Southeast Asia Backpacking Budget – How much will it cost?

Southeast Asia backpacking map

Southeast Asia is great value for backpackers with Singapore the only notable exception. You can get by on as little as $20/day in some parts of the region but costs do vary between countries and sometimes even within countries. Below, we’ll take a look at the cost of travel in Southeast Asia. There are also suggested daily budgets for each country and a monthly Southeast Asia backpacking budget which should help you decide how much money you will need for your trip.

Table of Contents

Cost of Travel in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia backpacking budget

CountryEstimated Daily Backpacking Budget (USD)
The Philippines$25
Here’s an idea of daily shoestring travel costs in Southeast Asian countries in US Dollars which is the reserve currency in most countries and is widely accepted in places like Cambodia and Vietnam.

This is one of the cheapest parts of the world to travel in and your money really can go a long way. On average, it costs around $25/day to travel in Southeast Asia as a truly budget-minded backpacker. As you can see from the table above, Vietnam and Laos are among the cheapest countries to visit while you might expect to spend a bit more in Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar while the city-state of Singapore is an expensive outlier.

These figures are all based on staying in cheap hostel dorms or budget rooms (you can sometimes find a cheap room for a similar price) and eating/drinking in budget street stalls or local restaurants and bars. It allows for a bit of partying. However if you’re going out getting drunk almost every night you will certainly struggle to stick to this budget!

As well as your style of travel, much will depend on exactly where you spend your time as there are some large regional variations in some countries. In Thailand, $20/day is very doable in the North but you may find $35 a better daily budget in the South which is more party-orientated and typically more expensive.

Indonesia is enormous and prices do change as you move from island to island. Outside of Bali and Java, you can probably get by on less than $25/day in Indonesia but there will be days when you go way over that for certain activities or trips. That’s also true if you visit very popular tourist sites like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, with its $37/day entry fee way over your normal daily budget there.

There are also big regional variations in Malaysia. Mainland (Peninsular) Malaysia, although much richer and more developed, is a lot cheaper to travel in than Malaysian Borneo. That is due to the poor infrastructure in Borneo which makes life more complicated and more expensive for getting around.

Southeast Asia backpacker
Tuk-tuks are affordable ways to get around many Southeast Asian cities.

Monthly budget to backpack Southeast Asia on a shoestring

How long?Possible Budget (USD)Possible Budget (EUR)Possible Budget (GBP)
1 Month in Southeast Asia$750€700£625
2 Months in Southeast Asia$1500€1400£1250
3 Months in Southeast Asia$2250€2100£1875
4 Months in Southeast Asia$3000€2800£2500

If you are an experienced and disciplined shoestring traveller, there is no reason why you can’t stick to the budgets in the previous section. Based on those figures, travel in Southeast Asia will cost around $750/month for a regular trip around the region taking in some cheaper and more expensive places (excluding Singapore). It may cost around $2250 to travel southeast Asia for 3 months on a tight budget.

It’s important to note though that the full cost of your trip will still be significantly more than this. These figures are based on your daily travel costs within Southeast Asia but there could be quite a few extra expenses on top of this such as the cost of sorting out flights to/from the region, any visas or vaccinations and travel insurance.

If you wish to go to The Philippines or parts of Indonesia that will require extra flights, you might want to increase it a little bit too. Everywhere else is accessible by land or short ferries and getting around in the region is typically very cheap. Think roughly $1-2/hour of travel for land journeys if you take the cheapest available transport option.

Backpackers boat in Thailand.
Heading onto a boat in the Gulf of Thailand.

How much money do you need to backpack Southeast Asia more comfortably?

These days many backpackers in Southeast Asia are on little more than an extended holiday. As a result, many come with sums much greater than the figures above, and in truth, remarkably few travellers in the region end up sticking to those shoestring budgets.

If you can afford it, you can certainly do and see lots more by increasing your Southeast Asia backpacking budget to the following:

How long?More comfortable budget (USD)More comfortable budget (EUR)More comfortable budget (GBP)
1 Month$1000€925£825
2 Months$2000€1850£1650
3 Months$3000€2775£2475
4 Months$4000€3700£3300

This works out as around $30-35/day on average, although increasing it further to $40-45/day may be better for anyone really looking to get into the party scene or do lots of extra trips and activities in Bali or Southern Thailand. In quieter areas such as Northern Thailand or more remote parts of Indonesia, $30/day should be fine as a more comfortable backpacking budget.

Any sensible Southeast Asia budget calculator will also take into account the speed at which you move around and how much distance you are looking to cover too. You’ll save money by focusing on maybe two or three countries in the same part of Southeast Asia and spending longer in each destination. However if you are looking to squeeze a big trip around the whole area into a month or two, your transport costs will increase significantly and you may need to fork out for an extra flight or two to save time. As such even $1000/month may not be enough in this case.

There are also some variations just moving between different cities in the same country. Check out Venture Cost for a quick comparison of travel costs in different cities across Southeast Asia. As a general rule, you can expect to pay more in capital cities like Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur when compared to more provincial towns but it doesn’t always work like that.

backpacker party in Thailand
Full moon party in Thailand – an expensive night!

Southeast Asia Budget Travel Tips – How to cut costs

Backpacker Jobs

One way to save money and extend your trip is to find work in Southeast Asia. This can be done once you’re on the road but there are likely to be many backpackers looking for something similar so it might not always be simple. While finding a backpacker job that pays is tough, you might strike it lucky in a traveller bar or hostel.

Alternatively, there are many placements where you work in exchange for food and accommodation that are easier to come by. We suggest using Worldpackers to look for these. There is a $49 annual membership fee but if you want to travel for a long period and don’t have huge resources, it could be a very worthwhile investment. You can get $10 off by using the code ‘MYFUNKYTRAVELWP’.

Find a base

While it may cost around $750-1000 per month to backpack Southeast Asia, you can certainly get by on less than that if you just stay in one place. If you find a beach, island or city you like, why not stay for a month or more and really get to know one place rather than racing around?

While you do need to be careful to make sure you don’t overstay your visa, you will save money by staying longer somewhere. This is because you should be able to take advantage of cheaper weekly or monthly rates on accommodation. You’ll also save on transport costs and will quickly learn the cheapest places to eat and drink in your base.

There are also plenty of cities in Asia that are affordable and offer a good quality of life if you want to stay longer term, either on a work visa or by doing regular border runs.

Party smart!

It is really easy to get sucked into the backpacker party scene in Southeast Asia and if you’re not sensible you can easily end up blowing your budget on alcohol costs alone. While drinking is not expensive in most of the region (you’ll pay more in Malaysia and certainly Singapore), it’ll be tough to stick to $20-30/day if you are buying most of your drinks in bars.

Pre-drink when possible by buying booze from supermarkets and drinking in your hostel. It’s also worth noting that in many beach destinations, the party spills over onto the beach and again it’s usually possible to buy from shops as drinking in the street or on the beach is common and accepted in the most popular Thai island destinations for example.

 These backpacker budgets were last updated in February 2023 according to prices and exchange rates at that time.

Southeast Asia Backpacking Budget – How much will it cost?

18 thoughts on “Southeast Asia Backpacking Budget – How much will it cost?

  1. Hi! I love this post! My boyfriend and I are looking to go to Asia for at least a year and see everything, we are looking at either house sitting, backpacking and pitching a tent, or work trade, which one would you recommend for a couple looking to see as much as possible but also save as much as possible? Mahalo!

    1. Hi Evy, I think work exchanges might be your best option. If you’ve got a year or more then you’ve got plenty of time to try to pick up work as you go in exchange for accommodation/food etc. Those kind of arrangements are quite common. In terms of house-sitting, I’m not sure how many opportunities there are for something like that in SEA. My guess is that it’s not as widespread as in other parts of the world but perhaps you’ve researched it.

      As for backpacking and pitching a tent, it’s certainly an option in some areas but you can find budget double rooms for less than $10 across the region so I’m not sure how much of an advantage that would be unless you’re on a really, really tight budget. I think most budget travellers in SEA just opt for a cheap hostel with kitchen/shower facilities rather than camping out in the wild and having to deal with the hassles that brings not to mention being exposed to mosquitoes and all the elements which over the course of a year will include everything from extreme heat to monsoons.

  2. Hi,
    I’m looking to do loas, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia over 3 months, would you say that this is do able without rushing places? also how much do you think id need moneywise?

    1. Hi Ross,

      Three months is probably about the typical length for a backpacking trip across those countries. You wouldn’t be able to visit every single possible destination but it gives you sufficient time to cover the distance without feeling particularly rushed.

      We’ve quoted $2400 on this page as a shoestring budget for 3 months but it really depends on the individual. Many backpackers, particularly first-time travellers spend at least double this. Even though SE Asia is cheap, costs can still mount up if you are doing a lot of partying and extra activities.

      1. i’m a big partier. (drink probably 3-4 nights a week) what do you think the alcohol costs would be on top of this budget

        1. Hi Tyler, It depends a bit on how you party. If you’re primarily going to bars and night clubs and buying drinks there then you could probably add $10/day on average to the more comfortable budget, certainly for somewhere like Thailand. However if you are a bit savvy, particularly in the beach destinations, you can buy drinks very cheap in the supermarket and still enjoy the beach parties without spending a huge amount.

          Overall, I’d certainly suggest the ‘More Comfortable’ figures. If you’re a bit disciplined and pre-drink in hostels and avoid the posher bars and clubs, you could still easily party several times a week on that kind of budget.

  3. Hi, me and my girlfriend are planning on travelling to Southeast Asia for 3 months next June. We are starting in Thailand, heading South initially then making our way back North via Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. We have already saved £4,500 between us so we are hoping this covers the cost for hotels/guestrooms, vaccinations, flights and insurance, what do you think? We are then hoping to save a further £5/6k for spending money and activities. From what I have gathered this should be more than enough, I was just hoping you think the same.

    Everyone’s opinion is welcome.


    Harry & Lillie

  4. Really useful article! Me and my boyfriend are looking to go 1st of Feb 2018 for 5 months. We are hoping to have saved £4,000 for spending and £2,500 for hostels, vaccination, insurance, flights etc. Do you think this is achievable? The places we wish to visit include; India for a month (optional if we can’t afford), Thailand for two months and the rest of the time made up by Cambodia, Vietnam, Loas, Malaysia, Singapore (2 days) and Bali (1 week).

    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Emma,

      On the assumption you are looking to save that much each there’s no reason why you can’t do what you are planning. India is probably the cheapest of all those countries now, so it wouldn’t be a huge cost factor. You could fly into somewhere like Delhi or Mumbai and then work your way round to Calcutta perhaps which is well connected to SE Asia.

      In terms of spending, it’s sounds more than enough, although it really depends on what kind of trip you want. £4000 should cover lots of activities, partying, trips etc.

      In terms of £2500 for the rest, that’s probably about what you’re likely to spend on hostels, vaccinations, insurance and flights (note only the cost of hostels are included in the budgets on this page). You’d have to be disciplined at times and perhaps plan ahead for your trip to Bali so as to get a good deal on flights but if you did the rest of the route by land, you’d have no reason to spend much on flights beyond the main one to/from Asia.

      Anyway if you’re saying you’ll have £6500 each for the trip including everything, that should be a very comfortable backpacker budget and travelling as a couple generally helps anyway as you can split costs on rooms/taxis/trips etc.

  5. Great article, Myself and my girlfriend are travelling on the 10th of February for 167 days. We will be going to Thailand Laos Malaysia Indonesia and Cambodia. We will be taking with us just over 9000 euro and have our flights booked travel insurance bought and vaccinations done.

    I’m wondering if you think this will be enough money? We would like to see and do as much as we can and will be mostly eating street food but will be staying in our own rooms and not in dorms.

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Oliver! Do you mean 9000 between the two of you or each? I presume it is 9000 between the two of you which should be fine but it would be considered a shoestring budget and you wouldn’t have much room for many major extras like diving courses or other more expensive activities (although you could fit in one or two for sure if you are careful with your money).

      The figures in this article are a little outdated so count on a bit more than what we’ve quoted, especially given the Euro has decreased in value since it was written and is now more in line with the US Dollar.

      Staying in your own room and not dorms shouldn’t make any difference and could even work out cheaper. Generally travelling as a couple is less expensive than travelling solo as you can split the costs on things like taxis/tuk-tuks, rooms etc.

  6. Great tips, thanks a lot. Going to South East Asia in January ( starting with Thailand ) and already having 3000 pounds saved. Cheers again

  7. Wow Ian, that’s some big hope for me there! I’ll be in India and Nepal from 6 Jan to Feb 16 and then starting the Southeast Asia route. Wasn’t quite sure on how many months to stay but if one can do the same as you, I’ll just stay in paradise for longer 🙂

    Also, thanks MyFunkyTravel for realistic, honest and and concise travel tips! I’ll definitely be following your blog for the next few months!

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