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Bangkok for less
Inside tips on getting more bang for your buck in Bangkok
Bangkok, Thailand has incredible dining, upscale hotels, shopping for days, and all at a reasonable price. Here are our tips to enjoy this exquisite city without breaking the bank.
Bangkok’s cheap sleeps
Hotels in Thailand are dirt cheap. We’re talking all-star luxury at a budget hotel price. Our favorite Bangkok hotels for value are the Hansar Bangkok Hotel, The VIE Hotel Bangkok, and The Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit. When looking for a value hotel, make sure it’s in a good location. Hotels that offer free breakfast are high on our list; that benefit saves us even more cash.
If you find yourself on an extreme budget, you always can stay at a local hostel. Many hostels in Bangkok will only charge you a couple of dollars per night. You might pay a little extra for your own bathroom or private room, but if you’re just using it as a place to sleep at night, you won’t be disappointed.
Saving on souvenirs
One Bangkok shopping experience that’s not to be missed: The Chatuchak weekend market. This famous flea market is the biggest in the country and the largest weekend market in the world. Covering more than 35 acres with more than 8,000 stalls, this market is where you can find whatever your heart desires. Antiques, fresh produce, knockoff designer clothes, souvenirs, and even adorable animals (monkeys, anyone?) are for sale in this expansive labyrinth. On-site companies make it especially easy to ship your purchases back home. With this option, there’s no excuse not to buy those unique souvenirs you’ve been eying.
The Chatuchak market also is an assault on the senses. It’s a great place to sip on one of the ubiquitous Thai iced teas as your browse among the many stalls. Bargaining at the market is expected; if you don’t like a price, try to haggle for something that’s more reasonable. If you can’t come to an agreement with the vendor, walk away. We can almost guarantee that another vendor will have something similar and might be willing to give you a better deal. More often than not, the original vendor will run you down once you turn your back and give you a significantly better offer than before.
Viewfinder Tip: Be prepared to haggle at markets in Bangkok, and don’t be afraid to walk away from a price you don’t like.
Make sure you come to the market well-prepared. Wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be doing a fair amount of exploring. Be sure to stay hydrated and bring sunscreen. Also remember to bring enough cash and a backpack to carry all of your treasures. There are ATMs on the premises but they can be hard to hunt down.
In the last few years ,Bangkok also has established itself as a culinary destination. From 5-star restaurants serving ten course meals to vendors hawking pad thai on the street, there are many ways to taste the city. The best way to save money while dining is to eat where the locals eat. Just outside the Chatuchak market is Or Tor Kor, a reliable and delicious place that specializes in som tam (a refreshing green papaya salad) and whole grilled chicken. With dishes like these, you can feed the entire family for under ten dollars. The nearby stalls also are a great place to grab some dessert after a spicy meal. Sweet mango and sticky rice are our go-to treats.
Bangkok street food is some of the best in the world. We can attest that we haven’t had a bad plate of pad thai on the streets yet. In fact, some of the tastiest plates have been from the vendors on the side of the road. A big plate of food will cost you around 20 to 50 baht and you’re free to move from stall to stall. Take a little tom yum from one place, walk five feet and pile some curry from another vendor on the same plate. It’s the ultimate smorgasbord.
Chris and I are terrible at saving when it comes to transportation in a new destination; our track record shows that we almost always end up overpaying for our first fare. The good news is that we’re quick learners. In Bangkok, if you look like a foreigner, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re going to get charged more than the locals. In order to avoid being overcharged, ask your hotel’s front desk how much it should cost to get to your destination. That way when the tuk tuk driver gives you a quote, you’ll know if you’re being overcharged or not.
Just like in the Chatuchak market, haggling for the price of a tuk tuk ride is normal. All taxis in Bangkok should be metered. If your taxi driver refuses to tun on the meter, it’s best to get out of the cab, as this is a telltale sign of funny business. Tipping your taxi driver is not required although most patrons round up to the nearest five or ten baht. Keep in mind that some taxi and tuk tuk drivers pretend not to have change, so carry small bills when you can.
Treat yourself to a massage
You can’t travel all the way to Thailand without experiencing a cheap massage. Foot, back, and full body massages can be found in every corner the city. A foot massage can run as low as 120 baht (sometimes lower) while a nice full body massage starts around 200-300 baht an hour. Considering the exchange rate, that’s under US$10 for an hour-long massage. You’ll usually pay more if you get a massage at your hotel, a spa, or boutique. To save some baht, simply wander the streets or ask a local for the best recommendations.
What are some of your strategies for saving money while traveling?
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Chris and Tawny have had articles and videos published on USA TODAY TRAVEL, BBC Travel, Matador Network, as well as appeared as guest stars on TLC Asia's Fun Taiwan television series. When not on the road, you can find Chris and Tawny nestled in their home in Tacoma, Washington fueling up on coffee and cat cuddles while planning their future adventures. You can follow their travels on their blog, Instagram, and YouTube