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May 6, 2016
Written By Mad Monkey Hostels

Contents

The (stress free ) ultimate guide to budgeting your backpacking trip, gap year or holidays in South East Asia

 

Ancient temples, pristine landscapes, turquoise waters, tropical islands, soaring mountains, lush jungles, peaceful cultures – Southeast Asia is a region that has it all. And with such low costs to travel in the area, there is no wonder that this is usually the first destination for most young backpackers. But just how much do you need to backpack in Southeast Asia?

As part of our goal to help all people come to this spectacular part of the world, we’ve put together this ultimate guide to backpacking in Southeast Asia on budget, complete with the how much accommodation costs, what you might spend on food, transport prices and a list of the most popular activities in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines.

Whether you are coming for a week or a year, have $10 a day to spend or $50, this will give you an idea of where you will be spending your money.

All prices are in US Dollars, unless otherwise noted.

Southeast Asia Backpacking Budget

Pre-Travel Costs

Before you come to Southeast Asia, there are a few things you need to purchase and organise.

Some of these can be as cheap or as expensive as you like (i.e. luggage, clothes, etc), but there are some that are pretty standard.

The most expensive things you will be looking at are flights to Southeast Asia, and travel insurance.

Flights

 

Continually check websites such as Skyscanner, Expedia, Kayak and others in the lead up to your trip. As a rule of thumb, buy your flights as early as possible. But flights to Southeast Asia can work out very cheap if you are flexible with your dates (weekdays are usually cheaper), here is a rough budget for your flights.

  • Flights from Europe: $300 – $500
  • Flights from North America: $500
  • Flights from Australia: $150 – $400
  • Flights From South America: $600+
  • Flights from Asia: $50 – $300
  • Flights from in Southeast Asia: $30 – $100

Insurance

 

Southeast Asia Backpacking Budget

A wise man once said that if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

You might think that you have “nothing worth stealing” or that healthcare is cheap in Southeast Asia. But what if you are permanently injured in a motorcycle accident?

Or you get decompression sickness while scuba diving?

Or perhaps one of your family members falls ill and you need to go home in a hurry (yes, some travel insurance companies cover you for this!)? This is why you seriously need to consider it. And don’t worry – you can get cheap travel insurance for Southeast Asia!

We recommend World Nomads, which is one of the most comprehensive travel insurance companies on the market, and have policies aimed towards backpackers.

Editors note there are many other insurance policies available.  Choose the right policy for you and shop around and ask questions before you make a choice.

  • 1 Week Insurance: $40 – $60
  • 1 Month Insurance: $100 – $170
  • 3 Months Insurance: $200 – $300
  • 6 Months Insurance: $320 – $500
  • 1 Year Insurance: $1000 – $1400

Average Daily Budgets

Southeast Asia Backpacking Budget

Shooting Water Guns At Songkran Festival In Bangkok, Thailand

 

As a rough estimate, we have broken up our Southeast Asia Backpacking Budget Guide into “Broke Backpacker”, “Backpacker” and “Flashpacker”, so you can see what type of traveller you fall into.

Of course some people travel for a lot more, and some people travel for a lot less. It all depends on how luxurious or basic you like to travel.

Travelling as a couple, with a partner or in a group will help keep your costs down as you can split rooms, share taxi costs and negotiate deals on tours and activities.

If you have nobody to go with start your trip solo and you should soon make friends in the hostels that will be traveling your way and will be able to share costs with you.

Please note that bartering is common in Southeast Asia for most things, such as accommodation, food in markets and tours.

But please do not try to squeeze every little cent out of the local people.

Remember that they need to make a living, and by you spending an extra $1 here and there can really help to improve the lives of locals.

Broke Backpacker: $10 – $20 per day

Backpacker: $20 – $30 per day

Flashpacker: $30 – $60 per day

Thailand – Travel Budget For Thailand

Southeast Asia Backpacking Budget

A Buddhist monk master is meditating at the top of the Chiang Dao mount at dusk for the new year in Thailand.

1 USD = 35 Thai Baht (April 2016)

For many young travellers, Thailand is their first foray into the “backpacking” world. Known as the “Land of 1000 Smiles” due to the kindness and welcoming nature of the Thai people, Thailand offers an enormous number of attractions and experiences as well.

No one forgets Bangkok’s golden Grand Palace, the sensory overload that is Khao San Road, the swaying palm trees and clear water on the southern islands, the temples around Chiang Mai, or the infamous Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan.

Excluding Singapore and Brunei, Thailand is the most expensive nation in Southeast Asia for backpackers.

But if you are careful with your money, and spend more time in the north of the country, it is easy to keep your backpacking budget for Thailand under control.

Visa Costs For Thailand

Citizens of most nations receive a free 30-day Visa On Arrival when flying into Thailand, and 15-days Visa On Arrival when entering by land. It is possible to get a 60-day, single entry visa at Thai embassies in Southeast Asia and in your home country. Visas can be extended by 30 days, one time, for $55.

Broke Backpackers – Cheapest Budget for Thailand

James Bond island near Phuket in Thailand.Southeast Asia Backpacking Budget

James Bond island near Phuket in Thailand. Famous landmark and famous travel destination – Its free to sit here

If you’re travelling on a shoestring budget, you will want to spend your time in Northern Thailand, where prices are lower. While it is possible to travel in the South, you will barely be scraping by on $15 a day.

Lowest Transport Costs – Thailand

  • Public bus In Bangkok: $0.30
  • Songthaews (pick-up truck taxis): $0.50 – $3
  • Public bus between towns: $1 – $6
  • Lower-class train: $2 – $10
  • Hitchhiking: Possible in Thailand in Maxi Taxi’s $varied

Lowest Accommodation budget for Thailand

On a tight budget you will be looking at dorm beds in hostels, or if you have a travel partner you can find very cheap double rooms in small guesthouses.

  • Budget dorm bed: $3 – $5
  • Basic double room: $8 – $12

Couchsurfing is big in Thailand, especially amongst the expat scene.

Lowest Food budget for Thailand

Nowhere does great street food quite like Thailand, and luckily for broke backpackers a delicious and healthy meal can be very cheap. The famous food markets are always an excellent place to grab a bite to eat, but you will find vendors selling various dishes on just about every street corner.

All the below dishes can be bought on the street for $0.50 – $1, if you get away from the tourist areas. Honestly, the variety of incredible street food you can get in Thailand can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to try something new every time.

  • Pad Thai (tourist-style noodle dish)
  • Khao Gang (curry rice)
  • Som Tam (papaya salad)
  • Khao Pad (fried rice)
  • Banana Pancakes
  • Grilled Chicken and Sticky Rice
  • Mango and Sticky Rice
  • Fruit From Markets

Lowest drinking budget for Thailand

Drinking alcohol in Thailand is pretty cheap, but will still kill your budget if you are not careful.

Water is of course the best choice for travelling Thailand on a budget, and you can find reverse-osmosis water machines in a lot of places. These look like white vending machines, and filter tap water. Bring a reusable bottle to take advantage of these.

  • 1L of bottled water: $0.30 – $0.50
  • 5L of water from reverse osmosis machines: $0.03
  • Bottle of beer from 7/11: $1 – $2
  • Coffee/Tea From Street Vendors: $0.75 – $1

Backpackers Budget for Thailand

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND - NOVEMBER 8, 2014: People release Khom Loi, the sky lanterns during Yi Peng Southeast Asia Backpacking Budget

People release Khom Loi, the sky lanterns during Yi Peng or Loi Krathong festival

 

This is the budget that most backpackers in Thailand will fall in, but you will still be living quite thrifty on the Southern Islands. Stick to the North, and you will enjoy a huge level of comfort.

Backpackers Transport budget for Thailand

Mid-level transport in Thailand is very comfortable, and having some extra money will allow you to take ferries to the islands.

Ferries

There are usually a two options for getting between islands in Southern Thailand – speedboats and ferries. It depends on your budget and time restraints for which one you would like to take.

  • Phuket to Krabi: $18 – $20
  • Phuket to Koh Lanta: $20 – $30
  • Krabi to Koh Lanta: $16
  • Chumpon to Koh Phangan (overnight): $12
  • Surat Thani to Koh Phangan: $15
  • Koh Phangan to Koh Tao: $5
  • Phuket to Koh Phi Phi: $12 – $15
  • Koh Phi Phi to Krabi: $12 – $15

Land Transport

Make use of Thailand’s comfortable train system, and take air-conditioned minivans to the places the tracks don’t go.

  • MRT/BTS transport system in Bangkok: $0.50 – $1.50
  • Tuk Tuks in towns: $2 – $7
  • Overnight sleeper trains (2nd class): $20 – $30
  • Minivans (3 hour journey): $3 – $5
  • Minivans (longer journey): $5 – $12
  • A/C tourist bus to major towns: $5 – $15
  • Scooter tental: $5 per day + fuel

Backpackers Accommodation Budget for Thailand

 

The best accommodation for solo travellers in Thailand is going to be a dorm bed in a hostel, and with a slightly bigger budget you can stay in some very nice backpacker lodges.

If you are travelling as a couple or with a friend, it can work out cheaper to rent a private room and split the costs.

  • Dorm Bed In Nice Hostel: $7 – $10
  • Double Room In Basic Guesthouse: $10 – $20

Backpackers Food Budget for Thailand

Stick to street food and local eateries in the South. In the North you can eat in more restaurants and cafes.

  • Thai food in cheap restaurant: $1.50 – $4
  • Various dishes in popular food markets: $2 – $4
  • Snacks from 7/11: $1 – $3

Backpackers Drinking Budget for Thailand

If you like to party, then Thailand is a great place to do it in.

  • Large (630ml) beer from 7-11: $1.25 – $1.75
  • Small (330ml) beer in a bar: $1.50 – $3
  • Water from restaurant/hostel: $1
  • Coffee: $2
  • Coke/Pepsi: $0.75 – $1
  • Fresh coconut: $1 – $2
  • Fruit juices/shakes: $1 – $2
  • “Buckets” of alcohol: $5 – $8

Flashpackers Budget for Thailand

Life as a flashpacker in Thailand is good. Really good. Eat the best food, stay in nice accommodation, enjoy a cocktail (or three), and have some money left over for fun activities – all for a fraction of what you live on back home!

Flashpackers Transport Budget in Thailand

With a higher budget you can take 1st class sleeper trains (although 2nd class really is quite comfortable), island hop in the south, and even take a few flights around the country.

Flight Prices in Thailand

Check out Air Asia, Nok Air and Bangkok Air for the cheapest airfares around Thailand.

  • Bangkok to Chiang Mai: From $45
  • Bangkok to Phuket: From $26
  • Bangkok to Krabi: From $35
  • Bangkok to Koh Samui: From $80
  • Phuket to Chiang Mai: $70
  • Phuket to Koh Samui: From $90

Land Transport Prices for Flashpackers in Thailand

  • Long distance VIP bus: $15 – $25
  • 1st class sleeper train: $35 – $42
  • Private taxis long distance: $7 – $50

Flashpackers Accommodation Budget in Thailand

Skip the dorm beds and enjoy your own private room. If you are sharing the costs with someone you can stay in some incredible accommodations.

  • Private beachside bungalows: $20 – $40
  • Double rooms in a hotel: $15 – $30
  • Tree house in Khao Sok National Park: $25 – $50

Prices for Food in Thailand

If you are getting tired of Thai food, splurge out and get a Western meal.

  • Western food in restaurant: $4 – $12
  • High-end Thai restaurant: $6 – $15
  • Indian food in nice restaurant: $3 – $7 per dish

Flashpackers Drinks Budget – Thailand

 

Cocktails by the beach, anyone?

  • Bottle Of Wine: $9 – $15
  • Cocktails: $2 – $6
  • Spirits And Mixer: $2.50 – $6
  • Bottle Of Whiskey: $18
  • Bottle Of Vodka: $19
  • Imported Beer: $3.50 – $7

Things To Do In Thailand – Activity budget

The list of things to do in Thailand is impressive! Whether you are looking for cultural experiences, true adventure or relaxation, this country has everything in droves!

Bangkok

The bustling Thai capital.  Read our guide to Bangkok here.

  • Golden Buddha: $1.25 – Read our guide to the top 10 Bangkok attractions
  • Wat Saket: Free
  • Grand Palace: $14.50 – Read our guide to the Palace
  • Floating market tour: $12 – $15 – Read our guide to Bangkok Markets

Chiang Mai

Thailand’s cultural Mecca in the North.

  • Explore the Buddhist Temples: Free – $3
  • Vispassana meditation retreat at Wat Doi Suthep: By donation
  • Hill Tribe Trekking: $22 – $35
  • White Water Rafting: $50 – $70
  • Visit To Elephant Nature Park: $71

Phuket

Resort hotspot in the South.

  • Beaches: Free
  • Koh Phi Phi tour: $25 – $35
  • Thai cooking course: $35

Ao Nang/Tonsai/Railay

Limestone cliffs and stunning beaches.

  • Kayak rental: $14 per day
  • Rock climbing course: $22 – $170

Koh Tao

Fun island popular for scuba diving.

  • Fun dives (per dive): $25
  • PADI open water course (including accommodation): $250

Koh Phangan

Tropical bliss and home to the Full Moon Party

  • Full Moon Party ticket fee: $3
  • Yoga Session: $9

Ayutthaya

The ancient capital, and home to spectacular ruined temples.

  • Boat tour: $5.50
  • Temples: Free – $0.50

Pai

Hippie vibe and gorgeous scenery.

  • Land Crack: Free
  • Pai Canyon: Free
  • Circus School membership: $5.50

Chiang Rai

Interesting city in the Golden Triangle

  • White Temple: $1

Khao Sok Lake

A true jewel, and home to the floating lake houses.

  • Full Lake Tour: $70

Thailand National Parks

Not cheap, but worth every penny.

  • Entrance Fees For Foreigners: $5 – $9

Off The Beaten Path Tip

If you really want to get off the beaten path in Thailand, head to the province of Isaan and explore the untouched jungles and waterfalls, and delve deep into an authentic Thai culture that hasn’t been spoilt by tourism.

 

 

Vietnam – Travel Budget for Vietnam

H'mong ethnic minority woman with her son in Mucangchai, Vietnam Southeast Asia Backpacking Budget

H’mong ethnic minority woman with her son in Mucangchai, Vietnam

 

1 USD = 22’000 Vietnamese Dong (April 2016)

White-sand beaches, coffee plantations, rice terraces, towering mountains, the world’s largest cave, lush jungles and sprawling cities – Vietnam is a nation that seems to have almost every type of landscape imaginable.

Besides the natural beauty, this narrow coastal country is filled with delicious food and a turbulent history. With such a fascinating abundance of attractions, it is little wonder that Vietnam often comes out as a backpacker’s favourite place in Southeast Asia.

It also happens to be one of the cheapest countries in the region, so it is easy to travel around Vietnam on a backpacker’s budget. On the flipside, it is also possible to completely clear your bank account on once-in-a-lifetime activities ($3000 for the 5 day expedition to Hang Son Doong anyone?)

Here is our complete guide on how much money you will need to travel in Vietnam as a backpacker.

Vietnam Visa Costs

Yes, you need a visa to travel to Vietnam. These laws are changing all the time, but currently it is possible to get a 30-day Visa On Arrival (VOA) when you land in Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang or Hanoi airports. Use an agency like ****** to organise this ***(some offer affiliate programs mate)***.

If you are travelling by land you will need to pick up a visa before you arrive. You can do this at a Vietnamese embassy, or through a travel agent like Mad Monkey Hostels in Cambodia.

Cost: $25 – $40

Broke Backpackers – Cheapest Vietnam Travel Budget

Luckily Vietnam is one of the cheapest countries in Southeast Asia, and getting around on a tight budget is a lot easier than you might expect. Unlike other destinations, it is possible to experience a touch of luxury now and then on a shoestring budget.

Cheapest Transport Budget in Vietnam

  • Public bus in Ho Chi Minh City/Hanoi: $0.15
  • Overnight bus: $4.50 – $22.50
  • Train: $2.25 – $11
  • Moto taxis: $0.40 – $2.25 (for short distances only)
  • Hitchhiking: Possible, but not common in Vietnam.

Cheapest Accommodation Costs in Vietnam

On a tight budget you will be looking at dorm beds in hostels, or if you have a travel partner you can find very cheap double rooms in locally run guesthouses outside of the major towns.

There is a good Couchsurfing scene in Vietnam, but keep in mind that some locals will ask for money in exchange for you to stay there.

  • Dorm bed in budget hostel: $3.50 – $5.50
  • Very basic double room: $6.50 – $11.50

Low Cost Food Budget in Vietnam

Street food in Vietnam is very cheap, and usually very tasty. Vegetarian food may (or may not) be any cheaper than ordering food with meat.

  • Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich): $0.25 – $1
  • Pho (noodle soup): $0.50 – $1
  • Bun (noodles): $0.50 – $1
  • Com (rice): $0.50 – $1
  • Fresh Fruit From Markets: $0.10 – $0.50

Cheapest Drinks Budget in Vietnam

Vietnam is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia where drinking beer can be a lot cheaper than drinking water. Especially in the north, where Bia Hoi (cheap draft beer) can be found.

  • 1.5L water bottle: $0.25 – $0.50
  • 5L water jug: $1 – $1.50
  • Bia Hoi (draft beer): $0.15 – $0.25
  • Vietnamese coffee (from small stalls): $0.25 – $0.75

Vietnam Backpackers Budget

With a slightly higher budget the comfort level improves dramatically, and you’ll have a lot of opportunities to see some great sights in Vietnam.

Backpackers Transport Budget for Vietnam

The trains are a good option along the coast, and the sleeper buses are perfect for getting between towns that aren’t on the train line.

  • Comfortable A/C bus between major towns: $5 – $20
  • Overnight sleeper bus: $10 – $25
  • Overnight train: $10 – $35
  • Moto taxis: $0.50 – $2.50

Backpackers Accommodation Budget for Vietnam

You’ll really notice the difference in accommodation options with a bit more money in the bank.

  • Dorm bed in nice hostel: $5 – $8
  • Nice double room with bathroom: $11 – $16

Backpackers Food Budget for Vietnam

Make the most of the local restaurant scene, which is quite good.

  • Bun cha (noodles with meatballs): $1 – $2
  • Pho bo/ga (noodle soup with beef/chicken): $1 – $2
  • Bun bo/ga (noodles with beef/chicken): $1 – $2
  • Com bo/ga (rice with beef/chicken): $1 – $2

Backpackers Drinks Budget for Vietnam

Enjoy a few beers in a bar or restaurant, get some nicer Vietnamese coffee and even get a few fruit shakes now and then.

  • 1.5L water bottle: $0.25 – $0.50
  • 5L water jug: $1 – $1.50
  • Bottle of beer: $0.75 – $1.25
  • Can of coke: $1
  • Vietnamese coffee (from cafes): $0.50 – $1.25
  • Fruit shake: $1 – $1.50

Flashpackers Travel Budget for Vietnam

Tourist junks floating among limestone rocks at Ha Long Bay South China Sea Vietnam Southeast Asia ** Note: Soft Focus at 100%, best at smaller sizes

Tourist junks floating among limestone rocks at Ha Long Bay South China Sea Vietnam Southeast Asia

With $30 – $60 a day in your pocket, you’ll be able to live extremely comfortably in Vietnam, and see some of the best attractions around. If you can keep below your budget on some days, this will give you more money to do some truly epic adventures!

Flashpackers Vietnam Transport Budget

Use the same sleeper trains and buses to get around at night, and take a taxi for day tours and if you don’t feel like walking around your destination.

  • Private taxis: $3 – $25
  • Motorbike tours: $18 – $50

Flashpackers Accommodation Budget for Vietnam

You definitely won’t be roughing it in Vietnam in terms of where you sleep.

  • Dorm rooms in upscale hostels: $7 – $12
  • Private rooms in nice guesthouses/hotels: $12 – $25

Flashpackers Food Budget for Vietnam

Mix up your eating habits with some Western meals, other Asian food such as Chinese or Indian, and splurge out in some delicious Vietnamese restaurants!

  • Burger and fries: $3.50 – $7
  • Indian curries: $2.50 – $4
  • Western meals: $3 – $10

Flashpackers Drinks Budget for Vietnam

Drink pretty much whatever you feel like, including imported beer and spirits if you are up for it.

  • Bottle of imported beer: $3 – $5
  • Bottle of Dalat wine: $4
  • Spirits and mixers: $2 – $6
  • Shots: $1.50 – $6

Things To Do In Vietnam – Activity Budget

For such a diverse nation it is no wonder that there are literally hundreds of things to do in Vietnam. Compared to the rest of the world, each attraction really does offer huge bang-for-your-buck potential.

Riding A Motorbike In Vietnam

Buying a motorbike can actually work out to be a cost-effective way to see Vietnam. Many backpackers buy a Chinese-copy Honda Win motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi for between $200-300, and some are able to sell these for about the same price. These bikes do break down, but maintenance is cheap.

Click here for our guide to riding motorbike through Vietnam or check out the excellent information on Touring Vietnam by bike on Nomadasaurus.

While it is very common to see backpackers riding motorbikes in Southeast Asia, do keep in mind that it is a dangerous activity. Please wear a helmet, pants and enclosed shoes, and never travel without insurance*! (Affiliate Link)

  • Chinese Honda Win motorbike: $200 – $300
  • Japanese/Vietnamese motorbike: $400 – $1000
  • Fuel: $3 – $5 per 250km
  • Basic maintenance: $0.50 – $10
  • Helmet: $10 – $25

Our suggested seven (7) day Vietnam Itinerary

The skyline of Ho Chi Ming City Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam’s largest, and most modern, city.

  • War Remnants museum: $0.75
  • Cu Chi tunnels: $8 – $25
  • Reunification palace: $1.50

Hoi An

A picturesque and historic port town.

  • Old town pass: $6
  • My Son ruins entrance: $5
  • My Son ruins tour: $4 + entrance
  • Beaches: Free!

Hanoi

The energetic (and hectic) capital.

  • Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum: Free
  • Hoan Kiem lake: Free
  • Prison museum: $1
  • Temples and pagodas: Free – $2.50
  • Quest Festival: $35 each (3 d/n music, arts and culture festival just outside of Hanoi)

Halong Bay

Impressive limestone islands and some of the most iconic scenery in Southeast Asia,

  • 2 day, 1 night Halong Bay cruise: $35 – $100
  • 3 day, 2 night Castaway tour: $179

Phong Nha

Southeast Asia’s new adventure capital.

  • Phong Nha Cave: $4
  • Paradise Cave: $7.50
  • Dark Cave: $10
  • Full national park tour: $55
  • Eco-conservation hike: $60
  • Tu Lan/Hang En tave tours: $250

Sapa

Hill tribes and rice terraces.

  • Trekking to minority villages: $10 – $20
  • Minority village homestays: $10 – $30

Da Nang

A cosmopolitan and emerging city.

  • Marble Mountains: $1
  • Son Tra peninsula: Free (with own motorbike)
  • China Beach: Free

Hue

Old citadels and temples.

  • Imperial City: $4.75
  • Tu Doc tomb: $4

Ninh Binh

Halong Bay on land, only an hour from hanoi.

  • Trang An boat tour: $6.75 per person
  • Tam Coc boat tour: $4.50 for boat, $4 extra per person
  • Hoa Lu temple: $0.50

Can Tho

Where the Mekong Delta flows towards the sea.

  • Mekong Delta floating market tour: $14

Dalat

A European city in the heart of Vietnam.

  • Crazy House: $2
  • Canyoning day tour: $18

Mui Ne

Beach town with amazing sand dunes.

  • Sand dune tour: $4.50 + $0.50 Entry
  • Fairy Stream: Free – $0.50 (depending if kids are asking for entrance)

Nha Trang

The original Vietnamese beach resort.

  • 2x fun dives: $50

Off The Beaten Path Tip

The region north of Hanoi offers some of the best scenery in all of Southeast Asia, and few tourists ever make it that far. Take a motorbike or book a tour to visit Ha Giang, Dong Van, Ba Be Lake and Ban Gioc Falls.

 

Cambodia Travel Budget

 

File Jan 08, 5 09 34 PM

On route to The Mad Monkey Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia

1 USD = 4000 Cambodian Riel (April 2016)

It’s a land where wild elephants still roam through vibrant jungles and ancient ruins rise from the vegetation in spectacular fashion. Rickshaws fly through bustling streets and smiling vendors sell a dizzying array of fresh fruit and vegetables. Tropical islands that would not be out of place in a Caribbean brochure are scattered off a palm-speckled coast. This is Cambodia.

The Southeast Asian nation has been slowly rebuilding itself since the tragic times of the Khmer Rouge, and while infrastructure is still far from perfect, backpacking in Cambodia is still one of the most incredible experiences any traveller can have.

The answer to, “How much money I need to travel in Cambodia,” is a genuine, “Not as much as you think.” We have to be honest – Cambodia is our adopted home, and we love it with all our hearts. So here is our ultimate guide to backpacking in Cambodia on a budget.

Note On Currency

In Cambodia the main currency used is actually the US Dollar. Anything under the value of $1 will be quoted in Cambodian Riel, and any change given that is less than $1 will be paid in Riel. All ATMs give you the option of withdrawing Riel or USD. We recommend withdrawing USD.

Visa Costs for Cambodia

Most nationalities need a visa to visit Cambodia, but luckily these are easily attained on arrival at land borders and at the international airports.

A 30-day Tourist Visa On Arrival is what you will be looking to buy.

Cost: $35 ****( Varies based on where you buy it and your nationality – Read about Visa Scams on the Cambodian border )****

Broke Backpackers Budget for Cambodia

 

Cambodia is a great place to travel for backpackers on a tight budget as food and accommodation can be very cheap. Keep in mind though that most of the fascinating sights that Cambodia is known for (Temples of Angkor, S21 Prison, Killing Fields, Koh Rong, etc) are not free.

Cheapest Transport Options in Cambodia

Cosy up with the locals on public transport.

  • Public bus in Phnom Penh: $0.35
  • Local long distance bus: $3 – $7
  • Moto taxis: $0.50 – $2 (for short distances only)
  • Hitchhiking: Possible, but not very common in Cambodia.

Our Hostel has a pool! - The Mad Monkey Hostel Siem Reap

The Mad Monkey Hostel in Siem Reap – from $5 – $9 for a dorm bed with a pool and party atmosphere

Cheapest Accommodation Budget in Cambodia

A lot of basic guesthouses have dorm rooms, but expect barebone facilities and things not to be the cleanest. Travelling with a partner can help split costs. You can sign up for The Mad Monkey Club on the Mad Monkey website and you will get a discount at your stay in all of their hostels, which will put staying at The Mad Monkey within your budget.

  • Dorm bed in budget hostel: $4 – $7
  • Basic fan double room: $6 – $10

Cheapest Food Budget in Cambodia

You will find streetside barbecues and food vendors in all villages and towns. Even in the major tourist areas it is easy to find very cheap meals. Self-catering will be affordable, but may not work out to be as much of a bargain as eating the street food.

  • Bamboo sticky rice $0.50 – $1
  • Barbecued meat on a stick: $0.50 – $1
  • Steamed buns: $0.25 – $0.75
  • Simple baguette sandwich: $0.50
  • Fresh fruit from markets: $0.10 – $0.50

Cheapest Drinks Budget for Cambodia

Bottled water is the way to go, and as usual the larger the bottle you buy, the cheaper it will be. There are some amazing Happy Hour specials to be found as well around the country.

  • 1.5L water bottle: $0.50 – $1
  • 5L water jug: $3
  • Sugar cane juice: $0.50
  • Angkor draft beer (happy hour): $0.50
  • Fresh coconut in rural areas: $0.50

Backpackers Budget for Cambodia

Mad Monkey Koh Rong Samloem Resort Bungalows

Share a room & bag this private room on the beach at Mad Monkey Koh Rong Samloem for under $10 a night

Enjoy a higher standard of comfort, some delicious meals in small restaurants, and get around on the wonderful tourist buses (some even have WiFi).

Backpacking Transport Budget for Cambodia

There are some excellent and high-quality bus companies in Cambodia. Giant Ibis is our favourite, and they even offer (slow) WiFi on some of their services.

  • VIP bus between major towns: $4 – $12
  • Tuk tuks: $1 – $2.50
  • Scooter rental: $5 – $7.50 per day

Backpackers Accommodation Budget Cambodia

Kick back in style with some of the best hostels in S0utheast Asia, Mad Monkey Hostels. You will also be able to find some great deals on private rooms in local guesthouses.

  • Dorm bed in nice hostel: $6 – $10
  • Basic beachside bungalow in Sihanoukville: $8
  • Double room with bathroom: $8 – $15

Backpackers Food Budget for Cambodia

Stepping up to the next level, the food in Cambodia is actually very tasty, and sometimes healthy as well! Don’t miss the fish amok curry, a tourist-style dish that is popular with hungry backpackers.

  • Amok curry with rice: $3
  • Fried rice: $1 – $2
  • Meat bread roll: $1.50
  • Lok Lak (beef with sauce): $2
  • Simple meat and rice dish: $2

Backpackers Drinks Budget in Cambodia

Don’t miss out on the Happy Hour specials in the bars, where you can get 2-for-1 cocktails, cheap beers and spirits.

Games and books Koh Rong Samloem

Beer pong is a regular nightly occurrence in Phnom Penh’s bustling Mad Monkey Hostel

 

  • 1.5L water bottle: $0.50 – $1
  • 5L water jug: $3
  • Can of Coke: $1
  • Bottle of beer: $1
  • Spirits with mixer: $1.50 – $4

Flashpackers Travel Budget Cambodia

Live like a king or queen as a flashpacker in Cambodia! Private air-conditioned rooms, taxis, top-of-the-line food, and most importantly, a chance to experience the best attractions and activities in the country!

Flashpackers Transport Budget

  • VIP buses between towns: $4 – $12
  • Private taxis: $5 – $50
  • Ferry to Koh Rong: $18

Flashpackers Accommodation Budget for Cambodia

Rent out private rooms in funky and bustling backpacker hostels in Cambodia, and get your own private bungalows with en-suites right on the beach!

  • Dorm beds in upscale hostels (with breakfast): $8 – $12
  • Private rooms in nice guesthouses/hotels: $15 – $35
  • Air conditioned rooms on the beach: $20 – $50

Flashpackers Food Budget for Cambodia

You’ll get a huge selection of Western meals and high-end local dishes in Khmer restaurants.

  • Burger and fries: $4 – $8
  • Large gourmet salad: $5
  • Indian spread for two people: $10
  • “Dine In The Dark” experience in Phnom Penh: $18

Flashpackers Drinks Budget for Cambodia

Live it up in nice bars and clubs, or kick back with a cocktail on the beach.

  • Bottle of imported beer: $3 – $5
  • Glass of wine: $2 – $4
  • Spirits and mixers: $2 – $6
  • Cocktails: $4+

Things To Do In Cambodia – Activity Budget

While the UNESCO listed Temples of Angkor are undoubtedly the best attraction in the country (and perhaps all of Southeast Asia), there are a lot of other sensational things to do in Cambodia. Whether you are there for a week or a month, you will have no shortage of places to visit and sites to explore.

Phnom Penh

The sometimes-crazy-but-always-fun capital.

  • S-21 Prison museum: $3
  • Killing fields: $6 (including audio guide)
  • Royal Palace: $6.50
  • Tuk tuk for full-day tour: $18

Siem Reap

Home to a lot more than just Angkor Wat.

  • 1-Day Angkor Temples pass: $20
  • 3-Day Angkor Temples pass: $40
  • 7-Day Angkor Temples pass: $60
  • Phare Circus: $15
  • Phnom Kulen Mountain: $20
  • Tuk tuk tour of temples: $20 (organise at Mad Monkey Hostels)

Sihanoukville

The popular and busy beach town.

  • Beaches: Free
  • Scooter Rental: $5 per day
  • Skate Style Skateboard Park: $2 entry + rental

Koh Rong

Arguable Cambodia’s best tropical island.

  • Boat Tour: $10 – $15
  • 2x Fun Dives: $100

Kampot

Lovely riverside town surrounded by farmland and mountains, ( Save money by booking the Kampot Discovery Tour )

  • Bokor Mountain: $0.50
  • Phnom Chhnork: $1
  • Women’s-only yoga at Banteay Srey: $10
  • Mad Monkey Day Tours ( Four tours to choose from) $20 – $30 
  • Rock climbing with Climbodia: $40

Battambang

A large city with a fascinating history.

  • Wat Ek Phnom: $1
  • Battambang Museum: $1
  • Phnom Sampeu (Killing Caves): $3
  • Bamboo Train: $5 per person ($10 minimum)
  • Phare Circus: $10
  • Tuk tuk full-day tour: $18

Off The Beaten Path Tip

Jump in a bus and head to Sen Monorom, home to elephant camps, jungle hikes, and cascading waterfalls. The dusty village is interesting enough to hold your attention for a day or two, then continue to head further north.

Laos Travel Budget

1 USD = 8115 Lao Kip (April 2016)

After years of being skipped by unsure backpackers, Laos has finally cemented itself on the Banana Pancake Trail. But while raucous tales of the infamous tubing in Vang Vieng still echo in hostels around Southeast Asia, those who take the time to explore past the Nam Song River are blown away by the diversity and off-the-beaten-track experiences Laos has to offer.

Whether you are interested in the French Colonial city of Luang Prabang, the rugged and dense jungles around Luang Namtha, or the relaxed island vibe around Don Det in the 4000 Islands, you will never run out of things to do in Laos.

What it lacks in the historic sites found in its neighbouring countries, it makes up for in serene beauty and welcoming locals. Backpacking in Laos on a budget is very easy to do, and also very addictive.

Visa Costs for Laos

A tourist visa on arrival is available for most nationalities visiting Laos, and can be picked up at international airports and land borders. These are valid for 30-days, and can be extended at police stations.

Cost: $30 – $42, depending on nationality.

Broke Backpackers – Cheapest Travel Budget for Laos

If you’re travelling on a shoestring budget, Laos is a wonderful place to explore, and boasts some of the cheapest accommodation found anywhere in Southeast Asia.

Cheapest Transport Costs for Laos

The transport is basic, but runs quite regularly.

  • Public bus around Vientiane: $0.25 – $0.75
  • Local long distance bus: $4 – $12
  • Moto taxis: $0.15 – $2 (for short distances only)
  • Hitchhiking: Possible between major cities, more difficult in the North.

Cheapest Accommodation Budget for Laos

If you don’t mind basic and rustic accommodation, you can sleep for only a few dollars a night. Vientiane is more expensive, so consider staying outside of the city centre.

  • Dorm bed in budget hostel: $1.50 – $3
  • Basic fan double room: $3 – $6

Cheapest Food Budget for Laos

Keep an eye out for baguettes, which will be your cheapest, and most filling, meal.

  • Plain baguette $0.15
  • Noodle soup: $1
  • Barbecued meat: $1
  • Fresh fruit from markets: $0.10 – $0.50

Cheapest Drinks Budget for Laos

Drinking bottled water will keep your budget down, but it would be a shame to not try at least a few Beer Lao’s during your stay in the country. Lao Lao whiskey is also known as the cheapest liquor in Asia – beware its potency.

  • 1.5L water bottle: $0.60 – $0.75
  • 5L Water Bottle: $3
  • Sugar cane juice: $0.50 – $0.75
  • Small bottle of Beer Lao: $0.75
  • Lao Lao whiskey: 1L for $1

Backpackers  Travel Budget for Laos

 

Backpackers living on $20 – $30 a day will have no problems finding great accommodation and eating huge amounts of the delicious blends of cuisine that Laos is known for.

Backpackers Transport Budget for Laos

Air-conditioned buses and minivans connect all major towns in Laos.

  • A/C bus between major towns: $8 – $17
  • Tuk tuks: $1 – $3 (short distance)
  • Scooter rental: $7 per day

Backpackers Accommodation Budget for Laos

Hostels in Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane will offer good value, but you will be able to afford a private room everywhere else in the country.

  • Dorm bed in nice hostel: $4 – $7
  • Private double room with bathroom: $6 – $10
  • Own bungalow on the Mekong River in Don Det: $6

Backpackers Food Budget for Laos

Lao food is known for delicious influence coming from Thailand and Vietnam (with a good dose of French being thrown into the equation). Eat to your heart’s content!

  • Large spread in Luang Prabang markets $2 – $3
  • Lao noodle soup: $1.50
  • Baguette sandwich $1.50
  • Spring rolls: 5 for $2
  • Barbecue fish: $2 – $4

Backpackers Drinks Budget for Laos

Stay away from the Lao Lao whiskey (unless the locals ask you to join them for a drink), and enjoy arguably Southeast Asia’s best beer – Beer Lao.

  • 1.5L water bottle: $0.60 – $0.75
  • 5L water jug: $3
  • Can of Coke: $1 – $1.50
  • Coffee: $1
  • Big bottle of Beer Lao: $1
  • Bottle of Beer Lao Dark: $1.50
  • Spirits with mixer in bar: $2 – $4

Flashpackers Travel Budget for Laos

You will be living the dream in Laos as a flashpacker, as long as you don’t get stuck in Vang Vieng forever…

Flashpackers Transport Budget for Laos

Take tourist buses and minivans booked through travel agencies to get to all major towns, and book taxis for day tours when and where you want.

  • VIP buses around the country: $15 – $31
  • Private car and driver: $35 – $45 per day
  • Tourist bus from Luang Prabang to Hanoi: $50
  • 2-day slow boat to Luang Prabang: Around $50

Flashpackers Accommodation Budget for Laos

Skip the dorm rooms and instead stay in nice hotels and guesthouses in major towns.

  • Dorm bed in Vientiane hostels (with breakfast): $8 – $12
  • Private rooms in nice guesthouses/hotels: $13 – $25

Flashpackers Food Budget for Laos

Laos has some wonderful French restaurants around Luang Prabang and Vientiane, and a whole range of funky cafes and Western bars to splash out at.

  • Chicken and rice dish: $4
  • French breakfast: $3
  • Chicken curry: $5
  • Meal in a nice restaurant in Luang Prabang: $6 – $10

Flashpackers Drinks Budget for Laos

Live it up in boutique bars and clubs, or kick back with a cocktail on the beach.

  • Bottle of imported beer: $2.50 – $4
  • Glass of French wine: $3.50
  • Spirits and mixers: $2 – $6
  • Cocktails: $4+

Things To Do In Laos – Activity Budgets

Laos doesn’t have the huge number of big-ticket attractions like Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia has, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth spending a month there! For many backpackers, bar-hopping and floating on a tube in Vang Vieng, kayaking in the 4000 Islands or wandering through the remarkable Plain of Jars become some of their best travel memories in Southeast Asia.

Vientiane

The slightly boring capital city.

  • Buddha Park: $0.60
  • Entrance to temples: Free – $1
  • Laos National Museum: $1.25

Luang Prabang

A French-style town on the Mekond River.

  • Entrance to temples: Free – $1.25
  • Mount Phou Si viewpoint: $2.50
  • Kuang Si falls: $2.50
  • 4-hour tuk tuk hire to Kuang Si: $20
  • Pak Ou caves: $10 entry + $7.50 boat ride

Vang Vieng

The most beautiful, and debaucherous, village in Southeast Asia.

  • Tubing on the Nam Song river: $10 (tube and transport)
  • Blue Lagoon: $1.25
  • Entrance to caves: $1.25 – $3
  • Mountain bike hire: $3
  • Hot air balloon ride: $50

Nong Khiaw

A beautiful and quiet village in the north of Laos.

  • Patok Cave: $0.60
  • Mountain viewpoint: $2.50
  • Mountain bike rental: $4
  • Nam Ou river boat trip: $80 (max 12 people per boat)

Phonsavan

An industrial town with a lot of history.

  • Plain of Jars: $1.25 – $2 per site
  • MAG Museum: Free
  • Tham Piu Cave: $0.60

Thakek

Busy town with a spectacular motorbike loop around it.

  • Scooter rental for Thakek Loop: $7 per day
  • Tham Nan Cave: $2.50 entry + $6.25 for boat
  • Khong Lor Cave $1.25 entry + $12.50 for boat

Pakse

Small city and launching point for the Bolaven Plateau.

  • Wat Phu: $4.50
  • Waterfalls along the Bolaven Plateau: $2.50
  • Scooter rental: $7 per day

Savannakhet

Cobblestoned streets and French architecture.

  • Dinosaur Museum: $1.25

Don Det (4000 Islands)

The most popular backpacker island on the Mekong River.

  • Bicycle Rental: $1.25
  • Kayaking And Waterfall Tour: $20

Off The Beaten Path Tip

Continue further north past Luang Prabang, and head to Luang Namtha. Striking mountain scenery, bamboo villages and curious minority people await in the marvellous Golden Triangle.

 

About the Authors

Nomadasaurus

 

Alesha and Jarryd, otherwise known as Lesh and Jazza are an Australian couple who have been travelling the world together since 2008. But before that, we both were solo travellers, with Lesh exploring Australian, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Canada, and Jazza hanging out in Canada being a ski bum and full time partier.

They met in a hostel in Vancouver, then spent the next few years travelling around Canada and living in an awesome van, called Latoya.

Since then they have been published authors and contributors to the BBC and many a travel mag.  Find out more about their inspiring story and keep up to date with their travels here. http://www.nomadasaurus.com/about/

About Our Guides To South East Asia 

More in depth information on each city is available on the following links

Backpackers Travel Guide to Bangkok

Backpacker Travel Guide to The Thai Islands

Backpackers Guide to Cambodia

Backpackers Guide to Laos

 

 

 

 

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Mad Monkey Hostels - No Stress No Worries

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