It's been a while since I've shared any potentially useful travel tips that can help save money. Although my trip to Thailand is nothing new and happened a little over a year ago, I am however inspired to write a travel post as I plan on soon sharing one of my most recent trips to Singapore and Japan. My disclaimer before you continue further is that this is not a thorough, detailed and mapped list of directions on how to travel throughout Thailand. I did not do any of that. This post will primarily reflect on my stay in Bangkok and other small areas outside of Bangkok, like Kanchanaburi and Pattaya Beach.
Learn to trust that sometimes the most unsafe mode of transportation is not going to always lead to your untimely death. Yes, you may have to ride a tuk tuk or hop on a motorcycle because Bangkok's traffic is no joke...at least not one that you will find funny while that meter keeps running in a safer taxi ride. You also can take the subway but coming from crowded Seoul, I couldn't be bothered with extremely crowded spaces.
For places outside of the city, take a bus. The prices are extremely low if you use local buses, otherwise expect to pay more, about double and sometimes triple of that on a van/bus that organizes transportation to those same locations. Both prices will be remarkably low though so don't fret if you decide to opt for the easier option, which is option number 2.
Keep it street. You cannot be a germaphobe or a weirdo about street food. Yes, use common sense and avoid places that seem, look and ARE dirty. Street food is cheap, fast, and cheap. I know, I mentioned it's cheap twice but that's because it really is and you'd be crazy not to take advantage once in a while. Don't eat that everyday, wouldn't advice it for your colon but hey, fruit can be street and I did eat that every single day.
Bangkok has a variety of places you can eat, some prettier than others and in prettier locations but those locations often came with a price, one I wasn't willing to pay on the regular.
3. Speaking of prices...
haggle! You can haggle with vendors, but don't be unfair. There are a lot of people living in poverty and perhaps can't afford to go too low so haggle with some compassion and responsibly. It also does depend where you do it. I did haggle relentlessly in the city, like in Khaosan or in Pattaya where their business are booming from foreign attraction. I let them know that I was not one of those foreigners.
You will see many. Be sure to buddy up or be friendly enough to converse with other foreigners for information or networking....if you end up liking them. If you're not a big planner like I and don't walk around with a full itinerary with the intention of maximizing your trip that way, then just talk to folks.
From experience, other foreigners shared with me what they did and the locals taught me how to do it for free or less.
Don't just stick to foreigners. Locals are great! Of course you ought to be careful as a tourist with limited knowledge, but for the most part, they're great to talk to and find out information from. I met an old Thai lady who adopted me on the bus because she liked me so much and I reminded her of her granddaughter. She even gave me a free ride to the Tiger Temple and was going to provide me with a free Elephant ride. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I couldn't do the Elephant ride. I'm glad now that I didn't. After visiting the Tiger Temple, I don't think I could support that kind of cruelty to animals but I do wish I had the chance to spend more time with my Thai granny and perhaps visit the Elephant and kiss it's trunk or something!
When in Pattaya, you need to constantly be aware of things. Check prices before you ride ANYTHING and haggle. Do not buy anything that you can probably find elsewhere except for food.
It's going to cost you like anywhere else. Go with people you trust and who enjoy the same thing. Split the bill on transportation and other things if they're willing; otherwise, buy budget friendly drinks because you will be getting home by a Taxi, and if you're not familiar with the route to where you stay and unable to communicate alternative directions to the driver if they decide to take the long route back, then at that very point, consider yourself screwed.
Basic Travel Tips for Starters:
I recently had to take a weekend trip to NYC and I've summed up some very basic tips that may be useful when traveling on a budget, whether stateside or abroad. A smart traveler shared with me that the most expensive thing when traveling should be your means of transportation and everything else should cost less to possibly nothing. Although I have visited plenty of places, I'm still a pretty inexperienced traveler because exploration in those places traveled was always accompanied with a family member or close friends; so I've never had to completely rely on my own until this past weekend. Here's how I got to, through, and back from the city without getting lost or losing my mind.
1. Plan Ahead:
Planning ensures that you don't overspend. A lack of planning can and will hurt your pockets. Granted, unexpected events can happen regardless of planning but you can limit a few of those "unexpected" events by expecting some of them.
2. Student Discount:
Even if you are no longer a student, if your ID is still valid use it! Ask who accepts it and who doesn't. You will be surprised at how much you can save along the way (greyhound accepts it and gives 10% discount and they also issue discount cards for unlimited use for just $20). If you are currently still a student, search for sites that discount flights among other things for students, like studentuniverse.com. I used this site to purchase a ticket abroad for the summer.
Travel locally or on land by bus and train first. For a taxi (if traveling in a pair or more, split the cost on a taxi). If traveling further distance, book tickets in advance (this is where the planning comes into play). When leaving your hotel, ask about shuttle services. Chances are that your hotel may have a shuttle that takes you directly to a major airport or subway station.
Not only should you carry cash but you should carry a mixture of small and large bills. Some types of transportation take exact change and you wouldn't want to waste a $20 bill on a bus ride that only costs $3.10. Along with cash, carry your debit card with you. This is incase the "unexpected" happens, like paying for a metro card that takes debit or credit ONLY or going to a local eatery that doesn't accept cash!
couch surfing is an awesome way to not only save but it's also an amazing way to meet people who are also passionate about traveling and make great friends. Couchsurfing.com is a community of members (worldwide) that are hosts (people who give you a couch, bed, or floor mat to sleep on) and surfers (those who are traveling and are in need of a couch for a couple of days or nights). This also provides a great opportunity to network and learn more about traveling through sharing stories of past experiences. Another option is to find a hostel (hostelbookers.com and many others like it) BEFORE you book a hotel room. Hostels are cheaper and you may even find one closer to the location you are trying to visit.
6. To Follow the crowd or not to?
If going to a new place for the first time, sometimes the crowd can lead you to where you need to go to find further info or to the subway or upper level ground. For example: when I got to NYC ( Port Authority) I followed the crowd because I knew that they were either going to take a subway OR walk. The crowd led me straight to the subway which is where I needed to be but there are times when following the crowd may not work. When leaving NYC, after I got off the E Train, I didn't know how to get back to the greyhound transit location. All the signs seemed to point toward other trains so I decided to ask a local news stand clerk for directions. Good thing I did because I was going the wrong direction!! This leads right into my next tip -->
7. Ask Questions:
If you are unsure of where to go or need to be reassured of where you're going ask someone. Don't be intimidated by large crowds or big cities, there are more people willing to help than you can even imagine. I have NEVER traveled to NY by myself let alone used public transportation; I always traveled by car so this experience was entirely different. Asking for help ensured that I got to my destination on time and took away some of my traveling anxiety.
8. Signs and Symbols:
Pay attention to signs and symbols. Your map or GPS may have the whole word or words spelled out but once you get on the subway, your stop may be abbreviated to 42nd PABT (42nd Port Authority Bus Terminal).
9. Pack Light:
This is especially hard for most females. I'm in the process of training myself to be a minimalist and own only what I need. It is very difficult because I love clothes, shoes, and accessories. I'm the kind of packer that packs "just incase" outfits which usually don't get worn anyway because those "incase" moments never usually happen! Packing light makes maneuvering through the city easy. An unexpected event, like walking a couple more blocks than you anticipated, can happen and you will wish that you had packed light. Also carrying one small luggage is less responsibility. You don't want to take the chance of forgetting or losing some of your bags, especially if you're in a rush or have to move quickly.
10. Manage your Time:
Traveling to and through a new place means that you are not accustomed to the way the area runs. Don't give yourself an hour to leave your hotel to catch a cab, take 2 separate trains and hope to make it to your flight or bus home in time. Leave room for the possibility that the unexpected may happen like a late bus or a broken down train. Anything goes when you are NOT in control so control the one thing you can, which is your TIME.
12. Travel Safe:
Carry something that can ensure your safety. Depending on where I go, I carry either mace (pepper spray) or a taser (stun gun). Sometimes I carry both but be aware of laws in states that permit or prohibit the use of them. If traveling abroad, that law may not even exist. Better be safe than sorry so if I need to use it, believe that I will!
13. Good deed for the day:
I don't know about you but I get personal satisfaction when I help someone else and that is why I try to tip when I can. Be sure to tip your cab driver, shuttle driver, or food delivery guy. My good deed to end my trip was giving someone my metro card. I knew that I wouldn't be needing it since my trip had come to an end so I just picked a random person and gave them my card to have.
This is the last and most important tip. Traveling can be a little stressful at times and very stressful other times. Be aware of your surroundings and travel smart but don't forget to enjoy the journey. If time permits, go sight seeing or if traveling on business or for conference network and make friends. Life is too short not to take advantage of the opportunity to travel and experience new people and things!
Some pictures (only pictures) taken while taking a short sight seeing tour with my wonderful host and Brazilian friend from couchsurfing named LoopLoose. We only spent a few hours chatting about travel experiences and travel aspirations but within those few hours we covered a lot of ground and felt like old friends catching up! He's about to go for a one year world tour and I wish him all the best and hope to meet again, hopefully somewhere abroad. If you'd like to follow LoopLoose on his world tour or contact him you can visit him at www.looploose.com
Happy Traveling :)