The most common mistake first timers make when visiting Thailand and especially Haad Rin is to convert prices in their head. They go this is only $4 or this is just £3! Wow! My money will last forever! It is this mindset that leads to frivolous and excessive spending and before you know it you have to go home or scratch around for some more money.
If you are a backpacker armed with a visa to stay in Thailand for a few months or even a year then you will need to be careful with your money. Spend your time visiting the shops to find out how much things really cost, especially for local Thais. Stop converting Baht into your home currency because what is cheap in Australia, the UK etc. is actually expensive in Thailand. There is the famous dual pricing scam going on in Haad Rin as elsewhere in Thailand. I always carefully watch the change Thais are given to figure out if I am paying over the odds. Be alert, remember prices and you soon make your money go further.
Here are 10 tips for saving money in Haad Rin
- As it is Haad Rin, the first thing to consider is alcohol. It is marked up 2 or 3 times in bars. Buckets are the most expensive at Full Moon Party venues, cheaper at the bucket stalls on the beach, and cheaper still in the town shops.
- If you are staying in Haad Rin then there is not much need for a motorbike. The town has everything you could need – food, drink, sundries, travel agents, money changing places, ATM machines, medical centres. Virtually all the daily needs can be catered for by the numerous businesses in Haad Rin. If you need to go to Thongsala on the odd occasion it is cheaper to get a shared taxi for 100 or 150 Thai Baht than to hire a motorbike every day.
- Food is a major expense. Many hotels and resorts make more money from their restaurants than they do from their rooms. Don’t feel obliged to eat at the resort; rather hunt around for bargains. There is a lot of competition among the food outlets in Haad Rin so spend your time looking for bargains. Generally speaking Thai dishes are cheaper. Small mom and pops restaurants often do decent curry and rice dishes for 50 Thai Baht. The cheapest eateries are the local Thai restaurants in Thongsala and the night market in Thongsala but you can find cheaper Thai food in Haad Rin.
- Nothing saves money like doing it yourself. Although a resort should provide free clean sheets and towels they don’t do laundry for free. Do your own laundry. You can find washing powder in small packs in local shops. You can usually find an odd bucket knocking around or use your sink. I often bring a couple of items into the shower with me and give them a wash at the same time as having a shower. It is not brilliant cleaning but mostly I just have to wash the sweat out of my garments.
- Accommodation keeps getting more expensive in Haad Rin. The trend over the last 10 years has to been to knock down all the cheap fan bungalows and replace with air-con concrete units with TV. Search out no frills bungalows and politely inquire about weekly or monthly rates. Don’t book online as then the Thai owners cannot offer discounts as the online booking company will want their cut. The further you go back from the beach and into the hills, the cheaper the room prices will be.
If you are travelling alone you might want to check into a dorm and then try and find someone to rent a bungalow with. Dorms are fairly bad value for what you get and often halving the price of a bungalow is cheaper than the price of a bunk bed for the night.
- If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. The shops selling clothes, sarongs, jewellery and souvenirs in Haad Rin are comparatively expensive. You can find the same stuff cheaper in Bangkok. Buy your souvenirs in Bangkok just before you fly to your next destination. Also stock up on essential supplies in Bangkok before you head down to the islands.
- Use the supermarkets in Thongsala. You can go to the Tesco Lotus in Thongsala and buy a slab of beers or bottles of spirits much cheaper per unit than anywhere in Haad Rin. The same is true of most items you will need. It can be prudent to do a shopping trip occasionally to Thongsala to stock up on stuff.
- Don’t be generous with the drinks. Nothing wastes money quicker than buying rounds of drinks for people, especially if they don’t reciprocate. If you buy a bucket and share it with a group then make sure they get a bucket and share it with you. Being fair and straight with people makes a better impression then being a fool who throws his or her money at fair weather friends.
- Water is an essential item. It is cheaper to buy packs of 6 or 12 water bottles from a shop. Sometimes you can get large plastic kegs of water for just a few Baht if you are in the know where to go. Transfer your water into a water bottle and bring it with you when you go out. Restaurants and bars don’t let you consume food and drink from other outlets in their establishment but they invariably turn a blind eye to someone drinking their own water.
- A Thai mate can be useful. They can sometimes go to the bar and get cheaper drinks. This, however, is a double-edged sword as more often than not they won’t have any of their own money and you might feel obliged to buy their drinks too!
There is a small scope for self catering. You can get cheap pot noodles at the 7-11. They provide free hot water. You can also find fruit stalls where you can buy cheap but exotic fruit. Fruit is much healthier than a fried breakfast and eating it can save you money.
In Koh Samui Tesco Lotus you can find electric hotplates for about 1,000 Baht. With this you can cook some of your own food and save money. Although check with the accommodation provider whether this is OK. Often the ‘kitchenettes’ in Haad Rin rooms only have a microwave and this really limits what you can do in terms of self-catering.
So there you have it. There are no doubt numerous other money saving tips for Haad Rin. You can discover these by talking to people. The important thing is the mind set.