20 Budget Travel Tips: South East Asia

20 Budget Travel Tips: South East Asia

Related: SouthEast Asia Backpacking 23 Days for P32K ($682) all-in

Planning to travel around South East Asia but wondering how you can maximize your budget without draining your bank account?

We recently traveled and backpacked to 4 countries in South East Asia for 23 Days in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand! Here are some budget tips that might help you minimize your costs and travel effectively around South East Asia. So get a pen and paper or just bookmark this in your smartphone 😀

1) Pack light

We brought our 50L and 35L backpack with us and it was allowed as hand carry in Air Asia and Cebu Pacific. Just pack light and don’t bring lots of stuff, just the necessities. It will save costs on check-in luggage. I brought 5 shirts with me and 2 shorts plus the necessities like toiletries. For gadgets, a monopod or aquapod is allowed as handcarry.

2) Go to places that are free or cheap

As much as possible, go to places where there are free or cheap entrance fees. You don’t have to see it all anyways. Skip theme parks if you don’t have kids with you. You’re an adult; go to somewhere historical or educational instead. DIY tours as much as possible.

Lumphini Park, Bangkok

Lumphini Park

3) Maximize your temple runs.

Again, you don’t have to see it all. So to save on transportation and entrance fees, you must plan the Temples that you would like to see. Use google maps and check the temples that are close to each other. If you haven’t been to Bangkok before, then visit the main temples in Grand Palace and its surrounding areas plus Ayutthaya (worth it). But if it is your second time around, then consider visiting lesser known temples that probably doesn’t have any entrance fees yet. In Chiang Mai, visit Wat Doi Suthep and some temples inside the old city. Some temples in the old city are walking distance to each other so don’t bother riding a tuktuk/songthaew.

In Siem Reap, we only did the Short circuit Angkor Wat Tour which consists of many temples already so for us, availing the 1 day pass is enough.

Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple

4) Learn and use their public transportation.

We only rode a taxi like 2 or 3 times in our whole trip. Taxi rides are budget breakers. As far as I recall, even in Vietnam they have public buses but I would understand if you take a taxi there instead as it is much more convenient. Or maybe rent a motorbike/bike if you’re brave enough.

A plus note, in Kuala Lumpur they offer free bus rides by GO KL.

Me waiting for the train in KL

Malaysia MRT

5) Walk

Prepare to walk if you like to save money. Plan out your itinerary so you can visit the places that are near to each other. Use google maps.

6) On riding tuktuks/songthaew/taxis

When riding a tuktuk/songthaew, ask first how much is the fare going to your destination. If you think they’re ripping you off then just tell them No. For taxis, always ask for metered rate. Our style is we ask a local first (usually the receptionist of a guesthouse/hostel) how much the fare to our destination is.

Our tuk tuk in Siem Reap

Tuk Tuk

7) Sharing is caring

Share a bed, transportation, tours, etc. You can minimize your costs by sharing it with somebody.

8) Don’t fall into scams and avoid them as much as possible.

Do your research well beforehand. We’ve been scammed in Vietnam by those coconut drink vendors by letting you take a picture with their products then forcing you to buy one for such insane amount. I still managed to lower down the cost though by haggling lol.

I heard there are lots of scams in Cambodia particularly by Tuktuks in Siem Reap. So make sure your Tuktuk for touring is trusted and recommended by your guesthouse/hostel.

We got scammed lol!

Vietnam Scam

9) Night Bus

Go ride a night bus to save on accommodations if possible and if it’s ok for you to miss some scenery.

10) Laundry

Do your laundry in the lavatory instead of paying for laundry services.  It’ll save you a few bucks. 🙂

11) Flying Vs Overland Travel

If you have the luxury of time, then go for overland travel as it will save you some money. Flying, on the other hand cost more but if time is more important, then by all means book a flight. Time is gold right?

Beautiful clouds


12) Accommodations

Hostels and guesthouses in Southeast Asia are cheap, well except for Singapore. So also check Airbnb rooms as they offer affordable and decent rooms just like what we did in Singapore and Malaysia.

Also, take note that it is really hot if you are travelling during summer so sometimes it’s worth it to book an air-conditioned room.

Click here to register in Airbnb

Related: Airbnb room in Singapore for P885 per night!

Some recommended accommodations you might want to check per city:


Beds and Dreams Inn @ Clarke Quay
Dream Lodge

Search for more and compare prices here

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Backhome KL
Paper Plane Hostel
My Hotel @ Bukit Bintang

Search for more and compare prices here

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Dorm room in Top Banana Guesthouse

Top Banana

Top Banana Guesthouse
TeaHouse Asian Urban Hotel
Lovely Jubbly Villa
The Pavilion Hotel

Search for more and compare prices here

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Boutique Cambo Hotel
Siem Reap Pub Hostel
Golden Banana Boutique Hotel

Search for more and compare prices here

Bangkok, Thailand

Pho Hostel
Red lips Hostel
Bed and Butler Hostel
Meet Up Hostel Bangkok

Search for more and compare prices here

Chiang Mai, Thailand

I Lanna House Chiangmai
Pak Ping The Cozy Living in Chiangmai
Great Chiangmai Hostel
Sleep Guesthouse

Search for more and compare prices here

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Bich Duyen Hotel
The Hideout Hostel Saigon
Saigon Backpackers Hostel – Bui Vien

Search for more and compare prices here

13) Free Drinking Water

It would be nice if your accommodation offers free drinking water. I tell you, you will spend a lot for water during your trip because you will really need it. Stay hydrated. Buy your water at convenience stores and groceries as they are usually cheaper.

14) We love groceries/supermarkets

Grocery stores don’t overprice their items and this is where the locals buy their goods. So if you need anything, buy it here.

15) Be a Mall Rat

If you got nothing to do or planned out on a day, then consider going to the malls to avoid the heat or do window shopping. Sometimes, there are events inside the malls that you can go visit so it’s worth looking into their events schedule too. We went to an art gallery exhibition in KLCC mall in KL and it was amazing.

Art gallery in KLCC Mall in KL

Malaysia Art Gallery

16) Don’t pig out.

Just eat enough to satisfy your hunger.  Set a budget for your meal e.g. in Thailand, 40-60THB for one dish.

17) Don’t party too much

Party a little, live it! But not too much especially if your budget is tight. We’re in our 30s so we’re ok with 1-2 cans of beer then sleeping at 9pm lol.

Hard to avoid drinking here in Pub Street in Siem Reap as a glass of beer only cost half a dollar!

Pub Street

18) Avoid fastfood and expensive restaurants.

Eat where the locals eat. Eat in sidewalks, mall foodcourts, bus terminals and hawker stalls. Don’t be afraid to try street foods.

Lots of food choices here in Chiang Mai Gate Market

Chiang Mai Gate

Related post

Top 10 Foods to eat in Vietnam

19) Haggle, but don’t haggle aggressively.

If they didn’t agree to your price then simply say thank you and walk away. There’s a 50% chance that they will call you out and give you your asking price.

20) Get travel insurance

I know this is categorized as an expense but if you’re travelling long, it’s ideal that you have travel insurance for protection! You’ll never know how much you would spend if you are *knock on wood* hospitalized or your baggage got lost or your flight got super delayed. So for hassle free travel, get an insurance.

Related links:

SouthEast Asia Backpacking 23 Days for P32K ($682) all-in

Singapore Budget Travel Guide 1D 1N

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Budget Travel Guide 4D 3N

Cambodia Budget Travel Guide 4D 3N

Thailand Budget Travel Guide 14D 13N

Our first trip to Thailand (2014)

My First Travel Abroad: Vietnam

Top 10 Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City

Top 10 Foods to eat in Vietnam!

Airbnb room in Singapore for P885 per night!

He is a programmer by profession but has a soul of a traveler. Aside from his ultimate dream of travelling around the world, he loves to eat, drink, listen to music, talk about aliens and the occasional secret guilty pleasure of singing love songs in videoke. His favorite superpower is to teleport from one place to another. I guess you know why.