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Yesterday I ran into a friend who’s £4000 journey to Thailand had fallen through. I couldn’t have been happier, since she would have paid exactly 571% more than she needed to. In ten minutes, I showed her just how cheap traveling from Edinburgh can be.
Her original plan was to join a tour group going out to Thailand for a month from Edinburgh. All expenses were covered (except meals), and the total cost was 4000 quid! That currently $5803 to you Americans. The tour was going to fly out on June 22 for one month with 20-30 people exploring in Thailand.
Instead, we sat down and in ten minutes we worked out how to pull off the trip for a meager £700. Here’s how it breaks down.
Using Skyscanner (read How to Find Cheap Flights), we found a flight flying direct from Edinburgh to Bangkok on June 22 and returning 30 days later (within a 1 month visa) on July 21st for £322. TOTAL! You don’t need check-in luggage when going to SE Asia, since all you need are light clothes, and anything else you have to buy there will cost practically nothing.
On arrival, I recommended a bus or train up to Chiang Mai, especially since the traveler was more interested in the local culture than getting immersed in tourism. Buses or trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai are usually around £15 each way. For both journeys, we’re now up to £352.
In Chiang Mai, there are dozens of locations to rent a flat for a month. A decent monthly price is 3500 baht. That comes out to a whopping £68, plus maybe £20 for utilities and WiFi. Good luck finding anything that cheap in the UK. £220 was the cheapest I managed, staying in the long-term dorm rooms at Budget Backpackers in London (when not using Workaway). So transport and room comes to £440.
While most activities in Chiang Mai is in walking distance (just like Edinburgh), there are places you’ll want a scooter to get out to. Also, if you go to Chiang Mai, a couple days in Pai are absolutely mandatory. Renting a scooter from a company like Mango Bikes can be as cheap as 1000 baht a week. One wouldn’t need the scooter for the whole trip, but maybe just two weeks. That’s £39. Also, you’ll want to stay a couple days in Pai, and make sure you get a really fancy guesthouse. So set aside £9 for the three nights you’ll spend there. Up to £488.
Food in Thailand is best purchased on the streets. Nowhere in the world makes Pad Thai as good as in Thailand (the ingredients just aren’t the same), and a large portion on the streets will cost about £0.50. Get some coconut water on the side for £0.20. However, there’s also an amazing pizza place in the Old Town called By Hand Pizza, where the Dutch owner hand-built his Italian pizza oven. A large (more than enough for one person) averages about £3. I also confirmed with other travel bloggers that this pizza is good even by Italian standards.
Your average meal on the streets will probably be about £1 each. Add in a few drinks now and then, and you’re looking at about £5 a day, at most. Of course, with that flat can also buy your own food and cook at home, bringing down the costs significantly. If you ate out for every meal, you’ll pay around £150 for the month, but that’s easily cut in half with home cooking. For the purposes of keeping a budget, we’ll take a figure that factors in both home cooking and street food, and say £100 for the month. That’s all essentials for the trip for £588.
That leaves £112 for all other activities. I’d never recommend riding an elephant, but helping to bathe the baby elephants at a rescue park is supreme joy. That trip will cost about £35, but a day at the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon jumping 15 meters off the cliff into the water is only £0.77. Temples are free, cooking classes are very cheap and sticking your feet into a fish spa will cost £1. And don’t forget all the souvenirs which will require you to pay for check-in luggage on the way back!
Now, plane tickets don’t always stay the same. In fact, the exact travel dates I found yesterday increased by £30 today. However, there are still numerous one-month trips to Bangkok from Edinburgh in June for the same £322. And who knows, the price might even go down. Even if you flew 8 days from now, you could still get the same price! But if you waited until October (when the weather is better there) the cost is £50 cheaper.
The point is that it’s very cheap traveling from Edinburgh to places all over the world. Just another reason why this city is my favorite in the world, and now my home base. Now wish me good luck that my UK passport arrives by the end of the month so I can find my own flat and a job here.