31 Asia cities by price: Backpacker Index for 2020

Asia 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.

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Price of Travel's Asia Backpacker Index for 2020

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

1 – Hanoi, 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

2 – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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

3 – Hoi An, Vietnam

Until you are actually planning a trip to Vietnam you’d be excused for never having heard of Hoi An, which is just south of Danang on the central coast. But Hoi An is a very popular stop for those touring the country, and it ends up being the trip highlight for a great number of those. The old town is a perfectly preserved Chinese-style fishing village 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

4 – Vientiane, Laos

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

5 – Yangon, Burma (Myanmar)

When 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

6 – Manila, 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

7 – Pokhara, Nepal

While 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

8 – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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

9 – Chiang Mai, Thailand

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

10 – Jakarta, Indonesia

One 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

11 – Kathmandu, 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

11 – Delhi (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

13 – Goa, India

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

  • Currency: Indian rupee
  • 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

14 – Colombo, Sri Lanka

Colombo 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

15 – Luang Prabang, Laos

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

  • Currency: Laos kip
  • 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

16 – Siem Reap, Cambodia

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

17 – Bangkok, Thailand

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

18 – Xi’an, China

China’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

19 – Kuta, 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

20 – Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is another strange example on this list, since it’s not a city but a rather large island filled with beach resort towns. This is definitely the most expensive part of Thailand, but still cheapskates can have a good go of things if they are careful, though of course that means staying 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

21 – Taipei, 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

22 – Mumbai, 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

23 – Boracay Island, Philippines

While 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

24 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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

  • Currency: Malaysian ringgit
  • 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

25 – Shanghai, China

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

26 – Beijing, 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

27 – Seoul, South Korea

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

28 – Hong 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

29 – Singapore, Singapore

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

30 – Macau, China

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

31 – Tokyo, 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

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  1. 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,
    Danjela

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Danjela,

      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

  2. Alain says:

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

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Alain,

      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