Travel prices do fluctuate. So while I’ve put guidelines and general budget ranges in The World’s Cheapest Destinations, things change. Take Thailand, for instance. Today I’m happy to present a guest post from someone who ought to know. Brian Spencer has been living there for a while and knows just what you can get from a pocket full of baht. Take it away Brian!
During my first visit to Thailand in 2006, the dollar-to-baht exchange rate hovered around 1:40. Paired with relatively low inflation and cost of living, everything felt exceedingly cheap: decent hotels, street food and snacks, restaurants, bars, souvenirs… everything.
When I moved to Bangkok late in 2008, the exchange rate had dipped rather significantly due to the strengthening baht and weakening dollar to 1:35. By this time the cost of many everyday items had noticeably risen, too, so while that was still a favorable rate for the dollar, and life was still much cheaper than back in New York, the difference really added up on big-ticket expenses like rent, airfares, and miscellaneous expenses when traveling around the country.
This pattern has continued. Despite well-publicized periods of social and political upheaval in 2010 that I thought would have a devastating short-term impact on tourism in Thailand, last year over 16 million travelers visited the country, the most ever recorded (perhaps only until the final tally is in for this year, however). Foreign investment is flooding in; the economy is strong.
Good news for Thailand (except for the ongoing cost of living increases), bad news for the US dollar: at the time of writing, the exchange rate is 1:30, a 10 baht difference, or 25%, in just 5 years. Forget the equitable days of ’06—at this point, I’d settle for ’08!
Bangkok is still an affordable (and wonderful) place to live: it’s just not as cheap as it used to be. It’s a small price to pay to call the world’s best city home.
Prices on the Street in Bangkok:
– Bag of Freshly Sliced Papaya: 15 Baht
– Plate of Pad Thai: 35 Baht
– Som Tum: 30 Baht
– Iced Nescafe Coffee: 10 – 18 Baht
– Bottle of Fresh Orange Juice: 30 Baht
– Skewers of Various Meatballs: 10 Baht
– Skewer of Grilled Squid: 25 Baht
– Bag of Fresh Pineapple: 15 Baht
– Coconut: 35 Baht
– Waffle: 10 Baht
– Shot of Whiskey from Street Stand: 10 Baht
Prices at a Bangkok 7-11
There are more than 6,000 7-11 convenience stores in Thailand, and over half of them are located in Bangkok. You won’t have to go far to find one (except, of course, when you need one the most—funny how it works that way). Some areas literally have 7-11s directly across from each other on either side of the street, and another two around the corner. I love 7-11 for the obvious convenience, as well as the frigid air-conditioning.
– Can of Coke: 14 Baht
– Bag of Singha Spicy Seaweed: 20 Baht
– Kit-Kat Bar: 20 Baht
– Energy Drink (Carabao brand): 10 Baht
– Ice Cream Cone: 19 Baht
– Roll of Toilet Paper: 14 Baht
– Winnie the Pooh Brush: 18 Baht
– Pens (2 pack): 9 – 14 Baht
– Disposable Underwear (3 pack): 39 Baht, some with a free razor
– Pack of gum (10 pellets): 10 – 15 Baht
– Ben 10 Sour Belt Candy: 10 Baht
– Doraemon Choco Stick: 8 Baht
– Oreos (3 pack/Sleeve): 5 Baht / 29 Baht
– Cup/Packet of Instant Noodles: 10 – 18 Baht / 5 – 15 Baht
– Bag of Cashews, Pistachios, or Almonds (40 grams): 25 Baht
– Bag of Broad Beans (40 grams): 10 Baht
– Bag of Peanuts (110 grams): 25 Baht
– Taro, Pandan, or Chocolate Custard Bun: 6 – 10 Baht
– Ham & Cheese or Chili Squid Lay’s Potato Chips: 20 – 30 Baht
– Shrimp-Flavored Pokemon Snack: 20 Baht
– Bottle of Water: 7 – 14 Baht
– Grilled Pork with Sticky Rice Burger: 23 Baht
– Foot-long Steamed Pork Curry Dog: 25 Baht
– Can of Chang / Leo / Heineken Beer: 29 Baht / 30 Baht / 42 Baht
– Tall Bottle of Chang / Leo / Heineken Beer: 44 Baht / 47 Baht / 72 Baht (ouch!)
Prices at Big C Supercenter
Big C is Thailand’s much less-depressing version of Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target. Branches of various sizes (Big C, Big C Extra, Big C Jumbo, etc.) are located throughout Bangkok, and in 2010 the company paid 35.4 million Baht to acquire 42 branches of their former competitor, Carrefour. Along with Tesco Lotus, Big C is the most heavily shopped supermarket/household goods chain in Bangkok.
– Gallon of Milk: 73 – 84 Baht
– 100 Pipers Whiskey (1 liter): 479 Baht
– Johnnie Walker Black Whiskey (1 liter): 1,249 Baht
– Box of Red or White Montclair Wine: 969 Baht
– Tall Box of Juice: 38.50 – 73 Baht
– Jug of Water (6 liters): 32.50 Baht
– Rice Milk w/ Job’s Tear and Hazelnut (3 pack): 37 Baht
– Men’s Deodorant: Starts 39 Baht
– Bag of Nescafe Red Cup Instant Coffee: 106 Baht
– Paper Towels (3 pack): 40.50 Baht
– Toilet Paper (6 pack): 35 Baht
– Colgate Toothpaste (90 grams): 29 – 47 Baht
– Loaf of Bread: 25 – 45 Baht
– Yogut (4 pack): 38 – 55 Baht
– Orchids: 28 Baht
– Distar DVD Player: 550 Baht
– Hair Dryer: 299 – 720 Baht
– Wok (30 inch): 579 Baht
– Men’s Bikini Briefs (5 pack): 89 Baht
Movie Theater (SF World Cinema at CentralWorld Plaza):
For a Bangkok movie theater, prices vary by the day of the week. Monday and Tuesday are cheaper than Thursday through Sunday; Wednesday is “Movie Day” and has the cheapest prices of the week. Prices listed are for Thursday to Sunday.
– Regular Theater: 160 Baht (deluxe) / 180 Baht (premium) / 450 Baht (sofa)
– Digital Theater: 180 Baht (deluxe) / 200 Baht (premium) / 550 Baht (sofa)
– 3D Theater: 260 Baht (deluxe) / 280 Baht (premium) / 700 Baht (sofa)
– Happiness Screen: 1,200 Baht (day bed, 2 people) / 600 Baht (lazy chair) / 300 Baht (bean bag)
– First-Class Cinema: 700 Baht per person (includes non-alcoholic welcome drink, light pre-movie buffet, unlimited popcorn and soft drinks, seat service, and plush seating)
Random Prices in Bangkok:
– Khlong Boat Ride on Khlong Saen Saeb: 11 Baht
– BTS Skytrain Fare (single voyage): 15 – 40 Baht
– BTS Skytrain One-Day Pass: 120 Baht
– Taxi: Meter starts at 35 Baht
– Seafood Deluxe Pan Pizza at Pizza Company: 259 (S) / 419 (M) / 529 (L)
– All-You-Can-Eat Buffet at Shabushi (1:15 hours): 295 Baht
– Blizzard at Dairy Queen: 25 – 59 Baht
– Thai Premier League Soccer Game: 50 – 100 Baht
Other facilities like accommodation and travel are affordable here. Otherwise you can get Internet access for free at many coffee shops and this is a city where there are still internet cafes around.
Brian Spencer is a full-time travel editor and freelance writer who in the past year has split his time between Bangkok and Brooklyn. His work has recently appeared in publications such as Lonely Planet, CNNGo Bangkok, Mabuhay Magazine, Matador Abroad, and BootsnAll. In addition, he writes a weekly feature for the blog side of the award-winning online travel magazine Perceptive Travel.