IS ASIA EXPENSIVE?


Depends on what you’re here for.

 

Different countries = different prices for different things.

Do you want to explore cities, see the big attractions, or experience the food and drink? For example, if you’re here to party, the Philippines generally has the cheapest drinks at restaurants and bars. In contrast, Chinese bars and clubs are expensive- comparable to North American prices, but the daily Chinese necessities (subway, street food, bottled water) are damn cheap, so if you’re here to take photos and explore the city life, China will be cheaper than the Philippines. Accommodation also varies in quality, type and price. Your sleeping standards could make or break your budget. In Vietnam, $10 may get you a comfy room with A/C, wifi and free breakfast. In the Philippines, a $10 room is nearly impossible to find.

Asia is a place that people like to travel at a slow pace. I’ve met dozens of travelers who come here for a “few months” and end up staying for years. So, your travel budget tends to really come into play here for long-term travelers. Don’t burn through your money quickly.

Let’s take a look at the general costs of traveling in Asia:

NORTHEAST ASIA

-Japan-

The most expensive country in East Asia

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Hostel dorm: $25-32
Hotel room: from $55
Budget meal: $5+
8-hour bus ride: $50-70
Beer in a bar: $5 and up, up, up; be aware of frustrating “seating charges” ($8+) at bars

Traveling in Japan is a bit more expensive than in North America or Western Europe. This is exasperated when the Japanese yen is strong.

-South Korea-

Surprisingly affordable if you do it right

Korea: eat, drink, repeat

Korea: eat, drink, repeat

Hostel dorm: $11-18
Hotel room: from $40 in Seoul; from $30 in provincial cities
Sleeping on a mat in a sauna (locker provided): $7
Budget meal: $2.5-4
8-hour bus ride: doesn’t exist, but would cost around $35 if it did
Beer in a bar: bottle of soju (20%) ($3); draft beer ($2.5); expect to share some snacks ($9) at bars

South Korea is a small, compact country, so you can take it all in affordably. Be careful with your money in the entertainment districts, as things never close and money gets burnt when you’re not using good judgment at 5am.

-Taiwan-

A great value for a modern country

Sashimi, oysters and fish ball soup in Taichung; all for under $10

Sashimi, oysters and fish ball soup in Taichung; all for under $10

Hostel dorm: $10-18
Hotel room: from $30 outside of Taipei; from $55 in Taipei
Budget meal: $1.25-4
8-hour bus ride: doesn’t exist, but would cost around $25
Beer in a bar: disproportionately expensive- from $4 and up; from $2.50 in restaurants. Locals drink at 7-11, follow their example

Taiwan is cheaper than South Korea and Japan, but still more expensive than China and SE Asia; if you’re not partying, your costs should be low here; budget drinkers can do so at 7-11, or the special “all-you-can-drink” bars. Food is of excellent quality and very affordable- the real pleasure here.

-China-

Increasingly expensive, but still cheap if you stick to one region and keep it simple

Well-comfy in Xiamen ($45)

Well-comfy in Xiamen ($45)

Hostel dorm: $3-$9
Hotel room: from $17 in cities
Budget meal: $0.75-$2
8-hour bus ride: $20
Beer in a bar: from $5 in clubs; informal hole-in-the-wall bars are rare here; big weak beers $1 at restaurants

If your itinerary is ambitious, your big expense in China may be transportation, as this is a huge country and the best attractions and cities are spread throughout. I recommend being modest and choosing one region such as Guangdong, Shanghai-Hangzhou, Beijing-Shandong or Sichuan Province. Entrance prices to big attractions is the highest in Asia and generally double North American prices. Expect to pay between $7-$20 each for most attractions.

-North Korea-

You will pay for most things upfront when you purchase your chaperoned tour (costs generally start at 100 euros per day and go up from there)

-Mongolia-

Costs depend highly on which tours you pay for

SOUTHEAST ASIA

-Vietnam-

Incredible value

Massive dinner rarely top $10 in Vietnam

Massive dinners rarely top $10 in Vietnam

Hostel dorm: $6-$8 (but very few, as hotels/guesthouses are cheap and plentiful)
Hotel room: from $9 in most cities
Budget meal: $0.75-$1.50
8-hour bus ride: $9
Beer in a bar: $1.25-$2 and up; $0.70 at restaurants

Because Vietnam is industrialized, everything seems to be cheap and the quality produced here is excellent. For my travel tendencies, Vietnam is the cheapest country I have ever visited. If you like an amazing selection of food, coffee and beer, the value here is unbeatable. The hotels are more expensive than in Cambodia and Laos; however, this cost can be mitigated by sharing.

-Laos- 

Low base costs add to the relaxation here

The 11-hour, $14 "VIP" bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane

The 11-hour, $14 “VIP” bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane

Hostel dorm: $6-$8 (buy why?)
Hotel room: from $6 in most cities
Budget meal: $1-$2.50
8-hour bus ride: $9
Beer in a bar: $1-$2

Transportation and accommodation are cheap in Laos. Goods and food a bit more than Thailand and Vietnam.

-Cambodia-

very similar in cost to Laos

At the Royal Hotel in Battambang. $5

At the Royal Hotel in Battambang. $5


Hostel dorm: $3-$5
Hotel room: from $6 in most cities
Budget meal: $1-$2.50
8-hour bus ride: $7
Beer in a bar: $0.50-$1.50

The basic costs in Cambodia are very cheap. However, expect to pay a bit more for goods, as they are imported from Thailand or Vietnam.

-Thailand- 

the world’s favorite backpacker destination, for good reason

The dirty train from Bangkok to Cambodia. 6 hours @ $1.50 usd

The dirty train from Bangkok to Cambodia. 6 hours @ $1.50 usd

Hostel dorm: $4-11
Hotel room: from $16 in most cities
Budget meal: $1-$1.50
8-hour bus ride: $9
Beer in a bar: $1.50-$3 and up; $1.50 at restaurants

I’m not an expert on the costs of Thailand, as I haven’t spent much time outside of Bangkok. It seems everywhere is cheap for street food and 7-11-type goods. Accommodation in dorms is a fun and accessible option and private room costs are low outside of BKK. Prices much cheaper in the north than in the south. As a wide-range of tourists come here, there are budget or luxury options in each place.

-Myanmar-

more expensive than Indochina, still cheap

Leafy luxury at Kaday Aung resort near Bagan ($17/night)

Leafy luxury at Kaday Aung resort near Bagan ($17/night)

Hostel dorm: few hostel dorms here
Hotel room: from $11 in most cities
Budget meal: $0.75-$1.50
8-hour bus ride: $11
Beer in a bar: $0.75-$1.25

I was surprised at how expensive Myanmar could get compared to neighboring SE Asian countries. Fortunately, there is practically no nightlife here, so the big nights out in Bangkok or Saigon aren’t applicable here. Myanmar is still cheap, but don’t expect the affordable luxuries of Vietnam or Thailand.

-Malaysia-

BYOB

Otak-Otak lunch-sized fish cake ($0.75)

Otak-Otak lunch-sized fish cake ($0.75)

Hostel dorm: $4-$8
Hotel room: from from $10 in most cities; $25 in KL
Budget meal: $1.25-$2.50
8-hour bus ride: $9
Beer in a bar: $7 and up; Langkawi, Tioman and other duty-free locations are cheaper

A great value (sans the booze), even despite the high level of development.

-Indonesia-

take your time

$5 / night Lake Toba

$5 / night Lake Toba

Hostel dorm: hostels are rare
Hotel room: from $7 in most cities
Budget meal: $0.75-$1.50
8-hour bus ride: $9
Beer in a bar: $2 and up

Still a great value if you aren’t set on transporting yourself throughout all islands of the archipelago. The street food is cheap, but limited. So, you may find yourself eating up a notch in nicer restaurants to mix it up.

-Philippines-

surprisingly expensive for the solo traveler

My cheapest Philippine hotel room ever. $15 in the city of Iloilo

My cheapest Philippine hotel room ever. $15 in the city of Iloilo

Hostel dorm: rare, but from $9
Hotel room: from $14 in most cities; Manila from $20
Budget meal: $1-$2.50
8-hour bus ride: $9
Beer in a bar: $1 and up

Overall, I find the Philippines are surprisingly expensive for a solo traveler. Accommodation is the highest in SE Asia and generally of a lower quality. Transportation can add up when traveling island-to-island. Street food is of a lower quality and you may find yourself splurging for something not dusted in salt. However, if you’re here to party, stick to one region and have a friend to share accommodation costs, you’ll have an affordable blast here.

THE CITY-STATES

-Singapore-

This beer cost $14.50 in a Singapore "dive" bar. Really

This beer cost $14.50 in a Singapore “dive” bar. Really

A pricey place to party, but dormitories and street food costs are reasonable, considering how developed Singapore is. If you can resist luxuries and big nights out, you can afford Singapore.

Hostel dorm: $11-$20
Hotel room: from from $55
Budget meal: $2.50-4
8-hour bus ride: N/A, but $20 to Kuala Lumpur (2 hours away)
Beer in a bar: $7 and up; $4+ at restaurants/convenience stores

-Hong Kong-

Can keep to the same budget as Singapore, but will have to endure some crowded conditions

Street food is hard to find in central HK, but worth the effort

Street food is hard to find in central HK, but worth the effort

Hostel dorm: $9-$25 Hotel room: from $65
Budget meal: $2.50-$5
8-hour bus ride: N/A; can take the metro to Shenzhen for $7
Beer in a bar: $5 and up; $2 at restaurants

-Brunei-

why not

Hostel dorm: $8 (one hostel in Brunei)
Hotel room: from $25 per night
Budget meal: $4-6
8-hour bus ride: N/A
Beer in a bar: bring your own

The prices above are aimed at the backpacker looking to spend months in Asia and seeing the whole continent. If you have less time, and more money, this probably does not apply to you. Enjoy.

Steven (84 Posts)

Steven is a roaming traveler, writer and urban planner based out of Asia. Connect with Steven on Steven Muzik on Google+!








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