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 it’s 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” (link to Mike’s article) 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:
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.
This post was written by me, sponsored by Flight Centre.