How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Southeast Asia?

How much does it cost to travel through Southeast Asia?Southeast Asia is an incredible region to explore with postcard perfect beaches, ancient temple ruins, street food to delight the taste buds, and some seriously stunning scenery. And with its amazing affordability and well-trodden route, it’s a backpacker’s dream.

So how affordable is it really? How much would it cost to backpack through Southeast Asia for say 5 or 6 months? The answer might just blow you away.

From October 2011 to February 2012, Tristan and I backpacked through the region for 5 months, visiting Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. It was part of a larger 8-month trip that had us starting off in China and wrapping up in Australia and New Zealand.

During our trip, I kept a very detailed account of how much and what we were spending our money on. At the time, it was our way of staying on budget, to know at any given time how much we had already spent and how much we had left to play with. Now, it’s become a phenomenal resource to reference.

So how much exactly did we spend traveling through Southeast Asia for 5 months? Before I get to the numbers (I know, I just pulled the whole “and the winner is…right after this commercial”), I first need to give you some context or else the numbers really won’t mean much.

Firstly, I need to point out what is NOT included in these calculations.

  • Flights to and from Southeast Asia (since this was part of a larger trip)
  • Travel Insurance (we had it but I haven’t included it here)
  • Clothes we had made in Hoi An, Vietnam

Secondly, it’s important to describe our travel style, since this plays a huge role in how much traveling through Southeast Asia will cost. Accommodation was an area we weren’t very picky about, opting for basic private rooms with fans and usually cold-water showers (but in Southeast Asia “cold” is usually lukewarm anyways). Except for 3 flights to get to and from Indonesia, all of our travel between countries was done overland.

How much does it cost to travel through Southeast Asia?
A food stall in Luang Prabang, Laos where you can fill your plate with as much food as it can hold for 10,000 kip (or roughly $1.25).

We ate as much as possible at street vendors since they were excellent on the wallet and didn’t compromise on taste or quality (and for any of you worried about getting sick off of street food, it never happened to us!). The drinkers out there will be happy to know that we did drink quite a lot of beer, especially through Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, but we cut back on the consumption through Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, as alcohol was more “expensive” there. We did a lot of site seeing on our own, but took some day trips with tour companies, signed up for cooking and scuba courses, rented cars and motorbikes, and saw all the “must see” cultural sites at every stop. This was definitely a budget trip, but we weren’t starving or staying in unsanitary conditions.

Costs are based on two (2) people and are shown in Canadian Dollars, converted at the time of travel.

Now, for the final grand total calculation, drum roll please…

 

$10,702.48


$10,702.48 was exactly how much Tristan and I spent for the two of us backpacking through Southeast Asia for a full 5 months. That’s less than $5,500 a person. In my opinion, that’s phenomenal!

But how does this break down per country?

How much does it cost to travel in Southeast Asia for 5 months?

Southeast Asia is a region where you can spend as little as $20 a day per person, or more than $200 a day. It really depends on your travel style and what you want to see and do in the region. But traveling on a tight budget doesn’t mean you’ll have to skip a meal or pass up that overnight jungle trekking experience, though you might have to keep tabs on how many bottles of cheap beer you have in a day.

If you’re considering a long-term backpacking trip, I highly recommend Southeast Asia as you’ll get excellent bang for your buck. Keep your eyes out on seat sales to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore. Once you’re in the region, it’s so much cheaper to fly to your starting destination. Saving $5,000 is an achievable goal and after all that work you’ll have a life changing experience ahead of you.

For a specific breakdown of our costs in each of the 7 countries we visited in Southeast Asia, be sure to check out our posts on: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

 

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  • Jeannie

    This is just what I was looking for. I found some blogs where they were suggesting $11,000+ for ONE person (for the same amount of time). I haven’t traveled to SEA but I have backpacked in India, where I spent around $300. I guess some people aren’t focused on spending as little money as possible. For me, that’s totally part of the adventure! Thanks for your words of wisdom!

    • Jeannie

      $300/month** 😉

      • http://www.seeyousoon.ca Arienne

        Hey Jeannie!

        Thanks for the comment! It’s hard to give an exact amount on how much a trip like this will cost someone else because we all have slightly different travel styles. But I do believe it’s very achievable to do it on a budget. The best areas to save is using overland transportation, staying in simple but clean and safe guesthouses, and eating the street food :) Have a great time!!

  • coltensloan

    This is like the perfect thing i was looking for.
    I too am from Canada.
    I plan on hopefully doing some traveling in southeast asia in the near future.
    I dont think i will do all of those countries but who knows what will happen.I plan on starting in thailand, but hope to spend as much time as i can in each place, and as little money as i can.

    Is it possible for someone travelling around to do some work in hostels and such for small earnings for accommodation and such, or is it based on what ever money i go with is what ive youve got.
    i have so many questions and would love any tips and ideas on when to go, how to pack what to bring, how much money i should go with if i plan on staying as long as i possibly can, lol maybe i will never go home.
    look forward to hearing back from you!

    • http://www.seeyousoon.ca Arienne

      That’s great to hear! It’s definitely possible for you to get work as you travel. Hostel or guesthouses in the major cities are usually more open to working with travelers (and it’s an easier ‘in’ for you too). Definitely check out my ‘Travel Tips’ section to help answer some of your questions. Truthfully, any time is a good time to go :) Go with an open mind and a willingness to explore and you’ll have an amazing experience!

  • eemusings (NZMuse)

    test

    • http://www.seeyousoon.ca Arienne

      Not everyone travels the same way, so you won’t necessarily spend your money the same way. It’s all about how you enjoy to travel. There’s no point in trying to do it as cheaply as possible and be miserable the entire time. Splurge, enjoy, and soak it all in!

  • Ioli

    Thanks Arienne! I was actually wondering how much would a trip like this costs us for about 6 months, and here is the answer 😀 We are going there in September, starting off in Singapore. This is very useful! I’ll defo check your blog to look for some advice.

    I was a little bit scared cause I noticed flights to Bali from Singapore were aleady something like 140$ each, and that is only the beginning of the trip, but I guess flights are always much more expensive than moving via land in those Countries.. Not sure thought if it is a good idea to get from Singapore to Bali via land?
    Thanks again,

    Ioli

    • http://www.seeyousoon.ca Arienne

      I think your best bet to travel from Singapore to Bali will be to fly. Yes you might spend a little bit more, but it’s easier and time effective. Air Asia will usually have the best prices. When traveling between countries, especially Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia, overland transportation (mainly buses and some trains) is very straight forward and very cost effective. Take a peak at each of the travel costs per country in the region I covered to get an idea of how much we were spending on transportation. Let me know if you have anymore questions!

  • http://www.nomadwallet.com/ Deia

    Thanks for this! My husband and I tracked our spending when we were in Thailand, but we were only there for 10 days. Can’t wait to go back there!

    • http://www.seeyousoon.ca Arienne

      You’re so welcome! How did your daily average in Thailand compare with mine? I’m always interested to see how others compare :)

      • http://www.nomadwallet.com/ Deia

        Well, I think we spent about twice the amount you did per night on accommodation for the two of us. Maybe it’s because we always get private rooms, even in hostels, or maybe it’s because we only stay for 1-3 nights per place, or maybe because we happened to stop at the bigger, busier cities?

        We spent slightly less on food, maybe about $15 per day. We always went for street foods.

        We spent a lot more on transport, about $300+ for the 10 days because we tried to cover a few cities in a short time period. It was exhausting and I wish we could travel more slowly next time.

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  • Marissa Willman

    That food stall looks amazing! Thanks for sharing your budget – very helpful!

    • http://www.seeyousoon.ca Arienne

      You’re welcome! Happy travels!

  • Hunter McAnally

    This is the exact trip I want to make more or less. This is phenomenal you are awesome for taking the time to post this!! Awesome trip!

    • http://www.seeyousoon.ca Arienne

      You’re so welcome Hunter! I hope it serves you well and helps to give you a bench mark when planning your trip. Be sure to check out each of the individual countries in Southeast Asia where I break down our costs per country. Cheers!

  • dannyliow

    Im also planning for a SEA adventure this coming Jan. Find your blog really helpful. Thx man!

    • http://www.seeyousoon.ca Arienne

      Thanks Danny! If you have any questions about something that’s not covered here, feel free to drop me an email. You’re going to have an incredible time!

  • http://acoupletravelers.com/ acoupletravelers

    Sounds like you guys did really well in terms of costs! After 2 months in China we are heading to Vietnam in a few days to start off the SE Asia tour and are very excited about the food!! Please let me know which cooking classes you took and if you recommend them ( I am trying to take as many cooking classes as possible!)

    • http://www.seeyousoon.ca Arienne

      I’ve been following your travels through China myself! You guys did really well :) The food in Southeast Asia is awesome, especially if you’ll be visiting Malaysia. Some of the best food we had was from the street. We did 2 cooking classes on our trip, one in Chiang Mai Thailand at the Baan Thai Cooking School and one in Penang, Malaysia at the Tropical Spice Garden. I highly recommend both!

      • http://acoupletravelers.com/ acoupletravelers

        Thanks! China has been quite the adventure and we are definitely ready for a new country and cuisine. Very excited for SE Asian food especially since everyone talks about how delicious the street food is! Thanks for mentioning the cooking classes – definitely taking note of both! 

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