With the current exchange rate, 2016 is an especially good year to visit Thailand. Nowadays, just 1 US Dollar is equivalent to about 35 Thai baht. So with a 30 dollar allowance in Thailand, you’re looking at a 1,050 baht budget to live like royalty. In fact, you could probably even eat comfortably with this much money over the span of a few days.
I’ve been going to Thailand almost every year since I was born and never really appreciated how inexpensive and how diverse the food scene is over there. So this summer I set aside 24 hours and 30 dollars—or 1,050 baht—to eat my way through Bangkok.
Fried Chicken From Any Roadside Vendor—40 Baht and Up
Trust me when I say that this is the crunchiest and freshest (and probably the best) fried chicken you will ever find in the world. And I am completely serious when I tell you that you won’t know whether that drip from your first bite was oil, saliva, or meat juice. Do proceed with caution though, because Thai people fighting over their favorite piece of chicken is almost as bad as a group of teenagers at the Abercrombie sale on Black Friday.
Moo Bing from Any Roadside Vendor—15 Baht per Stick
Forget your bacon and your eggs Benedict, these marinated and grilled pork skewers are some of the tastiest things to eat in the morning and one of the foods that you will definitely miss most when you leave. Enjoy them with the aforementioned fried chicken, a packet of sticky rice (10 THB), and some soy milk (35 THB) for a breakfast of champions.
Coconut Ice Cream from Any Roadside Vendor—30 Baht and Up
As I was walking through the pop-up market outside of the Central shopping mall area, I was so delighted to see my favorite childhood treat—coconut ice cream. Not only is it super refreshing in the hot and humid weather, but it’s definitely an Insta-worthy ice cream. If you’re lucky enough to find this made fresh in the city, buy one (or even two).
Tom Yum Noodle Soup at Platinum Shopping Mall—135 Baht
Personally, my friends and I try to avoid eating at food courts in US shopping malls as much as possible, but the ones in Thailand are not to be missed. They offer up a diverse array of local options for less than five dollars. I mean, who could resist a prawn of this size and a soft boiled egg? A fancier rendition of the classic tom yum koong.
Coconut Juice from Any Roadside Vendor—35 Baht and Up
Thailand is one of the world’s top producers of coconuts so it’s no wonder that there is an abundance of young coconuts wherever you go. They’re the best treat when you’re parched or can even be a fantastic complement to your meal. After all, if you have to pay for bottled water at a restaurant then you might as well just have some fresh coconut juice.
Fried Crab Curry from Somboon Seafood—370 Baht
While this plate may not look like the most appetizing, I guarantee that it’s one of the best things you will ever eat in Thailand. I mean, who could resist spending $10 on fresh crab stir fried in a rich, savory curry sauce? I would choose this over Chipotle any day. But beware of imposters—the original is near Chulalongkorn University.
Som Tum at Som Tam Nua—80 Baht
Som Tam Nua is a distinguished institution in Bangkok; with its prime location and fairly inexpensive prices, it is a must-visit spot to sit down with your friends, family, or even colleagues to get your papaya salad fix.
Grilled Pork Neck at Som Tum Nua—115 Baht
This delight is rarely done right in the United States, so I highly recommend that you all try this piece of the pig whenever you’re in Thailand. Pork neck isn’t as fatty as bacon and not nearly as tough as a pork chop. Plus, when combined with some classic Thai seasoning, it basically melts in your mouth.
Mango Sticky Rice from Mango Tango—120 Baht
A couple years ago, my aunt took me to Mango Tango and it has become one of my favorite annual traditions. This hipster restaurant is 100% dedicated to the sweet fruit and incorporates it into all of its dishes. The mango sticky rice is an absolute classic, but if you’re feeling adventurous, check out the Mango Tango with extra sticky rice. It’s half of the mango sticky rice plus their fresh mango ice cream and creamy mango pudding.
Nutella and Banana Roti from Any Roadside Vendor—35 Baht
I really thought I was done after all the food that was eaten today, but after walking past a roti man on my way home to my grandparents’ house and not seeing a queue, I couldn’t resist. This crunchy and chewy deep-fried pancake-like dessert is one of the most inexpensive desserts out there and can cost as little as 20 baht. However, I splurged on some Nutella and bananas for mine.
1 piece of fried chicken = 40 baht
1 packet of sticky rice = 10 baht
1 fresh soy milk = 35 baht
3 sticks of moo bing = 45 baht
1 coconut ice cream = 30 baht
1 tom yum noodle soup = 135 baht
1 coconut = 35 baht
1 fried crab curry = 370 baht
1 som tam = 80 baht
1 grilled pork neck = 115 baht
1 mango sticky rice = 120 baht
1 banana and nutella roti = 35 baht
In total, I spent exactly 1,050 baht—not including BTS fare—and I was stuffed. If you haven’t figured out by now, food is accessible almost everywhere you go in Thailand and the portions are relatively small, which means that you can eat a lot more and try a variety of things. With that being said, you definitely don’t have to spend 30 USD to have a good time.