Tips for traveling on a shoestring in South East Asia are what you need when budget constraints are a factor. Budget travelers – usually backpackers – have been heading to this part of the world for decades, in search of amazing experiences. And even with the minimal amount of spends no-one is ever, ever disappointed. Whether it’s visiting Thailand, Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam or all four that’s your heart’s desire, take heed of these tips for traveling on a shoestring in South East Asia for a vacation dream come true.
One of the best tips for traveling on a shoestring in South East Asia to commit to memory is to make use of the abundance of cheap transport options. You should investigate all of them. Try the night sleeper bus in Vietnam. You buy the ticket in sections so will only pay for what you need. Use second-class sleeper trains in Thailand and Malaysia for a great night’s sleep – the porter will even make up your bed. Taking the soft seat option will save you more again over a sleeper. Take snacks just in case your transport choice doesn’t have too many stops. Traveling at night has the added benefit of saving a night’s accommodation, which of course will be a hostel, as that is the cheapest place to stay.
Traveling on a budget in South East Asia is all about knowing where you can save without too much difference to what you are used to. Drinking the local beer will often save you 50% of the cost of the drinks your mates are buying. Beer is cheaper than soft drinks in many places and if you want to stick to your diet and drink low-calorie soft drink you’ll be paying extra again. Yes, diet soda can cost more than the regular for some odd reason! Drinking fruit juices and whole coconuts from a street corner is cheap too. Just remember to make sure yours doesn’t have salt added if you don’t want a little surprise!
If you have an aversion to street food, get over it now. This is one of the best ways to save money on vacation in South East Asia. Imagine spring rolls, dumplings, noodle soup and other amazing snacks just waiting for you to point them out to the vendor. If you’re very lucky there’ll be a menu, but in most places just choose from the pictures or point to the next table and indicate you want one serve. Be brave and try new things. You will discover some of the most glorious flavors you’ve ever tasted.
Package tours can be quite expensive, even in cheap South East Asian countries. Most people on a very strict shoestring budget just won’t be able to afford them. Do your research and plan a trip independently. You can often hire a guide and a taxi for the day and do the trip for quarter of the price of an organized tour. Beware the very cheap tours you come across – you might find they are interesting but you’re expected to buy things along the way. This is particularly true of Mekong Delta tours in Vietnam.
Bartering is the name of the game and everything in South East Asia is up for discussion. In Laos, you’ll find this very easy. In Bangkok, a little more hardcore. In Vietnam you’ll discover many vendors unwilling to barter if they think you are just checking the price and not genuinely planning to buy. Usually, the starting price is outrageous and you should cut it down accordingly with your first bid. The more you barter, the better you get at it. Don’t be shy and give it a go!
Even the cheapest accommodation in South East Asia usually has free toiletries. Soap, shampoo and even free toothbrushes are available in many rooms. Collect them as you go and you’ll almost never have to pay to smell nice!
Taxis, tuk-tuks, cyclos and almost all other forms of transport have very fluid prices. If you’re traveling on a shoestring in South East Asia, you don’t want to discover your taxi fare just cost the equivalent of 5 night’s accommodation! Agree on a price before getting in and always confirm that there’s no tip required and that there’ll be no stopping at tourist stores. Even when you have agreed, the price may change when you arrive. Always carry small denominations of the local money so you can give the agreed price. No matter what comes after, just walk away!
Traveling South East Asia on a budget is about making the best of local options which are always so much cheaper than anything aimed at tourists. And that’s all part of the amazing experience. We’d love to hear more tips. Give them up if you have them.
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