Backpacking Southeast Asia on a Budget

I just did a backpacking trip around Southeast Asia with couple of friends. We planned to visit 5 different countries in 23 days and I only allotted 1000 USD budget for it. And believe me, I didn’t went over and was able to maximize my one grand! (Well, that is if you wouldn’t account the extra needless shopping.) How was that possible? Here’s how I did it..

First to account for are the airfares. Since you have to book and pay your flights before hand, you can already allocate a part of your budget for that. Here’s the breakdown of our flight expenses which amounts to 216.43 USD per pax:
> 60.77 USD – 1 way ticket from Manila (MNL) to Siem Reap (REP) via Cebu Pacific
> 96.60 USD – 1 way ticket from Singapore (SIN) to Manila (MNL) via AirPhil Express
> 59.06 USD – Round trip ticket from Manila (MNL) to Bohol (TAG) via Cebu Pacific

Second to account for are the accommodations. Because you already booked your hotel/guesthouse in advance, you already know how much you’ll pay for, unless you want to take a risk and do walk-in reservations. Also, consider the possibility of night bus trips or overnight flights, we were able to save 2 nights of lodging expenses because of that. Here’s the breakdown of our lodging expenses which amounts to 155.70 USD per pax:
> 12.00 USD – Two Dragons Guesthouse in Siem Reap (3 nights)
> 20.28 USD – Baan Ma Feung Guesthouse in Kanchanaburi (2 nights)
> Free c/o Marriott Points – Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Bangkok (5 nights)
> 44.88 USD – The Cabin in Langkawi (2 nights)
> 37.50 USD – Old Penang Guesthouse in Penang (3 nights)
> Free c/o Marriott Points – Renaissance Hotel in Kuala Lumpur (1 night)
> Free c/o Church Fiends – Pearl Bank Apartments in Singapore (2 nights)
> 41.04 USD – Panglao Regents Park in Bohol (2 nights)

Third to account for is the approximate budget for food. Since this is a Southeast Asia, it’s safe to allot about 12 USD budget per day which amounts to 276 USD for 23 days. But if you want a more accurate estimate, here’s a bit of a guideline on how much is a typical meal (inexpensive local/chain restaurant) for each country in Southeast Asia:
> 2-3 USD – Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam
> 4-5 USD – Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar
> 6-7 USD – Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei

So far, we already accounted 628.13 USD out of the 1000 USD budget.

Next is to account for are the miscellaneous fees on each itineraries. Here’s the breakdown of all our expenses which amounts to about 337.03 USD per pax:
Destination no.1 (Sept. 2-5): Siem Reap, Cambodia (approx. 65 USD)
> 25 USD – Angkor Archaeological Park Pass and Tuk-tuk Rental
> 30 USD – Tonle Sap Lake and Floating Village Tour
> 10 USD – Taxi ride from Guesthouse to Poipet

Destination no.2 (Sept. 5-7): Kanchanaburi, Thailand (approx. 39.35 USD)
> 5.96 USD (200 THB) – Bus from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok
> 4.17 USD (140 THB) – Minivan from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi and Tuk-tuk Transfers
> 26.83 USD (900 THB) – Kanchanaburi History Day Tour
> 2.39 USD (80 THB) – Bus from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok

Destination no.3 (Sept. 7-9,11-12): Bangkok, Thailand (approx 21.46 USD)
> 4.17 USD (140 THB) – Bus Station-Hotel Transfers
> 1.49 USD (50 THB) – Wat Arun Entrance Fee
> 8.35 USD (280 THB) – Grand Palace Entrance Fee
> 7.45 USD (250 THB) – BTS, River Taxi, Tuk-tuk Fees

Destination no.4 (Sept. 10): Ayutthaya, Thailand (approx 19.38 USD)
> 2.39 USD (80 THB) – Minivan from Bangkok to Ayutthaya
> 4.47 USD (150 THB) – Ayutthaya Tuk-tuk Tour
> 5.96 UDS (200 THB) – Ayutthaya River Boat Tour
> 3.58 USD (120 THB) – Temple Entrance Fees
> 2.98 USD (80 THB) – Tuk-tuk and Train from Ayutthaya to Bangkok

Destination no.5 (Sept. 13-15): Langkawi, Malaysia. (approx 48.55 USD)
> 24.45 USD (820 THB) – Bus ride from Bangkok to Satun and Tuk-tuk Transfers
> 8.95 USD (300 THB) – Ferry ride from Satun to Langkawi
> 6.73 USD (24 MYR) – Ferry Terminal-Guesthouse Transfers
> 8.42 USD (30 MYR) – Langkawi Halfday Island Hopping Tour

Destination no.6 (Sept. 15-18): Penang, Malaysia (approx 39.56 USD)
> 16.83 USD (60 MYR) – Ferry Ride from Langkawi to Penang
> 8.42 USD (30 MYR) – Penang Hill Ropeway Fee
> 4.49 USD (16 MYR) – Bus rides around Penang
> 9.82 USD (35 MYR) – Bus ride from Penang to Kuala Lumpur

Destination no.7 (Sept. 18-19): Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (approx. 30.86 USD)
> 9.82 USD (35 MYR) – Bus Terminal-Hotel Transfers
> 1.40 USD (5 MYR) – KTM rides
> 19.64 USD (70 MYR) – Bus ride from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore

Destination no.8 (Sept. 19-21): Singapore, Singapore (approx. 36.94 USD)
> 3.40 USD (4.5 SGD) – Taxi ride from Little India to Pearl Bank Apartments
> 21.19 USD (28 SGD) – Gardens by the Bay Entrance Fee
> 11.35 USD (15 SGD) – EZ-link Card Reload

Destination no.9 (Sept. 22-24): Bohol, Philippines (approx. 35.93 USD)
> 8.98 USD (400 PHP) – Airport-Hotel Transfers
> 15.72 USD (700 PHP) – Bohol Day Tour
> 11.23 USD (500 PHP) – Loboc River Cruise

After accounting all the expenses on each itineraries, we arrived to 965.16 USD in total. We still have 34.84 USD to spend on souvenir shopping. Though technically we didn’t just spent 34.84 USD for shopping since we shopped for more than just souvenirs. But if you’ll buy just a simple souvenir from each destination, 34.84 USD is more than enough, plus you can still cut some from the budget on food and airfares (which are actually already paid for since they were booked months in advance).

But considering you’ll need to spend on your accommodations in Bangkok (5 nights at approx. 50-75 USD), Kuala Lumpur (1 night at approx. 10-15 USD), and Singapore (2 night at approx. 30-40 USD) which is about 100-150 USD in total and the fact that you already paid for your airfares before hand which is approximately 215 USD. You can use the budget for airfares to compensate for the budget on the lacking accommodations and for more shopping!

And just a reminder, if you’re not a citizen of any Southeast Asian nation, check-out if you need to acquire a visa to visit any of the countries in the above mentioned itineraries. Before accounting for your airfares, you need to account for your visa fees first.

So there you have it, backpacking Southeast Asia for 23 days on a 1000 USD budget, sweet!

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