Planning - Big country with many destinations
So Thailand has 3 regions:
North Thailand: Chiang Mai with a hilly region with mountains, waterfalls and greenery.
Central Thailand: Bangkok with city life, Pattaya has beaches like Pattaya and Jomtien beach.
South Thailand: Honeymoon destination like Krabi, Phuket, Ko Samui.
As I wanted to have a relaxing trip with my family rather than rushing here and there to cover the entire country, I chose Bangkok for 4 days, Chiang Mai for 4 days and last 2 days for Pattaya with a return flight back to India on 11th day.
I knew I was leaving Phuket and Krabi out of my itinerary, but I also knew that I was doing it to experience more of city life and culture of Thailand which I would not get it on beaches of Phuket.
I booked my cheap flights tickets
I booked my flights in advance 2 months before my boarding day. Firstly, I got a good deal from Indigo Airlines using Momondo app and secondly, I used my credit card points. Besides, I was also keeping my dates flexible to get cheap flights. I always follow my 5 thumb rules before booking any flight and hotels ( keeping this for another post) for cheap tickets. As a result, the final total price for the tickets was 15000 Rs or 215 dollars per person. Likewise, For 3 persons it came around 45000 Rs or 645 dollars. As I said, I was flexible with my dates, so for 10 days, I was getting cheaper flights tickets as compared to my initial 8 days plan.
Above price covered my flight route for:
NEW DELHI -> BANGKOK -> CHIANG MAI -> PATTAYA -> NEW DELHI (4 flights worth of 15000 Rs)
TIP #1 Domestic flights within the country are always cheaper than the flights you book to arrive from one country to another. Domestic flights never burn a hole in your pocket and you can use them to travel within a country to save enormous amount of time. Though you can also check bus or train schedules and fare estimates but in 80% of my case flights are always money and time saver. In Thailand, I found trains are taking 14-16 hours of my time from A to B cities with similar cost tag as that of a 2-hour plane journey. So here goes the :
TIP #2 Never ignore flights thinking that they would be costlier than bus/train tickets. Clearly, It isn't the case always.
TIP #3 Start using credit cards with bonus deals as this will save a generous amount of money for hotels or flight tickets. Not only this but also will help you to generate a good credit history in the long run.
If you ever calculate your total trip expenses, you will notice that flights always occupy the significant pie portion of the circle. So, if you are planning to take multiple flights in a country, always try to keep your days flexible for a particular destination as per cheap flights days.
TIP #4 Flights usually capture 40-50% of the cost of total budget. So always focus on cheap flight days.
Following above, I planned 4 nights for Bangkok, 4 Nights for Chiang Mai and 2 Nights for Pattaya.
What About Accommodation?
I needed 3 places to stay in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya. Also, this was with my family. So, I kept it a little over my budget. Places I booked were somewhere between budget hotels (2 stars) and 4-star hotels. Plus, I wanted to keep my luggage as light as possible. So I kept very fewer clothes with mix and match style clothing. So keeping this in mind, I booked an Air BnB in Chiang Mai having a washing machine to wash my clothes, complete kitchenette to cook something light for my family, big private pool for myself and would also give me a chance to interact with the locals there.
In Bangkok, I booked a hotel with a good breakfast for 4 days as rates for hotel and Air Bnbs were almost similar. After all, who wouldn't mind having complimentary breakfast in a hotel as 90% of Air BnBs doesn't provide it. Likewise, I did the same for Pattaya as they were offering me good Indian breakfast.
TIP #5 Never book an Air BnB just for the sake of booking it. If the area you are going to stay is providing good budget hotels with complimentary breakfast in the same rate category, then go for hotels first. Air BnBs are useful when you want to interact with the locals, wanna try their food (wasn't the case with me), or you are staying in an area that offers expensive hotels ( like Paris, San Francisco etc.). There are many downsides of booking an Airbnb too.
Bangkok 4 Nights, 3 persons occupancy room cost with breakfast : 2700 x 4 = 10,800 Rs
Chiang Mai 4 Nights, Air BnB house w/o breakfast cost : 3000 x 4 = 12000 Rs
Pattaya 2 Nights, 3 persons occupancy room cost with breakfast : 2700 x 2 = 5400 Rs
Total cost : 28,200 Rs for 3 persons or 9400 Rs per person
Visa was free
Thailand was offering VOA ( Visa on arrival) for Indians at that time and that too for free. With these visas, you're no longer required to visit an embassy anymore. India is one of the 21 countries whose citizens qualify for this sweet gesture.
Currently, Thailand Visa for Indians will be issued for free until the end of April 2020. You do not need to pay a penny to get the Visa at the Airport.
However, I paid 400 Rs per person to get in the VIP queue and this took me just 5 minutes to get the Visa; otherwise, people were standing there for 2-3 hours in the visa line.
Total expenses for Visa: 400 Rs per person
TIP #6 If you need to shell out some extra pennies to save your precious time, DO IT! You are here for only a week, not for years.
Sim Cards and Foreign Currency
Always buy a sim card/ connection in a country where you will be travelling. Do not rely on hotel WiFi or Airport networks. Further, make a habit of buying a sim connection either before landing to any airport (you can check Amazon.com for this) or buy it at the landing destination Airport. I always buy a sim card with good data and free calls.
In Thailand, I got this for 400 Rs/ Person.
TIP #7 If you are travelling in a group, try to purchase sim cards for every person. There are high chances that someone in your group will be lost and if that person is without any communication, it would be a great trouble for her or him. The same thing had happened twice with my family and friends. So I have stopped taking chances.
While entering Thailand, the Thai immigration authority prefers that you carry at-least 10,000 Baht worth currency with you or If you are a family, then 20,000 Baht per family. You can show USDs instead of Baht if you don't have any.
Anything delicious? yeah, I forgot FOOD!!
Since we prefer vegetarian food, we saved so much money on food and ate packed food for nearly 6 days (Lunch and Dinner) — packed food priced around 1000 Rs. Our Air BnB served this purpose well for cooking.
1. Tea Bags
2. Milk Powder
6. Indian curries (instant food )
Our Breakfast was complimentary for 6 days in both Bangkok and Pattaya and 4 days in Chiang Mai. We had milk, fruits, jam and bread in the morning.
In Bangkok hotel also we had a functional kitchenette in the family room. So we had dinner outside for 2 days in Pattaya only.
During our stay in both Bangkok and Pattaya, we had lunch all days outside in restaurants. But in Chiang Mai, we had it at home only as we were mostly staying at home doing other stuff.
So, we had 8 meals per person and each meal was around 310 Rs. Total we spent 2500 + 350 =2850 Rs per person on food.
TIP #8 Whenever you visit any country, always find the cheapest and cleanest source of water. Otherwise, without knowing either, you would spend a hefty sum of money on buying water bottles from malls and restaurants.
Always inquire about supermarkets and grocery stores around the area where you would be staying. And the best source of information would come from locals only. In Thailand, there are "24/7" named food stores everywhere. You can easily buy 20 Rs/Litre water bottle there. Total expenses for water = 400 Rs
TIP #9 There are places too in every country where you can refill your water bottle. So always carry a one with you.
TIP #9.1 Always try to avail free lounge facilities at Airport. Lounges are great when there is any layover between interconnecting flights. They also offer complimentary food and shower rooms. These days most credit card offers complimentary Lounge access all over the world.
Sighseeings and Tours
It entirely depends on your taste. For tour tickets, you can spend a hell lot of money and your budget will see the skies. So, go for those attractions only what you really need to see as any city can offer hundreds of attractions. Go for something as per your budget. I decided to book only 3 shows which were famous in the city and later on some attractions where I had to shell out little money just for the entrance.
In Bangkok, I booked "SEA LIFE OCEAN WORLD" for free, as I had free credits on KLOOK.
Later, I went for Chao Phraya princess Cruise which everyone should go for. Spent 1700 RS / 25 USD
In Pattaya, I booked Colosseum show tickets (best show ever) and there, I especially booked the VIP tickets just to see the live performance in front. Spent 1600 Rs/ 22 USD.
Other than show tickets, I went to night markets of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Museums, temples, Grand Palace and Shopping malls. I nearly spent 300 Rs/ 4 USD in total for entry tickets.
Total spent 3600 Rs/ 51 USD Per person
TIP #10 For booking tickets for any activity, always try to find out genuine rates for a particular activity. Some activities require you to haggle on the spot and sometimes, it is wise to book tickets online as these days there are many useful online travel websites which offer 30-40% discount online in comparison to tickets booked at the counter. So research thoroughly before buying any tickets.
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I did not use any metro as we were 3 persons. Price of the Grab taxi was almost similar to 3 tickets of metro ride. So we decided to either take Grab taxi or Tuk-Tuks in Thailand. Below is my cost estimate:
1. Bangkok Airport to Hotel (28 KMs) by Grab: 1000 Rs / 14 USD for 3 persons. I did not try to find out any other mode of transport as we were really exhausted and just wanted to check-in in our hotel.
2. We stayed in the Sukhumvit area which is good for bars and restaurants. The tourist sites like "The Grand Palace", Wat Pho, River pier area, Nana street, MBK Center and Silom complex were near to out Hotel in soi 2 road.
On an average, I was shelling out 210 Rs / 3 USD per person "to and fro" on transportation for every place I visited in Bangkok area. I took Grab and tuk-tuk for nearly 4 places as far as I can remember in Bangkok. Total 840 Rs/ 4 USD per person in Bangkok
3. Hotel to bangkok Airport (28 Kms) by Grab: 1100 Rs/ 15 USD for 3 persons.
4. Chiang Mai Airport to AIR BNB (18 KMs) by Grab : 1000 Rs/ 14 USD for 3 persons.
5. Chiang Mai Air BNB to Chiang Mai's night market (to and fro): 2000/ 28 USD for 3 persons.
6. Chiang Mai Air BNB to Chiang Mai Airport (early morning) : 1600 Rs/ 23 USD for 3 persons.
7. Some nearby attraction in Chiang Mai : 500 Rs/ 7 USD for 3 persons.
My major mistake was to book the Air BnB in Chinag Mai away from city. The city central was 10 Kms away from the Air BnB and it was tiring plus costly affair to get a cab to reach the city center. I approximately spent 6200 Rs/ 87 USD just on transportation in Chiang Mai alone ( BIG MISTAKE !)
TIP #11 If you are planning to roam around the city a lot and majority of places are in the city itself, then always inquire about the area where you are booking your hotel/Air Bnb as chances are they might be far away from city center and that would cost you a lot.
8. Pattaya Airport ( U-Tapao) to Pattaya hotel (40 Kms). Realizing from my earlier mistake, I re-booked my Pattaya hotel near to city center. All places were accessible by foot except one - My Colosseum show. Also, this time instead of booking a Grab taxi which was costing around 2500-3000 Rs, I booked shuttle bus directly at the airport which costed only 550 Rs/ 8 USD per person. The shuttle bus dropped us at the hotel gate.
TIP #12 The best thing would be to tag your Hotel/Air BnB in your google maps and map all the attractions that you want to visit in that city or area. You would get a rough estimate of whether the hotel that you are booking would be a good deal or would turn into a costly affair.
9. Pattaya Hotel to Colosseum show (6 Kms ) (to and fro) : 500 Rs / 7 USD for 3 persons. 170 Rs/ 3 USD per person.
10. Pattaya Hotel to Bangkok Airport Transfer (100 Kms) (early morning) : As I got late to book the shuttle bus to Bangkok Airport, I had to book the private taxi to Bangkok airport for 2800 RS/40 USD. 930 Rs/13 USD per person.
So total I spent approximately 4900 Rs/ 70 USD per person on transportation in Thailand. I saved on transportation expenses as we are 3 persons. Otherwise, it is a huge expense. I did not manage much on transportation.
There were other expenses like:
Foot massage: 500 Rs / Person twice, so 1000 Rs person.
Grocery items like bread, butter, cornflakes, chips,biscuits, fruits, Ice tea, thai tea, ice creams etc from 24/7 store in Thailand: 1000 Rs
Chocolates: I bought chocolates from Thailand which no one should buy as they are very costly. Reason being they import chocolates. Spent nearly: 2500 Rs
Souvenir: I bought some fridge magnets for my friends and that costed me 500 Rs for 7-8 magnets. I also bought some elephant pants and hand bags from their stores also and that costed me 6500 Rs
So, combined spending in Miscellaneous category is : 11000 Rs
I am skipping Miscellaneous expenses as anyone can avoid them. Just adding 1000 Rs for foot massage as everyone visiting Thailand, especially Chiang Mai should try this. It was so relaxing.
All 4 Flight Tickets
15000 Rs / 215 USD
Accomodation - 10 nights
9400 Rs/ 135 USD
400 Rs / 6 USD
Tourist Sim Card
400 Rs / 6 USD
Food and Restaurant
3300 Rs / 46 USD
Tours and tickets
3600 Rs/ 51 USD
Foot massage (misc.)
4900 Rs/ 70 USD
1000 Rs/ 15 USD
38000 Rs/545 USD
When I plotted the same expenses under the PIE chart, I found Transportation, Accommodation and Flight were my major expenses. Though I neatly managed my flight expenses, still it is 40% of my total expenses (remember tip #4 ). Though 1/4th of my total expenses incurred in stay category, still a 10 days trip which is 940 Rs/ day for more than a budget accommodation was a significant highlight of my journey. That's an excellent achievement.
TIP #13 To minimize your stay/accommodation expenses, always travel with your partner or in a group. Going solo will definitely make you to stay in a very budget accommodation or will force you to go for couch surfing. Group travelling also helps to minimize transportation expenses.
I could have easily managed my transportation expenses if I had taken my stay in the city centre in Chiang Mai. That homework can be left to be done on my next tour of Vietnam. Haha!!