Month 1: Budget and Expenses – Chiang Mai

Month one on the road for us has been spent entirely in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

We chose to begin our travels here because it is well known for being the home of digital nomads (people who travel whilst making money from their laptops) and seeing as it is so welcoming to travellers it seemed like the perfect fit for two idiots who have no idea what they’re doing.

Another plus is that things don’t cost much here and so it’s easy to manage a tight budget without missing out.

We are very budget conscious but not to the extent that we will sacrifice on comfort. We need to work on the road so when we’re looking for accommodation we’re always going to choose private accommodation over a hostel and rule number one is that it must have free or cheap wifi.

We are currently renting a one bed apartment just outside of town which we found before arriving. We researched lots of different spaces including hostels, hotels and B&B’s but this seemed to offer the most space for the least amount of money. We passed up on an apartment with a pool because the room was smaller and cost around £50 per month more. Knowing that we are heading down to the beach in month 3, we decided that it wasn’t worth the extra cash to have the pool.

Food wise we have gotten into the habit of cooking a big breakfast in the morning and eating it on the balcony (heaven) and then we usually buy our main meal from one of the markets in town. A large bowl of anything is going to cost just under a pound and it is both delicious and filling plus actually much cheaper than buying ingredients to cook at the apartment. We keep snacks around for if we get hungry during the evening and are now a little hooked on ramen! After a year spent eating everything we wanted in 2014 and putting on a couple of stone to prove it, it’s nice to eat normally again here.

Having said that, we have developed a shocking daily iced coffee habit and we’ve also been known to have a boozy night (or 5) at some cool places in town. This has all pushed our food budget up considerably but it was definitely money well spent!

Activity wise it’s easy to have a lot of fun here for free. The whole town is full of cool markets, amazing temples and scenic hiking paths that cost nothing so you don’t need a big entertainment budget when visiting.

We came here with plans to visit the elephant orphanage, take a Thai cooking class, hire some bikes and indulge in some spa action. In month one our paid activities were:

As you can see, our activity budget is pretty high (but worth every penny).

In terms of transport we have taken a cab ride from the airport, a few songthaew trips from town to our apartment and we also hired a motorbike for 4 days to do some sightseeing (NB this includes the cost of fuel for the bike).

Below is a full breakdown of our monthly spend for January 2015:

ApartmentTHB 13'000
ElectricityTHB 785
WifiTHB 500
CleanerTHB 800
FoodTHB 14'814.50
LaundryTHB 40
TransportTHB 1'220
ActivitiesTHB 10'340
OtherTHB 1'180
TotalTHB 42'669.50 / £866.17

This all equates to £13.97 per person, per day.

The ‘other’ category includes Glen’s haircut, new toothbrushes and the cheap wedding rings we bought to replace the pricey ones we left back home.

Also the food category includes some toiletries as I didn’t separate these out from our food shopping at supermarkets.

Other things that aren’t included in our budget seeing as they’re not actually travel costs are the £11 life insurance we buy and the £4.99 Netflix subscription that I would be lost without. We do of course travel with full comprehensive travel insurance but this isn’t a monthly cost, we paid for the policy in full back in December.

We’re happy to finish the month well under our budget of £1,000 and this is thanks to excellent quality but cheap living in Chiang Mai. We have done everything we wanted to do and have overindulged many, many times in nice restaurants and bars but we’ve taken steps to even this spending out. We’re currently compiling a list of the things we did to save money in Chiang Mai which we’ll post soon and which hopefully will help others save too.

Next month is set to be pricey as we have visa renewals to contend with, a long trip to the Myanmar border to visit some gorgeous temples, a flight out of Chiang Mai and a long-term motorbike hire to enable us to complete the volunteer work we’ve signed up for helping out at an animal shelter. Still we will be hoping to do it all for £1,000 or less. Check back here next month to see how we did.

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Comments 2

  1. nemrut 5th April 2015

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