4 tips to make your next trip to Bangkok even cheaper

There's nothing like a weekend getaway to Bangkok. Hit up Chatuchak Market, Platinum Mall or the Erawan Shrine and you're sure to hear that familiar Singaporean accent.

The best thing is that, in comparison with the prices we're used to paying, everything in Bangkok is so wonderfully affordable-who can resist 200 baht (8 SGD) massages and trendy shoes for 300 baht (12 SGD)? Some Singaporeans even hop on a plane to Bangkok for their haircuts, dental work and beauty treatments.

Here are four tips for making your next trip to Bangkok even cheaper.

Never, ever take tuk tuks

That madcap ride in a tuk tuk is a rite of passage for any first-timer to Bangkok. You know the drill-you flag down the driver, bargain hard, and then feel pleased that you managed to get a "low" price as you and your entourage pile into the vehicle.

Well, while tuk tuks might look like a cheaper, more "traditional" form of transport, they're actually a rip off. They will always be more expensive than a taxi with the meter on-often as much as two to three times the price.

It's not always cheaper to take the BTS Skytrain than a metered cab

Photo: Bangkok BTS

The BTS Skytrain is one of Bangkok's mass transit systems, and Singaporeans who are used to squeezing on the MRT should have no trouble adapting. There is also an MRT subway system, but the BTS tends to offer better coverage. The BTS is a popular option for Singaporeans heading to Chatuchak Weekend Market, since Mo Chit station stops right at the entrance.

Tourists on a budget might think that the BTS is always the way to go, since a single journey ticket costs only 15 baht (0.60 SGD) to 55 baht (2.22 SGD). But so long as you're not travelling alone, it is sometimes the same price or even cheaper to take a taxi instead-especially if you are travelling more than a few stops.

For instance, if you're staying in the Bang Wa area, it would cost you 55 baht (2.22 SGD) to get to Victory Monument. If there are two of you, that'd be 110 baht (4.44 SGD), and if you're in a group of three, 165 baht (6.65 SGD). Conversely, the taxi fare is usually the same price or less. Just take into account the traffic situation at the time you're travelling.

Eat where the Thais eat

Thailand's top 10 cheap eats

  • Nong Thale, Krabi
  • A former sandwich shop, the eatery has since made its name as the go-to place for both tourists and locals for authentic Thai fare such as tom yum soup and massaman curry.
  • Kanchanaburi
  • This vegetarian restaurant also offers cooking lessons for those looking to recreate the delicacies.
  • Bophut, Samui
  • Nestled in a corner at the eastern side of Bophut's Fisherman Village, The Hut Cafe offers fresh seafood, terrific papaya salad and Thai curry.
  • Phuket Town
  • Themed after a kopitiam (vintage coffee house), the establishment is highly sought after for all-day breakfasts as well as Thai snacks and classic local desserts such as the mango sticky rice and coconut ice cream.
  • Chaweng, Samui
  • Tucked on a side street nearby Chaweng Regent Hotel, this no-frills eatery is best known for its down-to-earth Thai menu that includes crispy spring rolls, refreshing papaya salad and savoury pad thai.
  • Chiang Rai
  • Featuring local favourites and northern Thai specialities, this restaurant is well loved by locals and expats for its modern ambience, simple menu and friendly English-speaking staff.
  • Chiang Mai
  • A popular and inviting vegetarian place, Taste From Heaven is highly praised for speciality desserts such as vegan brownie and ice cream. Diners can learn to whip up the dishes themselves by signing up for their cooking classes.
  • Ao Nang, Krabi
  • Positioned right opposite the Slumber Party Hostel, travellers can dine under rustic bamboo huts at this family-run restaurant that is patronised for its hospitable and warm service.
  • Koh Lanta, Krabi
  • Started by rock music enthusiast Jeab and dubbed by many to be home to possibly the best pad thai in Thailand, this humble eatery has customers returning for seconds for its delectable food and great atmosphere.
  • Chiang Mai
  • Unique and tantalising dishes such as young coconut curry and mango curry makes this modest vegetarian restaurant a big hit amongst locals and foreigners.

Eateries catering to the "farang" palate are always disappointing, but it can be hard to avoid them, especially when you're in an area that's filled with tourist attractions, like the streets around the Grand Palace.

While Thai food is generally affordable and excellent, it can take a bit of research to know where to go, unless you don't mind always heading to shopping malls like MBK for your meals. There are certain areas that are almost devoid of tourists and where the food is much more authentic. As a bonus, the prices can often go below what the touristy places will charge you.

Here are some areas that are popular amongst locals for good food:

Ratchawithi Road, just beside Victory Monument, is a long stretch filled with street food stalls and small restaurants. The food on offer goes beyond the cliched offerings of green curry, tom yum and pad thai.

Soi Ari 1-5 and the alleys behind are where many local hipsters hang out. The restaurants here are a mixture of upmarket and cheap, but if you're on a budget, look out for the bare bones eateries such as the excellent wanton noodle shop one or two streets from the Ari BTS station.

Head to Chinatown, also known as Yaowarat, for street food and other street snacks like smoothies and mango sticky rice.

A couple enjoying their meal in Thanon Yaowarat in Bangkok ChinatownPhoto: Lim Sin Thai

When you need a snack, head to 7-11 or FamilyMart

While food in Thailand is no doubt inexpensive, the portions can be tiny. That's not always a bad thing, as it gives you an excuse to stuff your face with street snacks, from coconut ice cream to fried pork to the classic mango sticky rice.

But depending on which area you're in, these snacks can get a little pricey. In touristy areas like Patpong, a tiny box of mango sticky rice might cost up to 60 baht (2.42 SGD).

Skip that and head to a round-the-clock convenience store like 7-11 or FamilyMart. Unlike 7-11s in Singapore, which are mostly patronised by smokers who need their next pack, they're chock full of snacks that could make your wildest dreams come true, all at rock bottom prices.

You'll find onigiri, half boiled eggs, all kinds of sweet and savory breads, and everyone's favourite seaweed snack, Tao Kae Noi. Even Japanese snacks like Pocky cost much less than in Singapore.

If you're looking for something more substantial, many convenience stores also sell rice-based meals which don't taste half bad. Staff are always happy to help you heat your purchases up in the microwave.

The article first appeared on MoneySmart.

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