I spent a total of $442.17 my first month traveling in Thailand. I spent the first two weeks in Bangkok, a week in Chiang Mai, and one week in Pai (and counting). I’m going to show you exactly how I did this, and ways that you can, too.
Drinking a ton of Chang beers and gin and sodas definitely
made for some great nights set me back a bit, as did a few meals I decided to splurge on (as in, spend $4 as opposed to less than $1). However, I still managed to save here and there which made a huge difference at the end of the month.
Before I even got to Thailand, I set a budget goal: Do not spend more than $27- $30 a day.
I wasn’t planning on sitting in a hostel all day to save money, but this limit gave me enough leeway to explore each city, eat well, and stay in ‘nice’ accommodation.
I keep track of every penny I spend. I use an app called Xe Currency that converts my baht into dollars for me. This app is wonderful and works even when you don’t have wifi.
Bangkok was the most expensive city out of the three, however, I still managed to spend a little amount of money.
I went Couchsurfing the first three days I was there. Couchsurfing is a platform travelers use to find hosts to stay at their apartment/house for free. My hosts were so nice and hospitable, and I still keep in touch with them!
So, the first three days I was in Thailand, I didn’t pay for accommodation. I spent roughly $10-13 each day on transportation and food.
I then stayed at Born Free Hostel Vista for $6 a night. When I stay in hostels, I only stay in dorms as they’re much cheaper than a private room (and you get to meet so many people!).
A few days later, I spent two nights in a guesthouse in Ayutthaya which was around $4 a night. Ayutthaya is a town in northern Thailand. It’s a two hour train ride away that costs 50 cents.
Next up was LUBD hostel for the last few days in Bangkok, and was the most expensive accommodation I had paid for.
Doing research beforehand really helps a lot. HostelWorld is a great website where you can find a ton of reviews and check out prices for any hostel to gauge what sort of experience you may have there.
The food in Asia is incredibly cheap and delicious. I try to aim for meals that are under 100 baht ($3), which is very easy, especially in Thailand.
For the first week or so, I was eating fruit from a food stand for breakfast or lunch, and then going out to eat for dinner, where I would have some sort of Thai cuisine.
Drinking set me back a bit. Beer costs around $2-3, and if you get stuck on Khao San Road, then you’ll probably be splitting a bucket with someone for a little over $3 each.
I tried to take public buses as much as possible, which cost around 20 cents a ride. I also tried to walk as much as possible (I walked a lot in Bangkok). The metro in Bangkok is pretty cheap as well.
I found myself holding on for dear life on a tuk-tuk and a motortaxi a couple times just for the exhilarating experience. However, both of these options are quite expensive compared to the alternatives.
I took taxis quite a few times, too. I always ask the taxi driver to put on the meter before getting into the taxi to make sure I’m paying the correct amount at the end of the trip.
I went to a free meditation class while I was in Bangkok, and visited a few temples which were either free (if I stayed on the outside) or very cheap to get inside of, around $1-$2. The most expensive attraction to visit in Bangkok is the Golden Temple. A lot of the main things to do, like Chinatown, the weekend market, or Khao San Road, are free to visit. Massages, another must do, are very cheap as well.
I also took the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, which was cheaper than flying. Even though this took a lot longer than flying, I didn’t have to pay for one night accommodation. Doing little money saving things such as these will add up over time.
Read my guide on Bangkok to get a better idea of some of the things you can do in this city!
I walked everywhere in Chiang Mai. The only time I took a cab was to get from the train station to my hostel. I would go on forty-minute walks multiple times a day. While this definitely doesn’t sound appealing to most people, I will say that I was able to see a lot of the city, get some exercise in, and save money. I am on a budget, after all!
I stayed at Bunchen Hostel, which costs $3 a night. One of the temples I visited, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (temple on a hill), costs around 75 cents to get into. I spent a lot of time hanging out at cafes, drinking coffee, and working online.
I ate a lot of the same food that I ate in Bangkok, and even found a café that I went to multiple times for their 70 baht (less than $3) muesli, yogurt, and fruit. Food in Chiang Mai is delicious and a bit cheaper than in Bangkok.
This is where I’ve been saving the most money. I only paid for accommodation a total of two nights, and I’ve been here for over two weeks.
In exchange for free accommodation, half off food, and free drinks, I’ve been bartending at a hostel. So if I’m not paying for accommodation, that’s $6 a day that I’m saving.
Food here is incredibly cheap, and I’ve been eating eggs, avocado, and toast for around $2, museli, yogurt, and fruit for around $1.50, and Thai street food, burgers, and curry for under $3.
There have been some days here in Pai where I’ve spent a total of $6, all on food.
I also rented a motorbike that costs $3 a day. I used it for the first week or so, but after I saw most of the sights around Pai, I returned it. If there’s a place I need to get to with a group of people, I usually hop onto the back of someone’s motorbike.
Pai is very walkable as well, and I spend most of my day’s blogging, hanging out at the pool, or relaxing: it’s what you do in Pai.
Almost all of the sights in Pai are free, too. The only sight I paid to see was the hot springs, which cost 40 baht, around 80 cents to get into.
My biggest expenses have been (drunk) food and alcohol, both
necessary for survival of which I can cut back on. It’s easy to eat cheaply here; I try not to eat at restaurants that sell Western food. I’ve been eating at a few cafés that are a bit more expensive than the alternatives, but their food is so good that I continue to go back. If you’re on an even tighter budget, the best advice I can give is to eat street food and try not to drink alcohol.
Read my guide on Pai for more things to do in this unique hippy town.
How YOU Can Save Money
Work at Hostels
A lot of the time, you can volunteer at a hostel in exchange for free accommodation. Doing this has saved me over $100, and I’ve had some of the best nights of my life bartending. I’ve met so many amazing people, saved money, and got to become part of an incredible hostel staff.
Walk into a hostel and ask them if they need anyone. A lot of the time they will!
Give up Comfort
Quite literally, if you want to save money, give up some comfort and don’t book expensive hotels and eat fancy dinners.
I’ve been sleeping on a broken bed with a mattress that’s slowly sinking towards the floor. Mice have run across my pillow at night, and I wake up with multiple mosquito and ant bites every single day. While this sounds horrible, I’m actually enjoying every second. It isn’t permanent and it’s an experience in and of itself.
You’ll need to step out of your comfort zone for this one if you’re serious about saving money and traveling on a budget.
Like I said, try not to splurge on food and eat at expensive restaurants. No matter where you are, try eating the local cuisine instead of Western food, which is more expensive. The street food in Thailand is some of the best food I’ve ever had, and it’s always better to immerse yourself in a new culture and try new food (even though the avocado and egg sandwiches I’ve been eating are incredible).
Keep Track of Your Expenses
This is probably the best advice I can give you. Actually seeing how much you’re spending will make a huge difference. That way, you’ll know if you’re under or over budget and can plan accordingly.
Under budget = more food the next day. That’s how I look at it.
Get the Stomach Bug
I’m totally kidding here, but it’s bound to happen if you’re traveling in Asia. Most of the people I’ve talked to have gotten food poisoning at some point in Asia. But once you get it, you’re usually safe from getting it again.
I saved a ton of money over a couple days because all I could stomach was toast. I slept most of the day away, too. It was horrible.
Drink Less Alcohol
Like I said, nights out will be one of your biggest expenses. Try cutting back a few times a week. You’ll be surprised with how much money you can save.
Set a Budget
I set my budget for $27-30 a day, and have been spending under that every single day. This helps, since some days I’ll be over budget (like buying a $24 overnight train ride).
Take Public Transportation
You’ll save a lot of money by walking or taking public transportation. If you’re in Asia, try avoiding the tuk-tuks and motortaxis and instead opt for taking the metro, public buses, or walking, which goes for any country.
Try and plan flights, accommodation, and transportation ahead of time. That way, you’ll never be stuck having to pay $20 for accommodation or for a new flight.
If you have the time, try and travel slowly if you’re trying to save money. Although there is no right or wrong way to travel, I have found that traveling slowly saves the most amount of money. By staying in one place, you don’t have to move around as much, you can spend days relaxing and walking around a new city, and you can find little hole-in-the-wall cafes and other hidden secrets.
Always remember to travel in whichever way best suits YOU and your time!
Not only do you get to meet locals, but you get to save money at the same time. Check out my Couchsurfing profile to get an idea of how to set one up (you have to log in first)!
I also haven’t bought any clothes or any trinkets while traveling (it’s not like I have any room in my bag anyway…).
You can travel on a tight budget. There are so many ways to travel cheaply; I’ve only shown you a few of them. You have to be smart about what you spend your money on. You don’t need to spend a lot to have the time of your life.
If travel is something you really want, then make it your priority to save and cut back where you can. Here are a few ways you can save and make money for travel. Here are some tips for staying on budget while traveling, and here are some ways to see the world on the cheap.
Do you have anymore ideas on budgeting and saving money while traveling? Share below!