My Thailand Adventure Didn’t Break The Bank!

It would probably sound good to say that I decided to do it big for what is supposed to be my last Spring Break (I have been saying ‘last’ for years now) and go to Thailand. But, that was not the case. Thailand was not even on my radar of countries I wanted to visit in 2017 until I saw a round trip ticket for $500. THAT is when I decided I was going to “do it big”. I put “do it big” in parentheses because while it looked like I spent all my financial aid money on this trip, I absolutely did not.

Thailand is not expensive when you get there. Before I go to every country I always look up the minimum wage and the conversion rate just to get a feel of the price of living. 1 USD ~ 35 BHAT and their minimum wage is 300 BHAT a week. So basically the price of living is low. Anyway, I will be killing two birds with one stone to let you know my experience and how much the trip cost.

Getting to Thailand:

So I already mentioned that the round trip flight was for $500 (505.34 to be exact) but it was leaving from JFK airport in New York and I am all the way in North Florida. I bought my ticket in late November/ early December and I just knew I was going to catch a flight deal for a $50 round trip ticket from MCO-JFK. While there were plenty flight deals between then, I somehow missed all of them and here we are in mid February with no ticket to JFK. So I used my credit card points to buy a one way flight that would have cost $70 and my Delta Skymiles to get the other ticket (around the same price). So basically I got my round trip ticket for free.

For Phuket accommodations, AirBNB had the cheapest prices. For a two bedroom two bathroom suite its was about $85 per person for 7 nights (the picture above shoes the morning view from the guest house). The guesthouse was clean, had wifi, air condition and was 5-15 minutes walking to everywhere in Patong beach so we were satisfied. Plus, our itinerary was jam packed so we were barely there except to sleep and eat (because the pad thai and shrimp fried rice at the restaurant were BOMB). There are more discreet locations in Phuket that I saw on AirBNB but this was a spring break trip so we were trying to be in the midst of all the action.

Alright, keeping track; for flight and accommodations my Thailand trip came up to $590. You could find a hostel or a smaller hotel for cheaper if you are traveling solo. It is also better if you book early, especially in high tourists seasons.

Transportation:

This is where most of your money will go. Do not even think about renting a car here because the drivers have to be handled by a professional. There are a couple options for transportation. The first is a Tuk Tuk. Tuk Tuks are small cars with no doors in the back. We used those to get around if the location was too far to walk or we were being lazy. You can get a Tuk Tuk for about 100-300 BHAT. We took a Tuk Tuk for about 400 BHAT to Phuket Old Town (40 mins away) to catch the ferry to Phi Phi islands. We also took a Tuk Tuk around Bangkok for only 100 BHAT.

We only used actual car taxis to go to and from the airport. The pretty much standard rate for a one way taxi from the airport is 800-1100 BHAT depending on if you need a standard car or a minibus.

The last form of transportation is a scooter taxi. You can actually rent a scooter or you can have someone drive you around in one. I did not rent a scooter because, as I mentioned before, you need a professional driver to ride around Phuket. The locals’ reckless driving did not stop most tourists from renting the scooters, so that is a decision you will have to make for yourself.

Phuket Tours:

I learned that the tours in Phuket are much cheaper when you get there than online. This is because you can always bargain with the agents in person. Also, the bigger the group, the bigger the discount. I took two tours in Phuket, one was booked online and one was booked from the many tour agents on the streets of Patong. To give you a comparison; for our second tour we went to Big Buddha, Wat Chalong (a temple), played with a baby elephant and more. We bargained it for 600 BHAT/pp (~$17 USD). However, on the tour website, a tour of only Big Buddha cost $26 USD. Both tour companies were reputable. You can definitely get it for lower with a bigger group. We were kind of skeptical about buying our tour the day before from a company that did not have a website but they picked us up on time. Actually, all of the drivers and tour companies that we requested in Phuket picked us up on time.

We also visited Tiger Kingdom by taxi on our way back from Phi Phi Island. THIS is a tourist trap of all tourist trap because you pay at least a 900 BHAT admission fee to take a picture with a couple tigers. The tigers are definitely drugged because no amount of training can keep a tiger that calm. It was a great experience, though, and a good photo op. The website said they had other animals but you can only touch the tigers. We did not even visit the other animals as we were ready to get back to the guesthouse.

Don’t want to do a tour? There are plenty of beaches and view points you can visit by taxi or tuk tuk for a cheap price. We were walking distance to the beach and some view points. There is also Bangala road for nightlife. This is also Phuket’s “red light district”. At any given point of the day or night Bangala road will be packed. This was a picture of Bangala Road at 3am on a Tuesday. It is worth a visit, even if it might not be your cup of tea.

Phi Phi Islands

These islands are literally paradise. If I ever go back to Thailand I will definitely be spending more time here. I highly recommend coming here and spending at least one night. The accommodations are cheap (paid $35 USD a night for 3 people). To get there you have to take a ferry that is 600 BHAT round trip if you go at 8:30AM and 1000 BHAT roundtrip for anytime after that. The last ferry leaves pretty early (I think 3 or 4 PM) so if you do not want to spend the night then going at 8:30AM is your best bet to get all the feels. You can catch the ferry from Bangkok or Phuket, see the price and schedules here. If you miss the last boat, you have to take a speedboat back and that can cost you anywhere from 11,000 BHAT ($100 USD) to 15,000 BHAT. Hotels are never full and you can also purchase one the day you get there if you miss the last ferry.

On the island, you can either enjoy the beach at Krabi island where the ferry drops you off or you can take one of the many long tail boat tours to the other smaller islands. We did Bob’s Booze Cruise which was definitely the most expensive tour on our trip but it was worth every penny. I think the Booze Cruise is the most expensive tour on the island and there are other tours that offer unlimited liquor as well. Like Phuket, it may be best to wait until you get to Phi Phi islands to book a tour as you can bargain the prices. There are also clubs and lounges on Krabi island so you will not be bored if you spend the night there.

Food/Shopping:

I think I gained a few pounds from eating so much but then again, we walked a lot so the calories might have canceled each other out. The food is excellent in Thailand. There is plenty of street food that is better than what we got in most restaurants (except for our guest house restaurant). I found the street and market food to be more sanitary as well. At one of the restaurants I went to, the server touched (yes TOUCHED) my food with her bare hands. To say I was disgusted was an understatement. Feel free to walkout or not give your business to any restaurant you do not think is sanitary. At the market and on the street I can see the workers making the food in front of me with gloves on so I ate mostly from there.

With most dishes costing between 100-250 BHAT, the market and street vendors give you the most amount of food for your money. The main things you have to try are mango sticky rice, ice cream (even if it’s just to see them make it), and the fruit smoothies. The fruit smoothies are on there because they have a wide range of fruits from passion fruit to rambutan. There are also other upscale restaurants along the strip of Patong beach that offer fancier seafood options such as fresh lobster, crab and shrimp. Mini marts set up on every block just in case you are an avid water drinker like myself. A liter of water averages around 14 BHAT.

At the market by my guesthouse, I be a variety of trinkets. From silk scarves to Swedish fish pedicures. You will find plenty of shopping along the strip of any beach but Patong beach’s strip will more than likely be where you find the most shops and stores. They will be selling everything from knockoff beats headphones and apple watches to knock off gucci bags. I had on an authentic pair of Adidas ultra boost, when compared to the knockoffs in Thailand, I had trouble seeing the differences between them. So some of the knockoffs look authentic (knockoffs Ultra Boosts were priced at $25 USD). I am also not sure if the Apple Watches were knockoffs or real because you could still sync them with your apple phone.

Expense Report:

I know I stopped keeping up with the numbers halfway though the post (too much math). I think I spent about $200-$250 USD while I was there and that included food, shopping, transportation, etc. That was with me not minding my spending and not wanting to bargain prices all the time. To change my currency, I changed $50 at the airport and then changed my money in $50-$100 increments while in Phuket. You will get the best rate at 34.95 BHAT per USD in Phuket compared to 34.02 BHAT at the airport.

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