Challenge Yourself To Run A Race in Thailand for $350 All-In Including Flights
Take advantage of freebies and promotions, shorter immigration queues, and stretch your dollar to the maximum.
Let’s face the hard truth. When we travel, we would need to spend, of course. And then let’s face the harder truth. Spending time in Singapore is not cheap either these days. If your weekend starts with a Friday night out, some hipster cafe chill out on a Saturday morning and an eat out later in the day, and perhaps do a bit of shopping on Sunday, you could potentially spend two hundred dollars - or three - in 48 hours.
Now, what if you just add another hundred dollars or so more, and get to run and unwind in Thailand in that same 48-hour window? Seems impossible at a glance, but with some planning, it really can be done. Your pocket won’t get burnt, your mind will be clearer after the quick getaway, and you will earn some joys of running in Thailand too.
Let’s look at some ways on how you can get the best bang for the buck when you decide to join a running event in Thailand.
Promotions and Freebies by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)
Started since July, TAT is rewarding Singaporeans with 800 free airport transfers from selected airport arrival gateways. No purchases or strings attached; you would need to visit their website for requirements and apply for redemption. Typically, airport transfers cost about S$40 or more, so that is pretty substantial for a gesture of goodwill. This promotion ends in September.
Flights: Consider Your Running Gear
There are so many flight choices out there; there is no need to overthink. Flight time from Singapore to all gateways in Thailand are in the 1-to-3 hour range. Main considerations for costs would be to take direct or indirect flights, to have checked-in baggages or not, and flights timing of the day and in which day of the week. A Skyscanner app comes in handy to check prices, then you can always compare pricing on the airline’s site.
For trail runners, if you are bringing trekking poles, please put them in your checked-in baggage. I have heard of some lucky cases of runners being able to carry them on board, but I would not dare you to take on the risks.
Do note too that energy gels are considered as liquid. Most gels packs are about 30-40ml each. Airlines allow only a maximum of 10 of maximum 100ml liquid to be taken on board.
Accommodation: Choose Near To Start or Finish Point?
The bigger run events would typically partner with hotels. That would make your choice easy. However, in the event that such hotels are full, or there are no official hotels, then there would be some decisions - hard ones sometimes - to make. Road races are typically done in cities or towns, and you could easily get a car or motorcycle taxi to get to the race site. But for trail events, I’ve seen hotels that could be up to 50km away from the race site. Typically, most races would start in the mornings, and in the wee hours for the longer distance categories.
I prefer to choose accommodation that is near to the start point, or at least have transport access to the start point. I find it less stressful than to get a hotel that is cheap but far away, or near to the finish point. After all, if you have invested time to join the race, you would want to prioritise being at the start line on time with peace of mind.
Changi Airport: Getting In And Out
Well, it’s common knowledge that getting to the airport using public transportation system - MRT, taxi, bus - is easy and convenient. But if your flights are in the wee hours, then taxis may be your only option, and pricing does get expensive if you commute from the west or the north.
A lesser known private transportation option - if you own a motorcycle - is actually to ride and park at Changi Airport. Every 24-hour parking cycle would set you back a nominal $1.30. This is a very cost effective solution and is my main commute between home and the airport. Especially if you will do a short weekend getaway with minimal gear, then I recommend this as the way to go.
Airports in Thailand: Getting In And Out
If you are getting in and out of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, then the airport rail link is my usual choice. It’s under $2 for a one-way trip, does get a big crowded though, but has a predictable travel time versus getting caught in road traffic in a taxi during peak hours.
For all other airports, you have options for coupon or metered taxi. These days though, I also use the Grab app quite a bit; price may be similar but I find that having the destination keyed in at the start and pricing fixed and payable by credit card means that the trip should not unfold into any drama.
Renting A Car: Should You?
If your race is in the city or big towns, then perhaps taking taxis to move around would be convenient. However, if you intend to take part in trail races, usually these race sites are out of town. For example, it is fairly common to travel up to 200km by road from an airport to the race site. In such cases, public transportation becomes unreliable.
I would recommend you rent a car directly from the airports. Do choose the more established rental companies as they do provide reasonable insurance coverage. A small hatchback can be rented for as low as $40 a day; so it does make great economic sense. And Thailand is a right-hand drive market; similar to Singapore. For short trips, the Singapore driving licence suffices; you do not need to apply for an International Driving permit.
Immigration Queues for Singaporean Travellers
There are privileges for Singaporean passport holders when you enter and leave Thailand via Suvarnabhumi or Don Muang airports in Bangkok. You can use the automated clearance counters, similar to the locals. Not all counters can be used though, and signages are sketchy; so after frequent attempts, please find my tips below.
When you arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport, you will see 3 immigration sections. Please only go to section 3. There are automated clearance counters there; use only the leftmost one. Scan your passport, boarding pass then your thumbprint. Once the counter clears you, get your passport stamped manually by an immigration officer. For departure, there are 3 immigration sections.
For automated clearance, you would need to go to section 2 that is around the check-in counters H to N. Typically, you would be able to whizz through in five minutes to get through immigration.
At Don Muang airport, there is only one section of automated clearance counters. Similarly, go only to the leftmost counter and follow the similar process at Suvarnabhumi airport. Departing process though is not so straightforward as the machine here seems to break down quite a bit and I have to queue up in the ASEAN lane; so please give ample time in this case.
Packing Your Running Gear
If you are intending to do long distance races, especially ultra trail events, you would usually need to have some mandatory items that you need to pack. Medical supplies can be easily bought over the counters in Thailand; many without the need for prescription. And assuming you need to bring some sharp objects like scissors or pen knives for the race, but is travelling without check-in baggage, rest assured that you can easily buy them upon your arrival.
I am a true believer of travel insurance. Premiums have dropped so much these days. Single trip premiums can be had for under $20, while per annum worldwide coverage goes for under $200. Please ensure you get travel insurance before you go on your running trips to Thailand. Fortunately, most generic travel insurance plans cover running races as these events are not deemed extreme.
Are You Ready?
Without being too simplistic, let’s do a ballpark estimate if you take part in a road race in Bangkok. Assume you fly out on a Friday night, and be back on a Sunday night.
- Return airport transfers in Singapore by MRT $10
- Return flights on a budget airline without baggage $180
- 2 nights stay in a clean, safe minimal-frills hotel $90
- Reasonably priced food and public transport $100
- Registration fees $70
That’d be a grand total of $350 all-in!