Let’s face it, us students are cheap skates. A summer holiday after months of library sessions is definitely deserved but not always cost-effective. It requires months of saving and booking flights to make sure that you get the cheapest possible but if you pick the perfect destination, you can keep your trip to that infamous student budget.
We booked our flights back in January ready to jet out as soon as exams were over in May. Booking through Sky Scanner saved us hundreds with the final price of the flight totaling £350 from Manchester to Bangkok… bargain! We decided to dabble in the travelling scene and booked 6 weeks out there, putting pennies aside at every possible opportunity. A 21st birthday definitely helped too.
The reason that Thailand is the best destination for a student summer? The local prices! Once you are out there it is cheap. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t talking pennies; beers still cost £1 and a night in a hostel on Khao San Road (Bangkok’s main party street) will set you back about £10 but cheap nonetheless compared to UK prices.
The first place to go when you arrive in Bangkok is Khao San Road, that is where the party starts. Don’t expect the glamour and glitz… expect partying until 3am, pick-pockets and way too much Chang. Definitely a night to remember (or not in most cases) and definitely a Thai experience to have. Just be aware of the pick-pocketers and tuk-tuk drivers that want to take you to every tailors in Thailand – a ploy to rip you off.
You will find a number of travel agents on Khao San Road that will help you get to your next destination for as little as £12. We headed down south by night train ready for the Full Moon Party; both of which are experiences to have to say the least. By 7pm the conductor pulls the bunk beds down and sets up your bed ready for a 10 hour snooze down to Surat Thani where the ferry port awaits to take you to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan or Koh Tao (my favourite place).
Full Moon party was exactly what I expected. A beach filled with party people covered in rave paint, buckets in hand and the loudest base all lit by the Full Moon that sits over the bay. I won’t lie, you could have been at any party in the world… it wasn’t really anything special but waking up to glorious beaches to cure that hangover was the real treat (in my case, waking up on the beach).
From Koh Phangan we headed to Koh Tao where we planned to do our PADI Open Water, a 4 day course which we planned to complete and then head to our next destination. Unfortunately we didn’t end up leaving for another 15 days! As one of the cheapest places in the world to gain you Open Water certificate, you can’t go wrong. We loved it that much that we then went onto do our Advanced. The underwater life of the island was amazing but so was the shore life. With something for everyone from pub crawls to yoga retreats, you could spend a lot of time here and never get bored, I know I did.
Of course, at some point we had to leave our favourite island so we headed up north to Chiang Mai, jungles and elephants. Chiang Mai is jam packed full of activities including Elephant Sanctuaries, zip-lining, rafting and jungle treks. Make sure that you go to an elephant sanctuary, they really take care of their elephants where they roam free. If you are expecting to ride them, don’t. The elephants don’t like it and bathing them in water and mud is a way better experience with happy elephants than riding. If you are looking for a big night out, Chiang Mai is not the place with the police shutting the bars down by 12am but there is so much more to do that it isn’t really missed.
The final destination on our trip was Pai. One of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, especially after climbing a million stairs to see the view from Big Buddha. Here we hired out mopeds for £3 a day and explored the hills, an unforgettable experience. I was absolutely gutted when our trip came to an end, we even looked into our finances to see if we could extend it but there is only so far my money would stretch.
With more and more tourists heading to Thailand each year, it has become a popular tourist destination and I could definitely see why. It has the perfect mix of authenticity and tourism, perfect for any student summer. With street food Pad-Thai as cheap as 40p and meals out in the restaurant only reaching about £6 if you had all three courses and drinks, the cost of living is low. The maximum we spent on accommodation was £20 a night and that was when we were splashing out… the cheapest cost £4 a night for two people.
It is an amazing country and an experience that everyone should have at least once. Highly recommended and sadly missed.
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