Here we are again travelers! We recently wrote about how to travel Southeast Asia on a budget for those of you heading there soon.
Now it’s East Asia’s turn and I’m here to give you some tips to wander around these lands (and not break the bank along the way!):
- South Korea
Go for a hostel
There is a stereotype that says that in China, hostels are not clean or not worth it. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, they are pretty well rated and can be easily comparable to an actual hotel - maybe 3*. You could save up to 50% of the price and will find English-speaking staff and very useful travel resources.
Do Not Spend Much Time in Big Cities
Just so you know, for one day of expenses in a big Chinese city, you could spend around 3 or 4 pretty much anywhere else. In towns or smaller cities, you will be skipping crowds, food and local activities will be so much cheaper and you’ll have the chance to connect with insiders in a deeper way.
Choose the Train
Please! Not only will you be saving a lot of money, which can make your trip longer in the end, but you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint incredibly. Trains in China are pretty comfortable, especially if you choose the ones meant for the “hard-sleepers”. If you already know some basic Chinese, try to engage in a conversation with some locals. You’ll be surprised how friendly they are!
Enjoy a Typical Chinese Restaurant (in Groups)
Food in China is very cheap, and it’s known that you’ll enjoy it the most if you share some dishes with other people. Even if you travel alone, go with other travelers, it’s always fun and enriching! Street food like dumplings or noodles soup are usually around 0.50$, but meals in restaurants is around 5$, so both options are tasty and affordable!
Stay in capsule hotels
Well, capsules are not actually a room, but they do the trick if the budget is tight. For 20$, you can sleep in one of these, have access to a toilet, electricity and if you’re lucky, a small TV. Yes, they’re a classic in Japan’s culture, but they’re also cheap and clean. A great option for travelers that don’t stay that long at one place.
Japan Rail Passes & Buses, depending on your kind of trip
Japan Rail Passes will be the best option whether you’re visiting several towns. For a one-week pass, you have to pay around 260$. Yes, it’s expensive. Japanese transportation is always, keep that in mind, especially cabs and bullet trains. However, if you’re just going to only one city, go for buses, which are clean and a true reflection of the local culture.
Eat at Convenience Stores
It’s not a very fancy plan, but… you’ll spend way less than in restaurants or even cooking yourself. In case you didn’t know, fresh fruits and vegetables are really expensive in Japan. Places like Family Mart offer pre-cooked dishes and meals for less than 5$.
Embrace (Free) Nature Tourism
Nature in Japan is something you have to see when traveling there. The Sumida or Yoyogi parks are beautiful at any time of the year, but mostly in autumn, when their golden leaves fill the air and floor. Plus, locals LOVE this kind of nature moments, so it’s perfect to connect with them or make new friends. Who knows?
Sleep in a Korean Spa
Yes, I’m serious! Bath Houses or “Jimjilbang”, how they call them, are great to save cash and spend how many nights you want. You’ll be sleeping on thin mattresses, maybe with other people around you, but it’s quite common to do this and it won’t cost you more than 10$ per day.
Enjoy Street Market’s Food
Such a classic in Korea and really worth the visit! Not only because it’s a great way to spot how locals move around and live, but because for only 4 dollars (or even less), you’ll be able to eat a decent portion of noodles or almost any Korean dish you’re craving for around that price. Budget-friendly and delicious!
Buses are the key!
South Korea is not a huge country, so buses are a great option, whether you’re visiting Seoul or hopping from one city to another. The quality of the transportation is quite good, highways are safe and the journey doesn’t take you longer than a train, so it’s a win-win. Moreover, avoiding cars or even taxis does help the environment not to pollute that much!
Cycle Around Korea and Immerse Into Their Culture
You can do both things at the same time, since the country, aside from having some beautiful National Parks to enjoy fresh air, has an amazing bike path system which allows you to go wherever you want and get to know a more rural Korea. Going out from the big, crowder cities lets you know, not only beautiful hidden spots, but amazing and kind locals to talk to. Just learn some basic expressions!
Stay in a ger
Okay, so this option is for the travelers who don’t mind countryside and a really local-like home to spend the night. A ger is a tent built with a thick material that is still used in more rural areas. Just try to make the most out of it and you’ll be very likely to learn some well-preserved traditions. If you’re a city person, average hostels in places like Ulan Bator or Mörön can cost around 13$ per night.
Go for the Villages Meals
This is, hand down, the most affordable option you’ll find to eat a good soup or a typical dish in Mongolia. Go to the outskirts of towns and enjoy your lunch or dinner for only 2$. If heading to bigger cities, a cheap meal is around 5$, which isn’t bad, but won’t be as good quality.
Plan Your Treks Around the Country
It is totally possible to arrange this kind of experience, only with a tent and some food supplies. Find a river which is not very complicated to follow and start trekking through some wonderful areas that will fill your heart with pure air. Depending on where you move, you’ll also find nomad families and a wild environment that will make you fall in love!
Visit a Monastery to sleep in
This option may not seem very adventurous, but monasteries are all over the country and conform a big part of your trip to Mongolia, since all aspects of the local culture are filled with Tibetan Buddhism lessons. Witnessing monks routines can be very enriching for anyone who wants to go a bit further in their experience.
Get a hostel in a residential block
Hostels in Taiwan are a great option. They are very clean and many of them are located in residential areas that will make so easy to enjoy the local mood for a few days. You’ll see locals coming back from work in the afternoon and will be able to hang out with other like-minded travelers in your cozy hostel for around 15$ per night.
Definitely, the most affordable option for moving around. Intercity bus system is pretty well organised and will take you to whatever city you want to visit, even to the smallest and hidden towns. It’s faster than the train and for days spent in bigger cities, the intra-city buses are also cheap and well-connected!
Have Your Meals in Local Shops
Food in Taiwan is very, very cheap. And tasty! You don’t need to go to any fast food place, which will also make you spend all your food budget in one meal, having some amazing local shops and trucks where noodles, carrots cake or a ham and eggs toast won’t cost you more than 2$ each.
Enjoy the Night Markets
Especially if you stop at Taipei. Let’s be honest, party at Taiwan is no such a big deal, there’s not much of a drinking or backpacker culture there, but what it actually is pretty buoyant during the nights are the markets. From the Ningxia, to the Tonghua, to the Shilin Night Market… All of them filled with typical delicious food and games to spend some great few hours.
Now, this is it for my tips on how to travel Asia on a budget, concretely, East Asia, a part of the world that’s not appreciated enough, in my opinion. As always, when heading to any part of the world, remember to be kind with the environment, to use as many green resources as you can and make the most out of every culture you get to know. Nurture your soul with their wisdom and you’ll feel like you’ve traveled way more than you actually did. Sustainability and respect are key for any trip you embark on!