How much does it cost to backpack in Asia?

31 05 2010

Finally I’ve taken together how much we spent during our four month trip through South-East Asia and China.  As you can read about here on the blog we tried to keep our budget down with the occasional splurge when we felt like it.  We most often stayed at budget hostels and guesthouse (see further here) and travelled with local transportation as much as possible but money was never an obstacle when it came to activities that we really wanted to do.

Before we flew out to Asia we basically bought three things.  These three things are not calculated into the average spending per day below.  These three things were (note – all numbers are in USD):

Flight tickets $3,354
Vaccinations $800
Chinese Visa $200
Total $4,354

The flights that we booked beforehand were Reykjavík-London-Bangkok-Hong Kong-Beijing-London-Reykjavík – in that order.  We bought all our tickets through a company called airtreks and were very happy with their services.

I think that we had all possible vaccinations available – or at least those that were recommended by the tourist clinic in Zurich.  The vaccination cost might be a bit higher, at least this is what we can remember for sure.

For the most of the trip we used debit cards to get money from ATMs so it was fairly easy to see what we spent in each country.  I just had to look up the dates, when we crossed the borders and voila!

Country Days stayed Total spent in country Spent per day per person per day
Thailand 42 $2,449 $58 $29
Cambodia 10 $503 $50 $25
Vietnam 25 $2,212 $89 $44
Laos 7 $591 $84 $42
Hong Kong 4 $251 $63 $31
China 22 $1.548 $70 $35
Total 110 $7.554 $69 $34

As you can see we spent on average $69 per day including everything except the three things mentioned at the top.  Cambodia seems to be the cheapest country according to our experience and Vietnam the most expensive one.  To be fair to Vietnam we did spend over $400 on clothes in Hoi An and if I subtract those $400 the average spending goes down to about $72 a day.  We also did a few expensive things in Laos like the elephant ride that pushes the spending in Laos up a bit.

In total we spent close to $12,000 on the trip or about $1,500 per person per month, which is definitely on the low side.  At least what we got out of the trip is worth so much much more!

Of course we did everything as a couple and people travelling alone can expect to pay a bit more for accommodation and food but maybe not that much more.

In the end I would just like to encourage anyone thinking about taking such a trip to just to go for it – it’s easier and less expensive than people think!

If you have any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to post them below.



29 responses

1 06 2010
Natasha De Bernardi

Without paying rent you would still spend about $1,500 per person per month in almost any country–that’s amazing! I think we spent about the same when we traveled through Central America.

29 09 2010

Hi, did you two stay at hostel/guesthouse or more of middle-class rooms? I’m trying to guestimate how much it’d cost me to spend 3 months in SE Asia. I’m currently targeting $30/day by myself and not sure if that’d be enough. I def. plan to visit Halong Bay, Angkor Wat, Krabi Beach, Elephant Ride – u know, usual tourisy events.


29 09 2010

Hi, we stayed mostly at really cheap hostels. It is a bit cheaper to travel with someone so I would think that $30 is a bit ambitious. It will be really interesting to know how it goes.

2 01 2011
2010 in review « Orn's Travel Blog

[…] How much does it cost to backpack in Asia? May 2010 3 comments 5 […]

6 04 2014

hey my gf and i went 6 weeks just in thailand in october 2013 and it cost us about 2200 each excluding the flight which at that time was 1200 per person but we did alot tho alsowent to lao for a visa run just be carefulof tuktuks if you want to know more here is myemail

27 09 2011

Is it included transport fee and visa as well? just estimated figure

Anyway I’m looking for backpackers from Malaysia to travel with me. Got some information regarding VISA from and now looking for partners. so we can assist each other all way long.

18 03 2012
william bailey

I am trying to plan out a similar trip but only for a month (May). However, I would most likely be going by myself, would you recommend it or wait to try to find someone to go with?

19 03 2012

I’ve heard from a bunch of people that have travelled alone and they have all had great trips – so no waiting – just dive in!

10 06 2012
Travel Magazine - Travelodium

That’s funny becasue I would say the cheapest place that I’ve been in SE Asia is Vietnam – excluding Saigon which is more expensive than Bangkok. I would rate from cheapest to most expensive Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand then China and Hong Kong

22 06 2012

Names Fred ,
Going traveling in feb was hoping to do vetnam and camboda and Thailand , did month in Thailand lays November , did the islands did not like Bangkok , now hope to do three month myself this time , not shore how much to take , for Scotland

15 09 2012
Brett Ellen Parmenter

This is awesome! Thanks for posting. Living in China now but planning on doing a few months of traveling in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand with my boyfriend. Thanks for helping me figure out my budget. :)

6 12 2012
Summer Camp America

Wow, tons of information here thanks very much for going to the trouble of sharing all this information, I was considering a working holiday in Asia maybe volunteer conservation something along those lines!

16 01 2013

Hmm… I’ve recently gotten back from Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Honestly haven’t done the math however recalling the costs of certain items.. aka .. food, alcohol, accommodation and activities I would say hands down it went in the following order from cheapest to more expensive: Cambodia(Not In Tourist Land Pub Street) – Vietnam (Yes even Saigon) – Thailand. Thailand by far is the most expensive… especially Bangkok! The whole country is a tourist trap now. I could hire a Tuk Tuk all day for 8 dollars in Cambodia. Try doing that in Bangkok! They want 9 dollars just go around the corner-no joke. Also if you go down south to Krabi or somewhere like that your going to pay a lot to do and see, what is people actually go down there to do and see. Plain and simple, for example you don’t go to Krabi just to sit on one beach the entire time….Right. Well you can but thats rather dull I can do that in Cali. So that equates to purchasing a ticket or sometimes buying out a Long-Tail Boat for the day every day to see other beaches and Islands which can be quite expensive. Food there 30-40% higher usually. Unless your eating Phad Thai every meal. Just look at the price of beer! Vietnam 33-50 cents! Cambodia 20-50 Cents! Thailand 1-2 Dollars!

16 01 2013

In fact we hired a private car in Cambodia to drive us all the way to Thai border for 30 dollars. If it had been Thailand we would have easily 3000 baht = 90 dollars.

19 02 2013

Hey I am going to Thailand Vietnam and Cambodia for two months backpacking , I was planning on going there with 2 grand. Would that be enough ?

19 02 2013

The only numbers I can stand by are those above. Since prices are inflating all of the time I would assume an increase in prices of about 20-30% since we were over there.

24 06 2013

Hi would you mind letting me know which web host you’re working with? I’ve loaded your blog in
3 different browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot
faster then most. Can you recommend a good web hosting provider at a honest price?

Thanks a lot, I appreciate it!

24 06 2013

I’m just using :)

27 06 2013
hagiang north vietnam

Some go with massages and pedicures at prices that can.
On board, travelers have possiblity to eat grilled seafoods
together with the nice price. The magnificence in this place attracts the soul leaving the impression that’s going to stick to you or a long time to come. Why not visit and go on a leisurely cruise for the bay. This cuisine is prepared in the traditional style to enable you to when you get the tastes with the real Vietnamese culture.

26 07 2013
northern vietnam

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1 12 2013

I wanted to say that I really enjoyed your blog. It was a very realistic budget of travelling for four months. In April, I went to Southeast Asia and discovered many people said it was a lot more inexpensive than it really is.
The budgets for vaccinations, flights, visas, and various activities are very realistic.

I really like how you included the shopping in Hoi An. I never budgeted in how much shopping I would be doing while travelling and it can add up quickly.

For all your readers, this is very accurate. I would suggest following this budget for travelling to Southeast Asia.


15 01 2014

Hmmm does the 1500 per month include the flight? That seems a bit steep for southeast Asia. I would imagine SEA would be around 1000 a month, less than an average of 50 a day at least. From what I’ve read at least. I’m budgeting 6000 for 4 months of backpacking with couch surf and cheap hostels. What do you think?

15 01 2014

Yes in 2010 it was 1.500 per month including flights. I’d expect that to have risen at least 30% by now

9 03 2014

Hello, I am Sammy,
thanks for the interesting information. Since I like to travel spontaneously I usually book my flights locally. Has anyone any experiences with sites like The page appears a lot lately as advertising blog and also offers pretty good deals.

5 04 2014

I love diving in Malaysia .. it has one of the cheapest PADI Scuba diving course in the world … Ya’LL should

visit Tioman Island between January-September (off monsoon season)

6 04 2014

i went to thailnad for6 weeks lao was more expensive if u know where to go and stay away from tourist places we have taxis drive us for over 2hrs for less then 1:50 canadian

13 05 2014

Hi I am just wondering is it the american dollar that you are quoting your expenditure? Thanks!

13 05 2014

Yes US dollar. Just note that I was there in 2010. I would imagine that prices have gone up 30-50% since then.

14 07 2014

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