Travelling is expensive; there’s no getting around that. Even with countless tips and tricks, I don’t go by those travellers who say “you can even travel if you’re broke!” No matter what, you’ll need something in your account to eat, survive, or handle an emergency.
Saying that, however, there are places you can go that are much cheaper than you could ever imagine. These places are so cheap that I, a student, can essentially live a life of luxury and barely make a dent in my wallet. For the same price as 4 shirts at Urban Outfitters, I was able to eat whatever I wanted, get any drink I desired, get a massage, and take several day-trips throughout Southeast Asia for 11 days. All in all, I spent $277, which is roughly $25 a day. Without the day-trips, you can explore your base for just $19 a day. In this guide, however, I’m going to tell you how you can comfortably travel for super cheap. And if you want to, you can do this for even less.
The price above does exclude flights. Flights are expensive, as mine was $460 round-trip, but I’ve flown in the US for more than that. In fact, my brother just told me that he bought round-trip tickets from New York to LA for nearly $400 round-trip. It’s less, but $60 is a tiny difference when you think about it, especially considering how cheap SEA is. Find out how to get the cheapest flights here.
If you’re worried about flight costs, I spent the same on 5 days in Iceland than 14 days in Asia (2 days of flying, 11 days in SEA, 1 in the UAE). While Iceland is insanely expensive, splurging the way I did in any European country would easily cost more than $277 in the first two or three days alone. Even a massage in a European country can cost upwards of $200! Now compare that with a quality, genuine, $6 massage in Bangkok.
Accommodation in SEA runs from $1-15/night. Yes, seriously. Bangkok was, by far, my most expensive hostel at The Printing House Poshtel for 9 whole dollars a night. Vietnam, however, was far cheaper at the Backy Poshtel for just $5/night, and I forget which one I stayed in Siem Reap, but it was $1/night. No joke. In total, I spent $48 on 11 nights of accommodation, or an average of $4.36/night. If you’re looking to splurge, you can stay at a five-star hotel in any of these places for under $100/night!
The food here is so cheap and so delicious. The most expensive meal I had here was crocodile skewers in Siem Reap for $4. Four dollars! On average, breakfast would cost under a dollar, a big bowl of Vietnamese pho would cost about $1.50, and a steaming Pad Thai would be $2.50. Including a coffee or coconut water, I would spend, on average, $6-10 per day on food.
In Thailand, you can take tuk-tuks, or a rickshaw, for $5-10, depending on where you go. However, if you go to Bangkok, it’s a stupidly massive city, and those costs can go up fast. Instead, take the public bus; the most expensive ticket is 24 baht, or 75 cents (Note: many of the red buses are free: if the fare collector doesn’t come to you, you’re in luck!).
Southeast Asia as a whole has people who will get you from Point A to Point B with their motorcycle, but it’s very important to finalise a price before going anywhere, as they may try and charge you more than what was agreed. If you still want cheap motor transport, Southeast Asia has Grab, which is basically Uber with a motorcycle option, which one-way to the airport costing $7. That’s for a 45-minute motorcycle ride, so anywhere you need to go within the city will be much cheaper. In total, I spent about $30 on transportation, which mainly consisted of airport transport (and getting scammed by a tuk-tuk driver), or $2.75/day.
If you’re going to do a normal Southeast Asia tour of Thailand/Vietnam, Cambodia, you must visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Admission to the Grand Palace is $13, and Angkor Wat is a steep $37. In total, this is $50, which averages out to $4.54/day.
These are completely optional; in Vietnam, I took 2 day-trips: one to Halong Bay and one to the rice paddies in Tam Coc. In Thailand, I took one to Ayutthaya. I spent $55 on all three; the Vietnamese ones were $20-25 each, and Ayutthaya was $10 for train transport. These are completely optional, and you can travel for even cheaper without these. Again, this was more of a splurging trip for me, but the day-trips were my highlights of Vietnam!
- Accommodation: $4.36 x 11 = $48
- Food: $8 x 11 = $88
- Transportation: $2.75 x 11 = $30.25
- Activities: $4.54 x 11 – $50
- Total: $216.25/11 days = $19.66/dayIf you include day trips and one massage, $277.25 or $25.19/day
Southeast Asia as a whole is cheap in price, but one of the richest, most dazzling parts of the world.
I completely recommend SEA to anyone looking to travel on a tight budget. It’s a spectacular array of senses that are just waiting to take you in as one of its own for as long as you desire. The longer you stay, the cheaper it will be long-term; a month in SEA would probably cost the same as a week in London. From unreal islands, to some of the world’s best cuisine, it’s the place to be for a budget traveller like you and me to, well, not feel like a budget traveller for once.