31 Asia cities by price: Backpacker Index for 2022

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 2022 list is quite different from the 2020 list (we skipped 2021) because inflation and currency shifts have impacted many countries in 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 noting that (except for Hong Kong, Singapore, 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.

Asia in 2022 updates

As everyone on earth knows, COVID shut down most or all tourism around the world starting in 2020, and it’s finally starting to slowly come back as of mid-2022. On top of that, inflation has been running fairly high almost everywhere in the world, and there have been some pretty big currency exchange rate shifts.

Many of the countries on the list below are finally open again for tourism, but of course that could change again and it’s important to check the local situation before you book.

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
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Price of Travel's Asia Backpacker Index for 2022

Note: All prices converted to US dollars in January, 2022

1Vientiane, Laos (cheapest)

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. As of 2022 we didn’t find any hostels operating with dorm rooms, but there are some very cheap hotels and that helped push Vientiane to the top spot of affordability in Asia this year. Still, 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: Azelea Parkview Hotel – 119,000/night
  • Transportation: 30,000
  • Meals: 87,600
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45,000
  • Attractions: 10,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: LAK291,600 = US$20.31/day

>>Vientiane prices and weather


2Pokhara, 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 – 664/night
  • Transportation: 100
  • Meals: 882
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 975
  • Attractions: 100
  • Daily Backpacker Index: NPR2,721 = US$21.90/day

>>Pokhara prices and weather


3Chiang 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: Stamps Backpackers – 220/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 198
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 210
  • Attractions: 100
  • Daily Backpacker Index: THB768 = US$22.27/day

>Chiang Mai prices and weather


4Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang is noticeably more expensive than Vienitiane, 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. This is another mellow city that can be good for longer stays, partly because you won’t feel like you are missing too much if you just work or hang out in your hotel or hostel most of the time.

  • Currency: Laos kip
  • Best cheap hostel: Sa Sa Lao – 100,000/night
  • Transportation: 30,000
  • Meals: 105,600
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 60,000
  • Attractions: 25,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: LAK320,600 = US$22.33/day

>>Luang Prabang prices and weather


5Hanoi, Vietnam

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: Hanoi Central Backpackers Hostel – 143,000/night
  • Transportation: 50,000
  • Meals: 223,200
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 75,000
  • Attractions: 30,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: VND521,200 = US$22.47/day

>>Hanoi prices and weather


6Yangon, Burma (Myanmar)

When the informal travel boycott was lifted in 2014, 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 2022 that had 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. On the other hand, the military junta has taken control of the government once again, and most Western tourists are happy enough to stay away for the time being.

  • Currency: Burmese Kyat
  • Best cheap hostel: Little Monkey Hostel – 15,750/night
  • Transportation: 1,000
  • Meals: 12,900
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 4,500
  • Attractions: 7,500
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MMK41,650 = US$22.54/day

>>Yangon prices and weather


7Kathmandu, 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: Shantipur Kathmandu Hotel – 337/night
  • Transportation: 70
  • Meals: 1,122
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 900
  • Attractions: 400
  • Daily Backpacker Index: NPR2,829 = US$22.77/day

>>Kathmandu prices and weather


8Delhi (and New Delhi), India

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 – 495/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 624
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 390
  • Attractions: 250
  • Daily Backpacker Index: INR1,799 = US$23.14/day

>>Delhi prices and weather


9Hoi 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 – 163,000/night
  • Transportation: 50,000
  • Meals: 204,000
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 48,000
  • Attractions: 80,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: VND545,000 = $23.49/day

>>Hoi An prices and weather


10Ho 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: City Backpackers Hostel – 163,000/night
  • Transportation: 50,000
  • Meals: 235,200
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 75,000
  • Attractions: 40,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: VND563,200 = US$24.28/day

>>Ho Chi Minh City prices and weather


11Jakarta, 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: Capsule Hotel Jakarta – 100,000/night
  • Transportation: 7,000
  • Meals: 135,600
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 120,000
  • Attractions: 10,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: IDR372,600 = US$25.71/day

>>Jakarta prices and weather


12Bangkok, 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 – 190/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 192
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 240
  • Attractions: 250
  • Daily Backpacker Index: THB912 = US$26.45/day

>>Bangkok prices and weather


13Manila, 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, most 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 – 602/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 444
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 210
  • Attractions: 150
  • Daily Backpacker Index: PHP1,446 = US$27.33/day

>>Manila prices and weather


14Phnom 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: Mad Monkey Phnom Penh – US$6.80
  • Transportation: 2
  • Meals: 9.96
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 3.00
  • Attractions: 6.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: US$27.76/day

>>Phnom Penh prices and weather


15Goa, 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 – 551/night
  • Transportation: 60
  • Meals: 876
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 360
  • Attractions: 390
  • Daily Backpacker Index: INR2,237 = US$28.77/day

>>Goa prices and weather


16Siem Reap, Cambodia

One of the world’s great budget travel cities (and once 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: Siem Reap Pub Hostel – US$3.00/night
  • Transportation: 2.00
  • Meals: 9.60
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 2.25
  • Attractions: 12.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: US$28.85/day

>>Siem Reap prices and weather


17Kuta, 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: Puri Rama Hostel – 73,000/night
  • Transportation: 16,000
  • Meals: 166,200
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 120,000
  • Attractions: 50,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: IDR425,200 = US$29.34/day

>>Kuta, Bali prices and weather


18Mumbai, 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: Locomo Stay Work Eat – 700/night
  • Transportation: 60
  • Meals: 702
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 450
  • Attractions: 500
  • Daily Backpacker Index: INR2,412 = US$31.02/day

>>Mumbai prices and weather


19Xi’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: 7 Sages Youth Hostel – 55/night
  • Transportation: 6.00
  • Meals: 61.20
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 42.00
  • Attractions: 75.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: CNY239.20 = US$35.81/day

>>Xi’an prices and weather


20Boracay 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 – 641/night
  • Transportation: 100
  • Meals: 684
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 210
  • Attractions: 300
  • Daily Backpacker Index: PHP1,935 = US$36.58/day

>>Boracay Island prices and weather


21Phuket, 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 a few years ago 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: Baan Baan Hostel – 205/night
  • Transportation: 80
  • Meals: 444
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 240
  • Attractions: 200
  • Daily Backpacker Index: THB1,169 = US$38.58/day

>>Phuket prices and weather


22Kuala 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 – 34.54/night
  • Transportation: 4.00
  • Meals: 47.40
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 48.00
  • Attractions: 40.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MYR173.94 = US$39.62/day

>>Kuala Lumpur prices and weather


23Macau, 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): Emperor Hotel – 98.53/night
  • Transportation: 8.00
  • Meals: 132.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45.00
  • Attractions: 50.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MOP333.53 = US$42.54/day

>>Macau prices and weather


24Taipei, 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: Meander Taipei Hostel – Ximending – 556/night
  • Transportation: 40
  • Meals: 228
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 210
  • Attractions: 250
  • Daily Backpacker Index: TWD1,284 = US$43.51/day

>>Taipei prices and weather


25Seoul, 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: Time Travelers Party Hostel in Hongdae – 19,000/night
  • Transportation: 2,500
  • Meals: 18,120
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 12,000
  • Attractions: 10,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: KRW61,620 = US$49.06/day

>>Seoul 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: Peking International Youth Hostel – 154/night
  • Transportation: 10.00
  • Meals: 67.20
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45.00
  • Attractions: 60.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: CNY336.20 = US$50.33/day

>>Beijing prices and weather


27Shanghai, 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).

>>Shanghai prices and weather


28Colombo, Sri Lanka

NOTE: Sri Lanka has been going through high inflation and political turmoil in 2022, so it’s probably best avoided for now.

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: Colombo Beach Hostel – 3,230/night
  • Transportation: 300
  • Meals: 2,280
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 2,100
  • Attractions: 500
  • Daily Backpacker Index: LKR8,410= US$55.33/day

>>Colombo prices and weather


29Tokyo, Japan

This is the first time that Tokyo has NOT been the most expensive city the list. For many years now Tokyo has been about the same price as a mid-range European city even though it was 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. Hostels are cheaper lately, which might be because tourism has been almost zero since the beginning of the pandemic.

  • Currency: Japanese yen
  • Best cheap hostel: Imano Tokyo Hostel – 2,017/night
  • Transportation: 400
  • Meals: 2,520
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 1,800
  • Attractions: 1,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: JPY7,890 = US$59.05/day

>>Tokyo prices and weather


30Singapore, 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: Betel Box Backpacker Hostel – 22/night
  • Transportation: 3.00
  • Meals: 27.12
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 21.00
  • Attractions: 15.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: SGD88.12 = US$63.86/day

>>Singapore prices and weather


31Hong 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: The Mahjong – 165/night
  • Transportation: 5.00
  • Meals: 166.80
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 120.00
  • Attractions: 50
  • Daily Backpacker Index: HKD506.80 = US$64.64/day

>>Hong Kong prices and weather


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  1. 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.

    Regards,
    Reshma

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Reshma,

      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

  2. 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?

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Megan,

      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

  3. 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
    thanks

    1. 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

    2. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Tina,

      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

      1. 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.

        Thanks.

        Also

        1. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Matyida,

      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

    2. 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)

    3. Flor says:

      Matyida,

      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.

      1. 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.

  8. Chris says:

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

  9. 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.

    Thanks

    1. 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

  10. 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.
    thanks

    1. 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

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

    3. Ali says:

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