How to eat cheaply in Bangkok, Thailand — it is so easy to do
Over the last 14 years of living in Bangkok, Thailand, the amount of money I spend on eating out has decreased every month. As I’ve learned to eat like a Thai, and learned to eat where Thais eat, I’ve discovered my financial outlay for food has decreased yet the food I eat has become even more delicious. Yes, it is possible to eat cheaply in Bangkok.
If you come to Thailand on a budget and don’t want to spend a lot of money on food, follow these tips and you’ll find you too can eat cheaply in Bangkok and still get to try the most delicious food. But you’re not going to go broke while you do it.
Eat at Outside Food Stalls
The best place to eat cheaply in Bangkok is at a Thai food stall. Food stalls are everywhere in Thailand, and just about on every street corner.
Food stalls sell everything from pork on a stick and sticky rice to noodles, Thai curries, pad thai, mango and sticky rice, sausages and cabbage, fried rice, papaya salad, chicken in coconut soup and about 175,000 other dishes.
The average price for eating at a food stall in Thailand is around 40 baht or $1.25. That will get you a big bowl of something delicious. Add onto that another 15-20 baht (48 to 65 cents) for water or a can of coke and you’ve got a delicious, authentic Thai meal for less than $2.
Plus, sitting outside at the food stalls, you get to see real Thai life going by and that makes it even more interesting.
Eat at Food Courts – Another wonderful place to eat cheaply in Bangkok is at one of the thousands of food courts in the country. A food court is usually in a shopping mall or small shopping area and is an area of indoor food stalls around a common seating area.
At food courts in Bangkok, you can get typical Thai food like pad thai, tom kha gai (chicken in coconut soup), fried bananas, roasted pumpkin, Thai spaghetti, pork or chicken satay, lots of vegetarian food, Thai desserts, fresh fruit juices, fruit and yoghurt shakes, ice cream and lots more.
The great thing about food courts is they’re mostly inside, so they’re air conditioned, (a blessing in Thailand’s incredible heat) and yet, the prices are almost as cheap as the outdoor food stalls.
For an average meal for two people at a food court, for instance, including a main meal, a dessert and a drink, you’re unlikely to spend more than $5, and even less than that if you choose wisely.
Some of the best food courts in Bangkok are at MBK shopping mall, Terminal 21 Mall, and Emporium shopping mall.
Eat Noodles at 7-11 – One of the very cheap places to buy food is at a local 7-11 in Thailand, and there are thousands of them. Many Thais will eat a pot noodle for lunch, which they buy at a 7-11. All you do is get the pot of noodles, open it and add hot water (available at the 7-11 near the coke and coffee section), stir it, pay for it, wait 5 minutes and eat it. Simple as that.
A pot noodle is about 20 baht (65 cents) and, wash it down with a bottle of water (10 baht or 33 cents), and you’ve got a filling meal for less than $1.
As pot noodles are full of sodium and not really that healthy, I wouldn’t recommend eating them every day but, for a change once in a while, they make a great cheap meal.
Eat at Noodle Restaurants – There are many cheap restaurants in Thailand that only serve noodles. But, when I say “only serve noodles”, they actually have around 50 styles of noodle, served with chicken, beef, port, or sea food and eaten wet or dry (with or without soup) and sometimes vegetables too.
A bowl of noodles is filling and quite low calorie. Many noodle restaurants also sell a decent sized bowl for 35 baht ($1.10).
Also, look out for boat noodle restaurants, which are popular in Thailand too. Boat noodles actually comes from when noodles used to be prepared on traveling boats on the river and then the seller would stop the boat outside your house and sell you some.
Boat noodles are usually in smaller bowls and are sometimes sold as low as 15 baht (48 cents) per bowl. If you eat at a boat noodle shop though, you’ll probably find you need two or three bowls to really fill up.
Eat ‘Thai Style’ – The favorite way for Thais to eat is what they call ‘Thai style’. Thai style basically means you order several dishes and then everyone shares. Thai style usually works out cheaper than western style as you can, conceivably, order three dishes for four people and still have enough food for everyone.
Be warned though, if you decide to do this and are eating with Thais, Thais eat a lot of food. Even all the skinny Thai women manage to pack away more food than most western women could ever eat, so you’ll have to watch that you manage to get enough or you’ll walk away from the table still hungry.
It’s easy to eat cheaply in Bangkok, as long as you avoid the western restaurants, the more hi-so (high-society) Thai restaurants, and the hotels.
If you stick to eating at Thai food stalls, food courts, eat noodles or eat Thai style, you’ll find you can easily eat on less than $5 a day in Thailand, and still eat some of the most delicious food you’ve ever tasted.