Some typical costs
Accommodation in Southeast Asia is really cheap, especially if you are traveling on a budget or backpacking. You can find dorm rooms for as little as 8,000-20,000 KHR or 16,000-40,500 LAK ($2-5 USD) in parts of Cambodia and Laos. In Thailand, you will typically pay 200-440 THB ($6-15 USD) per night. In Vietnam, expect to pay 100,000-175,000 VND ($5-8 USD). In Indonesia, between 100,000-135,000 IDR ($8-10 USD). Throughout the region, you typically expect to pay around $15-20 per night for a private room with A/C.
Simple guesthouses throughout Southeast Asia generally cost $10 USD per night for a basic room, fan (sometimes air- conditioning), and hot water. If you want something nicer that includes a more comfortable bed and a TV, expect to pay $15–20 USD per night. If you want the bare basics (small rooms and not the comfiest beds), you can find rooms for as little as $5 USD per night, especially in rural areas.
For backpackers, budgeting $10-20 USD per night for accommodation is pretty safe no matter where you go in Southeast Asia. If you’re looking for something higher end or with A/C, expect to pay $20-50 per night for a room. Anything over that and the sky is the limit!
While traveling Southeast Asia, street food is the most popular form of eating. On average, these meals cost no more than $1.50 USD. You find these stalls throughout this region lining major streets and at the markets. In Thailand, you even find markets specifically for street food. In Singapore, you’ll find street food (or “hawker stands” as they are called there) to be around 4.25 SGD ($3 USD) for a meal. Even if you go into small local restaurants, the price does not increase that much.
Food you can find for $2 USD at a street stall will only cost $3-5 USD at a local restaurant. If you went into a restaurant in Thailand, you’d pay around 135 THB ($5 USD) for a pad Thai that would have cost 35 THB ($1 USD) on the street. In Cambodia, street food, which isn’t as abundant as I would like it to be, is around 4,070 KHR ($1 USD), while restaurants charge around 12,215 KHR ($3 USD) for a local dish like amok (coconut milk dish) or luc lac (pepper gravy beef).
Western meals, including burgers, bad pizza, and sandwiches, cost around $5 USD for cheaply made food. This is going to be the most expensive part of your food budget in this region. If you want something that actually tastes like it does back home, you’re looking at spending at least $10 USD for your meal.
Additionally, in the big cities like Bangkok, KL, or Singapore, you’ll find world-class Michelin star meals. There’s a growing cutting-edge foodie scene in the region and, if you want to splurge, you’re going to find some really good meals.
Activities in Southeast Asia are pretty cheap. Most Buddhist temples throughout the area are free to enter, though some of the more famous and larger ones, like Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand; the Temple of Literature in Hanoi; and Vat Xieng Toung in Luang Prabang, Laos, cost $3–5 USD to enter. Most day tours only cost around $20 USD, often times less. If you are going jungle trekking, seeing elephants, climbing mountains, or doing overnight trips, prices can go as high as $50 USD.
Learning to scuba dive will set you back $300-400 USD, but on the island of Ko Tao in Thailand, the course is 9,930 THB ($300 USD) and includes free accommodation for the duration of the course, which lasts three or four days. The three-day pass to Angkor Wat is 252,820 KHR ($60 USD). Jungle trekking costs 1,000-1,685 THB ($30-50 USD) per day, though you can usually get better prices in groups. White-water rafting will cost around 200 MYR ($45 USD). For everything else, check the country and city guides for prices on various activities.
Recommended budget for Banana Pancake Trail
How much does it cost to visit Southeast Asia? Not that much! In Southeast Asia, if you are backpacking and traveling on a budget, you need around $25-35 USD per day to get by. This is a suggested budget assuming you are staying in a hostel (dorms or cheap guesthouses), eating out at local markets and street stalls, not drinking a ton, and using local transportation. Southeast Asia travel does not have to be too expensive.
If you want to live a little and spend more, you are looking at closer to $50 USD per day and that would include nicer accommodation, more Western food, flights, and nicer bars! However, in general, the region is pretty cheap and if you stick to doing what the locals do, you’ll be hard pressed to spend much money.
||Average Daily Cost
||$2.50 per hour
Money Saving Tips
Backpacking Southeast Asia is really cheap. You can get by on as little as $15 USD per day if you want (though $25 USD is more realistic). There’s little opportunity to really spend a lot of money since everything is already so inexpensive. The two reasons why most people end up overspending is that they eat a lot of western food and drink way too much. If you want to save money while traveling in this part of the world, cut down your drinking and Western food. After all, did you travel halfway around the world to eat a crappy burger? Doubtful. If you drink a lot or eat Western food, you’ll end up spending close to $35-45 USD per day.
How do you save money in Southeast Asia then? Here are a few hacks to cut down your costs:
- Couchsurf – Accommodation is cheap in Southeast Asia, but nothing is cheaper than free! Use Couchsurfing to stay with locals who have extra beds and couches for free. You will meet great people too that can show you around. It is one of my favorite travel services out there and I always walk away with friends.
- Book tours and day trips as a group – You have more negotiation power when you are with a group of people buying multiple things. Traveling alone? Meet a friend at a hostel and see if they want to join the same tour as you.
- Don’t book in advance – Don’t book any tours or activities before you get to your destination. They will be much cheaper when you arrive as you will be able to negotiate a lower price. Anything you see online is going to be more expensive than you need to pay!
- Eat on the street – You can pick up tasty local fare for cheap! Street side snacks, soups, and noodles will keep your wallet fat! Markets are your best bet for finding seriously cheap and delicious food. Street stalls are the staple diet of locals in the region and should be your staple too. The food is the best too.
- Bargain hard – Nothing is ever at face value here. Bargain with sellers as most of the time, the price they have quoted is way higher. There is a haggling culture in the region so play the game and save some money. You will never get the local price, but you might come close!
- Minimize your drinking – Drinks really add up. Even with cheap drinks, if you are not aware, you’ll end up spending more money on beer than on food and accommodation.
- Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier will come particularly in handy in Southeast Asia since you cannot drink the tap water. Save money and thousands of plastic bottles and get a bottle that can purify the tap water for you.