Our wanderer Emily Ross is off to the beaches of Thailand this week! Being a Bermudian means serious critique of beaches all over the world.
So what does Emily find? Well, for one…it’s not as cheap to travel through the beaches of Thailand! So, Emily, tell us how to travel on a budget:
Please forgive me a contented sigh. We have reached the fabled Thai islands – having arrived in Phuket, we have nothing to worry about but sand, sun and sea. But hey, here’s a change: we’re hungry! Let’s open a menu and…
200 ($7) baht for FRIED RICE?! 150 ($6) baht for ONION RINGS (the menu item in itself is a blasphemy).
Right, so…the islands are expensive apparently.
Extortionate, some might say.
Right, we know, we should have been expecting this. We were, to some extent. I mean, we knew down south would be expensive, we knew it would be a tourist trap but…well, dammit, we just couldn’t believe that it would be like this.
My friends, I am experiencing what you would call ‘boomerang culture shock.’ I am surrounded by Westerners. Western lifestyle. This is not what I am used to. Or, well, it’s what I was used to. But I’m not used to it anymore.
What do you mean, the toilets flush?
I get a fork and…knife?
There’s a TESCO?!!
Fighting the urge to cower in the foetal position, we decided to accept Phuket’s challenge. Easy and expensive handed to us on a platter? FORGET THAT. We knew, just knew that Phuket could be done on the budget. Beauty will not be denied us because of a lack of funds. So, here are a few tips (which have thusfar brought us great success) for appreciating the Thai islands on a budget:
1) Ask around.
We managed to nab a bungalow for 7 dollars a night each (granted, more than what we normally like to pay but hear me out), equipped with air conditioning, TV AND pool…and all this just across the street from the gorgeous Kata beach. How did we do this? This was not advertised on hostelbookers or hostelworld, which only recommended more expensive options faaar out of our budget. This was not in good ol’ Lonely P. Actually, credit here goes to the Gap Yahs from Chiang Mai. We asked them where they had stayed when they were in Phuket – we were having no luck finding a cheap place ahead of time and our flight landed at 1am, so we couldn’t exactly just rock up anywhere. They described Rico’s Bungalows and its perks. To be honest, I wasn’t really listening, assuming where they had chosen would still be far out of our price range.
Oh, I have turned over a new leaf, readers. I am less quick to judge, more swift to give chances. Never more will I make assumptions based upon a person’s clothing choices for a nature park trek. Never more will I define a person based upon their uses of ‘jel’ and ‘nervy-b’ instead of jealous and nervous breakdown. For when these Gap Yah girlies named the unbelievably cheap price (I’m still scratching my head as to why it’s really this cheap, considering the super convenient location) I could scarcely believe it. I went to the website (they have a WEBSITE) of the hostel and…well, there it was. We could afford it. Thank you, gap yah girls. You have changed me.
2) Be willing to walk.
That 200 baht fried rice? It’s 40 baht around the corner. Or down the street. Or a few kilometres away. It’s 40 baht somewhere, my friend, and you will find it, come hell or high water.
Go for the less swank places, go for the hole in the wall spilling out of the owner’s house, go for the place juuust that little bit too far out of town. You won’t be disappointed. The thing about South East Asia is that more money does not guarantee better food (unless you’re talking about Western cuisine…but then again, what’re you doing in Cambodia trying to eat a filet mignon? Get that swill back in the country it belongs in!). You’ll probably have a much better foodie experience when you have a local dish, cooked by a local, in a place where other locals are eating.
These tend to scare off the tourists, giving them more backpacker friendly prices. We went to an amazing Pad Thai place – a little shack packed with locals and with limited English, it was one of those great travel foodie moments. We had to walk a good few kilometres from where we were staying, but I can guarantee it’d be ten million times better than anything you’re paying 250 baht for, and it only cost us 50 – more expensive than our usual food budget but this was probably due to the place being mentioned in Lonely P. So walk. Your wallet will thank you for it.
3) Travel in the off season.
Guesthouses, tours and bars aren’t as full. Prices are lower. We were given a deal on a speedboat trip (food and pickup from hostel included) to James Bond Island (where they filmed The Man with the Golden Gun) for 50% of the original price, and still were able to haggle it lower because we were also buying an (also discounted) boat ticket to Koh Phi Phi. It’s much easier to haggle when there’s no business.
4) Travel with friends.
Use the PJ’s Warehouse Philosophy. It’s cheaper to buy in bulk. Travelling with friends to other places can save you loads of money in the long run, as vendors are generally far more generous with haggling when more than one person is buying. Let’s save money together, guys!
5) Go easy on the alcohol there, guys.
Those fruity, tropical cocktails? 150 baht a pop. And that’s cheap. I know, I know – ‘a DRY beach holiday?!! But…but…I’d rather be in SNOW!’
I’m afraid if your wallet is happy, your liver tends to be pretty cheerful as well. Beer is cheap (relatively) and an option if you feel your experience is tainted by sobriety. However, if you don’t drink beer…well, consider being a little more generous with your budget. There is the option of splitting a bottle of rum/vodka/what have you between friends and then mixing that in with street fruit shakes…but you already walked 5k for a meal tonight. Do you really want to stoop thatlow? Not that we’ve ever done such a thing. Cough.
So there you have it, guys! General rules that have kept us pretty much on budget for Phuket. It’s not easy but it CAN be done. Hallelujah! Go forth!
Categories : Emily Ross Column