The Cost of a Month in Southeast Asia

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From a travel standpoint, the questions I get asked most are “What’s your favorite place,” “Where do I should go on my next trip,”  and “how much money do you actually spend on one of your adventures?”  The first question is impossible for me to answer with one place so I cheat and say five.  Places that will always have my heart (in no order):

  1. Prague, Czech Republic
  2. Melbourne, Australia
  3. Sapa, Vietnam
  4. Bali
  5. Port Denarau, Fiji

To answer the second question I’d ask you how much time do you have, what activities do you enjoy, and what’s the purpose of the trip.  Your answers dictate my advice.  If you live in the States and only have 7 days I’m not going to recommend Australia or Asia.  If you hate the beach I’m not going to tell you to go to Hawaii.

The third answer is more straightforward.  At least, for this trip.  Most people want to travel but money seems to be the biggest deterrent.  I decided before I left for a month in Southeast Asia I’d actually keep track of how much the trip cost me.

My past travel experiences have been rather unorthodox.  Working on a cruise ship in Australia, au pairing in the Czech Republic/backpacking Europe, and moving to Melbourne for a year isn’t exactly what most people have in mind when they say they want to travel.  

This was basically the first trip where I had a to book (and pay) for all of my own transportation.  The first trip where I wasn’t planning on earning any money while overseas.  The first trip where I had a concrete date I had to come back.  Odd as it may seem, it really was the first trip where I actually thought about just how much it was going to cost.

I did my best job to keep track of every Dollar, Baht, Rupiah, and Dong that I spent.  However, some purchases inevitably fell through the cracks and to be completely honest, some things I spent money on wouldn’t interest most people.  For example, my ambulance ride, emergency room visit, and 15 stitches in Thailand $104 (reimbursed), the $150  to replace the cell phone I lost at the Full Moon Party (yes, Thailand was rough), the $50 I spent on sandals due to losing 3 different pairs (not my month for keeping track of things), the $350 I spent on 2 custom tailored suits in Bali because every so often you just have to ball out, and while I don’t regret all the cigars, shots, and whiskey waters I had they aren’t essential to a person’s trip. Outside of those things I added everything I found relevant to a month in Southeast Asia in the list below.  

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A few things to keep in mind:

1. I converted everything to USD (you’re welcome)

2. The list below assumes you’ve already have items such as clothes, backpack, shoes,        etc.  For the full list of things, I brought with me check out my ‘What To Pack for Southeast Asia’ post.

3. Southeast Asia is big.  As a group, we agreed early on we wanted to see 4 countries in 4 weeks. We decided that saving time was more important than saving money which is why we took the fastest transportation available when changing locations, even if it cost more.  Yes, you can take a bus from Chiang Mai to Phuket but the fact it takes 24 hours made the price of the 3-hour flight worth it to us.  You have to decide what’s right for your trip, timeline, and budget.

4. I went to Asia with a big group; there were 6-10 of us the entire time.  The prices below are what I personally paid for.  We were able to get some group rate discounts because there were so many of us that you may not be able to find if it’s just you. However, we also had to take multiple tuk-tuks and scooters everywhere so maybe it evens out.

5. Speaking of tuk-tuks, I didn’t keep track of every tuk-tuk, taxi, or rickshaw that we took, every time I ate street food or bought a bottle of water.  I’ve done my best, where needed, to estimate per day what I spent on those types of things.  Also, if you can learn to haggle you’ll save yourself a good bit of money.

6.If you and your friends drink less than mine and avoid sit down restaurants you can reduce the final spend by 15%.  No regrets though.

7.Your trip your rules.  No trip two trips are ever the same but this should give you a general idea of what to budget for a month in Southeast Asia.

8. I broke everything out by category/location, price, and description.

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Pre-Departure Purchases:

Transportation:

Flights:

Kansas City to Los Angeles- $5.00 (purchased with my Southwest points. Flight usually $200)
Los Angeles to Bangkok- $422.00
Chiang Mai to Phuket- $93.44
Surat Thani to Siem Reap- $160.52
Siem Reap to Da Nang- $182.00
Hanoi to Denpasar- $155.05
Denpasar to Melbourne- $277.12
Melbourne to Los Angeles- 70,604 points – $882.56 value (yes, credit cards are awesome)
Los Angeles to Kansas City- $103
Flight Total- $1398.13

 

Ferries:

Krabi to Koh Tao – $32
Koh Tao to Koh Phangan – $15
Koh Phangan to Surat Thani- $20
Ferry Total- $67

 

Train

Bangkok to Chiang Mai $52 (night train)
Hoi An to Dong Hoi- $30
Dong Hoi to Hanoi – $56
Sapa to Hanoi – $45 (night train)
Train Total-  $183

 

Bus

Hanoi to Sapa – $17
Bus Total – $17

Transportation Total: $1665.13

 

Miscellaneous:

Traveler’s Insurance- $145 (Why you should get Travel Insurance)
Passport Photos (4 at Costco)- $10
Vietnam Visa Processing fee- $30
Vaccines (without insurance):
     Hepatitis A- $130
     Typhoid- $88
     Malaria- $79 (used coupon)
Misc Total- $482

 

Thailand (12 Days)

Bangkok

Dinner-   $7
Whisgars Whiskey and Cigar Bar- $42
Tuk Tuk to dinner and train station- $9
Bangkok Total: $58

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Chiang Mai

Counting Sheep Hostel- $16 x 2 nights – $32 (provided breakfast)
Sim Card- $8
Doi Inthanon National Park- $32
Asia Scenic Cooking Class $23.49 (included food)
Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary- $58.74 (included food, can’t recommend enough)
Transportation (tuk tuks/taxis) – $20 (estimate)
Additional Food/Drink/Transportation – $40 (estimate)
Chiang Mai total: $272.23

 

Phuket

Lub’d Hostel $13 x 2 nights – $26
Thai Smile Restaurant – $27 (dinner and multiple rounds of Tom Collins)
Flying Hanuman Zipline- $98
     -Missed out as I was stuck in bed following my ER visit the night before but that’s what it would have cost to go
Bus ride: Phuket to Krabi- $16
Additional Food/Drink/Transportation- $10
Phuket Total: $177

 

Krabi (Railay Beach)

Shuttle from bus station to hostel- $3
Hogwarts Hostel- $8
Tuk Tuk to Ao Nong (there and back)- $3
Speed boat from Ao Nong to Railay Beach (there and back)- $9
Dinner on Railay- $13
Additional Food/Drink/Transportation (estimate) – $10
Krabi Total: $46

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Koh Tao

Goodtimes Beach Hostel: $19 x 2 nights- $38
Airbnb Villa (recovery day) – $32 each
Tequila Shot with Zoran- $6.50
Dinner at Barracuda – $24
Boat to Koh Nang Yuang Island- $9
Entry Fee to Koh Nang Yuang Island- $3
The Gallery (dinner)- $24
⅕ Bottle of Johnnie Walker Red- $10
Living Juice (breakfast)- $8
Bans Resort (lunch- $9
Bans Bar (nightlife) – 10 whiskey waters $24
Additional Food/Drink/Transportation (estimate) – $25
Koh Tao Total: $212.5

 

Koh Phangan

Baan Klong House$20 x 2 nights- $40
Tuk Tuk to Hostel- $3
Sim Card- $15
Bite Delight (Dinner) $25
Tuk Tuk to beach (there and back) $6
Bucket Drink (⅛ Jack, Ginger Ale, Red Bull) – $15
Jungle Party- $17
Ride to Thong Nai Pan Noi (and back) $6
Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach Bar (lunch)-$18
Thai Massage – $12
Tuk Tuk to Full Moon Party (there and back) $6
Full Moon Party Entry Fee- $3
Tuk Tuk to ferry- $3
Water at hostel -$2
Koh Phangan Total: $171

 

Thailand Total: $936.73

 

Cambodia- 3 Days

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Siem Reap

Visa on arrival- $30
Airport Transfer- $4
Mango Rain Hotel- $24 x 2 nights- $48
Lunch at hotel- $8
Floating Village Tour – $25
Ankor Wat Circuit fee- $37
Tuk Tuk for the day- $10
Lunch- $6
Airport Transfer – $4
Cambodia total: $134

 

Vietnam- 9 days

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Hoi An

Visa on arrival – $25
Shuttle from Da Nang to Hoi An- $4
Sunflower Hostel- $8
All you can drink at hostel – $4.50
Dinner- $4.50
Custom shoes – $45 (and 5 free beers)
Pop-up book (souvenir)- $4.50
Lunch- $6
Vacation hat- $4.50
Taxi- $1.50
Half-Day Bike Tour – – $27
     -included drinks and meal
Dinner- $6
Hoi An Total: $140.5

 

Dong Hoi

Taxi from Train Station to Buffalo Hostel- $1
Breakfast- $4
All day Paradise and Dark Cave Tour- $160
     -Included transportation, food, drinks, zip lining, kayaking, etc
Dinner- $3
Taxi from Hostel to Train station- $1
Bottled Waters- $3
Dong Hoi Total: $171

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Sapa

Taxi- Hanoi train station to bus station- $1
Ticket into Sapa Village- $4
3 day 2 night Homestay Trek – $60
     -Included all meals, guide, lodging, rice wine
Bottle of Vodka and ice cream- $11
Cookies and 7 up- $3.5
Souvenirs bought from our guides- $18
Dinner/drinks – $4
Taxi- Sapa to Lo Cio Train Station- $3
Sapa Total: $104.5

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Halong Bay:

Halong Bay 2 day 1 night boat cruise- $60
     -included transportation from Hanoi to Halong Bay, meals, lodging, tour
Taxi- Train Station to hostel- $1
Drinks on cruise- $43
Halong Bay total: $104

 

Hanoi

Nexy Hostel- $11
Hand carved chess set- $20
Landry- $2.25
Dinner- $12
Wine and cigars – $21
Drinks- $8
Taxi to airport- $4.5
Hanoi Total: $78.75

Vietnam Total: $494.25

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Bali- 7 Days

Villa -Airbnb – paid before arrival – $330 (each)
Taxi from airport to villa- $4
Cocktail- $8
Taxi to Sky Bar- $5
Scooter Rental for 7 days- $22
Bali Adventure bike ride- $60
     -included tour, food, drink
Single Fin Beach Club- $29
Santai Surf School- $22
     -included 2 hour lesson, 1 hour board rental
Lunch at Shelter- $9
2 Nusa bowls- $15
Santai Surfing: board rental- $7
Monkey Forest- $3.50
Bananas at Monkey Forest- $3.50
White Water Rafting- $25
Bali Swing- $20
Fake Ray Bans – $3.50
Sunset Artwork- $40
Waterbom Bali Water Park- $75
6 sets of Elephant Pants/tank tops/Souvenirs- $20
Estimate of gas, motorbikes, food, drinks: $200
Bali Total- $571

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Southeast Asia Grand Trip Total: $4283.11

Before I left people would ask how much I expected the trip to cost and I was estimating around $4,000.  Yes, that’s quite a bit of money, but to me, it doesn’t even compare to what I got out of it.  If you decide you want to go somewhere and plan properly you can make it happen.  Which is exactly why I started saving in November of 2015 for this trip. Month long trips across the world don’t happen over night. By saving around $200 a month over the last year and a half I was able to take the trip of a lifetime with my best friends.

Everyone will look at the $4283.11 price tag differently.  Some will think “oh that’s it” while others can’t imagine spending that much money without getting something tangible back.  For those in the latter group, please don’t think that you have to spend thousands of dollars to travel.  I’ve taken trips where not spending money was half my focus; this wasn’t one of them.  While I was conscious of how much I was spending, it wasn’t my goal to pinch pennies.  For me, going out to a nice restaurant with my friends mattered more than saving $10 by eating street food.  That was a choice I made and you can make for yourself when the time comes.

Like anything else in life traveling comes at a cost. Unless you have a trust fund you have to make a choice and for every choice we make we give sacrifice something else.  That’s unavoidable.  The trick is figuring out what you want most and not getting distracted.

Stay focused.  Regardless of what it is, you can’t lose focus on your goal.  On what you’re dream is. Was sticking to my budget easy? Hell no.  Were there times when I wanted to go out and eat or have a few drinks with my friends?  More than I can count.  But I didn’t (well sometimes I did, but a guy can’t always be a shut in).  I knew over the course of the last year and a half that my trip to Asia was going to be worth it.  I made a decision that spending money in bars and restaurants in Kansas City wasn’t worth it to me.  If you really want to travel you have to be willing to make sacrifices, to go without the newest and latest gadget or accessory.  You have to budget and stick with it.  With enough dedication anything is doable.  And here’s a little secret, it’ll be the best thing you ever do.

Stay Gold.

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