Those of you that know us well will not be at all surprised by the fact that we have gone over our original budget on this trip. Partly, that’s because our original budget was not realistic, but mostly its because we, well, went to Africa for 7 weeks.
The one area we have always managed to stay more or less within budget on is our accommodation costs. At the beginning of our trip we had a sort of slush fund for those times when we just needed to stay in a decent hotel with hot water and towels. As it turns out you don’t really need to stretch your budget that much to do this. In the month we spent in Thailand in July/August, we averaged £21.20 per night. That’s a whole £34 over our accommodation budget for the month, and at no point did we need to use our own towels.
Now, £34 is the different between the standard and the VIP overnight bus twice, and so it seems a fair amount, but what if we told you we stayed in a Villa with its own private pool for 4 nights and still only averaged £21.20 a night?
Low season is cheap
So, how did we do this? We were there in Shoulder and low season, which means accommodation is much cheaper. You do run the risk of rain, and we did have a few rainy days, but no more than 8 in a month, which in the grand scheme of things, is not a big deal. It also means some places are a bit dead. For example, we would not recommend Koh Chang at this time of year unless you like deserted bars and restaurants. But in general you get really good deals on places to stay that in high season would be well out of the budget of your average backpacker, or even flashpacker.
Below is the breakdown of our accommodation spend for our month in Thailand including a little bit about what we got for our money. Where a link to a website exists we’ve added it.
4 Nights, £273.00
Private Villa with own Pool, kitchen, Air Conditioning, AMAZBALLS bathroom. Never ever wanted to leave. Heres a video from their You tube page. Excuse the dodgy music!
4 Nights, £43.14
Bungalow with Fan for 3 nights, upgraded to Air Con on the last night for an additional £2.50. Near the beach and had a cute pool, though about a 20 minute walk from the main Lamai centre.
4 Nights £46.51
AC room wth balcony. Rooms are big and have decent bathrooms. They have a nice pool area and often have pool parties. This place is 1900 baht/£45 per night during Full moon. We were there for Black moon, which was fun, without being a rip off.
SB 2 Cabanas, Sairee Beach, Koh Tao – not on booking sites, turn up!
4 nights, £46.51
Fan Room about 1 minute walk from the beach but the bed was decent and it was near a lot of bars and street food – Koh Tao is little more expensive than other islands for accommodation..
3 Nights, £36.98
A cute little bungalow 1minute away from the beach again, with a Balcony and AC. Near the Half moon party but not TOO near the Half moon party. Busy bars and cheap restourants within a 10 minute walk.
3 Nights, £62.79
Honestly, not the best choice we’ve ever made. Bamboo hut on a nice beach, but a really basic room. It had portable AC (wbich means no AC), and after some of the places we had stayed in we felt robbed. Also, they did, hands down THE worst burger I have ever eaten and their bar prices were high, even compared to all the other places around.
(Please note, Website is in german)
1 night overnight bus to Bangkok – Transport costs come out of a separate budget for us. Our combined boat and bus ticket cost us £40
Samet 99 Koh Samet – booking through booking.com
3 Nights, £47.67
A really nice guesthouse and the owner was really friendly. Unfortunately the Island itself was not as amazing as many of the others.
3 Nights £58.14 Room with AC.
An absolutely gorgeous hotel, with a really nice pool area. The weather was poor in Koh Chang, and it was completely dead which was a real shame.
Total cost £614.74
Total number of nights 29
Average cost per night £21.20
Other tips to help keep your budget in check.
Don’t stay too long in Koh Samui, & be careful about where you stay
It’s a beautiful island, but really not geared towards budget backpacking. It is a perfect holiday destination.
The rooms are a bit more expensive in general and the food and drink costs are much higher than in more backpacker friendly areas. If you do go to Samui, we’d recommend Lamai as it has some reasonably priced rooms, and a decent Thai food market. We couldn’t find any decent private rooms in Chewang within our budget, but there is a lot of reasonably priced food there, so if you are happy in a dorm its probably worth a look. Otherwise, Samui could easily kill your budget. To give you an example, a cocktail in Mae Nam, Samui will cost you 150Baht/£2.50 whereas until 10pm on Koh Tao its as little as 60Baht or £1.10. We ate a lot of 7Eleven Ham & Cheese Toasties on Koh Samui (27Baht each in case your were wondering)
Once you’ve used Booking.com 10 times you start getting discounts on certain hostels and hotels. We got 10% off in 4 places we booked, plus early and late check outs for free. Booking.com also has ‘secret deals’ and ‘daily deals’ which are available to those who book regularly. The villa with pool in Koh Samui was 75% off on a secret deal.
Agoda do a similar thing, though we don’t like how little info you get on their site so we rarely book with them for Thailand. Hostelworld and Hostelbookers are okay if you want dorms.
Don’t book in advance for Koh Tao
Make sure you get an early ish boat and don’t book ahead. There are literally 100 of places to stay and most of them are not on booking sites. Get a taxi to take you to the part you want to stay in and have a wander around. This also gives you the option to move if you pick badly. Also, a lot of the dive centres on Koh Tao give you free accommodation when you book an Open Water Dive course.
Avoid Koh Phanghan at Full moon
The Black Moon party was a lot of fun, and I heard Half Moon was a ‘rager’ of a party, so why on earth waste your hard earned money to stay somewhere and pay 4 times the going rate to go to a party that almost everyone we have spoken to has hated. The rooms in Koh Phanghan are just not worth £40 a night – that’s like paying £150 for a Travelodge! There is ALWAYS a party to be found on Koh Phanghan no matter what the moon is doing, and some decent deals to be had out of Full Moon Party season. If you really do want to go to Full Moon, then expect it to cost you.
Next up – Cambodia, where we will really be sticking to budget and spending as little as possible. See how we get on!