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How to see Thailand on a budget

Thailand has been a budget travel destination for many years. It remains one of the few places in the world where travelling on a budget does not have to mean foregoing comfort. Transport, delicious food and agreeable accommodation can all be found by the well prepared, in-the-know traveler for little more than your morning coffee back home. On top of this there are some great adventures to be had, like trekking through forests or drifting down the Mekong, as well as plenty of stunning beaches and more palaces than you can imagine.

Cheap Flights
Flexibility and patience are the two keys to unlock cheap flights to Thailand. Look around and compare flights on and other flight comparison services. Try different dates (avoiding weekends if possible) and try different airports to depart from and land in. Remember that it is no longer the case that cheap flights are available near to your departure date – start booking early for the real deals.

Cheap Transport
Thailand has an efficient and cheap rail network whose Northern Line connects to Chiang Mai (and on to Laos) and whose Southern Line reaches down to Hat Yai just north of the border with Malaysia. Tickets can be purchased up to 60 days in advance and you can book a sleeper carriage at night and save on accommodation costs. Buses are also comfortable and cheap: an air-conditioned nine hour journey between Bangkok and Chiang Mai can be found for around £15 ($25).

If you are travelling locally, negotiate a fair price for taxis, boats and tuk tuks (rickshaws). The best way to get this is to ask for a meter to be used if there is one, or to find out before you set off from a local shop or restaurant owner exactly what a fair fare is. Of course a healthy tip will not hurt your budget too much if you are paying local prices.

Luxury hotels are certainly cheap compared to back home, but by staying in guesthouses, bungalows and hostels you can have a longer stay. Research your destinations by asking other travellers, using guide books or internet forums to find comfortable cheap lodgings. If you are staying a couple of weeks or longer always ask if there is a discount for long stays and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Thais love street food so why not join them for delicious, inexpensive food every night? The big cities have markets, such as Chiang Mai's Sunday Walking Street, where myriad food stalls are dotted among the temples and there are trinkets on offer. Avoid the temptation to eat familiar food like burgers and pizzas which are not going to be healthy for you or your budget.

Smart travelling
A little bit of thought can help your budget stretch so much further in Thailand. If you travel during the low season, cheaper flights will be available and on arrival you will find local Thais more willing to drop their prices to attract your custom. Similarly, prices on buses traveling at night are cheaper and you won’t need to pay for a room.

Thai islands are gorgeous but can be pricey. Transport costs inevitably mean that prices are higher on the islands and there is often little in the way of competition to help drive them down. For a quieter, cheaper island try some of those less popular with holidaymakers, such as Ko Lanta.

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