A Beginners’ Guide For Budgeting A Trip To Southeast Asia

Wednesday 08th, April 2015 / 14:01 Written by
A Beginners’ Guide For Budgeting A Trip To Southeast Asia
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Southeast Asia is one of our planet’s great, low-cost travel destinations and although the cost of travelling there has been going up in recent years, the entire region still offers incredible value for money. If you search for what a long-term trip will cost online, you’ll find a wide variety of budgets from $10 / day to $150 / day, but what budget is right for you? How much will you spend? This article will help you to figure out what kind of traveller you are and what you will likely spend on a long-term trip to Southeast Asia.

How Much Things Cost in Southeast Asia

The costs of rooms, food, transport and activities varies a lot from country to country in this region. The largest variations are in Singapore and Brunei where prices are significantly higher. The below expenses are based on our personal experience in all countries besides the two listed above.

Hotel Rooms:

Budget rooms in most Southeast Asian countries are very basic accommodations with a bed, 4 walls, a window and most likely a shared bathroom. Mid-range accommodation may get you A/C, a larger bed and more natural light. The best value for money is found in mid-range lodgings. Rooms in top-end hotels will be comparable to luxury suites in any part of the world. At the low-end of this spectrum ($100 / night) you may be seaside with A/C, room service and an infinity pool. Above this, the sky is the limit.

  • Dorms = $7 / night
  • Budget = $15 / night
  • Mid-range = $30 / night
  • Top-end = $100+ / night

Meals:

Cheap meals on the street like Pad Thai and Vietnamese noodles can be found everywhere around Southeast Asia. Cheap restaurants frequented by tourists often have similar fare for a slightly higher cost, while fancy restaurants can bring your budget up considerably, they often offer specialty local dishes and western meals on the menu.

  • Street Food = $1.50 / meal
  • Cheap Restaurant = $3 / meal
  • Expensive Restaurant = $10 / meal

Transportation:

If you’re travelling by local bus and train in this region, don’t expect much. No air-conditioning and cramped space is the norm. Tourist buses are still very affordable but offer a significant upgrade in comfort with large seats and A/C. Domestic flights are also very affordable in S.E.A thanks to airlines like Air Asia, but if you fly everywhere the costs will add up quickly.

  • Local Trains & Buses = Average $0.50 / hr
  • Tourist Buses = Average $1.50 / hr
  • Cheap Domestic Flights = $30 – $60

Tours:

There are a wide variety of tours on offer in Southeast Asia, from volcano hikes in Indonesia to meeting Long-Neck Tribes in Myanmar, they are all a good value. Keep in mind that different tour operators can vary significantly in style and quality, so search around on Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet before committing to a particular company.

  • Snorkel Tours = $30 / Day
  • Diving = $20 / Tank
  • Hiking Guide = $15 / Day

What Kind Of Traveller Are You?

To accurately figure out how much you will spend in Southeast Asia, you will first need to decide what kind of traveller you want to be. Will you be staying in cheap dorm rooms or luxury hotels? Will you ride local buses or take internal flights? How many activities will you do each week? All of these factors will drastically effect your overall list of expenses.

Below we’ve listed the three levels of traveller that we’ve mentioned in this post, look at the description and decide which category you fall under.

Budget Traveller – $30 / Day (Couple = $50 / day)

In this range you’re looking at dorms and cheap single rooms (double rooms for couples). You’ll be eating at local restaurants pretty much every day of the week, with the odd splurge for a western meal once in a while. To keep in this budget, you’ll have to take local transport and tourist buses for the duration of your stay, with no money left over for internal flights. You’ll have some money left over for the occasional tour, but will probably be limited to one excursion every 10 days or so.

Mid-Range Traveller – $50 / Day (Couple = $80 / day)

This is where the best value for money is found in Southeast Asia. At $50 / day, you’ll be able to stay in nice rooms (many with A/C & TV’s) and many of them will include breakfast, which will save you a couple of bucks each day. Expect to take comfortable tourist buses pretty much everywhere you go and you can enjoy a domestic and international flight once in a while. You can go diving and partake in tours every week or so and you’ll be eating at nice restaurants every day. You’ll still want to sample that delicious street food though! Doing so will save you money and enhance your travel experience.

Top-End Traveller – $150+ / Day (Couple = $250 / day)

At the lower end of this scale you’ll be staying in cheaper top-end hotels, eating at nice restaurants and travelling everywhere by plane (if you want to). Even though you have the money to burn, we still recommend taking some ground transport to get a better feel for the land and the region’s people. You can pretty much splurge on any tour, snorkel trip or dive excursion that you want and you can sip on fine wine in the evenings. If you can travel on this budget long-term, we applaud you, but we still urge you to get down on the street and meet the people. Eat some local food, take some tuk-tuk rides and still experience the region from a local’s perspective if possible.

A Breakdown Of Country Budgets:

As we said earlier in this article, the cost of travel in Southeast Asia varies greatly between countries. Below you’ll find approximate costs for solo travellers in each country.

Note: Budgets are written “Country: Budget Traveller / Mid-range Traveller / Top-End Traveller

Thailand: $30 / $50 / $100+

Cambodia: $28 / $45 / $80+

Laos: $35 / $55 / $110+

Vietnam: $30 / $50 / $100+

Malaysia: $25 / $40 / $75+

Singapore: $60 / $75 / $200+

Indonesia: $22 / $35 / $70+

Myanmar: $30 / $50 / $100+

Philippines: $35 / $55 / $110+

Brunei: $60 / $70 / $175+

Of course these budgets are just averages of what people will spend while travelling around this region, but they should give you a very good idea of what your daily costs will be in Southeast Asia. We personally find that the most comfortable travel is found in the mid-range level, where your costs aren’t too high, but you’re able to sleep in nice rooms and experience much of what the region has to offer. If you’re heading to Southeast Asia, use this as a rough guide and budget your trip accordingly.

Budget travellers will spend around $900 / month, mid-range around $1,500 / month and top-end $3,000 or more. No matter how you travel Southeast Asia, it still offers great value for money and you’ll have an amazing adventure. Enjoy!

Click here for more on how much Southeast Asia will cost.

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