We spent the last two months backpacking around Thailand and Cambodia so it’s time to sum up and share our travel budget again. The previous budget post where we summarized our four months travel costs quickly became the most read article on our blog. As this topic seems to interest many people, we decided to continue sharing our travel budget. In this article we sum up our daily budget in Thailand and Cambodia and the overall costs for six months in Asia. Like in the previous post, all costs in the tables are for one person.
After the internet cafe adventures in Japan and volunteering in South Korea, we have pretty much lived a basic backpacker life. In Thailand and Cambodia we slept in guesthouses and bungalows. We didn’t do any couchsurfing because it wasn’t easy to find hosts in touristic islands and cities. On the other hand, the accommodation was also relatively cheap everywhere. In Thailand, we mainly moved around by train and in Cambodia by bus. Anyhow, we also hitchhiked several hundred kilometers in both countries.
Two months of holiday-kind-of traveling and lazing on the beaches has been really good for us. Anyhow, we were already waiting to get back to Vietnam and plan some new projects. We just started in a new volunteering place in Ho Chi Minh City and our first days have been awesome! We are planning to stay in this city at least one month and plan our further travels in Vietnam. It feels good to stay in one place because we have been continuously moving from place to place.
The goal of our trip has become to keep the daily budget under 20 dollars including flights and everything. We managed to reach this goal also in Thailand and Cambodia. Compared to Japan and South Korea, it was much easier to stick to this budget in Southeast Asia without skimping on things too much. We did many kinds of activities in both countries, ate well and had a few beers from time to time. In other words, we have been living quite nicely.
We were quite precise about the accommodation prices but we saved a lot by doing some research beforehand and spending time to compare the prices in each destination.
Travel budget in Thailand
We started our Thailand trip by flying to Bangkok with a super cheap Vietjet Air flight. The price included only 7 KG hand luggage. Anyhow, after using this company three times now, we can say that the staff doesn’t care of a few extra kilos. Our backpacks weighted 8 to 9 KG every time but the check-in staff didn’t say anything. We only have good experiences of Vietjet Air. It’s worth checking out their flights when traveling in Asia!
From Bangkok we took a train to the south and all the way to Chumphon. From there we took a ferry to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. A big part of the transport costs went to ferries as traveling by train in Thailand doesn’t cost almost anything (check also our Thailand train guide). From Koh Phangan we returned to the mainland and hitchhiked from Surat Thani to Prachuap Khiri Khan. Eventually we took a train via Hua Hin to Bangkok and then to the Cambodian border.
Half of our monthly budget went to food and drinks. Thai food is incredibly tasty and cheap and we fell in love especially with Thai curries. Normally we paid $0,75-1,50 each for one meal. 2 dollars was a maximum price for the food for us. We skipped all the western food because it costs like three times more and is tasteless compared to local food.
Thai food is quite tasty and balanced (mostly rice, vegetables and meat or tofu). So when you eat local food twice or three times a day and have some fruit for a snack, it’s hard to gain weight. We normally bought breakfast and snacks from 7 Eleven.
Alcohol is surprisingly expensive in Thailand. It felt stupid to pay almost 2 dollars for one beer when a whole meal cost half less. From time to time we did enjoy a couple of cold beers but overall, we didn’t party almost at all.
We spent about one week in hostel dorms and the rest of the time in private rooms or bungalows. Additionally we spent two nights at Jarkko’s friend’s place. On average, we paid $4 each for the accommodation so we managed to lodge on a quite low price. We never booked anything in advance but just walked directly to places and asked about the prices. This might not work that well in the busiest high season but in March we didn’t have any problem to find a place to stay. On Koh Phangan we found a hostel where we got to stay 5 nights for the price of 3 nights. Thanks to that, the price for one night was only about 2 dollars.
Overall, we are quite pleased with the daily budget of $15 in Thailand. Especially that with this money we could live without counting every penny and spend time on islands. We skipped the west coast of Thailand this time but at least we have places to return to later on.
Travel budget in Cambodia
Our first impression of Cambodia was that everything is surprisingly expensive compared to Thailand. Especially considering that Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in SE Asia. Maybe US dollars have an influence on this, who knows. In Cambodia, the main currency is US dollar but instead of cents and for small purchases, Cambodian riel is used. We got quickly used to playing with two currencies but you should always check the change very carefully.
We started our trip to Cambodia at the Thai border (read our guide about crossing the border to Cambodia) and traveled to Siem Reap and Kratie. In Kratie we managed live on only 5 dollars each per day because we found cheap street food and a hotel room for $4. We decided to continue in the same way so instead of taking a bus we hitchhiked from Kratie to Phnom Penh.
It turned out to be very easy because only after two minutes waiting we got picked up by a wealthy Vietnamese company manager. We traveled all the way to the center of Phnom Penh in his air-conditioned car. He even offered us a free lunch. From Phnom Penh we continued to Sihanoukville and took a boat to Koh Rong. After that, our journey continued to Kampot by minibus. From there we hitchhiked to Kep and all the way to the Vietnamese border.
The prices in Cambodian supermarkets were higher than in Thailand and even a bottle of water cost 50 cents. That’s quite a lot in the long run. When we were in Cambodia, it was the hottest time of the year so we drank a lot of water.
In Cambodia it’s hard to find food for under $3 in the touristic restaurants but luckily we quickly found good street food places and stalls where the locals eat. During the first two weeks, we never paid more than $2 for the food. But we met some travelers who told that they couldn’t find food for less than $2. Well, if you only stay in the tourist restaurants its is difficult indeed. We are going to write a post about Cambodian street food soon!
The most important thing to remember while traveling in Cambodia is that you can bargain basically all the prices apart from supermarkets.
In Sihanoukville and Koh Rong it was harder to find cheap options but even in these places you can eat for $2-3 if you skip pizzas and other expensive Western dishes. Overall, Cambodian food was not as superb as Thai food. Most of the time the food was ok but not that special.
The most important thing to remember while traveling in Cambodia is that you can bargain basically all the prices apart from supermarkets. It’s good to find out during the first days how much it is ok to pay for basic stuff. For example a coffee from a street stall should cost $0,50-0,75, a fruit shake $0,75-1 and a glass of sugar cane juice $0,25. Beer costs $0,50-1 both in shops and bars. Sometimes the vendors asked for a double price but it easily dropped to half just by asking politely if we can get a discount. This is of course easier when you buy two pieces of something. Don’t give up immediately if the vendor says no! You should continue bargaining persistently.
Bargaining concerns also the accommodation. We got a discount of a dollar or two almost every time except some cheap hostels. During one month, we only paid $3 each on average for one night. For this price, we got everything from a hostel dorm full of rats to a clean, private room with an own bathroom.
Eventually, we spend more or less the same amount of money as in Thailand if we don’t count the two biggest separate expenses which were visa ($30) and Angkor Wat ticket ($37). Even with these costs, our daily budget remained on $15.
6 Months travel budget in Asia
How much have almost six months traveling in Asia cost us then? During the first four months, we spent $2.276 each. When we add the travel costs of Thailand and Cambodia, we have spent altogether $3.154 each. This means that our average daily travel budget in Asia is $18,35. These costs include all the flights but not the travel preparations like the insurance.
Backpacking Southeast Asia for less than $20 a day has turned out to be quite easy. If you always thought that you cannot afford to travel long-term, this summary hopefully made you consider it again.
How much do you budget for traveling in Southeast Asia?