Cheapest countries to visit in 2020 Asia
In a region known for being budget-friendly, Vietnam is one of the top value-for-money destinations in Southeast Asia. It’s possible for a backpacker to get by on as little as $25 per day and still experience the best of what the country has to offer.
Most nationalities require a tourist visa to enter Vietnam. Don’t let this initial cost put you off: once you’re in, everything is cheap. You can find a bed in a decent hostel in the bigger cities or at a homestay in rural Vietnam for as little as $10 per night.
Street food dominates in Vietnam, and a bowl of pho, a plate of banh cuon or any one of the county’s other delicious delicacies will set you back less than $2. A glass of bia hoi (keg beer) in Hanoi goes for as little as 20 cents. Expect to pay between $5 and $35 for an inter-city bus or train ticket depending on the distance.
Of course, there are lots of good reasons to travel to Vietnam beyond the low costs. The country is incredibly diverse, offering everything from trekking in the magnificent hills of Ha Giang, to boat rides in the Mekong Delta backwaters. An excellent way to experience the country is to travel between Hanoi and Saigon on the Reunification Express train, stopping at beaches, historic towns, and national parks along the way.
I’ve visited Vietnam twice: once as a backpacker in 2012, and again in 2017-2018 when I lived in Hanoi for a year. I didn’t notice much fluctuation in costs between those two visits—an encouraging sign that Vietnam will remain a budget-friendly destination for years to come.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, is unlike any other country in Southeast Asia. Because they have opened up to tourism in the last decade, you’ll find that infrastructure can be lacking and travel can be challenging. However, visitors will be rewarded with hundreds of temples, pagodas, and monasteries, plus of course, some of the friendliest people in the world.
Myanmar can be slightly more expensive than some of its Southeast Asian neighbors, but not significantly so. Most services are still pretty cheap, including accommodation, transportation, and tours. Expect to pay around $3 for a basic meal, $2 for a bottle of beer, $10 for a dorm bed, and $2 for a short taxi ride. I’d say that $25 or $30 a day is a pretty realistic budget.
Among the best things to do in Myanmar, we can highlight: visiting Yangon and Mandalay, cycling around the temples of Bagan, climbing up to the Golden Rock and visiting the Inle Lake. If you have time, I recommend that you hike all the way from Kalaw to Inle Lake. This trek is a highlight for many first time visitors to Burma. It can be completed in 3 days and is of medium difficulty. You’ll find beautiful landscapes, traditional villages, remote monasteries, and welcoming people!
Cambodia is a country we return to again and again. It has so much to offer: the vibrancy and grandeur of the capital Phnom Pehn, the awesome history on display at Angkor Wat, the old-world charm of Battambang, the beautiful beaches of Sihanoukville, the stunning natural landscapes of the north, the chance to see Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River, the delicious food, and, above all, the friendly people.
Despite their horrific recent history, Cambodians are open and welcoming to visitors, relishing the opportunity to share the secrets of their homeland.
Not only does it have all of these amazing attractions, but Cambodia is also a great place to visit if funds are limited. It’s possible for independent travelers to spend as little as $10/12 per day on accommodation, food, and travel. For a budget of $20-$30 per day, you can live very comfortably, staying in a room with private facilities in a guest house and eating street food ($1/2 per meal) or in basic restaurants (US$3-$5 per meal).
Bus travel between destinations in Cambodia is cheap and efficient. Expect to pay around $10 for a reserved seat on an air-conditioned coach between Phnom Pehn and Siem Reap or Sihanoukville. If time and money allow, don’t miss the boat trip between Siem Reap and Battambang.
For $20, you get to spend 8 hours on a boat getting up-close and personal with the people who make their homes around Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and one of the richest fishing grounds in the world.
Overland transport connections to neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos are also frequent and affordable, making Cambodia the ideal place to base yourself whilst exploring this fascinating part of the world.
India is a great destination for backpackers and tourists looking for one of the cheapest places to visit. First: you can stay for a long time on a minimum budget. Second: you can’t be indifferent to India – you will either love it or hate it. Our first impressions were noise, confusion, and overcrowding. After a few days, you quickly adjust and learn to embrace the organized chaos. Third: India is a mix of different cultures where everybody lives together in harmony. If you open your mind and forget your prejudices, India can offer you so many experiences and beautiful sights.
India is perfect for backpackers because you can experience all of this by spending very little money. During our trip to India, we stayed in some great small guest houses for $13-$25 a night. In the spiritual town of Pushkar, we stayed at the centrally located Everest Hotel for just $23. Our room was very comfortable, and we could share experiences with other backpackers on the roof terrace.
Food in India is also cheap. For just a few dollars, you can taste many different dishes. Ask the locals and you will find places to eat thali (a big plate with a selection of various spiced dishes) for 100 Rupees ($1.50). However, you quickly appreciate that India is a land of contrasts. Slums reside next to 5-star hotels and you can spend $1.50 or $100 on food.
Traveling in India is also very cheap. India has a good rail network, so we traveled by train. There are different classes but if you opt to travel in second class you will pay approximately $9 for 200 km.
India is an incredible country. If you can open your mind and be accommodating, you will improve your patience the more you stay in India.
From the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, peaceful Buddhist temples and lush green nature parks, Nepal really has something for everyone. What’s even better, is that this trekker’s paradise is friendly on a shoestring budget.
Backpackers can spend as little as $20-30 a day in total for a bed for the night, transport, attraction prices, and food. Hostel beds are as cheap as $3 in Kathmandu or Pokhara and budget guesthouses are $5-$6 for a double room. As you’re in a mountain country, buses are king here and typically cost $5-8 to get to your next destination.
If you’re feeling hungry Dal Bhat, or lentils with rice, is a local favorite and will cost you less than $1. Thukpa (noodle soup) and Momos (dumplings) are tasty Himalayan delicacies that you can’t miss for a mere $1-3 a meal. Chai tea, an addictive sweet and spicy hot drink, is only 20 cents!
Guided trekking in Nepal can be expensive, especially if you need equipment. But, there is the option to do treks self-guided and make use of the tea houses which provide cheap shelter for hikers along the way.
Nepal is my paradise. Waking up to mountain views each day, hearing the chimes of the stupa temples and experiencing the welcoming hospitality of the Nepali people all made this a spectacular destination.
If you’re up for an adventure, but don’t want to stretch your purse strings, Nepal is one the perfect cheapest destinations to visit on a budget.
It’s no secret that Southeast Asia has some of the cheapest countries in the world to visit, as well as to settle in. While many visitors flocks to well-known places in Thailand or the Philippines, Indonesia is probably one of the best and cheapest countries to live in.
What not to love about Indonesia? This vast nation with more than 17,000 islands offers so much cultural diversity and natural beauty. From the ancient Buddhist temple of Borobudur to the underwater marine paradise of Raja Ampat, there is always something to explore.
Many visitors flocks to the touristy island of Bali, which is a very beautiful part of Indonesia. But if you want more value for your money, try different parts and islands of Indonesia, such as Lombok, Sumatra or Java.
On Java, the densest island on earth, you can always rely on public transportation. Hop on a shared cab, rickshaw or trains to go around – and even flights are frequent and reasonably priced.
The cost of living in Indonesia is fairly cheap; for example, in many of traditional warungs (food stalls), you can expect to pay no more than $1.50 to get a full meal. If you are not familiar with the local food, here are some basic Indonesian food facts and dishes to try. Budget backpackers can expect to pay $10-$30 per day on Java, by staying with locals, or budget hostel and eat in local establishments.
7. Sri Lanka
If you’re on the lookout for a destination that’s not only cheap but stunning and offers lots of great things to do, then Sri Lanka should be number one on your list. You can get by easily on a low budget. To backpack Sri Lanka, you’re probably looking at an average budget of around $20-30 per day.
Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with gorgeous beaches, stunning waterfalls, mountains, culture, and safaris. You’ll never get bored and you’ll struggle to leave.
Hostels and hotels in Sri Lanka are very reasonable. Dorm rooms start at around $5-10 per night, or you can get shared rooms in a hotel for as low as $17 per night (and that typically includes air conditioning).
Transport is very affordable too: if you use local buses/trains, don’t expect to pay more than $1-2 for long journeys.
And the trick with food is to eat where the locals eat and the food in Sri Lanka will be super cheap. Local food hovers around the $2-3 mark for a meal. If you decide to eat in “Westernized” restaurants, expect to pay around $6 upwards depending on the quality.
Thailand is one of the cheapest countries to visit on a budget. It’s beautiful, well set up for travel, and incredibly cheap.
Visitors can see everything from jungle to temples, white beaches, and amazing blue water. It’s warm all year round so always great for a visit.
For the super budget traveler, it’s possible to find basic dorm accommodation for as little as $4. Mid-range accommodation can be found for around $30, in some places much less, and go up to about $60 for a western-style three-star hotel such as an Ibis in Bangkok.
At the markets or in a local restaurant it’s possible to get a dish of noodles and a non-alcoholic drink for $1.50-$3 In a more western or touristy restaurant, expect to pay about $8-$10 for a meal.
Local transport can be as little as just a few Baht depending on how you are getting around. Long-distance buses can also be very cheap. The ten-hour trip between Chiang Mai and Bangkok, for example, starts at around $19.
An overall budget of $63 per day should give most visitors a good experience. If you are super frugal, traveling on even half of that is possible without too much effort.
Home to some of the most mind-blowing mosques on Earth, composed of eyed-blessing domes and jaw-dropping madrassas; some of the most welcoming and genuine local people you will ever encounter; and contrasting landscapes that range from the deserts in the south to the snowcapped mountains in the north; Iran is, definitely, the ultimate destination of the year.
But besides being an incredibly amazing country, Iran is cheap, really, and with the continuous Rial devaluation, it is getting even cheaper.
Meals in local eateries range from $1 to $3.50 (30,000 to 120,000IR), whereas you would pay around $6 (200,000IR) in a higher quality restaurant.
You can find decent hotels from as cheap as $9 (300,000IR), with mid-range options starting at $16 (550,000IR).
The different Iranian cities are really well-connected by buses, which is the preferred way of transportation for locals, and a VIP bus ticket, which is the kind of bus you must take, never costs more than $5 or $6 for several-hundred-kilometer journeys.
Often overshadowed by it’s more famous neighbors in Thailand and Vietnam, Laos is not to be missed on your next Southeast Asian itinerary. This little country is an absolute gem with cheap eats, easy transportation, and more natural attractions then you could imagine. Travel through Laos can be easily worked into any kind of budget, with options for all kinds of price points.
Depending on your budget there are hotels for everyone, with hostels averaging about $10 – $15 and mid-range hotels sitting around the $30 – $50 price point per night. Traveling between cities throughout Laos is also very affordable, with a train between Luang Prabang and Vientiane costing around $16 one way and a one-way flight between the two cities starting from $45.
Once you’ve arrived and got settled in your accommodation it feels like everything else in Laos is only a couple of dollars. Delicious street food can be found all over Laos with meals starting under a dollar. Tuk Tuk rides average only a couple of dollars to get you around the towns and cities. Even entrance into some of the most beautiful waterfalls and attractions cost as little as $2. It’s the perfect place to unwind and give your budget a break!
Southeast Asia is home to among the cheapest countries to live in, and the Philippines is no exception. We traveled as a family (2 adults, 1 toddler) for almost a month and spent less than $800 for EVERYTHING.
And what I love about my country is that it offers pretty much everything: cities, mountains, beaches (lots of this!!!). In some places like Cebu (where I live; which is also why I’m biased), you can experience all three in just a single day!
When traveling around the Philippines, living on $50-$100 a day as a family is already a good range, and could already put you in a flashpacker/mid-range budget.
Meals in carenderias (native restaurants) can cost around $2 per person or around $6-10 in a fine dining setting. You can stretch this budget further if you rent an Airbnb and cook your own food.
As for transportation, you may have to budget a bit more. The Philippines is an archipelago so expect a lot of boat trips that can start at $10 per way, depending on the type of accommodation (economy or premium) and the destination. Some smaller motorized boats can already bring you to the next island for as little as $0.40. Or you can use the local budget airline and book a round-trip ticket for as low as $40.
For trips around the city, you can take the jeepney (minimum of $0.15), bus ($4-$10 depending on the destination) or taxis and Grab cars (around $6 for a 1-hour trip)
Malaysia is a great country to visit for those backpackers who are traveling on a budget. My girlfriend and I recently spent a few weeks exploring Malaysia and found it to be relatively cheap, especially in comparison with neighboring Thailand. As a couple we spent approximately $50 USD a day, which is just $25 a day per person. This included accommodation, food, and activities for the day.
We definitely backpacked around Malaysia on a shoestring budget but we always had clean, air-conditioned rooms and delicious food each day. We spent an average of $10 USD per night for a double room and $5 for a meal in a local restaurant. The food in Malaysia is incredible, especially if you like Indian food. Short bus journeys cost a couple of dollars while journeys of several hours cost $10 USD plus.
One of the highlights of Malaysia was actually visiting Kuala Lumpur. We had heard mixed reviews from other travelers but we thought it was a brilliant city to spend a few days in with lots of awesome things to do. Malaysia is definitely a great country to visit on a budget and if you are a foodie you will absolutely love it.