I’m in Ayutthaya and prices here seem to be about average, so I thought this would be a good place to break down a day’s expenses and share some tips on saving money. My cost-per-day goal for Thailand is $35 US or about 1,100 baht, though I could get by on a lot less than that if I really needed to.
Room — I’m staying at a mid-range guest house called Tony’s Place in a pleasant room with AC and a hot shower for 500 baht. Right next door is another place with similar rooms for 400 baht, but it lacks charm and has no courtyard to hang around and talk to other travelers. To me, that’s worth an extra 100 baht.
If I really looked around and was willing to forgo a few comforts, I could find a room for 250-300 baht. So far the most I’ve paid for a room was 1,100 baht upon arrival in Bangkok. If you search in advance for cheap hotels in Bangkok, I’m sure you can find one that fits your style and budget. The least has been 300 baht for a clean AC room in Trat.
Food — I try to eat from street stalls as often as I can. The food is better and costs half the price of a sit-down cafe. For example, an iced coffee (served in a bag) will run you 17-20 baht from a cart, while the restaurant will charge you 40-60 baht for one half as big. The food you find in the fancier places is often automatically toned down in spiciness, as well. Depending on your palate, this can be a good or bad thing. I vote bad.
Today I splurged on breakfast and had a banana pancake at the guesthouse for 60 baht and an iced coffee. Lunch consisted of skewers of chicken and spicy pork balls (10 baht each) and fresh-squeezed orange juice for 25 baht. For dinner, a plate of tasty pad kee mow cost only 35 baht at the night market, but it was so hot and humid that I just scarfed it down and retreated to find a spot with a fan.
Drinking can really tear your budget up quickly — “big beers” (640 ml — about the size of a quart beer in the US) sell for less than 50 baht at convenience stores, but will run you from 70-100 baht at a restaurant. A truly dedicated boozer could save money by buying beer at the 7-11 and drinking in his room or on the curb. But, where’s the fun in that?
Transport — I walked everywhere in Ayutthaya, which isn’t the norm, so I’m including the cost of my minibus back to Bangkok. So far, tuk tuks generally seem to be the most expensive option — they always quote twice the real rate and are tough to haggle with. In Bangkok, metered taxis are usually cheaper for any distance over a few kilometers. A 200 baht ride in a tuk tuk usually works out to 60-70 baht in an air-conditioned taxi. Motorcycle taxis and songthaews (baht buses) are the cheapest options, costing 20-30 baht for short distances.
When traveling between cities, a little research can save you a lot of money. It’s easy to get lazy and just let the hotel arrange your tickets — they’ll have a taxi pick you up and take you to the bus or train station. It is damn convenient, but you pay a premium — at least 25% more, and sometimes as much as double. It’s always cheaper to go to the station yourself and buy your ticket.
Sightseeing — I paid 50 baht apiece for entrance to a couple of temple complexes, which was money well-spent. It’s really easy to get carried away, of course, and there is no lack of things to do. Boat trips, elephant rides, canopy tours, and shopping sprees can cost anywhere from a few hundred baht to several thousand. Choose wisely!
I hope this is of some help. If you have questions or a tip to share, please leave a comment.