Traveling South East Asia on a Tight Budget

Who says that travel has to be expensive? Cost can be a big deterrent that stops people from taking the leap and booking their dream holiday. However, it is possible to travel on a tight budget, especially in South East Asia. Whether you are exploring Thailand or trekking across Vietnam, this area is known for being home to great bargains when it comes to travel.

Following a few general guidelines can greatly reduce the amount you pay as you move around and sight-see across the region. Here are just some of the ways you can cut down costs when you are abroad.

Low-Cost Accommodation

Hostel Dorm

Accommodation is usually one of the main costs to consider when traveling. It is a necessity to have some where to rest your head after a day of exploring. Having a roof over your head also protects you from the harsh weather and monsoon-like rains that are common in the region.

Thankfully, there are many budget options available for the price-conscience traveler. Most notably, hostels offer the best prices. Hostels offer lower prices at the cost of reduced privacy. You will likely need to stay in a room with many people, having just your bunk as your personal space. You don’t get your own personal toilets and showers. Towels usually come at a cost so make sure to bring your own.

What is lost in privacy, however, is gained in the opportunity to meet like-minded travellers and make new friends from around the world. Solo travellers can benefit the most from this atmosphere, finding friends to go around with. 

Another thing to look out for is accommodation that offer free breakfast. This is great for people who are not morning people and are not up for searching for food early in the day. For everyone else, it is a great way to fuel up before making your way out. Overall, it does help save some of the costs.

While not particularly glamorous, hostels are a great way to save money on accommodation as you travel.

Transport on the Cheap

Like with accommodation, transport will make up a significant proportion of your budget when out and about in South East Asia. There are a few decisions you can make to reduce your transport bills.

Bus Seats


Planes should generally only be considered as a last resort. While flying is often the fastest option, you should consider the time it takes to travel to and from the airport and the time you will spend waiting after check in. This is before you consider the costs of the plane ticket and getting to the airport. If your travel a long distance and want to avoid paying for extra visas, then it is worth thinking about flying.


While trains are a common and convenient choice for many countries around the world, the train networks in South East Asia are mostly under-developed and therefore slow and difficult. Thailand and Malaysia have the best train networks so it can be worth having a look if you are there. 

The cost can also be low. You can choose the class you are most comfortable with. Make sure to research what the conditions are like before you decide to travel third class though. While it can be a great way to mingle with locals, the seats are usually not comfortable and don’t expect air conditioning.


For the most part, buses and minivans are the most cost effective choices. While it can get uncomfortable to sit for long distances, you can save a lot of money. They often make frequent stops for toilet breaks and so you can stretch your legs. For longer journeys they usually stop for a meal too though these can be pricey. Make sure to bring some water and snacks with you.

Unfortunately, these options are generally slower mostly due to traffic. Depending on the time of day, leaving and arriving in major cities can take a long time with commuters trying to get home. Avoiding these times and busier days like Friday can help reduce travel time.

Other Considerations

There are a couple other things to note about transport that can help save some cash. Overnight travel can be great for saving on the cost of accommodation for one night. It may not be particularly comfortable but there are ‘sleeper’ options available on some trains and even buses. 

You should research the location of train stations and bus stations as they can sometimes be located far from the town center. This leaves you at the mercy of the often costly tuk-tuks or taxis.

Budget-Friendly Food

Street Food in Vietnam

South East Asia is home to some of the best cuisines in the world. While you are there, you should try to enjoy it as much as possible. If you are really looking to save on food costs for the sake of your budget, just keep some things in mind.

The main way to keep down costs with food is to eat only local options. Western food can be very expensive compared to the local Vietnamese cuisine when in Vietnam, for example. This is true across the region. This shouldn’t be an issue as there is so much variety available that you can try something new almost everyday anyway.

Street food can be very cost effective and just as tasty as restaurants. Of course, you often won’t have the luxury of a seat and table and likely can’t enjoy the air conditioning or fans you would get inside. There is some concern about the quality and safety of street food so use your common sense and check whether meat is stored properly etc. or you will otherwise soon regret it.

Moving away from ’touristy’ areas, you will see prices generally drop while quality often goes up. These are places that locals visit and so you know the food is genuine. Language can sometimes be an issue in these areas so make sure to brush up on your skills using the Ling app, whether you are in Thailand, Vietnam, or Cambodia.

Enjoying Your Time Abroad

Relax at the Beach

The main goal of traveling is to enjoy yourself and experience everything the country has to offer. There is so much variety and so many different things to see in South East Asia, which is why it is a top choice for travellers worldwide. 

While it can be good to save money, make sure that it doesn’t get in the way of your enjoyment. Just making a few key choices can eventually add up while the quality of your experiences remain the same. And, remember to learn some basic conversational sentences when you travel to South East Asia because not many local people can speak English. It will be convenient to have an application in your phone that helps you learn those languages everywhere and everytime. Today, we suggest Ling App for your journey in South East Asia. Have fun around this beautiful part of the world! 


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