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Monday, September 02, 2013

Travel Costs: South East Asia Backpacking

A lot of you must be curious to know how much I spent in the last nine months while I traversed 12 countries across South East Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines) and a bit of East Asia (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau).

Below is an approximate daily cost (in US Dollars and Indian National Rupee @INR 58 to 1 USD) for each country that I visited. This should help you give you a ballpark for your future travel expenses to any of these 12 countries. It includes:

1) Stay in a budget hostel or sharing a budget room with another traveler
2) 3 vegetarian meals either on the street or in a budget restaurant per day
3) 1 or 2 snacks from the street or from the super market (like yoghurt, fruits or biscuits) per day
4) Small commute inside the city using public transport or self drive rentals (I walk quite a bit)
5) Entrance fee for one tourist attraction per day
6) Occasional drinking. I don’t drink beer
7) Inter-city travel via trains, buses, ferries and planes
8) Bottled water wherever safe drinking water is not available
9) Lots of Souvenir Shopping (Fridge Magnets, Wood Work and the usual stuff)

Per Day Costs
South East Asia
Thailand: $23 (INR 1344)
Cambodia: $21.5 (INR 1247)
Vietnam: $19.5 (INR 1131)
Laos: $19 (INR 1102)
Myanmar/Burma: $38 (INR 2204)
Malaysia: $32 (INR 1856)
Singapore: $48.5 (INR 2813)
Indonesia: $28 (INR 1624)
Philippines: $19 (INR 1102)

East Asia
Hong Kong: $48.5 (INR 3103)
Macau: $43 (INR 3132)
Taiwan: $38 (INR 2668)

Note. There can be cost variances due to the following:
1) The above costs can be higher for larger cities and lesser for small towns. This is an average across the country.
2) I spent a bit more in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as I wanted to treat myself.
3) I spent 2 weeks in Malaysia with family and hence the cost went up marginally.
4) I did some big shopping in Malaysia as it was my last country
5) I took some expensive flights to reach the northern stretches of Myanmar
6) I had to pay for medical expenses in Singapore
7) I stayed with friends for brief durations, especially in Vietnam and Indonesia.

In total, I roughly spent about INR 4.25 Lakhs or ~USD 7,400 over the nine months. Mine was not truly low cost backpacking and I indulged in luxury from time to time. Below points briefly describe the way I traveled.

Accommodation
If the temperature went above 33 degree Celsius or more than 80% humidity, I ended up taking an air-conditioned dormitory or an air-conditioned room.

Land Travel I am 6 foot 3 inches tall. Hence, when it came to land travel, I always opted for more leg room and this were available in the most expensive buses and trains.

Air Travel
I took the cheapest flights available and never paid for anything extra except for 1 check-in baggage.

Food
I never once sacrificed food. I am a big guy who needs a lot of food and drinks and that’s exactly what I gave myself. I am a vegetarian so sometimes I ended up paying more to get good vegetarian food.

Paid Activities
I did avoid some unnecessary activities, but never bothered about entry fees or charges to go somewhere or do something. Since I was already there, I never shrugged from participating in a activity that would otherwise be deemed expensive.

Intra City Travel
I always took public transport and only in rare instances did I take a taxi all alone.

Shopping
I did a fair bit of souvenir shopping, but I bargained real hard.

Phone Connectivity
Except  for Vietnam and Indonesia, I didn’t get myself a local phone connection.

Packaged Tours
I think I took a total of 3-4 tours in the entire 9 months. I tried avoiding tours as much as possible and did everything my own way.

Internet
I always leveraged free internet available in hostels/hotels, restaurants, airports and other tourist areas.



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