How to Travel Southeast Asia (on a Budget)
Southeast Asia is becoming more and more sought after in western countries and there are a lot of reasons why: Beautiful beaches, partying until the sun rises, never ending jungles, hidden waterfalls and a beautiful culture you cannot find anywhere else on the world.
And the best of all: You can travel extremely cheap in Southeast Asia but still enjoy some luxury from time to time.
Back in 2017 I’ went backpacking with a friend in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam for 5 weeks and my total cost was $800 (flights exlcuded). We spent the entire month of July in those countries and had lots of experiences to remember. Travelling in summertime means pretty high temperatures (of up to 40°C (104°F) in some places) and the occasional rainy days (which didn’t bother us - it actually cooled everything down to like 30°C 😄) . If you want to travel during the summer months, make sure to bring a raincoat and some anti-mosquito-spray because they will be your biggest problem.
I am not saying that the rain is going to ruin your vacation because that’s simply not the case, but it can get wet pretty quickly over there. The monsoon rain only lasts about 1-2h and occured maybe twice a day for us, so don’t worry about it too much.
Otherwise just travel in the winter months to escape the high humidity and rain.
As you can see in the image below you will meet plenty of other tourists in the cooler months as well. Now if you’re looking for adventures, this should come in handy. But if you want to relax in silent, take a second look at the tourist rates during each month and reconsider your plans.
Another last friendly reminder for the planning of your trip: You don’t necessarily need to vaccinate against malaria because it can get costly. I would advise you to consider vaccination against Hepatitis A + B since it’s easy to do and useful. Now if you plan to wander around in remote areas up north and in the jungle, go ahead and purchase the malaria pills and vaccinate against rabies.
But definitely go and talk to a doctor for any further medical advice. I doubt that anything bad would happen but it’s always better to be on the safe side.
And with that being said, let’s move on to the fun part!
Let’s get into some Travel Advices for Southeast Asia…
Our backpacking adventure was as follows:
Arrival in Phuket, Thailand (Thai Airways is an amazing Airline) -> Phi Phi Islands -> Krabi - Surat Thani -> Koh Samui, Phangan and Tao -> Bangkok -> Siem Reap, Cambodia -> Phnom Penh -> Mekong Delta, Vietnam -> Ho Chi Minh City (we flew back with Singapore Airlines, it’s even better).
As you can see we did not travel all the way up to the north, although we considered it. Time management is hard if you don’t plan the whole trip beforehand. We just booked flights and our first hotel in Phuket, everything between arrival and departure was totally spontaneous and we don’t regret it one bit!
That way you can stay longer in places you enjoy and you don’t have to leave after just two nights.
For booking our hotels and hostels we used Booking.com and our credit cards (be sure to take one with you). You can easily find pretty cheap spots all over the three countries we travelled.
The first one in Phuket was the worst though (that’s a whole other story in and of itself), so we weren’t off to a good start as you can imagine. You just have to stay positive and know that it could only get better, right? 🤙🏻
Food and accommodation was no problem at all since you can eat literally everywhere in tourist areas. We advise you to go with traditional asian meals since they are much cheaper than western food in restaurants. There are locals cooking rice and chicken on every street and you can buy a good portion for $1 whereas you’d pay $8 for a burger.
Don’t get me wrong, after three weeks of rice and noodles it’s not a crime to visit a nearby Burger King or McDonalds, but stick to local food if you want to save money. You can also shop in 7-Elevens, which are literally everywhere to get your daily dosage of coffee, toast and snacks.
All in all, we travelled somewhere around 2000+ km and most of it by bus. Other modes of transport we used were boats, tuk tuks, taxis and trains. You can easily book longer bus rides online or in shops nearby for as low as ten bucks. We took the night train up to Bangkok and comfortably slept through the whole ride - a luxury you probably won’t get in a bus.
The roads in Southeast Asia are often very bad and you have to step outside from time to time because of pauses by the driver or when you’re entering a new country.
The night train costed us somewhere around $20.
Getting Visas is usually not a big deal (depending on where you’re from); you can even get them on airports and borders for a small raise in price.
Tuk tuk drivers are famous for “suddenly” deciding to show you all the sights in the city and then charge you more than necessary. That’s why you have to decide on the price before you hop in the vehicle and clearly say where you want to go. I advise using Google Translator and your downloaded maps (you can easily download them in hotels via wifi). Prices for an average Tuk Tuk ride are $2 - $5.
Most of the locals in Southeast Asia don’t speak English fluently, this, however, does not apply to hotel-/hostel- and tourist-centre employees. You can ask them almost everything and you’ll get an understandable response.
We actually met quite a few foreign accommodation owners, too. They came from places such as the Netherlands, Great Britain, Italy and Germany and they were fluent in English. Feel free to ask them for recommendations in every way: Restaurants, beaches, sights, clubs and possible tourist-tours you may wanna take. Ask locals as well because they will know the best spots and hidden gems in their area, which are often not that crowded with tourists.
Through the Mekong Delta we took a boat ride and it was arranged by our small hotel in Cần Thơ, it was called “Minh Vuong Hotel” (super friendly people). There was only one other guest because this was not a tourist area at all and we took the boat ride with him. We had a personal guide for us three and watched giant boats with 100+ people go by. You can’t imagine how glad we were to not be on their boat. The canoeist lead us through the tiniest water gaps into the most tropical parts of the delta and it was truly beautiful. We even stopped at a hidden restaurant where we could drink cocktails while chilling in a hammock at the same time - 7 hours of entertainment for $30. And this was probably even the costliest trip we made (excluding a snorkeling tour with an island trip in Koh Samui) but it was totally worth it!
I could go on and on about our trip and the adventures we had but I don’t want to bore you with my stories. Instead you should go out there and have some adventures by yourself!
If you want to know more about my travels and advices, just let me know and I’ll write some new content.
And don’t worry, I simply can’t end this blogpost and travel guide without mentioning some accommodation highlights as well as sights you have to see for yourself.
And don’t forget to mention “Robin Klose” to get a discount there (just kidding) 😂
What follows are some of the spots with prices per night per person:
Krabi Home Town Boutique (Krabi) - $25
Pamoni (Koh Samaui) - $28
Pap’s Place (Koh Phangan) - $27
Mythai Guesthouse (Koh Phangan) - $22
Koh Tao Central Hostel (Koh Tao) - $19
Bangkok 68 (Bangkok) - $19
Suon Angkor Boutique (Siem Reap) - $14 (Highlight)
Good Morning Guesthouse (Phnom Penh) - $8
Aquarius Hotel and Urban Resort (Phnom Penh) - $56 (Luxurious Highlight)
Minh Vuong Hotel (Can Tho) - $10
Sasa Hotel (Ho Chi Minh City) - $16
And here are some more Highlights you should definitely visit:
Phi Phi Islands visitation - $20
(don’t go to the tourist areas, get a canoe and find your own beaches)
Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi - Free
Taking Tuk Tuks around the city - $2-$5
Finding Waterfalls on Koh Samui and Koh Phangan - Free
Coral Cove Beach on Koh Samui - Free
Fullmoon Party on Koh Phangan - $3
Mekong Delta Tour - $30
Infinity pool in the Aquarius Hotel and Urban Resort - $60
Night train to Bangkok - $20
Visiting Bars and Clubs in the cities - Depends