Tips to Reduce Your Holiday Expenses to Phuket and Thailand

By: James Spellman

One of the great attractions of Thailand is that it is beautiful, full of adventure, lots of fun and cheap. 

In this article, we will give a few simple tips to help you make your money go further. We are not talking about the sort of penny-pinching measures that backpackers use to make their tiny budget stretch a year. We are not going to suggest you eat noodles every day. After all, you are on holiday and holidays are meant to be enjoyed.

However, most people have worked hard for their two-week holiday in the land of smiles and there is no reason why they should not get the best from their money.

Tips to Reduce Your Holiday Expenses to Phuket and Thailand

Accommodation

If you want budget accommodation then usually you can find good deals just by walking in off the street. Walk around the side streets of any of Phuket's beach resorts and you will find guesthouses. During peak high-season (Xmas & January) it is better to book in advance as there may not be any rooms available. Whatever you do, do not ask a tuk-tuk driver for a recommendation. They will just take you somewhere that pays them commission.

But for mid to high range accommodation then you should book in advance. If you are on a longer-term holiday of a month or more then it may be worth looking for an apartment. If you go further back from the beach (e.g. Nanai Road in Patong), you can find nice one bedroom apartments from 12,000 baht a month.

Money Exchange

Do not change money in your home country before coming to Thailand. You will get a much better rate of exchange in Thailand. Bring an ATM card or travelers cheques. In fact, it is nice to have two sources of money in case of problems so why not bring both.

Do not exchange your money at hotels. They give bad rates. Exchange booths at airports also give poor rates. The best way to get money when you first arrive is to use an ATM at the airport

The tour prices in Phuket are generally very competitive. These organised tours are a convenient and reasonably priced way to see Phuket's tourist attractions. There are many tour shops and lots of tours so the competition keeps the prices down. Just go to any tour shop and you are likely to find some good deals.

The only problem with booking tours is you do not know the quality of the tour service. The price may be competitive but if the experience is poor then you will still be disappointed. Most of the tour organisers provide a good service but there are also a few stinkers.

Tipping

Tipping was never really a part of Thai culture. It is a custom that we visiting westerners have introduced and which Thai customers have now taken up. Most western visitors over-tip. The normal tip in Thailand at restaurants or bars is 20 baht. That may seem like a derisory sum to leave by western standards but in Thailand, they do not expect any more. You are not being tightfisted by leaving so little. 

Getting Around

The tuk-tuks have earned themselves a bad reputation for both prices and service. They are now charging a ridiculous 200-baht for short trips around Patong. Unfortunately, if you have bags or want to make a long journey then there is often no choice but to use them. All we would say is make sure you agree a price before starting the journey. Considering the prices they charge, there is no reason to give a tip.

There are motorcycle taxis everywhere. You can recognise them from their coloured vests. A short trip around town should cost 20-40 baht.

You can hire a motorcycle for 200 baht a day. They are a great way to get around town and see a bit of the island. Drive carefully and always wear a helmet. Bring an International Driving License and carry it whenever you are driving. If you do not carry an IDL, you may end up paying the police a few 300-baht fines.

You can hire jeeps from independent renters for 800 baht a day (but with very little insurance) or cars from reputable hire companies from 1,400 baht a day.

Restaurants

Eating out is remarkably cheap in Phuket. There are so many restaurants that there is a lot of competition and even the tourist restaurants will seem cheap to most visitors. Still there are big price differences between restaurants. Generally, the further you go from the beach, the lower the prices. If you eat at one of the major restaurants along the beachfront then you are going to pay for the location.

Thai food is cheaper than western food. It is also very good and there is a tremendous range of dishes. You are sure to find something you like and appreciating the local cuisine is part of getting to know the local culture.

You should also consider getting out of the tourist resorts and trying some real Thai style restaurants. The difference in price and style of food can be startling.

Check Your Bill

Do check your restaurant or bar bill before paying. We would not want to say this is common but it does occasionally happen that they add extra items or total it up incorrectly to get more money. Don't feel bad about it. Thai customers invariably check their bill and are not embarrassed to point out 'mistakes'.

Shopping

You should avoid shopping at the tourist stalls along the beachfront and around the tourist resorts. The quality of goods is unreliable and the prices are vastly hiked. Unless of course you just want the fun of haggling and do not mind that you may be buying overpriced rubbish.

You have to be careful when asking tuk-tuk drivers for recommendations. If you are looking for specialty shops (jewelry, tailors, etc), many tuk-tuks receives commission for bringing customers. The tuk-tuks will take you to these shops rather than the places that will give you good deals.

You should do your shopping at the department stores, shopping malls, markets or at specialty shops which are mostly in Phuket Town. The new Jung Ceylon shopping mall is the best option in Patong. Beyond the tourist resorts are Robinsons, Central Festival, Tesco Lotus and Big C.

For cheap clothes, trinkets, accessories, etc, two good locations are the Weekend Market (Sat & Sun 3pm-10pm) on Wai-Rat-Hong-Yak Road in Phuket Town and Expo Indoor Market on Tilok Uthit 2 Road, Phuket Town.

There are good gold & jewelry shops on Montree Road in Phuket Town. The best art & antique shops are in the old town area of Phuket Town around Thalang Road & Dibuk Road. You should be aware that you need an export permit to take genuine antiques out of the country.

Bartering

Bartering is part of Thai shopping culture but only at market stalls and independent shops. Try to haggle the price down a little (a lot if you are shopping at tourist stalls). It really helps if you have an idea of what is a good price. Try to haggle in good spirit with a smile.

If you can speak a little Thai, it will help. Not only does it create goodwill but it also gives the seller the impression you know a little about Thailand and might actually know what would be a good price. Even just an opening 'Sawatdee' may be enough to help your cause.

Yes, this little section is for the guys who intend to play around with the bar girls. If you are not careful, this will rapidly become the biggest expense of your holiday.

Just because you have picked up a girl at a bar, that does not mean you have to buy drinks for every other girl at the bar. They will try their luck and if you are a soft touch, they will keep coming back for more. Just say no from the start.

You do not need to ring the bell and buy everybody in the bar a drink.

If you take a girl back to your hotel then agree the price up front (usually 1,000 to 2,000 baht). You do not have any responsibility to buy her food, drinks or pay her taxi home. It is up to you.

Most of all, you do not have to pay for her family's healthcare, sick buffalo or whatever other sob-story she may tell. And you definitely do not need to send her money once you have gone home.

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