I read a good post over on Travelblogs the other day talking about travelling for $5 a day and it reminded me of a post I made on the Lonely Planet Thorntree back in June 2005 on this very topic.
So in these times of economic calamity, here's some pointers for travelling on the cheap in Asia.
Thorntree regulars may recall the lively thread some time ago about the best ways to save (scrimp) on expenses while travelling... well last night in Betong, I met the real deal, a live specimen of the "I travel to save money" species.
250B a day was his average cost in Thailand - over the last THREE MONTHES in the Kingdom, I kid you not. And Laugh Out Loud, this character proved it to me... on his palm pilot!!! Yes the man who scrimped through his entire trip recorded every, single expense on an electronic deice worth a couple of hundred bucks LOL!
250B a day for three monthes = B22,500B for three months - spectacular action I must say!
So here is his lowdown on where he went and how he saved...(in case you care...)
Destinations - he covered much more of Thailand than most, including some fairly obscure places, Uthai Thani (which he waxed lyrical about), Phichit, Uttaradit, Mahasarakham, Nong Bua Lam Phu; on the southern islands (where it is easiest to bust a budget), he only visited Lanta and Ko Pha Ngan, while spent more time in, what sounded to be pretty interesting beach areas of Nakhon Sri Thammarat, and went bushwhacking in Phattalung. All up he said he at least stepped into 32 provinces -- 700B/province ;-)
He spoke not a word of Thai, and I mean NOT ONE WORD! yet he claimed to have had a great time whooping it up with locals (at their expense no doubt).
Now at a glance I'd say this is a load of crap, but he showed me his daily expenses in the palm, so I think he was either for real or had some pretty serious issues.
Again, I'm not making this up, but he had ten rules on how to save money when travelling (which he said I could post on TT and could feel free to make fun of).
1) Hitch - he reckons he hitched about 75% of his trip and never paid for a single ride -- good luck some would say, poor form I would say, as a bit of cash is always appreciated if not expected.
2) Stay in wats. I've never tried this, but he maintained that anyone can show up to a wat and sleep, bathe etc there for free. I'm not sure this is the case, surely a donation is at least expected? Can anyone confirm on this?
3) Don't buy alcohol. He was explicit on the word "buy". i.e., he was happy for me to buy him a more than a couple of beers and a few snacks while he showed be his gadgets (including a Nikon D70 LOL) while he told me his tale. Talk to others, "be sociable and interesting" and they'll buy you booze! Well I got sucked in!
4) When no wats are available, find the cheapest Chinese style hotel/short time place available. He maintains they always have rooms available for under 100B, but they are "rather basic".
5) Newspapers. This guy was a mad football fan, but 20B to pick up a Post or Nation was way toooo much apparently. His solution? Go to a flash hotel and sit in the foyer, read their papers and, if questioned, say you are waiting for a friend who is staying in the hotel! Not a bad idea.
6) Water. No need to buy it. He fills up at bank (and other govt offices, including copshops) water machines. I have to admit thinking of Chanchao when he told me that and I asked if he picked up that tip through Thorntree, but he said no, apparently his sister put him onto it. He did know of chancho's food site though, so internet wasn't out of his budget!
7) Long distance transport. 3rd class train all the way.
8) Sort distance transport -- walk. He said he walked from Thongsala to Haad Salad (on Ko Pha Ngan) which is a bloody LONG walk, rather than pay the songtheaw fare. Once there he camped.
9) Calls to home. He had some phonecard gidget that let him call NZ for next to nothing.
10) Bangkok. This is the one that had me laugh out loud. He has a mate who lives in Bkk in a condo, so camps on his floor, but when he arrived in Thailand, he made his way to his mates apartment (on Sukhumvit high sois) on the cheapie local buses - 6 buses and about 2.5 hours - cost around 50B all up!
So there you go, you can do Thailand for around US$5 a day if you really want to...
Further reading: Original post on Thorntree in June 2005
Travelblog post: The original post and a reply here
#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,800
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Not sure I could be that kind of person, expecting others to get my drinks, not contributing to fuel costs.
I do like some of the tips though. Just walking between towns would be a great way to see the country. Although personally, I'd prefer to hop on a bicycle :)
#2 daamsie has been a member since 14/10/2008. Posts: 1
HAHAHA, hilarious! Thanks for sharing the tip!
I will be going to thailand December 9th, alone (first time for me and I', a woman), so I'm really excited!
Still reading books and surfing sites to look for nice spots and good tips.
Wow. Great tips, some clever, some risky and some I just wouldn't have the cheek to attempt. Squatting in a sacred place of worship while updating my palmy-gadget would nag at my conscience a little but I'm all for water theft! In England, me and a friend usually sneak into the local swimming baths for a proper wash after a couple of days camping :) Take that, society!
#4 nickdawes has been a member since 3/11/2008. Posts: 4
Just a quick follow-up to your question on tip #2 above on staying in wats. It has been several years now, but I've definitely seen and heard of this practice too. Those asking will receive a place to sleep, often just in a sala somewhere on the grounds, and maybe even a bit of food to eat. I think it is a tradition that dates back many centuries, although I suspect it is more common in rural rather than urban areas these days. Cheers.
We all like value, and value means different things to different people.
Tourists are expected obey the laws and respect the people of the host country, irrespective of budget. Although he could pay, he chose not to. Instead he exploited the goodwill of monks, and contributed nothing. This is disrespectful and bad form.
Counting pennies seems all-consuming to this pointless individual. Maybe he should have waited until he could fully afford the trip (or seek councelling).
PS. I once knew a person like that. He was the privilaged son of a rural doctor in Victoria. So tight...he was water-tight. Eventually lost every one of his friends, except his toffy country-club associates. Yep its you Terry.
I know a guy who tools around between here and Cambodia on a reclining bicycle. This guy can cover some ground on that thing. I'm impressed. Course, he's got legs like tree trunks. He sleeps in temples (showers there too), eats only cheap food, I'll bet he gets by on 100 baht a day. But I would not swap lifestyles with him for a minute. And when I'm on vacation I want to enjoy myself and indulge in those things I can't indulge in otherwise.
Not a thing I'd do at all, not long term, anyway. I have at times been a bit short on cash and tooled off to an out of the way place and ate local food. But I still make a point of tipping those where I stay; and as I pointed out, this is only ever temporary. I am on holiday to have a good time and scrimping does not come into it. True, some gems are the cheaper parts of your holiday, I was once lucky enough to get a USD110 10-day holiday on a fishing boat with all meals to Komodo. And some savings I found forced on me, for instance to get to Pai from Chiang Mai I took a 4-hr public bus instead of the 1-hr minibus not because of the saving but because the minibus travel made me carsick. Generally, though, you do not want to limit your spending, even 1000 baht a day wil give you a passable holiday in most parts of Thailand, and that is only about $33.
#9 mic59 has been a member since 30/7/2008. Posts: 107
mmm 250bh per day?
Aren't we suppose to be on a holiday? A time of fun.
I love travel Thailand, and at times on my bicycle. Sort of budget thingy too, but cant imagine how anyone can have fun with a budget of 250b per day.
On bicycle I spent 800-1000bh per day, and I don,t take alcohol at all. Cigarettes , yes.
Don't forget that the original post was made 4 years ago. But yes, I agree abg - travel is supposed to be fun. I'd hate to be scrimping every second of the journey.
Personally, I'm willing to skimp on some things (eating local rather than expensive restaurants), forfeiting alcohol on most occasions (helped by the fact that I don't like beer!) - but I'm happy to fork out for a better mode of transport sometimes, esp for anything more than 4 hours, and accom can be simple and clean, but must be private room and generally with bathroom. My take on it is that this is the reason I work!
The length of trip also drives my spending patterns. If I'm having a short break from work (eg 4-6 weeks, if you can define that as 'short'!) then I'm happy to treat myself. If I've given up work and have to stretch the dollars, then I'll sacrifice more.
Forget being "tight", this guy sounds like a straight moocher.
On "crashing" in temples - it's really not okay. Yeah, it's an age old practice that temples take in tired travelers, but in this day and age it's unlikely that Thais would do this unless they either are very poor or want to contribute their efforts to the temple in some way. For a foreigner who has no interest in Buddhism and has enough money to be traveling in the first place (and to afford expensive electronics), and is just using the temple as a "free hotel", it's absolutely not cool. It's akin to getting all your food from a charitable free food shelf when you have more than enough money to buy it for yourself. It's just low.