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Enjoy Thailand Without Spending More Than You Should
It wasn’t too long ago when I took a recent trip to Thailand in order get a nice break from the daily grind of teaching. I had been teaching English in Taiwan for almost 9 months. As a way to celebrate my hard work, I decided to take a one-week vacation to Thailand with my girlfriend.
After living on the island of Koh Samet for a couple of days, we thought it would be nice to explore other parts of the country. Our next stop was the glamorous city of Pattaya. When we got there, we eventually came across the three most common types of public transportation.
2. Tuk Tuk
3. Song Thaew
The taxi in Thailand is just as common of a taxi that you would find in any other country. Fares are generally cheap, and a short trip to a nearby shopping center shouldn’t cost you anywhere over 50 baht depending on the distance (30 baht = 1 USD). During my trip, I found taxi drivers to be very pleasant and always interested in practicing their English.
However, if you’re looking to go to a destination that’s much farther away, a taxi ride can quickly add up.
The Tuk Tuk
Another option that every tourist wants to try is the Tuk Tuk. The Tuk Tuk is a small car that consists of one or two rows of seats for the passengers. The driver weaves in and out of traffic, giving vacationers – like myself – a thrill for the money spent.
The price of these depends as you can negotiate with the driver how much you want to spend, usually for an hour ride. I first recommend that you feel comfortable with high-speed driving before hopping onto one of these.
I never experienced one of these rides myself, but I’ve heard that prices range from about 40 to 80 baht per ride.
The final car and probably the most economical is the Song Thaew. The Song Thaew works like a public transportation bus that can be found on long stretches of highway. Its uniqueness stands out by resembling an ordinary truck where passengers quickly hop on and off in order to get to their destination.
Upon arriving in Thailand, I was always told by the local Thais that I need to negotiate the price of the fare with the driver, no matter what type of vehicle. And so I did what I was told for the first day.
Following the advice of the locals, here’s a typical script of my negotiation tactics with the driver before climbing aboard:
Me: “How much?”
Driver: “100 Baht”
Me: “Make it 40”
Driver: “I’ll do 50.”
Me: “40 or no.”
Driver: “Okay. Quickly get on, now.”
I felt pretty proud of myself at this point, bringing the driver to agree with my price of only 40 baht. The great thing about these buses is that they go for miles and miles for long stretches as high-speeds, meaning you can get to your intended destination quickly and efficiently and getting your money’s worth.
However, on the second and third day, I noticed that the locals had a different way of boarding the Song Thaew. In Pattaya, they would directly climb onto the truck without saying a word to the driver.
I decided to wait one turn at the bus stop and carefully examine the exchange between a passenger and a driver. It wasn’t hard to figure out that I had been swindled. Each time the locals would pay only 20 baht without any need for negotiating with the driver.
I quickly mimicked this example. My girlfriend and I hopped on the next bus without saying a word to the driver. I was a little skeptical as to what would happen, especially since I was standing out as a white foreigner in between a bunch of people with dark-colored skin. I figured that if anything were to arise, they would possibly mistake my Asian girlfriend as a local if we kept our mouths shut.
After traveling about 10 miles, we arrived at our destination. We hopped out of the car, paid 20 baht, and the driver drove off. In other cities, I’ve heard that the Song Thaew can be as low as 5 baht. It’s always important to first pay attention to the locals if you want to save some cash.
Don’t do what I did and trust the locals in their prices. They’ll do anything they can to extract extra money from tourists. It’s not that it’s immoral, but simply their way of doing business.
One time after we went to get a Thai massage, we inquired the front desk about the best way to get to a show that we wanted to see. Of course, they could offer transportation at a fee of only 700 baht to get there in 30 minutes. Instead of this gracious offer, we decided to walk 5 minutes to the bus stop, take a Song Thaew, walk 5 more minutes and arrived where we want to get to, all for 20 baht.
If you’re looking for the best price while traveling in Thailand, take care when the locals mention an offer. Usually there’s another option that’s at least one-third of the price.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to share any experiences about how to save money when traveling abroad.