Our 4½ Month Southeast Asia Budget Backpacking Trip: All the Costs, all the Details
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.
- Chiang Mai
- Mae Hong Son
- Pak Chong and the Khao Yai National Park
- Phanom Rung
- Phnom Penh
- Kampong Chhnang
- Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
- Koh Rong
- Kampong Cham
- Don Khong
- Na Hin and Kong Lor Cave
- Vientiane (with a stopover in Pak Kading)
- Da Nang
- Hoi An
- Qui Nhon
- Nha Trang
- Mui Ne
- Ho Chi Minh City
- Ben Tre
- Vinh Long
- Can Tho
- Puerto Princesa
- Port Barton
- El Nido
- Taytay and Roxas
- Kota Kinabalu
- Kuala Lumpur
- Tioman Island
Back to Chiang Mai for a night before flying back to Bangkok and then taking an immediate bus to…
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I’ll be honest, Cambodia is a rapidly changing country and some of this information might go out-of-date tomorrow, but this quick development is one of the very reasons to go there.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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Flight from Sandakan to Kuala Lumpur
Singapore – 2 days
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.
Breaking Down the Costs of
Backpacking Southeast Asia
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 $3081.30 total. Nor is the return flight back to Canada.
Note: While exchange rates fluctuate from day to day, and sometimes a lot, the prices of most of the hotels, meals, and transportation will barely change, if at all, for years. Therefore, it’s best to use the country’s own currency when putting together your budget. The USD is just posted as a reference.
Double note: exchange rates updated as of March 2017
|29 days||THB (฿)||USD ($)|
|Day Trips etc.||3425||97.73|
Daily budget for Thailand: $18.45
These numbers include an internal flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and the Bangkok airport departure tax (฿700).
|22 days||KHR ()||USD ($)|
|Day Trips etc.||454,943||111.41|
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 $532.25.
|23 days||LAK (₭)||USD ($)|
|Day Trips etc.||636,500||77.59|
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 $386.82
|22 days||VND (₫)||USD ($)|
|Day Trips etc.||815,000||35.68|
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 $447.43.
|16 days||PHP (₱)||USD ($)|
|Day Trips etc.||1030||20.43|
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 $471.72
|24 days||MYR||USD ($)|
|Day Trips etc.||342.00||76.76|
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 $572.07
|2 days||SGD ($)||USD ($)|
|Day Trips etc.||3.60||2.54|
Daily budget for Singapore: $43.49
|138 days||USD ($)||Avg per day|
|Day Trips etc.||422.14||3.05|
*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.
If you need more help saving money, here are some good budget travel guides for Southeast Asia:
- The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia On A Budget
- Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a Shoestring
- Travel Southeast Asia For Under $30 A Day
- Singapore Unanchor Travel Guide – The Affordable Side of Singapore: A 4-Day Itinerary
- Budget travel Secrets – SE Asia