Right! You’ve booked your flight to Bangkok or Phuket and you’re starting to get super excited about your trip. But where are you going to stay when you land?
The fab things about Thailand is that it’s one of the few places your Rand can really take you places. When you start to google and discover you can snap up four star hotel rooms for less than R500 you might feel suspicious but there’s no need. Tourism is Thailand’s life blood and competition is fierce so specials are rife. It really can be that inexpensive – and your trip becomes even more affordable when you’re sharing with someone.
Now let’s find you a hotel! When I look for one in Bangkok my criteria are the following:
It needs to be in the Sukhumvit/Silom areas which are very central and close to the clutch of malls I like to visit. (If you’re a first timer to Bangkok you simply have to visit BMK, the biggest, craziest mall I’ve ever been to.) Be careful when you tick ‘Sukhumvit’ as your area while searching a site like Bookings.com. It’s a large area and if you end up on the end of it you’ll be further away from the action and suddenly a 30 minute sky train journey to anything becomes an hour. To ensure you’re ‘central’ within the central area look for hotels that are within walking distance of the following Sky Train stations – National Stadium, Siam, Ratchathewi, Chit Lom, Phloen Chit, Nana, Asok, Phrom Phong, Phaya Thai, Ratchadamri, Sala Daeng and Chong Nonsi. (The Sky Train is kind of like Jozi’s Gautrain and it’s super efficient, very safe and so clean you could eat off the floor. It also costs nothing to use. A one way ticket from one side of the line to the other is 42 baht which is R16.)
Two nice to have’s are Wi-Fi and a pool but these aren’t as important as I buy a tourist SIM (more on that in my next post) and I don’t stay too long in Bangkok so I can get all my pool/beach vibes when I move to the islands.
My Bangkok hotel doesn’t have to be fancy pants. I don’t spend much time at it. Generally I budget for about R250 to R300 a night and if you’re sharing you’re looking at less than R150 per person.
When I look for a hotel in Phuket I use the following criteria:
I like to stay in the Patong area as it’s right in the middle of the action so if you’re after a much more laid back experience and want to stay at a secluded, romantic resort that’s far away from everything I can’t help much there as I don’t know much about those areas. I like to be on the strip where it’s all going down. If you’re the same, make sure that when you book you’re both within walking distance of Bangla road (the main drag) and the beach. (If you only hit one criteria and not the other, you might end up too far away from the main area.)
It has to have a pool even if it’s literally a few steps away from the beach. The beach is great but sometimes you just want to lie on a lounger, drink a cocktail and swim in slightly more refreshing water. (The sea is like bath water!)
I budget for around no more than R500 a night (R250 if you’re sharing) and have stayed in some really awesome places. You can, however, often find serious gems for less start looking a while before you leave and grab a special when you see it. (Right now I’m typing to you from my huge room in the Super Paradise wing at the very fabulous The Royal Paradise Hotel & Spa in Phuket. When I booked I got it for just R596 a night which is slightly over my budget but this place is so freaking awesome I just had to grab it. It’s currently R2 137 per night!
So, how do I find my hotels?
Most of the time it’s through Booking.com which seems to have a wider selection and be slightly less expensive than Agoda.com but this isn’t always the case so it’s good to search both sites. However, I really like how easy Booking makes it to search via location. For example, once you’ve found a nice hotel in the area you want you can click on map view to see where it is. If you hover your curser over the map you’ll see the site also shows you ‘pins’ of other hotels surrounding it and includes their price. That way you can go ‘Oh wow! Seascape is great but just next to it is Ocean Queen and that’s R100 less!’
Once I’ve founds hotels I like, either on Booking or Agoda, I check them out on Tripadvisor to get independent reviews and pick the hotel that got the best ratings. I then perform one final task – running it through a site called Trivago that searches across multiple accommodation sites to find a room in that hotel for the best price. You don’t often find a price that beats Bookings but sometimes you do and that’s a win.
Something that’s also made travel easier for me has been becoming a ‘genius’ member on Booking by using the site frequently. You then get 10% off certain hotels plus little perks like a welcome drink on arrival, a free shuttle to the airport or a late check out. I’ve been trying to google to see how many bookings you need to make to become a genius and finding this info seems impossible. If it helps, I didn’t have to make that many.
Lastly, I’ve also signed up to a site called Giving Assistant and that turned out to be way more helpful than I anticipated. In a way, it’s kind of like a MySchool card for the internet in that it pops up whenever you visit a partnering shoppable site to let you know you can get a certain percentage off or a cash back if you buy there. I’ve been amazed by how many sites are linked to it and Bookings and Agoda are two of them. This way, you can get a further percentage off if you use your genius discount. Then, on top of that, before you check out, Giving Assistant auto runs every coupon code it can scour from the internet through your site and if it gets a hit you save even further. Do you know how good it feels to get 10% off on an already 10% discounted genius hotel? Amazing stuff!
Anyway, I hope you find all this helpful. Next time we chat I’ll be helping you out in regards to ATMs, getting around and sorting out your cell phone.