How to Save Money and Stay Safe in Thailand

Aug 01, 2023


Friendly and fun-loving, sacred and exotic, Thailand attracts travelers from all walks of life. You can find cheap backpacker guesthouses and $5,000 a night luxury resorts with rooftop bars and Muay Thai boxing rings. Most travelers, however, are neither gap year vagabonds lugging rucksacks stuffed with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, nor are they shouldering Hermes Birkin bags with the jet-set crowd. Most people have a modest budget, but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel like a king (or Queen Sirikit) in Thailand.

Eat Local

Besides flight and accommodation, what’s the one thing you spend the most money on when you travel? Let's end the suspense…food.

Western food and Western brands are expensive in Thailand, so skip McDonald’s and eat local. There’s a reason why Thailand’s street stalls are packed everyday; the steaming bowls of Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong are not only delicious but deliciously dirt cheap.

In Bangkok, the average Thai lives on $230 USD a month. This number is even less in the countryside. If you want to stretch your modest budget, you need to eat local, drink local –some Thai bars and restaurants have a half-price Happy Hour - and buy like a local.

Keep Yourself Safe

Hospitality is an art form in Thailand –you’ve heard of the famous Thai “smile,” right? But that doesn’t mean there aren’t those that are happy to part you from your modest travel budget. When you’re a stranger in a strange land, pre-planning and street smarts go a long way.

Not all of Bangkok’s tuk-tuk drivers are out to squeeze every bit of spare change from you, but when haggling with hapless tourists, some inflate prices beyond the local rate.

There are all sorts of stories of tuk-tuk drivers taking tourists “for a ride.” They have a reputation for driving aimlessly around the city and dropping you off where you don't want to be, just so you have to hire another tuk-tuk, or of taking cheap gas coupons in exchange for driving tourists to souvenir and tailors’ shops. Metered taxis and buses aren’t as exotic as Thailand’s auto rickshaws, but they can be lighter on the wallet.

From cheap accommodations to stalls selling barbecued insects, Khao San Road is the “anything goes” commercial center of Bangkok. Everyone is selling something, and everyone has a deal for you.

However, if a deal seems too good to be true, then it is. Cheap goods, especially suits, high-end electronics and “authentic” gems, are a mirage. Buying an authentic gem on Khao San Road for a fraction of the price of what you would pay at home is a tantalizing idea, but don’t be fooled. The quality is substandard. The gem scam is one of the oldest in Bangkok.