While there is at least a little bit of wanderlust in all of, travel can be an expensive taste. So how to make the most out of your destinations and most importantly, how to travel more? Let’s start by picking out budget destinations! There are 2 major parts of your travel expenses-
- Cost of traveling to a destination (flights, visa, insurance)
- Cost of traveling across the destination (internal transport, accommodation, food & sightseeing)
In this post, we’re going to list you with the latter.
Also read: 14 Ways To Score Cheap Flights
Best Budget Destinations In Asia
*All recommendations are basis internal travel costs. Flight costs may differ depending on the starting point
Recommended by Claudia
Cambodia is an extremely budget-friendly destination, where you can travel on an average of $20 USD per day at most. By “average” I refer to the fact that while in some places you may be spending a bit more than $20 per day due to a large number of activities, in others you may be able to survive on just $10 per day.
The most expensive destination is Siem Reap, due to its vicinity to the beautiful site of Angkor Wat. Places like Battambang, on the other hand, are a bit more off the grid and as such significantly cheaper.
The average price for a bed in a dorm is $5, but you can get places that are as cheap as $3. A full meal at a local restaurant, i.e. at the market, will cost you no more than $5, whereas if you opt for street food proper you can get by with no more than $2. A pint of local beer costs around $0.80, whereas imported beer is a bit more expensive.
Tours may blow your budget, but if you manage to put together a small group to rent a tuk-tuk, prices won’t nearly be as high.
The most expensive site to visit is Angkor Wat, where a 3 days pass costs $62 (a one-day pass costs $37). It honestly is a reasonable price considering the vastity of the site. To that, you’ll have to add the transportation fees, around $25 for a tuk-tuk to take you around all day, which you can easily share with 2 or 3 more persons.
Daily Budget: $20
Cost Saving Tips: Share the costs of transportation and guides. If riding the Bamboo Train right outside Battambang, wait for other tourists so that you can share the cost of a small wagon.
Palawan, The Philippines
Recommended by Chantell
The Philippines is an archipelago of over 7000 islands that offer experiences for even level of traveler. As budget travelers, my boyfriend and I decided to travel to the island of Palawan, specifically picking out the lesser-known Port Barton as our destination. As our flight from Manila landed in Puerto Princesa, we also decided to enjoy a few days in the little city.
Overall, our travel costs were 812 PHP each per day (approximately $15 USD excluding the arrival flights). Accommodation in Puerto Princesa started at around 450 PHP ($8.60 USD) per night for a private room with a fan and shared a bathroom, compared to 600 PHP ($11.50 USD) per night in Port Barton. Eating at a cantina or local street food starts at around 35 PHO ($0.67 USD) per dish in Puerto Princesa. Street food is harder to find in Port Barton with restaurant meals from around 130 PHP ($2.49 USD). Don’t miss the 49 PHP margaritas in Port Barton – I guarantee it will be the best $1 cocktail you’ll ever have!
Daily Budget: $15
Cost Saving Tips: Look for hotels and guest houses that free water refills and hot water to make coffee (bonus if you can find cheap accommodation that includes breakfast!).
Puerto Princessa and Port Barton are easy to walk around. If you need a scooter in Puerto Princessa, ask your hotel (we paid 600 PHP per day).
Book your accommodation once you arrive at Port Barton (not online) so you can negotiate a better deal.
The boat trips in Port Barton all have the same price, so don’t both trying to negotiate – however at just 720 PHP per person (around $13.80), they are the cheapest you’ll find on Palawan.
Recommended by Marco
Penang in northwestern Malaysia is a perfect budget travel destination. This tropical island is definitely a place to consider for a very rewarding budget holiday: in Penang, you can certainly live well for $15 a day if you are happy with a clean dorm bed in a hostel, catching the bus around the island, and eating at street stalls and simple restaurants. Increasing your daily budget to $50, you’ll have a nice room in a heritage boutique hotel, and some delicious food.
Penang is not only perfect for backpackers, who can find hostels between $5/10 per night, and a smorgasbord of delicious street food for about a dollar a plate. The island is also great for those who want more comfort and atmosphere without breaking the bank: Penang has in fact at least 20 great heritage boutique hotels in George Town starting at $35 per night.
Daily Budget: $15
Cost Saving Tips: Walking in George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and admiring its decadent pre-war shophouses and walls covered with some of Southeast Asia’s best street art is absolutely free of charge. And free are also some other important destinations such as Kek Lok Si temple, Southeast Asia’s biggest Buddhist shrine, which is easily reachable from tourist enclave Chulia Street by riding the Rapid Penang Bus 202, 204 or 206. Penang’s National Park, with two beautiful jungle paths leading to two secluded beaches (Pantai Kerachut and Monkey Beach) is Malaysia’s smallest national park, and it’s also absolutely free of charge to visit.
If you have children, there are several theme parks and attractions like Escape (a set of ziplines and waterslides next to the rainforest) that cost only about $15 per day — still quite an affordable budget for a family with children in tow.
Recommended by Lora Pope
Sri Lanka is one of my favorite countries in the world that I’ve traveled, and thankfully also one that is budget-friendly!
I spent a month traveling through Sri Lanka and was spending about an average of $50 USD/day, and this was “flashpacking” i.e. staying in private rooms, moving quickly between destinations, and doing daily activities such as diving, surf lessons, and going on safari. If you were to stay in shared rooms, only take local transport, and cut down on the activities, the daily budget would be significantly less.
A good way to save money in Sri Lanka is through using local transport. The train connects many of the popular destinations in the country and only costs a couple of dollars for hours of transport. Plus, it’s a really fun and scenic way to get around. Local buses are also very cheap and run frequently.
Food is another area that is easy to save costs. If you eat at local restaurants, which serve delicious food, it will only cost you 2-3$ for a meal. Whereas eating out at restaurants that serve Western food will cost at least double that, if not more. A beer will cost you between 2-3$, and a big bottle of water less than $1.
It is even possible to do a safari on a budget in Sri Lanka. The price of the jeep is the same regardless of how many people are in it, so find others to join you to cut costs. I did a safari in Udawalawe national park with 5 others and it cost us $25 each for an incredible day of viewing elephants.
There are so many beautiful beaches to relax on in Sri Lanka for no cost that you could spend days in the country getting by on less than $20. Even with a few activities thrown in, Sri Lanka is definitely a budget-friendly place to visit.
Daily Budget: $50
India- North India
Recommended by Mariellen Ward
India is a vast country and varies tremendously from region to region and state to state. It also varies tremendously depending on whether you are in a big metro like Delhi, or a small town or rural area. If you are on a budget of $50 USD per day, you will want to limit your time in Delhi as finding decent accommodation under $30 can be difficult – although there is a lot to see and do in Delhi! However, food and transportation costs in Delhi can be very reasonable. A Delhi metro ride can be as low as $1, an Ola or Uber taxi can be $3-5, depending on distance, and if you eat at local joints you will pay $3-8 per meal.
Once you get out of Delhi, costs for just about everything, except taxis, go down. Taxis are generally more expensive outside of Delhi. Train travel is very reasonable in India, and there’s a huge network through most of North India – except when you get to the hills and mountains of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Ladakh. Once in the Himalayas, you have to take buses, shared taxis, or taxis.
Rajasthan in North India is one of the most tourist-friendly parts of the country, and well worth visiting. In Rajasthan, you can find everything from super cheap guest houses at $10 per night right up to the most lavish, luxury hotels in the country. There’s a lot of tourism infrastructure that makes it easy to get around, and lots of options for fun reasonably priced things to do like visiting historic forts. If you splash out, go on a camel safari in the desert. You can expect to pay about $25 per person.
Daily Budget: 50
Cost Saving Tips: Limit time in Delhi, eat at local joints, take trains and buses.
Pondicherry, South India
Recommended by Asher Fergusson
Puducherry (a.k.a Pondicherry), South India, is knowns as India’s south of France. If you’re looking for a beautiful destination without the cost of the Cote D’ Azure, then this is your place. Puducherry sits on the Bay of Bengal.
With a heavy French influence, the city abounds with colonial mansions, patisseries, and fabulous shopping. Enjoy walks, yoga, dance performances, dance parties on the Promenade. Get a blessing from a temple elephant or sit and contemplate at the Aurobindo Ashram. Explore the fish, spice, and flower markets. Have lunch at Suguru; their lunch thalis are the best in town and a steal at $5 for all you can eat. Afterward, stroll over to PY Café for a cold coffee with ice-cream ($3) it’s the best coffee you’ll ever have. If you are looking for nightlife, at PY Café, ladies drink and dance for free every Friday night on the rooftop terrace not to mention the Instagram worthy interior.
Stay at one of the many hostels for under $7 a night (and if you ask around town you should be able to find a room for under $3 a night). Rent a bicycle or motorbike ($5 per day) and head to Red Earth Riding School for a horse-riding lesson ($10). Get a spa treatment at Quiet Healing Center, a sublime retreat on the ocean (2-hour massage $40). Enjoy a beer and pizza ($7) on one of the northern beaches or a surfing lesson at the Kallialay Surf School ($10).
Whether you just want to wander the streets of this easily navigable city or have a unique adventure, Puducherry has something for everyone at the right price. Daily Budget $25 to $50: Hostel $7, Food and Beverages $10, Activites $0-$40
Daily Budget: $25
Cost Saving Tips: Ask around for a room rather than going to an advertised hostel or hotel. You should be able to find basic accommodation for under $3 per night.
Recommended by Angela
There are many reasons to visit Iran, but one of the top ones right now is because it’s truly a budget travel destination. Mainly due to the economic sanctions, the Iranian currency is facing a drastic low and in Iran is being exchanged in a ratio of 130,000 Rials for 1 USD. In Iran they use Tomans, so it will be 13,000 Tomans for 1 USD or 15,000 Tomans for 1 Euro.
With these exchange rates, for tourists, all the prices will be cheaper. Entrance to the main highlights such as Persepolis, Pasargadae, Naqsh-e Rostam, Golestan Palace in Tehran, Isfahan’s Imam Mosque and Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, or Nasir al Molk Mosque in Shiraz is now usually 200,000 Rials (20,000 Tomans), which is roughly 1.30 Euro or 1.50 USD for each attraction.
Food-wise, with 10 euro, some 11 USD, two people can have a meal in an average restaurant of kebab and traditional Iranian dishes. Fast foods selling sandwiches and falafel much less. Lesser-touristy areas will always cost less, whether it’s for restaurants, shopping or hotels.
For hotels, Tehran is usually more expensive than the other cities. Even though, also in Tehran, you can find a double bedroom in a 5-star hotel for less than 100 euro per night. Three and four-star hotels in Tehran cost anywhere between 60 to 90 euro per night for a double room.
In Isfahan, double rooms in nice traditional or 3-star hotels can go from 60 to 35 euro per night, while in Shiraz a 4-star accommodation like the fantastic Elysee Hotel is less than 30 euro per night for a double room.
Obviously, booking a 2 or 3-star hotel will be much cheaper, with some 22 USD per night in Tehran, 15/20 USD in Isfahan, or 15 to 30 USD in Shiraz.
As a general tip, I suggest avoiding going to Iran for Nowruz (the Persian New Year) when most Iranians are on holiday traveling around Iran, as everything is more expensive, including hotels and restaurants. Right after Nowruz, too, so April and May, prices will be higher because it’s Iran’s highest tourist season.
Daily Budget: $60
Cost Saving Tips: Use public transport inside the cities, travel by bus (even VIP bus) from a city to another, and avoid Nowruz and Spring as they are the most expensive seasons.
Recommended by Chris Backe
My wife and I are digital nomads, so understand our costs will vary a bit from the average tourist. Also, Eastern Europe has plenty of cheap countries to go around, but since I’m in Georgia as I write this, I’ll write about Georgia.
We pay about $350 US for a two-bedroom Airbnb, which is about 600 meters from the Station Square subway (the connecting point between lines 1 and 2). Bus and subway rides are a measly 50 tetri, or 1/2 a Georgian lari (about $0.18 US). An unpretentious traditional meal at Machakhela (probably the country’s best Georgian chain restaurant) is around 15-20 lari (around $7).
Plenty of wines are made locally and can cost anywhere from 10-30 lari for a classy-looking / tasting wine ($3.71-$11.13). The board game cafe I visit serves a local draft beer (0.4L) for 3 lari ($1.11) and bottles for a bit more. Other classier bars can get more expensive if you’re getting into mixed drinks or imported liquors, but that’s to be expected.
As tourist destinations go, what isn’t free is cheap. The grand National Museum has three floors of exhibits for 7 lari ($2.60 US). There’s a great car museum where the admission is 10 lari ($3.70 US)
We haven’t traveled much around the rest of the country, but we’re seeing full-day trips/tours for anywhere from 60-100 lari ($22-37 USD) by the touts in the old town. I’d personally avoid these and go with a service that’s received some reviews and/or one that doesn’t need to spam people in the streets… but that’s just me.
Daily Budget: $40
Cost Saving Tips: Ride the buses, instead of the overly-touted double-decker tourist buses. Drink local alcohol instead of imported stuff.
Recommended by Ashlea
Armenia is an off-the-beaten-track budget destination that really has it all! A surprisingly modern capital city (Yerevan), beautiful natural mountain landscapes, amazing monasteries in the most picturesque locations, and food, wine and accommodation for a fraction of the price of Western European countries. We spent two weeks in Armenia and would recommend it to everyone.
An easy, fast-food meal will cost about $2-5 (USD), while a hearty meal at a local tavern or restaurant will cost about $20 for two, including a carafe of wine.
Armenia considers itself to be the birthplace of wine, and though this claim might be a bit historically questionable you can find some absolutely fantastic local varieties. We highly recommend anything from the Areni region, with a decent bottle from the supermarket selling for between $2 – $10 (double that for restaurants – except for the local ‘house’ wine- which is usually $3 – 5 for 1L).
There are a wide range of accommodation options available; but for the budget conscious traveler, there are quality hostels in Yerevan and other major cities for $6 per person per night while in smaller towns homestays or guesthouses cost $15 – 30. Staying in one of these small village guesthouses is a truly authentic experience, and what the hosts may lack in English skills they more than makeup for in sheer kindness and hospitality.
Organized tour activities outside Yerevan can be expensive (from $30pp), so instead plan to catch the local minibus (Marshrutka) for $2-10 and walk/taxi to your destinations, or organize a group and hire a driver (from $50/day) to get around. However, the best, and most adventurous, option is to rent a car (approx. $20/day) and drive yourself around this amazing picturesque country. Just beware the many potholes and hidden speed bumps!
Check out our guide to renting a car in Armenia for all the details.
Daily Budget: $40
Cost Saving Tips: Armenia has amazing local wines, order a 1L carafe of the local wine with your meal for around $3!
Use the Yandex taxi app in Yerevan, a ride should only cost $1-2 within the city.
Recommended by Katrin Walzl
Istanbul is one of the most riveting cities in the world to experience. As the Turkish Lira is (sadly) still tumbling, now is the opportune time to visit. To make the most out of your budget, I recommend staying in AirBnBs. Over the course of 7 weeks, I paid an average of 15 USD per night for a private room. You’ll find the most budget-friendly accommodations in Moda, a neighborhood on the Anatolian-side of Istanbul. Other great neighborhoods to stay in are Beyoglu, Çihangir, and Nisantasi.
Another way to save money is by eating in Lokantas. These are cafeteria-style restaurants that serve delicious Turkish cuisine at unbeatable prices. My favorites are Elde Börek in Beşiktaş and Midyat Eu Yemekleri in Galata. A meal will cost you no more than 30 TL (5 USD).
Getting around Istanbul is extremely budget-friendly if you commit to using public transit. Definitely get an Istanbulkart transit card (7 TL). This will save you 2 TL on every ride you take. You can use the Istanbulkart on all modes of transit: subway, trams, buses, and ferries. All in all, you can definitely live in Istanbul on a daily budget of 40 USD.
Daily Budget: $40
So what do you think? Which destination are you considering for your next trip? Have we missed out on any exciting budget travel destinations in Asia? Let us know in the comments below.