Travel on the Cheap in SE Asia
One of the fantastic things about South East Asia is its cheap factor. Burma holidays and holidays in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand can be many times cheaper than a trip to European hotspots like Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam….can you say $14 beer? And in many ways, SE Asia is becoming a burgeoning traveler paradise. For example, Bangkok, despite it’s dubious reputation is a pretty good mix of western coziness and eastern charm. Shopping malls are plentiful and gorgeous and medical care is surprisingly advanced, sex reassignment surgery being a huge draw. Besides Bangkok, all the countries of SE Asia have a unique, quaint feel. Thailand is very chill (and sexually liberating), Vietnam is hectic, Laos is slow, and Cambodia is a mix of them all.
There are several ways to plan a budget to South East Asia. First, you need a flight. Do your homework. Bangkok is your most likely destination city while I have seen good deals to Saigon too. Check regional carriers like Air Asia, Thai Airways, and even Vietnam Airlines for some quick, cheap flights around the region. What is a $1600 flight from home turns into a $900 flight with some creative thinking. Being flexible on dates and times is key too. I have flown on Christmas and taken off at 2:40 am to shave $400 off a flight (Doha- Bangkok, Qatar airlines)
So, where to go? Well, if you want a beach, then Thailand and Phuket is obvious and still can be had for $15 a day if you are willing to give up all your Western creature comforts, mainly bathroom privacy. If you want shopping, try Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. If adventure is your thing, Laos is becoming quite the eco tourism country. If you want to be out of your comfort zone and eat well, Vietnam is always tops on my list. It can be quite unnerving, like crossing the street but there is just something about being there especially Hanoi and Hoi An. Hoi An is famous for its mish-mash of French colonial, Japanese and Vietnamese architecture and is prized for it’s tailors who can knock off any designer or create any outfit you desire within 2 days all for 70% off what you pay at home. Plus it costs next to nothing to stay here, I am talking less than $25 a night.
So, your frugal ways got you to SE Asia so don’t bargain yourself out of the wonderful things to do in SE Asia. Rent a motorbike for $6 a day in Cambodia. Eat at a dust café in Hanoi for $1. Throw down $25 for a tailored silk Vietnamese style blouse in Hoi An. Spend $15 on the back of an elephant in Thailand or pay nothing to watch the monks make their morning alms in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Do you have any tips for cheap SE travel?