Last week I wrote about how much money I made teaching in Thailand and monthly break down of my expenses here. Today, I want to call out some money sucks of living and traveling in Thailand.
While it’s incredibly affordable to live and travel here, I’ve still heard many people complain that they’re spending a lot of money and don’t think it’s as cheap as they’ve heard.
Mmkay. Actually it is, but perhaps because it’s so affordable you’re spending more, since your money goes further and you don’t have to be as budget-conscious as in other places.
A couple examples – #1: I’ve never spent money on massages or spa treatments in the U.S. Here I will regularly go for a massage costing anywhere from about $6 – 8 for a two-hour Thai massage at a small shop, to $35 for a package (massage, facial, body scrub) at a nicer place. (Of course, there’s also the really high end places that can charge into the hundreds, but are still more bang for your buck than at home.) So, I’ve spent much more money here on spa trips than I ever did at home, yet got much more for the same amount than I would have at home.
#2: You’d probably be careful of your food expenses traveling through Europe, maybe saving that banana from breakfast or making sandwiches to last you for a few days. Here, that really wouldn’t help you much when you can get a hot and and fresh meal for about $1 (I regularly post what you can buy for $1 on my Facebook Page). If you can eat dinner for as little as $1, then that means more cash for booze! And there goes your money…
There are things that quickly eat into your budget however. Even if they’re relatively cheap compared to the prices you’re used to at home, once you think about how much you can actually stretch your dollar here, those things don’t seem like such a good deal anymore. Keep in mind that $1 equals about 30 baht.
- Snacks and soda – When you know a meal can be as little as $1, it’s hard to justify spending the same amount on soda (cans of Coke cost 14 – 15 baht, or about 50 cents), chips or sweets from 7-11.
- Alcohol – It may be cheaper than home, but relatively speaking alcohol is actually pretty pricey here and can easily add up, especially depending on where you’re doing your drinking. A large bottle of beer at the store is 45 – 55 baht, but prices can be jacked up to 120 baht or more. Cocktails, even at decently-priced places start around 90 baht and quickly go up, particularly when you ask for a name brand or imported spirit.
- Water – While I still use the tap water to brush my teeth and wash my dishes (I know it’s safe enough at my home and in the area where I live, but I wouldn’t do this everywhere), I never drink or cook with it. That means I need to buy it bottled. There are several ways to keep the cost, and amount of plastic waste, down, but the big one is to buy the largest container of water possible. You can get 1.5 liter bottles everywhere, which is good, but it’s better if you purchase a 5 liter bottle then fill up smaller containers as needed.
- Yoga – It’s not overly expensive, but it’s not cheap either. Classes in Chiang Mai cost about $6 – 8 for 1.5 hours. This is still a fine price, but it is definitely something to consider while figuring out your budget and what other things you can get for the same amount of money. Many people take a mini-bus between Chiang Mai and the popular little mountain town of Pai. The ticket for the three-hour journey is 150 baht, less than one yoga class.
- Gyms – I spent more for a gym membership here than I did at home at about $40 a month.
- Cheese and wine – Usually, I base my happiness level on how much cheese, wine (and chocolate) I’m able to consume. Here I’ve had to change that measurement as cheese and wine is EXPENSIVE and usually not worth it. The cheapest bottle of so-so wine I can find is around $12 and cheese is a luxury. Sometimes, though, after living off of rice for a while it’s a splurge that just has to be made!
- Tuk tuks – Tuks tuks are the most expensive form of local transportation and you never know if you’re going to get a good deal. I love ’em, but taking a shared taxi, like the songthaews in Chiang Mai, or a regular taxi in Bangkok is more cost efficient.
- Islands – I’m still always surprised by how much higher the cost of everything is down south. The last time I went to an island I was sure, after being here for a while, that I had figured out of a few tricks to save money. Nope. For most things there was no choice to do it cheaper.
In the end the cheap deals and options far outweigh that handful of things costing a bit extra, but it’s good to realize what has the potential of drying up your finances. What have you found makes your money disappear when traveling through Thailand?
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