How to Backpack Through Southeast Asia for Under $45 A Day

Looking for the ultimate budget friendly travel destination? Well, look no further than Southeast Asia! We’re here to tell you how to backpack through Southeast Asia for under $45 a day.

Oh, and let us be clear, we lived VERY comfortable in Southeast Asia for under $45 a day for 8 months at that ☺

Some Important Caveats To Mention

Let us be clear that yes, we could have 100% lived on a cheaper daily budget, but we did what we wanted to and traveled to 9 countries over the course of 8 months. 9 countries in 8 months!!

The below outlines some of our higher priced ticket excursions. Would we do it all over again and pay what we paid?? ….You better believe it!

  • Became Open Water Scuba Certified ($200 a person)
  • Trekked Mount Bromo and Ijen ($85 per person)
  • Trekked Rinjani ($116 per person)
  • MeKong River Cruise from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang ($40 per day)
  • Sailed a 4-day cruise from Lombok to Lubuan Bajo ($114 per person)
  • Spent 2 days at Angkor Wat vs just the 1 day ($62 per person)
  • Partied at the Full Moon Party & raged on the rivers via tube in Vang Vieng (Can’t remember )
  • Multiple cooking classes (Thailand – $24.50, Vietnam – $35, Indonesia- $10.50)
  • White Water Kayaked in Nepal for Four Days ($192 per person)
  • Permits for Our Trek on Annapurna Circuit in Nepal ($75 per person)

Why are we telling you this? To show you all we did with the budget we had!

As you can see from the above, we really did what we wanted and still managed to pull off under $45 a day (on average) when our 8-month trip was all said and done.

Again, the under $45 is an average that can completely be done cheaper if you are not interested in seeing/doing the above or some of the above.

We should note that under $45 is pretty freaking cheap considering all the additional tours and excursions we did and how often we moved around – we essentially moved to a new place every 3 days. So yeah, we covered a lot of ground and saw a lot.

Okay, all caveats aside, what does under $45 a day in Southeast Asia get you? So happy you asked! We’ll tell you.

Average Accommodation Cost for Southeast Asia

Price: $3 – $15 (per night/per person)

Think shared dorm and/or private room. In the beginning of our trip, we went the shared dorm route within a hostel just because we assumed it would be cheaper.

However, we were pleasantly surprised to find it to be cheaper (more times than not) if we booked a private room with a guesthouse or homestay.

Also, booking in person versus through a site like hostelworld.com or booking.com will also save you a few bucks.

  1. You can negotiate the per night rate (especially if you are staying multiple nights)
  2. You and/or the accommodation avoid paying online fees, ultimately saving you some money

If you are going to book in person, maybe do some research on the front end to have a handful of places picked out.

Also, be aware of holidays. For example, don’t show up to Koh Phangan during the full moon party and expect to get a great price or place to stay.

The accommodations we stayed in would be considered to be a 1 to 2-star accommodations that are centrally located with air conditioning. In addition, they were clean, comfortable and had breakfast and Wi-Fi included in the price.

Average Food Cost for Southeast Asia

Price $.50 – $5 (per meal/per person)

The best part of Southeast Asia is the foooooooood! We spent every day on small plastic chairs on the street chowing down on tasty local fare. We’re referring to street food. Nothing better for your taste buds and honestly nothing cheaper.

Don’t get us wrong, every now and again we splurged on pizza and some comfort foods that reminded us of home, but we really did eat street food for pretty much all of our meals.

This is key in where we saved the most of our money. Eat on the street and forget the restaurants and cafes.

Another great way to save money is to purchase some snacks and food from a store. Think bread and peanut butter. A great little lunch for when you’re on the go or want to save some money.

Average Transportation Cost for Southeast Asia

Price: $0 – $15 (overland travel/per person)

The key to our transportation plan is we walked when we could. Took metered taxi’s over Tuk-Tuks. Rented scooters when we needed to get around and always took overland travel (night busses / minivans) versus flying.

We had the time to spare so if it took twice or three times as long as flying, so be it.

We should mention that all our busses and minivans had air-conditioning and somewhat of reclining seats. It was as comfortable as an 8+ hour ride could be ☺

Average Entrance Fee Costs for Southeast Asia

Price: $0 – $20 (per site/per person)

So, we listed our bigger ticket excursions in the “caveat” section but in all seriousness to get into temples, viewpoints, museums, etc. don’t expect to pay nearly that much.

We saw sights like The Killing Fields in Cambodia ($3), The Grand Palace in Thailand ($15) and The War Remnants Museum in Vietnam ($2) just to name a few.

Our tip? figure out what you like and don’t feel pressured into seeing a site because someone said it was a must see.

Don’t waste your money on things that do not interest you.

Also, take advantage of free walking tours accommodations offer. It’s a great way to get a little guided tour at no cost to you.

Oh, and seek out free attractions. More than likely, it will be free of tourists and you’ll have a cool new place to yourself.

Average Alcohol Cost for Southeast Asia

Price: $.20 – $7 (per drink/per person)

While we drank our fill, it was also the biggest hit to our budget. The cheapest place in Asia to drink, that we found, is “Beer Corner” in Hanoi, Vietnam. The draft beers are $.20 cents…yes, you read that correctly, $.20 cents.

The places that will kill your budget are the tourist traps. Think Full Moon Party, Beach Bars, Pub Crawls and basically any “bar streets’ like Pub Street in Siem Reap and Khao San Road in Bangkok.

Our tip? Plan ahead and don’t drink every night. Skip the beers and mixed drinks when you can so that when you want to party, you don’t feel guilty about it because you save a few bucks here and there over the week.

If you really want to drink, a cheaper option than heading to the “bars” is to head to 7/11 or a mini-mart. Buy your beer and alcohol there and then head back to your place to drink up.

Additional Things to Understand

The biggest thing to understand is that you will have more expensive days where you will inevitably go over $45 a day. Fact, it’ll happen.

Now, now, now, don’t freak out! Just like you’ll go over, you’ll also be waaaay below your daily budget too on some days.

Our cheapest day in Southeast Asia was $23.00. That’s $11.50 per person and that included all our meals, bike rental and accommodation for the night.

How To Keep Track of Your Budget In Southeast Asia

The one thing we can’t stress enough is be mindful of your budget. It’s easy to lose track of what you’ve spent and when you’ve spent it.

Our biggest tip for you is use a budget tracking tool like “Spending Tracker.” Spending Tracker (iOS / Google Play) is an app we used every day to keep track of our expenses.

Not only does Spending Tracker show you your daily expenses, it also gives you weekly and monthly views of what you’ve spent. It also shows you the categories you spend the most or least in (i.e food, alcohol, entertainment, etc) so you can have a high-level overview on where you’re at for the week or month.

If you’re close to going over towards the end of the week, then go ahead and take it easy. Eat cheap, stay cheap and don’t go sightseeing to keep your budget on track.

We promise, if your mindful, you can splurge and it’ll all work out 🙂

WANT MORE INFORMATION ON BUDGETING & TRAVEL?!

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For more travel tips, guides and awesome travel shots, be sure to poke around our site, follow us on Instagram @wanderingstus, on Pinterest and on Facebook. Oh, and if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section. We’re happy to answer. Or, just leave us a positive note!

Happy Travels,

– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)

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