Asia is the world’s largest continent, home to 48 countries. While some of Asia’s nations, including Japan and Singapore, are known for being pretty expensive places to travel, there are those at the other end of the spectrum that offer terrific opportunities for budget travellers to explore for less. Here are some of the cheapest destinations around Asia where you’ll get more bang for your buck.
If you’re looking for an affordable but offbeat place to explore that’s full of energy and intrigue, Bangladesh could be just the place you’re looking for. Bangladesh is home to the Sundarbans, the biggest mangrove forest in the world. It also boasts Cox’s Bazar, the longest stretch of unbroken sandy beach on Earth. Discover historic temples in Puthia, river life in Barisal, ancient ruins in Gaur, and much more. You can dine in a cheap restaurant for around 150 BDT (approximately 1.80 USD). A daily budget of 4,000 BDT (approximately 47.40 USD) will let you splurge and occasionally enjoy top-class hotel rooms and fancy restaurants throughout your trip, but it is also possible to get by in Bangladesh with around 1,500 BDT (approximately 17.80 USD) per day. An average backpacker should expect to spend in the region of 2,000 BDT (approximately 23.70 USD) each day.
An often-overlooked country, Georgia sits alongside the Black Sea at the crossroads between Asia and Europe. The lush Caucasian Mountains are speckled with traditional villages and gorgeous views can be found around almost every twist in the road. The capital, Tbilisi, is a melting pot of cultural influences, but a traditional way of life still prevails. The nightlife is fun and cheap! Plus, in Georgia, you can spend the morning skiing and then hit the beach in the afternoon. Hostel beds start from as low as 13 GEL (approximately 5.30 USD) and you can travel long distances by local minivans (mashrutky) for around 20 GEL (approximately 8.10 USD). A backpacker’s daily budget of 60 GEL (approximately 24.40 USD) should be ample.
Although sightseeing flights over Mount Everest and intense multi-day treks in the Himalayas can cause costs to skyrocket, the base costs of visiting Nepal are very affordable. As a benchmark, a meal in a budget restaurant will cost around 200 NPR (approximately 1.80 USD) and cheap double rooms in a Kathmandu guesthouse can be found for as little as 1,300 NPR (approximately 11.80 USD) per night. You can expect to pay around 3,300 NPR (approximately 30 USD) per day for an experienced trekking guide, though keep in mind that this cost will be split between the group; explore with new pals to make budgets more manageable. With a daily allowance of around 3,000 NPR (approximately 27 USD), visitors should be able to make the most of their time in this fascinating country.
Spread across thousands of islands, Indonesia offers lots of variety. Volcanic landscapes, idyllic beaches, gorgeous lakes, and nature galore contrast with historic highlights, such as Borobudur, and bustling cities. While the prices on different islands can vary immensely, Indonesia is, overall, one of the most budget-friendly countries in Southeast Asia. Costs can be kept down by spending time on just a few nearby islands rather than trying to cram in as many islands as possible. More popular islands, such as Bali, Lombok, and Sumatra, tend to yield better deals than more remote destinations. Limit alcohol consumption (prices tend to be higher here due to the Muslim majority population) and use local transportation and you’ll find that travelling around Indonesia can be really cheap. The average cost of a meal in a regular local restaurant is around 25,000 IDR (approximately 1.70 USD), and in some areas, you can find budget guest houses that start from just 30,500 IDR (approximately 2.10 USD) per night. Realistically, you should plan to spend around 435,000 IDR (approximately 30 USD) per day on a budget trip in Indonesia.
A huge and diverse country, India offers something for everyone. From beaches and mountains to world-famous architecture, delicious food, bustling markets, and spiritual experiences, India is a rich and attractive destination. Chill on the splendid beaches of Goa and wander around the myriad churches and other religious buildings. Bathe in the Ganges at Varanasi. Explore the tea plantations and enjoy the cool climate of Darjeeling. Absorb the energy of New Delhi. Discover a world of wonder in India! In a country where dorm beds can be scored for as low as 400 INR (approximately 5.80 USD), cheap street eats are abundant, and long-distance sleeper trains can costs as little as 600 INR (approximately 8.70 USD), travellers can live comfortably on a daily budget of around 2,500 INR (approximately 36 USD). Shoestring travellers can, however, cut costs even more.
Sri Lanka’s headline attractions and activities are somewhat known for their high costs. For example, climbing the impressive rock of Sigiriya will set you back 4,500 LKR (approximately 28 USD) and a half-day safari in Yala National Park costs around 6,000 LKR (approximately 37.50 USD) per person. Cheap accommodation, meals, and transportation go some way towards offsetting the higher travel costs. Cheap but filling and flavourful meals cost around 250 LKR (approximately 1.60 USD). Enjoying the beaches and roaming around cultural cities are free. Many travellers can enjoy Sri Lanka with a daily budget of around 6,000 LKR (approximately 37.50 USD).
Vietnam is a budget backpacker’s paradise, with some of the cheapest beer in the world (bia hoi), cheap dorm beds and private rooms, wallet-friendly and efficient long-distance transportation, and food that will barely make a dent in your bank account. Rather unusually, the capital city of Hanoi is one of the cheapest Vietnamese cities to explore, though other awesome destinations, such as Ho Chi Minh City, Sapa, Hoi An, and Hue, won’t cost a fortune either. A basic meal, such as a bowl of pho, costs around 40,000 VND (approximately 1.70 USD), and freshly baked breads and pastries make for a pocket-friendly breakfast. If you can stretch to 1,400,000 VND (approximately 60 USD) per day, you’ll be able to do a lot more on your vacation and enjoy meals in nice restaurants every so often, but budget backpackers can still have a great time with around 930,000 VND (approximately 40 USD) each day.
Malaysia is starting to really come into its own as a top vacation spot in Southeast Asia. Beautiful beaches, architectural gems, glorious national parks, and modern shopping malls attract different types of travellers and the overall travel costs are still lower than in its popular neighbour of Thailand. Keep in mind, however, that Peninsular Malaysia is generally cheaper and easier to get around than Malaysian Borneo. Top destinations on the peninsula include the capital of Kuala Lumpur, quaint Malacca, the lush Cameron Highlands, the lovely island of Langkawi, and the chilled-out Perhentian Islands. A private room in a guest house costs from 43 MYR (approximately 10.60 USD) for a night, while the average price of a meal in an inexpensive restaurant is 10 MYR (approximately 2.45 USD). People can enjoy Peninsular Malaysia with a daily budget of 165 MYR (approximately 40.50 USD). As with anywhere, though, increasing your travel budget slightly will allow for even more adventures and little treats.
A huge country with stark differences between its modern cities and rural villages, China’s headline attractions cannot fail to impress. From the Great Wall of China to The Bund in Shanghai, and from the Terracotta Warriors to the pandas in Chengdu, China is one of the most diverse nations on the planet. Sail along the Yangtze River, have a spiritual sensation in semi-autonomous Tibet, and wander through the gorgeous gardens of Suzhou. You can sleep for cheap in smaller cities, with dorm beds starting from around 30 CNY (approximately 4.40 USD). In larger cities, however, you’re looking at spending around 90 CNY (approximately 13.20 USD) per night. You can fill up on street food for around 10 CNY (approximately 1.50 USD), and a ten-hour long-distance bus journey will rarely set you back more than 200 CNY (approximately 30 USD). A reasonable daily budget to explore China is 300 CNY (approximately 44 USD).
Iran is a budget-friendly destination for people who can explore the colourful nation independently. Highlights include the dazzling Golestan Palace in Tehran, the stunning “Pink Mosque” of Shiraz, the ancient sites in Persepolis, and Varzaneh Desert. Note that citizens of some countries, including the USA and UK, can only visit Iran as part of a group tour. Also remember that Iran is not part of the global banking system and you must take enough cash with you to last for your entire trip; obtaining back-up funds is all but impossible! Bus rides are an affordable means of transportation. A meal in a budget restaurant costs around 200,000 IRR (approximately 4.80 USD) and hostels are becoming more common, with dorm beds starting from around 335,000 IRR (approximately 8 USD) for a night. A daily budget of a little over two million IRR (approximately 48 USD) is sufficient for budget explorers.
Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, and Pakistan can be terrific destinations in Asia for budget travellers too. Exploring Asia doesn’t have to be so costly after all!