Beautiful Southeast Asia can be pretty challenging to cover if you’re traveling there for the first time. And even more if you want to do it spending not that much money.
If you research, it’s a destination that offers so many options… no matter what your expectations are. So, let’s do this, if you want some good tips on how to travel Asia on a budget, concretely Southeast Asia, keep reading!
Go During the Monsoons
All the countries than conform Southeast Asia, as you might know, have a similar tropical climate that doesn’t change much throughout the year. It’s during monsoons when heavy duty rains and winds take these areas, especially from May to November. Well… this is the period when prices are the lowest! Take advantage of this to negotiate the as much as you can. You’ll get some extra water on the way, but that’s okay if you manage to save quite some cash.
Do Not Pre-Book Any Accommodation
Having everything booked in advance is going to be more expensive in most cases. It’s very common in most countries to just arrive to any city, especially in places like Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam, and wander around a few hostels looking for the cheapest option. If you do travel during the low season, negotiating a reduction of the price and sharing your room is the best you can do at hostels. In case you’re arriving late at night, you can always book only one night and do some research next day to see if a more suitable option is available.
Say Yes to Street Food
We all love some nice restaurants after hours and hours walking. But, when thinking of budgeting, the easiest way to save and try some really delicious locally made food is to buy it in the streets! Spicy noodles and fried insects, among many other Asian specialties, are going to be your best friends. There’s nothing better than coming back from a trip having opened your palate to new tastes and experiences.
Do not plan in advance
I assure you it’s not necessary. Get off the “tourist mode” and get lost. Yes, go to places that do not appear in the must-visit spots of each country, the ones that aren’t prepared for massive tourism. In places like these, planning your activities day by day in the actual town with insiders, is 100% possible and is going to save you so much time and money. You don’t have to pay to anyone else to book for you and you can even get special offers and visit places with actual locals!
Some awesome places like Battambang in Cambodia or Kalibaru in Indonesia are some offbeat villages that will capture your heart and allow you to stay in contact with nature!
$25/day are more than enough
On the other hand, you do have to set a daily budget for not ending your trip with no money in your bank account. Believe, it can easily happen. Spending $25/day in most countries is totally viable if you take into account very basic accommodation, food and local transportation. You’ll also want to save a bit of extra cash not only for contingencies, but for those splurges you deserve in your dream trip!
Go for Nature Activities in Small Towns
Unless you REALLY want to know bigger cities around Southeast Asia, they can be (obviously), much more expensive than small towns. All kinds of activities and monuments are going to cost you more and will be crowded, which won’t allow you to enjoy the local culture, customs and people as well as if you head to smaller places. Slow travel as a way of enjoying way more your trip is the way to go here. Nature activities like trekking, cycling or diving will be almost half the price of a touristy landmark in a big city and you can be guided by locals who will for sure show you the best spots that no one else knows!
Use Motorbikes and Public Transportation
Both options, bus and motorbike, are the most affordable ways to move around Southeast Asia. When you visit countries like Thailand or Singapore, you have available so many bus lines that can take you as far as you want, and even overnight buses for longer trips where you can (pretty comfortably) sleep. When it comes to using a motorbike, rentals are really inexpensive and it’s a more independent way of knowing different places. Just think about taking a driving local lesson before getting yourself into the road. Traffic can be quite chaotic, just saying! You can even consider tuk-tuks as a way of wandering Asia, which usually tend to be a bit less affordable, but you would be supporting local economy and wouldn't have to worry about driving!
Hope you found these tips helpful, travelers! Expect soon a part 2 of this same article, focusing on East Asia, another surprising and charming destination for you to visit! If you’ve been on a trip around Southeast Asia spending the least and know some other pieces of advice, we are all ears!
Credit main image: Stephanie Ecate