31 Asia cities by price: Backpacker Index for 2020

Hoi An BridgeAsia continues to provide many (if not most) of the world's great travel bargains. For the tenth year running, we at PriceOfTravel.com have ranked all of Asia's top tourist destinations from cheapest to most expensive, at least for those on lower budgets.

The 2020 list is fairly similar to the 2019 list because prices and currency valuations were mostly stable through the region. Southeast Asia continues to have some of the world's cheapest destinations, and even the most expensive places are generally quite a bit cheaper than Europe or North America's most expensive destinations.

It's also worth nothing that (except for Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, and 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.

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 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.

Cheapest Asia cities to fly into

>>>Cheapest Asian cities to fly into from the US and Canada
>>>Cheapest Asian cities to fly into from the UK and Europe

Price of Travel's Asia Backpacker Index for 2020

Note: All prices converted to US dollars in early January, 2020

1Hanoi, Vietnam (cheapest)

Vietnam's cheapest city (by just a bit) 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
  • Best cheap hostel: Republic Backpackers Hostel – 125,000/night
  • Transportation: 50,000
  • Meals: 201,600
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 60,000
  • Attractions: 20,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: VND456,600 = US$19.68/day

>>>Hanoi prices and weather

2Ho 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. Some new hostels have opened recently and that competition has pushed prices down a bit at others. Many new hostels sell beds at very low prices in the hopes that you'll book tours through them or at least buy drinks.

  • Currency: Vietnamese dong
  • Best cheap hostel: Hangout Hostel HCM – 112,400/night
  • Transportation: 50,000
  • Meals: 213,600
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 60,000
  • Attractions: 40,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: VND476,000 = US$20.52/day

>>>Ho Chi Minh City prices and weather

3Hoi 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 with French and Japanese influences, and the city is as filled with great and cheap restaurants as it is with tailor shops. Hoi An used to lack traditional hostels with cheap bunk beds, but that is no longer true and backpackers can find dorms in the center of town at very low prices. But again it's worth mentioning that hotel rooms are also very cheap here, so you can probably afford a private room for only a bit more than a bunk in a public dorm room. There are also new hostels on or near the lovely beach here, which is a short motorbike ride from town.

  • Currency: Vietnamese dong
  • Best cheap hostel: Backhome Hostel and Bar – 115,865/night
  • Transportation: 50,000
  • Meals: 204,000
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 48,000
  • Attractions: 80,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: VND497,865 = $21.46/day

>>>Hoi An prices and weather

4Vientiane, 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 some new hostels opening recently, Vientiane is a bit cheaper than Luang Prabang, though not by much. If you are only thinking of visiting one city in Laos, it's probably better to head straight to Luang Prabang, even if it's a bit more expensive.

  • Currency: Laos kip
  • Best cheap hostel: Dream Home Hostel – 65,933/night
  • Transportation: 20,000
  • Meals: 67,200
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 30,000
  • Attractions: 10,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: LAK193,133 = US$21.73/day

>>>Vientiane prices and weather

5Yangon, Burma (Myanmar)

YangonWhen the informal travel boycott was lifted about 6 years ago, this country wasn't really ready for tourists. There were almost no hostels or budget hotels aimed at backpackers so things were more expensive than they really should have been. As of 2020 that has changed and there are now plenty of good hostels and the competition has brought prices down. Yangon is where most people arrive, so it's probably the best hub to consider for a trip to Myanmar. Food and drinks tend to be cheap, as you'd expect in this part of Southeast Asia.

  • Currency: Burmese Kyat
  • Best cheap hostel: Shwe Yo Vintage Hostel – 8,061/night
  • Transportation: 1,000
  • Meals: 11,760
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 3,900
  • Attractions: 7,500
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MMK32,221 = US$22.01/day

>>>Yangon prices and weather

6Manila, Philippines

It's a bit unfair to use Manila as the only city 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. In fact, you'll see Boracay Island way down this list. 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. Cebu is another large city that is a bit cheaper and maybe a bit more pleasant. Several new hostels have opened recently in Manila and it's now a cheaper place to visit for backpackers, but still perhaps not spending more than a couple days here anyway.

  • Currency: Philippine peso
  • Best cheap hostel: Ola! Hostel Manila – 349/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 402
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 180
  • Attractions: 150
  • Daily Backpacker Index: PHP1,121 = US$22.02/day

>>>Manila prices and weather

7Pokhara, Nepal

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, and those can be a huge drain on your budget. On the other hand, those are the main reason people come here at all.

  • Currency: Nepalese rupee
  • Best cheap hostel: Kiwi Backpackers Hostel Pokhara – 647/night
  • Transportation: 100
  • Meals: 804
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 900
  • Attractions: 100
  • Daily Backpacker Index: NPR2,551 = US$22.24/day

>>>Pokhara prices and weather

8Phnom 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. That said, it's probably not worth planning on spending more than a few days here.

  • Currency: US dollar
  • Best cheap hostel: 19 Happy House Backpacker – US$3.79
  • Transportation: 2
  • Meals: 9.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 2.25
  • Attractions: 6.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: US$23.04/day

>>>Phnom Penh prices and weather

9Chiang 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. If you are a ‘digital nomad' it's pretty much compulsory to spend at least a few months here.

  • Currency: Thai baht
  • Best cheap hostel: Hug Hostel Rooftop – 160/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 198
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 210
  • Attractions: 100
  • Daily Backpacker Index: THB708 = US$23.37/day

>>>Chiang Mai prices and weather

10Jakarta, 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
  • Best cheap hostel: Six Degrees – 83,373/night
  • Transportation: 7,000
  • Meals: 127,200
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 105,000
  • Attractions: 10,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: IDR332,573 = US$23.91/day

>>>Jakarta prices and weather

11Kathmandu, Nepal

Nepal's capital is one of those cities most travelers just hustle through on their way somewhere else, like Pokhara (see way above) 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
  • Best cheap hostel: the Sparkling Turtle Backpackers Hostel – 405/night
  • Transportation: 70
  • Meals: 1,014
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 900
  • Attractions: 400
  • Daily Backpacker Index: NPR2,789 = US$24.32/day

>>>Kathmandu prices and weather

11Delhi (and New Delhi), India (tie)

Until recently, most of Delhi (and New Delhi at its heart) was not as cheap as you might expect, but there are now quite a few really good hostels to cater to the considerable backpacking community. Hotels up to Western standards tend to be more expensive here, even in the infamous backpacker ghetto of Pahar Ganj, so it's critical to research carefully before booking a cheaper place. The street food is cheap though and restaurants are pretty reasonable, although finding alcohol isn't as easy as it could be.

  • Currency: Indian rupee
  • Best cheap hostel: Joey’s Hostel New Delhi – 497/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 570
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 390
  • Attractions: 250
  • Daily Backpacker Index: INR1,747 = US$24.32/day

>>>Delhi prices and weather

13Goa, 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
  • Best cheap hostel: Dreams Hostel – 313/night
  • Transportation: 60
  • Meals: 798
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 360
  • Attractions: 300
  • Daily Backpacker Index: INR1,831 = US$25.49/day

>>>Goa prices and weather

14Colombo, 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, and that's about all it's good for. If you are determined you can find plenty of interesting temples and such, but most people are better off staying only a day or so. 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
  • Best cheap hostel: Bunkyard Hostels – 1,269/night
  • Transportation: 300
  • Meals: 1,488
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 1,200
  • Attractions: 500
  • Daily Backpacker Index: LKR4,757= US$26.14/day

>>>Colombo prices and weather

15Luang 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
  • Best cheap hostel: Downtown Backpackers Hostel – 71,000/night
  • Transportation: 20,000
  • Meals: 82,800
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 36,000
  • Attractions: 25,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: LAK234,800 = US$26.42/day

>>>Luang Prabang prices and weather

16Siem 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. In fact, Siem Reap's recommended ‘best cheap hostel' is one of Asia's cheapest well-reviewed hostels in general.

  • Currency: US dollar
  • Best cheap hostel: Mad Monkey Siem Reap – US$4.00/night
  • Transportation: 2.00
  • Meals: 9.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 1.50
  • Attractions: 12.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: US$28.50/day

>>>Siem Reap prices and weather

17Bangkok, 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. Khoasan Road is the main backpacker district and it's a lot of fun as long as you don't mind being surrounded mostly by other backpackers from all over the world. Bangkok is huge and sprawling, so pay close attention before booking a hostel or hotel. It's better to pay a bit more to be close to attractions rather than save a little and have to spend an hour getting to something interesting each day.

  • Currency: Thai baht
  • Best cheap hostel: Born Free Hostel – 150/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 192
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 240
  • Attractions: 250
  • Daily Backpacker Index: THB872 = US$28.78/day

>>>Bangkok prices and weather

18Xi'an, China

XianChina's two main tourist cities are Beijing and Shanghai, and Xi'an is a solid number three on that list. This is where you come to see the amazing Terra Cotta Warriors, which is a key stop on most China itineraries. Hotels, hostels, food and drinks are cheaper in Xi'an than in the other cities, but seeing the Warriors isn't cheap so on average this city is farther down the list than it might otherwise deserve. Lest you think this is a small town near the Warriors, it's actually a booming city of over 8 million.

  • Currency: Chinese yuan
  • Best cheap hostel: Han Tang House – 35/night
  • Transportation: 6.00
  • Meals: 61.20
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 30.00
  • Attractions: 75.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: CNY207.20 = US$29.81/day

>>>Xi'an prices and weather

19Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

Few parts of Asia have undergone such tourist growth as Bali, even after the tragic bombings in 2002. 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. If you don't like crowds and you want to see what Bali was like before all the concrete, head to Lovina along the northern coast.

  • Currency: Indonesian rupiah
  • Best cheap hostel: The Island Hotel Bali – 101,780/night
  • Transportation: 16,000
  • Meals: 153,600
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 105,000
  • Attractions: 50,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: IDR426,380 = US$30.65/day

>>>Kuta, Bali prices and weather

20Phuket, 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 at least a few blocks from any of the beaches. Until recently it was necessary to stay in Phuket Town (in the middle of the island) to get a really cheap dorm bed, but now there are quite a few cheaper hostels in the lively Patong Beach area.

  • Currency: Thai baht
  • Best cheap hostel: Bodega Phuket Party Hostel – 247/night
  • Transportation: 80
  • Meals: 336
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 240
  • Attractions: 200
  • Daily Backpacker Index: THB954 = US$31.49/day

>>>Phuket prices and weather

21Taipei, Taiwan

If you want to witness historic Chinese culture and artworks without the hassle of getting a visa and visiting the mainland, Taipei is a perfect stop. This is a huge and bustling city that isn't really oriented for English-speaking visitors as much as most on this list, but all the important signs are in English so it's not overly challenging. Taipei is known for its foodie culture, and fortunately the street stalls and even many local restaurants are as cheap as they are delicious.

  • Currency: Taiwan dollar
  • Best cheap hostel: Happy Taipei – 299/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 204
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 180
  • Attractions: 250
  • Daily Backpacker Index: TWD973 = US$32.38/day

>>>Taipei prices and weather

22Mumbai, India

Even more expensive than Delhi, Mumbai feels like a shock this far down the list, but perpetually expensive hotels and few 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. Mumbai isn't really a tourist city even though it is quite impressive, so don't plan on staying more than 2 or 3 days here either.

  • Currency: Indian rupee
  • Best cheap hostel: Horn Ok Please Hostel – 753/night
  • Transportation: 60
  • Meals: 654
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 360
  • Attractions: 500
  • Daily Backpacker Index: INR2,327 = US$32.40/day

>>>Mumbai prices and weather

23Boracay 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. A few new hostels with dorm beds have opened up in Boracay recently, and the whole island was closed to tourists for six months in 2018 to work on infrastructure. Now that it has reopened it is in much better shape than before.

  • Currency: Philippine peso
  • Best cheap hostel: Frendz Resort & Hostel Boracay – 600/night
  • Transportation: 100
  • Meals: 636
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 180
  • Attractions: 300
  • Daily Backpacker Index: PHP1,816 = US$35.68/day

>>>Boracay Island prices and weather

24Kuala 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
  • Best cheap hostel: Sunshine Bedz KL – 20.25/night
  • Transportation: 4.00
  • Meals: 43.20
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45.00
  • Attractions: 40.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MYR152.45 = US$37.18/day

>>>Kuala Lumpur prices and weather

25Shanghai, 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. On the other hand, sit-down dinners in nice restaurants and 3-star hotels with good locations are quite expensive. Shanghai is far more visually impressive than Beijing and it's far easier for English speakers, so this is a better stop to linger in than other Chinese cities. Check our Go Shanghai Card review as a way to save money if you are planning on doing the big attractions. Some new and affordable hostels have opened so it's now about the same price as Beijing (see below).

  • Currency: Chinese yuan
  • Best cheap hostel: Mingtown Nanjing Road Youth Hostel – 60/night
  • Transportation: 10
  • Meals: 85.20
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 60
  • Attractions: 50
  • Daily Backpacker Index: CNY265.20 = US$38.16/day

>>>Shanghai prices and weather

26Beijing, China

Beijing is one of those cities that you just have to visit at some point in your life, mainly to see the Forbidden City and a part of the Great Wall. Aside from those things this is a huge and sprawling city with less charm than you might guess. Hostel prices here have been going up although food and drinks are still quite inexpensive. Visiting China on a tour often tends to be cheaper than visiting independently, and you end up going to the same places anyway.

  • Currency: Chinese yuan
  • Best cheap hostel: Leo Hostel – 90/night
  • Transportation: 10.00
  • Meals: 67.20
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45.00
  • Attractions: 60.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: CNY272.20 = US$39.17/day

>>>Beijing prices and weather

27Seoul, 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. The food here is amazing as well, assuming you like kimchee and their famous barbecued meat.

  • Currency: Korean won
  • Best cheap hostel: Backpackers INSIDE – 16,388/night
  • Transportation: 2,500
  • Meals: 16,200
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 12,000
  • Attractions: 10,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: KRW57,088 = US$48.92/day

>>>Seoul prices and weather

28Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong used to be famously cheap, and it's still somewhat 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. Backpackers wanting to keep expenses low will have to suffer in terrible hostels and eat at local noodle shops in order to do it. Alcohol in bars in Hong Kong is extremely expensive, so backpackers usually prefer to buy from mini-markets and enjoy it somewhere else. If you really want to see the main attractions in a short time you might consider getting the Hong Kong Pass.

  • Currency: Hong Kong dollar
  • Best cheap hostel: Comfort Hostel HK – 92.82/night
  • Transportation: 5.00
  • Meals: 156.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 120.00
  • Attractions: 50
  • Daily Backpacker Index: HKD432.82 = US$54.06/day

>>>Hong Kong prices and weather

29Singapore, 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. The attractions here tend to be quite expensive, so this is still a tough place for backpackers. Singapore's popularity has soared also due to the success of ‘Crazy Rich Asians,' but of course you won't see much wealth flaunted at the hostels here.

  • Currency: Singapore dollar
  • Best cheap hostel: Footprints Hostel – 15/night
  • Transportation: 3.00
  • Meals: 25.20
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 18.00
  • Attractions: 15.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: SGD76.20 = US$56.44/day

>>>Singapore prices and weather

30Macau, 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). Since there are no hostels here, Macau is not a great choice for those on lower budgets. It's easier to come on a day trip by ferry from Hong Kong to see the main sights.

  • Currency: Macau pataca
  • Best cheap hotel (private room for 2): 5footway.inn Project Ponte 16 – 309.54/night
  • Transportation: 8.00
  • Meals: 132.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45.00
  • Attractions: 50.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MOP544.54 = US$69.46/day

>>>Macau prices and weather

31Tokyo, Japan

No surprises at the most expensive end of the list, although for many years now Tokyo is about the same price as a mid-range European city even though it's tops in Asia. You won't really find much street food here, but the food in the million or so 7-Elevens is famously good and cheap. Considering the quality of everything in Japan and how well organized it is, Tokyo is really a bargain by international standards.

  • Currency: Japanese yen
  • Best cheap hostel: Oak Hostel Zen – 2,017/night
  • Transportation: 400
  • Meals: 2,520
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 1,800
  • Attractions: 1,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: JPY7,737 = US$70.98/day

>>>Tokyo prices and weather

Also check out Backpacker Indexes from the rest of the world

113 Responses to “31 Asia cities by price: Backpacker Index for 2020”

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.

    Roger Wade says:

    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.


    Roger Wade says:

    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

Wil @ Where's Wil says:

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 😀

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.

    Roger Wade says:


    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!

    Roger Wade says:


    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.



        Roger Wade says:

        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 travelfish.org 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.

M Shahid Shakoor says:

Dear Roger wade,
I am planning to travel for 1 person in asia(7days & 6 nights) budget is 1300 USD.,advice me 2 Countries in this budget & duration for the month of August

    Roger Wade says:

    M Shahid Shakoor,

    This is a difficult question to answer without knowing if you prefer cities or beaches or nature or temples and that sort of thing. Bangkok has a very interesting mix of most of those things, and it’s quite cheap by international standards. You could spend 3 or 4 days there and then spend 3 days in Siem Reap, Cambodia, visiting the Angkor Wat temple complex, which is one of the most amazing sights on earth. I’ll be happy to try to help you find something different if you let me know more about what you prefer. -Roger

    David says:

    Your budget is $1300 for 6 nights and seven days? May I suggest that when you’re not trying to save a few dollars eating street food with the grubby locals you stay in the Four Seasons and travel everywhere by helicopter.

Megan says:

Hi Roger,
I am going to stop in Singapore for 4 days and 3 nights after Asia cruise. Arrive at Marina Bay pier. I would like to stay on a budget of $1000/2 person including hotel, food, activities. What would you suggest? What I should see and eat?

    Roger Wade says:


    This isn’t an easy question to answer because Singapore has such a wide range of offerings. From a budget standpoint I think you’ll be fine, but you’ll have to be a little careful. Hotel rates in Singapore are now the highest in Asia, and it’s made a bit worse that hotel rooms tend to be tiny, and the cheapest ones often come with no window in the room. You’ll have to spend about US$200 per night for a double room that is decent and with a good location. Most of the cheaper hotels are also more in the suburban neighborhoods, and they can sometimes be dodgy as well. I’d recommend staying somewhere near Orchard Road, or near downtown or even in Chinatown. Those locations are central to all the sights so they cost more, but on a short trip I think it’s worth it.

    For what to do, I can highly recommend the “tour” they offer at the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. It looks touristy, and it is, but that infinity pool and that view are worth it. There’s also a hop-on, hop-off bus tour that is a worthwhile orientation because Singapore is fairly spread out. There is also an island theme park, and endless shopping, and hundreds of other activities and things to see.

    One great way to keep your food (and drink) costs down is to eat at least a few meals at the “hawker centers” which are in every neighborhood. They are dozens of little stalls in a food-court setting, and you can get great meals starting at only US$3 or US$4 each. The same meal in a sit-down restaurant a block away would be US$10 and up. Alcohol in Singapore is very expensive, except for beers at the hawker centers. That should give you a few ideas, and I’m sure it’ll be a great trip. Singapore is extremely impressive the first time you see it. -Roger

Reshma Shetty says:

Hi Roger,
I am planning to take my 2.5 years kid for a tour of 5 days in June. The objective is to chill to go to outside India which would have pleasant weather. My budget is 40000 to 50000 indian rupees
Can you please suggest some places.


    Roger Wade says:


    I’ll be happy to try to help answer this one, but this isn’t much to go on. Being in India, I’d guess that by “pleasant weather” you’d probably prefer something cooler than where you are. I’ll also assume that you’ve already dismissed the closest and cheapest options, which would be Nepal and Sri Lanka. If the flight also needs to be included in that price, it’s quite challenging. The best place for cooler weather and cheap prices in that part of Asia would be Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s an interesting city for a couple days, and there are also really good treks and other outdoor opportunities in the area.

    If that isn’t even close to what you are looking for, please provide a bit more info and I’ll give it another shot. -Roger

Alyna says:

Hi Roger,

First of all, I love your articles. Secondly, I would be grateful if you can help me choose an Asian country/city to travel to.

For my 19th birthday in November I have chosen to travel!

My budget is around $2k-$2.5k and since I’m an 18 year old individual girl, I need the place to be safe. I’ll be visiting for no more than a week. My priority is kind people who can speak English, I want to make friends and I want an adventurous trip. Another thing is the food, a city which has at least a couple of Halal places. Any weather is fine, but I would prefer windy and neutral or even cold rather than hot. Any ideas?

    Roger Wade says:


    Thank you for the kind words. I really enjoy trying to help people choose destinations, but this one is quite challenging. If you were to take out one or two things from your wish list, I would have several suggestions, though there really isn’t one place that matches them all. You’ll find “kind people” pretty much everywhere you go. The levels of English-speaking vary widely throughout Asia, however, with generally more expensive places speaking English more commonly.

    Going in November is also a bit tricky for climate if you prefer cold. You’ll get cold in most of China and Japan, and also South Korea, but you also get short days, limited English, not a great social scene (that time of year), and perhaps a struggle finding Halal places.

    The places that fit most of your wish list are in Southeast Asia, which is blazing hot pretty much every day of the year, though a few of the northern spots like Hanoi or Chang Mai would have mild weather. Bangkok would normally be my first suggestion because it fits everything you want except for cool temperatures, but right now there is uncertainty about the political situation ahead. As of now, the tourists are safe and sound, and almost everything is operating normally, though there could be disruptions and protests have even shut the airport for days at a time in the past.

    Considering your age and that this is your first big overseas trip on your own, I have two suggestions that I think would each be great as long as you can put up with hot weather. One is Bali, Indonesia, which is always loaded with young visitors from Australia and Europe, English is widely spoken, and there will be plenty of Halal restaurant choices as well. You could spend a few days in the Kuta Beach area and then a few more days in the Ubud area up in the hills (also a bit cooler). Bali is gorgeous, friendly, amazing, and cheap. Its main problem these days is that it suffers from its own popularity, with road traffic between towns being horrible. You’d love it, and you’d feel safe there.

    The other suggestion is to visit Kuala Lumpur, Melaka (also in Malaysia), and Singapore. KL and Singapore are both large cities, but they are friendly, safe, and largely English speaking. Melaka is a historic town between the two that could be a nice contrast along the way. You can get between them by bus or train (even luxury buses there are pretty cheap). Malaysia is mostly a Muslim country (and Singapore was part of it not that long ago) so your Halal choices are nearly infinite. Singapore in particular is fairly expensive (at least for sleeping), but it really is a fascinating place with a lot to do.

    I think you’d have a great time with either of those choices. Bali is really more of a resort island, and only a few areas (around Kuta Beach) are crowded, while KL to Singapore would be more of a city trip. Hopefully if you research both of those options, one will stand out to you as the best choice. I love this sort of puzzle, so feel free to follow up and ask more questions if you have them. -Roger

Tish says:

How come Osaka, Japan did not make the list when it is cheaper there than in Tokyo? Or did you only include places where you’ve been?

Any way, this is a very helpful article, nonetheless.

    Roger Wade says:


    I’ve tried to start with the most popular tourist destination for each major tourist country, and then I’ve added extra cities that are also popular as well as different enough from the first one. I’ve been thinking about adding Kyoto, but would you say that Osaka is more popular for a second stop in Japan? I’ve been a bit surprised about how infrequently Japan comes up in these conversations, so I’m glad you mentioned it. Thank you for taking the time. -Roger

Julie says:

Hi Roger! This is a really helpful article for those that are planning to travel to Asia although I live in the US now I grew up in the Philippines and my mom is still there. We want to visit Bangkok, Thailand around October for 3 days but I think Bangkok look the same as Manila as a city it’s both busy and crowded, canyou suggest how we can go unwind on the nearest beach in Thailand after touring around Bangkok? What is the name of the place and how do we get there? Please advise and thank you.

    Roger Wade says:


    Thanks. It’s true that Bangkok is very large and crowded like Manila, but it’s also easier to get around and the sightseeing is much more interesting than in Manila. So I’d encourage you to spend at least a day or two in Bangkok if you can. The Royal Palace area is very impressive, and there are many temples (called ‘wats’) that are worth a look as well.

    As for nearby beaches, Pattaya is the closest beach town with sandy beaches and many hotels. It has a reputation for having a great number of “go go bars” and that sort of thing, but most of the town is actually family oriented and those not looking for adult entertainment can easily avoid it. There are buses going to Pattaya from Bangkok and Bangkok Airport every 30 to 60 minutes.

    Just beyond Pattaya you can go to Ko Chang, which is the nearest island and only a short ferry ride from the mainland. If you don’t mind taking a short flight, then Ko Samui is a very popular island down in the south, with a few other nearby choices. And Phuket is even more popular, on the other coast. If you research these options, I’m sure you’ll figure out one of them that will work for you. -Roger

Mouza says:

Hi roger,
i,m a fun of travelling especially in asia countries. i had been to many places such as Thailand more than 6 times visiting (Bangkok, Shiangmai,pattaya, Phuket,Ko samui) i had been to Indonesia twice, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia. i need your help to find place similar to Bangkok or Thailand in its budget and night markets for staying 3 weeks with my husband and 2 kids (4years and 2 years old), some where we have fun not quiet and bouring.some where with alot of night markets too.

    Roger Wade says:


    If you are going to stay three weeks in one place, it might be difficult to find somewhere that won’t become boring. Fortunately, there are night markets in every city in that part of Asia, so that won’t be a problem. Some places you might consider are Sihanoukville, which is a popular beach in Cambodia, and Luang Prabang in Laos. Both of those would be quite mellow compared to anywhere in Thailand that you mentioned.

    If you’ve been to Vietnam then you are probably aware of Nha Trang and its fantastic beaches, and Hoi An, which is most people’s favorite place in the country. And in Malaysia you’ve got Georgetown on Penang and Malacca on the way down to Singapore. Also, it sounds like there are several major islands in Thailand that you’ve yet to visit, like Krabi or Ko Pha Ngan. Hopefully this gives you at least one or two ideas to consider. Best of luck. -Roger

Amelia Pratiwi says:

Jakarta is the worst city. You would be disappointed. Bali, Yogyakarta or Lombok is better. Both are in Indonesia.

cestitke says:

can anybody say to me it safe to be with my wife and baby dother in pataya?

TWN says:

The amount allocated for the meals and transport budget for Taipei seems too low. Most budget breakfast you can get is typically 40~50NT (“dan bing”/sandwich/Burger + milk tea/black tea in a breakfast shop/street store). Lunch & Dinner would usually cost around 80~100NT each, (unless you don’t really mind eating the 7-11 49 or 59 NT meal, some street food doesn’t cost much, but you would have a hard time filling your hunger with those finger food you bought from the street store). Transportation wise, unless you are willing to walk a lot and only take a short ride with train, it can easily cost you more than 50NT/day (buses & trains). It getting much more expensive, the price of the food are on par with Singapore or even more costly.

    Roger Wade says:


    Thanks for the info. We are updating all the prices in the coming weeks and we’ll adjust the Taipei stuff with your suggestions in mind. -Roger

Selena E says:

Hi Roger,

This is by far the best article and thread I’ve come across for a beginner looking for info about how to spend time in South East Asia on a budget. You seem so knowledgeable and well travelled. It’s amazing. I’ve never been to Asia (unless you count my stay in Istanbul on the Asia side of the Bosphorus) but I’m looking to travel there in March 2015.

So long as my annual leave request at work is granted, I’ll be leaving the UK on 18th March, and returning on or around the 8th April in order to be back for my trip to Ibiza on 11th April. For the last 5-7 days of the trip I’ll be staying in Singapore, where my boyfriend’s sister lives, so we’ll have accommodation. So I’m looking to fill the rest of the trip up with some interesting visits. I am more likely to chow down with the locals than dine at a tourist restaurant, and I prefer real culture than beaches and sightseeing tours. I’m a fan of beer too, particularly if we can’t get it at home. I’ll be on a tight budget, so cheap and friendly is good. I wouldn’t mind a day or two on a pretty and unspoilt beach though to be honest.

I’m drawn to Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Not sure why. Perhaps because they seem more raw and less spoilt by the modern world. Maybe Nepal and Malaysia too, if there is time – but I suppose I can pop over to Malaysia on the train from Singapore when I’m there. I’m not sure how long I should be looking to stay in each place or what to see and do. I thought about flying into Bangkok from London, but wonder if there are cheaper or better routes to start from. My boyfriend will be going straight to Singapore on 18th March and will be meeting me at some point along my trip before we both head to Singapore to complete our trip.

Can you recommend a route, some features and possibly travel arrangements to consider? e.g. airlines, trains, what to avoid and where to go. I very much look forward to a response! 😀

Kindest regards,


    Roger Wade says:


    Thanks for the kind words, and I’m always happy to hear that this information helps.

    It sounds like you’ve only got about two weeks before you have to be in Singapore, which isn’t really enough time to cover the region very well. It will take most of a day to get from one place to another, so the more often you move around, the less time you have for sightseeing and all that. I wouldn’t recommend going to Vietnam unless you had at least a week for it, so I think you should save it for a future trip where you’ll have more time.

    First off, the best airports (by far) to fly into in the area are Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. Once you land in any of those, you can take cheap Air Asia flights to get around, or long-distance buses or trains in some cases.

    Obviously you’ll want to spend at least a few days in Bangkok itself. After that, the main highlight nearby is Siem Reap to see the incredible Angkor Wat temples. Siem Reap is a fun town, and the temples live up to the hype.

    After that I’d suggest going to one of the Thai Islands for a different experience. The ones in the south are generally better than the ones closer to Bangkok. Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan are both popular and ideal for shorter trips like yours. Or you could head to the west coast and choose Ko Phi Phi or Phuket. I don’t really recommend Phuket for a trip like yours (it’s a place where Europeans go to sit on the beach, and that’s it). There are a few other smaller islands that you can read about when you are deciding.

    On your way from an island to Singapore you could stop somewhere in Malaysia. Georgetown on the island of Penang might be the best choice, but you could also stop in Kuala Lumpur for a day or two, and even Malacca on your way to Singapore. Kuala Lumpur is interesting, but not very exotic compared to the others.

    Check Airasia.com for flights and book as early as possible for the best fares. You can also take luxury buses around the area, for good prices. To get to the islands you’ll want to take a bus to a ferry port and then a ferry, or you could fly depending on which one you choose. In Malaysia, there is a train, but honestly the buses are better and can be more comfortable.

    Once you get your itinerary a bit more together I’ll be happy to give you more advice on making the best of it. Have a great trip. -Roger

Karin L. says:

Hi Roger, I’m so happy to have stumbled onto your site. Sounds like you know what you’re talking about, so I’d love to get some of your feedback on my question. I’m looking to plan a 3 week trip to Asia next year – likely during December/January. I’ve been to Thailand but my husband has not, and while I would love for him to experience it, I’m also questioning whether I should return here or explore a new country. I spent time in Bangkok, Chang Mai, Koh Pah Ngan, Koh Samui, and Koh Tao. We are very much beach lovers, but I would definitely love to immerse in local culture on occasion (food, markets, festivals). I’m not a fan of staying in busy cities (i.e. Bangkok or the like), and one of the things I fell in love with in Thailand was sleeping in rustic huts on the beach, street food, and the night life on the beach. I’m totally open to suggestions, but was considering Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Or a combination of these. Or if you think that Thailand really does have the best to offer, I’m open to that too.

I know it’s a bit of a generic request – I’m just trying to focus my scope so that I can get advance flights booked and start researching some areas. Looking forward to your thoughts!

    Roger Wade says:


    When it comes to rustic huts on the beach, Thailand really does stand out in the region. None of the other countries around there has nearly the development in their tourist areas, which could be good or bad. For you, having already explored Thailand, you might enjoy Cambodia (especially Siem Reap and Angkor Wat), or even spending the whole three weeks in Vietnam. But your husband might appreciate Thailand more because it’s exotic but still very easy (7-Eleven on every corner and that sort of thing).

    In three weeks you could spend up to 10 days on beaches or islands, and also still have time to visit Siem Reap for a few days, and perhaps spend a week in Laos. The very nice thing about Laos is that it’s very low-key and relaxing, even in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

    I’m a huge fan of Bali and it could also be a good fit, especially if you spent some of your time in the more-mellow Lombok. The popular areas of Bali have gotten really crowded in the past 10 years or so, and somewhat ugly as well. Specifically, the Kuta Beach, Legion, Seminyak area in Bali is wall-to-wall tourism. Ubud, up in the hills, is lovely, but you still will constantly be asked if you want to hire a taxi and that sort of thing. If you minimized your time in those crowded areas, and explored other parts of the island, it could be perfect. It’s exotic yet still quite easy, and cheap as well.

    The Philippines has a few interesting areas, but I don’t think they would suit you as well on this trip.

    Hopefully this helps, and feel free to follow up. -Roger

      Karin L. says:

      Thanks so much Roger! Your note definitely increased my interest in Bali and I’ve been reading up on it. I wanted to inquire a little more into the feasibility of it all, given that 3 weeks is a short time (in my opinion). Do you think it would be realistic to make our way there overland without rushing through too many places? My initial thought is to spend 10-12 days in Thailand, from Bangkok down to the south (haven’t decided yet whether to do the same islands I saw last time or to hop over to the Andaman side and explore there). Then spend a couple of days making our way through Malaysia and over to Bali where I’d like to spend at least 5-6 days before flying back to BKK. Do you have any thoughts on this? I’d love to experience Malaysia on the way, but given the time constraint am thinking that we might just end up passing through, either overland or in flight. Also, if you have any recommendations on the best route/mode of travel, that would be greatly appreciated.

      Thanks again!

      john says:

      Hi roger,

      Can’t remember which blog I spoke to u on but I was asking about cheapest place to travel a month or two ago.

      I spoke about lonely travel and meeting mates etc, and whether to go to India or Thailand. You said to keep in touch.

      Anyway I opted for Thailand Cambodia and enjoying koh Chang now.

      But checking exchange rates u were right about India being cheaper now.

      Oh well I messed up a bit there, I also see there’s now a 180 baht charge on ATM now which wasn’t sure here last time five years ago.

      I used my email if u said u might meet up if ur in Cambodia or somewhere after u finish Bali.

      I’ll prob be in Cambodia for a month after Jan 3 4 5 not sure exactly when

      Any way cheers

        Roger Wade says:


        I definitely remember you and I’m glad you followed up. India is probably cheaper, but I think you said you’ve been there, so you know that there’s a reason things are so cheap there.

        And yes, those 180 baht ATM fees are pretty much unavoidable through most of Asia now, which sucks. I get as much out each time as I can to minimize it, and I don’t think theft is a major problem in most of those areas.

        Personally, I did an intense tour of Europe to 29 cities in 3 months, and got somewhat burned out so I headed to Miami for the winter. I’ll be heading to Asia again later in the year, but not sooner. Best of luck with your trip. -Roger

          john says:

          Arh OK, well Miami isn’t a bad fall back!

          Just endured the south east Thai – Cambodia border with a 1300 baht fee which is something like 42usd instead of the official 30usd fee.

          In sihanouckville, its a little more expensive then koh Chang, meals around 3usd, rooms 10usd to 15usd but going up for NY.

          Dorms start at 4usd but everywhere is full

          Happy ny

RB says:

Roger, thanks for this insightful post.
I am planning to travel to in March with my better half, and would seek your suggestions on what would be the 2 best places to be. looking at a total of USD1000 with airfare ex-newdelhi. looking forward to your suggestions 😀

    Roger Wade says:


    It’s extremely challenging to recommend the “2 best places” in Asia, even based on a budget and departure airport. One of the reasons I make this list is to help people discover possible destinations and know about how much they cost compared to one another. If you want to sit on a beach you might consider Phuket or one of the other Thai islands. But if you want to experience a different culture you might go to Bangkok and then Siem Reap.

    Best of luck, and if you have a more specific question I’ll try to answer it. -Roger

Chris says:

You should include Kyoto. When you think of Asia when it comes to travel, Kyoto always comes into mind with 30 million tourists annually. Just went there this January and it seems lovely, with a lot of UNESCO world heritage sites to boot.


waqas says:

Thanks roger for your valuable guidance to the mankind
please guide me to travel in asian countries with wife and two kids
i have the budget around 5000 USD and i plan for 20 days
i have to travel from islamabad..we like to travel and visit natural beauty and places

    Roger Wade says:


    At first it sounds to me like your budget should be enough for many great destinations within Asia, but when I tried to research the airfares out of Islamabad, I find very little information. At least with the tools I typically use, it looks like flights to almost everywhere will cost at least US$1,000 per person. I’m assuming that there are cheaper flights that just aren’t shown where I’m looking.

    In other words, I can help you with some good suggestions if you give me more information on the flight situation. Is there a good hub city that you can get a relatively cheap flight into?

    My first suggestion would be to head to Thailand, probably starting in Bangkok and then going to Siem Reap, Cambodia, and also one or more of the Thai islands, but I don’t know if flights into Bangkok are affordable. You could do something similar by flying into Kuala Lumpur, and maybe they have cheaper flights? If you hope to stay halal, it would be much easier in Malaysia than Thailand. Let me know more about where you can fly into cheaply enough, and I’ll try to make more suggestions. -Roger

gin says:

i am a girl 23 yrs old, currently looking for a traveller buddy during sept. anyone interested pls email me. my email is [email protected]

Jonathan says:

Hi Roger,

Its true that Colombo is a pit stop to other destinationas in Sri Lanka. I dont know when you been there but, I have travelled in Europe and Asia, and lived in London for 7 years, but I was born & raised in Colombo. Afetr the war there has been DRAMATIC change in Colombo, so to call it charmless is a bit baseless. Revisit and properly get to know the city please. Though there are not a lot of exceptionally great tourist attractions to visit like Bangkok or similar, it is a fun city to visit and live ( although I agree with you that it is not the cheapest ). FYI- hostelworld.com has some good places with reviews with average Rs 1,500 ( USD 11/ night ). So please consider editing your article about Colombo as I think it is either outdated or you did not utilise your time properly here

    Roger Wade says:


    Thank you for taking the time to comment and I appreciate your opinion. I spent a few days in Colombo about two years ago and I joined the legions of other travelers who aren’t as impressed with the place as you are. Part of it is that Colombo is overly crowded and lacks a tourist center with notable attractions, and the other part is that the rest of Sri Lanka is so lovely that those with limited time would generally be unwise to focus much of their holiday on the capital.

    If I worked for a company that transferred me to Colombo, I assume that within a few weeks I’d discover some cool and interesting little corners of town that could impress out-of-town visitors. I actually think that’s true of pretty much any large city in the world. The real question is how much effort do tourists want to put in to find an interesting part of town when there is so much else to see once you leave the area? When I first got there I stayed in Negombo for a couple days and I thought it was also reasonably pleasant, but nothing I couldn’t find in many other parts of Asia.

    For the record, many huge Asian capitals and cities are in the same predicament. Jakarta and Manila come to mind, as does Mumbai. In the end, I was happy to spend a couple days in Colombo but it’s way down my list of places to recommend in Sri Lanka. Still, I’m interested in what I might have missed. What would you say are the top 3 can’t-miss attractions in Sri Lanka? It’s possible that I missed one or more of them. -Roger

      Jonathan says:


      Thanks for the reply, mighty decent of you. Appreciate you taking your time, Cheers mate. I am a bit curious on what you did in the city and places you visited. Couple of things you could do that I would recommend is:

      a) Take a a open deck bus tour within the city- e.g http://www.colombocitytours.com. It has day and evening/ night tours. Alternatively if you like to see a list of places to visit, just go to the website also. It includes temples, Museums etc
      b) If you are staying for a couple of nights, stay in the Colpitty/ Galle Face area for city experience, and visit the Mount Lavinia Beach. It has a lot of nice bars & restaurants with good food, drinks etc, and can have a nice swim during the day time.
      c) Go PUB hopping during happy hour. Highly recommend it as this is one of the favourite past times for locals- youngesters specially. Places vary with time but generally is 1.5 hours in establishments that offer, between 5.00pm- 8.00pm, where all drinks are half priced ( I can send a list if you like ).
      d) Visit the Dutch Hospital Precinct during Fridays & weekends or grab a bite to eat at the nearby Colombo City Hotel roof top restaurant with a nice view. Both are opposite the World Trade Center
      e) Ride a tuk tuk ( 3 wheeler ) at least once. DO NOT go near the Fort Railway Station/ Market area. It is crowded and not that great
      f) Stroll along the Presidenst House road. It has great architectural buildings and newly opened shops, restauranst etc
      g) Visit Crescat Boulevard or OdEL shopping complexes
      h) Realise that Colombo is NOT a typically cheap asian capital. Comparitively its expensive, though never as Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo. If you accept this, and not go for the really cheap places and experiences, then it is realistic to enjoy the city at its best

      If you like further information, please contact me.


hemang says:

Hi Roger

I will be travelling to thailand 7N/8D(Bangkok 3days, pattaya 2days and phuket 2days) along with my partner on honeymoon in mid december. Could you tell me what would be the budget in total to travel this place from india. As of now I have a budget of Rs 65000 Per person. would it be wise to dine out or in hotels as one of the tour n travels guy said it would be cheaper to dine out.


    Roger Wade says:


    With a budget of Rs65,000 (US$1,000) per person for 8 days, you can have a great time in Thailand, assuming that this total doesn’t have to include your airfare. You will be able to find nice and well located hotels in Bangkok and Pattaya for around US$50/night, and in the same range for Phuket as long as you don’t mind staying a few blocks from the beach. By the way, I would NOT recommend staying in the Patong Beach area of Phuket for a honeymoon. It’s crowded and the main “nightlife” areas are mostly targeted at single men, if you know what I mean. The rest of the island is peaceful and more family oriented.

    As for a food budget, Thailand is one of the world’s great bargain destinations as long as you enjoy the local cuisine or dishes that are popular with the many budget travelers there. Nearly all hotels will provide a simple breakfast (eggs and toast is common). For lunch and dinner you’ll find the best bargains are the street dishes, including some great noodle soups, rice & meat/veg dishes, and the famously spicy papaya salad. If you go to where locals are eating you can get full meals for around US$1 to US$2. In sit-down restaurants a meal can range from maybe US$3 to US$8 at most places. There will be tourist-oriented restaurants everywhere you look in all 3 places you are going. The most expensive meals would be found at the restaurants at the nicer hotels, so they tend to be poor value. So your tour n travels guy is right in that it will be cheaper (and usually better) to dine in independent restaurants instead of hotel restaurants. Please let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

ernesto alerta says:

hi roger can i ask where among the country you van visited akready is the best.cheap and safe and friwndly people..i am from manila ohilippines and always travek.i been some asians country

    Roger Wade says:


    This is a tricky question. Vietnam, for example, is wonderful and cheap, but the people aren’t really known for being too friendly. India is mostly cheap and the people are quite friendly, but you have to deal with quite a few headaches (including unbelievably crowded cities) so it’s not ideal for most people. Sri Lanka is easier to deal with, but it’s a bit more expensive than most of India.

    For cheap, safe, and friendly, I can recommend Cambodia and Laos, although the tourist infrastructure in those countries is still under-developed. Thailand is a bit more expensive, but at least it’s very tourist friendly and easy, so in many ways it’s worth the extra money.

    I really like Malaysia, partly because the infrastructure there is quite modern and most of the signs are in English, but it’s not as cheap as the others mentioned above. I’m not sure if this has helped. If you have something more specific in mind I’ll be happy to try to sort it out with you so feel free to ask more questions. -Roger

Dianna Lynn says:

Hi Roger,

I have travelled extensively throughout Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and India. I was this “” close to booking a trip to Indonesia and Malaysia with a side trip to India and Nepal yesterday. I have about 3 or 4 months and I can use airpoints for almost any flights. I was excited to travel Indonesia but I hesitate to book because of the current fire conditions enveloping SE Asia. I’m not sure where to travel to now. I have a limited budget so I like Asia for its diverse cultures and interesting things to see. I would like to leave the end of November 2015 and back home (Canada) in March.

What do you suggest for an itinerary? Taking weather into consideration, I feel as though Nepal is still on the list, but I would want to leave it to the end of the journey because of weather.

Do you think the fires in Indonesia will be clear by the end of November? If not, Sri Lanka is probably the only other country left to see.

I suppose I can go back to Thailand and see Laos, but it’s always nice to see something new.

I’m a mature solo female traveller – not into young crowds so much and beachs get boring after a couple of days. I enjoy experiencing culture, seeing history, hiking mountains. Snorkelling walking around towns, etc.


    Roger Wade says:


    Some friends of mine have been posting photos of the air resulting from those fires in Indonesia, but I honestly don’t know much about them myself. I’m planning on spending all of February in Bali, and I’m assuming that all will be clear by then. I’d recommend checking the travel forums on travelfish.org, as it’s by far the best place for current information on that part of Asia. I’m sure people are discussing the situation regularly.

    I think it’s wise to time a Nepal visit around the weather, as you’ve suggested. There are only about 4 or 5 months each year when you can be confident that it won’t rain all day. However, during the dry months you’ll have to deal with daily power cuts that can be as long as 14 hours a day at the end of the season. At least they are scheduled, so it’s pretty easy to work around them.

    Sri Lanka would be an excellent choice for what you have in mind. One sort of strange thing about Sri Lanka is that there are very few hostels and super-cheap hotels, so they don’t get huge numbers of young backpackers. As a result, it’s all very civilized rather than the nonstop party you see all over Thailand. I spent 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, most of it inland, and it felt like a good amount of time. Obviously there are similarities to India, but it’s quite different and a lot less overwhelming.

    I also think Laos could be a good choice for a longer stop. It’s very mellow and quite beautiful. Luang Prabang is the nicest place to hang around, but Vang Vieng is gorgeous and worth a few days as well.

    The Philippines is another option. Manila is kind of a frustrating city, but once you get out of it the country is lovely.

    And hopefully you can get to Malaysia, which I think is underrated by most Western tourists. Penang and Melaka are both really interesting places, and the Cameron Highlands are a refreshing change from the intense heat of the region. I also love Kuala Lumpur, though it is very large and busy.

    Hopefully my rambling helps a bit. Feel free to ask other questions if you have them. Have a great trip. -Roger

Andres says:

Hello Roger,
I love your website and recommendations. I’m planning to travel on December 2016 to SE Asia. I have some places in mind already but I wanted your input as I will have 22-25 days only to accomplish this. I wanted Thai (Bangkok) Vietnam (Saigon maybe?), Myanmar (Yangon/Mandalay) Laos (Vientiane/Luang Prabang) Cambodia (Siem Reap) Indonesia (Bali) and India (Goa). I know that if I’m to accomplish this I would have to stay a max of 3-4 days in each country. Do you think this is possible? Would you modify the city list? I’m looking for a mix of temples (cambodia) city (Bangkok) and calm (Laos). Thanks!

    Roger Wade says:


    Staying 3 to 4 days in each country is a valid strategy, as long as you are content to stay in only one place while in each country. I’ve done it myself and had a good time. You DON’T want to try to see two full cities in only 3 or 4 days, however. Pretty much all of the stops on your list are far from one another, so it would take nearly a full day of traveling to get from one to another. In other words, those transit days aren’t sightseeing days, so if you have 22 days and try to visit 8 different places, it is really 14 sightseeing days and 8 transit days. Most people enjoy trips more when they don’t spend so much time in transit, and more time sightseeing.

    I’ve yet to visit Myanmar myself and I hear mixed things. I don’t think I’d include it on a first trip to the region, especially since there are so many worthwhile things that are easier to reach that you’d have to pass up to include Myanmar. Also, I’m a fan of Goa and I’ve spent a lot of time there, but I would also save it for another trip. There is almost nothing to see in Goa, so it’s all about relaxing on decent beaches during the day, and maybe partying all night. Most people go there for a week or two, as a relaxing or partying beach holiday. You’d have to first fly into India and then fly from there to Goa, so it’s a long trip if you only want to spend 3 total nights. It would be far easier and probably more fun to instead spend those days on a Thai island.

    So I’d recommend for sure going to Bangkok, Siem Reap, and Luang Prabang. I’m also a big fan of Bali and you could fly down there from Bali for about 4 days and it would be worthwhile. If you can afford to fly everywhere then you can see more things. For example, most people going from Bangkok to Laos will take a night train to near the border of Vientiane, and then a bus into Vientiane. It’s not really a very interesting city, so after a day or two you’d take a bus to Vang Vieng, which is really wonderful. Then you’d take another bus to Luang Prabang. You can see how those train and bus rides can add up to a lot of your trip. There are no cheap flights into Laos, so it’s not so easy.

    From Phnom Penh you can take a long bus ride to Saigon, which is another very interesting place. Many people arrive in Saigon then take the train up to Danang to visit nearby Hoi An for a few days, then another train up to Hanoi for a couple days and a day or two in Halong Bay. So you could have a great Vietnam visit in about 8 or 9 days. Personally, Saigon was my least favorite stop in Vietnam, and I don’t think I’d recommend a visit that only goes there. So if you want to do Vietnam, you’ve got some options.

    You should also consider a stop at a Thai island, with Ko Samui being the most obvious choice. You can get a cheap flight there from Bangkok, or a cheaper train/bus/ferry ticket. And if you are in that area you might also consider stopping in Penang, Malaysia and/or Kuala Lumpur. KL has even more cheap flights than Bangkok, so it could be used as a hub on your trip. I hope this helps, and feel free to follow up. -Roger

Andres says:

Thank you Roger for such an amazing recommendation. I’ll be honest: Taking Myanmar out was kind of sad because I’ve always wanted to see the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, but I think I might follow your advice and remove Burma and Goa. I also wanted to ask you about the VISA subject. I’ve heard that each country has their rules, so I wanted your input in that regard as well. Do I have to arrange prior to my travel any specific permissions/permits? Or can they be dealt with when arriving into each country’s customs? Thank you once again!

    Roger Wade says:


    As mentioned, I think saving Myanmar for your second trip to the region will probably be wise, if a bit disappointing. One thing that may not be obvious before you arrive in the area is that each country has its own level of difficulty for visitors who don’t know the local language. Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore are quite easy, especially as there is a lot of English spoken in the last two, and Thailand has been a pro at tourism for decades. But when you get to Cambodia, Vietnam, or Laos, things get more challenging and it feels like you’ve gone back in time about 30 years. For example, Bangkok has dozens of trains and hundreds of buses coming in and out every day, but Phnom Penh maybe has 10 (more primitive) buses and no trains going in and out. You have to do a lot more preparation to find your way around those countries, and Myanmar is still a beginner at this with a lot of catch-up to do.

    Anyway, the visa situation depends on the country your passport is from. I’m from the US and I can pretty much just show up in most of these countries and stay for a month or so with no visa. Vietnam was an exception, but I think they now have a visa-on-arrival scheme for many visitors. If you are also from the US (or Canada or most of Europe etc) most of it will be easy. But if you are from a country with fewer diplomatic ties to this region, it could be a bit complicated. In other words, you’ll want to look up the entry requirements for each country before you start booking flights and making plans. I find that wikitravel.org has good info on most countries.

    As always, feel free to follow up if you have other questions I might help with. -Roger

Saffron says:

Hi Roger,
A lot of my friends told me that Hotel in Japan is pretty pricey, I was wondering if you have any recommendation for staying in Japan? I was planning to visit Hokkaido next year somewhere in July/August.

And for the flight cost, how do you get the lowest flight? It’s quite pricey to what I was searching all along. BTW, I’m staying in Singapore now. I could go to KL airport too if they have cheapest flight to Hokkaido. Kindly advice please, thank you.

    Roger Wade says:


    I’ve been to Japan but not yet to Hokkaido. However, I just checked hotel rates in Sapporo and they actually look very reasonable. Hotel rates in Singapore are MUCH higher than even in Tokyo these days, so I don’t think it will be too bad. In fact, while Japan has long had a reputation as an expensive country, it may not deserve it so much anymore. In general, Japan is no higher than middle of the pack compared to European countries. You won’t find bargain eats like in the hawker centers of Singapore, but you’ll be able to find normal meals for well under US$10.

    Flights to Hokkaido seem to be almost all domestic, plus a few flights from Hong Kong and Seoul. Right now it looks like Singapore or KL to Hokkaido is running about US$650 return for next July. Considering the distance and multiple stops, that actually seems like a pretty good deal for this route. I really don’t think it will go much lower than that at any point, so if you can find a fare in that range that works for you, I’d think about booking it as soon as you are sure of your dates.

    The only other thing I can think of would be to fly from KL to Tokyo on Air Asia X and then book a cheap domestic flight from there to Hokkaido. That could come in closer to US$550. Or you could fly from KL to Tokyo on Vietnam Airlines with a change in Saigon for even less, and then onto Hokkaido on another airline. That is getting complicated, but it’s the cheapest way to get there. It’s worth mentioning that if you book two separate tickets (one to Tokyo and another to Hokkaido) then you are liable if your first flight lands too late to reach your next flight. So if you do that, make sure you leave enough time. Hopefully this helps. Feel free to follow up if you have other questions. -Roger

Oliver Mortimer says:

Great article, just a quick question.
Myself and my girlfriend will be travelling around south east asia for 167 days with a budget of 9500 euro. I’m just wondering if you think that budget will be enough for us? We have our flights and vaccinations already booked. Thanks

    Roger Wade says:


    Your budget will definitely be enough, so it will just be a matter of how much “luxury” you’ll allow yourselves in order to stay on target. Outside of Thailand’s top destinations, you will be able to find double hotel rooms for around US$10 per night, and meals around US$1 each. Obviously some cities even in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos are a bit more expensive, but if you are willing to stay a bit outside of the tourist areas you’ll still find amazing bargains. On your budget I suspect you’ll want to splurge just a bit and get rooms in central locations because that really makes for a better stay. Best of luck and have a great trip. -Roger

chay says:

Hi Roger,

Great post. My partner and I are travelling SEA in October for 3 months. We will only spend a week from singapore up to bangkok and then proper backback for the rest around thailand, cambodia, vietnam and Laos. What do you think would be a reasonable budget. We don’t mind shared dorms and street food etc and the odd trip here and there is ok not every day, we are happy to just chill.


    Roger Wade says:


    Thanks. I actually think the prices listed for each city are a pretty good target budget because they include the normal expenses, and they aren’t actually a “minimum budget.” In other words, you can actually have quite a good time in SE Asia on about US$30/day per person. And with two traveling together, you’ll usually be able to get a decent double hotel room for less than two hostel dorm beds, so it can be a bit cheaper. Honestly, in Vietnam especially, you can find pretty nice hotels for way under US$20 per night for two people, including breakfast. You can get full meals on street stands for US$1 to US$2 in most of the area, including Bangkok itself, or maybe US$3 to US$4 for a cheaper meal at a sit-down place. The street food in that area is excellent, so many people prefer it to the tourist-oriented restaurants. I’m actually in Bali for a month now, which is a bit more expensive, and I can get big meals for around US$3 or less if I go to the cheaper places.

    Your bus rides from one city to the next will average around US$10 each, and most of the attractions in that area are very cheap as well. As long as you don’t feel the need to buy a lot of souvenirs, you should be okay on US$1,000/month each. And anything more you can bring will give you more luxury like hotels in prime locations and more alcohol and whatnot.

    Singapore itself is VERY expensive for hotels and even hostels, so spending more than two days there will eat into the budget. I’d recommend stopping in Malaka and/or Penang in addition to KL while in Malaysia. I’m headed there myself in about 3 weeks.

    Hopefully this helps, and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

Ramien lover says:

Hi Roger,great site and advise. I plan to visit Tokyo in Aug with my family of four(about 5-7 days) . so budget is my main concern as i know prices in japan is high. I want to travel using the train/rail system to sight see near. DO you have any recommendations on what to do and where to visit. Really appreciate you taking time to ans my questions.

Ramien lover

    Roger Wade says:


    Thank you for the kind words and I’m happy you find this useful. While Japan is (along with Singapore) one of the most expensive countries in Asia, it’s not as expensive as you might expect. Prices on almost everything haven’t budged in about 15 years and some have come down. You can get good hotels even in Tokyo for under US$100 for a double, and you should be able to find meals starting at around US$5 each. That said, there are far better sources for specific recommendations of where to go in Japan.

    Obviously you’ll want to spend at least 2 or 3 days in Tokyo. Then Kyoto is another one to consider. I’d go to wikitravel or lonelyplanet.com and seek their detailed advice and suggestions. Have a great trip. -Roger

      jasper junsay says:

      Hi Guys,

      Me and my wife together with our baby which is 1 year old is planning to take our vacation this December part in Asia aside from Philippines since we are from Philippines. We are looking for a cheaper place to visit but full of fun and not so crowded and hustle free because we have a baby. We need a cold place to visit. Any suggestion or advise?

        Roger Wade says:


        Finding a “cold” place in Asia, even in December, can be tricky. Cities like Beijing and Seoul will be “cold” to the point that almost no tourists visit that time of year, and you’d need heavy winter clothing. If you are from the Philippines, I’m unsure what you consider cold.

        Taiwan and Hong Kong have cool Decembers, but they are both quite crowded (at least in or near Taipei). My best guess as to what you are after would be Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was warm days in December, but cool evenings, so it would be a nice break from the Tropics and the Philippines. It’s also a mellow city and it’s very tourist friendly. There are great hikes and activities in the nearby mountains, and plenty of cultural things to see in the center.

        If you are looking for something different, give me more clues and I’ll try to help. -Roger

Jan St says:

What would be the top 3 safest cities among the cheapest ones in Asia? Lets say or a 1 month stay on each. Thanks

    Roger Wade says:

    Jan St,

    Hmmmm…interesting question. First we have to define “safe”. Violence against tourists of either sex is extremely rare through most of Asia, although you do hear a few news reports now and again. But petty theft such as pickpocketing isn’t unheard of in some cities. Then there are places that are pretty much completely safe, yet some locals are known to harass visitors while trying to sell goods or services. So it’s a difficult question to answer.

    Vietnam is a place where some tourists seem bothered by merchants and taxi drivers, yet they also have police often patrolling busy areas and the locals take them seriously. I’d say Hanoi, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City should feel safe and are very cheap.

    A bit up the price scale I’d recommend Kuala Lumpur or one of the other cities in Malaysia. They seem to take security seriously there, and it’s also nice that English is one of the main languages.

    India is also very peaceful and generally very safe, although with 1.1 billion people there are going to be incidents that make the news. After having spent 4 months there in total, it seems very safe for men and women, although some women do get a bit more unwanted attention than they do elsewhere.

    Laos feels unusually safe in that area, so you might look at Luang Prabang. If you had something else in mind, let me know. -Roger

Krish says:

Hi Mr Roger,

I live in Mumbai, India and would like to make short trip (4 days, 3 Nights) can you help me with destination best places my budget USD 100 per day and we are two adults and two kids.

Thanks you in advance.

Krish KG

    Roger Wade says:


    I’ll be happy to try to help. Is the US$100 per day meant to cover all 4 people? And will you have extra for airfare? There are some affordable places that might cost a bit to fly to, especially for 4 people. What sort of places are you looking for? Nepal has excellent scenery and outdoor activities, plus it’s very cheap and not far from you. And Sri Lanka is another interesting option, although the main city isn’t very nice. Give me a bit more to work with and I’ll come up with some suggestions. -Roger

Ravi says:

Hi Roger,

Great Website and very good recommendations.
I am from Bangalore, India. Myself and my friend wish to travel to any of the south east Asia countries. We are 55 and 58 years. We will be traveling for, maybe 10 to 12 days. We just want to go around on our own, with the most reasonable budget. Which are the good places and when is the best time and season to travel in terms of low cost travel. What would be our costing apart from one point to and fro air travel.

Would appreciate your suggestions, and would be of immense help.


    Roger Wade says:


    Thank you. For a first visit to Southeast Asia I’d recommend starting in Bangkok. It’s extremely popular with English-speaking tourists so there is a very good tourist infrastructure and things are pretty easy and well organized there. It’s also quite cheap and it has excellent sights and tourist attractions.

    After 3 or 4 days in Bangkok, and possibly a day trip to Ayutthaya nearby, you have many good choices for where to go next. You could go to one or more of the Thai islands such as Ko Samui or Ko Phi Phi, or you could go up to Chiang Mai, which is one of the cheapest destinations in all of the world for hotels. Or you could go to Siem Reap to spend a few days there and visit the amazing Angkor Wat. Or you could go down through southern Thailand and then into the island of Penang in Malaysia and then down to the wonderful city of Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia is a bit more expensive than Thailand, but it’s even more organized and easier to visit because most people speak English. It all depends on what appeals to you most. You could instead go to Vietnam and go from Hanoi down to Ho Chi Minh City with a stop in Hoi An on the way. That would be even cheaper, but Vietnam is more challenging and I wouldn’t recommend it for a first trip to the region. One thing to consider is that you might save US$10 or US$20 a day if you go to one of the cheapest places, but it would probably be more difficult and less enjoyable. Once you let me know which place sounds most interesting I can give you more information.

    As for the best time to go for cheap flights, it’s probably most expensive in December, January, July and August, but for a flight from Bangalore to Bangkok it should be pretty cheap all year, and the earlier you buy the cheaper it will be. I’d avoid late March to early May in Southeast Asia because that is the hottest period of the year and it can be really uncomfortable to be outside in the middle of the day. Being from Bangalore maybe you are used to that and don’t mind it. Still, I’d go another time of year.

    The totals in this article are a typical budget for each city for a backpacker. If you are staying in budget hotels instead of hostels, the costs will be a bit higher, but not much. In these area’s it’s pretty easy to get 3 meals a day for under US$10 total per person if your money is tight. You can honestly get really good meals at little street markets in Bangkok for around US$1 each. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

SN says:


My husband and I want to take a short trip this April for our first wedding anniversary, and our inital plan for Turkey is becoming too expensive, so which pace would you suggest for a week long holiday in Asia? We have travelled to Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal, and Bali. So i was thinking of choosing between Sri Lanka, Thailand and China.

We always prefer local cuisine and budget clean hotel with little to no shopping expense. Any thoughts?


    Roger Wade says:


    I’m surprised that Turkey is becoming too expensive because prices have been falling there. But among your new choices there is a lot to like.

    One thing about China is that it’s difficult to get by in English as an independent traveler, so most Westerners visit on tours. You can certainly go on your own, as long as you don’t mind the language barrier, which is far greater than any of your Asia trips so far.

    Another tricky thing is that April is the single hottest month in all of southeast Asia, including Sri Lanka. In May you start getting some cloud cover and rain storms to cool things down a bit, but in April it’s just scorching sun pretty much all the time. That said, the mountainous parts of Sri Lanka and Thailand are cooler. Thailand is more about mass-market tourism with big hotels and restaurants only catering to tourists, while Sri Lanka still feels like a newcomer to the tourism industry. Thailand has far more shopping as well, but also plenty to do without shopping. Both countries have wonderful local cuisine. Thailand is famous for spicy foods, while Sri Lanka is similar to India except with lighter sauces and more fresh vegetables.

    So really, if you wanted to visit Bangkok and you didn’t mind the heat, you’d love it, and you could spend a few days up in the cooler Chiang Mai as well. Or you could visit Phuket or one of the other islands and spend more time on the beach to beat the heat.

    In Sri Lanka you’d want to mostly avoid the capital of Colombo and head to the towns in the hills or along the southern beaches. Thailand is far easier to visit because it has a much larger and more established tourist infrastructure. But Sri Lanka is also wonderful and won’t be too difficult since you’ve been to Asia before. I’m not sure this has helped much, but I’m happy to help you decide if you have more specific questions. -Roger

ashish says:

Hey roger,

Very insightful article. I got hooked up to your website last year when I first heard of the term “backpacking” and started digging into it. Although I haven’t taken that “dream” solo trip yet due to parental pressure (I am 20 and in college so need their approval) but I am planning it and hopefully will be taking it this year itself. I have saved up Rs.60,000 in the past year and want to go on a 2 week long trip. What destinations do you suggest?
I was thinking about Malaysia as it is one of the easier countries to travel compared to rest of SE Asia. Will my budget be good enough for a 2-week trip? I can get my visa and flight for about Rs. 15k. So rs.45,000 for my stay, meals, sightseeing and intercity travel (KL, Penang, Langkawi). Can I include a day or two in Singapore at that budget?

Eagerly waiting for your advice!
thanks in advance mate.

JC says:

Hi Roger, how about Penang? Have you or anyone here visited Penang before? i think Penang is cheaper compared to KL.

    Roger Wade says:


    Yes, I’ve visited Penang and Ipoh and Malacca and Sepang and I even spent a whole month in the Cameron Highlands. I’m a big fan of Malaysia and KL is my favorite city in Asia. I agree that all of those other places (except perhaps for Sepang) are cheaper than KL, but that is true of pretty much every destination on this list. I try to include the most popular city in each country or region so people know about where it stands compared to other places. Once you know how much the biggest city costs, you can figure out that smaller cities are probably going to be a bit less.

    Thank for the comment. -Roger

Gary says:

Hi to all,

Traveling solo for the first time from Canada to Asia. looking at Thailand and Cambodia as of right now. Would like to go for all of Oct and a week or 2 of November. How much of a budget do you think i need for basic food and stay living, i don’t drink. occasional site seeing of course but more to just relax. Canadian currency, and also which would you recommend going to first Cambodia or thailand? Thank you all for reading.




    The Index prices on the list above should be pretty close to a typical budget for a backpacker in these cities. You should be able to get by on less if you don’t drink, but booze in Cambodia is really cheap so the total won’t change much. Booze is a bit more expensive in Thailand, but one of the reason’s it’s included is more of an entertainment fun, so you might have coffee and a dessert or something else instead.

    One great thing about both of these countries is that you can get really good food at street stalls for all meals if you like, and you can eat reasonably well for around US$1 per meal. Even in Bangkok they have street stalls in every neighborhood where a big bowl of noodles and some meat goes for under US$1. If you prefer take out it’s more like US$3 and up if you are ordering from a proper restaurant or fast food place. And a sit-down lunch or dinner starts at around US$4 at most places. You can get cheap beds in hostels in both countries.

    As far as which country to visit first, it depends on your style. Cambodia is more basic, while Thailand is more modern with much better infrastructure such as comfortable long-distance buses and such. If it were me I’d probably start in Cambodia and then the nicer parts of Thailand will feel a bit like a luxury when you get there. On the other hand, Thailand is easier and much better at processing Western tourists. There are literally 7-Elevens on almost every block in large Thai cities, which makes things easier and more familiar. If you’d prefer to start with something less challenging then go to Thailand first. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Monnette says:

It seems like the only familiar places in the Philippines are Manila and Boracay. However, I believe more tourists spend time in Palawan and Bohol. Maybe even Cebu. And to think, part of the title is “Backpacker Index for 2017.”

Larry says:

Thanks for your practical and accurate advises.
You are a god-send. Please keep on doing what you do.
Thanks !!!

sean says:

Thanks for the interesting work, could you advise me please. I’m 48 and widowed and my daughter is 18 and a bit fearful of crowds. I’d like to have a base which we can explore from, ideally a month in an appartment. It would need to be safe for my daughter and ideally be a large town or city with beach access. We could travel for a few days or longer to a few destinations by air, while keep returning to the base appartment. I wish to keep a lid on spending so we can go again if we enjoy it.



    Thank you and I’ll be happy to try to help. Finding what you want on or near a beach is tricky. My first idea is Chiang Mai, Thailand because it’s a large city that isn’t too crowded, with generally good weather and it’s very easy to find a nice and cheap apartment for a month there. It’s also got a handy airport near the city center that has cheap flights all over, mostly on Air Asia, which is a fantastic airline that I’ve flown at least a dozen times. There is good hiking in the nearby hills and there’s a eco-friendly elephant park nearby. But, it doesn’t have a beach close by, although most apartments will have access to a nice pool. I lived there for 3 months and the area just northwest of the city walls is filled with expats and English speakers, so it’s an easy place to stay.

    My only other suggestion that might work AND has beaches in Penang Island in Malaysia. The main town there is George Town, and it’s historic and fairly crowded, but there are loads of slightly suburban town centers that aren’t too crowded and many have beaches. Malaysia is actually a little easier than Thailand because English is one of the languages there. It would be more expensive than Chiang Mai, but still quite cheap by international standards. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

    Bangkok itself is not too far from some nice beaches, but Bangkok is a huge city that is usually very crowded so I don’t think your daughter would enjoy it.

rick says:

can you give me a few pointers plz ..i am wanting to go in jan to (undecided)thailand,malaysia,vietnam ,etc with my mum she’s 70+ but still likes to party ,shopping sightseeing tho somewhat limited (e.g big treks) due to arthiritis and also beaches but she’s been to pattaya an bangkok many thx bro RESPECT



    If I were you I’d do either Vietnam OR Thailand and Malaysia. Vietnam is big enough for its own trip, with the highlights being Hanoi and Halong Bay in the north, and Hoi An and Hue in the central area, and Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Nha Trang is a nice beach town in the south and it’s quite fun and cheap as well. You could spend a month in Vietnam alone and not get bored. However, the tourism industry isn’t as slick as it is in Thailand and it takes a bit of getting used to. In Thailand you can walk into a travel agency and book a trip and pretty much assume they are being honest with you, but in Vietnam things are more competitive and some travel agents will over-promise and under-deliver. The prices are so cheap that you are better off booking things through your hotel or a nearby 3-star or 4-star hotel, where you should be able to trust that you’ll get what was promised.

    If by partying you mean drinking, it’s worth noting that alcohol is really cheap in Vietnam, about double that price in Thailand, and quite a bit more expensive in Malaysia. Phuket has the most options in Thailand, but Ko Samui and Ko Phi Phi could be good choices as well. On Phuket the main shopping town is Patong Beach, but that’s also dominated by adult-oriented entertainment districts, so your mum may not be happy there. I’m not sure what sort of tips you are looking for, but I’m happy to answer any specific questions. -Roger

Jake says:


Can you give any feedback on any other major city in Thailand. I have been 5 times and enjoyed each trip greatly. I am considering either (a) taking a trip to Udon Thani or Chaing Rai or (b) spend 3-4 days of my Thailand trip to cross over into Cambodia to visit Ankor Wat. Do you have any advice on crossing the border? Thanks. WONDERFUL INFO!



    I’ve lived 3 months in Bangkok and 3 months in Chiang Mai, plus several other visits to both places, and I’ve spent a month or two on Phuket in addition to visits to Ko Samui and Hua Hin and Hat Yai, plus one night in Udon Thani. In my experience it’s a pretty big drop off in tourists after Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and the islands. Those other cities all have small expat populations, but not much to see aside from a few temples and not much to do. English is also much more rare outside of the touristy areas. I’d definitely do the Siem Reap trip as it’s one of my favorite cities in Asia. Not on is Angkor Wat absolutely mind-blowing, but Siem Reap itself is really fun and chilled out. You’ve probably heard of Pub Street, which is like a super mellow Khosan Road-type area. I spent two weeks there and really enjoyed it.

    From Bangkok you can take regular buses to the border or for a bit more you can take VIP buses with only three seats across or even ones that are like lounges on wheels. They take you to the border and then you walk across in a pretty efficient manner. Then you will meet lots of guys booking onward buses from there to Siem Reap. Those buses aren’t as nice, but they are nice enough and I don’t remember there being any delays. I hope this helps and that you enjoy Siem Reap. -Roger

Ravinder Singh says:

I have crossed check rates of guest house in Goa, Mumbai and Delhi. Rates of Guest houses for stay are much higher as compared to mentioned in Website as I am from Delhi India. Like this other expenses mentioned hare may be lower than actual.



    Thanks for your comment. We check these hotel rates and hostel rates at least once a year and we are about to do our annual update starting in November. It’s possible that prices have risen in the last 11 months and if so we will show the new prices. Also, we check rates for dates in April usually, which is shoulder season in most of the world. If you check rates for the peak season weeks or months you will definitely see higher prices. If you have specific information about what you found I’d love to hear it. I have nothing to gain by showing artificially low (or high) prices and I want to make them as accurate as possible. -Roger

Daisy says:

Thank your for your article. It is so informative. I have to re read some of your suggestions in planning my next trip to Asia. I just came back from Yogyakarta and visited Barobudur, the largest Buddhist temple. You seemed to mention Angkor Wat a lot and since I haven’t been there, tell me what is so special about this place.

Next year, I have 8 days to spare in November. I have been to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines. I prefer history and food (hate spicy stuff) and don’t mind going to beach to dip my feet in the water. Don’t care for shopping, but don’t mind doing if the price is cheap. Budget: USD80 to USD100 per day per person. If I can cover 2 countries in such a short amount of time, the better.

I like this website. This is now my website if I plan a trip to Asia. You are my “Rick Steves” of Asia.



    I’m glad you find the site helpful, and I’m a big fan of Rick Steves myself. Angkor Wat is absolutely amazing and it’s by far the most impressive temple complex in southeast Asia, and probably the most impressive single sight in Asia for me. Siem Reap is the small town near it and it’s a very nice place to visit as well.

    November is the end of the rainy season in most of southern Asia, so if you go early in the month you might get rained on. I’d still probably go to Bangkok and maybe one of the Thai islands, and Siem Reap if you haven’t been to that area before. Thailand is very well organized and easy to visit. The food can be spicy though, so you have to be careful ordering. But again, it can be wet early in the month, so if that’s when you are going you might go somewhere else. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

josh bartolome says:

i desire to go to Danang Vietnam. Kindly give me idea on how to get there, minimal expense etc. Thanks!

Vi says:

I am somewhat offended with your description of Hoi An as a Chinese style fishing village. The uniqueness of this little trading post rooted in its eclectic mix of Japanese, French, Vietnamese and Chinese influences, all of which can be seen in their architectures and local cuisine.



    I’m a huge fan of Hoi An and I’m going to be updating this article for 2019 next week so I’ll take this opportunity to add a bit to my simple description. Thank you for that. However, if you are “somewhat offended” by something like this I can’t imagine how frustrating your life must be. You could have said, “Hey, I appreciate all the research and you might want to update your short description of Hoi An, which makes it sound even cooler.” I appreciate the comment though. -Roger

elizabeth says:

hi Roger, I am going to Japan end of this year for about 2-3 weeks. I also want to visit vietnam, is it a silly idea to tack a week of vietnam onto a visit to Japan. then fly back to australia. I don’t want to end up doing things the most difficult or most expensive way. thanks for all the work you put in here, you obviously know your stuff!



    I don’t think it’s a silly idea, especially at the end of the year when it’ll be cold in (nearly all of) Japan and still warm in Vietnam. If you’ve only got a week it’s probably best to spend 3 or 4 days in Hanoi, including a day or two in Halong Bay, and the remaining time in Ho Chi Minh City. If you’ve got even a day or two longer you could have time to take the train between them and stay for a couple days in Hoi An, which is my favorite place in Vietnam and I’m not alone. I’m happy to answer any questions if you have them. -Roger

Alain says:

In your regional ranking you say Hanoi is the cheapest city but you say Ho Chin Minh in your global ranking???



    Thank you so much for pointing that out. I discovered that I failed to update the Backpacker Index total for 2020 for Ho Chi Minh City when I updated the others. It’s updated now. Much appreciated. -Roger

Danjela says:

Hi Roger,
Hopefully, you are doing well with all of this going in the world lately.
I and two of my friends (all girls) are planning to visit South Asia next year by October. It will be a long trip, proximately for 6 months and we want to visit almost every country there. (India, Nepal, Myanmar, Hanoi, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Philippines). I found this article very helpful and I appreciate your effort and work that you have put here. I would really appreciate it if you could help us make a trip just naming the places from the first to the last one because I have no idea where to start at first. We have a 3000 euros budget (not including flights) Do you think that it is enough? (We think we can handle it because we have traveled around Europe also and we know how to manage our money very well, for example, we have managed to spend in places like Rome 15-20 Euro per day max).  Thank you in advance!
All the best,



    I’m happy you found this useful. First off, based on your experience I think €3,000 could be enough to visit all of these countries, but if you want to stretch it out for six months that obviously means only €500 per month per person, or €17 per day per person. As you can see in the article, you can have a decent time in many of these places for something close to that, but Singapore and the worthwhile places in Malaysia will cost quite a bit more. In my experience, living on a small budget can be possible and even enjoyable for perhaps weeks at a time, and yet I think it gets old quickly after that. Sharing dorm rooms and using public showers in them (even one at a time) gets a bit exhausting.

    You’d have to move through the more expensive places pretty quickly in order to stay on budget, however you could slow down in places like India and spend very little.

    I’ve yet to make it to Brunei and I believe you have to go as part of a guided package and it’s quite expensive. I’ve also yet to make it to Myanmar, but I know many who have been there and now it’s getting pretty normal after being closed to tourism for so long.

    Rather than try to see most of South Asia on your first visit, I’d recommend picking the places that interest you most and focusing on them. After a couple months of those places you might continue on to most or all of the others on your list, although you might enjoy traveling slowly in your favorite countries instead. For example, I spent four months in Vietnam on my first and only trip and I loved it.

    I’d probably save Brunei and Philippines for another trip. Indonesia might also work better for a future trip, although cheap flights to Bali and Jakarta are possible from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. India is the most “hardcore” of all of these places and it can break your spirit, especially if you spend time in the big cities. So you might want to start with it to see if you like it, or save it for the end. Either way, I highly recommend focusing on smaller towns in India if you plan on staying more than a week or two. With a flight to or from India to Bangkok, you could do most or all of the rest on buses, trains, and a few boat rides. Nepal is probably best as a side trip from India as long as you have your visa worked out properly in advance.

    I hope this helps you get started a bit. Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos are all an easy circuit on land or boat, and Myanmar is easy to reach from northern Thailand by bus as well. For that group I’d start in Bangkok and focus on Thailand at first because it’s the perfect buffer between “modern” destinations and more challenging places like Laos or India. Once you get used to Bangkok, the rest of Thailand will be easier and once you get used to those places then Cambodia and Vietnam will seem easier. Lastly, be a bit careful in Vietnam because travel agents there tend to be harder to trust than in the other places. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger


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