Backpacking Costs in Southeast Asia – How to Budget in 2023

On my first backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, which lasted 9 months, I was Surprised How cheap it is (at least by Western standards).

As a backpacker, I spent about $35 per day on average around the area, which covered all of my transportation and tours, all of my hostel (and sometimes hotel) stays, plus eating out 3 times a day.

Since this trip, I have been returning to Southeast Asia regularly. It’s just good value and Full of amazing places to visit.

But if you’re planning a Southeast Asia budget, be careful: Not all places are equally budget-friendly In the past few years, Prices have also changed somewhat. In this 2023 update, I’ll give you an idea of ​​current prices.

General Costs

Even though I’m from Europe, I still list prices in US dollars as an easy international reference point.

Average costs in Southeast Asia

If you’re on a longer trip, plan to spend At least about $35 per day per person On average, or about $1000 per month.

That is if you are frugal and travel backpacker style, using budget accommodation and eating mainly local food. This number does not account for pre-trip expenses, only the total cost of your travel experience within the region. Some countries are more expensive than others, but this is a rough average when traveling across multiple countries.

For two people sharing, your total costs may be slightly lower than for a solo traveler, as you’ll often save a little money by sharing things like taxi rides or accommodation. Take the above number as a rough pitch only; Well in this post I will go into more detail.

Pre-trip expenses

Based on my first trip to Southeast Asia many years ago (but converted to current prices), pre-trip expenses were approx. $1300.

I spent approximately:

This certainly doesn’t represent pocket money, but keep in mind that once you’re in the area, your daily costs can be very low compared to many other parts of the world. This means that The longer you travel, the more you benefit from your inifromal investment to get there. What might be expensive for a 2-week vacation becomes comparatively cheaper for a 3-month backpacking trip.

Plane tickets have become more expensive recently. However, in 2023, I still find round-trip prices from London to Bangkok as low as $750.

The normal average economy class return from Europe to Bangkok is now closer to around $1,000, but if you try all the options, you can find better deals. Uses Google Trips, kiwi or Sky Skiwi or To search for the options available to you. Look for flights to Bangkok, Singapore, or Kuala L, Lumpur as these are the main hubs in the region.

The key is to be loud and lexible with your dates. You may also want to include a layover somewhere like Bahrain, Dubai, or Istanbul. The airlines there often have good deals on flights to Asia if you are coming from Europe. If you’re coming from the US, you may find good deals with stops in South Korea or Japan.

If you’re a backpacker going on an adventure rather than a family with kids going on holiday, you’ll likely have more flexibility to get one of those cheaper prices on a less popular date. You can do things a little differently than the average tourist and save a lot on your travel budget this way.

It also helps a lot if you Learn how learn carry-on luggage only! This allows you to choose cheaper air tickets without check-in baggage.

Is insurance worth it?

You may have noticed that my budget includes travel insurance. Although it may seem expensive, I recommend getting it.

If you have any doubts, check my post on Whether it is worth getting travel insurance which I mention some cautionary tales from places like Indonesia and Nepal.

In my opinion, the real reason to get travel insurance is not the little things like theft insurance. Insurance is mostly for rare but more expensive cases that are covered by liability and medical insurance.

I’ve met other backpackers in Asia who had to be flown down from the mountains or back home all the way home to get medical care – you have to be unlucky to encounter such a situation, but it can be financially devastating without any insurance.

to remember that travel insurance may not cover trips longer than 30 days. If you are going to be backpacking for more than a month, I recommend this Get long-term travel insurance with HeymondoIt is the company I have been using since 2019.

Phong Nha, Vietnam

flight costs By country

As I mentioned, the required budget can vary based on the countries you include in your account Southeast Asia itinerary.

The budgets below assume you’re a traveler who sleeps mostly in dorms or basic rooms, uses mostly ground transportation where possible, eats mostly local foods, and avoids large resorts or luxury hotels.

It does not include your flights to and from Southeast Asia or any other pre-trip expenses.

nation Suggested daily budget
Thailand (coast and popular islands) Up to $45-$55
Thailand (Central/North) $25-$35
Laos $20-$30
Vietnam $20-$30
Cambodia $20-$30
Singapore $45 – $80
(See notes)
Malaysia $35-$45
Filipino $35-$45
(more if visiting several separate islands)

as always, Your mileage may vary. Even among backpackers, there are different ideas about how to spend your money.

Costs can also vary depending on whether you book tours and experiences only through online platforms or if you book directly through local providers. The latter may lack easy-to-find ratings or reviews, but they are often cheaper because no commission has to be paid.

Even if you’re not staying in a hostel, I find that this can be a very useful indicator of the overall relative cost for each country.

As you can see, Singapore is the obvious outlier. Since there are many luxury hostels in Singapore, the average is much higher, but even if you are staying in a budget hostel, you should still expect to pay at least $30 per night for a bed in a dormitory. It is much higher than any other country in Southeast Asia.

Thailand budget

Suggested travel budget: $25 to $30 per day or an additional $10 to $20 per day in popular tourist areas on the coast and islands

Thailand for a long time Traveler Mecca. If you are anywhere near the beach, costs are usually higher, but inland and around the north Chiang Mai It remains one of the best value destinations in the world.

This is thanks to ubiquitous street food, an efficient metro system, and cheap tuk-tuks, even in the capital Bangkok Very affordable despite being very sophisticated.

Overhead costs: A meal from a street vendor or local restaurant should cost approximately $2 to $5 anywhere in Thailand. Night trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai cost between $21 and $36 for second class.

Note that there is an unusually wide range of travel costs in Thailand. A dorm bed in Chiang Mai still costs $6 per night, and you can find basic rooms for $20 there. But on the popular (and overly commercial) island of Koh Phi Phi, dormitory beds can cost up to $20 a night in high season and a basic double room on the island typically costs $40-$80.

On Koh Phangan, prices will easily triple on or near the full moon date, rising to at least about $15 for dorms or $40 for rooms, although some dorms near Full Moon Beach may cost up to $40. $ per night.

Example expenses:

  • The entrance fee to the Grand Palace in Bangkok is $15
  • 3-Day Lake and Jungle Tour in Khao Sok National Park – starts at $363
  • Phi Phi Island Hopping Tour – Usually starts at $54
  • Sukhothai Historical Park entrance fee – $2.60
  • 3-Day Scuba Diving Course in Koh Tao – USD 238+

A boat sailing on the sea in Thailand

Laos budget

Suggested travel budget: $20 to $30 per day

Laos Incredibly is cheap! If you’re traveling on a budget, you can find a sleepover for just $5. Basic, nice private rooms cost about $34 on average, although if you need a purely functional room in a guesthouse, you can find it for $15-$20 (i.e. in rural places like Luang Namtha, Nong Khiaw or… Fang Feng).

The most expensive place is the UNESCO heritage city Luang Prabang. Tourists from China and other countries fly directly and stay in Luang Prabang only, resulting in higher prices. Elsewhere, Laos is cheaper. However, you can still do quite well on a backpacker’s budget in Luang Prabang, as among the many boutique hotels there are still plenty of cheaper guesthouses and hostels.

Entrance fees to parks and temples usually range from $1 to $3. A good rule of thumb for transportation costs is around $1 per hour, so a 10-hour overnight bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane will cost around $10.

Example expenses:

  • One-Day Hill Tribe Trekking Experience – $50-$100
  • 3 days Gibbon experiment Jungle Tree Hut Experience – $300+
  • 2-day slow boat to Luang Prabang – $22

Elephant figure with decorations

Vietnam budget

Suggested travel budget: $20 to $30 per day

in VietnamYou will be amazed at how far your money will go. Despite the economic boom, prices remain low. Vietnam’s currency against the US dollar and euro remains very favorable, and it remains one of the best value values in Southeast Asia.

Entrance fees to museums and national parks rarely exceed a dollar or two. If you want to save on their meals, you will find that Vietnam is a street food paradise; Just grab a little plastic stool at a roadside restaurant for some delicious pho noodles (about $1.5 to $3 per bowl) or some acceptable local “fresh beer” (about $0.80 per cup).

Among your initial expenses will be your entry visa ($25 for a 90-day e-Visa). Visas to Vietnam were previously complicated, but in 2023 a New visa system It was an induction. Most travelers can now travel to Vietnam using an e-visa for up to 90 days.

Example expenses:

  • 3-Day Ha Long Bay Cruise – $180
  • Floating Markets Tour – $30 with local provider
  • Motor scooter rental for one day – from $4 to $7.5

Note that there is a wide range of Ha Long Bay experiences, ranging from single to multi-day, and using anything from luxury yachts to large group tour boats. It’s rching all your options if you’re planning to visit Ha Long Bay.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Cambodia budget

Suggested travel budget: $20 to $30 per day

Cambodia Very welcoming to backpacker tourism, dorm beds $7+ and twifor n beds $11+ are the norm. The only exception is Siem Reap near the temples of Angkor Wat, which also attracts more affluent tourists, but even here you’ll find a fantastic buffet of budget options.

Your biggest expense will likely be your entrance ticket to the Angkor Wat temple complex, which is $37 for 1 day and $62 for 3 days. Renting a tuk-tukto take you around the temples for a day costs about $15 to $20.

The capital has developed rapidly and has become a bit more expensive in terms of food and drinks, for example. But in relative terms, it is still among the cheapest countries in the region.

Cambodia's temples are surrounded by greenery

Singapore budget

Suggested travel budget: It depends greatly. If you’re just passing through, you can keep on $40-50 per day, but a lot of sightseeing, going out, or restaurant dining can push that amount to $50-90.

Singapore is a very modern city-state, where prices can come as a shock to travelers coming from, say, Indonesia or Malaysia.

The average price for a dorm bed is $60 per night, which could easily equate to a two- or three-day budget elsewhere. However, despite this high average, there are a few The hostel where you can still find a bed to sleep in for around $30 per night.

At least the excellent metro gets you almost everywhere for a few dollars, and cheap and delicious food is available in large food halls called Hawker Centres. Fortunately, there are several things to do in Singapore on a budget. Alcohol is heavily taxed, so you may want to avoid a big night out. Beware: a bottle of local beer can cost up to $9!

Example expenses:

  • Entry to Gardens by the Bay (Flower Dome + Cloud Forest) – $40
  • Entrance to Singapore Zoo (with tram ride) – $36
Gardens by the Bay in Singapore
Gardens by the bay

Malaysian budget

Suggested travel budget: $25 to $45 per day (you can increase this amount if you do several tours, such as jungle treks, cave tours, or hiking Mount Kinabalu)

Malaysia is among the most developed countries in the region, thanks in part to its oil wealth, so it is often assumed to be an expensive country. However, its currency versus the US dollar and the euro has made it a relative bargain recently, and some travel costs in Malaysia are comparable to its neighboring countries.

The daily travel costs are reasonable and give you great value in return. Hostels are modern and often equipped with air conditioning but still cost around $12. Basic private rooms are available at mainly Vietnamese prices (i.e. cheap) but with much better facilities. Hawker centers offer all kinds of delicious Malaysian, Indian, Chinese,and Burmese dishes at a price ranging from $2 to $4.

However, if you are crazy about adventure activities, be prepared to spend comparatively more. For example, if your goal is to climb Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, a two- or three-day guided trip will easily cost several hundred dollars. Permits are limited and demand is high, resulting in high prices for this set menu experience (so be sure to book early). Likewise, a two-day Jungle River Expedition in Kinabatangan Park starts at around $90, which is certainly more than it costs in some other Asian countries.

If you’re a party animal, you might be horrified to learn that a pint of beer costs around $3.50 and immediately head back to Thailand (although Malaysia is generally a more conservative country and not a party destination anyway). If you are in Malaysia for cultural attractions or looking for a hammock on a quiet beach, you will be at home.

Example expenses:

  • Mount Kinabalu Trek – $340 to $940
  • Batu Caves Tour – $13

Indonesia budget

Suggested travel budget: About $25 to $40 per day

Expensive places in Indonesia: Tourist areas in Bali

Prices have not changed much in Indonesia In recent years, it has long been an attractive destination for budget travelers.

Bali is the main tourist hotspot. Southern regions of Bali Such as Seminyak and Kuta are popular with many short-stay tourists from Australia and elsewhere, so these places are the most marketable and relatively more expensive. But head inland and prices drop dramatically. You can find great cottages and homestays for around $20 per night.

On the popular Gili Islands, many hostels charge an average of $18 for a dorm bed. If you go less visit LombokOr Java, Sumatra or Flores, you can still find hostels for $10 or $12 per night.

Entrance fees to national parks or UNESCO sites such as Borobudur or Prambanan have increased significantly over the past few years. Old travel guides may still say the cost of entry is only a few dollars, but nowadays it’s around $25. (For international visitors only.)

Indonesia uses a two-tier pricing system for many national parks and other major tourist attractions. Despite comments online that this is discriminatory, this policy still seems reasonable given the wide income disparity. Just make sure the listed prices you’re looking at are international.

Although daily travel costs are low, just like in Malaysia, your travel budget can balloon very quickly if you are going on a lot of adventure tours.

For example, a 3-day tour of Bromo and… Ejen Volcanoes in Java will cost around US$430 per person if you book through an online platform like GetYourGuide as a private tour. When booking through local providers or hostels, you’ll still be looking at around $150 to $200 per person for this experience.

A multi-day boat trip from Lombok to Labuan Bajo, popular with many backpackers, costs about $184. The trip is worth it, but it can bump up your average daily budget a bit.

Example expenses:

  • Introductory Diving Course in Bali (3 days) – starts at $410
  • Visit Komodo Dragon National Park in Flores – $10
  • Renting a motorbike in Bali for a day starts from $5

Rice terraces in Bali

Philippines budget

Suggested travel budget: About $35 to $45 per day (this assumes some domestic flights to visit islands besides Luzon)

Expensive places in the Philippines: Boracay Island

When setting a budget for FilipinoThere are some things to keep in mind. Firstly, accommodation prices are at their highest in Southeast Asia. Secondly, since the Philippines is a huge group of islands, it is not always possible to travel overland cheaply. Ferries between the islands can be impractically slow, so you often have to travel by plane. AirAsia, Cebu Airlines, Zest Air, and other airlines offer domestic flights at affordable prices.

However, entrance fees to parks, wildlife reserves, caves, etc. usually range from $1 to $4, and guided tours and excursions are all reasonably priced – around $10 to $50 for day activities. On Palawan, a two-hour tour of the Puerto Princesa Underground River costs about $45, and a day of island hopping around El Nido also costs $20-$30 (up from $10 a few years ago).

Boracay Island is the Philippine version of Phuket or Bali (i.e. a more business holiday destination). It’s more expensive than elsewhere in the Philippines, but it’s mid-range in price and still fairly backpacker-friendly. El Nido in Palawan is another tourist hotspot where prices can be a little high.

Example expenses:

  • Flight from Manila to Palawan -$25 to $90
  • El Nido Lagoon and Beaches Tour – $20 to $30
Beach in El Nido with clear blue water

Note: Myanmar has been excluded from this update due to civil war which currently makes traveling there unwise. East Timor and Brunei are also countries in Southeast Asia, but because they are less visited than the others, I have not included them in this overview.

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