Travel Asia on a Budget

Man in Sand

I just wrapped up a glorious 8 month backpacking trip in Southeast Asia on a long-term traveler’s budget. This meant staying in dorms, taking local transport, eating street food, and generally traveling on a shoestring budget. Though I could have spent far more (or even perhaps a little less), I wanted to know if it was plausible, at least semi-comfortable, and enjoyable to travel on a tight budget. Most of all, I wanted to know,

How much money is needed for a long-term trip in Southeast Asia?

This is probably the most important and common question that any long-term traveler in the planning stages asks (and one I get quite often) when considering a trip through Southeast Asia. Some guide books will swear that $30/day or less is sufficient – let me just say that this is generally not realistic.

Though I traveled all through Southeast Asia and Oceania for 10 months, for the purposes of this guide, I am whittling it down to if I had spent just six months in Southeast Asia. This encompasses a month each in Cambodia, Laos, northern Thailand, southern Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

What did I personally spend?

$7, 958 (without SCUBA diving – $6, 095)

With flights and pre-trip expenses: $11, 000

The Breakdown:

Flights: $1500

I bought two one-way flights to get from LAX to Southeast Asia and back. In hindsight, this may not have been the cheapest way to travel (I could have saved a couple hundred dollars by booking round-trip), however, I was entirely unsure of my dates and departure city. Sometimes, the penalties and restrictions on moving flights ends up making a RT flight too much of a hassle.

Though rare as I normally traveled overland and by public transport, I booked flights from time to time when overland travel was not feasible or I simply didn’t have time. One series of flights in around Indonesia was particularly painful at $300.

Travel Insurance: $793

This is one of those costs that’s annoying, but necessary should the worst occur. I went with which happened to be cheaper than any other company I could find for US citizens.

Tip: If you know for sure how much time you’ll be away, buying more months upfront is definitely cheaper than extending periodically.

Immunizations: $350

In order to get immunized the cheapest way possible, visit the travel specialist at your local county healthcare clinic.


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