A jaunt around Southeast Asia is dream for most backpackers. It’s super adventurous and very beautiful, and you can travel around without draining your bank account dry. There’s just one problem, how cheap is cheap? How much does it cost to travel this area? I know that everyone hopes and prays for an exact answer, but I hope you know, it’s quite difficult to pinpoint that.
You see, there are a few problems with this question:
1. I have no clue who you are or what type of person you are, which does determine how much money you may or may not spend.
2. Where exactly do you plan on going? Because island hopping around the Philippines every other day will certainly cost more money than just relaxing on one of the beaches in Bali.
3. What type of traveler are you? Must you have a minimum of 5 cocktails each night? Are you a prissy pants and must have a TV and aircon in every room? Or maybe you’re someone who would rather stay in a dorm and eat local food only? Oh! Or maybe you’re going to try and fit 5-6 countries in one month?
So as you can see, the answers to these questions are very important when figuring out how much you may or may not spend. Sooo…
OMG! Flippin tell me! How much money do I need to travel Southeast Asia !!!!!????
OK!! I won’t leave you high and dry, but this is something only you can answer. Read the rest of this article, then see about how much these countries will cost you.
Countries I’m including: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines.
I linked up some blogs below for you if you’re interested in other Southeast Asia countries.
A good backpacker budget per day for Southeast Asia in general is said to be around $25-45 on average. This includes EVERYTHING. You can go much higher and much lower. It also depends on what activities you’re into. It’s going to be a long post, sorry, but I think it might be useful for some of you…ssooo let’s break it down!
AirAsia is THE way to fly in Southeast Asia. You can check Skyscanner, but after four years in Asia and searching, I know to just go straight to their website, they are 99% of the time the cheaper option. A one-way flight anywhere in Southeast Asia will be under $100USD. Domestic flight can be found as cheap as $15-20!
* Please remember that AirAsia charges extra for baggage.
* Please note some countries require departure taxes to be paid as well, or an airport fee. Examples- Philippines and Indonesia.
* Do you need a return flight? Another popular question… I never do! But it did cost me once in the Philippines. So prepare for this possibility or have a flight.
A very cheap, but longer way to get from A to B. Buses will usually be under $20. A bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (12 hours) is around $15-20. A bus from Manila to Banaue (10 hours) is around $13+. Bus prices range because there are sometimes different classes to choose from and sometimes the seasons will determine the price too.
The local buses in town are super cheap. Jeepneys in the Philippines that took an hour would be less than a dollar. Songtuews are often less than a dollar in Thailand and can take you around the city.
Renting a motorbike is super cheap. You can rent it for about $5+ in Thailand and Indonesia, and it’s a bit more in the Philippines, depending where you’re at, around $10. (per day)
These vary from place to place. A rule of thumb for me- get a metered taxi. If you’re using a tuk tuk/rickshaw/tricycle (name varies in each country) then decide on a price before hopping in. My best advice for getting a good deal: Always ask a local, a neutral party (like the person who runs your guesthouse), how much it is to get from A to B so you have a base price to work off of for negotiation.
Here is more information on transportation in Thailand.
Food is generally quite cheap in Southeast Asia. YAY!
If you eat locally, you can eat meals for under $2. In any country.
If you’re like me and want a western breakfast, because you will cry if you have to eat rice for breakfast, you can expect to pay $3-5+ depending where you are and what you get.
Food markets are where.it’s.at. This will always be by far the cheapest spots to find awesome food. Don’t be scared, eat at the local markets!
If local food isn’t your thing (weirdo), western meals can range anywhere from $5+ if you want to get fancy. But a regular spot will probably make you a burger for about $5-7. A pasta dish can run you $6-7. These are at regular type places. Let me add that attempts at western dishes are usually quite the disappointment. That’s for me anyway. Save your money unless you know they have legit international meals or if you’re really dying for something familiar.
Fruit is usually quite cheap, certain things will be more expensive. Green apples are $.50 in Thailand and durian is always pretty pricy at $5+ for a good chunk.
A small bag of cut up fruit will be under a $1 in Thailand. A yummy Indian meal in Malaysia costs about $1.50 , with naan!! Nasi goreng (fried rice) can be as cheap as a $1 in Indonesia. A pricier vegetarian dish in the Philippines cost me $2-3, but was worth every penny. Laap with sticky rice in Laos was about $2 in a nicer cafe.
I love seeing people ask for “the best accommodation in.” ….?!?!?!?!
What defines “the best?” Who are you? How are we supposed to know? What’s your budget? What part of the town/city? What amenities do you want?! So many questions!
Introduce yourself to Agoda. It’s the best site for finding accommodation anywhere in Asia.
How much? Well, you can find places from $3 a night to $30, $300…
For people on a budget…
$5-6 in Thailand will get you a decent room with a bed and a fan. You might get a bathroom or you might have to share.
$5-7 in Indonesia will get you something similar to what I mentioned above.
You can go cheaper if you stay in dorms, but I only stay in dorms from time to time. In many cities you can find your own room, for the same price as a dorm!
I paid $10 for a small dorm, but I was in the ever popular, El Nido, Philippines.
But it’s all relative. Your best bet:
– Look on Agoda, and get an idea what you get for your price range.
-If you really like a spot, book it.
– If you’re not sure, take note of the place on Agoda, and wander around when you get there. That’s what I always do. If you’re looking for the cheapest spot, your chances of finding that spot on Agoda/ online aren’t that great. Chances are that place doesn’t have a listing on Agoda or a website and the only way to find it is to walk around.
Important points that factor into your budget…
* What type of activities will you be doing?
Beach bumming is free. Climbing in Krabi can cost $30+ if you need a guide and gear rental. Diving can get pricy if you’re an avid diver. Just want to chill? Well, that doesn’t cost very much. So you can see where this will greatly affect your budget.
For more specific information on activities, many of my specific destination posts list prices and extra tips at the bottom of the post.
* Is there an entrance fee?
Sometimes your activity might be cheap, but don’t forget about entrance fees! Sure, riding your own bike to a National Park in Thailand is super cheap, but guess what? You’re a foreigner, so you may need to pay $5-10+ to get into that park. Don’t forget about these little add ons, they do add up. The Philippines and Indonesia do the same thing. If it’s a popular attraction, there’s likely a foreigner entrance fee.
* Do you need a visa?
Don’t forget about the $50 you need to spend to get into Vietnam or the $30 to get into Laos, Cambodia, or Indonesia… Of course, a tourist visas that allows you to have more time in the country cost money. Look those up! (Prices depend on what passport you hold and length of stay you desire.)
Perhaps this post is leaving you with questions unanswered,…. How much money do I need to travel Southeast Asia!?!? I know you want more of a solid number, but I promise you, you will need to find out for yourself. Nobody travels the same, eats the same, and requires the same things.
To make you feel a bit better, and because you’re likely reading this because you’re on a tight budget, I’ll give you some more detailed real life examples from my travels.
>> In 2012, I was broke as a joke. I finished teaching in Ayutthaya and traveled around, and before you knew it, I was running on my last bit of savings. It crept up on me so quickly, I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, I just scored a job teaching English online. Yay! The one problem? I only got paid monthly and my first paycheck wouldn’t get to me for another 6 weeks!!! What to do?!
I lived the cheapest I’ve ever lived in my life. I was living in Chiang Mai at the time.
I bought bread, PB and J, yogurt, and bananas. A mixture of those items was my breakfast everyday. For lunch and dinner- local Thai food only.
My accommodation- 150B per night ($5)
I spent no more than $10 per day. That’s right… $10 PER DAY! $5 for accommodation and $5 for food. Some days I “splurged” and maybe bought an extra snack or got too tired and hot, so I took a taxi to wherever, so maybe I spent $12. I lived like this for over a month. I didn’t go anywhere outside of Chiang Mai.
>> In 2014 I lived in Krabi Town. I wasn’t as broke and I was able to do a bit more.
Accommodation – 6,000B per month ($180)
I ate at my favorite restaurants that had awesome breakfasts that were about $3-5.
Thai food for lunch and dinner at the markets, $3 max per meal mostly because I was being a little fatty and wanted tons of stuff. I’d go to the beaches anytime I wanted (100B round-trip for shared bus), and I took frequent trips here and there. (Like the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia)
>> I spent two weeks on Java, Indonesia. I went on explorations nearly everyday and traveled through multiple cities. I documented those trips and the majority of what I spent…
During those two weeks, not including flights, or my time in Jakarta (I went to a music festival and splurged on accommodation, something most don’t do, including me. This was a treat.) I spent around $170 or so in about 13 days and I got to do all the things I wanted to do around Eastern Java. That’s including my accommodation, my taxis, a car rental for a day, entrance fees, food, and whatever else. I met three other travelers so this helped keep my cost down as I was able to share taxis and rooms and such.
***Remember! Check the bottom of my blog posts. I’ve been quite good with documenting more info and costs for your benefit.
I also have a great list of budget tips here to help you travel without shelling out everything in your pockets.
Still not satisfied? FINE!
I love you all so much I gathered some reputable sites who have a specific budget breakdown of their experiences in certain countries… YOU’RE WELCOME!
Thailand: A breakdown by me with some FAQ’s answered.
Vietnam: Mel went backpacking in Vietnam on a budget
Indonesia: This is a breakdown from Chris.
What type of traveler are you? Do you like fancy stuff? Are you on a budget? What is your spending goal when you travel around Southeast Asia?
You know you want to Pin this for later <3