Last Updated on May 27, 2023 by Ellen
There was some anxiety about our planned restart of budget slow travel in Bangkok.
For the past two years we watched from the Philippines as the world went wacko.
COVID, climate, inflation, supply-chain snafus, energy issues, civil unrest, warfare, ever-changing travel rules — all combined to create a big question mark.
Would our early-retired, budget slow travel lifestyle still be possible?
Does a $2,000-per-month goal remain reasonable? Might we need to lift our limits or make cutbacks?
Question no more. We feel relieved. Our wallet is intact. Our confidence is returning.
Budget slow travel cost in Bangkok
After more than three weeks in Bangkok, Thailand — our first COVID-era Earth Vagabond travel destination — things are going smoothly.
Not that we expected anything else; we just didn’t know what international ‘slow travel’ would now be like.
Presently, we are happy to report, despite the uncertainties, our travel lives feel mostly the same as before COVID.
When we recently reviewed our April monthly expenses, the Thailand portion totaled $1,245 — for 20 days, two people. (We arrived from the Philippines on April 11.)
That sum includes our daily lodging, food, groceries, transport, activities, charity, pro-rated visa fees, etc. EVERYTHING — for a married couple.
Our current one-bedroom Airbnb apartment costs about $23 per day. (A video tour is here).
We move around using the spotlessly-clean, air conditioned, subway (MRT) or elevated rail (BTS) for about $1 per ride. Bangkok taxis remain a great heat/rain value, too.
We alternate cooking at home with cheap street eats and real restaurants. More dining details are below.
We’ve toured temples, museums, malls, parks, taken boats and buses, and lots of photos. But, we’ve been here before.
This time, I’m mainly working on a book and Ellie attends daily meetings for her spiritual health.
Budget slow travel accounting
As Earth Vagabond readers know, we keep track of every penny we spend each day. (A highly advisable habit for anyone seeking financial independence/retirement.) And before COVID, we detailed our monthly expense totals for all our international ‘slow travel’ stays.
We will be restarting that kind of comprehensive reporting after our complete Bangkok month – stay tuned.
Another Thailand month is scheduled, then Malaysia.
We remain eager to restart our global meandering and money minding. It’s like some kinda video game — but way more fun in real life!
As a reminder: slow travel means wandering different regions of the earth over a period of months. We don’t rush around like tourists with a jam-packed schedule. Instead we LIVE someplace for a month or two or three.
We casually explore everything that makes any destination desirable. We try to keep costs to a minimum using the same common-sense techniques you do in your daily life. Then we usually take a bus/train/short flight to the next location.
As we mentioned on this blog already, we did have extra requirements (and expenses estimated at $400) just to get here. But with some effort, those proved to be manageable.
Better yet, as we hoped, travel restrictions continue to be eased around the globe (with the exception of China).
Last week, Malaysia – our next border hop – announced the cancellation of most all special requirements for fully-vaccinated visitors like us.
Of course, as foreign guests, we respectfully abide by whatever masking, screening, distancing regulations are in effect.
Here in Bangkok, masks MUST be worn inside public and business venues and on mass transit. Masks are optional when outdoors – but most people, including us, still wear them.
One big positive (for us) to the current travel situation is the startling lack of other tourists. We’re finding local attractions and accessibility to be a breeze. Presumably, such will change over time – but for now, there’s nobody here!
Obviously, it’s economically challenging for the local populace. Plenty of business establishments remain closed. But those that are open often have sales: happy hours, 2-for-1, and other special promos are common.
Political climate in COVID era
Politically, Thailand feels calm and safe at this moment. There was some social unrest here during the worst of the COVID lockdowns. But we’ve not witnessed nor heard news of any problems recently. (There have long been separatist rebels in the south — and in Philippines too.)
Ironically, both Bangkok and the Philippines are in the midst of election campaign activity. Signs are everywhere and vehicles drive around blaring messages in Thai from loudspeakers; pretty common in developing countries, and always a curiosity for us.
Still, as outsiders, it’s none of our concern, and we always refrain from any involvement in a nation’s internal affairs. But as in the Philippines, we get the feeling everyone is more than ready to get back to business and life and normalcy — the same as everywhere on the planet.
For the record, Thailand remains neutral regarding the Russia/Ukraine conflict. Russian vacationers are very common in some Thai beach/resort areas. But officially they make up less than five percent of all travelers to Thailand.
Chinese visitors, however, usually have a huge presence in Thailand, comprising 25 to 30 percent of total travelers. All Chinese remain barred from traveling outside of their home country for leisure.
Undoubtedly, the loss of such tourists hurts this country. And it’s understandable that Thailand needs to maintain workable relations with these nations. We’ve seen scads of tourists here on our previous Thailand visits. But presently it’s a lesser international melting pot.
Bangkok food cost examples
Finally, perhaps the most reassuring aspect of our stay thus far is the cost of living.
Yes, like everywhere, prices have crept higher. But Bangkok can still be greatly enjoyed on a budget.
Just look at the photos above – and the prices paid for those delicious fresh Thai dishes!
Granted, those are mostly from food courts and street-side carts — but still. Without a doubt, even today, you can eat pretty well here for less than $10 per day, per person.
*NOTE* – My standard disclaimer: purchasing alcohol at any dining establishment might double or triple your bill.
I do sometimes order a single beer with dinner at ‘nicer’ restaurants. 330ml bottles are usually $5 to $6 each — perhaps more than the food!
Thankfully, I’m perfectly happy eating $1 street food with a beer from 7-11. There, a 500ml can or 620ml NR bottle is about $1.60 (55 Thai Baht). Ellie does not drink alcohol.
Here’s a few more meals and prices that we’ve paid. These are more middle-of-the-road, central Bangkok, sit-down style. Menus are always priced in Baht. A seven percent VAT is charged. And an automatic ten percent service charge is added at ‘real restaurants’.
Lastly, almost embarrassingly, I have to admit I’ve been to McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Starbucks, Sizzler salad bar, even Hooters (everything half price 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.). After two years in a Philippine rice field, in addition to Thai street food, I’ve been craving some American junk!
If you’re curious, gasoline in Bangkok currently sells for around 45 Thai Baht per liter — equivalent to about $5.40 per gallon.
All in all, we feel like we’re gradually getting our travel groove back. And Southeast Asia feels like a good place to restart.
We’ll continue to reacclimate here before moving back towards the west and probably higher pricing pressures.
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!