Some of you might wonder how I manage to travel so extensively on my limited income. Well, a confession—for my big trips my airfare or in the case of my current trip, my week-long package tour which included airfare, money comes from my small investment “emergency nest egg.” OK, I know travel isn’t an emergency but it is a major priority in my life.
I seek low-cost travel deals. Travelzoo.com and Gate1 Travel offer fantastic discounts. For example, the base price of my package from Gate1 cost about $100 more than the RT airfare alone from NYC to Thailand. Not bad for 6 nights in luxury hotels, airfare, all breakfasts, about 5 other meals, admission to many venues and a terrific tour guide. The flight, however, was from Los Angeles but I used airline points for my flights to/from the West Coast.
On the road in SE Asia my expenses work out to about $35 a day. For example, I was paying $13 a night to share a double with Paula #1 and now my beach bungalow costs only $10 a night. At New Bungalows and other restaurants on the beach food averages $2-3 for breakfast and $3-4 for lunch or dinner. While on Koh Jum I splurged twice and spent about $10 for dinner.
In Pai I averaged $21 a night at Bueng Pai Farm (the owner gave me an unexpected 30% discount) and my in-town bungalow cost $13 a night. Meals were less expensive than on this tropical island. However, if I walk into Koh Jum town about 15 minutes away, I can find meals priced about a dollar less than on the beach. Food costs are further reduced by drinking my own coffee on some mornings (free in Pai and Chiang Mai guesthouses) and having yogurt and fruit for breakfast or lunch a couple of times a week.
Transportation remains low in this part of the world. In Pai a motorbike taxi cost $2 and here it’s about $1.70 though for a shorter distance. My shuttle bus from the Krabi airport to the ferry and then boat ride to Koh Jum cost $18 whereas an overnight train ride from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai (12 hours with my own sleeping birth) was a bargain at only $28. My Thai flights came in at $68 on AirAsia thanks to booking them last summer. Incredible price for a two-hour flight south (about 800 miles) and then north to BKK (an hour for about 300 miles). For the ferry back to Krabi Airport, a friend recommended traveling as the locals do–on a long-boat and then song tao (shared taxi with two facing seats in the back of an enclosed converted pick-up truck). That cost $10 total for a taxi ride to the dock, boat ride and song tao. In Bangkok I took a taxi from the local to international airport, about 50 minutes, and it cost only $14 with tolls and tip.
Tomorrow I’m saving money further in a method the same friend recommended. A method that most people reading this would not employ. When she heard I’d check into a BKK guesthouse about 7 or 8 pm and then have to leave there at 4:30 a.m. she asked, “Why bother with a guesthouse?” She and her husband, who spend 4 months here every winter, just “sleep” at the airport if they have an early morning flight. She said there are plenty of people doing it and that there are comfortable padded benches where many tourists catch a few winks. I did that twice during my three-month trip two years ago. Not by choice though–early morning flights in New Delhi and Tel Aviv necessitated it. Bangkok’s international airport is much, much nicer than either of those so, hopefully, it won’t be too uncomfortable.
3 DAYS LATER
Well, I won’t be saving money again by intentionally staying at the airport. Unlike my friends who recommended doing it, I was unable to sleep on the adjacent padded seats.I did manage to sleep for 90 minutes in a lounge where I paid about $18 for two hours which included a sandwich, small cake and beverage. Luckily I slept 3.5 hours on the plane from Tokyo to USA. My first night in the USA I slept from about midnight to noon the next day. Needed it after a 42 hour trip, door to door.
Gifts are very reasonable in most parts of the world, especially SE Asia.
Handmade purses made by Lisu women run $1 – $5, most scarves are $2 – $4, sarongs $2-$4, magnets a dollar or two, silver jewelry costs little compared to the USA, beautiful handmade jackets are $15-$40, etc.
As for the downsides of low-cost travel…often there’s no AC or heat which isn’t a problem this time of year…..sometimes a bungalow has a Thai (squat) toilet)….spending money on beer or drinks can increase daily expenses significantly.