Southeast Asia is often touted as a top destination for budget travelers. On our second trip to the region, we traveled through Laos, Thailand and Cambodia for two and a half weeks and were excited to see how our expenses shook out over the course of the trip. Here’s a recap of our trip:
- Cities visited: Luang Prabang, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, and Siem Reap
- Length: 17 days
- Hostels/Guesthouses: 6
- Flights: 8
- Trains: 1
- Miles Flown: ~18,000 (29,000 km)
What 2.5 Weeks in Southeast Asia Cost Us
Our expenses for the whole trip came out to $83 per person per day. There are easy ways to spend more or less on this trip. We’ll break them down by category below.
Despite using 80,000 Delta miles each for our round trip flights from Chicago to Bangkok, flights still ended up being our greatest expense. To maximize time in each country, we booked flights from city to city on AirAsia that averaged $70 each way. You could easily save money here by choosing cheaper (but slower) methods of travel. A train or bus would be a great option in most cases.
This category also included an extra $300 in flights from Siem Reap to Bangkok we had to book last minute. We misread our departure time and missed our flight out of Cambodia! This should be a pretty easy expense to avoid if you’re more on top of things than we apparently are. 🙂
Transportation was another major cost that averaged out to $31/day. This included taxis, a couple of cheap ferry rides and large passenger vans that we split with a bigger group for a few days for a wedding. These costs would easily come down without the group passenger vans. We also paid $61 for a private taxi from Chiang Mai to the Chiang Mai Treehouse and sticky waterfalls. It probably would’ve been cheaper to rent a scooter and drive ourselves.
Train tickets for an overnight trip from Chiang Mai to Bangkok were $35 each. This was cheaper than flying and a fun experience for us. If you want to save money on transportation, consider staying in central areas were you can walk or take public transportation within cities.
At $495 total, accommodations were not a major expense for us on this trip. We averaged $45/night for both of us and stayed at a variety of hotels and guesthouses. One night of expense was avoided by using the overnight train to Bangkok. We were also able to stay at a resort in Hua Hin for free for two nights for the wedding we attended.
There are a ton of overnight options for any budget in Southeast Asia. Hostels and guesthouses will provide some of the cheapest accommodations, especially if you’re willing to sleep in a shared dorm room. Private rooms with your own bathroom will cost a little more. There are also a lot of beautiful SPG, Marriott, etc. properties if you have some points to burn.
Activities, Tours and Entrance Fees
Here’s a list of the major activities and tours that we participated in with their associated costs for two people:
- Hua Hin Cooking Class – $90
- Elephant Nature Park – $142
- Angkor Wat – $55
There were some other smaller entrance fees to temples, waterfalls, etc. as well. What you spend in this category will really depend on what you want to see on your trip. For the most part, most activities throughout Southeast Asia are very affordable!
We spent $316 on food throughout our trip which comes out to ~$3 per meal for each of us. This is another area that can easily fluctuate based on what you’re willing to spend. If you want cheap meals, don’t be afraid to eat street food! We often grabbed a couple of dishes from recommended local markets for lunch or dinner. Beer is very cheap in Southeast Asia, but avoid wine and expensive cocktails if you want to save a few additional dollars.
Our most expensive meal was at Tamarind in Luang Prabang, Laos. It was $34 total and worth every penny!
Overall, our expenses were a little higher than I expected, but we did splurge on flights and transportation between many areas. If we could afford it, it was more important to us to have more time to explore a country than spend time in transit. Especially not knowing when we will return to Southeast Asia.
There are truly a wide range of options for any budget, and it would be easy to take a trip that cost less than ours without sacrificing the experience. If you have any specific questions, let us know in the comments! We hope you find this helpful as you plan your own trip to discover Southeast Asia.