Hoi An BridgeFreshly updated for 2014 and now in its fourth year, the Asia Backpacker Index once again reveals that this continent is home to most of the world’s travel bargains, at least once you get there. Long-term travelers can get by on a pittance without going hungry or sleeping in parks, and most places tend to be very tourist friendly as well.

This year we added 4 new destinations (Colombo, Jakarta, Yangon, and Boracay Island) to further round out the offerings for different types of budget travelers, expanding the list from 26 to 30.

Interestingly, prices in almost all of Asia seemed stable in the past year, even while most currencies in the region slipped a bit, so in 2014 it’s actually a bit cheaper than in 2013 for most of us.

It’s also worth nothing that (except for Tokyo), most of these Asian tourist cities are fairly bunched together in price. The more expensive ones also tend to be the more modern ones, but even then they are almost all very affordable once you get there.

Are you more of a 3-star hotel person than a backpacker?

Hostels with dorm beds are not nearly as popular in Asia as they are in Europe or Australia, and part of the reason is how cheap the normal hotel rooms tend to be. If you can afford a private room for the same price as 2 bunks in a big room, a hotel feels like even better value. Either way, check out our Asia 3-star traveler index to see which cities are cheapest and most expensive for hotel people.

>>>Asia 3-star Traveler Index for 2014: 30 cities from cheapest to most expensive

How the Backpacker Index works

Prices for most things are fixed and certain, but prices for a “budget lunch” or a bottle of beer can vary depending on whom you ask. Still, our estimates are based on a lot of research, and should be very close if not right on.

Costs for each city

  • One night in the cheapest bunk at the least expensive hostel with a good location and good reviews, or half the price of a double hotel room in places where there are no hostels
  • Two public transportation rides per day
  • One paid/famous attraction per day (Every city is loaded with free things to do for budget-conscious travelers, but here we take the average cost of a major attraction in each city for each day.)
  • Three “budget” meals per day (We took our minimum meal price and added 20% to make it more realistic for a longer trip.)
  • Three cheap, local beers (or two large beers) each day as an “entertainment fund.” Non-drinkers might have dessert and coffee or attend a local music performance instead, so this is a general benchmark that should be proportional for each city.

Price of Travel’s Asia Backpacker Index for 2014

Note: All prices converted to US dollars in early January, 2014

1 – Pokhara, Nepal (cheapest)

Pokhara BoatsWhile Kathmandu is where most visitors land first, it’s fairly hectic and its sights can be seen in only a couple days. So most people head quickly to Pokhara, which is Nepal’s tourism hub and the starting point of many fabulous treks. Fortunately, it’s not only more pleasant than the capital, but also cheaper in most respects, so it’s a great place to linger if you have time. Guided treks in the nearby mountains can be expensive, so it’s nice that just lingering in town is dirt cheap.

  • Currency: Nepalese rupee
  • Cheap/good hostel: Karma Guest House – 345/night
  • Transportation: 100
  • Meals: 384
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 360
  • Attractions: 100
  • Daily Backpacker Index: NPR1,409 = US$14.00/day

>>>Pokhara prices and weather

2 – Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnam’s cheapest city for backpackers is also one that gets high marks from most visitors with its unique combination of French colonial and Asian post-communism. The food is also top-notch, especially when you are sitting amongst locals at one of the thousands of plastic-chair cafes throughout the city. Keep costs even lower by sticking with Bia Hoi, the world’s cheapest beer. Hostel beds are cheap, but private rooms are too, so don’t automatically book a bunk.

  • Currency: Vietnamese dong
  • Cheap/good hostel: Lake Side Hostel – 94,420/night
  • Transportation: 40,000
  • Meals: 144,000
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 36,000
  • Attractions: 30,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: VND334,420 = US$15.86/day

>>>Hanoi prices and weather

3 – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand’s “capital of the north” is certainly one of the world’s great travel bargain destinations. Filled with ancient temples and surrounded by a moat and city walls, Chiang Mai is a major stop in the region and a highlight for many. Much less crowded than Bangkok, and quite a bit cheaper as well, this is also booming with expats and creative people living cheaply while they work.

  • Currency: Thai baht
  • Cheap/good hostel: Jaidii House – 100/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 162
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 180
  • Attractions: 100
  • Daily Backpacker Index: THB582 = US$17.63/day

>>>Chiang Mai prices and weather

4 – Kathmandu, Nepal

Nepal’s capital is one of those cities most travelers just hustle through on their way somewhere else, like Pokhara or other trekking centers in this case. But it’s a fascinating and unusual place that’s worth a look for a few days anyway. The backpacker zone of Thamel is a classic traveler neighborhood, brimming over with cheap hotels, restaurants, and bars.

  • Currency: Nepalese rupee
  • Cheap/good hostel: Sparkling Turtle Backpackers Hostel – 321/night
  • Transportation: 80
  • Meals: 576
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 440
  • Attractions: 300
  • Daily Backpacker Index: NPR1,817 = US$18.05/day

>>>Kathmandu prices and weather

5 – Goa, India

India, in general, is a great travel bargain, as long as you are outside of its huge cities. Goa is actually a small state, rather than a city, so it’s a collection of beach and inland towns that have long been associated with hippie and electronic-music culture. Not all of Goa is this cheap, of course, but those on a budget can stretch their travel funds almost indefinitely in Goa if they have to, or are just motivated to hang around for a few months. It should be noted that the cheapest hotels in Goa (and throughout India) are in a class below “1-star” so paying for a nicer place might be wise.

  • Currency: Indian rupee
  • Cheap/good hostel: Anjunapalms Guesthouse – 175/night
  • Transportation: 20
  • Meals: 588
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 240
  • Attractions: 100
  • Daily Backpacker Index: INR1,123 = US$18.06/day

>>>Goa prices and weather

6 – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Saigon, as it’s still usually known, is far more sprawling and modern compared to Hanoi, and it’s quite a bit more lively as well. Hotel and food prices tend to be a bit higher than elsewhere in Vietnam, but compared to almost anywhere else in the world this is a bargain. Hostel beds can be quite cheap in Saigon, but hotels are costlier than almost anywhere in Vietnam.

  • Currency: Vietnamese dong
  • Cheap/good hostel: My My Arthouse – 118,820/night
  • Transportation: 30,000
  • Meals: 158,000
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45,000
  • Attractions: 25,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: VND384,820 = US$18.25/day

>>>Ho Chi Minh City prices and weather

7 – Delhi (and New Delhi), India

In what might be a surprise until you’ve actually visited yourself, Delhi (and New Delhi at its heart) is not as cheap as we might otherwise expect. Hotels tend to be far more expensive here, even in the infamous backpacker ghetto of Pahar Ganj, so even while dining on food from street stalls, this is not an ideal place for budget travelers, especially considering the other headaches of visiting. Recently, some good and cheap hostels have opened up, so conditions are getting better and cheaper for the backpacker set.

  • Currency: Indian rupee
  • Cheap/good hostel: Lisas Homestay – 300/night
  • Transportation: 30
  • Meals: 396
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 240
  • Attractions: 250
  • Daily Backpacker Index: INR1,316 = US$21.16/day

>>>Delhi prices and weather

8 – Vientiane, Laos

Landlocked and sometimes forgotten, Laos generally only tends to get visitors who are spending time touring the whole region, but those who make it are rewarded with a fascinating culture, and low prices. Laos’ capital city is so low key that it feels like a small-town river resort, though modern development is starting to creep in. Thanks to a new hostel opening recently, Vientiane is a bit cheaper than Luang Prabang.

  • Currency: Laos kip
  • Cheap/good hostel: Vientiane Backpackers Hostel – 43,145/night
  • Transportation: 30,000
  • Meals: 62,400
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 30,000
  • Attractions: 6,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: LAK171,545 = US$21.35/day

>>>Vientiane prices and weather

9 – Luang Prabang, Laos

Prices for many things in Luang Prabang have gone up more recently than in just about any other tourist city, mostly due to its fast-growing popularity, but for now it’s still very cheap for those who travel like a backpacker. The local attractions are all practically free, and the ice-cold Beerlao is sold at the same low price at nearly every restaurant in the city. Hotel prices are relatively high in Luang Prabang so for most travelers it would be further down this list.

  • Currency: Laos kip
  • Cheap/good hostel: Khammany Inn Guest House – 43,145/night
  • Transportation: 20,000
  • Meals: 66,000
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 20,000
  • Attractions: 25,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: LAK174,145 = US$21.67/day

>>>Luang Prabang prices and weather

10 – Bangkok, Thailand

Southeast Asia’s main entry point and most notorious destination continues to be a budget traveler’s dream, with plenty of cheap hostels and hotels plus excellent street food that costs almost nothing. It’s only the relatively high price of alcohol that pushes Bangkok down the cheap list a bit, so teetotalers are even better off than the rest of us.

  • Currency: Thai baht
  • Cheap/good hostel: New Road Guesthouse – 160/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 138
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 180
  • Attractions: 200
  • Daily Backpacker Index: THB718 = US$21.75/day

>>>Bangkok prices and weather

11 – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh might be visited less if not for the fact that it’s a handy stop between Siem Reap and the Mekong Delta, but its convenient location has helped it develop a large tourist infrastructure, and it’s an interesting stop for sure. The main attractions are all quite cheap, as are the happy-hour beers at the pleasant restaurants lined up along the river.

  • Currency: US dollar
  • Cheap/good hostel: Hostel Nomads – $4.50
  • Transportation: 2
  • Meals: 7.20
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 2.25
  • Attractions: 4.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: US$21.95/day

>>>Phnom Penh prices and weather

12 – Hoi An, Vietnam

Until you are actually planning a trip to Vietnam you’d be excused for never having heard of Hoi An, which is just south of Danang on the central coast. But Hoi An is a very popular stop for those touring the country, and it ends up being the trip highlight for a great number of those. The old town is a perfectly preserved Chinese-style fishing village, and the city is as filled with great and cheap restaurants as it is with tailor shops. Since there are no real hostels with dorm beds in Hoi An, the city appears lower on this list than it deserves to be. It’s cheaper than Saigon, except that you have to stay in a hotel instead of a hostel.

  • Currency: Vietnamese dong
  • Cheap/good hostel: Sunflower Hotel – 190,000/night
  • Transportation: 30,000
  • Meals: 144,000
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 36,000
  • Attractions: 30,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: VND490,000 = $23.23/day

>>>Hoi An prices and weather

13 – Colombo, Sri Lanka

ColomboColombo is one of those overcrowded and mostly charmless Asian capital cities that people often spend a day in on their way in and/or out of the country, but that’s about all it’s good for. Prices of the more scenic and interesting Sri Lankan cities are similar so this is a good guide for budget planning. The country still lacks hostels and good budget hotels, so sleeping here isn’t as cheap as in Southeast Asia, although most everything else is.

  • Currency: Sri Lankan rupee
  • Cheap/good hostel: Adikaram Sea View Hostel – 1,200/night
  • Transportation: 100
  • Meals: 750
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 720
  • Attractions: 200
  • Daily Backpacker Index: LKR3,120 = US$23.87/day

>>>Colombo prices and weather

14 – Jakarta, Indonesia

JakartaOne of the most populated cities in the world, Jakarta is a major hub for anyone visiting Indonesia (except for Bali). The city itself gets mixed reviews as a tourist destination, with pretty much all of Indonesia’s charms being found elsewhere. The good news is that at least it’s quite cheap for budget travelers, and it should be interesting to anyone who likes booming Asian cities.

  • Currency: Indonesian rupiah
  • Cheap/good hostel: Hunny Hostel Jakarta – 116,300/night
  • Transportation: 6,000
  • Meals: 90,000
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 75,000
  • Attractions: 10,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: IDR297,300 = US$24.44/day

>>>Jakarta prices and weather

15 – Yangon, Burma (Myanmar)

YangonAs of 2014, Burma is still likely in its infancy as a travel destination. With the informal travel boycott called off only recently, travelers are suddenly pouring in, and the infrastructure has a lot of catching up to do. Yangon is where most people arrive, yet there is still a lack of quality budget hotels, among other things. At least food and drinks tend to be cheap.

  • Currency: Burmese Kyat
  • Cheap/good hostel: Agga Guest House – 10,879/night
  • Transportation: 1,000
  • Meals: 5,400
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 1,800
  • Attractions: 5,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MMK24,079 = US$24.45/day

>>>Yangon prices and weather

16 – Manila, Philippines

It’s a bit unfair to use Manila as the only example in the Philippines, because the country is loaded with far nicer beach resorts and more interesting colonial cities, many of which are even cheaper than Manila. Still, many sun-seekers and cultural tourist head here every week, so it’s good to know that it’s very affordable for short stays on your way somewhere else.

  • Currency: Philippine peso
  • Cheap/good hostel: Our Awesome Hostel – 400/night
  • Transportation: 20
  • Meals: 372
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 180
  • Attractions: 150
  • Daily Backpacker Index: PHP1,122 = US$25.10/day

>>>Manila prices and weather

17 – Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is another strange example on this list, since it’s not a city but a rather large island filled with beach resort towns. This is definitely the most expensive part of Thailand, but still cheapskates can have a good go of things if they are careful, though of course that means staying well away from any of the beaches in the process. Staying in the heart of any of the resort areas will at least double lodging prices, while Phuket Town itself remains quite cheap. For backpackers, there are better beach areas in Thailand that are also cheaper.

  • Currency: Thai baht
  • Cheap/good hostel: Pineapple Guesthouse – 220/night
  • Transportation: 60
  • Meals: 300
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 180
  • Attractions: 100
  • Daily Backpacker Index: THB860 = US$26.05/day

>>>Phuket prices and weather

18 – Siem Reap, Cambodia

One of the world’s great budget travel cities (and home of the world’s cheapest hostel beds), Siem Reap was built as a staging area for daytime trips to the Angkor Wat temples just to the north, yet on its own this city is also about as pleasant and fun as they come. Interestingly, Siem Reap would be well up this list, in the super-cheap territory, if we didn’t calculate in a substantial amount for Attractions, since the amazing temple complex itself is justifiably not cheap. Everything but the temples is amazingly cheap all things considered.

  • Currency: US dollar
  • Cheap/good hostel: Advisor Anchor Villa Siem Reap – 3.92/night
  • Transportation: 2.00
  • Meals: 7.20
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 1.50
  • Attractions: 12.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: US$26.62/day

>>>Siem Reap prices and weather

19 – Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

Few parts of Asia have undergone such tourist growth as Bali, even after the tragic bombings. The Kuta beach area is now a nearly solid block of guesthouses, travel agencies, and restaurants, but fortunately it’s also still quite cheap, and an excellent travel bargain in general. Those wanting less commercialism can find it elsewhere in Bali, but those wanting a great beach party can find it in Kuta.

  • Currency: Indonesian rupiah
  • Cheap/good hostel: Surfers Dorm House – 108,000/night
  • Transportation: 10,000
  • Meals: 72,000
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 75,000
  • Attractions: 50,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: IDR327,000 = US$26.88/day

>>>Kuta, Bali prices and weather

20 – Beijing, China

Even with its Olympics boom, Beijing continues to be a great budget travel destination, with prices that are suitable to nearly anyone. The backpacking set can stay cheaply and see the Forbidden City and Great Wall for just small change, and those with larger wallets can find a bit of luxury and class for not too much more money.

  • Currency: Chinese yuan
  • Cheap/good hostel: Kings Joy Hostel – 39.60/night
  • Transportation: 4.00
  • Meals: 50.40
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 36.00
  • Attractions: 45.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: CNY175.40 = US$28.93/day

>>>Beijing prices and weather

21 – Mumbai, India

Even more expensive than Delhi, Mumbai feels like a shock this far down the list, but perpetually expensive hotels and no real hostels make this city pricier than you might expect. Fortunately, one can see the main sights in a few days or less, so it’s a good idea to minimize time in Mumbai and then head out to someplace less insane as quickly as possible.

  • Currency: Indian rupee
  • Cheap/good hostel: Anjali Inn – 1000/night
  • Transportation: 36
  • Meals: 396
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 240
  • Attractions: 250
  • Daily Backpacker Index: INR1,922 = US$30.91/day

>>>Mumbai prices and weather

22 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia, in general, tends to be forgotten by many, with the huge capital of Kuala Lumpur often mostly remembered as once having the world’s tallest buildings. That’s a major shame because Kuala Lumpur is a fascinating mix of new, old, and exotic, that’s also extremely easy to access since English is widely spoken. If visiting Singapore it’s worth taking the train up for a short side trip. Hostel beds tend to be cheap here, but hotel rooms will cost a bit more so for non-backpackers it would be down a few places on this list.

  • Currency: Malaysian ringgit
  • Cheap/good hostel: Step Inn Guest House Hostels – 19.88/night
  • Transportation: 2.00
  • Meals: 22.80
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 24.00
  • Attractions: 40.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MYR108.68 = US$33.03/day

>>>Kuala Lumpur prices and weather

23 – Macau, China

Yes, it’s true that nearly everyone who visits Macau does so to gamble at one of its new and huge casinos, but it’s also long been an interesting destination for cultural visitors, offering a parallel tourist infrastructure in and near the old town itself. Many continue to stop over for a day or two on a Hong Kong side-trip, and bargains are still there for those who look (and don’t gamble).

  • Currency: Macau pataca
  • Cheap/good hostel: Motel168 Zhuhai NingXi Road Inn – 73/night
  • Transportation: 6.40
  • Meals: 122.40
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 30.00
  • Attractions: 25.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MOP256.80 = US$33.14/day

>>>Macau prices and weather

24 – Taipei, Taiwan

Another destination that is often forgotten, partly due to its remote location, Taipei still gets high marks from most visitors, and the rest of the island is even more interesting. The tourist infrastructure is well built, so things do tend to be fairly easy, and the city is quite cheap by international standards.

  • Currency: Taiwan dollar
  • Cheap/good hostel: JV’s Hostel – 447/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 204
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 150
  • Attractions: 200
  • Daily Backpacker Index: TWD1,041 = US$34.72/day

>>>Taipei prices and weather

25 – Shanghai, China

Far more modern than Beijing, and also more designed for business travelers, Shanghai is still a relative bargain for backpackers. Most things are a bit more expensive here, so budget travelers have to seek out the cheaper options, but again, compared to a similar modern city in another part of the world, Shanghai is a steal.

  • Currency: Chinese yuan
  • Cheap/good hostel: Shanghai Dock Bund Hostel – 39.60/night
  • Transportation: 6
  • Meals: 54
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 60
  • Attractions: 54
  • Daily Backpacker Index: CNY213.60 = US$35.31/day

>>>Shanghai prices and weather

26 – Seoul, South Korea

These days Seoul seems to be known mostly for its lightning-fast internet connections, and its professional videogame culture, not to mention its pop stars, but there’s obviously a lot more to it than that. Fortunately, the city is still quite reasonably priced for this kind of technology, although its remote location and less-than-perfect climate will keep most people away.

  • Currency: Korean won
  • Cheap/good hostel: Big Choi’s Guest House – 8,700/night
  • Transportation: 2,300
  • Meals: 10,800
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 6,000
  • Attractions: 10,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: KRW37,800 = US$35.80/day

>>>Seoul prices and weather

27 – Boracay Island, Philippines

BoracayIslandWhile Boracay Island has pretty much zero cultural sights, it’s still a popular stop for budget travelers in the area due to the gorgeous beaches and modest prices. The cheapest hotels and restaurants are in the Boat Station 3 area, while things can get expensive up north. The east side of the island is all about windsurfing and feels like a totally different place.

  • Currency: Philippine peso
  • Cheap/good hostel: Frendz Resort – 600/night
  • Transportation: 100
  • Meals: 588
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 150
  • Attractions: 250
  • Daily Backpacker Index: PHP1,688 = US$37.76/day

>>>Boracay Island prices and weather

28 – Singapore, Singapore

Easily one of the world’s most modern cities, Singapore can actually be quite expensive for most, but fortunately there is still a decent collection of hostels that keep sleeping prices down. Also, eating most meals from the famous hawker centers will keep your budget intact while letting you sample some excellent (and very hygenic) local specialties.

  • Currency: Singapore dollar
  • Cheap/good hostel: Society Backpackers Hostel – 17.93/night
  • Transportation: 1.60
  • Meals: 18.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 6.00
  • Attractions: 10.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: SGD53.53 = US$42.15/day

>>>Singapore prices and weather

29 – Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong used to be famously cheap, and it’s still quite reasonable by international standards, but there are now so many rich people and business travelers coming through here that backpackers have to really search for the bargains. Hotels can be quite expensive, though some hostels are still great value.

  • Currency: Hong Kong dollar
  • Cheap/good hostel: Hong Kong Hostel – 159/night
  • Transportation: 4.60
  • Meals: 69.60
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 72.00
  • Attractions: 36
  • Daily Backpacker Index: HKD341.20 = US$44.03/day

>>>Hong Kong prices and weather

30 – Tokyo, Japan

No surprises at the most expensive end of the list, and thanks to a drop in its currency, Tokyo isn’t as bad as most made it out to be from a budget perspective. It’s now actually cheaper than the more expensive cities in Europe, and this is truly an amazing city that everyone should try to visit at least once.

  • Currency: Japanese yen
  • Cheap/good hostel: ACE INN Shinjuku – 2,000/night
  • Transportation: 320
  • Meals: 2,520
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 1,800
  • Attractions: 1,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: JPY6,965 = US$79.73/day

>>>Tokyo prices and weather

Also check out Backpacker Indexes from the rest of the world

20 Responses to “30 Asian cities by price: Backpacker Index for 2014”

kiran says:

planning to travel for two person in asia(4days & 3nlghts) bubget is 65000rs.,advice me two cities in this budget & duration for the month of dec.


    Kiran, please let me know which currency you are using for 65000 and I’ll be happy to help. Also, do you have to be near a beach? That usually makes it more expensive, but not always. -Roger

    hemank says:

    I hv travelled most places in asia in very very economical price.
    I can give u details. 3 countries, 10 days, 2 people, cost 75000 rupees.
    Including train tickets, flight tickets, hotel rent, visa fee food &
    sight-seeing expenses.
    Thailand, malaysia & singapore. All 3 in Rs. 35000/person.
    Im not a travel agent but i can guide u.

      Abidit Sarmah says:

      Hello Hemank
      Can you please share how did you manage to travel cheap?
      I am also planning for the next year, but money is always a constraint.
      please help.

    Ali says:

    Kiran I Think Singapore will be best for you 2.According To My Suggestion.Cheap,Reasonable,And Lots Of Fun Thing.

Stephanie says:

Hello, I currently live in Taiyuan, China and have a friend whom currently lives in Kuwait. I would like to pick somewhere south-east Asia to meet for a week holiday together. Where would be a good choice according to price for flights and stuff? and do you know any good places to book this trip. I was thinking early February.



    Stephanie, You’ll find the cheapest flights to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, but Bangkok is probably a better choice because Thailand tends to be a bit cheaper and you still have close access to holiday islands and temples and trekking, plus many great party spots. -Roger


Very helpful list.
I just graduated college and decided to do an extended trip throughout SEAsia. As a recent grad, I’m hoping to do it as cheaply as possible and this really helps give me an idea of spending in the area. Luckily I’m not much of a drinker and can shave off some spending there as well as accommodations though work exchange programs.

Chris says:

I agree with this list even though I believe Philippines should have been ranked high, but none the less great list :D

matylda says:

Where did you take these prices from? Web search? Have you been there? If you have, why didn’t you try haggling? Or were you charged more because you trusted the smiley faces who thought of you as another naive foreigner? I always pay prices as close as possible to what the locals would pay. Here are some examples from my recent experience of traveling on a budget in Asia-US$15/day in Kuala Lumpur,US$12 in Phnom Penh,S$12 in Delhi,US$12in Mumbai,US$10 in Goa,US$12 in Luan Prabang,US$15 in Chiang Mai.



    I’ve been to all of these cities, most of them recently, but things like hostel and attraction prices are available online as well. I appreciate you taking the time to comment, but I’m afraid you’ve missed the entire point of this list. It’s not a contest to see how little foreigners can survive on each day, it’s a comparison of typical tourist costs in each city. Did you haggle your way aboard the monorail in Kuala Lumpur? Or do you haggle for beer prices in restaurants that are already cheap? -Roger

    john says:

    everyone likes to save money but please keep in mind some of these vendors are in hot heat all day and don’t have much in life. so better to just let them have that extra 10-20 cents they are charging you.

    (I agree, thanks John. -Roger)

    Flor says:


    Well done, you’ve managed to fleece vendors in very poor countries. I concur that it can be frustrating to be charged the ‘inflated’ tourist price, but I do question your motivation for traveling in the first place, if you see the locals you come into contact with as nothing more than tricksters. Being charged higher prices is the norm in such countries – and many foreign tourists and vendors do so with a sense of humour about it all – it is still cheap afterall! At least there is an opportunity to haggle, unlike in Europe and the US where you are expected to tip, on top of everything else, even if the service is poor!

    Roger, thanks for the post – very useful.

      Malthus says:

      Your site is promising.

      To those who think that negotiating is “fleecing” you might send me your excess money. Or better save up for some education.

      I suggest economics for understanding the markets, and something to help you work through your post-colonial guilt – a buddhist pilgrimage and meditation retreat for instance.

      If you still feel a bit bad “ripping off the locals” pay your excess money to a volunteer & tourism job provider and “work” in a poor village for 6 months that has been deprived of your extra few nickels a day.

Matylda says:

I see your point guys but keep in mind that not all of these people are honest and not all of them are poor. I don’t mind helping people and paying more as long as I’m supporting someone who truly needs it. There’s a lot of scammers not forced by situation but driven by greed and they are getting richer thanks to foreign travellers having their 3rd world country moment. I’ve seen too many naive travellers falling for the same stories and being parted with their money. The money that will never make it’s way to the ones in need.

tina says:

hey! very helpful article, so thank you.. i would also like to ask your advice about backpacking to thailand, in jan 2014.. could you maybe provide some rough idea? since we are students, the usual budget and time constraints.. i will be starting from delhi and this should be a 14 day trip in all.. thanks!



    I’m not exactly sure what advice you are looking for, but I’ll take a shot anyway. In two weeks, starting in Thailand, I think you should see Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap (nearby in Cambodia), and a few days on one of the Thai islands. Once you get there, you can get by on as little as US$20 per person per day and still have a good time, as long as you are willing to sleep in dorm beds in hostels, and eat mainly street food (which is fantastic and ubiquitous in Thailand). You’d also be spending a bit of money on trains or buses or ferries to get around, and those tend to be cheap as well.

    If you have more to spend you can stay in some hotels instead of hostels, and even save time by buying cheap flights on AirAsia well in advance between some of the stops. Again, this was just a guess as to what you were asking. Please let me know if you have other questions and I’ll try to help. -Roger

      Asianut says:

      Hello Wade.You provide a practical guide and budget for travelling.Im just curious to know if these prices also acccomodate peak times such as December and January?

      I am in a similar position as Tina,the person who asked the question above.

      Maby you could give me advice.I have a month to travel Thailand and maby Laos starting in late December.Could you provide a basic route or itinierary of where to go to avoid high costs during this period.

      More importantly,Do you know of any islands that offer good cheap snorkelling during the peak seasons?
      Phuket seems to be expensive for Snorkelling and snorkelling tours.




        Also (Asianut),

        The accommodation prices for the Backpacker Index are usually based on an April stay, mostly because April is shoulder season in pretty much the whole world. But April is still busy in most of Asia, including Southeast Asia, so the prices for dorm beds are actually quite similar. In other words, you might find that a bed in a hostel is a few dollars more in December or January than is shown on the list, but the prices for transportation, attractions, food, and drinks will be the same.

        As for a cheap and interesting itinerary, there are some pretty well trodden routes that many people take, partly because there is good infrastructure connecting the popular stops. Here’s one I recommend:

        Start in Bangkok and spend at least a few days there. Do at least a day trip, if not an overnight stop in Ayutthaya, which is only 2 hours away by train.

        Once you are ready to leave the Bangkok area, head to Siem Reap in Cambodia for 3 of the best days of your whole trip. From there it’s a little complicated to go to Vientiane, Laos, but you can do it. One night there is enough, and then take a bus to Vang Vieng, which is gorgeous and has really cleaned up its act in the last couple years. After a few days there, take a bus to Luang Prabang for about two or three days.

        From Luang Prabang you can take the famous slow boat ride back to the Thai border, and then to Chiang Mai a couple hours away by bus. The good thing about going this direction is that most people go the other way, and the slow boat can be really crowded, but going this way you’ll have half the boat to yourself.

        The city of Chiang Mai is fun, and cheap, but it’s kind of ugly. So stay there for a few days but do treks and other trips to nearby sights instead of just hanging around.

        From Chiang Mai you can either take a train back to Bangkok, or a cheap flight on Air Asia to one of its stops in southern Thailand, such as Surat Thani. Phuket is indeed a bit expensive, and it’s really not that interesting. Instead you could go to Ko Samui and/or Ko Phangan. Both of those are really fun, and have better budget options in accommodation as well as activities like snorkeling.

        The above will keep you in really interesting places that are also quite cheap, even in high season. You can get a meal from a street vendor for between US$1 and US$2 almost anywhere in Thailand if you look around a bit. Alcohol is very cheap in Cambodia and Laos, but not so much in Thailand, by the way.

        Hopefully this helps and is something like what you were looking for. I also highly recommend using for planning in this area as well as for asking questions on the forums. It’s by far the best resource out there in this region. -Roger

steve says:

Not sure why the person is bragging about spending 10 to 15 dollars a day. Staying in the cheapest rooms and only doing the cheapest activities is a boring limited way to travel.


Leave a Comment

    Name (required)
    Mail (will not be published) (required)