Moneysaving tips for travel in Thailand


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Hello everyone! We recently were lucky enough to have a fantastic holiday in Thailand, and I thought I’d share a few “know before you go” moneysaving tips we picked up out there!

Whilst obviously we’re a UK focused financial blog, Thailand remains one of the most popular long haul destinations with UK travellers, and has far more to it that the gap year reputation. We loved the food, people and beaches and would very heavily recommend it as a place to visit.

So onto the tips!

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Cash is king – get it in advance for travel in Thailand

If you’re making the most of your Thailand trip, you’re experiencing things like the excellent local street food and markets. At most places credit or debit cards are not accepted and cash is the method of choice, so you’ll want to take a bit more than you ordinarily do if you use cards during most trips.

(Most locals paid with a mobile cash app, but you appear to only be able to get this if you have a Thai bank account)

Thai cash machines charge about a 300 baht (about £7) flat fee for any foreign currency withdrawals no matter the size – so better to get before you go and if you do need to take out money there, better to do it once in a larger amount than lots of smaller ones.

You can see our full advice on getting the best travel money rates here, but when it comes to cash we use the TravelMoneyMax tool (connected to MoneySavingExpert) to find the best exchange rate (please, don’t get it at the airport – you’ll make me cry!)

Temple photo for article on moneysaving when travelling in Thailand

Get a Tourist SIM card for Travel in Thailand

Travelling anywhere outside your data roaming area is often expensive as it is, but it’s absolutely brutal in Thailand – my provider charged £8 a MB. Yes, that’s megabyte, not gigabyte.

So first tip: Make sure you have any roaming turned off before you get on the plane!

Happily there’s a solution – the Thai mobile phone companies offer a Thailand Tourist SIM card which allows for fairly heavy data usage and you can buy it over a range of date periods. All you’ll need to do is register the SIM card (which you may need to do over wi-fi) and put it in your phone.

All the networks are much-of-a-muchness – just be aware that whilst using it you’ll get quite a bit of text message spam of offers targeted to tourists, but you can easily ignore this and it stops when you stop using the SIM.

Do I need anything to buy a Thailand Tourist SIM card?

When buying a Thailand Tourist SIM card you’ll need your passport or suitable identification – they’ll need to take a photo of this and register it for usage.

Where can I buy a Thailand Tourist SIM card?

The airport is a good place as there are plenty of options (there are a number of specialist kiosks) or newsagent type stores.

Outside, the many, many 7-Eleven’s that can be found in Thailand will often have them. Note the tourist ones are generally behind the counter and you will need to ask for them (you’ll see SIM’s at the front of the shop, but these tend to be for locals).

The stock they had tended to be a bit variable, so you may need to walk around a couple to find what you need.

How much does a Thailand Tourist SIM card cost?

I paid 600 baht (approximately £14) for a card that lasted me 15 days, with significant amounts of data.

Expect to pay about double or half for 30 day or 8 day options.

Use Grab for local Travel in Thailand

Taxi’s in Thailand are very cheap, and there’s even cheaper options in the form of the local songthaew’s (essentially a large shared taxi where you cram in with others to get dropped off!)

It’s a touch more expensive that local taxis but we preferred the certainty (and ability to use card) via using the Grab app, which is Asia and Thailand’s equivalent to Uber.

It is a little bit more expensive than a standard taxi, but the GPS tracking gave us more comfort – unfortunately whilst there are many honest taxi drivers, we heard of too many scams/diversions via shops not to prefer this option.

I’ve used Grab when travelling around multiple countries in Asia and always found it extremely reliable.

Note that where taking a toll road, they’ll add this onto the journey cost (in Bangkok, the main expressway between the city and airport is a toll roll).

How much should I budget for Thailand?

How much to budget for Thailand depends massively on what sort of experience you want to have and how adventurous you are!

If you’re happy going to street food markets and use local services (and we’d very much encourage this) it’s very cheap – but if using facilities at resorts or more Westernised experiences, tripling your prices is not uncommon.

Regions also play a part in costs – you’ll notice things are a bit more expensive owing to the need to transport goods there, and whilst adding on 50% is overdoing it for most places, it’s not a bad budgeting assumption.

Some ideas of prices:

  • We found we could get a really good meal with a dish and side at a street food market for 100 baht about £2.35.
  • A large bottle half litre beer could be picked up for about 85 baht, or £2.
  • In a nice but budget conscious local restaurant, mains came in about 300 baht (£7)

A 40 minute journey from Bangkok Airport to the nearer side of Bangkok City was about 400-450 baht (£9-11)

Food photo for article on moneysaving when travelling in Thailand

Recommendations for Travel and Thailand

We had a really wonderful trip, and I am including a number of the hotels and experiences we used and walked away feeling we would recommend for future reference.

Recommended Hotels for Travel in Thailand

For Bangkok – The Lancaster Hotel in the Sukhumvit District.

In Koh Phangan – Panivman Hotel

In Koh Samui – Rocky’s Boutique Resort Hotel

Recommended Activities for Travel in Thailand

We had a particularly good experience at the following activities:

In Chiang Mai – Elephant Nature Park Visit.

(Note: Elephant Nature Park does not allow riding or bathing with elephants – we did a lot of research into sanctuaries that treat elephants ethically – sadly this is not always the case, but they were very well treated and cared for here).

In Chiang Mai – Benny’s Home Cooking. A really wonderful full day cooking class with a great fun instructor and fantastic market tour, plus some cookery options beyond the standard green and red curry to learn.

In Bangkok – Best Eats Midnight Food Tour by Tuk-Tuk. A fun zoom around Bangkok city seeing some of the sights as well as eating tasty local food!

If you’re looking to try and find some things to do, Hong Kong based experience agent Klook has a really wide selection and is a great way to discovering stuff. I didn’t use them in Thailand, but have had good experiences in other Asian countries.

Elephant photo for article on moneysaving when travelling in Thailand

Internal flights in Thailand

We used Thai Smile, AirAsia and Bangkok Airways and found all of them offers a good service for us without issue.

Any questions?

We hope you enjoy your own travel in Thailand! If you have any questions on saving money in Thailand or want to share your own experiences on how you saved money when travelling in Thailand, please do let us know in the comments below.

And that’s it!

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