Thursday, May 10, 2012

Budget Traveling in Beautiful Places

In the past week, Thailand has proven to me that its beaches are not over-hyped.  From Krabi, Eric and I took a day trip to Railay Beach before spending three nights on Koh Phi Phi

Railay is known for its rock climbing.  The cliffs were massive and beautiful,
but I mostly stayed on the sand.
  Even though the sky was overcast, the water was warm on my feet.
Koh Phi Phi's main town featured as many bars, restaurants and shops as the party island Ios in Greece, but the harbor seemed to exist outside of time.

The long boats are one way to get around Koh Phi Phi.
As always, beauty comes with a price tag.  Eric and I are traveling on a budget and one of the most expensive parts of any trip is lodging.  We've been lucky so far and have stayed in a variety of nice places.  Islands are more expensive because supplies must be shipped in from the mainland.  Beautiful islands are extra expensive to some degree because they can be.  People want to see the beaches and island accommodations are limited by the island's size.  While Koh Phi Phi did offer some lower priced hotels farther from the center of the main town, Eric and I tried to stay close to the middle. 

One of the resorts lining Railay's waterfront
After asking around, we found a private room with a bathroom for 600 baht per night.  That's roughly $20, the top of our price range.  (Our budget is $40 per person per day.)  The room had a fan instead of air conditioning, but luckily the temperatures weren't sweltering and they had free wifi.  Our hostel in Krabi had cost 500 baht per night for a private air conditioned room with a shared bathroom and wifi.  The extra 100 baht seemed fine, especially since we were on an island known for expensive resorts.  After checking in and dropping our backpacks, we discovered that the free wifi was limited to the lobby area down the block.  Ah well.

The next morning, after a night of beach bars and thunderstorms, we awoke to discover that our hotel room did not come with hot water.  Despite the heat in Southeast Asia, cold showers are still unpleasant.  It was too late to change hotels for that evening, so we decided to look around for a different spot for our final night.  

After asking at a few places and finding that 600 baht was the lowest possible price, we settled on a guesthouse farther from town.  The next morning we got up, packed and walked over.  This guest house had a private room with hot water, wifi, and a fan.  After Eric took a quick look at the room, we paid and signed up for the night. 

A shell mobile hung from our door frame.
"Oh, by the way," the French girl working the front desk said as she took down our information, "you can't put any paper in the toilet, and you have to flush using a bucket.  The bucket is just right there in the bathroom, and it works, don't worry.  It won't overflow."

I've been doing my best to stay open-minded as we travel, and so while I prefer flushable toilets, I was game to try it.  That said, I'm glad to be currently staying in a guest house with working plumbing.

From my brief experience on Koh Phi Phi, I can say that it is possible to visit beautiful locations while staying within budget.  It all depends on your priorities.  We found a resort with a pool that charged 1000 baht per night, around $33.  If you wanted to stay in a nice room and spend your afternoon poolside sipping fruity drinks, you can once you limit your other expenses.  (Of course, food is still a necessity!)

I tend to prioritize good coffee, especially if there's some artistry involved.
Even though we were trying to stay under budget, I still can't get over what we traded.  We went from a room with AC to a more expensive room with a fan and cold showers, then for the same price we switched to a room with a toilet that couldn't flush.  I do get to stay in an area this pretty, though, so these aren't the worst problems to have.

Koh Phi Phi harbor as the tide goes out
What questionable accommodations have you found?
Have you traveled on a limited budget before?


  1. Aunt Beth and Uncle BeauMay 13, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    Questionable accommodations are sometimes part of the adventure - as long as you take things in stride, you will enjoy the journey.
    In Mexico we visited the small town of Urique at the bottom of Copper Canyon. When we arrived, we discovered that the town generator had broken two weeks prior. So by the light of kerosene lamps we spent two nights in a room that boasted three metal framed beds with thin mats- a folding table- three folding chairs that doubled as end tables-a commode and shower, but no sink. Any hot water came from a container on the roof with pipes that ran through a burner fueled by diesel soaked corn cobs. The bus ran every other day, so we had no choice but to stay. Our visit to Urique added a wealth of stories to our overall adventure.

    1. Wow! Any story that includes diesel soaked corn cobs is quite an adventure! I'd love to hear more about those days in Urique. And you're right - though I wasn't thrilled about our accommodations, they made the trip extra memorable.