Our penny-pinching reporter shows you how to travel on a tight budget and still have an amazing trip.

With coronavirus restrictions in Japan finally easing, international travel is finally becoming a thing again. Someone who has been in desperate need of a holiday is our Japanese-language reporter Go Hatori, who has been working hard on the SoraHouse renovations.

But with the Japanese yen in a bit of a precarious situation, travelling abroad is pretty expensive at the moment. Luckily, Go is someone who knows how to make a little go a long way, and so he decided to set himself a challenge:

Is it possible to spend two nights in Thailand for less than 50,000 yen (US$343)?

The 50,000 yen would have to cover everything, including airfares, accommodation, transport and food, and the first challenge Go would need to overcome was the airfare. With just 50,000 yen, he was already facing a pretty uphill battle, as most airfares out of Japan will easily cost more than that alone.

Luckily, Go had booked in advance with AirAsia, a low cost airline carrier, so a return flight from Narita to Bangkok only cost him 43,960 yen ($302). The low cost did mean that Go was limited to bringing only one piece of carry on luggage with him, but as he was only going for two days and one night, that wouldn’t prove too much of a burden for him.

While the airfare was certainly cheap compared to most major airlines, it did mean that Go was left with just 6,040 yen ($41) for the rest of his trip. Would he be able to enjoy himself in Thailand with less than fifty dollars? Would he even be able to find a hotel for such a low price?

While he wasn’t expecting to be able to book into a fancy hotel, the traditional lodgings of the traveller on a budget — a backpacker’s hostel — didn’t particularly appeal to Go, and he decided that a single, private room was an absolute must.

Luckily, there was a room available for just 1,430 yen ($9.81), and while it certainly wasn’t the Ritz, it had a toilet, hot shower, free WiFi and a window, which was good enough for Go.

So with flight and accommodation sorted, all that was left was to head off to Thailand, which took roughly seven hours. And from his original 50,000 yen starting budget, he was travelling with just 4,352 yen ($29.86) to his name.

After arriving in Thailand, Go headed off to the currency exchange. He had heard that the Super Rich Thailand currency exchange offered the best exchange rates, but even within the airport, the different branches of the store offered different exchange rates, so it’s important to shop around when exchanging your money. After finding that the basement branch of Super Rich Thailand offered the best rates, Go’s leftover 4,352 yen was eventually converted into 1,136 baht, which would need to last him for the rest of the trip.

Money in hand, it was time to head to his lodgings for the trip, so he hopped on the S1 airport bus.

The S1 bus from the airport to Khao San Road (where Go would be staying) cost 50 baht. It was spacious, clean and air-conditioned, and all in all made for a very comfortable 45-minute bus ride to central Bangkok.

Once he’d gotten off the bus, it was another 20 minute walk to his accommodation, the Bonita Guest House.

At the reception, the room rates were all listed. The room that Go booked — a single bedroom with a fan — cost 400 baht.

Keys in hand, he approached his room with a pounding heart. At such a low price, who knows what would be waiting for him on the other side of the door?

But to his relief, it was much, much better than he’d expected!

There was a ceiling fan, a desk, a chair…

…and a private bathroom/shower room…

… and there were clean towels waiting for him on the bed! For roughly 1,500 yen a night, this was great value!

There was even a little balcony! Amazing!

Once he’d dropped his bags off at the guest house, it was time to go exploring. Go has visited Thailand before, and was craving a bowl of Tom Yum Goong (spicy Thai soup with shrimp), so he set off to find the nearest place that sold it.

The food stall Go ended up going to is so well-known and popular that it’s been featured in many a food blog online, and Japanese Thai food blog ‘So Delicious! Thai Food’ rated it as the best in Bangkok. Go actually visited this very same food stall about 10 years ago, and had been really looking forward to tucking into some spicy Tom Yum Goong ever since he decided on this trip. 

But as he went to order, he was shocked to find that the price of the meal had doubled in the past decade! Where one bowl of Tom Yum Goong used to cost around 70 baht, it was now 150 baht, which is still pretty reasonably priced, but for Go and his strict budget, this unexpected jump in cost was not welcome news.

Still, he didn’t come all the way to Thailand to not eat some delicious Tom Yum Goong, so he ordered some anyway. It would have been absolutely perfect if he’d had a beer to go with his meal, but with the Tom Yum Goong and a plate of rice costing him 160 baht, including the airport bus fare, Go was currently left with 926 baht (roughly $25) and didn’t want to risk going bankrupt.

Still, his mouth was tingling from the spicy Tom Yum Goong, and Go needed something to wash it down with. As he wandered the streets of Khao San, he stumbled across a stand selling orange juice for 30 baht. The juice was rich and delicious, and didn’t break the bank.

He also came across a fruit stand, so Go bought a mango for 40 baht. The stall worker cut it up into slices and popped it in a plastic bag for him.

But the tropical feeling didn’t last long as it suddenly started raining!

And it was pretty heavy rain, too, which showed no signs of letting up any time soon.

So Go decided to call it a day and head back to his hotel room early. After one day in Thailand, he was left with 846 baht (roughly $22). What would he get up to tomorrow?

Well, the first thing he did after leaving his accommodation was to buy a bottle of water from the nearby 7-Eleven for 7 baht.

Next, he decided to head to a shop that he’d seen yesterday and had wanted to try out. The store sold Ba Mee Haeng, a noodle dish without any broth, and cost 55 baht.

Go is a big fan of Ba Mee Haeng, and orders it whenever he goes to Thai restaurants back in Japan.

And as he continued to wander around the streets, Go also came across a lady selling what looked like toast being grilled over charcoal.

Go was hankering for something sweet, so he ordered some jam on toast and a sweet iced coffee, both costing 20 baht.

Feeling pretty satisfied, Go then headed to the pier near Khao San, to take the Chao Phraya Express boat to his next destination, Oriental station. The boat fare was 16 baht.

The boat ride was nice, and the river breeze was pleasant. Even though this was essentially a means of getting from one place to another, it was still a nice way to spend time.

After arriving at his destination of Oriental, Go checked Google Maps and found Charoen Saeng Silom, a restaurant famous for Thai braised pork leg, was nearby. Seeing as it was so close he decided to go and check it out. As a side note, it was not even 8:30 in the morning at this point, but Go was fully on vacation mode, which means your stomach and appetite work on a different level than normal.

He ordered some braised pork leg (called Khao Kha Moo) with a side of rice, which cost 60 baht.

As expected of a famous restaurant, the pork leg was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Now his belly was properly full, Go decided to take a taxi in the form of a motorbike to an area of Bangkok famous for cheap massage parlours.

Riding on the back of a stranger’s motorbike felt kind of dangerous, but also a lot of fun!

▼ It was as cheap as it was thrilling, with the fare costing 34 baht.

One quick motorbike taxi ride later and Go found himself at a street called Soi Charoen Krung 107. This street has many massage parlours, and many of them have cheaper prices than most massage shops in the city, with most offering an hour of Thai massage for 100 baht.

Go enjoyed an hour long body massage for just 120 baht (US$3.15). But just because their prices were cheap, it doesn’t mean their quality was bad, as the masseuses here were very skilled.

And what better way to follow up an hour long body massage… than with an hour long foot massage! Go went to a different shop to get this foot massage, which also cost 120 baht.

What an amazing feeling… two hours of high quality Thai massage for less than $7! Feeling like a king, Go checked his remaining balance once more…

… and found just 394 baht ($10.33) in his wallet. For a regular holiday, this would be a disaster, but Go wasn’t done just yet. He still needed to buy some Thai souvenirs for his co-workers back at SoraNewsHQ, so he hopped on a train and headed back to central Bangkok. The fare was 44 baht, leaving him a clean 350 baht to spend on gifts.

So he headed to Big C, a Thai supermarket. With just 350 baht to his name, what kind of souvenirs would he be able to buy…?

There it was… the perfect souvenir — a herbal inhaler! As luck would have it, he needed to buy 11 souvenirs, and these inhalers cost just 10 baht each. Perfect!

Now that souvenirs were dealt with, Go found himself with 240 baht left, which meant it was time to eat some more food!

Last up on his Thai gourmet tour was some Khao Man Gai, chicken with a sweet soy sauce dressing. One plate of Khao Man Gai cost 50 baht.

But just as he left the restaurant, it started pouring with rain again!

Keen to avoid the downpour, Go hopped on a nearby bus to get back to his hotel, which cost 8 baht.

… but for some reason, halfway through the journey all the passengers got off the bus (Go wasn’t sure why, but perhaps it was the end of the line).

So Go boarded the bus that came afterwards. This was an air-conditioned bus and the fare was 15 baht. He got off near Khao San Road.

It was still raining, so the only thing left to do was…

… get something to eat!

As his final Thai meal for the trip, Go got some Khao Pad (Thai fried rice) for 60 baht, which took his final total down to 107 baht. The airport bus should cost around 60 baht, so Go had 47 baht left to play with.

As luck would have it, a nearby convenience store was offering the one thing missing from Go’s trip up until now — a cheeky can of beer! The store was selling some Singha beer for 41 baht, so Go grabbed a can.

After all that hard work being thrifty, Go was thrilled to finally be able to splurge on a beer.

All that was left was the bus journey back to the airport (60 baht)…

… and with that, Go arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport with just 6 baht left in his wallet ($0.16).

In total, Go’s spendings were —

Narita to Bangkok round trip LCC air ticket (AirAsia) – 43,960 yen
Accommodation booked in advance (1 night) – 1,688 yen
Bus from airport to city  – 60 baht
Tom Yum Goong – 150 baht
Rice – 10 baht
Orange juice – 30 baht
Mango – 40 baht
Bottle of water – 7 baht
Ba Mee Haeng – 55 baht
Toast – 20 baht
Iced coffee – 20 baht
Boat trip (Chao Phraya Express) – 16 baht
Khao Kha Moo – 50 baht
Rice – 10 baht
Motorbike taxi – 34 baht
Thai body massage – 120 baht
Foot massage – 120 baht
Train transfer  – 44 baht
Souvenirs – 110 baht
Khao Man Gai – 50 baht
Bus  – 8 baht
Bus – 15 baht
Khao Pad – 60 baht
Beer – 41 baht
Airport bus – 60 baht

Out of his original 50,000 yen Thailand budget, most of the money inevitably went on his flight, but he still managed to make the remaining budget stretch a very, very long way. And now that the restrictions in Japan are easing up and travelling abroad is becoming easier again, hopefully Go can travel to more countries to show us even more money-saving travel itineraries.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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