What to See & Do
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Thailand is a land of contrasts and contradictions, which is one of the main reasons that it is such a wonderful country to visit: you never know exactly what each new day will bring. This is doubly true for the budget traveler, since if you really want to save money and tour Thailand on a shoestring, you’re going to need to get off the beaten track at times, which means a bit more of the unexpected.That’s a good thing.
You’re also going to need to do more research than the average tourist, keep an open mind, plan creatively, and travel with a spirit of adventure. Taking these extra steps, and following the guidelines we present to you here, will not only save you a great deal of money, but also make your holiday, vacation, or Thailand sojourn a much more authentic and culturally enjoyable experience.
Start your creative planning by choosing when you will go. Most visitors overlook this critical element completely, and simply come in the high season between November and February with the average tourist who has read somewhere that the best time to visit Thailand is during these months. This is the first myth about Thailand travel you’ll want to ignore, and there are many more.
Look through the pages of this website, or simply search for “Thailand festivals” in your favorite search engine. Now, read around and see what really grabs you; what looks thrilling, exciting, and could prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The water festival in mid-April called Songkran – the Thai New Year – may look like a lot of wild, wet fun (which it certainly is!), but what about the annual rocket festival in Yasothon, or the Ghosts of Isan festival in Loei, or the Mekong Fireballs in Nong Khai? Maybe the Surin Elephant Roundup is more your cup of tea, or perhaps the thrilling and bizarre Phuket Vegetarian Festival.
Many of these festivals are very local, with few foreign visitors, which make them all the more fascinating – not to mention that many of them are free: just turn up and enjoy. This is one method you might consider when planning your trip, but the options are limited only by your imagination. For example, visit Thailand in May when few tourists are here and gorge yourself on a cornucopia of amazing tropical fruits, some available only in May.
In many of these places with local festivals, there are no major airports in the provinces, especially in Isan, the rural northeast section of Thailand. This means that you get to save even more money by traveling like – and with – the locals: on buses, in trains, in converted pickup trucks, maybe even on the back of a motorcycle. You will make significant savings by avoiding air travel when possible.
As far as accommodation goes, if you’re traveling with Thais, going to festivals with Thais, and eating with Thais – another big money-saver! – you will have the occasional opportunity to stay with your new Thai friends in their homes, a great cultural experience, and like most of life’s great experiences, money is not involved. When in country villages, the local temple will usually have small, basic rooms for visitors. Donations are appreciated, though not required.
Finally, consider disconnecting from the grid for a while during your travels. Your mobile or cell phone from home will be expensive to use here, and there are now Internet shops and call centers everywhere. Sending the odd email to let loved ones back home know you’re fine is a much cheaper option; and once you’ve gotten over your cyber addictions, you might just find that you’re living much more in the moment, and enjoying your cultural immersion all the more.
These are excellent locations where you can truly enjoy Thailand, without needing to spend a fortune.
Thailand, with its highly developed and diverse infrastructure, offers many options for the budget traveler to get around.
After transportation, accommodation is typically the number two expense in your holiday budget. It needn’t be so, however, with a bit of planning and a little creativity.
Aside from the cheap and free activities mentioned elsewhere on this site, there are countless budget attractions that you can enjoy as well.
Even though the normal range of sightseeing activities is quite inexpensive already, there are sure to be those of you who want to pay even less—i.e. nothing.
It so happens that one of the world’s top-rated cuisines happens to be available everywhere, anytime: Thai food!From gourmet restaurants to humble street stalls, and from hot and spicy soups to decadent desserts, the splendid gamut of Thai dishes is yours for the sampling – and for a song.
If you’re one of those persons who pride themselves on their bargaining and negotiating skills, Thailand is the place to seriously hone those skills.
You are probably wondering, being a budget traveler: how can I defray the costs of a trip to Thailand?
Budget travelers will save money and make their whole trip more enjoyable if they can spend their first few days in one place, acclimatizing and adapting to their new environment.