The Best Places in Southeast Asia for Travellers on a Budget
Your dollar can go a long way when you're travelling in Southeast Asia, making it ideal for budget travellers who are game to step into a new adventure. Almost all of the SEA countries can be reached by budget airlines, making them affordable, especially when booked well in advance. Furthermore, in Singapore, luxuries like hotels, taxis, and massages can set you back a few hundred dollars, whereas they are much cheaper in the surrounding countries, allowing you more time for enjoyment and pampering for an easy penny. Ready to plan your next regional travel experience with for no more than $500? Follow this guide to get inspired and start booking!
1. For epic temple hopping (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
Photo by Rajeev Rajagopalan (CC BY 2.0)
The temples of Angkor Wat are undoubtedly the central attraction in this part of Cambodia. As busy as the grounds of the temples get, it's certainly worth a visit at least once in your lifetime. Built in the 12th century, the complex is teeming with ancient ruins that include temples, moats, and galleries. It will take you days to explore the entire complex, so after you've had your fill, head to the main city centre of Siem Reap where you'll find some of the nation's hippest scenes. From art galleries to chic cafes to funky hostels, it's all here in Siem Reap - and for a cheap price too!
- Flights: From $251 for return airfare
- Average daily cost for food: $15
- Average daily cost of a hostel: $16
- Average daily transportation cost: $6.55
- Total cost for 6 nights in Siem Reap: $476.30
2. For great shopping (Bangkok, Thailand)
Photo by Bernard Spragg. NZ (CC0 1.0)
Bangkok is a vibrant city that's full of contrasts. There's the old and the new, the traditional and western influences, the affordable and expensive - but it all makes this city vibrant and unlike any other city in Southeast Asia. Spend a few days in this city and you'll realize that you've barely scratched the surface. One of the biggest draws in Bangkok is the cheap shopping. It's virtually everywhere - from street vendors to luxury shopping centres to wholesale malls. For steals, don't miss Chatuchak Market and for more great shopping, stop by The Platinum Fashion Mall and Siam Discovery.
- Flights: From $123 for return airfare
- Average daily cost for food: $22
- Average daily cost of a hostel: $48
- Average daily transportation cost: $5.90
- Total cost for 4 nights in Bangkok: $426.60
3. For deserted pristine beaches (Palawan, Philippines)
Photo by Ray in Manila (CC BY 2.0)
Described as the most beautiful island in the world, Palawan boasts unspoiled oceanic beauty that includes some of the clearest, stillest water you'll ever swim in. With limestone rock formations that form islets, it's perfect for island hopping, snorkelling, scuba diving, and stand up paddleboarding. The locals in Palawan are some of the friendliest people I've ever met and they always seem to always want to ensure I'm having a good time. Loads of pocket-friendly homestays and hostels plus cheap local seafood make travelling to Palawan affordable. Some of the most amazing beaches I've ever seen were in El Nido and Coron.
- Flights: From $208 for return airfare
- Average daily cost for food: $13
- Average daily cost of a hostel: $15
- Average daily transportation cost: $18
- Total cost for 6 nights in Palawan: $484
4. For unforgettable sailing (Halong Bay, Vietnam)Photo by Werner Bayer (CC0 1.0)
Photo by Elena (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Halong Bay, a World Heritage site under a four-hour drive east from Hanoi, is one of the most splendid sights in all of Vietnam. It's here where limestone ridges meet saltwater, creating breath-taking bays. Cruises around the bay are popular with tourists, but they'll easily set you back a few hundred dollars per person per night. However, there are also budget-conscious cruises that start from just over $100 per person per night, such as those provided by Halong Legacy Legend Cruise and Imperial Cruises, and they'll sail you around the peaceful bay and will usually include full-board. If your budget doesn't allow for a splurge, book a room at a nearby hostel and paddle around the bay by kayak to make your own adventure.
- Flights: From $171 for return airfare to Hanoi
- Bus to Ha Long Bay: From $30 for a return trip
- Average daily cost for food: $15
- Average daily cost of a hostel: $24
- Average daily transportation cost: $7.33
- Total cost for 6 nights in Halong Bay: $478.98
5. For delectable street food (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia*)
Photo by Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi (CC BY 2.0)
Not only is Kuala Lumpur easy and cheap for me to get to - even by plane - but it has all of the comfort foods that I love. Grub here is easy on my pocket, tasty, and served in large portions. From Malaysian to Indian to Chinese to Peranakan - you can get it all in Kuala Lumpur's hawkers. For sumptuous claypot yee mee served with prawns, chicken, and a runny egg, make a beeline for Restoran Wong Soon Kee. For amazing Hokkien mee, I found the best at Restoran Sin Kong where the noodles are springy and covered in dark, umami gravy. And when I'm in the Malaysian capital, I can't miss starting my day with a plate of nasi lemak and I've found the best at Nasi Lemak Bumbung in Petaling Jaya.
- Flights: From $40 for return airfare
- Average daily cost for food: $15
- Average cost of a hostel: $33
- Average daily transportation cost: $8.10
- Total cost for 8 nights in Kuala Lumpur: $488.80
6. For a backpacking river adventure (Vang Vieng, Laos)
Photo by Peace May Come To You (CC BY 2.0)
Although Vang Vieng is a little difficult to reach, it still draws in travellers all over the world who are in search of adventure. Backpacking to this riverside town is a good idea since getting there requires some time on the road. A six-hour bus ride from Luang Prabang will get you to Vang Vieng but the cost of the ride isn't high. Everything centres around the Nam Soong River here and tubing and kayaking experiences here make for memories to last a lifetime. If you've got more time (and change) to spare, view the landscape by hot air balloon or take up a sunrise yoga class.
- Flights: From $207 for return airfare to Luang Prabang
- Bus to Vang Vieng: From $32 for return trip
- Average daily cost for food: $16
- Average cost of a hostel: $16
- Average daily transportation cost: $5.50
- Total cost for 6 nights in Vang Vieng: $464
Travelling around Southeast Asia can make for some of the most unforgettable experiences, but that doesn't need to reflect on your bank account. Travelling simply, planning ahead, being adventurous with street food, and being open to new experiences can really stretch your mind and your dollar. Although it is important to stick to your budget, be prepared for unexpected expenses that may occur during your trip. It is important to maintain your peace of mind while overseas so make sure that you are protected against travel inconveniences and medical expenses by insuring your trip with a travel insurance plan.
If you wish to seek coverage for pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, eczema and diabetes, opt for a comprehensive plan that offers such protection. Find out more about Income’s Enhanced PreX plans as Income is the first insurer in Singapore to offer coverage on pre-existing medical conditions. Have a memorable trip and make sure that you are well protected for your upcoming trip!