Pictures taken on the Nikon D5500
So, with the flood of Europe posts I’ve been doing, I thought it’d be good to look somewhere a little nearer today for those of you who aren’t doing grad trips anytime soon, but who want to do a short getaway to a nearby island for cheap. I think we all wrongly assume that any trip that requires a plane ride will necessarily be unjustifiable expense and time wise in relation to your weekend/ working schedule, but hey hey – today we do Phuket for under $300.
I know there are beach destinations nearby which can be cheaper – just look at Malaysia, our next door neighbour, home to an unreasonable number of beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, these off-the-beaten-track beach destinations tend to be a little harder to get to too because the commercial jets don’t fly direct, or often, and you’ll have to spend lots of time catching an overnight bus or boat ride. Cheap? Yes. Time efficient? No. Save those for when you have more days on hand.
More traditional beach destinations like Krabi, Phuket, and Bali, on the other hand, have direct flights quite frequently from Singapore and are relatively easy to get to. There is generally a wealth of information available for them online since they’re more popular with tourists, making research easy, and they’re still quite cheap to hit given how we have so many budget flights in and out of Singapore.
Mission: Beach Bummin on a Budget
Trip Duration: 3D2N – perfect for a weekend getaway.
Pax: Calculated based on 2pax, but it gets cheaper if you have more people..
Budget: $300 max
I figured this was a good benchmark because an expensive weekend in Singapore can cost you that much as well, or more. One weekend filled with restaurant-dining and bar-hopping with friends can easily add up to two, three hundred dollars (please let this not be your regular weekend fare, it is not sustainable living) and if you’re looking at booking a staycation in Singapore, it can be even more.
The key to getting your weekend getaway cheap is to travel off-peak. Flights to beach destinations off peak can be up to 50% cheaper than during summer or school holiday season, so keep that in mind. I travelled to Phuket at the end of March, which meant my fares were still pretty low.
What I do when booking flights to nearby countries is to run a fare comparison search on sites like Skyscanner and Expedia, then cross check it with the flight fare on the airline site itself. Sometimes the fare comparison site gives you a cheaper rate or some sort of rebate – Zuji does this quite frequently – which is great. Sometimes they jack up the price. So always double check with the airline’s own site.
You should also keep an eye out for those random flight sales. I booked my tickets on Jetstar and they cost me $139 for a return trip.
Note: A return trip means your airfare there and back. I thought this wouldn’t have to be explained but my sister looked at me and asked me why I wasn’t booking a flight there, just one back. So I guess less frequent/ younger travellers may not know this..
Also, what you see on the airline’s home site tends not to be the final price. Hidden costs that can incur include the following:
– checked luggage (DONT CHECK IN LUGGAGE YOU DONT NEED IT FOR A SHORT TRIP)
– selected seats (don’t do it. Just let them assign you a seat)
– in flight meals (DONT TELL ME U NEED TO BE SERVED OVERPRICED FOOD ITS NOT EVEN A 3 HR FLIGHT)
– airline insurance (i prefer to buy my own insurance – I get a yearly one because i travel quite often so i don’t have to keep buying insurance everytime i travel, and it works out cheaper too. it’s up to you.)
– CREDIT CARD TRANSACTION FEE.
The credit card transaction fee really drives me nuts. It can be up to 18 bucks per passenger, not per transaction, which I completely do not understand. Why are you charging me extra to pay you with the most common payment method in the world?! Pfft. Still, it’s quite unavoidable – or at least, I haven’t found a way to skirt this. If someone knows of a way to book and avoid the fee, please let me know.
Keep an eye on flight timings. Weird timings tend to be cheaper because nobody wants to fly in the middle of the night, but you should also be calculating how much time your flight combination gives you in the destination itself. No point paying less and staying for only one full day, which is what happens if you fly in at night and fly out on the third day’s morning. I chose to fly in at night and fly out at night, giving me in chronological order: one night, one full day, another full morning, afternoon, and evening before leaving Phuket. Not bad for a short getaway.
Budget check so far: $139
You guys already know that I work with Airbnb so my accommodation is usually sponsored, but even though it’s sponsored I chose the cheapest/most value for money option instead of some extravagant villa hor. I won’t choose / advocate something I wouldn’t pay for myself when push comes to shove, so I hope my non-private-villa state shows you HOW COMMITTED I AM TO WRITING MY BROKE STUDENT GUIDES lololol.
Surprisingly, for beach destinations, a lot of guesthouses and hotels list their rooms on Airbnb. I like this because I can read real reviews that aren’t curated by the hotel management (you can’t delete a bad review on airbnb) and also because I am put in direct contact of the owner of the place and can communicate with them via whatsapp/LINE regarding the best way to get there, the best things to see in the area, best local restaurants, etc etc. Also, when you book with Airbnb and something goes wrong, Airbnb guarantees your booking fees. Basically they act like big brother and make sure you don’t get hustled into some bad deal that you didn’t sign up for. This also includes finding somewhere else for you to stay, and pretty much helping you out in your time of need haha.
I went through the listings for Phuket and picked this place in Troy’s Guesthouse that cost SGD 77 in total for two nights. I picked it based on several factors:
– excellent reviews. 4.5stars for 21 reviews – not bad at all.
– it actually looks nice
– Alex (the host) replied all my queries super promptly and was very friendly (greater sense of security, i guess)
– conveniently located. Near the main action and walking distance from the beach.
– next to a 24/7 convenience store.
– free wifi
– CHEAP OK CHEAP
When you travel I assume you travel with a friend – so you split the cost down in two. This would cost you $38.5 in total for your two nights accommodation.
Budget check so far: $139 + $38.5 = $177.5
You can basically offset this if it’s your first time using Airbnb by using a referral code. Here is mine – you can get $35 off any booking at airbnb.com/jemma. But since not all of you may be first timers, I didn’t factor this discount in. Airbnb also runs discounts for certain cards from time to time, so remember to check for those. Right now I believe DBS cards get 15-17% off bookings.
Getting around Phuket (or any beach destination) should, in my head, be limited to four trips. 1. Getting to your accommodation from the airport. 2. Getting to the airport from your accommodation. Rinse and Repeat for one other attraction/ tourist site you wanna get to. Everything else should be walkable.
This is why I strongly advocate booking a slightly more expensive place in the city centre over a cheaper place that you’re going to have to tuktuk to and fro from every single day. Think about the bigger picture, people!
Your cab fare from the airport should not exceed 800BAHT. You can also take a mini bus which will be about 150-200BAHT.
Say you take the cab to and fro the airport. Based on an exchange rate of 23.9BHT to 1SGD, that will cost you $33.5 each – your friend pays to and you pay fro, or vice versa.
Budget check so far: $139 + $38.5 + $33.5 = $211
The great thing about these nearby beach destinations is, everything is super cheap! Food is cheap. Souvenirs are cheap. And bumming by the beach with a book is free. I genuinely believe that you can make your budget work for you in destinations like these. Wanna save money? Eat street food. Wanna splurge? Taxi everywhere. Either way, you get an experience that is unique to you.
Here I listed some common costs that you will be looking at in Phuket:
Regular meals (street food): 50-70BHT
Fruit shakes/ coffee: 50BHT
Thai/foot massage: 200-250BHT
Because we’re trying to get everything in for under 300SGD, lets convert our remaining 89SGD (after all the above deductions) to baht.
EXPENDITURE ALLOWANCE IN BAHT:
89 x 23.9 = 2,127.1BHT.
Approximate cost breakdown for the rest of your budget:
Presuming you have one massage per day, which is quite decent, and two of three massages are Thai massages that go for a standard 200BHT with one foot massage (250BHT), your total expenditure for massages this trip will be 650BHT
Total massage expenditure: 650BHT
Based on the flight schedule I had mentioned above, which I think is a pretty generous one, that’s 7 meals total. Each bowl of noodles or rice dish at a street food stall will cost you 50-70BHT. Let’s err on the expensive side and assume they are all 70BHT – 6 standard meals will cost you 420BHT, which affords you quite a generous buffer for one extravagant meal.
*Ref: BSG Rome, where I detail non-miserable meal plans for budget trips.
This trip, I went to No.6 Restaurant on the recommendation of the girls from The F Dept, one of the online stores I work with. It came with the sure sign of either a solid recommendation or singaporean kiasu-ness: a long queue. Good enough for us. We joined the queue.
The great thing about Thai food is, even when it’s “extravagant”, it’s still ridiculously cheap by Singaporean standards. This entire meal cost 200BHT each, which is basically 8 dollars. We each added on a 50BHT fruit shake, which brought it up to 250BHT/person for this incredible meal we couldn’t finish. Recommended: Yes. (get the omelette and green curry)
186 Rat-u-thi- road
(about 3 mins walk from Jungceylon)
Total food /meal expenditure: 670BHT
*I have to clarify that this is an approximate projection. I actually spent less than this because I am in LOVE with seven elevens all over the world and therefore I took a lot of my meals straight out of 7-11 haha. Think 10BHT hanjuku eggs!
Because what’s a beach holiday without a large majority of your time being spent bumming by the beach, am I right? Unfortunately, if you’re on a budget, you can forget about doing any sort of water sports: jetskiing, paragliding, and so on will set you back basically a hundred bucks, and the cheapest water sport is banana boating which anyone over the age of twelve really shouldn’t be getting excited over. Fortunately, you can look cool just doing absolutely nothing by the waters as well.
Phuket has beaches in abundance, but for this trip I hit two – Paradise beach and Patong beach. They’re both easy to get to and each have a distinct charm, which was perfect for us. Lets start with the most common one: Patong beach.
Patong beach sits on the fringe of, well, Patong. It reminds me a little bit of the Barcelonetta that way – you walk down the city streets, taking in the sights, and suddenly you’re unapologetically on the beachfront. Straight up. It’s a public beach, which means entry is free, but you can and should rent a beach umbrella for 100BHT each because it can get VERY HOT. And you know what’s not sexy? Skin cancer.
Public beaches all have the same hustle-ing vibe. As you lounge on your cheaply rented beach mat under your cheaply rented colourful beach umbrella, touts will come up to you trying to get you to buy fruits, drinks, a massage, or a tattoo from them. They sell everything – someone tried to get me to buy a turkish rug from him. That was random. It doesn’t bother me much because it’s all part of the experience, but everything they sell tends to be way overpriced. I bought a giant watermelon slice (first picture in this post) for 40BHT and some strange tasting mango fruit juice for 50BHT. The same bottled juice would cost me 20BHT anywhere else, including on the streets of bangkok, for your reference.
Still, Patong is kind of a must-go, if only because it’s so conveniently located. I read online that a lot of people don’t like how crowded it is, but I really like how that contributes to the overall cheerful atmosphere, so that doesn’t bug me at all.
If it does bug you, however, then you’re really going to love the next one. Paradise Beach, which we actually hit before Patong Beach, is a private beach off Patong. You have to take a taxi up because it’s unwalkable, and it’ll cost you 400BHT one way. Entry to the beach is 100BHT per person. And it’s completely worth it.
With your entry fee you get access to a beach chair/mat and umbrella, which is basically what you’d pay for one back at Patong beach anyway. It being a private and less accessible beach, however, does mean that it’s a lot less crowded and a lot more peaceful. I spent an entire afternoon there reading up for my assignments, and I swear, I got a lot more done than I would have at a desk back home.
We stayed at Paradise beach till sunset, and then walked up a short distance to the cliff overlooking the other side of the beach. There was a private lookout point there offering the most tremendous view..
Paradise beach closes at about 730 or 8pm, I don’t remember. We were the only ones who stayed till sunset, and if you do this I suggest you book a cab to bring you back beforehand because aint no stray cabbies gonna be hanging around waiting to take you back. If you leave earlier than closing time, you can take a random taxi back or arrange to have the cabbie who dropped you off come pick you again, but I got lucky – I was hanging around the beach gate, confused at being turned out (i didn’t know it had opening hours haha), and had no idea how to get back, when a really nice guy who drove one of those resort buses offered to give us a free lift back to the city centre. SCORE!
Total beach expenditure: (not factoring in the free ride, because that’s a bonus not a given haha)
100 patong beach umbrella + 400 per person return cab fare to paradise + 100 paradise entry fee heh heh + 90 random tout fruits on patong = 690 BHT
Level with me a little, guys. So far we’ve covered flights, accommodation, airport transfer, meals, beaches, and luxuries like massages. After totalling the amount we have and the amount we’ve spent, we have a buffer of 117.1BHT left for random expenditure. And honestly, we all know where that’s gonna go…
A BILLION TWENTY FIVE BAHT THAIMILKTEAS IN ALL THE FLAVORS!!!
This was a bit of a lucky find, actually. Our Airbnb place was on the peripherals of the city, near enough to walk to but far enough for prices to be kept low. These shakes/teas would have cost easily twice in the city center what they did near our place. We ended up buying one just as we were leaving our place and sipping it all the way to the beach. It was awesome.
AND THAT WAS ALL WE SPENT. I think the great thing about Phuket is how much there is to see and do, even if you’re not on a huge budget. Nights were spent wandering around the town, a town that never really stops hustlin. Bangla Walking Street is the most iconic place to be experiencing Phuket nightlife obviously, but the small alleys you turn into each bring their own quirks and charm. And of course, at the end of it all you can just settle down in an ubiquitous massage parlour to get your kinks ironed out.
So there we have it, Budget Beach Bumming for under 300SGD. Very, very slightly under 300SGD, granted, and if you’re going there with the intention of buying back bars of soap shaped in all weird sizes for friends and family, then you’re going to have to do your own add-ons. But the point of this post is that you can do it for under 300SGD – I did. I was quite amazed at that too: I always thought Phuket would be more expensive than that. I hope this was useful to those of you planning short getaways, or bookmarking it as a possibility for the future. And all the best getting your tan on!
To a life of bummin by the beach: