Six years ago, I went backpacking through Southeast Asia for a whopping 9 months. I was amazed by how cheap it was!
During this entire journey, I was living totally off my savings and having an incredible time.
Ever since this epic trip, I’ve been going back to Southeast Asia nearly every year. It’s just such good value and the region is brimming with amazing places to visit.
If you’re making a budget for Southeast Asia, be warned though: not every country is equally cheap.
For example, it often happens that backpackers or budget travellers get used to the ultra-low prices in a country like Vietnam, but then go somewhere else and end up surprised.
Backpackers in the Philippines, for instance, often complain about how expensive the hotels and hostels are… even though it’s still a bargain by European or North American standards.
Prices also change over time. Cambodia has gotten a bit more expensive in recent years. Malaysia has gotten a bit cheaper. It often depends on currency exchange fluctuations and the level of development in each country. The numbers in this post are up to date for 2020.
P.S. Although I’m from Europe, I’ve put all the prices here in USD.
Average costs for Southeast Asia
On a longer trip, plan on spending about $35/day for one person on average, or about $1000/month. That’s traveling as a backpacker, using budget accommodation and eating mainly local food. This number does not count pre-trip expenses.
For two people sharing, a good rule of thumb is $60/day for two people, averaged across the region. You’ll typically save some money by sharing things like taxi rides or accommodation.
Of course, there are differences in costs everywhere. But if you’re traveling for several months, I find these daily averages are pretty consistent among most Southeast Asia budget travelers who stay in hostels or local guesthouses.
When I went to Southeast Asia for the first time, my pre-trip expenses were approximately $1150. I spent roughly:
- $200 on a travel backpack
- $100 on vaccinations
- $600 on my return ticket to Bangkok from London
- and the rest on travel insurance
If you don’t have a good backpack already, consider getting one. It’s going to be the most important tool on your trip. Have a look at my list of best travel backpacks if you need some tips.
Your plane ticket is likely your biggest pre-trip expense, so it’s also where you can potentially make the biggest savings. Be sure to read my tips on how to find cheap flights and set some price alerts on a flight search engine. It’s often easiest to find cheap flights to Bangkok or Singapore. Other key hubs are Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.
As for travel insurance, I think it’s always worth having. It means you’ll be covered for medical emergencies, theft, cancellations, and other potential incidents. Keep in mind your medical insurance at home will not work in Southeast Asia.
I have an affiliate partnership with Heymondo, which I recommend. SafetyWing offers more basic coverage, but can be cheaper and better for long multi-month journeys. Whatever company you choose, it’s worth having a good travel insurance plan before you go.
Travel cost per country
Finally, let’s look at how much each country costs to travel, give or take. This is how I got these numbers:
- From my own travels in Southeast Asia
- By sampling and averaging prices from accommodation booking sites (budget-focused, removing outliers)
The suggested daily budgets assume you are a backpacker sleeping mostly in cheap rooms, using mostly overland transportation, eating mostly local food, and avoiding big resorts and upmarket hotels. As always, your mileage may vary.
|Country||Suggested Daily Budget|
|Thailand (southern beaches)||up to $50 – $60|
|Thailand (central / north)||$25 – $35|
|Laos||$25 – $35|
|Vietnam||$20 – $30|
|Cambodia||$20 – $30|
|Singapore||$40 – $80 (see notes)|
|Malaysia||$35 – $45 (more with tours)|
|Philippines||$35 – $45|
|Myanmar||$30 – $40|
In a nutshell: cheap in the north, close to Western prices in the south
Thailand has long been known as a backpacker mecca. But while the north around Chiang Mai remains one of the world’s cheapest places to travel, if you’re anywhere near a beach, expect to spend at least twice as much as in the regions further inland.
Dorm bed average: $12.50
Basic room average: $32.70
The gradually gentrifying backpacker district of Khao San still has some ultra-cheap dives ($5–8), but for a bed in a modern and reputable hostel with full amenities, the cost averages at about $12.50 a night. Thanks to ubiquitous street food, an efficient metro system, and cheap tuk-tuks, your overall budget for Bangkok won’t need to be high.
Chiang Mai & Northern Thailand
Dorm bed average: $7.40
Basic room average: $16.50
The north can be delightfully cheap. A dorm bed goes for as little as $6 a night here, though keep in mind such ultra-cheap places may expect you to also book tours with them (and will get cranky if you don’t). Decent rooms can be found for $12 (e.g. think bamboo bungalows). In Chiang Mai, $30/night can even get you a fantastic room with pool access.
Thai beaches & islands
Dorm bed average: $14
Basic room average: $39
The beaches attract plenty of tourists on a short stay and with money to spend, so it should be no surprise it’s more expensive here. Prices are also more sensitive to seasonality.
The average above does hide some significant outliers. Koh Phi Phi takes the cake with basic twin rooms normally costing $50–80 and many dorm beds exceeding $20/night. Arguably this island is a victim of its own success and not the best island to go anymore. On Koh Phangan, prices will easily triple on or around the date of the Full Moon Party, rising to at least about $15 for dorms or $40 for rooms, though some dorms near the Full Moon beach may cost as much as $40/night.
For somewhat cheaper and more laidback islands, go to Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe, Koh Chang, Koh Tao (for the most part), and many others.
Thailand in general
A meal from a street vendor or local restaurant should cost around $2 to $6 pretty much anywhere. Many activities are priced in the $10–20 range. For instance, half a day of cooking classes in Chiang Mai might cost you $20. Visiting the Grand Palace in Bangkok costs about $13. In northern Thailand, a day of caving or trekking with a guide will set you back somewhere around $20 as well.
Suggested Backpacker Budget: $30 a day (north) or $50+ a day (south)
In a nutshell: very inexpensive
Dorm bed average: $7
Basic room average: $24
Laos is incredibly cheap. If you’re traveling on a shoestring budget, you can find a dorm bed for as little as $5. Basic but nice rooms go for about $30, though if all you need is a purely functional room you can find them for as little as $12. The most expensive place is the UNESCO heritage city of Luang Prabang. Tourists from China fly in here, pushing prices up. Elsewhere, Laos is cheaper.
Entrance fees to parks and temples are typically in the single-digit dollars. A good rule of thumb for transportation cost is that every hour spent on a bus costs about a dollar, so a 10-hour overnight bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane will cost somewhere around $10.
Suggested Backpacker Budget: $25 to $35 a day
In a nutshell: very inexpensive
Hostel dorm bed average: $8
Basic private room average: $20
In Vietnam, money leaves your wallet at a syrupy slow rate. Despite a booming economy as of late, Vietnam’s currency against the USD and EUR remains very favorable. Vietnam might just be the cheapest country in Southeast Asia right now.
Entry fees to museums and national parks are rarely more than a dollar or two. If you wish to save on their meals will find that Vietnam is a street food paradise; just grab a little plastic chair at a roadside eatery for some delicious pho noodles (about $1 per bowl) or some passable local ‘fresh beer’ (about $0.20 per cup).
Among your big expenses is probably your entry visa ($45 for the visa itself and the stamping fee). Visas in Vietnam can get a bit complicated and, unlike other countries, often need to be arranged in advance. I recommend reading my Vietnam visa explainer.
Suggested Backpacker Budget: $20 to $30 a day
In a nutshell: not quite as cheap as it used to be (but still cheap)
Hostel dorm bed average: $6
Basic private room average: $21
Cambodia is very welcoming to backpacker tourism, with $4+ dorm beds and $15+ twin privates being the norm. One exception is Siem Reap near the temples of Angkor Wat, which attracts more upscale tourists as well, but even here you’ll find a brilliant buffet of budget options.
Your biggest single expense is likely to be your entry ticket to the temple complex of Angkor Wat, which is $37 for 1 day and $62 for 3 days. Hiring a tuk-tuk to take you around the temples for a day costs around $15.
Some travelers complain that Cambodia is not as cheap as it used to be. The capital has developed rapidly and has gotten a bit more expensive in terms of food and drinks, for example. But in relative terms it’s still among the cheapest countries in the region.
Suggested Backpacker Budget: $20 to $30 a day
In a nutshell: clutch your wallet, this place ain’t cheap!
Hostel dorm bed average: $24
Basic private room average: $60
Singapore is an ultra-modern city-state, where prices can be a shock for travellers coming from Indonesia or Malaysia. A dorm bed averages at $24 a night, which can be a whole day’s worth of budget elsewhere. At least the excellent metro gets you just about everywhere for a few bucks, and cheap and delicious food is available at big food courts called Hawker Centers. Luckily, there are a number of things to do in Singapore on a budget. Alcohol is taxed heavily so you may wish to avoid a big night out.
Suggested Backpacker Budget: it depends hugely. If you’re just transiting through you can keep it to $40–50 a day, but a lot of sightseeing, going out, or restaurant food can push this to $50–90.
In a nutshell: tours can be pricey, but otherwise excellent value for money
Hostel dorm bed average: $9
Basic private room average: $19
Malaysia is often misunderstood as an ‘expensive’ country as its oil wealth has made it among the most developed. But its currency against the USD and EUR has actually made it a relative bargain in recent times.
Day-to-day travel costs are reasonable and get you a lot of value in return. Hostels are modern and often equipped with AC but still charge around $10. Basic private rooms are available at essentially Vietnamese prices but with much better facilities. Hawker centers provide all kinds of delicious Malay, Indian, Chinese and Burmese dishes all in the $2 – $4 range.
That said, if you’re crazy about adventure activities, then be prepared to spend relatively more. For example, if your goal is to climb Mount Kinabalu on Borneo, a 2- or 3-day guided trek will easily cost several hundred dollars. Permits are limited and demand is high, pushing up prices for this bucket list experience (so be sure to book early). Similarly, a 2-day jungle river expedition in Kinabatangan park costs around $90, which is definitely more than it would have cost in some other Asian countries.
If you’re a party backpacker, you may be aghast to learn a half-liter beer costs about $3.50 and immediately scuttle back to Thailand. Though Malaysia is generally a more conservative country and not a party destination anyway. If you’re in Malaysia for the cultural sights or looking for a hammock on a quiet beach, then you’ll surely feel right at home.
Suggested Backpacker Budget: $30 – $45 a day (increase this if taking many tours)
In a nutshell: Bali is super commercial, but Indonesia is budget-friendly overall
Hostel dorm bed average: $10.50
Basic private room average: $23
Bali is the main tourist hotspot, and southern areas like Seminyak and Kuta are popular with many short-stay tourists from Australia and elsewhere, so these places are the most commercialized and expensive. But head inland and prices already drop considerably. You can find wonderful bungalows and homestays at around $20 a night.
On the super popular Gili islands, many hostels charge $12 and up for a dorm bed. If you go to less-visited Lombok, Java, Sumatra or Flores, you can still find many $6 or $7 a night hostels.
Entry fees for national parks or UNESCO sites such as Borobodur or Prambanan increased a few years ago. It typically was just a few dollars, but nowadays it’s around $10–15 (for international visitors only).
As with Malaysia, adventure tours can be more pricey compared to Vietnam, Thailand, or Cambodia. For instance, a 3-day tour of the Bromo and Ijen volcanos on Java will cost about $130 once you’ve factored in all the add-ons you need to buy (extra fees for a jeep ride, guide, etc.). A multi-day boat trip from Lombok to Labuan Bajo costs about $140. It’s well worth it, but it’s just a relatively larger expense than, say, the slow boat in Laos or boat trips to Ha Long Bay.
Suggested Backpacker Budget: about $30 to $40 a day
In a nutshell: high accommodation costs and likely need for domestic flights
Hostel dorm bed average: $12
Basic private room average: $26
When budgeting for the Philippines, there are some things to keep in mind. First, accommodation prices are definitely on the higher end for Southeast Asia. Second, since the Philippines is such a huge collection of islands, it’s not always possible to travel cheaply overland. Ferries between the islands may be impractically slow, so you often have to fly. AirAsia, Cebu Airlines, Zest Air, and other airlines do offer domestic flights at budget prices.
That said, entry fees to parks, wildlife sanctuaries, caves, and so on are typically in the $1 – $4 range, and guided tours and treks are all reasonably priced—around $10 to $15 for a day’s activities. An area where you’ll find some exceptions is Palawan, where a 2-hour tour of Puerto Princessa Underground River costs around $30, and a day of island hopping around El Nido costs about $30 as well (up from $10 a few years ago).
Boracay island is the Philippines version of Phuket or Bali (i.e. a more commercial holiday destination), but it’s more mid-range priced and still fairly backpacker-friendly.
Suggested Backpacker Budget: about $35 to $45 a day
In a nutshell: beware of higher accommodation prices
Hostel dorm bed average: $15
Basic private room average: $37
Myanmar is a bit of an odd duck in this list, as its accommodation costs are high relative to everything else. There is a reason for this: under the old pre-2012 regime Myanmar received very few visitors, so the country has historically had few hotels. High demand and a limited selection kept prices up. While many brand new hotels and hostels have opened in recent years—making things easier for budget travelers—accommodation costs do remain relatively high.
Other expenses like food, activities, and tours may be lower than you might expect based on the costs of accommodation. A 5-day pass to the temples of Bagan costs $20 (compare this to $60 for Angkor Wat in Cambodia). A train from Yangon all the way to Mandalay is just $15. You can rent a bicycle or motorbike to explore Bagan or Lake Inle for as little as $5 a day. With tourism still in relative infancy, fewer businesses charge hiked up tourist prices.
Suggested Backpacker Budget: $30 to $40 a day
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Hi from Istanbul! Firstly: am sorry my English level.
I wanna start Southern Asia tour on next semptember or october: From Thailand, Mynmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, (maybe Singapur), Indonesia and Philipinnes finally.
Its very hard to collect dollar for us. I think i will be ‘super budget’ traveller. I visited 8 countries until today but they wasn’t long trip.
Southern Asia will be my first long journey inşallah 🙂 Then… I checked hostel prices and all of them is under 6-7 dollar in a day. If i added meal and public transport in city, total cost will increase to 12-13 dollar in a day.
If i stay 1 month in a country, 500-600 dollar is enough? (Incule intercity transport, some activities…)
Your English is great 🙂 Your budget is tight but not impossible. To be honest I have not travelled on a strict budget for a while, but I spent about 600 dollar in a month in Laos when I only did hostel dorm beds, ate street food, and did cheap activities (e.g. share a ride with other people to a waterfall, or visit a temple by walking there, etc.).
The budgets mentioned in this article are not meant to be super low budget, so they include the costs of some tours or maybe a few hotel rooms instead of dorm beds. But your budget will be fairly easy to do in north/central Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Singapore is extremely expensive, Malaysia can be a bit more expensive too. Avoid famous resort areas on the beaches & islands of Thailand and such which can be very expensive. Find less known beaches/islands where it’s still cheap 🙂
Good luck on your trip!
Congrats on your superb blog, you sir are an inspiration to all travelers!
I’m planning on doing SEA from August on, hitting the main places and making friends along the way.
Are there any sources or places you recommend for me to mingle and learn about cool plans with other fellow backpackers?
If you mean August this year then I think you might be too early given the pandemic situation. Only a few countries will be opening by August and I’d expect there’ll be very few other people traveling at that time. The best tip might be to consider traveling later.
Hi Marek, I’m think of doing an South East Asian trip, after the covid 19 clears up. I have a few questions. Did most places speak English, also I’ll be backpacking solo and I’m a woman. Is that safe. I have American street smart but not sure how that translates in other countries.
Hey Ruth! The region has a very good reputation for safety, and many countries actually have lower crime rates than the US. It’s a common sight to see solo women travelers in SEA and most people consider SEA to be pretty low-stress. If it’s your first-time do check your travel guide for safety tips though, it’s a very big region and there can be minor things to be aware of sometimes, but broadly speaking it’s very safe to go and to do it solo. 🙂
English is widely spoken in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Myanmar. Some basic English is often understood in the other countries too, enough to generally get by (e.g. ordering food, buying stuff), but not everyone is able to have a proper conversation with you. In the tourism industry people do generally speak English pretty well though (in hotels/hostels, tour guides, etc.) The language barrier is not ever a practical obstacle in my experience, especially as people are used to travelers and tourists.
I am from the U.S. and am traveling with my partner next fall after we graduate this may. I have traveled through Europe for a month (mainly in Italy) on about a $100 a day budget and did just fine. If both my partner and I save around $4,000 not including air fare and travel for 2-2.5 months in SE Asia would we be able to afford private rooms more frequently and also more tours? (we are not nessacarily backpackers and haven’t traveled out of the country without parents except once for each of us) Also is September-November a good time to travel to this area? We would probably want to travel to Nepal, Thailand, Mayalasia, Indonesia, Laos , and maybe Vietnam
Hey Abby. Yeah you should be able to stay in private rooms most or even all of the time. You can get budget rooms for $15-$20 a night in most places (with perhaps the exception of the most touristy parts of coastal Thailand). They won’t be luxurious at that price but they’ll be clean and good. Maybe take a look on Booking.com or Agoda.com to get a sense of what you’ll get in that price range. You don’t need to be a backpacker or stay in hostels to travel cheaply in Asia.
If you book tours locally (not online from US websites) they will be cheap too. 4000 for 60 days would be a comfortable budget I think. For 75 days it might be a bit tighter if you want to do lots of tours all the time, but probably still fine.
The countries all have a rainy season which is usually a less ideal time to visit. Luckily the rainy season is different in different parts of the region. You could start with Indonesia and Malaysia (dry season in September) then do the other countries where the weather improves in Oct/Nov.
Great article. However i am a bit optimistic about some of the info here. Not sure how you can survive with $30 to $50 daily budget? If the lowest for accommodation is $6 and the highest is $60 a day and assuming you will be eating, drinking and getting around, that means the rest of your time all you will be doing is sitting in your room just watching tv. That is if you dont want to spend over your budget? (1000) for a month.
Are these prices just for one country or are you including traveling through other countries for $1000?
I am a bit confused.
In this post I’m suggesting $1000/month averaged across the region, as a very rough guideline. I think your confusion probably stems from looking at the graphs in this article and kind of averaging all the bars in them in your head — but keep in mind most people will stay in the city of Singapore for only a day or two (that’s the outlier country with the $60/night accommodation average). And unless you spend all of your time in the most touristy parts of southern Thailand, your ‘region average’ is gonna come down pretty quick.
These are also averages and things can be cheaper in practice. Let’s take a random country like Laos. The average for non-luxury rooms that I found through sampling booking sites for this article is $24, but in practice I’ve rarely spent more than about $10-$12 on accommodation per night in Laos (that’s staying in e.g. a basic guesthouse or bungalow). Maybe add $10 per day for your meals and a beer or two. That still gives you $10 a day or more to spend on activities, getting around, local tours, tuk-tuk rides etc. If you travel in the local style, your money will go a long way.
On a longer trip, you might not do (paid) activities literally every day, so that also pushes the overall cost down a bit.
Hope this helps clarify a bit!
What countries of SE would you recommend for few-days-hiking trips in Jan-Feb (Chinese New Year) in regards of weather and accessibility?
We are thinking of crossing Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand (possibly Vietnam) although we only have 3 weeks and prefer to rather enjoy than rush so we might pick only 2 of these. Also having a little swim in a sea would be nice. What would you recommend?
Do you always need to hire a guide for hikes in this region or are there marked paths with campsites? Also should we be really scared of stepping on a mine there?
There is good hiking in all those countries. I personally like northern Laos as the jungles and landscapes there are amazing. It is often best to get a guide. You may be able to find hikes listed on sites like Wikiloc, but honestly there is almost never such a things as Western-style national parks complete with marked trails or official campsites.
I hope this isn’t a silly question but are the price guides based on the American dollar? I’m from Australia so looking to get an estimate on how much to spend a day AUD which i’m happy to convert if that’s the case.
All in USD 🙂
We absolutely love your website! We’re going to SE Asia for 3 months in Oct and we’ve loved reading all your different blogs 🙂
Quick question on money – can we withdraw USD in Thialand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia? We’re actually from the UK but sterling isn’t looking great for next few months so thinking of loading all our budget onto pre-paid dollar cards!
Glad to hear Sarah! You can withdraw USD in Cambodia where this is the default currency used. But I guess you mean if you can withdraw local currency (like Thai Baht) using a card that’s loaded up with USD, and yes you can do that 🙂 Seems like a good precaution given the possibility of Brexit etc.
Me and my fiancee we will do the same (SE Asia for 3 months) and for what I searched, one good option is Revolut card, you can withdraw anywhere in the world without paying any fee =)
Hey Marek! Thank you very much for such amazing info. With my wife we will be travelling for 12 months from January 2020, we will start the trip SE where we will spend 6 months to then move to Europe and finale South America. The time in Europe will be a maximum of 3 months and the rest in South America. So far we know we will have 50k (AUD)for the the trip and it scares us a little bit to not be sure if that money will be enough or not for 12 months. We are planning to do House sitting in Europe to try to save some money in accomodation but apart from that we will
Be looking for cheap cheap cheap Airbnb’s or hostels. What do you reckon about that budget for 2 ppl for 12 months. Thanks in advance for any reply back
Hi Camilo. Yeah it can be done. The big thing is definitely Europe – house sitting will help there. If I got the numbers right you’ve got $1.4k per person per month which might be a bit low for Europe, but it’s more than you may need in e.g. Southeast Asia. See if you can manage to spend about $2k between the two of you maximum in Asia so you’ll be saving up a bit for when things get more expensive in Europe. In short, yeah I think you can absolutely do it with that amount of savings, especially given that you are open to budget accommodation. 🙂
I am from Jamaica.I want to travel to Vietnam,Cambodia and Loas for a month in August.I am a solo female traveller. Could you suggests the route , where I could stay and do on a budget.
You can find a lot such info here: https://indietraveller.co/south-east-asia-itineraries/ 🙂
Hi! Would you be able to recommend a rough route for Northern Thailand and Laos? I’m looking to travel for about a month and I’m a solo female 🙂
It’s hard to say without knowing anything about your personal goals/interests! Maybe read this Thailand itinerary which is pretty standard. There are also some Laos routes here.
You could do Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Luang Namtha, Luang Prabang, Nong Khiaw, and maybe some southern Laos. Just one example.
Heya Marek. Doing a similar trip. 3 months on my own through mostly Northern Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, potentially finishing up in Gili T Bali. Backpacking on the cheap, mostly overland travel, interests include tramping, nature, people, meditation, etc. I’m thinking around 6k NZD tops. This a good estimate?? Thanks in advance my friend.
Hi Marek ,
Best S.E A blog I have come across! My partner and I are planning a trip from OZ starting in Bali to Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines then onto Vietnam and Cambodia and travelling to the UK from there. Do you think this is the best route to take in Asia and what would you estimate the costs to be? Thanks! 🙂
Hi Shannen. Sounds like a fine itinerary! No reason why you shouldn’t do it in that order 🙂
For the costs just try to estimate how long you’ll be in each country, multiply by estimated daily budget, and add the cost of your flights. There’s not much more I can do without knowing your trip duration or travel style! But you can make a back-of-the-envelope calculation based on info here and elsewhere online.
Hi buddy. Im gonna travel thru Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam for 70 days. Do you believe 2500 dollars for everything, including transportation, is totally possible or will I find some struggle?
Thanks a lot
Yep should be just about OK. Depends how long you’ll spend in Myanmar though (accommodation is more expensive there) and if you’re going inland in Thailand or on the coast (Thai coast is among the most expensive areas).
About 10 days in Myanmar and only about 5-6 days on Thai coast. Thx
Ps: and cambodia as well!
It always depends on your travel style but yeah should be sufficient as a backpacker 🙂
I’m planning a trip to SEA for January 2019. I’m going for about a month. I’m a solo female traveler and I am more interested in the nature/cultural side of things, rather than partying. I was wondering what you would suggest regarding how many countries (which ones?) you would suggest seeing in this amount of time.
Hmmm well I love Laos for its nature, culture, and rural life. You could combine it well with northern Vietnam, which has a lot of great food and city culture in Hanoi.
The Angkor temples seem very expensive. Is that the only way to check them out, paying those fees?
Yeah it’s a protected park with entry fees. If your budget is tight you could maybe go for a 1-day pass. There are also various smaller Khmer temples around the region that are free or cheap (and have waaay fewer tourists 🙂 )
Hope someone would be able to help and advise me. Me and my girlfriend are planning a trip from the UK to SEA. Beforehand we are going to fly into New Delhi see th Taj Mahal and then get a flight from there to Yangon in Burma.
We then are going to go by plane to Chiang Mai, and then do Thailand, (maybe Indonesia), Cambodia, and Vietnam.
We have around £9,000 to spend, and want to go for around 5 months. This figure is for;
Accomodation (preferably private room)
Food & drink
We will be buying our flight to New Delhi and to Yangon separately.
Would this be a sufficient amount to last us? Many thanks!
Hey Lewis. Yeah not counting the cost of those flights I’d say you should be good with your budget. (And assuming you’ll be staying in budget private rooms.)
Hi everyone, I hope i can get an answer for my inquiry. Im planning to take a cross-country trip to South east asia. Is this site talking about visiting all 8-9 countries in just one tour package? If it is, how long is the entire tour? How many days of stay per country?
This site is about independent travel (making your own plans) not tour packages.
Just found some really good info about this on Tigit motorbikes website so if you like you may ignore my previous comment 🙂
Glad the site’s been useful to you! Buying and selling a motorbike might work out better for long term use. Check the rules for the borders though as sometimes there’s paperwork involved in taking a vehicle out of the country. 🙂
Hey Marek, thanks heaps for the info my friend. Your website and books have been my main source of info for planning a 4 month SEA adventure 😉
Just one question. I am planning on travelling by motorcycle for much of the trip (Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos) and am just wondering what the best/cheapest option will be. ie. renting for months at a time (seems to be ~ $450 odd) or just buying and then selling later on?
Any thoughts on this?
Thanks so much for your time Marek, really appreciate it.
All the best,
I’m planning a 3 mo SEA trip with my GF starting at the end of August through beginning of December. I know monsoon season can be a concern but that’s how my availability works. In no particular order we want to do something like your 2 month plan and add in Malaysia and or Indonesia. How would you suggest planning the countries/order the trip based around weather?
Hey Andrew, in that case I’d start in Indonesia as the monsoon is it’s dry season there in August/Sept. Then go to the mainland and head north first. (E.g. do northern Thailand, keep islands for Dec.)
Just want to clarify, and not sure if you have covered this already in previous comments, but when you say ”On a longer trip, plan on spending about $35/day on average for one person, or about $1000/month. For two people sharing, a good rule of thumb is $50/day, averaged across the region” is the rule of thumb of $50/day for two people sharing 50$ each or 25$ each?
I meant 25 each, based on the idea that as a couple you can share your accommodation costs, cook meals yourself more often, etc. It could be a slightly optimistic estimate now that I consider it again – but the main thing is really that you can split the cost of a room.
First of thanks for your quick response.
Countries that are near like; Bangkok, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, I can travel by land. Not sure if it’s safe.
But i hear flights are affordable. Do you think 2 months is not enough?
Welllll you could do it in theory, but I personally don’t recommend it. It’s a long list of places that are all very far apart. (You’re the guy who posted below this, right? 🙂 )
You’d spend just several days in Bangkok (which is hardly a great impression of Thailand), then sit in a bus for 12 hours passing by many beautiful places you’ll only see through the window, to only get the shallowest impression of Cambodia (as I guess you’d end up only in Siem Reap). And so on. You won’t get any of the culture or nature or any depth, just hubs + lots of intense travel in between.
I wrote a bit more about that here:
I’m counting 16 countries and with 2 months that’s only 3 days per place (counting the 4th as travel day). I’d say that’s incredibly ambitious. Though of course that’s just my 2 ct 🙂 I acknowledge that everyone has different travel goals etc.!
My route is as
Start Singapore> Malaysia> Bangkok> Thailand> Cambodia> Vietnam> Laos>
China> Hong Kong> Taiwan> South Korea> Japan> Manila> Philippines> Bali> Indonesia>… back to Singapore and return to New Zealand.
We plan on 4 nights and 5 days stop each country,
budget of $7 000. Will that cover and can i do route as this?
Not sure as I’m not really up to date on north Asian cost of travel (Japan, South Korea, etc.) and I don’t know how you plan to travel (overland? flying?). It sounds like an ambitious plan to me though! Personally, I would go to half the country and double the time in each, or you just end up seeing a lot of airports and capitals only. Then again, I don’t know your goals for this trip 🙂
Wow Thank you so much for the update and the info. My girl and i have been planning since last November for a 2 months trip. I read your work and it helps allot. Keep up the good job buddy.
What best romantic sites, can you recommendation includes , food, sea view, activities such as caving, hiking, islands and accommodation. I hope she says yes after asking if u know what i mean. hahahah
That’s a tough one! I guess Bali is traditionally thought of as being quite romantic.
Fantastic tips, facts and info regarding traveling SEA and much appreciated as me and my gf are planning a 3 month trip through SEA.
We are looking for a bit of advise or at least some sort of like guidance too see if our ‘plan’ is alright or if this is a common route for backpackers.
Start Philippines -> Hanoi -> Ho Chi Minh -> Cambodia -> Laos -> North Thailand -> South Thailand. Of course with all the stops on the way, but after Thailand we were either thinking of Myanmar(Burma) or Malaysia (if time and money are there).
My question is: Is this a common route for backpackers and possible?
2: if time and money is available .. Myanmar or Malaysia?
Many thanks mate.
Sorry for my slow reply Morten! I suppose it’s not a common route, but it seems sensible to me. Between those countries, I would personally go for Myanmar for the cultural experience.
No worries mate, all good!
Just a quick question regarding visa’s to the different countries, is there anything we should be aware of or is it very easy to get it once you cross the border?
With your EU passport you normally just show up and get a visa on arrival, so very easy. It’s more complicated with Vietnam though. See: https://indietraveller.co/how-to-get-a-vietnam-visa/ Myanmar I believe also still requires making some arrangements in advance.
US$20 to US$30 in Cambodia sounds rather unrealistic now, the enter fees have soared!
Angkor Wat 1-day pass: US$37
Angkor Wat 2-day pass: US$62
(Don’t forget the cost of hiring tuk-tuk…)
Getting to some of the less visited temples can be very expensive too (e.g. Preah Vihear) as you probably need to get there by private transport, cheaper if you can go there with friends or other travelers.
Phnom Penh Royal Palace: US$10 now
Killing Fields memorial: US$6 now (not sure)
Angkor Museum: US$12
Fortunately, it seems Vietnam remains very inexpensive, though some Taiwanese travelers said dining in Vietnam can be rather expensive
Cheers for the update on Angkor Wat. Do you remember how much hiring the tuk-tuk cost?
Based on the food and accommodation prices I collected in January I’d say travelling the country at large is still possible at that budget, but if your main target is Siem Reap / Angkor Wat on a short visit then the higher entry fees would definitely have an impact.
thanks for the detailed budget overview for backpacking SEA. In addition to the question which appeared here regarding how expensive Cambodia got, we can link here our article about our expenses for traveling Cambodia for 1 month. Budget for person 2 years ago was around 15$ per person.
Also to have a look for budget rooms and scooter rentals:
To sum it up: It’s still possible to travel Cambodia on budget if you share tuk tuks and avoid overstaying in Siem Reap and instead spend more time in the rural areas.
A Couple of Countries
Hi, I looked for some of the accomodation you recommend but they are permantely closed! Is that right?
Hi, wonderful article!! I am def using this a a reference. Learned so much. I will be going to SEA for a for 4 months. I am a solo female traveler. The countries I’m going to are thialand, loas, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bali. In this amount of time what countries should I spend more time? I’m interested in more nature .vs. partying. My budget is also about $1000 a month.do you also recommend getting visas when I arrive. I arrive in Bangkok. Thank you for wonderful article
Heya! If you like nature then Laos is a nice country to stay a bit longer, also northern Thailand and northern Vietnam (Sapa etc.). 4 months should be plenty of time for these countries, so you can play it by ear and move on when you think you’ve seen everything you wanted to see in a place. Visas on arrival are typically easy to get if you’re from a Western country. Make sure you check for Vietnam though as this country still usually requires already having a visa before you cross the border. You can get them in Laos or Cambodia during your trip, but you might have to wait a couple of days for them to be delivered.
Sounds like you and I have a very similar itinerary. I’ll be leaving New York at the end of June for three to four months.
Hi. Love the blog.
I’m travelling se.a for five months, starting in july. I was wondering if you would recomand bying tickets in the region before travelling, or just during? What is the cheepest, and what would you recomand?
Hey Sara. By tickets do you mean flights? On such a long trip I think it’s generally better to book things (flights, tours, accommodation) only a few steps at a time and while you’re traveling. It’s often cheaper that way, and you keep things flexible.
mate, this is one of the most detailed and accurate info that i have seen about back packing. very well written and thank you for your writting.
Do you have any info on getting visas?
I’m pretty confused and don’t really know where to start.
When you say your budjet is like 35-40 us dollars a day .. does that include the travelling from country to country or is that an additional cost. I’m trying to figure out how much I need to save for 4 months in se.a
That budget takes into account local overland travel (e.g. buses and trains)
That really depends on what country you mean.
Amazing amount of info – thanks for sharing your experience!
Hi Marek!, Awesome article, thank you very much for your research. I wanted to ask you, have you been in China? I would like to know the prices compared to South East Asia
I’ve not yet been to China unfortunately. Searching on booking sites for accommodation costs and looking on sites like Price of Travel might help.
I’m looking to travel around SE Asia in January 2017 from the UK for approx. 2 months. I was thinking of starting in Philippines and finishing in Thailand. could you give me any advice on which is the best country route to take on a budget.
Since it’s such a spread out archipelago many routes are possible in the Philippines – have a look at my Philippines page for more. From Manila you could fly into Bangkok, go north in Thailand to explore the area in Chiang Mai, then head back south to the Thai beaches and islands (most people like to put some beach time near the end of their trip).
Excellent information, I was thinking about visiting Cambodia and Vietnam on a shoestring budget and this just answered many of my questions. I am from India and have only been to Nepal other than India; not much acquainted with hostel accommodation. Hence I have a question: If we are two people visiting Cambodia and Vietnam,does it make much sense in booking dorm beds(Since we will have to pay for 2 beds)? It looks like booking a private basic room is a better option. Are 2 people allowed in one single private room? Not sure if I expressed myself well.
Sharing a room between 2 people will unusuall be equal or cheaper to getting dorms, so that certainly makes sense.
I’m planning my backpacking route at the moment and would like to go from Bangkok into Cambodia from there, Vietnam, Laos and then go back into North Thailand for Chaing Mai, then through the crossing into Myanmar. However, I heard the multi-entry visa is very expensive? Are backpackers who usually take this route happy to pay this extra cost? Is it just me being tight with my money? lol
Not sure which country you’re from (as things can be different depending on your passport), but instead of a multi-entry visa for Thailand you could just get a visa-on-arrival twice.
Fantastic article! My boyfriend and I are traveling to Southeast Asia this September and I am in the process of figuring out our budget. This article is very helpful so thank you for posting! I do have a question for you regarding accommodation; if it is a couple, would you say that the price would be the same for each individual or would you say it would be slightly cheaper?
Yes as a couple, travel costs will be slightly cheaper. It’s easier to share certain costs, for instance transportation (taxis etc.) 🙂
Hey, really useful post here! Loved the way you broke down and explained all the prices in the different countries. Super useful, Thanks! 🙂
You demand respect for other cultures and yet your vitriolic post is full of hatred and disrespect towards English and Australian tourists.
I understand that you may have had some negative experience but that gives you no right to throw everyone in the same category.
Also, I am not sure what problem you have with swimwear or young people enjoying themselves.
Hey Marek. I love this post! My boyfriend and I are finding it extremely helpful as we plan for our trip to Southeast Asia this summer. One question though: When you say “$25 per day” or “$35 per day” as a suggested backpacker budget, does that figure include the cost of a night at a hostel, or are you recommending $25, $35, etc. in addition to the costs of accommodation? Thanks for taking the time to share all of this info. 🙂
Hey Maddie, glad you’re finding this post is useful! That per-day figure is meant to include all your daily expenses, e.g. accommodation, transportation, food, sightseeing, etc. (However, I’m not counting any one-time expenses you might make before travelling, for instance for travel insurance, visas, buying a new backpack, etc.)
Hi Marek! This is awesome!! Now I feel my nerd research before travelling is not at all alone! Lots of work for me to process all this info though! So thanks a lot for saving me heaps of time.
Superb article, in fact your comprehensive reviews and helpful tips have inspired to to undertake a backpacking trip around my own backyard of Southeast Asia at the end of the year.
Just a very minor point to note after reading your article, when I was reading this part on Singapore:
“Prices are essentially similar to those in the developed world.”
I can’t help but feel as if Singapore is being regarded as a third world country simply because of its geographical location. Singapore IS part of the developed world, in fact the most recent survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) continues to place Singapore as the most expensive city in the world to live in. Singapore’s GDP also trumps most countries within the Western Europe as well as the Americas.
Nevertheless, it was a excellent article! I hope that you don’t take offence with my overzealous patriotic remarks, do continue to post on your travels!
Hi Tham. Oh dear, I must not have had my coffee before writing that sentence. Thanks for correcting me – you’re totally right of course and I’ll amend the post soon. 🙂
great post, very useful thanks. i never went to the adamant coast only the gulf coast of thailand and didn’t find it too expensive other than diving or a heavy nights drinking. my top tip is stick to drinking buckets when out or buy bottles of sangsom from the 7/11 and use it to make some new buddy in your hostel before you go out. always a winner.
Hi Marek. Love this post, the comparative numbers are really helpful. Do you include travel insurance or getting TO the country in your numbers?
Thanks! I’m only counting day-to-day costs in this post, not including up front investments like flight, insurance or equipment.
Great article, Myself and my girlfriend are travelling on the 10th of February for 167 days. We will be going to Thailand Laos Malaysia Indonesia and Cambodia. We will be taking with us just over 9000 euro and have our flights booked travel insurance bought and vaccinations done.
I’m wondering if you think this will be enough money? We would like to see and do as much as we can and will be mostly eating street food but will be staying in our own rooms and not in dorms.
Hmmm translated to around 800 EUR/month per person it might be a bit tight – the usual recommendation is around 900 or 1000 EUR a month. That’s without knowing your exact travel style though, so it’s always hard to say. If you watch your spending you will probably be OK though. Keep an eye on your budget in southern Thailand or the touristy parts of Bali as the euros can flow more quickly here – maybe go elsewhere for beaches (e.g. Cambodia) as it’ll be much cheaper. If you share basic fan-only (non AC) rooms your accommodation shouldn’t be any more expensive than dorm beds.
Nice post! My wife and I traveled this year around Asia, including SEA. We really thought the costs were pretty similar. It’s hard to make it cheaper unless you stay longer and prepare your own food (live more like local)
If someone is interested in another cost opinion (from our trip), can check them here: http://www.librethinking.com/2015/12/backpacking-asia-20152016-travel-budget.html
That’s a fantastic breakdown. Thanks for sharing!
manila is the worse traffic in the world and hotel in tourist area are expensive.. i recommend vietnam or cambodia..
Thank you for the information specially that you didn’t hide the date when you post it 🙂
Very useful!! Thank you very very much! 🙂
Nice collection. It may useful specially for me. Thank you