Type something like “cheapest countries to travel” into Google, and undoubtedly you’ll find South East Asian countries listed over and over again, with travellers and travel experts singing the praises of places like Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Unlike some other regions (cough, Europe, cough), South East Asia is ridiculously budget-friendly, and it’s not too hard to travel there very cheaply.
That said, if you’re not careful or you don’t know where to look, you might find small costs adding up or get stuck spending more than to need to – and end up going over your budget. In fact, in an online expat community for one unnamed town in South East Asia, a resident recently pointed to a line item in his monthly budget called “Where the &#%@ did that go?” To avoid that feeling at the end of your trip, follow these tips for travelling on the cheap.
1. Choose your destinations wisely.
While the region has a reputation for being extremely cheap, some destinations are noticeably more expensive than others. If you’re serious about keeping costs down, think twice before going to Singapore (or at least limit your time there), since it can easily be twice as expensive as anywhere else in the region. Capital cities, especially Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, also tend to be much more expensive than other towns. These are vibrant and exciting cities that you’ll undoubtedly want to visit, but maybe don’t linger too long.
2. Travel by land.
The explosion of AirAsia and other budget airlines has made this less of a hard-and-fast rule, but taking long-distance trains or buses will generally save you considerable money over flying. Extensive bus routes connect most of Southeast Asia, and countries like Thailand and Malaysia have sophisticated rail systems. When travelling by land, you’ll also get to see interesting landscapes and rural villages, stop in places you’d never otherwise go, and bond with your fellow travellers.
3. Limit the booze.
Travellers come to South East Asia for many things, but one of them is definitely to have a good time. For nightlife-loving travellers, alcohol can make up a sizable portion of their daily budget. While the Changs, Bintangs, and mystery buckets are cheap compared to alcohol in the West, the cost adds up, long night after long night. To keep your budget in check, imbibe more sparingly.
4. Eat local food.
You’ll find Western delights like pizza and burgers in all of South East Asia’s popular destinations. But they can cost double or triple what a local meal would. In most places, you could eat local food all day long for the cost of one Western dish. While everyone needs a taste of home from time to time, eating primarily local food will make your money go further – and give you more chances to experience the local culture through its food.
South East Asia is one of the cheapest regions to travel, but many people still find themselves needing to cut expenses there. To stay on a tight budget, pick your destinations and transportation with an eye to affordability, and limit your indulgences (some of the time, anyway).