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.
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 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?
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.