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10 Money Wasters in Thailand

It’s likely that the biggest and most common money waster in your home country is going out to eat at restaurants. Of course that is just not the case in Thailand and its common knowledge that you can eat well for a just a few bucks, sometimes less. There are also so many great deals on rentals and hotels that it’s hard to waste money on accommodations unless you’re deliberately trying to do so. I have noticed that with all of the easy savings on food and accommodations, some people become a little too loose with spending in other areas and it’s unnecessary. It’s just silly to throw money away; so here are 10 common money wasters in Thailand you should try to avoid:

1) Fast Food: McDonald's, Burger King, KFC etc. These places have all mastered the art of making food that you find disgusting and yet delicious all at the same time. There’s no reason to go over the standard pros and cons of fast food joints, but in relation to Thailand I think the cons list is longer. Cheap fast food back home is bad for you, but it’s cheap. Generally speaking, food is about 75% cheaper in Thailand than from back home and yet fast food prices are almost identical, sometimes even higher. You’re spending 300-500 baht (depending on whether or not you bring someone with you) on the unhealthiest and lowest quality food versus. spending 50-100 baht on REAL food. Once a month, no problem; but 10-20 times per month is ridiculous and there are plenty of offenders.

2) Cable T.V. Box: There is this thing called the internet; you can basically do anything or watch anything on it at anytime and you can easily connect it to your television. Do not spend more than 4,000 baht per year on your cable. I know people who spend close to that per month and they don’t have even close to the same options I have available for free (or close to it) online.

3) Unreasonably high electric bills: The main culprit here is AC. I know it gets hot here; but blasting your AC all day and night is not only a money waster, it’s also not healthy. When you stop using AC you stop getting sore throats. IF you have room control central air pumping through the walls it might be a different story, but only a few folks I know have central Air in Thailand and most people have AC units. And because it’s so hot outside if you blast that AC unit all day and night as you exit into typical outdoor Thailand temperatures you will get sick frequently. Just get used to not using AC unless you need it before you sleep. Be sure to set timers in that case as well, it’s easy enough. Using a fan helps, but that doesn’t mean you need to blast the fan at its highest speed either; that has almost the same set of disadvantages that the AC does. During the day keep the lights off and let the sun do its thing. IF you have track lighting where your main room either has 10 lights on at the same time or 0 and nothing in between, consider investing a lamp.

4) Bottled Water: Every little bit helps; and if you pound water like you should you’d be spending between 1,000-1,500 baht per month on bottled water for two people. The bottled water standards aren’t even that high to where it justifies even that amount of money. Get a water purifier and spend nothing, or use your bottles to get water at the purified water machines, which can easily be found all throughout the country.

5) Bar fines: Once in a while a bar fine won’t hurt you, but sometimes they’re just unnecessary. If a girl is at a bar and it’s within an hour or so of closing time you can have her meet you some place nearby when she gets done. IF you want to see the same girl a second time you can see her before or after her shift, or even on her day off. And you can always find a girl at a disco with 0 bar fine; nothing wrong with that.

6) Paying per text: If you text all of the time here, make sure you get a text plan. Every major sim company offers one and it will save you in the long term. You can also just email people or use Google Talk or WhatsApp for free.

7) Unnecessary ATM fees: IF you have a Thai bank you’re good to go, but if you rely on using your foreign ATM cards when you’re here you’re probably wasting some money. I don’t mind paying the 150 baht to the Thai bank for completing the ATM transaction, although I do look for machines that give 30,000 baht which would save you 300 baht over using a machine that only gives you 10,000 baht 3 times at the same rate of 150 baht. But the majority of the fees here come from your home bank. The worst ones charge 3% of the money you withdraw + 150 baht and that doesn’t include the 150 baht from the machine. If you’re taking out 10,000 baht you’d be paying 13% in that case which is terrible. Some banks are better. Charles Schwab is not only free; they will even reimburse you the 150 baht the Thai bank charges you! Some other banks charge 1% which is fine. The bottom line is; if you spend a lot of time here and use your foreign ATM card you’re going to want to pick a bank solely based on who offers the best international ATM withdrawal fees. You can also bring cash with you which usually gets decent conversion rates as long as you’re not exchanging at the airport.

8) Travel agents: Do you know how to book things online? Do you know how to call a service directly? Then why pay a travel agent a 30% markup to do it for you? They’re not worth it, ever. Call the tours they want to put you on direct and tell them you’re on a budget; they’ll give you the same price the travel agent pays which is 30%+ cheaper. And having a travel agent book flights or hotels for you is a complete waste of money; they can’t get you anything you can’t get yourself.

9) Acting like a big shot: You can do this by over tipping or by continuously treating your girlfriends’ friends and/ or family members to everything. There’s a time and a place for this kind of thing back home; but its foolish here. When you over tip here it’s not like you get better service the next time you come back; you just make yourself look like an idiot. And if you find yourself treating all of your girlfriends’ friends and family members more than a couple of times per year just know that you’re not doing yourself any favors. Don’t let yourself get ambushed by people trying to get a free meal out of you. If you don’t want to treat everyone, I suggest you just leave before you even sit down!

10) Starbucks: Starbucks prices are just about the same in every country and since everything is 75% cheaper in Thailand except Starbucks, that makes a coffee at a Starbucks (or a similar place) in Thailand 3-4X the price it should be. Let’s get this straight; Starbucks is a waste of money back home too, so it’s basically absurd in Thailand.

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About ParadiseCity

M. Schwartz is an expert in all things Thailand. Having seen and done it all, there is nobody more equipped to teach about a successful ex-pat transition to Thailand. He wrote the cult classic guide book for men in Thailand called, How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck in Thailand

5 Responses to 10 Money Wasters in Thailand

  1. MagicMax September 30, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Where do you get cable for 4000 a year?

    Not so many options on Phuket and I pay 600 a month for just ADSL from TOT!

  2. Ken September 30, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    For “Acting Like A Big Shot” alias tipping, do one do it at the Thai massage joints? What will be a good % tip say one is regular at one of these Thai massage joints?

    P.S The joints I have mentioned are the real massage stuff, not the hanky panky ones :>

  3. Yra October 1, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    Agree 100% with 10 money wasters. Especially with number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,6…. Damn! Oll Korrect!

  4. american October 17, 2012 at 4:58 am #

    For #7…For the short-timers, bring crisp new bills and exchange them around Soi 13/1 (shop around) and you will get some of the best rates around. Usually you will get about 1% less than the market rate (+/-).

    Otherwise, and this is my suggestion, go into the bank (like Bangkok bank) with your VISA logo debit card and passport and ask for a cash advance. The bank here cannot charge you a fee of any kind and the rate you get in this situation is determined by your home bank (my understanding). My bank gives me almost the market rate but charges a 1% foreign transaction fee. It comes out to almost exactly what I’d get in an exchange booth with crispy bills. I can take out 100k baht if I want and not ATM fee’s, etc.

    If you must use an ATM, use AEON Spot which should still only charge the 20b fee for foreigners just like it does for locals. There is one in Big C Pattaya Nua. I haven’t used it in a year since I have a good schedule going to bank close by.

    you milage may vary.

  5. Dannyboy6 November 9, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    With all the Warnings about those water machines and Fecal Matter, it’s a bit Dodgy… In Pattaya News Reports.

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