A typical Bangkok budget

Cheap and cheerful

Cheap and cheerful

Bangkok is one of the cheapest capital cities in Asia for holidaying and sightseeing. Abundant hotels and guest houses ensure there are always bargains to be found on accommodation. Reasonably-priced food, low public transport ticket fares and inexpensive admission fees to the main tourist attractions mean visitors can enjoy the Venice of the East’s myriad draws without breaking the bank.

Besides air fares, accommodation often eats up the lion’s share of any holiday or travel budget. In Bangkok, this necessary expense is less painful as budget guesthouse accommodation in the environs of the legendary Khaosan Road can be as low as 200 Baht for a small single room, while a suite at a luxurious four-star hotel can be had for less than 3,000 Baht.

While riding in the ubiquitous tuk-tuk is an integral part of any Bangkok trip, it is often cheaper to enjoy street scenes from the comfort of an air conditioned taxi. The price paid for a tuk-tuk ride depends on the passenger’s particular bargaining skills, while etered taxis, or taxi meter as they are called in Bangkok, work on fixed prices. The minimum fare of 35 Baht usually covers the first three kilometres, with every additional kilometre adding five Baht to the fare.

Typical taxi fares work out at around 60 Baht around the city, so four trips a day would add 250 Baht to a budget. The underground rail system and the elevated Skytrain service are relatively recent additions to Bangkok’s transport options. They are not expensive, average ticket prices are 15 baht, yet two or three people travelling together may find it cheaper to take a taxi.

Motorcycle taxis are another budget option for city travel. These can be found more or less anywhere near the major tourist hubs, offering an easy way to beat rush-hour traffic. Motorcycle taxi drivers wear brightly coloured waistcoats and are easily spotted. The only trouble with this form of transport is that drivers will often refuse to go too far from their original location.  

Bangkok has an extensive network of bus routes, with fares ranging from 7 Baht up to 19 Baht. The cheaper fares apply to standard red and white buses, and the higher ones are for the maximum distances on air-conditioned vehicles. Some Bangkok maps sold at newsagents, guest houses and book shops show city bus routes, and the price of the map can be recouped with the savings on just one bus journey. Chao Phraya River ferries serve many locations on Bangkok’s main waterway, with express boat ticket prices between 9 and 30 baht.

Cheap eats are easily found

Cheap eats are easily found

Food in Bangkok can be found at bargain prices, although keeping costs down might rely on diners taking meals at street-side eateries and food markets. A bowl of the ubiquitous noodle soup with meatballs (guay-te-ow luk chin) or processed seafood (guay-te-ow talay), or a plate of Thai style fried noodles (pat Thai) is usually prepared within minutes and, dependant on location, costs between 30 and 40 Baht.

Enjoying a splurge on Thai food at an upmarket Bangkok restaurant is a real bargain, especially when compared with what a similar meal would cost in the UK or Europe. Restaurants such as Cabbages and Condoms or Baan Khun Luang dining offer perennial favourites of green curry with chicken (geng ke-ow wan gai) and spicy shrimp soup (tom yam gung), with meals working out at around 200 Baht a head.

Bangkok also boasts a plethora of restaurants serving international gastronomic specialities from all corners of the world. Restaurants serving Indian, Tibetan, Middle Eastern, German, French, Dutch, English, Irish, Mexican, and Argentinean cuisine are among the options. While the price of dining at these eateries is dictated by their location, ambience, entertainment and whether ingredients are imported, there are still some that dish up first-class meals at prices that will make even the most frugal traveller smile.  

The only thing on a par with Western prices in Bangkok is beer and alcoholic beverages. A small beer in nightlife precincts such as Patong or Sukhumvit Road’s Soi 33 is often 130 Baht for a premium brand Heineken or Singha. People with a fondness for beer and hostess bars might find they need an extra 2,000 Baht a day just for entertainment, although this could be reduced somewhat by taking advantage of happy-hours and two-for-one offers.

A Bangkok visitor staying on Khaosan Road, or the surrounding Banglampu District, eating three meals a day, taking in one tourist attraction during the daytime and drinking a few beers in the evening, could get by on around 500 baht a day. Daily budgets increase significantly for those staying on Sukhumvit or around the Surawong Road-Patpong area and people might find they need 2,000-5,000 Baht for meals, entertainment, sightseeing and their bed for the night. Nightly rates for hotels are often significantly cheaper when booked with an online reservations agency than walk-in prices.

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