Myanmar Backpacking Budget

cost of travel in Myanmar

(Map of Myanmar from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Myanmar on a Shoestring Budget

US$25 | 34,000 Kyat

We’re going with $25 as our Myanmar backpacking budget which makes it a fraction more expensive than some of its Southeast Asian neighbours but not significantly so. The cost of accommodation is certainly a bit higher and it’s not the easiest country to get around so you can end up spending more on transport, particularly if you want to see a large portion of a country that is deceptively big.

You may read articles or hear from people who describe Myanmar as expensive but that is only in very relative terms. Overall it is still a very budget-friendly destination with dirt cheap food available all over the country. Entrance fees for some of the country’s more popular sites can take a large chunk out of this budget on any given day. However on a quiet day where you’re not travelling between towns or forking out for attractions then you can get by on less than $20 if you’re savvy so it certainly averages out.

See where Burma ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in Southeast Asia.


More Comfortable Myanmar Backpacker Budget

US$30 | 40,000 Kyat

Myanmar isn’t really like Thailand or Cambodia, where there is a big party culture amongst backpackers and the potential to just blow your budget on partying each night exists. It’s a more tranquil kind of place and by adding $15 or $25 per day there’s not really a significant amount of extra things you can do so $30 is sensible even for travellers who aren’t quite so budget-orientated.

There is a fairly rigid path that travellers in Myanmar tend to take in terms of where to go and what to do and the previous budget allows for that. Increasing your budget a fraction allows you to perhaps stay in a few nicer hotels in areas where the budget travel accommodation options are limited or poor, which is the case in some parts of the country. Myanmar doesn’t have the extensive travel infrastructure of some of its neighbours to the East so in some cases there will only be one real option for getting from A to B and smaller destinations may only have a couple of hotels geared towards foreign visitors.


Sample Prices in Myanmar

Flight from Yangon to Mandalay – from $100

Bus from Bagan to Mandalay (around 5-6 hours) – from $8

Meal at a local restaurant – $2.50

Large bottle of local beer in bar/restaurant – $1

Dorm bed in Yangon – from $8/night

Private double/twin room in Mandalay – from $15/night

Entrance to Bagan temples – 25,000 Kyat (around $20 at local exchange rates)

These prices are as of December 2016.

Compare Burma prices to the cost of travel in Thailand.


Money

Currency – Burmese Kyat

£1 = 1700 MMK

€1 = 1432 MMK

US$1 = 1351 MMK

(All exchange rates are correct as of December 2016)

Black market rates may vary considerably to the ones listed above. US Dollars are widely accepted.


MFT Recommends

Healthcare isn’t great in Myanmar and if you get ill or seriously injured you may need to be transferred a long way, possibly even to Thailand. Obviously this is very rare but getting travel insurance via World Nomads will prove a great help in the unlikely event of something going wrong.


Street art in Myanmar

street art in Myanmar (via HI TRICIA! 王 圣 捷CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


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If you’ve been to Myanmar recently, help your fellow travellers out by sharing your typical daily costs in the comments section below 😉


This article was published in December 2016.


Cambodia Backpacking Budget

backpacking budget Cambodia

(Map of Cambodia from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Cambodia on a Shoestring Budget

US$20 (or less)

Cambodia is paradise for the budget traveller with your money stretching further than it does almost anywhere in the world. This after all is the land of the $2 dorm bed and although they are a little harder to find these days, when you get private rooms going for as little at $4, there’s not really any need to stay in dorms in any case unless you have a fervent desire to sleep in a room full of strangers.

Buses between the main towns are also very cheap and although there are a few expensive restaurants cropping up geared towards an expanding mainstream tourist industry, there are still plenty of real local cheapies. Hit the local markets and you’ll find plenty of stalls and small restaurants serving local dishes at bargain prices.

Our Cambodia backpacking budget of $20 is perhaps a conservative one and there is no reason why you can’t spend $15 or less most days. However the one thing that is expensive in Cambodia is Angkor Wat. It is the country’s pride and joy and to visit it you need to pay a hefty $20 for a day pass and given there is so much to see you might need more than one day there, certainly if you’re a big ruins lover. Therefore you could have a couple of days that are going to be more like $40 which is why $20/day is perhaps more realistic as an overall budget. If you don’t visit Angkor Wat or are in Cambodia for more than a few weeks you can probably get by on less than 20 as the main sites in and around Phnom Penh are all very cheap to visit.

See where Cambodia ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all Southeast Asian countries


More Comfortable Cambodia Backpacker Budget

US$25

Adding $5/day will allow you to stay in air-con rooms and perhaps take at least one meal a day in one of the international restaurants which are still good value just not by Cambodian standards. You might read a few articles suggesting Cambodia has got considerably more expensive in recent years but that is simply not the case. It is perhaps not as ridiculously cheap as it once was but it is still great value and $25/day should be more than enough to explore what is a lovely country.


Sample Prices in Cambodia

Bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh (6-7 hours) – $6 ($1/hour of travel is typical in Cambodia)

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – $2.50

Large local beer – $1

Dorm bed in Siem Reap – from $3/night

Cheap double or twin room with fan – from $4/night

Entrance to Killing Fields or Museums in Phnom Penh – $2

Day pass for Angkor Wat – $20

Compare this to the cost of travel in Laos.


Money

Currency – Cambodian Riel & US Dollar

£1 = 5850 Riel | $1.44

€1 = 4610 Riel | $1.13

US$1 = 4067 Riel

(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)

The US Dollar is widely used in Cambodia to the point that chances are you will pay for most things including hostels and meals in Dollars and certainly most tourist/traveller orientated businesses quote prices in dollars rather than riels. It is common to pay in dollars and receive change in riels, which are used for buying smaller items.

ATM’s are plentiful in the main tourist towns now and dispense dollars.


MFT Recommends

Cambodia is one country where it is very important to have good travel insurance. We recommend World Nomads who specialise in backpacking trips and will help in the case of you falling sick or getting injured in a country which has limited healthcare facilities.


street art in Cambodia

street art in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (via antjeverenaCC BY-SA 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Cambodia recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016


Malaysia Backpacking Budget

Malaysia backpacking budget

(Map of Malaysia from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Malaysia on a Shoestring Budget

US$25 | 100 Malaysian Ringgits

There are many similarities here with our Indonesia backpacking budget in that there is a considerable amount of regional variation although in the opposite way to what you might think in that the wealthier parts of the country are the cheapest to travel in.

Malaysia to all intents and purposes is like two countries. Peninsular Malaysia (the bit connected to Thailand and Singapore) is considerably wealthier and more developed but relatively cheap and hassle-free to travel in. It is perhaps slightly more expensive than Thailand overall but given there isn’t much in the way of party culture here, most travellers probably end up spending a similar amount, which might amount to around $25/day or perhaps a bit less. That said Kuala Lumpur is certainly a bit more expensive than the rest of the country so allow for a bit more in the capital.

The other part of the country is Malaysian Borneo and is considerably less developed but the difficulties of getting around an island that is essentially a jungle tend to lead to mounting travel costs. Food and accommodation is all very cheap but to really get out and explore the incredible nature you are almost certainly going to need to join a guided tour or trip. Diving expeditions, river cruises and jungle trips all cost money and spending money on activities can easily take up over half of your travel budget. In short you can probably visit Borneo on our suggested shoestring Malaysia backpacking budget of $25/day but you wouldn’t be able to afford to do very much so it would all be a little pointless.

See where Malaysia ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all Southeast Asian countries


More Comfortable Malaysia Backpacker Budget

US$30/day (peninsular Malaysia) $60/day (Borneo) | 120-240 Malaysia Ringgits

You can travel pretty comfortably on the shoestring budget in peninsular Malaysia. The standard of accommodation and transport is all very good and certainly better than you get North of the border in Thailand for perhaps a fraction more in terms of cost. Adding $5 or $25 to your budget isn’t going to radically change the trip you have but on $30/day perhaps you can afford to spend a few relaxing days unwinding in a hotel with a pool or something of that ilk, which is welcome if you’re coming from roughing it in other parts of Southeast Asia.

However to really make the most of Borneo, you are going to need considerably more than $25/day. It is a fantastic place to visit and by expanding your budget to a fairly hefty $60/day you can afford to be doing active things almost every day and experiencing the best of the tropical paradise that is Borneo. If you are a nature lover on a big trip in Asia then this is one place where you should certainly consider allowing to spend a little bit more as it is a very rewarding and memorable destination.


Sample Prices in Malaysia

Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching (1 hour 45 mins) booked 2 weeks in advance – 110 RM (US$27) + baggage

Train from Butterworth (Penang) to Kuala Lumpur (3 hours 30 mins) – 59 RM (US$15)

Meal at a budget restaurant – 8 RM (US$2)

Large beer in a bar/restaurant – 10 RM (US$2.50)

Dorm Bed in Kuala Lumpur – from 35 RM (US$9)

Dorm Bed elsewhere in Malaysia – from 20 RM (US$5)

Budget private double or twin room in Georgetown, Penang – from 50 RM (US$12)

Overnight trip to Batang Ai National Park (inc. guides & accommodation) – 235 RM (US$55)

Read about the cost of travel in Singapore to see how Malaysia compares to its Southern neighbour.


Money

Currency – Malaysian Ringgit

£1 = 5.89 MYR

€1 = 4.64 MYR

US$1 = 4.08 MYR

(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)


MFT Recommends

Located right next to Kuala Lumpur’s Central Market, the Marquee Guest Houzz has a good vibe and offers budget beds in clean dorms.


street art in malaysia

street art in Georgetown, Malaysia (via runmontyCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Malaysia recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This page was published in June 2016.


Indonesia Backpacking Budget

backpacking budget Indonesia

(Map of Indonesia from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Indonesia on a Shoestring Budget

US$25 | 330,000 Rupiah

Like many large countries, there is a fair bit of regional variation in prices in Indonesia that you should consider so how much you spend will largely depend on where you go. We have received comments from many travellers suggesting we always place Indonesia too high in our budget travel table and that it is in fact as cheap or cheaper than most of mainland Southeast Asia. However we suspect they have spent a lot of time away from the islands of Bali and Java, which are a bit pricier. The other islands are considerably cheaper places to visit.

It is true that typical costs are cheap almost everywhere but getting from one island to another although relatively inexpensive can still quickly eat into your budget if you are moving around and entrance fees to major sites of interest can be high so we believe US$25 is a realistic overall Indonesia backpacking budget. If you try to pack a lot in and are moving around every couple of days including visits to multiple islands in a relatively short space of time, you might want to allow for a bit more. If you stick predominantly to one of the cheaper islands such as Sumatra, then it’s possible you can get by on US$20 or less.

See where Indonesia ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all Southeast Asian countries


More Comfortable Indonesia Backpacker Budget

US$35 | 470,000 Rupiah

Adding an extra US$10 to your daily travel budget in Indonesia will allow you to do quite a bit more no matter what kind of trip you want to have. If you are planning to spend a lot of time in Bali then it will allow you to really get into the party culture whilst perhaps doing the odd daytime activity like surfing. In Java it will allow you to take a few more organised trips up volcanoes and suchlike which are difficult to do independently. While on the cheaper islands you can probably fork out on some pretty good accommodation on this budget that would fall closer into the realm of luxury travel than budget.


Sample Prices in Indonesia

Flight from Jakarta to Bali (1 hour 45 mins) when booked 1-2 weeks in advance – 530,000 Rp (US$40) + baggage

Public ferry from Padang Bai, Bali to Lembar, Lombok (4-5 hours) – 40,000 Rp (US$3)

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – 20,000-30,000 Rp (around US$2)

Large local beer in a bar or restaurant – 25,000 Rp (US$2)

Dorm Bed at Kuta, Bali – from 75,000 Rp (US$5.50)

Private Double or Twin room in Bali – from 120,000 Rp (US$9)

Private room in Sumatra – from 50,000 Rp (US$4)

Entrance fee for Borobudur Temple Complex near Yogyakarta – 280,000 Rp (US$21)

Compare Indonesian prices with the cost of travel in the Philippines.


Money

Currency – Indonesian Rupiah

£1 = 19266 Rupiah

€1 = 15180 Rupiah

US$1 = 13376 Rupiah

(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)


MFT Recommends

If you head to Bali, which most travellers do then we suggest staying at CX Hostel Kuta Raya at Kuta Beach. It’s well located close to the beach and nightlife and is of a much higher standard than most of the budget accommodation in Kuta.


street art in Indonesia

street art in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (via pwbakerCC BY-NC 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Indonesia recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016


Singapore Backpacking Budget

Singapore Backpacking Budget

(Map of Singapore from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Singapore on a Shoestring Budget

US$45 | 60 Singapore Dollars

Singapore has a reputation for being a very expensive place and that is true to an extent although it depends on what kind of trip you want to have. Certainly it is far more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia with most things costing at least double what you find in other countries in the region. Certainly alcohol is very expensive and if you’re visiting the city-state as part of a trip in SE Asia on a small budget, you’d be wise to save your partying for other places. Our suggested Singapore backpacking budget of $45/day will disappear in a couple of hours if you decide to go out to one of the many swanky clubs and bars but you can probably afford one night out if you are there for 3 or 4 days on this budget.

However Singapore does have one or two advantages for the budget traveller. The main one being that it is basically just a city and you won’t spend any money going from town to town like in other countries. Travelling around Singapore is relatively cheap and if you choose a hostel in a good location, you can see a lot of it on foot. Picking a hostel with self-catering facilities will also help cut your costs considerably as eating out two or three times a day will take up a big chunk of this budget.

One of the main attractions to Singapore is shopping though and there is an almost nonsensical amount of mega shopping malls to spend your money in. Our budget of $45/day is by no means unrealistic for your every day needs and a bit of sightseeing but clearly doesn’t allow for much shopping so you might want to set another $100 or more aside if you are looking to hit the malls.

See where Singapore ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all Southeast Asian countries


More Comfortable Singapore Backpacker Budget

US$70 | 95 Singapore Dollars

Singapore isn’t really designed for shoestring travellers and to really make the most of it and experience the best of its cuisine, nightlife and attractions you might want to set aside something more in the region of $70/day plus. Even the airport is full of tempting ways to spend your money but given you only need a few days to really experience Singapore perhaps it’s worth budgeting a bit higher and then saving up in places where it is easier to travel on a shoestring.


Sample Prices in Singapore

(all prices are in Singapore Dollars)

One way ticket on local transport – S$1.30-2

Meal in an inexpensive restaurant – S$12

Large beer in a bar/restaurant – S$8

Dorm bed – from S$15/night

Budget private double or twin room – from S$35/night

1 Day pass at Universal Studios – S$74


Money

Currency – Singapore Dollar

£1 = 1.96 SGD

€1 = 1.54 SGD

US$1 = 1.36 SGD

(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)


MFT Recommends

There are lots of hostels in Singapore but most of the cheap ones are pretty bad. Coziee Lodge is one of the few that consistently gets good reviews and it’s not surprising with beds in 4 bed dorms going for as little as S$18 while standards of cleanliness are high and the location is a convenient one for exploring the city.


street art in Singapore

street art in Singapore (via Les HalnesCC BY 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Singapore recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016.


Laos Backpacking Budget

Laos backpacking budget

(Map of Laos from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Laos on a Shoestring Budget

US$20 | 160,000 Laotian Kip

Laos has always been very good value and that is still the case although prices have increased slightly in recent years and it is perhaps a bit more expensive than Cambodia but still cheaper than Thailand. Travelling around the country is pretty slow and not always entirely comfortable but it is at least cheap. Accommodation and eating out is also great value although a few more expensive places are cropping up so you do have to be a bit selective in that sense now so to avoid the places that are clearly not geared towards budget travellers or locals.

Our Laos backpacking budget of $20/day will require a bit of discipline as there are lots of cool trips that you can do in the country not to mention ways to spend your money in the evening with small but often lively backpacker party scenes in several of the main towns.

See where Laos ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all Southeast Asian countries


More Comfortable Laos Backpacker Budget

US$30 | 240,000 Laotian Kip

The shoestring budget of $20 is very possible but when you are in a cheap country, the tendency is to not really keep tabs on your spending and daily costs can quickly mount up. In recent years the Lao government appears to be making an effort to attract wealthier tourists particularly from China and that has pushed the price of tours and trips up for everyone else so if you are planning to do a lot of that then $30/day would probably be more realistic.


Sample Prices in Laos

Bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng (6 hours) – 100,000 Kip ($12)

Meal in a budget restaurant – $2

Large Beer Lao in a bar or restaurant – $1.20

Dorm bed – from $4/night

Budget private Double or Twin room in Vientiane – from $10/night

Tubing in Vang Vieng – 55,000 Kip ($7)


Money

Currency – Laotian Kip (also known as Lao)

£1 = 11716 Kip

€1 = 9204 Kip

US$1 = 8106 Kip

(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)

Unlike neighbouring Cambodia, US Dollars aren’t used all that often with local currency preferred in almost all circumstances.


MFT Recommends

The overall standard of healthcare in Laos is very low and getting ill or injured can turn into a real nightmare and an expensive one so it is essential you have travel insurance. We recommend World Nomads who specialise in backpacking trips.


laos art

sketches in Luang Prabang, Laos (via shankar s.CC BY 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Laos recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016.


Philippines Backpacking Budget

Philippines Backpacking Budget

(Map of Philippines from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in The Philippines on a Shoestring Budget

US$30 | 1400 Peso

The Philippines is perhaps marginally more expensive than most of mainland Southeast Asia but not by a considerable amount. There are certainly less backpackers here which can be both a good and bad thing depending on your perspective. One effect of that is there isn’t quite as much hostel style accommodation which can see you spend a bit more on that although the main destinations tend to have a few budget cheapies where you can find dorms with other backpackers.

Eating out is very cheap and certainly comparable to prices over on the mainland while beer and Filipino rum is also dirt cheap meaning you can certainly fit maybe a couple of nights out a week on this budget, perhaps more if you’re not doing many organised-type trips during the day.

However what really makes travel in the Philippines slightly more expensive than in say Vietnam or Laos is that there are 7,000 islands to choose from and getting from A to B is a bit more complicated and requires some planning in advance if you want to get the cheapest fares.

See where the Philippines ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all Southeast Asian countries


More Comfortable Philippines Backpacker Budget

US$40 | 1900 Pesos

If you are more of a fan of the ‘go with the flow’ kind of travel than rigid planning then you might want to allow for more like US$40 per day. You will need to take several boats and probably a few flights to really see the best the country has to offer and this kind of a budget gives you a bit more freedom to see more and book later on when you are more sure of your plans.

The Philippines does have some fantastic beach destinations but many cater more towards a mid-range budget than a shoestring one with the popular Boracay being a good example. A Philippines backpacking budget of $40/day will enable you to visit a few more of them and perhaps stay in a slightly better class of accommodation every now and then.


Sample Prices in The Philippines

Flight from Manila to Cebu (1 hour 15 mins) – about $25 + baggage (when booked a week + in advance)

Dorm bed in most destinations – from $6/night

Dorm bed in Boracay – from $10/night

Meal at a budget restaurant – $2.50

Large local beer in bar/restaurant – $1

Entrance Fee for Fort Santiago, Manila – 75 Pesos (about $1.50)

Compare prices with the cost of travel in Indonesia.


Money

Currency – Philippine Peso

£1 = 69 Peso

€1 = 52 Peso

US$1 = 47 Peso

(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)

One or two places accept US Dollars but most will not.


MFT Recommends

Get some travel insurance! We suggest World Nomads who are experts at providing cover for backpacking trips.


Philippines street art

street art in Bonifacio Global City, Manila (via Daniel GoCC BY-NC 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to The Philippines recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This page was published in June 2016.


Thailand Backpacking Budget

Thailand Backpacking Budget

(Map of Thailand from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Thailand on a Shoestring Budget

US$25 | 900 Thai Baht

How much money you need to travel in Thailand depends on who you speak to and how you travel. The main problem here is that large numbers of ‘travellers’ in Thailand are in reality on little more than an extended holiday and most spend well in excess of $25 per day, a large percentage of which goes on partying. Sure the party culture is big in Thailand and it’s hard to avoid unless you really find yourself off the beaten track. Even though alcohol is cheap, if you’re going out partying late every single night then you can’t expect to get by on so little.

However that is not to say it is not possible. As you will see from our sample prices below, you can still find some incredibly cheap accommodation and food. Our suggested Thailand backpacking budget of $25 per day will require a little discipline given temptation is all around but it should be enough to cover budget accommodation, eating out in local restaurants, street stalls or places that are obviously geared to backpackers and a bit of partying with the odd extra daytime activity thrown in. If you’re really sensible or are a non-drinker then you can probably get by on even less.

It is also worth noting there is a great deal of regional variation in prices. If you spend more time in the North, you will find it as cheap as anywhere in Southeast Asia or the world for that matter. Bangkok and the touristy South is more expensive.

See where Thailand ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all Southeast Asian countries.


More Comfortable Thailand Backpacker Budget

US$40 | 1450 Thai Baht

These days $40 per day is becoming more the norm, particularly in the South of Thailand, which has islands that are now more like Ibiza than the secret paradise they once were. With US$40 per day, you can certainly afford to go out partying every night and will have a bit more for extra excursions and trips. It should be pointed out that if your intention is to do a diving course or something major of that ilk, you are still likely to need extra funds.


Sample Prices in Thailand

Flight from Krabi to Bangkok (1 hour 20 mins) – from $18 with Thai Lion Air including hold baggage

Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (about 12 hours) – $30 AC sleeper, $20 AC seat, $9 Non AC seat

Large Chang Beer in cheap restaurant/bar – 60-80 Baht (roughly $2)

Pad thai in street stall or cheap restaurant – 40-80 Baht ($1-2)

Dorm bed in Bangkok – from 150 Baht (roughly $4)

1 hour massage (traditional thai or oil) – 300-400 Baht ($8-11)

Basic beach bungalow in Koh Phangan – from 200 Baht (only away from the main backpacker beach)


Money

Currency – Thai Baht

£1 = 52 THB

€1 = 40 THB

US$1 = 36 THB

(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)


MFT Recommends

The Aris Hostel, Bangkok, a stones throw from the Khao San Road, the world’s biggest backpacker hub.


street art in bangkok

street art in Bangkok, Thailand (via Cody YantisCC BY-NC 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Thailand recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016


Vietnam Backpacking Budget

Vietnam backpacking budget

(Map of Vietnam from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Vietnam on a Shoestring Budget

US$20 | 450,000 Vietnamese Dong

Vietnam remains very budget friendly despite an enormous rise in visitor numbers over the past decade. Costs are pretty typical by Southeast Asian standards and you are likely to find it slightly cheaper than Thailand or Laos but a fraction pricier than Cambodia although it is likely to get more expensive over the coming years. $20 is a realistic Vietnam backpacking budget but doesn’t allow much lee-way for extra excursions and activities. If you eat in ‘local’ restaurants and street stalls all the time, you can probably get by on even less, certainly if you aren’t doing much partying.

See where Vietnam ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all Southeast Asian countries


More Comfortable Vietnam Backpacker Budget

US$25 | 560,000 Vietnamese Dong

You travel pretty comfortably on US$20 in truth and doubling that doesn’t really provide an enormous upgrade. The temptation to waste your money on partying and alcohol isn’t quite as great here as in Thailand as the backpacker scene is slightly calmer and bars and clubs are less plentiful and shut earlier. Allowing for $25-30 will allow you to fork out on the odd extra excursion/activity every now and then, such as a more extensive boat trip around Halong Bay or kite-surfing lessons at Mui Ne.


Sample Prices in Vietnam

Hue to Hanoi by Train (13-14 hours) – $25-35 (air-con berth on sleeper train)

0.5 litre domestic beer in Ho Chi Minh City bar/restaurant – $1

Meal at a cheap restaurant – $2-3

Cheap dorm bed in a big city – from $3

Budget double/twin private room – from $8

Full day kayaking trip around Halong Bay – $25-30


Money

Currency – Vietnamese Dong

£1 = 32,700 VND

€1 = 25,000 VND

US$1 = 22,400 VND

(Exchange rates correct as of June 2016)

US Dollars are accepted in many places and are frequently used for larger transactions such as paying for excursions or accommodation in places geared towards foreigners. Therefore it is useful to carry a stash of both currencies.


MFT Recommends

If you find yourself in the Vietnamese capital then we suggest staying at the Hanoi Traveller Hostel, in the charismatic old town, Hanoi’s backpacker hub close to Hoan Kiem Lake. Beds start at around $5/night.


street art in Vietnam

street art in Hanoi, Vietnam (via Mike HauserCC BY 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Vietnam recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016


Popular Backpacking Route for Thailand

asia/oceania routes

southeast asia | thailandmyanmar | vietnam | indonesia | indiaaustralia


Thailand Backpacking Route

The Thailand backpacker scene has changed dramatically over the past 20-30 years and some would say for the worse but travellers continue to flock to the so-called ‘land of  smiles’ in ever-increasing numbers. The main backpacker destinations, particularly the most popular islands in the South have become much more commercialised and predominantly party-orientated, which is great if you want to party all night and recover by day on beautiful golden beaches. If that’s not your scene, it’s not hard to find quieter more peaceful destinations sometimes even on the same island.

Bangkok remains the beating heart of the country, a true city of sin which love it or hate it makes for a truly intoxicating travel experience. It’s almost impossible to visit Thailand and Southeast Asia for that matter without passing through Bangkok at least once or twice given it is the core of the country’s transport network and home to the biggest two airports. The North still retains much of its old charm and places like Chiang Mai are the ideal spots to really get to grips with ancient Thai culture while there are plenty of natural wonders to be discovered outside of the towns.

Many of the destinations on this backpacking route for Thailand have already been covered in our South East Asia travel itinerary but split into two separate parts to get around the need for a visa (see bottom of this page for info on sorting out a visa for this route). However given it remains the most popular backpacking destination on the planet, we figured it could use its only dedicated route and here it is!


TIME NEEDED – 2 MONTHS

Allow 2 months to get round the whole route although it could be done in less time particularly if you are not so fussed with the party/beach element.


POSSIBLE BUDGET – £1250-1650 | €1400-1900 | US$1500-2000 | 50,000-70,000 THAI BAHT

Backpacker budgets in Thailand vary dramatically depending on the kind of trip you want to have. The lower figure we have quoted is a real shoestring budget and would involve staying in the cheapest places, eating local food and not going wild on the partying. The higher figure is perhaps a more typical backpacker budget these days but still requires some self-discipline as even though Thailand is cheap, there is temptation to spend almost everywhere, particularly if you are a party animal, in which case you should definitely allow for a bit more.

These figures were updated in January 2017 but DO NOT include the cost of flights to/from Thailand, visas, vaccinations or travel insurance.

Read more on the cost of travel in Thailand.


VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR THAILAND

Most nationalities do not require a visa for Thailand (30 days) but this route is for 2 months. We have detailed info on how to deal with that at the bottom of the page.


TRAVEL INSURANCE

We recommend World Nomads, who specialise in backpacking trips and cover all kinds of activities that are typical for backpackers in Thailand.


 Backpacking route for Thailand


 BANGKOK & AROUND

Time Needed – 10 days should be more than adequate.

backpacking route from Bangkok

Bangkok

(3-4 days)

Logical starting point with flight connections to all 4 corners of the world. The Thai capital has many faces and chances are you will find one that is to your liking. It has a reputation as a real life Sin City and certainly it’s seedy sexual side is hard to ignore but there is plenty more to it than that. Great shopping, vibrant nightlife, buzzing street markets, delicious food and a few stunning palaces mean you will never be short of things to see and do in Bangkok. Most backpackers head straight to the Khao San Road which is the biggest backpacker hub in Southeast Asia and the perfect place to make some travel buddies, which is handy in those lonely early days, particularly if it’s your first time travelling alone.


MFT RECOMMENDS – The Aris Hostel, Bangkok 

Just 100m from Khao San Road, Aris is a good place to base yourself in Bangkok.


Ayutthaya

(1 day)

Can be done as a long day-trip from Bangkok or with an overnight stay. This ancient city, the 2nd capital of Siam was the largest city in the world in the early 18th century with 1 million residents. It is a shadow of its former self now but the remnants of its heyday are still spread across town and give clues to its former grandeur.

Kanchanaburi 

(2-4 days)

This chilled out riverside town has becoming a big backpacker destination in recent years. The bridge over the River Kwai is the main point of an interest and most of the sights relate to the dark history of the so-called Death Railway to Burma during World War II. Nature lovers will also find plenty of thrills around the town and there are several interesting historical sites dotted about too with highlights including the Tiger Temple (very popular but has come in for fierce criticism from animal rights groups), Hellfire Pass and Erawan National Park.

Hua Hin 

(1-2 days)

Thailand’s oldest beach resort is getting its groove on once again. It’s popular with Thais in Bangkok due to its proximity to the capital and gets lively at weekends and during national holidays. Budget travellers tend to prefer the islands further South but Hua Hin is still a popular stop and breaks up the journey from Bangkok down to Southern Thailand.


Getting to Southern Thailand from Bangkok and Hua Hin

You have many options, the most interesting of which is to take the train down to Chumphon and connect to a boat to Ko Tao (All-in-one tickets can be bought including train, bus to the ferry port and ferry to Ko Tao or one of the other islands). Hua Hin is on the main trainline from Bangkok to Chumphon so it’s very easy sort out.


SOUTHERN THAILAND

Time Needed – roughly 4 weeks*

* This depends on how much you enjoy the beach and party life. The time-frames suggested for each destination are just a guide. It’s very easy to extend your stay on any of the islands if you are enjoying it. Each destination has its own subtle differences and points of interest but there is an element of ‘same same’ about the backpacker scene at each place so some travellers choose to skip a few of these destinations in favour of spending longer in one place and perhaps doing a diving course, a bit of voluntary work or if you’re low on funds perhaps finding a bit of work for one of the bars or hostels. Either way it’s probably best not to plan a rigid schedule in this part and just relax, enjoy the lazy beach lifestyle and move on when you feel ready.

Backpacking route for Southern Thailand

Ko Tao

(4-7 days)

The smallest and quietest of the 3 main inhabited islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Ko Tao is a beautiful island and very popular with backpackers, some of whom end up staying much longer than intended. It is a fabulous place to do a PADI diving course and many of the centres also provide accommodation.

Ko Pha Ngan

(4-7 days)

Home of the famous full moon parties. Once a month the travellers flock to Ko Pha Ngan’s Haad Rin beach for a night of debauchery under the moonlight. The island gets very busy during this time although the other end of the island is much quieter. It’s a good idea to book accommodation in advance here around Full Moon night, something which isn’t really necessary anywhere else. There are big parties every week though so you don’t have to come for full moon with black moon and jungle parties also worth checking out and arguably better than the main night itself.

Ko Samui

(2-4 days)

The Southernmost island in the Gulf of Thailand is less popular with backpackers and is unquestionably very touristy but it’s a big island and there are so many different beaches that you are sure to find one to your taste and it’s a fun place to explore for a day or so.

Krabi (Ao Nang or Krabi Town)

(2 days)

Krabi is the name of the province and most visitors either stay in Krabi Town, its capital or Ao Nang, its principal beach resort, which is about 30 minutes by bus from the town. The town is full of dirt cheap accommodation and restaurants and has a few interesting things to see and do but nothing remarkable. Ao Nang is a lively beach town packed with bars, restaurants, hotels and massage parlours (mostly not of the ‘happy ending’ variety). There are a couple of great beaches to relax on.

Rai Leh (Railay Beach)

(2-3 days)

Rai Leh is only 15 minutes or so round the coast and although it is not an island, it can only be accessed by boat as it is engulfed by huge cliffs on all sides. Active travellers and anyone who wants to do more than just bum around on a beach and get drunk should definitely check it out and might want to spend a fair while here. It’s a great destination for climbing, perhaps the best in Thailand and is also popular for its hiking, kayaking and snorkelling possibilities.

Ko Phi Phi

(3-5 days)

Phi Phi is one of the iconic destinations of the Thailand backpacker trail. Phi Phi Don is the only island that is inhabited and possible to stay. 20 years ago it was a very quiet island and although it is still beautiful, the main beaches and village on Phi Phi Don are now full on party-orientated not dissimilar to Haad Rin on Ko Pha Ngan. There are numerous boat trips you can do around the bay, most of which include plenty of stops for swimming and snorkelling in beautifully clear water and a visit to Maya Bay, where the movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed.

Ko Lanta

(3-5 days)

If you found all the other islands a bit too crazy and just want some time to rest and most likely detox, then Ko Lanta is the perfect place. It is home to miles and miles of long white sandy beaches, clear waters and not many people!


Getting from Southern Thailand to Northern Thailand

Getting from Ko Lanta or any of the other Southern destinations to Northern Thailand is best done by flying unless you want to spend in excess of 24 hours on buses and trains and still end up spending roughly what you would have had you opted to fly. Thai Lion Air offer the cheapest flights and allow you to put your backpack in hold for free which is a big advantage on Air Asia that also offer good deals also but place heavy charges on anyone with more than just hand luggage.

From Ko Lanta, it is best to fly from Krabi Airport, which is about 2 hours away via boat/bus transfer. You may find it cheaper to book two separate flights to move onto the next leg of our route. The first would be from Krabi to Bangkok and the 2nd from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. If you are a bit flexible with your times and perhaps willing to spend a night in Bangkok, you should be able to do the whole trip for around 2000 Baht (roughly 50 Euros).  Note flights will be to Bangkok’s older Don Mueang Airport (which handles domestic flights). A taxi to Khao San Road or Central Bangkok should set you back between 250-400 Baht and take 20-30 minutes depending on traffic and whether you take the toll road (which you will have to pay an extra 150 Baht or so for so tell the taxi driver ‘No Toll!’ if you are in no rush) or not.


NORTHERN THAILAND

Time Needed – 2-3 weeks.

Backpacking route for Northern Thailand

Chiang Rai, Golden Triangle & Around

(3-4 days)

Given you will most likely need to return to Bangkok to leave the country it is probably best to start your Northern Thailand adventure in Chiang Rai which is the furthest away from the capital and then work back. The town of Chiang Rai has 1 or 2 interesting sights and some nice museums that can occupy you for a day or so but its main purpose from a travellers perspective is as a base that will allow you to explore the region or even do a day-trip to nearby Tachileik in Myanmar (no need for a visa).

Most travellers also head to the golden triangle, which is a small area in Chiang Rai province where the River Ruak meets the mighty Mekong River and where Thailand meets Laos and Myanmar. It was well-known as a famous opium growing region and there a few interesting sites where you can learn about the trade. Nowadays though the Golden Triangle is undoubtedly a tourist trap and is more or less completely dependent on tourism for income so those looking for a more authentic Thai experience, sometimes turn their nose up at the mention of it.

Mae Salong

(1-2 days)

This can also be done as a day-trip from Chiang Rai but there are a few guesthouses with rock-bottom prices in town so it’s nice to stay overnight in what is a really small village with beautiful surroundings. It has a fascinating history and was the home of a group of 12,000 Chinese Nationalists who fled China to Mae Salong in 1949 following the rise to power of the Chinese Communists. They continued their insurgency, part-funded by the opium trade for several decades from Mae Salong. There are several museums relating to this in the village, which nowadays is famous for producing excellent oolong tea.

Chiang Mai

(3-4 days)

Another key destination on any backpacking route in Thailand. Chiang Mai is a cosmopolitan city with a very international vibe like Bangkok, but much smaller and more relaxed and without a lot of the hassles that go with the capital. It’s a great place to get to grips with traditional thai practices such as massage, muay-thai boxing and thai cooking and has a reputation as the country’s cultural capital.

You could potentially split your time in Chiang Mai into two separate stints as you will probably need to return after Mae Sariang in order to take a train down to Sukhothai as there are no easy and certainly no direct connections between Mae Sariang and Sukhothai.


MFT RECOMMENDS – Mapping Hostel, Chiang Mai 

Dirt cheap bungalows and dorm beds in a beautiful location overlooking the river.


Pai

(2-4 days)

Pai is another stop which has turned into a real backpacker place and it’s not hard to see why. With only 3000 permanent residents it is very small and is located in a really beautiful valley North of Chiang Mai. There are a whole range of different ways to witnessing the nature from lazily chilling out in one of Pai’s plentiful backpacker bars and taking in the views to tubing, trekking, zip-lining, white-water rafting and plenty more.

Mae Hong Son

(1-2 days)

This is another very small town not far from Pai. You probably won’t need as long here but it’s certainly worth hiring a motorbike or at least a bicycle for a day or two and getting out to the surrounding areas which are home to a few points of potential interest including a mud spa, a bamboo bridge, a waterfall, a palace and a fish cave!

Mae Sariang

(2-3 days)

Close to the Myanmar border and without the crowds of Pai and Chiang Mai, this is a good place for trekking in the mountains and getting to see small local villages and tribes. Its remote location means the ‘hilltribe’ experiences are much more authentic here so be sure to get out to the Karen and Lawa Hilltribe villages.

Sukhothai

(1-2 days)

Thailand’s original capital is located 1 hour by bus from Phitsanulok, which is on the main trainline between Chiang Mai and Bangkok at almost exactly the halfway point (express trains take about 7 hours to reach either city from Phitsanulok) so it is a convenient stop if you opt to get the train back to Bangkok for your flight home or onwards. The train journey alone allows you a glimpse into the remoter areas of Thailand away from the travelling hordes so it is well worth doing although price-wise there is usually little difference between flying from Chiang Mai to Bangkok or taking the train.

Old Sukhothai is 12km west of the modern city and quite a lot of effort has been put in to restoring it to something like its 13th Century glory and it has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Consider renting a bike (which you can do for as little as 50 Baht) and exploring the ruins.

And that’s the end of our Thailand backpacking itinerary although you may want to spend another day or two in Bangkok taking advantage of the great shopping centres to grab a few bargains while you wait for your flight home. Certainly don’t rely on the train to deliver you from Phitsanulok to Bangkok on-time for a flight the same day.


Extending Your Trip

Most travellers in Thailand these days, visit at least one of its neighbouring countries too. Our Vietnam backpacking route takes you on a train-ride to remember from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City with numerous stops in between. Alternative options include neighbouring Myanmar.

Check out our Burmese backpacking route for some inspiration there. Leaving mainland SE Asia behind you might also want to check out our Indonesia route, which takes you around some of the country’s most popular islands.


Budget Accommodation in Thailand

Advanced booking isn’t important as there are backpacker districts or streets almost everywhere on this route and some of the beaches on the islands are almost entirely full of hostels and backpacker accommodation that rarely sell out. That said advanced booking during festivals and certainly for full moon parties is an absolute must.


Do I need a Visa for Thailand?

If you are from Korea, Brazil, Peru, Argentina or Chile you get 90 days visa-free and therefore won’t need a visa for this route.

Travellers from 52 countries do not need a visa for 30 days of travel in Thailand. Here is a list of the countries elligible for this 30 day visa exemption. If you are not from one of those 52 countries you will need to arrange a visa in advance in your own country via the Thai Embassy or through a Thai Embassy in another country.

If you are from one of those 52 countries you have a few more options. Seen as this route is scheduled for 2 months, the 30 days visa exemption will not be enough so here are your choices:

Option 1: Get a tourist visa valid for at least 60 days before you enter Thailand

This is something you should do before you leave home but it can also be arranged at a Thai Embassy in other countries if you are doing a long trip visiting various places. It’s best to sort it well in advance of your trip though and you most likely won’t be required to visit the embassy in person. Prices vary from country to country but this is certainly the most hassle-free option and once you are in Thailand you can relax and not have to worry about such issues.

Option 2: Visa Run

You can do a visa run, which basically means you will leave Thailand for a neighbouring country before your 30 day visa exemption expires and then return immediately or after a few days and you will get a fresh 30 days visa-free in Thailand. Note that only people from UK, USA, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Macau, Hong Kong, Laos and Vietnam get 30 days when crossing at both airports and land borders. Other nationalities get 15 days at land borders but 30 at airports.

The most obvious points for visa runs on the route are to Malaysia from any of the destinations in Southern Thailand (particularly Krabi, Ko Lanta or Ko Phi Phi) with Penang or Pulau Langkawi on the Andaman Coast of Northern Malaysia a nearby popular destination for a couple of days or so. Alternatively in Northern Thailand you could head to Laos and the town of Huay Xai very close to Chiang Rai although the need for a Laotian visa makes this option a bit less attractive unless you particularly want to go to Laos.

It may also be tough to fit this into this route without rushing your time in Southern Thailand although you could always leave the first section (Bangkok & around) until the end of your trip (i.e. spend 4 weeks in Southern Thailand first, leave then come back and do Northern and Central Thailand within your new 30 days). You can also often get very cheap flights to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore from cities across Thailand, which may be handy especially if you are from one of those countries who only gets 15 days at land borders.

Option 3 – Extend your 30-day visa-exemption while in Thailand.

Since August 2014, you can now extend your 30 day visa exemption to 60 days by visiting an immigration office in the country and paying 1,900 Baht (roughly US$55). The immigration offices are plentiful enough and wherever you are, you won’t be far away from one but queues can be long in some centres and it isn’t the most enjoyable way to spend a morning or afternoon so getting a visa in advance seems more logical if you’re certain you will be spending more than 30 days in Thailand.

 

PLEASE NOTE – This is correct as of March 2016. The Thai government does from time to time change these visa rules so try to verify this info is still correct if you are reading this at some point in the distant future ;).

Feel free to post a comment below if you know of any changes to these rules and we will update this info. Also let us know what you would include in your backpacking route for Thailand and any of your favourite off-the-beaten track destinations, which can be a welcome relief from the tourist trail.

 


This article was published in March 2016.