it’s Chatuchak or just the stall on the corner, shopping at markets is the way to go. Avoid pricey malls and look for something cheap and roadside. With some (polite) bargaining, prices may go even lower than the vendor’s first figure.
Free sites. Many of Bangkok’s sites charge admission, but an equal number of under-the-radar temples and sites let you take in the scene for free. Check out spots like Wat Rachabophit or Khlong Toei market for a taste of local life without the price tag.
Dress the part. At the end of the day Thailand is still a very Buddhist country and Bangkok, while modern, very much respects the Buddhist laws of decency. If you are going to a holy site, like Wat Phra Kaew or Wat Pho, then make sure to be well covered up. It will save you on the clothing rental deposit.
If you give your trip to Bangkok a bit of forethought and have a little patience it is possible to spend between 600 and 700 baht per day, or a little more than US$20, including hostels. If you want a little cushion for some mini-splurges then 1,000 baht a day, or US$30, should be a piece of cake. You won’t be living large but you will be living just fine.
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