Know your exchange rates.
Something I tend to forget while going about my business in Thailand is the exchange rate. 30 Baht is approximately equal to $1US. Prices are easy to grasp when in small denominations (60B, 75B, 120B) but once I start seeing hundreds my expensive-alarms go off! Then I realize…300B is only $10.
Costs of things in Bangkok vary widely. Fresh fruit, veggies, and cooked food at street stands ranges from 10B-40B. I’ve never paid more than 50B for a solid meal and a bottled beverage (you can find more average prices below). The inexpensive goods are awesome (especially because a meal in the US can run me anywhere from 150B-450B)! Unfortunately, these reasonable prices get me into “cheap” mode, and when I see larger numbers I have to do a double-take. Things that are considered very cheap in countries like the US can actually be quite expensive relative to other Thai goods. Exchange rates can be your friend, or they can confuse you into not buying something you really want or need, or spending way too much for an item simply because you didn’t realize how much it costs in your home currency.
This is especially true for foreigners visiting somewhere where they are clearly an outsider. (I’m a tall, pale, white girl walking around in northern Bangkok. Not exactly camouflage.) Venders will try and suggest a ridiculous price just because they see that I am a “farang.” Because I know the exchange rates, and how much the item should normally cost in the local currency, I avoid overspending and looking like a fool. Have to save my “fool” for another moment of culture shock.
Average prices I’ve encountered (just for reference, in case you’re coming to Thailand and are curious)
1L bottle of water: 7-10B
Coconut water: 10-20B
Bag of chips, seaweed, or fish skin (ew, but it’s a thing here): 15-30B
Pack of gum: 60B
Average meal at a street vendor/outside, informal “patio” restaurant: 30-50B
Average meal at a sit-down restaurant: 100-400B (maybe even more than this, largely depends on the joint)
Fresh sliced fruit from a street vendor: 10-15B
Pack of four apples at a grocery store: 70B
Peeled pumello at a grocery store: 20-30B
*Plain cotton t-shirt: 50-100B
*You should never pay more than 300 baht for 1 item of clothing if you’re purchasing it at a “normal” store (think Platinum mall (whole-sale), street vendor, or a random superstore like Big-C.) If you go designer, Lord help you.
Cab ride to basically anywhere in Bangkok: 35(min)-200B
Tuk-tuk ride: no more than 300B. Tuk-tuk drivers especially try to take advantage of farang, and seem to unite in order to rip you off (3 drivers in a row will quote you the same exhorbitant price).