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. 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!

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

  2. 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.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

  3. josh bartolome says:

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

    1. Roger Wade says:


      Danang is very close to Hoi An, which is on the list above. Danang also has a busy airport so flights should be reasonable. -Roger

  4. 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.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

  5. 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.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

  6. 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!

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

  7. 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

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

  8. 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.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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.

  9. Larry says:

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

  10. 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.”

    1. Roger Wade says:


      Thank you for the helpful comment. -Roger