Thailand isn’t an expensive place to visit, but taking a vacation anywhere will leave a sizeable hole in your wallet because you will be spending so much on travel, stay, eating and buying yourself something pretty to take back home. To cut costs and still have one of the best vacations of your life, here are a few things to do in Thailand that will help you soak up the culture – that you can do for almost no cost at all!
1. Visit Lumpini
This park is a beautiful little escape on Silom Road in Bangkok, where you can enjoy a little peace and quiet without depleting your travel budget. The park is filled with bamboo forests, trees, bushes, flowers and gorgeous, manicured lawns. It costs you absolutely nothing to sit there all day, soaking up the sights and sounds and taking a little breather from an otherwise chaotic city.
2. Try your luck at Wat Chakrawat
Don’t like reptiles? This may not be something you can do then. However, if you think you can get over your fear/disgust, head over to this temple, which is home to crocodiles that live on a moat at the temple. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pet them, they’re just worth heading over to look at.
3. Stay fit
The easiest and almost free way to stay fit through your holiday in Thailand is to look for one of the public aerobic classes that take place around the city. There are some held in Saranrom Park in particular, where outdoor classes are held for you to take part in or even just watch. It’s a great experience – and who wouldn’t want to sneak in a little fitness.
4. Take a walk through Chinatown
Chinatown is large, colourful, filled with delicious smells, enthralling sights and interesting sounds. You could pick up some souvenirs and fill up on some of the delicious street food. The food is fresh and packed with great flavors; and most importantly, very light on the wallet!
5. Watch a drama
Want to watch a play completely free? Pay a little bit to travel and visit Lak Muang, where dancers and actors have a variety of dramatic performances that they perform for the public passing by. It’s quite a touristy thing to do, but it’s a brilliant way to support some local artistes as well as save a little money.
6. Ride a ferry up the river
This isn’t free, but it’s so cheap that you will think it’s free. A local ferry (not one with a tour guide) is a great way to see the city, especially if you find a talkative local, who will tell you exactly what you need to know about the places you’re passing by. For most of Thailand, it’s a way to get around, and watching them live their daily lives while you sit back and enjoy the ride will be an experience in itself.
7. Buy an amulet
Or at least visit the market where they sell them. They’re quite the fashion statement when you head over there, so get with it and get yourself one too! They’re not only good looking, they’re also greatly revered by monks and locals alike around Thailand. If you visit the Amulet Market near Thanon Maharat, you can pick up one for yourself, walk around and see them all and see how people are wearing them in these parts of the world.
8. Visit Wat Arun
Or Wat Po…. basically a temple around Bangkok. Sure, they charge an entrance fee, but they’re also completely worth it (and not as expensive as you would think). There are also several temples that you can visit for free. You can get involved in the culture and get a little peace and quiet.
9. Float on
A floating market is one of the most traditional ways to see the locals at their best in Thailand. Visit Klong Bang Luang and see the way life works on the floating market. Pick up some fruit and vegetables, watch some free performances or even just enjoy the marketplace for a day.
10. Get counterfeiting
Alright, not really. But you can visit a place to see the famous counterfeits of Thailand. There’s an entire museum (we’re not even kidding) dedicated to it, where you can see all the counterfeit goods and understand how the industry started.
11. See a buffalo head
This may sound as strange, but it’s true. Thailand has a strong water buffalo population and although it’s as endangered as most wildlife is in this day and age, there’s still enough for you to go and check out. However, this is not what we mean. The temple at Wat Hua Krabeu is one that is so dedicated to the cause of these buffaloes that it has become a sort of memorial to them. It’s not for the faint hearted – there’s skulls, horns, heads… but it’s definitely something to see.
12. Climb some steps
The best way to visit Tiger Temple is to (at least attempt to!) climb the 1,237 steps all the way up to the top to see it. It’s not only free, it’s also a climb with great views. We suggest looking at it as a sort of hike and challenging yourself to reach the very top!
13. Shop at night
This could be free – but it could also be really expensive, so it all depends on how much you’re going to spend shopping. Visiting a night bazaar in Thailand is a great way to get involved with local life while still being an open-mouthed, over-awed tourist. The market at Chiang Mai in particular is a great place to head as you can get some great bargain deals there.
14. Catch a tiger
Okay, maybe don’t think about it as that extreme. You can however, get really friendly with the little cubs at the Tiger Kingdom in Thailand’s Chiang Mai area (visit it after the night market). They’re not violent and are very friendly, but we still suggest being on your best behaviour!
15. Climb a little more
If Tiger Temple was too much for you, this is a more achievable target. There’s just 309 steps but you can also spend a little money and catch a cable car to reach the top of Doi Suthep. There’s a beautiful view from the top and you can catch a glimpse of the gold roof of the temple as well. However, climbing to the top will make it a better/cheaper experience.
16. Box it out
Catching one of the boxing matches at Bangkok is a great idea. They mostly charge a small fee (if they do charge at all) and you will get to experience the local Muay Thai boxing, which is also a pretty great skill to learn. There will be a few cringe-worthy moments though – so watch out!
17. Cross a bridge
To see the River Kwai of course! Even if you haven’t read the stories, seen the film or know the history, we’re sure you’re aware that this is an important landmark. The iconic bridge, which World War II prisoners were forced to construct, is really something to see. It’s not only free (minus your travel costs of course) it’s a little bit of history that you really should not miss out on.
18. Go to a train park
Or Suan Rot Fai, to be precise. It’s a large park, with beautiful things to see and a quiet zone where you can kick back and relax. It used to be a State Railway Association and was then turned into a park. You can spend a little bit to rent a bicycle and buy some food and spend the entire day there.
19. Visit the Butterfly Garden
This one is sort of connected to the train park itself and once you’ve made it there, you can visit it entirely free! It’s completely covered and houses several exotic butterfly species, so remember to take your camera along with you when you visit!
20. Explore a canyon
If adventure is your thing, you can take a trip to Pai and explore the canyons there. There’s a lot of natural surroundings and the trees and valleys add to the experience. It’s worth visiting, even though it costs a little bit to get there from Chiang Mai.
21. Visit the gibbons
Take a look at the gibbons at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project when you visit Phuket. The beaches are great, but this is an entirely different experience in itself. The project is part of a bid to help conserve the gibbons of the area.
22. Swim in a pond
Forget the sea and visit the Emerald Pool in Thailand. The waters are crystal clear and the entire pond is hidden in a lush green jungle, making it a private escape that will make your experience in Thailand truly one to remember!
23. See the city like a royal
We don’t mean you have to rent an expensive mode of transport and stay ensconsed in luxury. All you really have to do is pay for a train ride from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, which used to be a royal city. It may be in a semi state of ruin, but it’s protected as a World Heritage Site, so you will be able to get a glimpse of some gorgeous architecture. If you want to splurge a little more, rent a tuk tuk for the day.
24. Visit the Temple of the Reclining Buddha
We’re sure you’re thinking of making a trip to the Grand Palace, and if you do, hop opposite, kill two birds with one stone and visit this statue. The golden statue is extremely large and very impressive. Don’t miss out when you visit Thailand.
25. See the Giant Swing
Visit Bangkok to see a giant swing – we’re not kidding here. It’s used during annual swing ceremonies, which are quite fun to watch if you visit during a time when they’re on, but even if you can’t catch the ceremony, you can see the swing, which is a whopping 27 metres tall!
26. Chill on an island
Island vacations are not really free – but you can spend a day at Ko Kret without spending too much money apart from your travel, and maybe to rent a cycle. You can eat street food, indulge in the delicious seafood that’s indigenous to the area and truly relax for a couple of hours while you’re there.
27. Rent a kayak
This isn’t free, but it’s not expensive and once you rent it, exploring the islands around Koh Phi Phi is an extremely relaxing experience. You will have to get the hang of it if you don’t want to end up in the water, but it’s a great thing to do there.
28. See some remains
This sounds gruesome, but it’s so weird that you absolutely have to visit it. The local artist, Thawan Duchanee used the houses in this area to portray his own vision of hell. You read that right. Think of animal skeletons, runners made from snake skin and animal remains. You won’t forget it for sure!
29. See some ruins
So, you’ve had enough of the remains and you want to see something different – but not so different! Instead of seeing animal remains, see some from the ancient temples of Lop Buri. They’re a really fascinating place to visit.
30. Visit the catfish
You don’t have to eat the catfish, but you definitely must see them on a visit to Thailand. The best way to do this is by visiting Ao Nong, which is a farm in Krabi that breeds these local fish. You can see some crocodiles here too, but we’d stick to feeding the catfish!
31. Shop indoors
So, you’ve seen the night market and the floating market – but have you ever been to an indoor market? It’s not like a mall, don’t worry! There’s a lot of bargaining and bartering that goes on here, so it’s a pretty noisy, crowded area – but it’s a wonderful experience if you can get the hang of the wares they’re all shouting out about. It’s called Warorot and is located in Chiang Mai.
32. Hear some live music
All tour guides to Thailand will point you towards Kaho San – for good reason! The road is a great place to visit and the music there is even better! There’s a roof bar in the area that is the best place to hear live music. You can head up there if you don’t mind spending a little for a drink and then sitting there all night to hear the tunes. Or, if you want a completely free experience, you could just listen to the mellow beats from the streets below.
33. See Erawan
The shrines in Thailand really are worth a visit, and this is one of the most interesting. When you visit, if you don’t mind paying a little bit for a tour guide you could get the entire history behind the shrine. If you want a mostly free experience, learn about the history before you visit. There are also several dances that take place here.
34. Soak up a view
If you’re already at Khao San for the live music, we suggest taking a little detour to visit The Golden Mount. When you’re here, visit the onsite cemetary and pay your respects to the lives lost during a plague that hit in the 19th century. There’s also a gorgeous view to look over once you’ve reached it.
35. See some ping pong
Most films about Thailand will feature Patpong and the ping pong shows that take place here – they’re not as PG-13 as you’d imagine. It’s a great place to visit and if you’re bold enough, you’ll see a lot of hawkers do some pretty questionable tricks. It’s home to several shady bars and spots and while we’re not propagating them – it’s something that could be worth walking through just to experience.
36. Play some golf
You may think of golf as the sport of priviliged westerners, but Bangkok is actually crazy about it too. There are several ranges where you can play the sport for a very low fee, so it’s almost free. You can also just watch the sport to save on some money, especially if you’re not really a golfing fanatic.
37. Catch a snake
Alright, just see someone else do it instead. It’s not entirely free at the Bangkok Snake Park Show, but it’s more or less so! Head over to see people catch snakes like cobras and then calm down as they explain that they’re actually venom free!
38. Get heated
Hot yoga is a new trend in Thailand and we suggest you go and try it out for yourself. It’s a technique that’s been known to strengthen your body, even though it will make you sweat through the entire thing. If you’re lucky enough to find a public class you can get one for free and if not, you can pay a small fee for trial class just to get the experience.
39. Jam a little
You’ve seen the live music – now get involved! There are several bars that you could head to in and around Bangkok, make friends with a few musicians and actually jam with them to a few tunes. Let out the amateur musician in you and then splurge a little on some drinks if you’ve got the budget – while you watch them play. If you’re in Chiang Mai, you can actually visit one of the jazz bars which open up to the street and sit there to listen to the tunes for free!
40. Buy a fruit
Or try some of the delectable ones at Saphan Khao. The fruit market is actually a wholesale place, but you can visit it to see the most interesting types of fruits, including the popular Thai Durian Fruit, whose fleshy insides are juicy and quite delicious.
41. Get a tattoo
Or watch someone get it. Explore your youthful side by exploring the streets of Saphan Phut. It won’t cost you a dime and you will come away richer with experience! Forget temples and churches and think tattoos, hanging out by the side of the road and watching a few street races with the locals.
42. Bond at a church
The best (and most affordable) way to get to know the locals and the community in the country is to visit one of the several churches and cathedrals. You’ve already seen the temples, so it’s time to get a view of a little different side of their culture. You can enter the Assumption Cathedral to see some gorgeous architecture or head to a community church for a free service.
43. Visit a fair
If there’s a fair taking place when you visit, there’s nothing quite like seeing it in action. If not, you can help out at a fair trade company such as ThaiCraft, where you can get involved making and buying handicrafts.
44. Get folksy
There’s a museum in Bangkok that you absolutely must visit and the best part is that entry to it is absolutely free. The Folk Museum is open all morning and through some of the afternoon during the week (find out for sure before you make your trip) and will help you get a glimpse of the history of Bangkok.
45. Walk the streets
No, not aimlessly. We suggest walking through Bangkok so that you can see its creative side! It isn’t the cleanest city, but it can be one of the most creative! There’s several local artists that let their creative side shine through the street art that they do in empty lots in the area. If you think you can, spend a day walking through the city to see all the art there. It’s free and you will be soaking up some local culture!
46. Visit an inmate
We wouldn’t really want to visit an inmate either, but if you’re on a shoe-string budget and don’t want to miss out on anything when you visit Thailand, a trip to Bang Kwang Central Prison is a must. It’s on every list of things to do in Thailand, and why would you want to argue with that? The prison is pretty high security, but it’s also a very swanky place, where prisons are concerned at least. They allow tourists to visit.
47. Eat some different food
if you’re vegetarian and visiting this month, you’re a pretty lucky person, because you’ll be making it just about in time for the vegetarian food festival in Bangkok. Here’s something devoid of the usual fish and meat and you can even taste some delicious fake meat when you’re there.
48. Sample some bugs
If you’re walking through a street food market on a short budget, there’s an easy way to get experimental with your food without spending all of your money. The bug carts in Bangkok are so used to tourists who are wary of their wares that they give out several free samples of the bugs that they usually deep fry and sell.
49. Eat at a temple
This is a great way to get a free dinner, but make sure you’re present for the ceremonies as well so that you’re not just a freeloader tourist! You can visit Devi Mandir on a Tuesday to take part in some of the ceremonies which are quite interesting, and then stay for the dinner after.
50. Get some antiques
Or just visit JJ Market for a free walk through a place filled with vintage furniture and jewellery. The marketplace is busy, bustling and full of interesting tidbits, especially if you can find a local to explain some of it to you.
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