Our 4½ Month Southeast Asia Budget Backpacking Trip: All the Costs, all the Details


7 Countries
47 Cities
138 days
For only $3081.30 each
That’s $22.32 per day
About 156.29 per week
And $669.60 per month

In this guide, I will share all the details of our Southeast Asia budget backpacking trip that included Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore.

The Map: Budget Backpacking Southeast Asia

The Details and Itinerary:
A 47 Cities Tour in Southeast Asia

Click the city to get all the details; including how to get there and out, where to stay, where to eat, and what to do — along with all the related costs.

Thailand – 29 days

Because of the large expat population, there is a ton of information about Thailand out there. Many people go for the partying, but we decided to head to the more laid back north. It’s less touristy, and more peaceful. The food in Thailand is incredible.

More Thailand: Thailand archives, My Thailand videos, What we ate in Thailand.

Waterfall in Pai, Thailand

Pai, Thailand

  1. Bangkok
  2. Kanchanaburi
  3. Ayutthaya
  4. Sukhothai
  5. Chiang Mai
  6. Soppong
  7. Mae Hong Son
  8. Pai
  9. Back to Chiang Mai for a night before flying back to Bangkok and then taking an immediate bus to…

  10. Pak Chong and the Khao Yai National Park
  11. Phanom Rung
  12. Back to Bangkok for a night before flying to Phnom Penh

    Cambodia – 22 days

    I’ll be honest, Cambodia is a rapidly changing country and some of this information might go out-of-date tomorrow, but this quick development is one of the very reasons to go there. Cambodia has been through a lot, and you’ll certainly feel that while you’re there, but you’ll also feel inspiration, and appreciation, and so much more. Of course, no visit to Cambodia is complete without a stop at Angkor Wat, but our favorite places in the country included a few cities that tourists rarely make it out to.

    More Cambodia: Cambodia archives, Cambodia Videos, What We Ate in Cambodia

  13. Phnom Penh
  14. Ruins in Angkor Wat

    Angkor Wat, Cambodia

  15. Kampong Chhnang
  16. Battambang
  17. Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
  18. Sihanoukville
  19. Koh Rong
  20. Kampong Cham
  21. Krati
  22. Laos – 23 days

    Laos is probably the cheapest country in Southeast Asia to travel in. We managed to only spend $15.86 per day there (see budget below). I would say it offers more bang for your buck than any other place I’ve been to in the world. The natural beauty, the food, the people, and the vibe are all fantastic in Laos.

    More Laos: Laos archives, Laos Videos, What We Ate in Laos

  23. Don Khong
  24. Kong Lor Cave boat tour in Laos

    Outside of Kong Lor Cave, Laos

  25. Pakse
  26. Savannakhet
  27. Thakhek
  28. Na Hin and Kong Lor Cave
  29. Vientiane (with a stopover in Pak Kading)
  30. Back to Savannakhet for an night before crossing the border into Vietnam

    Vietnam – 22 days

    I have a crazy amount of information about traveling in Vietnam. I actually lived there for 2 years and I pretty much went everywhere. The first time I entered the country, I was overwhelmed – and not in a good way. I found it very pushy and hectic. It wasn’t until we got off the tourist trail did we eventually start to enjoy Vietnam. By the end of our 22 days, we absolutely loved it.

    More Vietnam: Vietnam $20 a day budget travel guide, Food Lover’s Guide to Vietnamese Food, Vietnam archives, my Vietnam videos.

    A woman selling fruit in Hanoi, Vietnam

    Fruit seller in Vietnam

  31. Hue
  32. Da Nang
  33. Hoi An
  34. Qui Nhon
  35. Nha Trang
  36. Mui Ne
  37. Ho Chi Minh City
  38. Ben Tre
  39. Vinh Long
  40. Can Tho
  41. Back to Ho Chi Minh to catch a flight to Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

    Palawan, Philippines – 16 days

    The Philippines is a beautiful country. Unfortunately, we’ve only been able to see a small part of it so far (plus a wedding). We visited Palawan, the country’s largest island, for 16 days. It’s also one of the least built up islands with limited amenities, but a plethora of incredible turquoise waters.

    More Philippines: Philippines archives

    Sunset in Port Barton, Philippines

    Port Barton, Palawan, Philippines

  42. Puerto Princesa
  43. Port Barton
  44. El Nido
  45. Taytay and Roxas
  46. Back to Puerto Princesa for a couple nights before flying to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

    Malaysia – 24 days

    Malaysia is truly Asia… at least that’s what their travel promotions say. We love Malaysia, we’ve been there a few times and we always seem to find something new and exciting in the country. It’s pretty easy to budget travel Malaysia. There are plenty of delicious budget food options. Transportation is cheap and comfortable. The hotels can get a bit expensive, at least for what you’re getting, but you should be able to find decent rooms for $30 per night. We split our time between Borneo and the mainland.

    More Malaysia: Malaysia archives, my Malaysia videos.

  47. Kota Kinabalu
  48. Elephant family in Sukau, Malaysia

    Sukau, Borneo, Malaysia

  49. Sepilok
  50. Semporna
  51. Sukau
  52. Sandakan
  53. Flight from Sandakan to Kuala Lumpur

  54. Kuala Lumpur
  55. Malacca
  56. Tioman Island
  57. Singapore – 2 days

    Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore

    Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

    Singapore is not a budget friendly city, but you can find incredible food there for very cheap. The key is to eat at the food hawker stalls. They offer a ton of options and some seriously tasty meals that won’t put a massive dent in your budget. We only stayed in Singapore for 2 days, but it managed to really impress us in that short period of time.

  58. Singapore

The Budget:
Breaking Down the Costs of
Backpacking Southeast Asia

Hanoi Vietnam old quarters. southeast asia budget backpacking

The old quarters in Hanoi, Vietnam

A question we often get is: How much money do I need to travel to _______ (insert name of country here). While you now know that we spent a total of $3071.31 each for this 138 day trip, let’s break this down a bit.

What follows is a spending summary to give fellow travelers an idea of how much it costs to travel to the Southeast Asian countries: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore. You will also find a daily budget estimate below each table.

We are frugal travelers which means we don’t spend a lot of money on things like souvenirs, fancy meals, fabulous hotels, or first-class tickets. We do, however, like to maximize the bang for our buck; this requires planning and research on our part. Since we are a couple, this gives us an advantage when traveling as we can split everything 50/50. In fact, a shared double room often tends to work out cheaper than the cost of a dorm bed.

“Day Trips etc.” includes admission fees, taxis, public transit fares, beer money, laundry, sundries, and the odd souvenir (such as a carrot peeler).

“Transport” is the cost of transportation between cities: buses, trains, boats, etc. Unless noted, fFlights aren’t included in this, but are listed after. This is simply because the cost of flights fluctuate so much that we wanted to include them separately.

We also didn’t include the visa fees in any category, since they vary depending on what country you’re from, but noted them afterwards.

We scored a one-way flight from New York (JFK) to Bangkok, Thailand via Shanghai, China with China Eastern Airlines for $582.50 CAD each. This cost is not included in the $3081.30 total. Nor is the return flight back to Canada.

Note: While exchange rates fluctuate from day to day, and sometimes a lot, the prices of most of the hotels, meals, and transportation will barely change, if at all, for years. Therefore, it’s best to use the country’s own currency when putting together your budget. The USD is just posted as a reference.

Double note: exchange rates updated as of March 2017

Thailand

29 days THB (฿) USD ($)
Accommodation 5491 156.66
Food 5682 162.10
Day Trips etc. 3425 97.73
Transport 4166 118.87
Total 18,764 535.30

Daily budget for Thailand: $18.45
These numbers include an internal flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and the Bangkok airport departure tax (฿700).

Cambodia

22 days KHR (Cambodian riel) USD ($)
Accommodation 386,286 94.60
Food 741,709 181.64
Day Trips etc. 454,943 111.41
Transport 297,654 72.89
Total 1,880,592 460.55

Daily budget for Cambodia: $20.93
This does not include a visa for Cambodia which costs $20 at Phnom Penh airport, or the flight from Bangkok which cost about $60. This brings the total for our Cambodia expenses to $532.25.

Laos

23 days LAK (₭) USD ($)
Accommodation 916,500 111.73
Food 1,054,500 128.55
Day Trips etc. 636,500 77.59
Transport 385,000 46.93
Total 2,992,500 364.82

Daily budget for Laos: $15.86
This does not include the $42 visa-on-arrival for Laos which we received at the Cambodia-Laos land border. Including the visa, this brings our total for Laos to $386.82

Vietnam

22 days VND (₫) USD ($)
Accommodation 3,311,000 144.98
Food 3,873,000 169.59
Day Trips etc. 815,000 35.68
Transport 1,191,000 52.15
Total 9,190,000 402.43

Daily budget for Vietnam: $18.29
This does not include the $45 visa that we purchased from the Vietnamese embassy in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. This brings our total to $447.43.

Philippines

16 days PHP (₱) USD ($)
Accommodation 5300 105.16
Food 8113.50 160.98
Day Trips etc. 1030 20.43
Transport 760 15.07
Total 15,203.50 301.72

Daily budget for the Philippines: $18.85
This does not include a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Puerto Princesa via Manila which cost $170. This brings our total for the Philippines to $471.72

Malaysia

24 days MYR USD ($)
Accommodation 799.40 179.43
Food 640.45 143.75
Day Trips etc. 342.00 76.76
Transport 319.50 71.71
Total 2100.85 471.57

Daily budget for Malaysia: $19.64
This does not include a flight from Puerto Princesa, Philippines to Kota Kinabalu for $35 or a flight from Sandakan to Kuala Lumpur for $65.50. Including these, our total for Malaysia is $572.07

Singapore

2 days SGD ($) USD ($)
Accommodation 80.00 56.57
Food 32.00 22.63
Day Trips etc. 3.60 2.54
Transport 7.40 5.23
Total 123.00 86.98

Daily budget for Singapore: $43.49

Totals

138 days USD ($) Avg per day
Accommodation 849.57 6.15
Food 969.24 7.02
Day Trips etc. 422.14 3.05
Transport 382.85 2.77
Total 2623.80 19.01

*The totals above do not including:

  • Flight: Chiang Mai to Bangkok – $20
  • Flight: Bangkok to Phnom Penh – $60
  • Visa: Cambodia – $20
  • Visa: Laos – $42
  • Visa: Vietnam – $45
  • Flight: Ho Chi Minh City to Puerto Princesa – $170
  • Flight: Puerto Princesa to Kota Kinabalu – $35
  • Flight: Sandakan to Kuala Lumpur – $65.50M

The complete totals with all flights (except to and from SEA) and visas come to : $3081.30 each, or $22.32 per day.

If we include our flights to and from Southeast Asia:
Buffalo to Bangkok via New York and Shanghai – $780
Singapore to Toronto via Mumbai and Brussels – $585
That brings the total way up to $4446.30

Those long distance flights are killer on a budget. We would have saved money if we booked a return flight in and out of the same city, which would have meant an additional flight going back to Bangkok but with low budget airlines in Southeast Asia this wouldn’t have been that expensive.

At any rate, we spent about $1000 a month in total on this trip, which is pretty good considering how much we would have normally spent in a month of living in Toronto, Canada.

All my Southeast Asia videos

If you need more help saving money, here are some good budget travel guides for Southeast Asia:

 

Traveling to South America? Check out our budget backpacking guide to South America.