16 Best Asia destinations in December of 2023: Cheapest to most expensive

December is a perfect month to visit Asia, especially if you are looking for beaches and islands to go along with the cities. While it will be chilly in most of China and Japan, December is the single nicest month of weather in Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and many other great cities in Southeast Asia. The list below includes cities of all sizes along with islands and beaches so there will be something for everyone.

This year we have sorted the list from cheapest to most expensive to make it easy to find places that will fit your budget and style. The places at the top of the list are so cheap that you could spend a month in them while spending less than 3 days in London. We use our famous Backpacker Index to rank the destinations based on typical daily expenses for budget travelers in over 130 cities around the world.

This article was updated in July, 2023

Important December 2023 Holidays

  • December 2 and 3 – National Day Holiday in United Arab Emirates (major public holiday)
  • December 8 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception (public holiday in many Catholic countries)
  • December 10 – Constitution Day in Thailand (major public holiday with celebrations on 12-Dec)
  • December 24, 25 – Christmas Eve and Day (major public holiday)
  • December 26 – St. Stephen’s Day and Boxing Day (major public holidays in many countries)
  • December 31 – New Year’s Eve (major public holiday, celebrations)

16 Best destinations in Asia for December

Luang Prabang, Laos

  • December avg high: 80°F/27°C
  • December avg low: 58°F/14°C
  • December avg precip: 0.5″/1.3cm

Luang Prabang highlights

  • Mekong cruises to nearby waterfalls and caves you can visit
  • Old Quarter historic district is very photogenic and well maintained
  • Luang Prabang Night Market is the place to be most nights
  • Laid back feeling and riverfront restaurants with views
  • Very cheap hotels, food, and drinks, even for Asia

A tourist town that is far enough north to have chilly evenings in December, Luang Prabang is the top destination in Laos for good reason. It’s a lovely and relaxed town along the Mekong, and a 2-day slowboat ride from the Thailand border is one of the most popular ways of coming and going.

You can also reach Luang Prabang by bus from Laos’ mostly uninspiring capital of Vientiane. For those on visits to the region of two weeks or less it might not be worth the trouble of coming here, but for those on longer trips it’s pretty much a must. Things here are also wonderfully cheap, especially considering how nice the town is compared to many other cities in the area.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $35 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $100 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $6 per person

Luang Prabang Backpacker Index for 2023: US$19.84

>>Check hotel deals for Luang Prabang
>>>Luang Prabang prices and travel tips

Pokhara, Nepal

  • December avg high: 63°F/17°C
  • December avg low: 41°F/5°C
  • December avg precip: 0.4″/1.0cm

Pokhara highlights

  • Gateway to the Annapurna Circuit and amazing trekking
  • Devi’s Fall nearby although not always running
  • Phewa Lake at your doorstep
  • Pleasant and quiet town along a lake that is friendly to travelers
  • Very cheap food and drinks as well as hotels

As you can see by the temperatures above, Pokhara is pretty chilly in December, but it’s on the list because this is also one of only a handful of dry months in this town. If you haven’t heard of Pokhara you aren’t alone. Kathmandu is the capital, but most visitors head here to Pokhara after only a couple days in the bustling capital.

The main reason this town has so many hotels and restaurants is that it’s the main hub for trekking in the country. If you go on an organized trek it’s going to cost you quite a bit for the guides and equipment. But while you are just hanging out in Pokhara you’ll find it amazingly cheap. In fact it’s often the world’s cheapest tourist destination according to our Backpacker Index.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $17 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $77 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $5 per person

Pokhara Backpacker Index for 2023: US$20.89

>>Check current hotel promotions for Pokhara
>>>Pokhara prices and travel tips

Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • December avg high: 83°F/28°C
  • December avg low: 59°F/15°C
  • December avg precip: 0.8″/2.0cm

Chiang Mai highlights

  • Doi Suthep temple complex outside of town is a big highlight
  • Famous night market is the social and entertainment hub
  • City walls and moat are very unusual in Asia
  • Amazing, cheap food that is different from Bangkok’s
  • Shockingly cheap hotels and rentals. most with pools

As Thailand’s second city, Chiang Mai is the most popular stop for those visiting the country aside from Bangkok and the islands. The weather in December is pretty much perfect because it’s warm every day and cool enough every evening that you don’t get sick of the warm days so fast.

Chiang Mai is also one of the world’s great travel bargains with decent hotel rooms starting not much higher than US$10, and very nice hotels rooms starting around US$40 per night. The food is also cheaper than Bangkok, with many different dishes that you won’t see much in the capital. Many people stay here for a month or more because it’s so cheap and pleasant.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $59 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $94 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $7 per person

Chiang Mai Backpacker Index for 2023: US$22.05

>>Check hotel deals for Chiang Mai
>>>Chiang Mai prices and travel tips

Hanoi, Vietnam

  • December avg high: 71°F/22°C
  • December avg low: 60°F/16°C
  • December avg precip: 0.8″/2.0cm

Hanoi highlights

  • Fascinating historic city center with handy lakes
  • French-inspired (colonial) food scene that is amazing
  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is interesting and unusual
  • Vietnam/American war sights that are easy to reach
  • Very cheap hotels including great breakfasts

Hanoi is far enough north that you’ll actually need to pack a jacket with you if you include it on your December itinerary. But it’s definitely worth it as this is one of the most unique and interesting cities in southeast Asia. The cuisine of the whole country combines traditional Asian with French, and Hanoi is considered the culinary capital of Vietnam.

Another reason to visit is that Hanoi is one of the cheapest cities in the world for tourists. You can find surprisingly nice hotels with good locations starting at around US$20 per night, including a filling breakfast. Many people also include a short cruise on the nearby Halong Bay, which is another fantastic bargain, although booking a cruise can be confusing at first.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $53 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $59 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $7 per person

Hanoi Backpacker Index for 2023: US$22.49

>>Check hotel deals for Hanoi
>>>Hanoi prices and travel tips

Delhi/New Delhi, India

  • December avg high: 73°F/23°C
  • December avg low: 45°F/7°C
  • December avg precip: 0.3″/0.8cm

Delhi/New Delhi highlights

  • Red Fort complex – is huge and unmissable
  • India Gate and Lotus Temple are both jawdropping
  • Gateway to Taj Mahal in Agra (better than staying in Agra itself)
  • Excellent and cheap street food and restaurant food
  • Spice markets and other markets with unusual items

Winters in Delhi (and New Delhi) are pleasantly cool and sometimes quite chilly, but they can also be foggy. Even so, this is one of the very dry months and it’s an ideal time to visit, especially if you are mixing it with Goa or one of the other beach areas in the south. This enormous and crowded city is overwhelming even to experienced travelers at first, so brace yourself.

Many people visit Delhi primarily to take a long day trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, but there is plenty to see in Delhi itself. Hotels and hostels here are quite cheap, though it can be unwise to be too thrifty because the cheapest places here are a big step below the cheapest places in most of the rest of the world. Read those reviews carefully before you book.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $34 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $71 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $6 per person

Delhi Backpacker Index for 2023: US$22.51

>>Check hotel deals for New Delhi
>>>Delhi/New Delhi prices and travel tips

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • December avg high: 87°F/31°C
  • December avg low: 71°F/22°C
  • December avg precip: 2.2″/5.5cm

Ho Chi Minh City highlights

  • Large and modern city with great shopping
  • Cu Chi Tunnels outside of town
  • Independence Palace
  • Very good and diverse nightlife
  • Excellent local food that is different from the north

Parts of Vietnam’s central coast are still rainy in December, but still many people take the train between Hanoi and Saigon and make a few stops along the way. Ho Chi Minh City, as Saigon is officially known, is much larger and arguably less charming than Hanoi, but it’s still worth a visit.

The December weather is very pleasant, especially when compared to the scorching conditions you’d get if you arrived in April. Hotels in the main tourist area are more expensive than in Hanoi, but still a very good bargain compared to almost any other city.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $27 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $78 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $11 per person

Ho Chi Minh City Backpacker Index for 2023: US$25.56

>>Check hotel deals for Ho Chi Minh City
>>>Ho Chi Minh City prices and travel tips

Colombo, Sri Lanka

  • December avg high: 87°F/31°C
  • December avg low: 73°F/23°C
  • December avg precip: 6.9″/17.3cm

Sri Lanka highlights

  • Nuwara Eliya (fascinating hill town)
  • Ceylon Tea Gardens
  • Galle (Colonial beach town in the south)
  • Kandy (scenic mountain town)
  • Colombo itself is worth a couple days if you have them

The dry season in Colombo and most of the rest of Sri Lanka usually starts early in December, but after that the weather is wonderful until late April. Colombo is of course the capital of Sri Lanka, but it may be unwise to spend much time here because it’s incredibly crowded and most of the island’s best sights are in the mountains and along its southern beaches.

You still have to fly into Colombo since the country’s alternate international airport failed to attract customers, but you don’t necessarily have to stay in Colombo and some of the nearby beach areas are a bit nicer. December is of course even cooler in the hill towns in the interior, so it’s a good time to visit if you aren’t a fan of sweating all day.

As of 2023, Sri Lanka is still struggling with some challenges with shortages and unrest. Things might be fine by the time December of 2023 rolls around, but it’s definitely worth checking the current status and then keeping up on the news before you book and go.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $54 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $89 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $10 per person

Colombo Backpacker Index for 2023: US$26.04

>>Check hotel deals for Colombo
>>>Colombo prices and travel tips

Bangkok, Thailand

  • December avg high: 88°F/31°C
  • December avg low: 69°F/21°C
  • December avg precip: 0.4″/1.0cm

Bangkok highlights

  • Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew, & Grand Palace are all stunning
  • Suan Lum Night Bazaar is one of Asia’s best
  • Cruise on the Chao Phraya River: A great way to orient yourself
  • Street food and excellent cuisine in general at amazing prices
  • Cheap hotels at great standards in good locations

Bangkok is literally the hottest capital city in the world, but December is its most pleasant month so it’s the best time to come if you can make it. That is true of most of Southeast Asia as well, which is one reason why this marks the beginning of the busy season in this whole region.

Even though Bangkok is more crowded than usual in December, it’s still a great travel bargain by international standards. You can get a quality 4-star hotel room in a nice area here for what you’d pay for a 2-star room in most of Europe. The food is also a great bargain, especially if you eat a meal or two from the famous street stalls that are literally in every neighborhood of the city.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $58 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $73 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $8 per person

Bangkok Backpacker Index for 2023: US$27.76

>>Check hotel deals for Bangkok
>>>Bangkok prices and travel tips

Goa, India

  • December avg high: 91°F/33°C
  • December avg low: 69°F/21°C
  • December avg precip: 0.3″/0.8cm

Goa highlights

  • Excellent sandy beaches, some with bars and restaurants
  • Old Goa historic area is unusual even in India
  • Anjuna Flea Market – Famous hippie market is worth a visit
  • Great and cheap Portuguese-inspired cuisine including beef
  • Beach parties and some of India’s cheapest alcohol for those interested

During Goa’s autumn rainy season the place is deserted, but starting in December this coastal state fills up with Europeans and hippies from all over the world. There are about 20 different beach areas to choose from and each has its own vibe so choose your hotel carefully.

One nice thing is Goa’s beach towns never feel insanely crowded like all of India’s large cities do. In other words, this is an easy place to visit, which is not true of most of the rest of India. You can get great deals at beachside hotels in most of Goa, although the 5-star places are still quite expensive. At least the alcohol in Goa is cheap, even compared to neighboring states.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $42 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $83 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $4 per person

Goa Backpacker Index for 2023: US$28.31

>>Check current hotel promotions for Goa
>>>Goa prices and travel tips

Siem Reap, Cambodia

  • December avg high: 88°F/31°C
  • December avg low: 69°F/21°C
  • December avg precip: 0.3″/0.8cm

Siem Reap highlights

  • Next to Angkor Wat, which is arguably the top attraction in Asia
  • Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary
  • Cambodia Land Mine Museum
  • Old Market great for souvenirs
  • Pub Street is a pleasant and mellow area for cheap food and drinks

If you are coming to southeast Asia it would be wise to plan at least a short stop in Siem Reap to see the famous Angkor Wat temple complex nearby. It’s easily the most impressive sight in the whole region, and also one of the top sights in the whole world.

Siem Reap itself is a charming little town built around the entrance to Angkor Wat, and it’s very relaxed and cheap as well. Similar to Cusco in Peru or Pokhara in Nepal, Siem Reap is built as a staging area for famous nearby sights, but it’s so enjoyable that many people end up staying much longer than they originally intended.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $27 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $45 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $5 per person

Siem Reap Backpacker Index for 2023: US$29.04

>>Check hotel deals for Siem Reap
>>>Siem Reap prices and travel tips

Mumbai, India

  • December avg high: 90°F/32°C
  • December avg low: 65°F/18°C
  • December avg precip: 0.0″/0.0cm

Mumbai highlights

  • Gateway of India monument in the harbour is unmissable
  • Taj Mahal Hotel in the same area
  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus – Stunning Victorian train station
  • Elephanta Caves and boat trip to reach them
  • Global Vipassana Pagoda

December is typically dry as a bone in Mumbai, and the evening temperatures are a welcome relief from the hot days. Mumbai isn’t really a tourist-oriented city, but it’s where many long-haul flights into India land and it’s interesting for 2 or 3 days at least.

Due to the limited real estate in the tourist neighborhoods and the business district, hotels in Mumbai are the most expensive in India. This is a place that is almost as fascinating as it is crowded. Again, the cheapest hotels here can be horrendous so it’s usually worth paying a bit more for something that gets good reviews.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $82 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $99 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $11 per person

Mumbai Backpacker Index for 2023: US$30.19

>>>Check hotel deals for Mumbai
>>>Mumbai prices and travel tips

Phuket, Thailand

  • December avg high: 88°F/31°C
  • December avg low: 75°F/24°C
  • December avg precip: 2.3″/5.8cm

Phuket highlights

  • Long, sandy beaches all over island with different vibes
  • Patong Beach for world-class shopping and adult-oriented nightlife
  • Phuket’s large airport has flights from major cities all over Asia
  • Large beach resort hotels and small family-run hotels
  • Great Thai food as well as international cuisine

Phuket is the largest and most famous of Thailand’s many islands, but they all have similar weather in any given month so they all experience their peak tourist season in the last week of December. Phuket is still the best choice for many people because it has its own large airport so you can fly in from many places without having to change planes in Bangkok.

If you are looking for adult-oriented nightlife or a shopping overload you probably want to stay in or near Patong Beach, which is the largest of the beach towns on the island. If you aren’t so interested in those things you should stay anywhere else. Karon and Kata are more family oriented beach areas that have a lot to offer.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $41 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $94 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $10 per person

Phuket Backpacker Index for 2023: US$34.66

>>Check hotel and resort deals for Phuket
>>>Phuket prices and travel tips

Boracay Island, Philippines

  • December average high: 82°F/28°C
  • December average low: 75°F/24°C
  • December avg precip: 7.1″/17.8cm

Boracay Island highlights

  • Excellent white, sandy beaches
  • Every imaginable water activity available
  • Every hotel is on the beach or steps away
  • Fun evening beach party vibe with cheap buffets
  • Cheap drinks even by Asia standards

The rainy season in Boracay usually ends in early December so it might be best to book your stay in the middle or end of the month. This small island with one of Asia’s best beaches is a real throwback to the way many of the most popular Asian cities were in the 1970s. Nearly everyone gets around on foot, mostly on the sandy trail along the beach that connects most of the hotels here.

Boracay is a bit out of the way so you won’t wind up here by accident, and there aren’t many hostels or very cheap hotels so it’s not the best place for backpackers in Asia. For those same reasons it’s extremely popular with middle class European visitors who come back every year. The nightlife here is good, especially around Boat Station 2. The beach buffets are cheap for those with large appetites, and alcohol is cheap for everyone.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $57 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $100 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $10 per person

Boracay Island Backpacker Index for 2023: US$37.52

>>Check Boracay resort deals
>>>Boracay Island prices and travel tips

Taipei, Taiwan

  • December avg high: 69°F/21°C
  • December avg low: 59°F/15°C
  • December avg precip: 3.1″/7.8cm

Taipei highlights

  • Taipei 101 skyscraper and observation deck
  • National Palace Museum: The best Chinese museum anywhere
  • Some of Asia’s best food, including street food
  • Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
  • Shilin Night Market for food, entertainment, and shopping

With its location south of mainland China, Taiwan has reasonable warm winters so it’s an interesting stop even this time of year. Taipei is a huge and bustling city with many fantastic sights and some of the most famous cuisine in Asia. Most things here are more expensive than in all but China’s largest cities, but still good value in general.

Many of ancient China’s most famous artifacts are housed in the huge museum here, so in some ways this is an essential stop for anyone interested in the history of China itself. English isn’t widely spoken, but all of the important signs and most menus have English translations, so it’s a pretty easy place to visit.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $79 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $109 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $15 per person

Taipei Backpacker Index for 2023: US$45.14

>>Check hotel deals for Taipei
>>>Taipei prices and travel tips

Malé, Maldives

  • December avg high: 84°F/29°C
  • December avg low: 77°F/25°C
  • December avg precip: 8.5″/21.3cm

Maldives highlights

  • Almost 100 private-island resorts with luxurious water villas
  • Sandy beaches on most islands and all resorts
  • Amazing weather and nightly photogenic sunsets
  • Excellent scuba diving and snorkeling and other water sports
  • Very good all-inclusive resorts at reasonable prices

December can be rainy in Malé, but you don’t really want to visit the capital of this archipelago nation anyway because it’s tiny, crowded, and surprisingly dull. But you might want to visit the Maldives anyway to stay in one of the 120 or so private-island hotels and resorts that span from near Sri Lanka to the equator.

The December weather is usually perfect at most of the resorts, although you might still get a quick rain-shower a couple times in any given week. Some of those storms happen overnight and the daytime storms usually happen in the late afternoon, leaving behind an amazing sunset. If your budget can stand at least US$400 per night or so you should stay in a water villa in the Maldives at least for a few days.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $81 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $148 for two people

Malé Backpacker Index for 2023: US$45.62

>>Malé prices and travel tips

Hong Kong

  • December avg high: 69°F/21°C
  • December avg low: 60°F/16°C
  • December avg precip: 1.4″/3.5cm

Hong Kong highlights

  • Amazing skyline, especially at night
  • Victoria Peak and funicular for excellent photos
  • Some of the world’s best shopping including electronics and fashion
  • Star ferries – Historic and cheap with amazing views of the harbour
  • Excellent Chinese and international food scene

After its ridiculously wet rainy season, Hong Kong does start getting a bit chilly in December, but at least it’s mostly dry. This is an excellent stop for those looking for food and culture rather than beaches and relaxing like most others on this list.

Hong Kong is also a good gateway city because of its huge and busy airport. If you are flying in from Europe or North America it might be worth first booking a flight into Hong Kong for a few days and then booking a cheap flight from here to any of the other places on this list.

Things in Hong Kong have changed in the last few years after the mainland government cracked down on protests, free speech, and some other things, and many longtime residents left. That said, for most tourists things probably look about the same. It’s wise to be aware of what has gone on and some things you might want to avoid, but Hong Kong is still a fascinating and different place in 2023.

  • Good 3-star hotels in December from $173 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in December from $186 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in December from $35 per person

Hong Kong Backpacker Index for 2023: US$54.47

>>Check current hotel promotions for Hong Kong
>>>Hong Kong prices and travel tips

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All Comments

  1. Roger (yes ... another Roger) says:

    Excellent guide, with some actually useful statistics. It’s nice to come across something that conveys some real content rather than just links to a bunch of third-party sites.

  2. Christina says:

    Hi Christian,

    I’m planning a trip to SE Asia or the south pacific in Nov/Dec. Do you think Bali/Indonesia will be too wet and rainy? What about Fiji or Tahiti? Any insite on those locations would be great. Also, have you made a trip to see the orangutans in Indonesia? If so, what time of year did you go and do you have any suggestions?

    1. Roger Wade says:


      The rainy season ends in early December in most of Southeast Asia, but Bali is south of the equator and Decembers there are known for regular downpours that are usually short. I’ve spent two Decembers in Bali and I’d go again because the storms rarely last long and seeking shelter for 20 minutes is usually easy. November has less rainfall in Bali so it’s even better. If you are going in December you’ll find near-perfect weather in Thailand and Vietnam and that whole region.

      Tahiti has similar rain patterns to Bali, so November is drier and in December the storms can be intense even though they are usually short. I haven’t been to Fiji but I’d imagine it’s the same. Both of those islands are MUCH more expensive than Bali or anywhere in Southeast Asia, so they are rarely substitutes for each other, for what it’s worth.

      I haven’t seen the orangutans in Indonesia so I’m no help with that, unfortunately. I’ve spent years in southeast Asia and I can help you pick a destination if you are still looking around. I hope this helps. -Roger

  3. Christian says:

    With Boracay closed, is there somewhere similar that you would suggest with similar beaches and prices? Thanks! Love your site and insight.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      Boracay Island is scheduled to reopen on October 26, 2018, and the government says the conditions there are much better than they were when they decided to close it down for half a year. Since you are asking about this on a December article I assume this will be good news for you. Palawan is the largest tourist island in the Philippines and the El Nido area is popular there, but I haven’t been there yet myself.

      Also, Boracay Island has cheap beer and some other things, but for hotels there are many cheaper beaches and islands in Asia. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  4. Jade says:

    Hello Roger, stumbled upon your website while planning the itinerary for my upcoming winter break. Thank you for sharing amazing content!

  5. Hoda says:

    hi Roger, i appreciate yr time , myself and my husband looking for a vacation las tof dec/first week of Jan starting from lax to spain/Europe somewhere not too cold.looking for culture, history, sight seeing. not too expensive .dont care about night life or wine tasting …etc we want to have the most of experience of our destinations within 2 weeks.We will appreciate yr advice.thx

    1. Roger Wade says:


      I’ll be happy to help. Somehow you wound up on my list of Asia destinations, and the first step will be to check my similar list of best Europe destinations in December. Similarly I discuss the December weather in all of the best places to go that month, and what is going on there. I think you’ll find some good suggestions. If none of those work for you let me know why not and I’ll try again. -Roger