Another month has passed, another 30-day tourist visa has expired and another (small) dent has been made in my bank account. This month it was Thailand, which is notoriously more expensive than some of its neighbouring south-east Asian countries. However, the north is cheaper than the south, so I didn’t head below the Bangkok belt on this trip. Again, I’ll begin with where I was, then follow with how much I spent and where all that money went.
- January 31-February 3: Bangkok
- February 4-8: Chiang Mai
- February 8-19: Pai
- February 19-20: Chiang Mai
- February 20-24: Mae Sot
- February 25-28: Bangkok
How did my second month pan out?
Again, as with Cambodia, I used the Trail Wallet app on my phone to track all of my expenses for the 29 days I was in Thailand.
After Cambodia, and the confusion of constantly paying in two mixed currencies, the Thai baht was a welcome change. It is also easy for mental math – at the time of writing, 100 baht is about $3 or £2 or 25 Swedish crowns. This also led me to a really easy budget – 1000 baht per day. So I could simply slip a single thousand note into my wallet every morning. Easy, peasy… and I even ended up right on budget!
One month in Northern Thailand cost me $867.50 or just under $30 per day.
I don’t know how it happened – but I actually spent almost $100 less this month than the tally I came up with for my last month in Cambodia. Even though Cambodia felt cheaper.
This is for a more-or-less solo female traveller in her late-20s that is willing to go budget in most categories, but who will pay a little extra for a less-dodgy hostel room, a slightly more comfy night bus and dinners that aren’t just fried rice. Actually, I think I am the only budget-traveler in the history of Thailand to manage to go a whole month without eating fried rice once.
The big category breakdown:
This month I only spent four nights in a dorm bed. I shared rooms with other people I traveled with on a handful of occasions, but for the most part I allowed myself the luxury of my own place. Because hey, I deserve it. Room rates ranged from 150-300 baht (about $5-9) per night, and prices were more indicative of the city I was in than the quality of the room. A decent dorm in Bangkok was 300 baht ($9) a night, but my comfy, private room at Julie’s Guesthouse in Chiang Mai was only 150 baht ($5) per night.
Food is cheap in Thailand. It is not impossible to eat well for 150 baht ($4.50) per day. You can find a decent pad thai for 40 baht almost anywhere, and curries will usually set you back 60-80 baht, including rice. As with elsewhere, Western food is a bit more pricey. Most of my food costs were driven up by drinks of the non-alcoholic variety. A cappuccino ranges from 50-90 baht (or 115 in the airport!), a smoothie can run 25-75 baht and of course there is the daily bottled water costs, which aren’t a ton but still add up. I usually bought 1.5 L bottles in 7-11 for 14 baht. Unlike Cambodia, refills aren’t much of a ‘thing’ in Thailand – leading to a lot of wasted plastic.
This biggest item in this category was my flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur for $66. I will write another post later on why AirAsia > RyanAir. Back on land, I didn’t hit tons of places this month, but I did cover some distance. This included two night busses: Bangkok – Chiang Mai (400 baht; $12) and Mae Sot to Bangkok (410 baht, $12), both of which were 1st class. Which is actually 2nd class. VIP is first class. 2nd class is 3rd class. Local is purgatory. Following? Moving on… This also includes several other long bus rides, some shorter hops, tons of metro and boat trips in Bangkok and finally my taxi to the airport.
Sha-zam! On arrival by land passport holders from G7 countries (that’s: U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan) get a free 30 day tourist visa in Thailand. All other countries get a 15 day tourist visa. Almost anyone arriving by air gets 30 days free.
Alcohol is expensive in Thailand! Compared to Cambodia, anyhow. A large beer is usually 80-100 baht and mix drinks will run you about 80-200 baht (That’s upwards of $6!). Between the prices and what is well-known among backpackers in Thailand as a “Chang-over,” I was actually driven to give up booze for the last 10 days of the month. Oh and something about not becoming an alcoholic.
This was motorbikes, of course, but also included a pedicure (150 baht; $4.50), two massages (120-150 baht; $4-5), a number of pool and gym visits (60 baht; $2), a museum (90 baht; $3), a dip in some hot springs (300 baht; $9) and my big splurge: The Royal Palace in Bangkok for 500 baht ($15)!
A lot of items fell into ‘MISC’ this month. I bought a one-month SIM card with tons of data (300 baht, $9), a used Lonely Planet Thailand (450 baht, $14), the necessary toiletries, laundry (which ranges from 20-80 baht per kilo – cheaper as you head north), some postcards and stamps, bug spray, a few items of clothing (including some used runners, pants and a hoodie), a purse, some postcards and a diving grip for my GoPro. I also had a SNAFU with my bank card, which cost me $20 in Western Union transfer fees, and 180 baht in ‘thank-you cigarettes’ to the person who loaned me money for two days so I wouldn’t starve. Thanks again, Flo.
Budget breakers (but not really…):
- Flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur (2 hours): $66
- The Royal Palace, Bangkok: $15
- Wiring myself money with Western Union: $20
- … nothing else…
Thailand surprised me. I felt like I was bleeding money at every corner, but maybe it was just a trick of the currency – all those hundreds flying out of my wallet weren’t eating into my budget as much as it seemed.
I do have to say that spending almost two week in Pai doing very little went a long ways towards staying so far under budget. I also didn’t do any big activities like diving or galavanting with elephants. I would have liked to have splurged to take the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, which would have been closer to $20 than the $12 I spent on the bus, but it was unfortunately full by the time I got my act together enough to book it.
I could have even taken a 45 minutes flight for the Bangkok-Chiang Mai leg for just $35, but somehow this seemed just over the top – I mean, add the airport taxi and I would have been pushing $50! OK, yeah, I should have flown. But I saved the environment instead and spent 13 hours on a night bus, bruising even place in my body where a bone even considers sort of kind of sticking out.
Next? Five days in KL. or, for those less ‘in-the-know’ about SE Asia locality slang, that’s Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After that it is off to the Philippines for some diving and to meet up with friends from home and the road!