It’s no surprise why South East Asia has long been dubbed as a backpacker paradise. It has an endless list of white sand beaches with sapphire waters, lush jungles and high mountain ranges ideal for an off-the-beaten-path adventure. But aside from these lures, South East Asia is a popular destination for budget savvy travelers. So if you’re a first time solo traveler who wants to stretch your shoestring budget, these South East Asia destinations are a perfect route for you:
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Currency: Vietnamese Dong (VND)
Value: 1.00 USD = 22,450.00 VND
Accommodation: Hostel rooms as low as 10.00 USD
Top Attractions: Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, Cu Chi Tunnels, Mekong Delta
Tour packages are also offered to lone joiners but to make the most of your visit to Ho Chi Minh, it is best to rent a scooter or bike and discover the city’s hidden gems on your own. If you’re up for a walking tour, you will be glad to know that the major attractions in Ho Chi Minh are either in the same block or strung across. Hawker stalls are spread out in the city, as well as hip cafes, bars and retail shops for cheap delights. Prices for food and drinks are low. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs an average of $1.79 while a local beer is as cheap as 85 cents. Drip coffee which is a must-try in Vietnam, costs less than a dollar. And when in Ho Chi Minh, look for night markets instead of high-end malls. The biggest of these markets is Binh Tay market, a bustling wholesale and retail complex.
Currency: Burmese Kyat (MMK)
Value: 1.00 USD = 1,174.00 MMK
Accommodation: Hostel rooms as low as 8.00 USD
Top Attractions: Shwedagon Pagoda, Sule Pagoda, Bagan, Inle Lake, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, Yangon Payas
Taxis are cheap (about $2-3) despite not using a meter. Many drivers, though, would still negotiate with passengers, it all depends on your haggling skills. While the main pagodas are within the city, Bagan is 8 hours away from Yangon – either take the night bus or train from the city. To get around Bagan, the cheapest way is by renting a horse cart with a driver for around 10,000-15,000 kyats (full day) or an e-bike/e-scooter for 3,000-6,000 kyats (full day). An inexpensive meal on the average costs $2.25 while a 1.5-liter bottled water is priced at less than a dollar. Tap water is still not safe to drink so there’s a growing demand for bottled water in Myanmar. When you order bottled water at a restaurant, you will be served spontaneously with a 1.5-liter bottle.
Currency: Philippine Peso (PHP)
Value: 1.00 USD = 46.6850 PHP
Accommodation: Hostel rooms as low as 6.00 USD
Top Attractions: Rizal Park, Fort Santiago, Manila Bay, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, Chinatown, San Agustin Church
The grueling traffic in Manila has long been a problem that taxis are not the best way to go around the city. It is best to consider the proximity of your hostel to where the hustle and bustle happens. For a hostel list you may go to this link: http://www.hostelworld.com/findabed.php/ChosenCity.Manila/ChosenCountry.Philippines?s_kwcid=AL!591!3!106756211540!b!!g!!+hostels%20+in%20+manila&source=adwordsenglobaldest&network=g&creative=106756211540&adposition=1t1&uniqueclickID=11490543284166854138&sub_keyword=%20hostels%20%20in%20%20manila&sub_ad=b&sub_publisher=ADW&ef_id=VvYY-QAABMsq7-6r:20160717105109:s
The world famous destinations Boracay, Palawan and Cebu are less than an hour away from the capital and can be reached via domestic flights. So if you’re a first time visitor in Manila, it is best to plan your itinerary well and spend just a couple of days in the city. There’s a lot to see in the Philippines but they’re spread out so plan and book in advance. An inexpensive but decent meal costs no less than $2. Local beer costs a dollar per bottle. For cheap but cool finds, Divisoria Market must be in your itinerary (haggling is allowed).
Currency: Thai Baht (THB)
Value: 1.00 USD = 34.9500 THB
Accommodation: Hostel rooms as low as 12.95 USD
Top Attractions: Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, National Museum & Wang Na Palace, Chatuchak Market, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Khao San Road
Like Manila, Bangkok is a city where you can spend a day or two for sightseeing before you head off to the islands. But if you want to do some serious retail shopping and experience its vibrant night life, you might need to spend another day in the city. Bangkok is one big hub of both cheap finds and posh high-end brands that many merchants bring suitcases instead of tote bags when shopping. A meal at its cheapest costs no more than $2, the same as a bottle of local beer. The average cost of Thai massage in Bangkok is 300 Baht or around $8.58.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Currency: Cambodian Riel (KHR)
Value: 1.00 USD = 4071.20 KHR
Accommodation: Hostel rooms as low as 6.85 USD
Top Attractions: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple, Ta Phrom, Cambodia Landmine Museum, Tonle Sap Floating Village
The best way to get around town in Cambodia is by tuk tuk, a motorized two-wheeled carriage. Rates don’t go below $1. Negotiate with the driver before getting the ride but don’t go too low. A one-day visit to all the main temples is impossible, considering their proximity to one another and road conditions. Temple passes are sold in one-day ($20), three-day ($40) and seven-day ($60) slabs and must be used on consecutive days. A neat meal costs no less than $2. USD is preferred more in transactions in Cambodia than Riel. When going around the temples, expect to be swarmed by children relentlessly offering beaded bracelets and other souvenirs, usually for a dollar each.
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
Value: 1.00 USD = 13,118.50 IDR
Accommodation: Hostel rooms as low as 12.42 USD
Top Attractions: Ubud Monkey Forest, Seminyak, Sanur, Tanah Lot Temple, Uluwatu Temple, Ubud Rice Terraces, Mount Batur and Caldera Lake
The quiet and laid back settings of this small island is endearing to travelers especially those from cities that never sleep. Scooter rentals are on every corner but you can also go around on foot. Taxis also abound in Bali but make sure to check online for a reliable taxi service first if you need an airport pick-up. When hiring a taxi to go around town, make sure the meter is down and set to 6,500 IDR. A nice meal will cost you lower than $2, a beer no more than a dollar. If yoga retreat is in your bucket list, workshops don’t come cheap and must be booked ahead: http://www.balispirit.com/yoga/yoga_retreats_workshops.html. A 4-day yoga escape starts at $357.
Homestays have also become popular around Bali. It’s one way to delve deeper into the Balinese culture by participating in the activities of the local village people. Here is the link of one of Bali’s homestay programs: http://www.bali-homestay.com/
*Exchange rates last updated July 17, 2016