I’ve visited each country extensively, and am always in search of the cheapest food, accommodation, and lesser known adventures.
I put together these guides to show you just how YOU can do it, too!
Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Myanmar, Laos, Indonesia, Philippines
Cambodia uses the U.S. Dollar & Cambodian Riel. You can easily budget yourself on $15-20 a day. Food averages to be about $2-5 a meal. Meat options are typically more expensive than their vegetarian counterparts. Hostels range from $3-8 a night. Transportation between cities is typically $7-15.
My favorite hostels were:
Siem Reap: Downtown Siem Reap Hostel
Phnom Penh: Mad Monkey Hostel
Sihanoukville: The Big Easy Hostel
Otres Beach: Seagarden
Otres Village: Hacienda
Koh Rong: Vagabonds
Koh Rong Samloem: Mad Monkey Hostel
Ko Ta Kiev: Kactus
Kampot: Mad Monkey Hostel
Amok Curry & Lok Lak
Otres Beach, Otres Village, Kampot & Kep
Thailand uses the Thai Baht. Street food can range anywhere from $.25 – $5. Street food is incredibly flavorful and super cheap, perfect for the backpackers on a budget. Accommodation is typically around $3-6 a night, and tends to be more expensive in the cities. Transportation between cities is around $6 (Chiang Mai–Pai) to $30 (Chiang Mai–Bangkok, Chiang Mai flight to Surat Thani). Flights and trains are really efficient and cheap.
My favorite hostels were:
– Bangkok: VX the Fifty
– Chiang Mai: Bunchun Hostel
– Pai: Common Grounds
– Ko Phangan: The Nomad House
Green chicken curry, Pad Thai, Pad Krapow, Khao Soi, Mango sticky rice
Chiang Mai & Pai (Northern Thailand!)
Vietnam uses the Vietnamese Dong. Street food is typically $.50-2, while restaurant food is typically $2-5. Accommodation can range anywhere from $3-8 a night. I found it to be more expensive the more north I went. Transportation between cities is typically $5-15.
My favorite hostels were:
– Saigon: Lee Hostel (because it was cheap)
– Mui Ne: Mui Ne Backpacker Village
– Dalat: Backpacker’s Paradise (my favorite hostel of all time)
– Hoi An: Green Bud Guesthouse
– Hue: Hue Backpacker’s Hostel
– Phong Nha: Easy Tiger & Thien Phu
– Sapa: Go Sapa Hostel
– Cat Ba: Cat Ba Central Backpackers
The food in Vietnam is incredible. My favorites are Bun Cha, Pho, Bun Thit Nuong and Bahn Mi
Dalat, Phong Nha, and Sapa
Singapore uses the Singapore Dollar. It’s quite expensive to travel in Singapore, but it’s possible to do on a budget! Food in places like the Maxwell Center ranges from $3-5 Singapore Dollars (~$2-4 USD). Accommodation is typically $15- 20 USD. Transportation within the country is cheap, the metro is around $.75-3 USD and the buses are around $1 USD.
I highly recommend staying at 5footway.inn Hostel, it’s in an ideal location and the facilities are wonderful. And they offer free breakfast!
Kaya Toast & Hainanese Chicken
The entire country of Singapore is easily accessible via metro!
Malaysia uses the Malaysian Ringgit. I found Malaysia to be one of the most expensive countries in Southeast Asia. Housing costs around $5-10 per night, while food is typically around $2-8. Local restaurants and street food are always cheaper options. Housing and food in National Parks is usually more expensive. Transportation is around $10-30 between cities.
My favorite hostels were:
– Kuala Lumpur: Sunshine Bedz
– Taman Negara: Hans Guesthouse
– Cameron Highlands: D’Native Hostel
– Penang: Casablanca Hostel
– Kota Kinabalu: Akinabalu Hostel
– Tip of Borneo: Secret Place Cafe
– Sandakan: Borneo Backpackers
– Miri: Dillenia Hostel
– Kuching: Borneo Seahare Guesthouse
Nasi Lemak, Laksa (my favorite!), any type of Indian and Chinese food, Hokkien Mee.
When you’re in Malaysia, eat at a Nasi Kandar style restaurant. It’s almost buffet style; you load up your plate and pay based on what you have.
Cameron Highlands, Penang, Miri, & Kuching
Brunei uses the Brunei Dollar. It’s a very expensive country, housing is typically $20-30 a night. There isn’t much of a backpacker scene there, and there’s only one hostel. Food is around $1 (chicken and rice) to $20 or more. There are public buses, but I wouldn’t recommend taking them in Brunei (they are quite complicated)
Pusat Belia is the only hostel in Brunei. I didn’t stay here, I went Couchsurfing instead, which I HIGHLY recommend doing!
Ambuyat (a sticky, goo like substance that doesn’t really taste like much, but is fun to eat otherwise!), Ayam Penyet (spicy chicken), chicken curry and rice
Bandar Seri Begawan (the capital and largest city in Brunei)
Myanmar was more expensive when comparing it to Cambodia, Thailand, Laos or Vietnam. I spent roughly $27 a day. Meals ranged from $1-3, accommodation was around $10 per night, and transportation was around $20 for an overnight bus.
I spend most of my time in Myanmar in luxurious accommodation. It’s odd, but there were constantly 80% off sales on major hotels in almost every city in Myanmar! I’m not sure why this is, but guaranteed you’ll find some great deals on Booking.com.
A lot of the local food was fried rice and noodles. Some of their staple dishes are the tea leaf salad as well as the fresh tomato salad.
My favorite cities in Myanmar were Ngapali Beach, Mrauk-U, and Pyin Oo Lwin
Nepal, Sri Lanka
Nepal is relatively cheap. Accommodation in Kathmandu is around $5/ night for a bed in a dorm room, while you can find accommodation in a guesthouse in Pokhara for $4/night for a private room with a bath.
Accommodation on the EBC & Three Passes and Annapurna Circuit trek will either be free (if you negotiate eating your meals there for free accommodation) to $1-2.
Food in Kathmandu and Pokhara is around $1-5 per meal, depending on where you eat. Food on the treks is more expensive, especially the higher you get in altitude. It will range from $4-8 per meal.
Alobar1000 (Kathmandu) is the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in. The location, in Thamel, is central and close to a lot of good restaurants. There’s an awesome rooftop where everyone hangs out, delicious food, and hot water showers (hard to find in Nepal!).
Annapurna Guesthouse in Pokhara is a cheap guesthouse in a great location in lakeside in Pokhara.
Accommodation on the trek is a simple guesthouse in a shared room.
Daal Baht is one of the most popular food dishes in Nepal, especially if you’re trekking. It’s lentils, rice, and vegetables. The best part is, you get free refills! Simosas are common. Momos are their version of dumplings. Fried potatoes, rice, and noodles are also common in Nepal.
Pokhara is my favorite place in Nepal. It’s the perfect place to relax by the lake, read, drink good coffee, and eat delicious, cheap food.
I found the hostels in Sri Lanka to be quite expensive, costing around $15 USD + a night. Food was around $1-5 depending on where you ate. Beer and alcohol were also very expensive, costing around $5 for a bottle of beer. Local transportation was inexpensive, only costing $.25+ for long journeys.
Hostels in Sri Lanka start around $15/night. My favorite hostel was Hangover Hostel in Mirissa, I spent most of my time at this hostel and on the beach!
Curries, rice, and kottu (chopped roti tossed with various fillings, anything from sweet to savory!)
My favorite cities have to be Ella, Mirissa, and Weligama
Taiwan, South Korea
I spent around $30 a day in Taiwan. I found the accommodation, food, and transportation to be quite expensive, especially when compared to its neighbors. However, the quality of accommodation, food, and transport reflects the price you pay.
Hostels are starting to pop up all over Taiwan. While it doesn’t have much of a backpacking scene, you’ll still find a lot of other travelers in Taipei that are making their way around the country.
Taiwan is known for its local cuisine. They have everything from dumplings, pork ribs, tongue, various desserts, rice and noodle dishes, brains, chicken feet… you name it!
Kenting and Taichung City were two of my favorite places in Taiwan