I have traveled to Thailand twice and I have spent the better half of two weeks there. I tried it out with my friends and then with my girlfriend and I have found some useful tips in terms of managing your time, making the most out of your money, packing only what you’ll actually use, and being as mobile possible. Thinking of traveling by yourself or with friends? Check out my previous post about traveling to Thailand for some useful places to stay as well as what to eat and drink. If you are considering a trip to Southeast Asia, this guide may come in handy. Let’s get into it!
Try to get the most amount of time off that you can so that you can actually spend as much time as you want being lazy on the beach, visiting tourist destinations, or seeking out sight seeing areas. While one day seems like a difference, it can really help if one likes to break their flights apart or spend more time in popular cities like Bangkok, Chiangmai, or Phuket before going to leaving. I would recommend a five to seven day trip to Thailand so that you could see two cities and areas really well before heading back home, going to your next country, or heading back to work. If visiting Thailand is rare for you, then one week is ok for traveling around the country and going to a new city each day or every other day. Regardless of how you plan your trip, this time off will give you and your significant other some much needed time away from work, family, or simply just to break the monotony of the same old regular dinner and Netflix nights.
Do your homework. Don’t wait until you are at the airport to figure out what activities to do. Look them up on google and feel free to ask friends who have already been there. A quick Facebook post about recommendations for the area will allow you to see what you actually would like to try from a given list of choices. This way you can spend more time exploring and less time on your phone confirming if places are open.
If it’s difficult for your S.O. and yourself to coordinate time off, it is important that you take care of the booking in advance. Flights and hotels do offer deals last minute, but for the highly exclusive flights during the warm months, they can start to fill up depending on where you want to stay and when you want to fly. I am fortunate because my friends and group have a similar go with the flow attitude as I do and although we booked our flights separately, we made it work. We adapted to the different schedules and it wasn’t too bad. If you or your S.O. is very particular, planning early is key.
As far as the airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Meung have their pros and cons. While both can deal with international and domestic flights, not the same can be said about their availability, frequency, and price of flights. From my experience, Don Mueang offers more domestic flights that would normally not be able to be purchased from Suvarnabhumi. I noticed that flights from Bangkok to Krabi were around $60-120 round trip. If one were to book a direct flight to Krabi they would be losing out on hundreds of dollars instead of breaking the trip and taking a flight out of Don Mueang through Air Asia.
Vacationing in Thailand can be as extravagant or cheap as you want. Depending on what accommodations and dining one chooses can dictate what kind of direction your trip goes in. I like to spend less money on the accommodations and more on the tours, activities, food, and drinks. To each their own. I brought $500 in cash with me because I learned that ATMs that are compatible with western cards are scarce. I also learned to spread my money out so that if I lost it or got robbed, I would be ok. A debit card with an international chip is ideal because credit isn’t normally accepted for small purchases or companies that only operate with cash. Cash rules everything around me applies here more than in the U.S. so be sure to do your research. To give you an idea, the going exchange rate is roughly 33 Baht to 1 USD. Taxis cost about 100 Baht and dinner will run you to about 200-700 Baht depending on where you go. If you keep your food choices modest, you can get away with spending 300-400 Baht per meal. This can be even cheaper if you limit your food expenses to street food. Remember street vendors and any store without prices will try to up sell you on prices. Look around first before you set out on impulse buying because you may find a better deal. Be nice and aware so you can try to bring the price down to more or less what the original cost was. I don’t mind paying a little more because tourism is supporting their GDP, but I don’t like getting ripped off either.
I thought I packed light this time, but I was still wrong. I realized that bringing a selfie stick was not very useful. Although it could come in handy, I would have to bring my back with me so that I could carry it or awkwardly put it in my pocket. Hey is that a selfie stick in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? Yeah it’s a selfie stick. I didn’t plan well. Honestly if you have a go pro or a nice camera, leave your smartphone accessories at home and use it by hand unless you want to be hindered by a backpack even when you are out a night. Unfortunately, I bought a GoPro after getting back, but I’ll be able to use it in the future.
Next my clothes could have been thought out a bit better. I should have brought more tank tops instead of long sleeved buttoned up shirts. They were linen based shirts so they were breathable, but it still took up too much space. I like to look good for dinner or going out at night with the girlfriend, but I honestly only used it once for three hours. I would recommend bringing some short sleeve buttoned up shirts only so that you can dress them up or down. I learned that underwear and socks were the most important because they make you feel the most comfortable out of most of your apparel. If you checked the weather and it may rain, pack a lightweight rain coat. Keeping yourself feeling cozy is half the battle of traveling. The other half is choosing what to do and where to go depending on your options, money, and weather.
Being light weight is important, but being technologically connected is good so that you can have the option of connecting with friends or work if absolutely necessary. If you don’t have wifi or data, many apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat have the option to save your uploads for later. In my case, I like having a roaming data plan. Not having one with your S.O. makes it harder to organize your tasks, communicate, meet up, and research things to do on the fly. It is mandatory if you would like the convenience of maps, messaging, calling, and internet browsers. My girlfriend wasn’t able to get one in time and we realized that her messages and calls weren’t being placed correctly or being non responsive if I tried to get into contact with her. Word to the wise. Get a plan that can turn on or off automatically depending on when you leave the country if you value staying plugged in. Mine costs roughly $10 a day and it activates when I leave South Korea and it activates by itself if it senses a carrier change after I land. If I want to use it, I then just have to turn the roaming switch on when I want to use it. Ten dollars a day sounds like a lot, but the very same companies that you love will charge you ridiculous prices for roaming if you don’t have one. I spent over a hundred dollars when I went to Japan for the weekend. Lesson learned.
Staying charged is important whether you want to be working while commuting or keeping your phone on. Most of the hotels had outlets that allowed for U.S. plugs and voltage. Regardless I carried two 10,000 mAh external batteries to keep my cell phone charged well, which is the maximum of what most airlines permit you to carry. You can make good use of them with your phone, tablet, or laptop on the move.
Since I wanted to try to take some videos and pictures while on the tours, I invested in a $5 water case for my phone that I bought in Korea. It was one of those roll top secured with shoelace string. As cheap as it looked, it kept my phone safe and dry, even through rain, swimming, and snorkeling. Please test the cases first before putting your phone in it and giving it a go. Some of them have holes or don’t seal properly. It was big enough to hold my phone, external battery, and a thin wallet with an ID so I could still travel and be ok when I was hiking, exploring, or swimming. I kept my credit and debit card in a safe in the hotel room because I didn’t need it at all. After all, food and drinks are cheap and your biggest expenses will be hotel bookings and restaurants. Carrying a bit of cash in a waterproof pouch fixes this problem and keeps you safe because even if you do lose it or it gets stolen, your important finances are safeguarded back in the hotel room.
I had a great time in Thailand. It’s always nice to learn new tips or advice to save money, be safe, and make the best out of a trip. I hope you were able to take something out of this. Feel free to share some of your own tips that you picked up. Happy travels!