Where to travel in Asia on a tight budget.

Asian countries can be cheap or expensive vacation destinations depending on where you choose to go and what comfort level and extra facilities you are willing to pay for. For example, some people are happy to save money by getting a fan-only room, whereas an air-conditioned is a prerequisite for me when I’m travelling in a hot country.

Below are a list of cheap and reasonably priced Asian destinations based on my experiences and those of some of my travel-blogging colleagues.

1. Chiang Mai, Thailand.

If you want to plonk yourself somewhere for a few months and live cheaply while you work on a business idea, you might consider Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand. You can rent a monthly hotel room for as little as $300 USD / month (but you’ll have to pay a bit more if you want a kitchen).

Lots of travel bloggers base themselves in Chiang Mai due to the low cost and ease of living.

Be warned that Chiang Mai is a polarizing place – some people love it and some people hate it. On the plus side, it’s the best place in Asia for vegan food. On the negative side, it’s nowhere near Thailand’s famous beaches. I’d rather pay a little more and live near the beach e.g., Koh Samui.

2. Thai Islands and Beaches.

Compared to similar beaches in other parts of the world, Thailand’s islands and beaches offer superb value. Thong Nai Pan Yai on Koh Pha Ngan is great and you can get lovely air con bungalows for less than $40 a night. It’s a bit isolated and well away from the party scene so ideal for couples looking for some quiet time.

3. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (HCMC)

Vietnam is extremely cheap overall. You can get guest house accommodation with marble in the bathrooms for super cheap prices ($20-30.)

I prefer the south of Vietnam to the north. You’ll encounter very few problems with touts and rip offs in HCMC (unlike in other parts of Vietnam).

From HCMC, you can take great short trips around the south of Vietnam e.g. to explore the Mekong Delta. The beaches in Vietnam aren’t as good as what’s on offer in Thailand.

Cheap food options in HCMC abound, including great vegan only restaurants and excellent vegetable markets.

James from nomadicnotes.com spent US$724 during a month living in HCMC for a month in 2012.

4. China can be cheap.

Our friends Dave and Vicky of acoupletravelers.com traveled through China on an average of US$33/per person/day which included some couchsurfing.

However traveling cheap in China requires more effort than in places like Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam where cheap travel is extremely easy.

For an alternative take on China, Theodora from escapeartistes.com is lived for a few months in Harbin, China and had her son is in local school there (not an expat/international school, an actual local school!)

Where’s not cheap?

– Japan – obviously.

– Singapore – it’s tough to find clean budget accommodation in Singapore.

– In my experience. Malaysia is about 50% more expensive than next door Thailand. However, it’s cheaper than Singapore.

– Korea falls between China and Japan in terms of cost, approx on par with Malaysia.

– Phnom Penh, Cambodia is cheap but the hotel rates are higher than Bangkok or HCMC, Vietnam. In Phnom Penh you get a room with air-con in a cheap guest house for as little as US$15-20/night/per person.

Other considerations

– There are lots of ways to save money once you’re on the road, with the most important tip being that the slower you travel, the less it will cost as you’ll save on transport, you’ll find cheap places to eat, and be able to negotiate long stay discounts.

Photo: Redang Island, Malaysia.

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