Enjoying Bangkok on a budget is very possible. 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 (excluding some of the islands), 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. We don’t mean MONTHS in advance but plan at least far enough in the future that you have a good idea about where to look. There are tons of great hostels for under 400 baht a night, some as low as 200 baht or even less. Don't like sharing a room with strangers? Plenty of guesthouses, like Apple and Sawatdee, still sell rooms in the Khao San Road backpacker hood for as low as 200 baht a night.
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. These slick trains don’t go to all of Bangkok’s attractions, including the biggest in the Ko Rattanakosin historic district, but the 15-baht Chao Phraya Express Boat does! And, if you want to get from Khao San to Siam Square, a khlong boat will run you a whopping nine baht. Otherwise you could always brave the local bus system; the BMTA has a fairly comprehensible 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, have a little patience and don't mind hostels or very basic private rooms, it's possible to spend between 600 and 700 baht per day, or a little more than US$20. 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.