Cheap Thrills in Bangkok

Australia really did a number on my wallet. Even with the camping and budget adjustments, that place is not cheap. Thank goodness then for cheap flights to Bangkok, a place where my budget could do a 180. The first thing I noticed on arriving in Thailand was not the beautiful beaches (those will come later hopefully) or the charming people, but mostly just how inexpensive everything was!

And yes Thailand is cheap. Not as cheap as China was, or as I expect Vietnam will be, but its incredible affordability is part of what makes it so very attractive to backpackers. Bangkok, the enormous and frenetic capital of Thailand, is where I first started to feel out what was cheap, what wasn’t, and what was a total rip off.

What’s Cheap in Bangkok


The food here is unlike anywhere else on earth. It’s so inexpensive and so plentiful it’s kind of ridiculous. A plate of pad thai costs about 40 baht ($1.33 USD) and a nicer sit down meal for two might run you 250 B ($8.30). It gets better: at night ever street corner is overflowing with carts selling every kind of Thai delicacy you can imagine- from fruit shakes to BBQ to egg rolls- all for usually under $1. And it’s all absolutely delicious.

So far eating is the frontrunner for my favorite thing to do in Thailand.

Clothing and Souvenirs

In the evenings giant outdoor night markets spring up down every street and alley selling just about anything ever: paper lanterns, watches, plastic buckets, fashionable dresses, toy helicopters, fake pills and on and on. Everything is priced low to begin with and then you start the bargaining.


The public transportation system is somewhat wanting, but a trip on the sky train runs 20-40 baht, and a public ferry up the river is just 14 b. For everywhere they don’t go you can hop in a taxi. Your ride anywhere around downtown should run you more than 150 baht (assuming they don’t decide to take you on the “scenic route” which seems to be a pretty popular game).


While a big night out can be costly, it’s still much must cheaper than at home or in Australia where a mixed drink at a bar could easily cost $9. Here it’s more like $3. The ubiquitous “buckets” on Kho San Road cost 200-300 baht but carry quite a kick. The most economical option is to pick up an extra large Chang beer at the 7-11 for a mere 40 baht. They’ll even open the bottle for you!

What’s not as cheap:

Western Food

If you’re craving some comfort food from home it’s probably going to cost you. A personal size pizza at a local restaurant ran me 260 baht- that’s pretty much normal western prices! Of course with Thai food being so delicious and cheap, this isn’t really a big problem.


I honestly didn’t do a ton of sightseeing in Bangkok- I was too busy being social and/or hungover. I did however manage to get downtown to see the Grand Palace. Admission was 300 baht but well, well worth it to see the elaborate and shiny 18th century palace and religious center. This includes admission to Wat Phra Kaeo (the Emerald Buddha), the most holy spot in Thai Buddhism, and to a couple nearby museums. In fact, it’s actually not so bad a deal at all.

As for Bangkok itself what can I say? It’s very big, and very dirty and very, very, exciting. I feel like after a week there I barely scratched the surface of the place. Luckily I’m fairly certain I’ll be back- with prices like that I can’t really afford not to.


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34 Responses to Cheap Thrills in Bangkok

  1. claire January 6, 2011 at 9:31 AM #

    That picture of pad thai has me positively salivating….at 9:30 in the morning. I thoroughly enjoyed Bangkok as well, and the beaches will not disappoint either!

  2. Sheryll January 6, 2011 at 2:30 PM #

    Wow! Thanks for this post Stephanie! I’m planning to go to Thailand in August for 3 months. The food is thing I cannot WAIT for. And the drinking…let’s not forget the drinking. LOL!

  3. Michael January 6, 2011 at 3:04 PM #

    Accommodation is extremelly cheap too if you look for it properly!

    As for thrills, they are endless. Have you visited MBK yet?

  4. Kenan Lucas January 6, 2011 at 4:22 PM #

    Great weather, beaches, Thai food, cheap beer – is Thailand heaven?

  5. Matt January 6, 2011 at 6:32 PM #

    Oh how I miss Bangkok. Check out Pad Thai Thip Samai when you pass back through – best pad thai in Bangkok. Tell your taxi driver, ‘si yak san ran rat.’

  6. Andi January 6, 2011 at 7:55 PM #

    Ummmm Thai food. 🙂

  7. Abbie January 6, 2011 at 10:07 PM #

    And the food is SO good! But wait until you come back and go to a Thai restaurant. It will be VERY difficult to pay more than a couple bucks for a meal…

  8. AdventureRob January 7, 2011 at 3:47 AM #

    The price is a big attraction to me in Thailand, don’t be ashamed of it! I went from there to Australia so had the opposite impact. used to getting what I want for cheap, and then finding out it’s 9-10x the price in Oz (basic things like beer included). It was a shock and one of the reasons I didn’t enjoy Oz nearly as much as SE asian countries.

  9. Rease January 8, 2011 at 9:44 AM #

    I miss being a traveler living in US dollars instead of an expat earning and living in local currency. It changes things quite a bit!

  10. travelpology January 9, 2011 at 10:05 AM #

    I really need to get me to a place where delicious food is $1!

  11. Cam January 9, 2011 at 1:06 PM #

    You’re making me miss Thailand! ;-(
    Looks like your having a great time though!

  12. LIlian January 9, 2011 at 1:17 PM #

    I love Thai food a lot. My favourite is adding lots of nuts on top of the pad thai! Crunchy!!! Besides food, love the shopping too!

  13. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ January 14, 2011 at 9:55 AM #

    BUCKETS!!! Oh how I miss buckets… that food doesn’t look to bad either!

  14. Brianna January 18, 2011 at 11:22 AM #

    I like the word affordable better that the word cheap… anyway, there are so many options right now really to travel at a minimum cost. Isn’t that amazing? I just hope travel industry will not have this crazy thought of raising their cost especially hotels and flights. That will lead for a decrease in travels for sure.

  15. melvin April 25, 2012 at 1:59 AM #

    i agree with you on the portions of food in bangkok. you can get stuffed easily with inexpensive and really good food.

  16. Grant Lucas |iFly November 18, 2013 at 5:17 AM #

    I’ve been to Bangkok with friends a couple of times for I have another friend whose working and living there – she got her own. Good for her and an advantage for us for we don’t have to pay that much in accommodation only if were going to places like beaches. In terms of food we really try to avoid eating in expensive restaurants. The good thing in Thailand is there’s plenty to go and choose from to get stuffed with affordable and low cost food yet it still taste delicious.

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