So this post is harking way back to when a fresh-faced, 18-year-old me and my wonderful friend Maddy set out on an adventure to Thailand and Cambodia for a month with practically no money. Here are my experiences and tips for getting the most on a shoestring.East Asia is notoriously cheap to live in anyway so you’re already heading in the right direction but my biggest piece of advice is always the same.
You’re going to get the cheapest and best-tasting food by simply eating local, there is always a risk anywhere you eat that you could get food poisoning but we always ate where we saw locals eating and during our 3 weeks of street-food neither of us got at all poorly. My favourite meals are pictured below: Sticky Mango Rice with pork dumplings, Pineapple with sugar and chilli, Tom Yum Soup in a bag, more Sticky Mango Rice and finally cashew chicken.
Sticky mango rice and Tom Yum are literally two of my favourite foods ever but they are also incredibly cheap in Thailand so are very budget friendly as well as being delicious.
Sounds rather silly but, if you can do without a few un-necessary things you can spend your money on adventures. It may seem difficult to give up, but you don’t actually need air conditioning. Maddy and I stayed in the New Phiman Riverview Guesthouse in Bangkok and saved a fortune. The area certainly looked dodgy and you had to walk in-between peoples houses on raised wooden platforms amongst stray cats and dogs to get there but it quickly became our home-away-from-home. The owners were lovely and despite the lack of aircon, shared bathroom and shower facilities and communal sleeping arrangements we absolutely loved it! Where else could you be in a great location next to the river for so little money? I think it is (to this day) one of the best and authentic places I’ve ever stayed. We stayed in little hotels like this all over Thailand and to beat the heat we would shower and get our hair wet then get straight into bed for the night so we could fall asleep without overheating.
Sleep and Travel at the same time.
To save money on accommodation, book trains and buses at night! Seems obvious but tonnes of people waste time and money by travelling through the day even though most trains are designed so the seats can be turned into beds! It’s not the best nights sleep I’ve ever had but it’s definitely not the worst and is such an easy way of saving money. If you have to travel during the day, its best to try to travel short distances and if you can’t walk use a tuk-tuk it’ probably the cheapest option.
The beach is always free!
Once you’ve taken the night train down to the islands, the beaches are always, always free and they’re so beautiful who wouldn’t want to spend all day there?
Never get the ‘next’ bus.
If you have paid to take a bus (especially if they come infrequently) you just have to get on, come hell or high water, regardless is there is actually a seat. Don’t argue or become aggressive just politely insist that you get on. The American ‘the customer is always right’ ethos does not apply and you shouldn’t expect it to, they will not allow you on if you make a fuss, just be polite and cheerful and they will usually let you on. There is no guarantee that the next bus will turn up anytime soon and there is no guarantee you won’t have to pay for your ticket again so this is good advice. I sat on a drinks cooler in the front of a coach for 8 hours to get into Cambodia and although it was incredibly uncomfortable I don’t regret it for a minute.
The photo on the left is quite hard to make out as I took it in the wing-mirror of the coach, but you can just about make out my precarious position.
Go to Angkor Watt at dawn.
Ok, I realise this isn’t a financial tip but it is a good one. I didn’t realise just how massive the site was until I went, it’s not just a temple, it is an entire city! The place is not only coolest and most beautiful at dawn but it quickly fills up with huge tourist groups which I just hate, so go the earlier the better!
Practice your photography skills.
If you have no money and time to kill, just whacking out your phone and taking some photos can actually be really fun. We asked these little kiddos to show us around and taking photos from their perspective was really fun.
East Asia is so beautiful and magical and I hope I helped you guys plan your time there!