How Much To Budget For Backpacking South-East Asia

Fiji GoPro footage

If you’re planning a backpacking adventure in South East Asia then you are in for a life changing experience! I spent an amazing summer backpacking Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos and it was one of the most memorable, fun and eye-opening experiences of my life. Of course, you don’t just want to start with a bang, but enjoy the steady, warming flame of money in your back pocket for the length of your trip, so considering a budget is essential for any savvy sightseer, beach comber or bar crawler.

Putting together your budget will obviously depend A LOT on what you’re interested in and how well you can control the purse strings after a couple of Changs. If you want to do any adventure or extreme sports, plan on partying every night or want to treat yourself to a fancy dinner now and again; you will have to factor these costs into your overall travel budget.

The great thing about South East Asia, is that you can backpack here on a relatively tight budget and live very comfortably, so here are my top tips on How To Budget For Backpacking South-East Asia:

 

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

 

Flights

Depending on the plan for your trip, you can either book a Return flight from the same city, or two one-way flights from different destinations.

The more flexible you can be, the better deals on flights you’ll be able to find  and I don’t just mean for your travel dates! If you’re heading to Vietnam from the UK, flights can often be around £800 but if you go to Bangkok, you can sometimes find flights as low as £350 and then take a local carrier flight from there.

Use websites such as Skyscanner to find the best deals and easily cross-check which dates are cheapest.

On my travels I bought a round the world ticket with STA Travel and it was a god send! I booked a total of 10 flights spanning literally the entire globe for £1499, so it was definitely a very cost effective way of flying. Look out for deals and if you can avoid peak season travel, you’ll certainly find a bargain.

 

(Peak season for Thailand and S.E. Asia is generally July, August, December – January)

travel love plane flying

Vaccinations

To find out which jabs you’ll need for the countries you’re visiting, visit this website.

The most common ones are Rabies, Hepatitis A & B, Yellow Fever and Typhoid. It’s up to you how many of these you wish to have, however I am speaking from experience that they are worth getting. Two of my friends became very ill while we were in Laos and didn’t have their jabs, whilst the rest of us who did were fine.

Vaccinations can set you back between £40 and £200 and some need to be administered 8 weeks before you go, so plan ahead!

monkey thailand

This is why you need a Rabies jab!

 Getting Around

Although many companies offer transfer deals that you can buy in advance, I’ve found it’s much cheaper and more convenient to purchase train and bus tickets at your destination. Travelling around by bus is the cheapest way to travel around Asia and as the backpacker circuit is well trodden, the bus services are easy to use and very practical for travellers.

Taking a bus from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia was 800 baht (£16) when I went and the night bus which takes you through Vietnam was as little as $30 (£20) . Read more about Getting Around Vietnam here.

If you’re heading to any of the Thai islands, you can generally buy Boat/Bus combos to get you there – these are usually up to 1000 baht (£20)

Going to Bali and want to check out the Gili Islands? Great shout! Be aware though that the price of the speedboat costs around $50 for a return ticket, which in South East Asia prices will seem like a big spend. Totally worth it though – the Gili Islands are one of my favourite places in Asia.

Gili T sunset

 

transport asia

Sukhothai, Thailand

Accommodation

The price of a room depends very much on what you deem an acceptable standard and which country you are in. You can get a fan room for as little 300 baht (£6) a night in Thailand, or stay in dorms for 200 baht (£4). On the other hand, you can have a fairly decent room with air con for around 600 baht (£12) a night or even a pretty plush room for 2000 baht (£40) a night.

In Cambodia, accommodation was even cheaper – around £5-8 a night on average, although the standard of the rooms are much more basic. Vietnam also was relatively cheap at the same sort of price as Cambodia for a comfortable double room with a TV and air-conditioning.

I personally am a slave to air-con rooms as I hate getting ready in sweaty, humid heat! If you’re not as girly as me, then fan rooms are often much, much cheaper.

Read more about Vietnam here.

 

koh tao hotel

Narakaan hotel, Sairee Beach, Koh Tao Thailand

 

Daily Expenses and Activities

Food and drinks are ridiculously cheap in South-East Asia, especially if you eat like the locals by visiting markets and street vendors. The food is not only delicious, but you can get a full meal and a beer for around 50p.

If you prefer to eat in restaurants however, I would budget around £10 a day for three meals.

I found that Thailand was generally more expensive than Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos for most daily costs, but when I say more expensive, I mean a drink is 70p rather than 50p. It’s crazy how much you begin to barter over the sake of the equivalent of 20p when travelling, but in South East Asia it goes so far!

Although you could probably budget around £20 a day for accommodation and daily expenses, this does not take into account any activities you want to do while travelling. Entry to museums, temples, scuba diving, waterparks and quad bike rentals all come at a price, which you’ll need to factor into your budget to make sure you don’t miss out!

There’s no point travelling all that way and round these beautiful countries if you can’t make the most of your time there, so I’d budget between £30-£40 a day for daily expenses including any activities or excursions you might fancy doing.

If you want to try diving, Thailand and Indonesia are great places to learn as you’ll experience some of the most beautiful diving in the world. Doing your PADI course takes 3-4 days and costs £280 on average. Doing a dive is usually around £20 per dive.

Diving Gili Trawangan

 

mud baths vietnam

Mud Baths, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Read more about Bali and Gili T here.

 

Total Budget For Travelling South-East Asia

Excluding the price of your flights and assuming you want a comfortable/standard of living while you’re backpacking South East Asia, I recommend the following budgets:

Accommodation: £8 per day

Daily Expenses (eg. Food): £10 per day

Partying: £20 per night out (at least!)

Activities and Excursions: Dependant on personal preferences – around £15 per day on average

Transportation: £20 for longer trips – more for domestic flights

Average Total Budget Per Day: £35- 40 per day  (£1000 per month)

If you’re more of a budget traveller, then you CAN do S.E Asia cheaper by eating local all the time and staying in dorms.

With that in mind, you’re looking at:

 

Budget Dorm Accommodation: £4 per day

Daily Expenses (eg. Food): £6 per day

Average Total Budget Per Day: £15- £20 per day  (£650 per month)

 

 

 

South East Asia

 

Are you planning a trip round South East Asia? If you have any questions or want to know my recommendations, please leave me a comment below!

Read The 32 Experiences All Backpackers Have In Thailand

  • Oliver Mortimer

    Hi really good article, I just have a quick question.

    I’m travelling with my girlfriend and our budget will be 10,000 euro (max) for 167 days, We have our flights and vaccines already bought so i’m just wondering if you think this will be enough. We won’t be going over to south east asia to party it’s just to explore relax and do as much activities, tours etc as our budget will allow.

    Thanks

    • Hey Oliver,

      I’m so jealous of your trip! Sounds amazing. You will definitely have enough with that budget. Thailand is the most expensive country and that’s still pretty cheap. I also always stayed in private rooms with air con, which are more pricey so if you stayed in dorms or fan rooms you can stay for dirt cheap and eating local food also helps drive your daily spend down.

      Have an idea of what bigger spends you’d want to do in certain place, such as budgeting for a Halong Bay boat trip (if you’re heading to Vietnam) and don’t be afraid to barter 🙂

      I hope you have an incredible time!

      Sylvie