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.
Cost of Travel in Southeast Asia in 2023
Southeast Asia backpacking budget
|Country||Estimated Daily Backpacking Budget (USD)|
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.
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.
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)|
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.
Southeast Asia Budget Travel Tips – How to cut costs
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.
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.