How to Budget for Backpacking Southeast Asia

by Krystin Ross

Southeast Asia is the dream for a budget traveller. Not only is it full of culture, landscape, delicious food and ancient histories, but it’s affordable for the average person without compromising on what you want to see and do. From the beach huts on Thailand’s coast to the Ancient wonder of Angkor Wat your trip will be brilliant and within your means.

The lowest budget to live freely would be $35 a day or approx. $1,050 for the month. That will cover your transport, accommodation, food, excursions and a cheeky beer or five.


Accommodation was probably the easiest part of travelling through SA. You get off the bus or the train and there are at least ten guys waiting to show you their guesthouse. Finding local accommodation is not only more affordable but it will give you a less “backpackery” experience.

Budget Tip – Don’t pre-book your accommodation. A lot of guesthouse don’t advertise online and it’s very easy to find a road full of places to stay and you can bargain the price. If you don’t mind carrying your bags for a bit, this is a great saving option!


Country Breakdown

Thailand – You can typically find rooms/bamboo huts to rent anywhere between $6 – $15

Vietnam – Here you generally pay per person for a room which is approx. $5-$8

Cambodia – You can find hotels as cheap as $2 (if you are more than one person) in the less touristy areas, otherwise you are looking anywhere between $5-$8

Laos – Rooms in Laos are generally between $5-$10 per night

Indonesia – Indonesia tends to be slightly more on the pricey side at $15-$20 a night depending on whether or not you are sharing a room.

Myanmar (Burma) – Myanmar is also slightly on the expensive side, rooms will typically start at $20 per night





Food is literally one of the greatest things about travelling through Southeast Asia. The cuisine is delicious! Colourful, flavourful and, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can find some very unique dishes to the regions you’re travelling through. Best eats (when your stomach adjusts) is definitely street food, You can eat as cheap as $1-2 a meal. Moving up to $4-$8 in restaurants and not usually more then $10 if you’re craving western food.

Budget Tip: Eat local food! It’s delicious and half the cost.


Transport through Southeast Asia is incredibly easy. Hop into any of the hundred travel

agencies and you can book your tickets from city to city. Inner city transport is typically done through tuk tuks, taxis, motorbike taxis or the local bus if you can figure it out (which is by far your cheapest option).

Taxies & Tuk Tuks

If you can, try to get the meter price for taxis, however this can be a frustrating conversation as most taxis will tell you it’s broken so they can charge you double. However, you have a much better chance of getting a meter taxi if you flag it down and ask for the meter price before you get in.

Tuk tuks you will have to bargain for, so hone your skills in and be patient when reaching a price you are both happy with. Standard bargaining is somewhere in the middle of the initial asking price, so slash it in thirds and work up from there.

Buses & Trains

Transportation does vary depending on the length of the trip. You can find tickets for $5- $8 for 5-6 hour journeys. Overnight trips will be closer to $10-$15. Vietnam has a really great hop on hop off bus system that takes you from either Hanoi or Saigon for $50 and stops at all the major cities. If you decide to take local transport, you might find yourself squished 50 people deep in a 30 seater bus with a chicken on your lap but the tickets will be closer to $3-$5.



From exploring ancient cities, rock climbing, hiking the jungle and visiting hundreds of temples there is literally so much to see and do. Activities and tours are pretty cheap, generally they won’t cost more than $20. However, the multi day passes or tours like Angkor Wat and Ha Long Bay is closer to $40.

Why Asia Can Become Expensive

Everything has suddenly become so cheap you find yourself able to afford most things. The night markets and shopping is excellent and the parties are even better.

Your biggest expense will probably be your partying. A room can be as cheap as $5 a night but a beer is going to cost approx. $3 on a night out. So if you’re well into your party, maybe budget an extra $150 for a month of travel for your nights out.

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