So, you have decided you want to travel to Asia, and now comes the reality check: how much will it cost?
In 2015 my wife and I did a backpacking trip through several countries in Asia, including: China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and India, that spanned for a few months until almost November. We took the advice from several websites regarding travel tips and costs, since it was the first time that we did a travel with no return ticket; made our budget and went on the adventure to see how well was our math, and kept only a backup for the return ticket.
Since we received help from other posts, we'd like to share the information so others can be helped as well. Below is shown an average daily expenses summary per country, and we explain the kind of things we did with that money.
Indirect Travel ExpensesMost of the costs we found on the Internet on different blogs were accurate, and you are more or less flexible on the budget depending on what things you want to do (or not). One thing that is usually excluded from other websites is the transportation between countries and other things like visas, vaccines, and travel insurance.
For our trip, we spent around $21 daily on these travel expenses, being the most expensive one the travel insurance (World Nomads) which had an extensive coverage. In addition to the Travel Insurance, this amount also includes: flights to/from Asia to home country, transportation between countries, vaccines, and international roaming before we started using local SIM cards.
Country Specific ExpensesMost of the expenses categories shown below are self-explanatory, except maybe Travel. This category basically means the fun things: attraction tickets, fun rides, tours, etc and includes (when applies) visa fees. If you have any questions about the information posted, please ask in the comments section :)
For simplicity, we included all country-related expenses (like visa and transportation between cities) on each country's summary. All costs are expressed per person.
To get a total average (which includes all the expenses from planning until returning back home) you would have to sum the Indirect Travel Expenses to the Country Specific Expenses. Mathematically:
Total Travel Expenses = Indirect Travel Expenses + Country Specific Expenses
|Cambodia Daily Expenses By Category|
Stay at a budget hotel, have breakfast in a restaurant, grab some snacks for the day, go visit places (when possible walking, but most of the times by Tuk Tuk/Remorque), have budget lunch/dinner (pizza, pasta, rice, burgers) at touristy places (prices are in USD), go back to hotel/take night transportation to another city.
Sometimes donated or bough something to someone just to help them, and since this was one of our last countries, bought a thing or two as gifts.
Saving tips: You can save money on Tuk Tuks and Dining. On Tuk Tuks always negotiate (don't be too hard, a few dollars make a big difference for them), or try to stay close to the attractions. In Dining, you could try secondary streets for local food instead of the main touristy areas. Don't buy anything (food/gifts) from hawkers around attractions.
Average Exchange Rate: 1 USD ~ 4000 Cambodia Riel.
Average Daily Cost (USD): $44 (including Cambodia Visa and Angkor Wat, if not: $32).
|China Daily Expenses By Category|
Stay at an Airbnb apartment, have self-made breakfast at home (most of the time), grab snacks for the day, use only public transportation to get to all the attractions, visit attractions, have lunch/dinner (only one meal a day) at a chain restaurant, go back to apartment or take a night train to another city, have a self-made dinner.
Use public transportation passes. Overall we didn't see big differences on prices, but you might be able to find better dining prices in some local restaurants. Street food is cheap too, but we always kept our guard really up preventing food poisoning. Also very few people speak English, so you will have to try based on a picture.
Average Exchange Rate: 1 USD ~ 6 CNY.
Average Daily Cost (USD): $59.
|India Daily Expenses By Category|
Grab breakfast at hotel, hire a Tuk Tuk (Auto Rickshaw) or tour for the day (except on cities with acceptable public transportation like Delhi), visit places, have lunch/dinner (2-3 meals a day) usually at hotel, go back to hotel / take a night train to next city.
As I read somewhere, in India, if you don't look Indian you're a walking dollar sign. Always negotiate, after a while you will get a grasp of what is the real price of things.
Food is cheap, but be conscious about it. Don't try save too much money on hotels, less than 20$ a night are extremely suspicious hotels, be extremely careful about reviews on the Internet and try to check for recent reviews (preferably from non-locals).
In attractions, avoid spontaneous "tour guides", or set an upfront price when they start talking showing you around. Always set a price and stick to it, they will always try to get it up at the end, don't fall for it.
As long as you can avoid private transportation and/or negotiate a good price upfront you should be able to save more money.
Average Exchange Rate: 1 USD ~ 60 INR
Average Daily Cost (USD): $42
|Japan Daily Expenses By Category|
Stay at either budget hotel or Airbnb apartment, self-made breakfast in room, grab some snacks for the day, use public transportation (use passes) to get to places, visit attractions/events, have a late lunch/dinner at a chain or budget restaurant, go back to hotel, maybe have another snack before bed.
It's hard to save in Japan, things are just expensive. But if there was a category you could focus, we would recommend transportation. Get all the passes you get offered, you will always save money. From the Japan Rail Pass to multiday passes. Usually they get paid with 2 trips.
Average Exchange Rate: 1 USD ~ 115 JPY
Average Daily Cost (USD): $79.
|Laos Daily Expenses By Category|
We went though Laos pretty quick, spending no more than one or two nights on the same city. So a typical day would be: having at least two meals a day in restaurants, having either breakfast or dinner at home, plus some snacks for the day, hire a Tuk Tuk or tour for attractions not in walking distance (when possible, public transportation), visit attractions, get a bus to the next city.
Besides negotiating prices with the Tuk Tuk drivers, sadly we cannot give additional tips.
Average Exchange Rate: 1 USD ~ 7500 KIP
Average Daily Cost (USD): $38.
|Malaysia Daily Expenses By Category|
Each city in Malaysia had a different dynamic, some could be walked, others had public transportation and others required private transportation, for example. Nevertheless, an average day could go on these lines: stay at a budget hotel, get breakfast at a nearby restaurant or hotel, grab some snacks for the day, visit attractions (transportation would depend on city, some required tours), have lunch (a lot of cheap options), visit other attractions, have dinner (2-3 meals a day usually) and go back to hotel.
Food is overall cheap. Even at the KLCC in Kuala Lumpur, you can get a nice meal for 3$. Stay close to attractions and avoid tours.
Average Exchange Rate: 1 USD ~ 3.75 MYR.
Average Daily Cost (USD): $38.
|Singapore Daily Expenses By Category|
Stay at budget hotel, have self-made breakfast and dinner in room, grab snacks for the day, visit some attractions (like Marina Bay Sands, or temples, but not attractions on Sentosa Island), have lunch at a chain restaurant, watch budget/free night attractions, go back to hotel.
As Japan, Singapore is a bit expensive. We were able to lower down some costs on accommodation by mixing it with transportation days (arrived one day early in the morning, and the last day left for a night train to Kuala Lumpur).
Budget hotels are not very comfortables and are expensive. Check for hostels that have good reviews.
Average Exchange Rate: 1 USD ~ 1.33 SGD.
Average Daily Cost (USD): $41.
|Thailand Daily Expenses By Category|
Stay at budget hotel, have breakfast (sometimes self-made, sometimes restaurant), get to attractions (most of the time through tours, but walking and public transportation when possible), have lunch/dinner at a budget restaurant (if tour, most of the time lunch was included, usually had 2-3 meals a day), had snacks, occasional party/night show/gathering, back to hotel.
On the islands (like Koh Phangan), if you rent a bike instead of paying private transportation, you might be able to save more money. Also, if you just stay on the beach, the expenses go down, but usually would like to go diving, or getting to other islands. In Bangkok, you usually have good public transportation.
The most important advice: Always take metered taxis! If by any reason you can't find one and really need it, negotiate the price upfront or have one trusted driver. These people really get a lot of money from tourists.
Average Exchange Rate: 1 USD ~ 33 BAHT
Average Daily Cost (USD): $44.
|Vietnam Daily Expenses By Category|
Stay at a budget hotel, have breakfast in restaurant, grab snacks for the day, walk or get on a tour to attractions, visit attractions, have lunch/dinner at a budget restaurant (2 meals a day usually, sometimes 3), go back to hotel or transportation to next city.
You can rent bikes instead of paying for private transportation. Beware of the laws. Beside of that we don't have much advice.
Average Exchange Rate: 1 USD ~ 20,500 VND
Average Daily Cost (USD): $ 32