Saturday, 30 May 2009

Budget Travel In Thailand: How To Travel In Thailand With Style And Without Bankruptcy

Thailand was my first tourist destination outside Europe and North America. Based on the sage advice of my Thailand-experienced friends, I was sure that this paradise vacation would be carried out on ridiculous costs. However, back home, I have found out too late, that during my little Thailand adventure I have spent almost the same amount of money as one of my regular surges to Europe. If only I knew that carefully planning your trip to Thailand can manifest itself in huge savings. The following list includes some solid advice that can help those novice Thailand visitors to save significant amounts of cash and still enjoy their vacation:

1. Season choice. Traveling in Thailand Islands during the low season can save you up to 25% of the accommodation costs (up to 25$ per bungalow per night if you choose high standard – not luxury - accommodation). Similar to many other world locations that are based operate seasonally; there is a significant price fluctuation across seasons. Not less important is that fact that the weather in Thailand is quite pleasant even during the low season. The temperatures’ difference between the “hot season” and the “peak season” is miniscule, and during the “wet season” one can experience only a mild occasional rain. Therefore, in Thailand one can lower accommodation costs by avoiding the peak season without paying the price of suffering from unbearable cold or coping with endless monsoon.

2. Transportation. Getting from Bangkok to your final destination in one of the Southern Islands by train or bus instead of by plane can save you up to 80$ each way. You can save a bundle if you arrive to Bangkok International Airport in the evening. In this case you save, besides the gap between relatively expensive airfare and train or bus ticket, the first night’s accommodation cost as well (40$ - 100$ per bungalow per night in high standard – not luxury - accommodation).

3. Food. In Western style countries, the more you pay for your dinner the better it is, so everyone can make a personal decision about getting an appropriate cost – benefit balance. In Thailand, and especially in the Southern Islands it is much simpler: in most cases, the cheaper the better. Expensive restaurants in Thailand Islands usually specialize on Western food that is neither authentic nor of superior taste; a standard dinner will cost you 10$ - 30$ in a restaurant of this kind. Alternatively, the dinner in a cheap restaurant with plastic chairs will cost you 3$ - 8$ and it is usually both tasty and authentic. My most disappointing Thai dinner was served in a fancy restaurant in Bangkok and had cost 120$ for a couple, whereas my best dinner was served in a cheap family restaurant in Koh Phangan. The owner - young mom named Mam – prepared the meal for us exactly as we wished it would be and charged us with measly 5-6$ per person.

4. Air Conditioning. The presence of air conditioning in your room can make a huge difference in accommodation rates. For example, the same room rates in the same resort can vary from 15$-30$ for a bungalow with a fan to 40$ - 100$ for an air-conditioned bungalow. Although choosing an air-conditioned room during the hot season (such as March – April) is crucial, if you visit Southern Thailand during the rainy season – a bungalow with a fan can both satisfy your needs and cut your expenses in more than a half.

5. Location choice. Similar to the principle held in most places in the world, the accommodation rates in Thailand Islands depend on your location choice. The bungalow in the central beach, close to the airport or seaport full of thriving nightlife will probably be twice as expensive as the same bungalow in a remote quiet beach. However, accessibility is an issue in the Thailand Islands, and the taxi fares and taxi boat fares operate under the same principal as the accommodation rates. So there is a rule you may adopt: if you are looking for social activities and busy nightlife– stay close to the airport or seaport; otherwise make a little effort and move after your arrival to a remote beach. You will save up to 60% on the accommodation rates this way.

6. Communication. It will probably not come as a complete shock, but the use of cellular phone from outside of Thailand could be extremely expensive. To save on communication costs you can either buy a local cellular phone with prepaid SIM card or use the Telephone & Internet centers services. Mind you that the cost of these services may vary. As usual, if you’re calling overseas from your resort’s office – it will be more expensive than using a call center in the town. The cheapest solution is probably giving your phone number to your friends or relatives overseas since every call center has a phone number that can be used for calling back.

7. Price negotiation. In tourist locations in Thailand negotiation is a necessity or a way of life. Likewise, in the less touristy islands and areas price bargaining is accepted as well. Just try it – in Thailand price negotiation isn’t considered an embarrassing behavior, so you have nothing to lose.

8. Psychology. Although, in Thailand everything is perceived to be cheaper than in your home country, don’t be fooled by the seemingly low prices and control your expenses. Buying an enormous amount of inexpensive things can really add up to a surprisingly large sum of money.

During my last visit to Thailand, I followed these guidelines with persistence and I was happy to disclose, that budget travel in Thailand can be more than just an economical issue, it can also be enjoyable. Interestingly enough, in Thailand, the less you spend – the closer you get to the local authentic experience.