Hello, hello! Lise Gold here with travel tips.
I’m writing this blog because I’ve had lots of emails and messages from people asking me how I’m able to travel so much as a self-published author. The simple answer is that travel doesn’t have to be expensive. I love to travel, and I love to explore. Although the places I visit are beautiful and fascinating, you’ll be surprised at how affordable traveling can be if you’re willing to be creative and open-minded. Luxury hotels and organized tours may be convenient, but they won’t give you a real taste of your destination’s culture, and they will cost you an arm and a leg. However, you’ll have to be healthy and able-bodied when exploring the globe without the help of tour companies, and I appreciate that not everyone can do that. My secret for affordable travel is that I never pay much for hotels. I find real gems for a fraction of the price of a commercial hotel but with way more charm. As traveling is different for every country, I’ll use Thailand as an example.
So, here are some tips that will make a trip through Thailand very affordable.
Flights and transportation
Now that I work for myself, my days of airmile upgrades are over, so I fly economy. When flying long-haul, certain airlines provide super low fares in return for nothing but getting you from A to B. Scoot, for example, does not provide food or entertainment but will get you a return UK-Thailand for £350. For a direct, 13-hour flight, that’s really good. The amount of legroom is the same as with other airlines, and the luggage allowance is almost the same. Make sure you download entertainment (for example, Netflix) on your phone or tablet, bring headphones and an extra battery pack, and bring plenty of water and snacks. In Asia, domestic flights are very cheap, so don’t book them in advance. You may want to stay longer in one place before heading to the next. Use local airlines and fly on the cheapest days.
Be open to different forms of transportation. I love to take motorbike taxis as they’re fast and fun, and if someone offers, I’ll happily jump into the back of an open truck. Alternatively, you can rent a motorbike or a bike. Taxis in Thailand are cheap, but unless I use Bolt, I like to negotiate a price upfront as the meters are often rigged. Bolt provides both taxis and motorbike taxis here. Another great way of traveling in Thailand are night busses. They are very comfortable and air-conditioned, so you can sleep. When you’ve arrived at your destination, walk and get lost. Walking is the best way to soak up the culture, and you’ll find gems you wouldn’t see when driving past in a closed vehicle. If you get lost, there’s always Google maps or just ask away. Check out 12Go for transportation in Southeast Asia. It’s the best website by far. Don’t rent a car. In case of an accident, the foreigner is generally charged, no matter whose fault it was.
If you want a super affordable trip, don’t book everything upfront. You may want to book something for the first two nights while you acclimatize, but while you do that, look around and find your favorite neighborhoods. Also, ask other travelers as they may have great tips. My favorite website is Booking.com; you can search on location, price, amenities (if you struggle with heat, you’ll probably want a pool), and rating. Hostels are not scary and not only for backpackers in their teens and early twenties. For £10 a night, I stayed in a lovely hostel in Bangkok. I had my own room with a private bathroom, a spacious balcony, and the place was located in a lovely part of town in a quiet courtyard. They had great food and breakfast, and even air-conditioning in the rooms, and the staff was very friendly and helpful. I generally pay between £10 and £15 per night for two people, including breakfast, a chain hotel will cost you ten times as much. Our hotel in Pai was a lovely boutique hotel with beautiful rooms, surrounded by green. It was walking distance from the village, and they even had bikes for us to borrow. The pool was clean and lush, and it was very quiet (apart from dogs, crickets, geckos, frogs, and tropical birds who form a choir at night). I wouldn’t recommend Airbnb in Thailand. There are plenty of places available, but it’s illegal, so it’s not worth the sneaking around pretending you’re the owner’s friend. Here are some pictures of places I stayed for $15 a night.
Don’t be afraid to try new things and eat local dishes. Local food is super cheap in Thailand and so, so good. In an average restaurant, you’ll pay between £2 and £8 for a nice meal, but the best places to sample food are the markets and food trucks. Watch the queues. If the locals go there, it’s generally good, and the reason why is because these food trucks sell only one thing, and they’re specialized in it. So, if you want sticky rice and mango, go to a sticky rice and mango truck with long queues, and you won’t be disappointed. If you’re too tired to go out, download one of the many food delivery apps. Foodpanda and Grab are both excellent here, and they’re incredibly cheap.
Unless you have limited time, don’t book excursions upfront. Excursions booked online can be up to 10 times more expensive than when you book them locally. Check out the different providers (you will spot them along the road in touristy areas), and book them on the spot. Don’t expect an English-speaking tour guide but you will see breathtaking sights and meet new people. Always take plenty of water. Alternatively, you can ask for a taxi or tuk-tuk driver’s number and negotiate a price for them to take you around for the day. The going price is 1100 Baht for ½ day (approximately 5 hours) or 2200 for one day (that’s 60 USD). They’ll drive you anywhere you want and wait for you while you do your thing. They are locals, so they might take you to more exciting places than tour companies would.
Travel light. If you’re traveling through Thailand, it’s unlikely you’ll dress up, so pack light. Have you ever packed an entire suitcase and only found yourself wearing a third of what you brought? You’ll find that in hot climates, you may only wear a fraction of that. Because of the heat and humidity, you’ll want to wear your lightest and most comfortable garments, so think about that before you pack. I always try to travel with hand luggage only. It’s quicker, cheaper and it ensures I never lose my luggage. Bring a hat or a cap for sun protection. If you’re stuck somewhere without much shade, you’ll be glad you did, and you’ll also need a cover-up for your arms and legs if you visit temples. In Thailand, you can do your laundry for £1.50, and no one will care if you wear the same clothes all the time. Don’t waste weight on shampoos or hair products. In humid climates, your hair will look shit, and nothing is going to change that, so use what your accommodation provides. Packing light means you won’t have to pay for check-in luggage on internal flights, and you’ll never have to wait for your luggage.
Work (a little)
If you can, work. For those who work remotely, get permission to work while you travel. In hot climates, it’s easy to get up early or stay up late, so why waste precious holidays when you can work in paradise? It’s a win-win, and that way, you can stay longer. Make sure your accommodation has good WiFi, and if not, there will be plenty of coffee shops that can function as office space. I like to get up at 6/7 am and write, then spend the afternoon doing whatever I feel like, or the other way around. I’m inspired when I travel, so I’m more productive, even if I work half the hours I usually do.
Hope this was helpful, if you’d like to know specifics, feel free to ask!