Thailand on US$7.50 a day

Travelhappy has a great post on doing Thailand on $30 a day — it reminded me of a character I met in Betong, southern Thailand a few years back — a live specimen of the “I travel to save money” species.

250B a day was his average cost in Thailand – over the previous three monthes in the Kingdom, I kid you not. And this character proved it to me… on his palm pilot! Yes the man who scrimped through his entire trip recorded every, single expense on an electronic deice worth a couple of hundred bucks.

250B a day for three monthes = B22,500B for three months – spectacular action I must say.

The guy was lateish 20′s, New Zealander, obviously had no financial problems whatsoever, had been working in the UK before Thailand — earning lots he said. He was travelling in this manner out of choice, not need. Looked like a typical kinda guy, not grotty at all.

I’d prevously met people travelling tight because they were short of cash, but nobody travelling on such a tight budget out of choice who had travelled so extensively. I mean 200B a day is easy if you just head to KPN and sit on your bum for three months, but this guy had been to a lot of places.

But having spent that long in country and not learnt a word of Thai yet continually in contact with people who would have spoken little if any english, I was left with the opinion he’d be leaving with a pretty odd superficial impression of the country.

So here is his lowdown on where he went and how he saved…

Destinations – he covered much more of Thailand than most, including some fairly obscure places, Uthai Thani (which he waxed lyrical about), Phichit, Uttaradit, Mahasarakham, Nong Bua Lam Phu; on the southern islands (where it is easiest to bust a budget), he only visited Lanta and Ko Pha Ngan, while spent more time in, what sounded to be pretty interesting beach areas of Nakhon Si Thammarat, and went bushwhacking in Phattalung. All up he said he at least stepped into 32 provinces — 700B/province ;-)

He spoke not a word of Thai, and I mean NOT ONE WORD, yet he claimed to have had a great time whooping it up with locals (at their expense no doubt).

Now at a glance I’d say this is a load of rubbish, but he showed me his daily expenses in the palm, so I think he was either for real or had some pretty serious issues.

Again, I’m not making this up, but he had ten rules on how to save money when travelling.

1) Hitch – he reckons he hitched about 75% of his trip and never paid for a single ride — good luck some would say, poor form I would say, as a bit of cash is always appreciated if not expected.

2) Stay in wats. I’ve never tried this, but he maintained that anyone can show up to a wat and sleep, bathe etc there for free. I’m not sure this is the case, surely a donation is at least expected?

3) Don’t buy alcohol. He was explicit on the word “buy”. i.e., he was happy for me to buy him a more than a couple of beers and a few snacks while he showed be his gadgets (including a fancy digital Nikon) while he told me his tale. Talk to others, “be sociable and interesting” and they’ll buy you booze. Well I got sucked in…

4) When no wats are available, find the cheapest Chinese style hotel/short time place available. He maintains they always have rooms available for under 100B, but they are “rather basic”.

5) Newspapers. This guy was a mad UK football fan, but 20B to pick up a Post of Nation was way toooo much apparently. His solution? Go to a flash hotel and sit in the foyer, read their papers and, if questioned, say you are waiting for a friend who is staying in the hotel! Not a bad idea.

6) Water. No need to buy it. He fills up at bank (and other govt offices, including copshops) water machines.

7) Long distance transport. 3rd class train all the way.

8) Short distance transport — walk. He said he walked from Thongsala to Haad Salad (on Ko Pha Ngan) which is a bloody LONG walk, rather than pay the songtheaw fare. Once there he camped.

9) Calls to home. He had some phonecard gidget that let him call NZ for next to nothing.

10) Bangkok. This is the one that had me laugh out loud. He has a mate who lives in Bkk in a condo, so camps on his floor, but when he arrived in Thailand, he made his way to his mates apartment (on Sukhumvit high sois) on the cheapie local buses – 6 buses and about 2.5 hours – cost around 50B all up!

So there you go, you can do Thailand for around US$5 a day if you really want to…