How to Travel in Thailand on a Budget

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Whether you are looking for a pampered yet affordable honeymoon or a place to pass a few months taking a break from the world, Thailand fits the bill. Beach retreats of the islands of Phuket and Koh Samui are prime locations to unwind. Airfares from the US can be expensive, thankfully, getting around becomes much more affordable once you arrive in Thailand.

  • Review prices on budget airlines for any long, cross-country sections of your itinerary. Bangkok Air offers affordable domestic flights, but Orient Thai Airlines—formerly One-Two-Go—Air Asia and Nok Air often offer flights for the similar, if not better, prices than taking a cross-country train.

  • Check the train schedules for any remaining long voyages. There are three speeds of trains that offer different price points and available classes. Express trains, best for long distances, do not carry third class cars. If these are not within your budget, the rapid trains or the third class-only Bangkok commuter trains are still a step up from long distance buses, as they afford room to get up and move around.

  • Buy a Thailand Rail Pass. If you plan to see several cities in a short period of time, you can travel for a set number of days in a 20 day period with the pass. The pass covers surcharges for reservations and express and rapid cars. Check the stand-alone prices of the routes that you are considering before you purchase the pass.

  • Reserve your train tickets by email. Train tickets typically must be purchased in person, but if you are making travel arrangements from outside the country, you can email the State Railway of Thailand. Once your arrive, take a printout of your confirmation to the train station and pick up your tickets at least an hour before your train is scheduled to depart.

  • To get around town, use taxi alternatives. Motorcycle taxis can be found at intersections wearing numbered jerseys and rickshaws typically drive around looking for passengers as a taxi would. In both cases, negotiate and settle on your fare before accepting a ride, especially if there are other operators nearby, in which case you have greater leverage to haggle.

  • Rent a bicycle. It's the ultimate independent, frugal way to get around Thailand. It is an ideal way to see the countryside, and cycling is common in Thailand. You can take your bicycle on the train with you on longer voyages.

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