The cost of living in Thailand is much lower than in the USA or Europe. It is possible to get by on a budget of $10 but these tight-wad tips on how to live cheaply in Thailand will make your money go much further and you might even be able to live on less than $10 a day.
Getting Around and Going Places
Plan Your Visit According to the Season – The low season in Thailand is between May and November and is notably cheaper than high season. Everything related to tourism is heavily discounted and so you will pay much less for rooms, food and vehicle rental. Another off season benefit is that there are fewer tourists which means your dollars will be heavily competed for and you can expect a warmer welcome and a higher level of personal service.
Avoid the tourist Areas – Pattaya, Phuket and Ko Samui are all tourist traps with tourist prices, rip off merchants and have plenty of ways of tempting you to part with cash. Alternative destinations for a taste of the real Thailand can be found in the North East and South.
Limit Your Time on the Islands – The islands are gorgeous and well worth visiting, but as with all islands majority of provisions have to be imported. That adds costs which can be considerable in comparison to prices for similar goods on the Thai mainland. Go ahead and explore the islands but don’t buy anything there that you really don’t have to.
Traveling by Night and Day- By taking the overnight train or bus not only you will wake up in a new place you can eliminate some of your overnight accommodation costs. It doesn’t get much more exciting than that! Trains are regarded as safer than taking the more expensive bus but there are a wider choice of destinations and routes on offer by the bus companies.
You have a couple of ways to get around towns and cities, those being local buses and shared taxis known as songthaews. As long as you are not in a hurry to get anywhere these are good economical options to get you where you want to go. You can take the third class railway providing you have time on your hands and a lot of patience.
Hitching a ride around Thailand is possible although not without the associated dangers of opting for this method of mobility. It’s a rare Thai who will accept your polite offer to contribute towards gas costs.
Back to Basics – Food and Shelter
Accept Offers of Food, Drink and Accommodation – Don’t be shy about accepting an invitation to join a Thai family to share their food and drink. Thai people are naturally friendly and very good hosts. It would be their genuine pleasure to have you as their guest. It is possible the invitation may extend to sleeping accommodation too but as with anywhere exercise caution before accepting.
If the idea of bedding down on a stranger’s couch is not appealing then seek out simple accommodation, or someone to share with and split the cost of a better quality room. If you want to go traditional Thai style consider a free bed at a local temple.
Free Hydration – It is far more economical to buy bigger bottles of drinking water than the smaller ones and no one will bat an eye if you fill your empty from the supply in hotel foyers or the Buddhist temples.
Avoid Western Food – Give foreign imported food a miss. It doesn’t taste the same as back home and why bother going all that way to eat burgers and pizza. Thai food is cheap, diverse and tastes fantastic. Thai people are very enthusiastic when it comes to cuisine and you will never be far away from a street vendor or restaurant and a new culinary experience.
Tip on Tipping- Tipping is second nature to most Americans and Europeans but resist the urge to leave an additional 15% for a waiter. No one will chase after you for a gratuity or think bad of you if you don’t leave one. Thai people do not tip and there is no expectation for foreigners to do so.
Alcohol – You can buy beer at any supermarket and it is about two thirds cheaper than what you would pay in a bar. Only the very brave with cast iron stomachs should try Lao Kao, the local cheap spirit. Its cheap and its cheap with good reason, it is brash and its rude. You have been warned.
Leisure and Recreation
Don’t weigh yourself down with a guidebook – Look on the internet before your trip and save any interesting tips on a memory stick to take with you. Once you are there you can refer back to it or print out what you need very cheaply.
Free Entertainment – If the sheer delight of the sights and sounds of Thailand are not enough then head for the local parks and join the health conscious Thais in activities such as basketball, tennis and aerobics – often for free. If movies are your thing seek out the resorts that are doing free showings or just sit and read a book or newspaper in the library.
If your leisure pursuits call for special equipment you are better off bringing your own. You will pay over the odds for renting sub standard, low quality sports gear in Thailand. Not only that, you may find yourself accused of causing damage to rented equipment when you return it. The accusation will then be followed up by a demand for a ridiculous amount of money to fix the equipment.
Shopping – Don’t pack your case too full of clothes. Buy what you need once you arrive in Thailand. The clothes are lightweight, perfect for the climate and cheap. On top of that its fun to bargain and haggle over prices and reach a price that both you and the shopkeeper are happy with. Think twice before being tempted to pick up souvenirs. They might look great on the market stall but come on, what are you going to do with them when you get them home apart from pass them on to unimpressed friends and relatives. Look by all means, touch if you must just don’t buy.
Rarely Applied Common Sense Stuff
Keep Tabs – Watching what you spend and what you spend it on will certainly surprise you and will help you cut back on unnecessary outgoings. Don’t get obsessed though. Relax, enjoy yourself
Reduce Money Exchange Fees – This is a tough call if your ATM card issuer charges a flat fee for withdrawing money regardless of the amount. It makes sense to make larger withdrawals and fewer of them. This will really only work if you are the type of person that can have money in your wallet and not have the urge to spend it. The other risk of course is that if you lose your wallet then you will lose a larger amount of cash. Check out all options with your bank before traveling and find out what the most cost effective way of changing currency is.
Be Street Wise – Even people who claim they are scam proof get scammed at times. Unscrupulous people who are out to part you with your money do not wear name badges with “Hi, I am your local scammer” printed on them. Scammers can be young or old, male or female and they all have a sob story or an irresistible offer you can’t refuse. Well refuse it, whatever it is, however tempting it sounds, say a polite no and move on. Watch your valuables at all times and take care not to get distracted.
Rules and Regulations
On the Road – Avoid being slapped with an on the spot fine by traffic police by wearing seatbelts in cars and helmets on motorcycles. Pointing out that locals are not wearing either of these is not a defense. If you are going to drive in Thailand make sure you have an international drivers license and carry it with you at all times.
In the Street – You shouldn’t drop litter anywhere, it’s a pretty nasty thing to do, but even a carelessly tossed candy wrapper or cigarette butt can be costly if the police decide to enforce the no littering law. This is one area where foreigners are targeted, the Thais don’t want you lousing up their streets.
Employment – It is illegal to work in Thailand without having the right paperwork, however it is not unknown to get a cash paid job here and there. If you do accept work be aware that you are acting against the law and be prepared for the consequences.