Cheap travel to and from Thailand is a necessity.

I fly from Thailand twice a year, to Australia (family) and California (friends) or Europe (to see Europe). I also try to see as much of  southeast Asia as possible. But I have to afford this lifestyle on my income from Social Security, book royalties, and workshop fees. So I’m a skinflint when it comes to finding cheap flights. I can’t stand airports or cramped seats either so I’ve  become an expert on avoiding crappy airports (Kuala Lumpur), bad connections, and cramped cabins. You’ll be happy to hear that patience and pickyness pay off because, if they want a piece of Thailand’s 25 million annual visitors all the world’s airlines fly to Thailand. So competition is ferocious.

When I fly to Australia I avoid the big carriers, like QANTAS and Royal Thai, that fly into the big airports like Sydney, pay big landing fees, and charge big fares. Instead I fly Scoot Air to Coolangatta Airport on Australia’s Gold Coast and have my brother, who lives nearby, pick me up. My best round-trip fare so far? $600 – including 2 connecting flights – via Singapore, for a 10,000-mile round trip. My best Southeast Asia fare to Bali return? $40 on Air Asia.

Cheap Travel to Thailand on Scoot
Cheap Travel to Thailand on Scoot

Airlines like Scoot and Air Asia are fierce competitors. Lots of competition means bargain fares and finding those fares is easy on the Internet. Sign up for some of the low-fare-finding sites below and wait for the offers to roll in. Have your credit card ready and your bags packed. If you’re vigilant, patient, and flexible you’ll find a fare that works for you, like $884 from LAX return; £459 from London.

You may have a layover in Seoul or Bahrain which, while it provides a glimpse of yet another country, also costs money and hassle. Find out how much money – fares both from and to the airport, hotel, meals, etc. – and do the math. I sometimes end up flying direct on Thai Airways, the national carrier because, though the fares are higher, the total cost is not much more when I figure in the layovers. For handling connecting flights and baggage transfers, Thai Airways is unbeatable. There are direct flights to Chiang Mai, the northern capital, but you’ll probably come through Bangkok Airport. Fortunately Bangkok has an excellent terminal with everything imaginable under one giant roof. It’s almost fun.

Finding Cheap Flights

Cheap travel for most of us means cheap air fares. Here are the best budget airfare finders:

1) Kayak.com scours hundreds of online sources for the cheapest fares available. The more flexible you are about time and destination, the better your chances of finding a great deal. Search for dates up to three days before and after your ideal travel dates, or use the Buzz tool to search for flights that leave within a calendar month, in the six upcoming weekends or just anytime.

Suvarnabhumi
Cheap Travel Mecca: Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport

2) Bing Travel gives you a recommendation to either buy a ticket now or wait for a fare based on its “price predictor.” The price predictor forecasts whether fares on major domestic routes will go up or down. Enter your desired itinerary and the site will return a list of flight options, along with a recommendation to buy now or wait.

3) AirfareWatchdog works best for travelers ready to take off at the drop of a deal. The site has workers lurking on airline Web sites in anticipation of fare sales. They sign up for rewards programs to snag promotional codes and discount offers that can be passed on to AirfareWatchdog users. Bonus: The site includes fares from Southwest, JetBlue and other small airlines that may not appear on bigger search sites, such as Kayak and Bing.

4) WhichBudget.com will help you build an inexpensive overseas flight plan by using local, budget airlines — a great way to save on international travel. It’s based on a comprehensive list of airlines servicing 170 countries. To start, select your overseas starting point, end point or both, and the site will list airlines you’ve probably never heard of that service each route. For example, if you search for flights from Bangkok to other Asian destinations, you’ll get options from AirAsia, Jetstar and Nok Air. Click on an airline’s link and you will be redirected to its home page to book a flight.

5) Yapta.com will track a flight’s price for you after you buy your ticket. If the costs drop below what you paid, most airlines and online travel agencies will refund the difference, usually in the form of travel credits or vouchers. Yapta will alert you to falling fares via e-mail or tweet. And if the change in price dips below the cost of any “re-booking fees” some airlines charge in these situations, the site will explain how to collect your refund.

Passport holders from 41 countries, including the USA, Australia, NZ, UK and Hong Kong SAR, are not required to obtain a visa when entering Thailand for tourism purposes and will be permitted to stay in the Kingdom for a period of not exceeding 30 days on each visit. As this list may change, check the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs page.

Also, here’s a video tour of Suvarnabhumi Airport (so you’ll know what to expect):

More Reading About Cheap Travel to Thailand

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