The Best Way to Backpack Through Asia on a Budget

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Stephanie is a cherished member of the Sampling America writing team, dedicated to crafting captivating narratives that transport readers to thrilling adventures across the country and beyond.

Backpacking through Southeast Asia can be a life-changing experience for anyone. Lately, more and more young people have been embarking on this journey. However, it can be wildly expensive if you’re not planning effectively for it.

If you or a loved one is considering visiting Southeast Asia but require additional information about how to do it cost-effectively, follow our helpful tips below!

Be Flexible With the Destination

Airport in Southeast Asia
Image Credit: Depositphotos.

One of the best ways to get to Southeast Asia is to forget about planning a strict agenda and go wherever the plane tickets are the cheapest.

Getting from North America to Vietnam, Cambodia, or Thailand can be costly. Luckily, if you keep watch on the flight websites and keep your initial travel date and location flexible, you’re more likely to score a cheaper ticket.

Take a Train or Plane

Plane Over Singapore
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Once in Asia, you can take super cheap buses, trains, and boats to get around the continent, as the public transit in these densely populated areas is usually excellent.

The train system is incredibly cheap and is the perfect way to travel to countries. However, they also have several ultra-reliable discount airlines, such as VietJet Air in Vietnam and LionAir in Indonesia.

Rent a Motorbike

Motorbike in Southeast Asia
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Landing in any Asian country, you’ll soon discover that the motorbikes are ubiquitous. They’re also super cheap to rent, and gas is very affordable.

When staying in the same city for a week or more, rent a motorbike. This way, you’ll be able to avoid paying for overpriced taxis and tuk-tuks. You’ll also be able to visit famous landmarks and archeological attractions just outside the city centers.

Visit Free Archeological Sites

Angkor Wat Cambodia 1
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Many ancient temples and archeological sites dating back well past the 12th century will be free of charge. For example, ancient pagodas with stunning hand-carved architecture in Cambodia sit on vast swaths of land that are primarily open to the public.

There will always be an option to pay for a guided tour. However, you can always forgo the extra price and download a free tour guide off the Internet before you go to experience similar information.

Take a Ferry

Boats in Indonesia
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Many countries in Southeast Asia are made up of hundreds or even thousands of small islands. This usually means using a boat is a common way of getting around.

Ferries can take slightly longer than flights, but sometimes, smaller islands don’t even have small landing strips.

In Thailand and the Philippines, taking a ferry between the stunning islands is an easy way to do more sightseeing while spending less than USD 20.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Street Food

Street Vendor in Vietnam
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One of the best draws of traveling through Asia is getting to experience the rich culinary scene. Many small towns have their specialties, and eating them through small family-owned vendor carts at the popular night markets will be an excellent experience.

Of course, you’ll have to be aware of safe food practices and food poisoning wherever you go, but being adventurous is all part of the ultimate travel experience.

Just be sure to carry Tums with you if you have a sensitive stomach.

Skip the Hostels

House in Indonesia
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Unlike Europe or North America, Southeast Asian hostels will not be cheaper than staying in a private bungalow or an Airbnb.

Housing in this part of the world is much less expensive than in more developed countries. So, staying in a private bungalow in Bali can cost as low as USD 9 a night.

These houses are usually regular-sized cabins in the jungle or just outside of the city center, but host all of the amenities that you would expect; some of them even have private swimming pools, and the owners will often run a café nearby for you to grab a cheap breakfast each morning.

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