We did it! We had our first Asia adventure!
We’ve traveled to many countries together but this was a brand new experience for both of us. We had our stops planned out and where we were going to stay, but everything in between we let happen organically. It was nice to wander and see where the day would take us. Despite the more lax itinerary, we still saw and did a lot but it was nice to do it at our own pace.
Halfway through also marked my first solo adventure since I backpacked the U.S. I met so many new people and made some great memories.
Your money goes far in Southeast Asia so you could travel inexpensively but still in comfort. We settled for somewhere in-between budget and luxury, knowing that our mid-range budget was something we could comfortably afford and allow us to experience as much as possible.
I used my trusty TrabeePocket to track my spending, tracking separately by country so I could input transactions by the currency I was paying in.
From Toronto, we flew into Hong Kong for a brief layover and made our way to our first destination, Siem Reap.
– Siem Reap – 3 nights
– Hoi An – 3 nights
– Ho Chi Minh City – 2 nights
– Nha Trang – 2 nights
– Hanoi – 1 night
– Ha Long Bay – 1 night
– Hanoi – 1 night
If you’re familiar with Vietnam geography you’ll notice that we backtracked by going to Hoi An first. It ended up working out better with the flight options we had and the flight times weren’t very long so it wasn’t a huge detour for us.
After Hanoi, Andrew caught a flight back to Toronto and I continued my travels in Thailand. My flight back home flew out of Hanoi and to get back there I had to go back into Bangkok for a night to catch an early morning flight.
– Bangkok – 2 nights
– Ao Nang – 2 nights
– Koh Lanta – 2 nights
– Krabi Town – 2 nights
– Bangkok – 1 night
– Hanoi – 1 night
***Read this part!***
Some important things to highlight before we start:
My spending would fall in the mid-range budget; not the most budget-friendly but I’m not sipping rooftop Mai Tai’s at the Sofitel either.
The cost below is for one person.
Costs are listed in Canadian dollars ($CDN). At the time of writing, the exchange was $1 Canadian Dollar = $0.76 U.S. Dollar / ₫17,306 Vietnamese Dong / ฿27 Thai Baht.
Airfare – $2,016.73
International flight – $1,294.25
Domestic flights & extra baggage fee – $722.48
Our domestic flights included:
– Siem Reap > Hoi An
– Hoi An > HCMC
– HCMC > Nha Trang
– Nha Trang > Hanoi
– Hanoi > Bangkok (roundtrip)
– Bangkok > Krabi (roundtrip)
Air Asia also charged for check-in baggage and with our three flights with them, my baggage fee came out to $57.70.
I used Google to find all of our flights. While price was a huge factor, I also took direct route and flight time into consideration. Flights departing in the 9-11am window were ideal, which meant we didn’t have to get up too early or arrive at our destination too late to enjoy it.
Next time where possible, I’m going to try the sleeper bus route which is a red eye bus that’s quite common in Asia. They’re cheaper than flying and I’ll save the extra night of accommodation. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the experience but I’m usually a heavy sleeper so it might be worth looking into.
Accommodations – $377.04
I was able to save a lot in our accommodation spending for various reasons:
– Andrew and I traveled to Cambodia and Vietnam together and split the cost of our hotels and Airbnbs between two people
– We redeemed reward points for a hotel for our 2-nights in Hanoi
– I have family in Nha Trang and they manage a resort there where we stayed complimentary for two nights
– Our Ha Long Bay cruise included an overnight stay on the boat (but bumped up our attraction budget)
– I stayed in hostels in Thailand, with most of them averaging around $15/night. There were cheaper hostels available but I booked the places that had the best overall value in regards to safety, location, and atmosphere. I used HostelWorld to book the majority of my hostels.
Insurance – $75.00
I did a little shopping around for the best quote because I was getting a wide range of estimates. I found the best deal from Travel Guard at $75.00 for travel coverage during my trip.
Food and Drinks – $378.36
I’m not sure why I worked so hard to get bikini ready for Asia because I basically gained it all back within a few days of being there. The novelty of how cheap everything was got to me and I was eating for the sake of eating. It was really bad in Vietnam because I could understand the street food signs and it made me nostalgic for my mom’s cooking.
I eventually slowed down my eating in Thailand. I don’t eat meat so I stuck to mostly vegetarian meals and being solo, I found I wasn’t eating as much as I was when I was traveling with someone. It was also easier for me to grab whatever I wanted to eat when I was hungry. My most expensive meal was at a restaurant called Cabbages and Condom (actually), where I went with some fellow backpackers I had met at my Bangkok hostel, off a recommendation from one of their friends. I’m not sure if the price was worth the meal but there’s a great cause behind it. And if anything, we got a kick out of the condom decor.
Andrew and I were hooked on the fruit juices and drank a ton of that stuff. Beers were cheap and we enjoyed a beer or two with most of our meals. Most of our nights out were pretty tame except when we found ourselves with company. Nha Trang was a party stop for us with my cousin there and him showing us around town. We also went to a really cool brewery called Louisiana Brewhouse, which if you’re ever there you must try the Passion Beer. In Hanoi we met up with a friend of mine, Thomas, from Perth who was visiting at the same time and we did some bar hopping with him. Then there were a couple of nights in Thailand involving their famous bucket drinks, which is literally a bucket of alcohol. Hey, when in Rome, right?
Attractions – $439.56
The majority of our attraction spending is made up of four things: an Angkor pass to see the temples, our boat tour on the Tonlé Sap, an overnight Ha Long Bay cruise on the Dragon Legend, and a ‘jungle’ day tour I did in Ao Nang organized by my hostel.
We purchased a one-day Angkor pass and I’m glad we did because we barely even lasted a half day! Our day started at 4am to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. I was feeling pretty good that morning because it was only the second day of our trip and I was still on Eastern Standard Time. But as the day went on, the sun was blazing, the temple climbs got more strenuous, and fatigue was kicking in, I was ready to throw in the flag by 3pm. It was really amazing to be there and see everything but I guess you could say I was “templed out”.
I was a bit skeptical about the Tonlé Sap boat tour when I first arrived. They were herding in tourists and I was never exactly clear on what we were there to see. It actually ended up being one of the highlights of our trip! We had the whole boat to ourselves and got our captain in on turning it into a party boat. The three of us were downing Angkor beer, blasting Drake and Calvin Harris, and the guys even went for a dip in the river (which we later found out is full of water snakes). It was a great afternoon.
The Ha Long Bay cruise was a lot of fun and was a nice way to end off our trip. Unfortunately I caught the flu on our only full day on the boat, which was a huuuuge bummer because I slept for most of it, but I did manage to force myself to do some kayaking and squid fishing. The cost of the cruise included one night’s accommodation and all food, but beverages were out of pocket.
The hostel day tour was pricey but I wasn’t feeling much of Ao Nang after day one and wanted to change things up a bit. I’m glad I went because we had a really fun group and met awesome people. We had a great time — we swam in the Emerald Pool, took a dip in the Hot Springs, visited the Tiger Cave Temple, and checked out a local night market for some tasty street food.
Transportation – $144.79
Our airport transportation varied from free hotel pickup, to local buses, to taxis. The taxis are affordable there but we overpaid on two of them, one of which we were scammed by when he didn’t turn on the meter and the other where I agreed to take the highway but was unaware that there was a highway toll that I had to pay (it was half the price of the cab fare!)
In Siem Reap, we rented a tuk tuk driver for the three days we were there. It came out to $20CDN a day ($10 each between me and Andrew) and I can’t recommend this enough. We were able to see a lot with a local guiding us and recommending things to do, and made our day touring Angkor seamless. Our driver drove us anywhere we wanted to go and had water and cold towels for us every time we returned to the tuk tuk. I highly suggest hiring a driver if you’re there!
In Koh Lanta I told a group of girls at my hostel that I was planning on renting a scooter to explore the island, to which they all agreed was a great idea and wanted to join. Unsurprisingly not a single person wanted to rent scooters to five girls who have never driven a scooter before. One place, however, let us rent a 4×4 and as the only person with a driver’s license, I was the driver by default. I made a few jokes about never having driven on the left-hand side of the road before which caused some understandable skepticism from the group but we eventually got on our way, exploring all that Koh Lanta had to offer and me only driving down the wrong side of the road once.
I took a ferry ($17CDN) heading to Koh Lanta but took a minivan when I left because it ended up being cheaper and provided door-to-door service, picking me up from my hostel and driving me to my next one. The ferry was cool but I think I preferred the minivan. It cost less, was more convenient, and I got to my destination faster.
Shopping – $245.89
Here’s what my shopping expenses boil down to:
– Gifts for family back home
– Custom clothes made in Hoi An that included three dresses and a pair of pants
– One of the best haircuts I’ve ever received in my life
– Four manicures
– Four back-cracking massages
– Medication for when I got the flu and when I got bed bugs from one of the massages mentioned above (yep)
Miscellaneous – $224.16
We purchased our Cambodia visa on arrival but applied for our Vietnam visa prior to departure, which we later found out was much more expensive. Gah. It did save us the line up and processing time at the airport but for the extra charge, I don’t think it was worth it.
I also hired a student to help translate when we met up with my family for dinner in Ho Chi Minh City. They don’t speak English and with my rusty Vietnamese I knew that conversation was going to be rough. I reached out to Saigon Free Walking Tours and got in touch with Oanh, who was just lovely, was great company, and did an amazing job.
|Food and Drinks||$378.36|
From my original budget of $3,568 I went over by $333.53:
– I realized I didn’t take into account the cost of my Cambodian and Vietnam visa in the original budget so I was off there
– My domestic flights came out slightly higher than estimated once I booked all of my Thai flights
– Then, of course, I ate and drank my way through Asia and now know I need to allocate more money towards food and drinks, or just discipline myself
I hope I gave you an idea of everything we did there so you can compare the type of experience I had to what I spent. It’s definitely not a frugal traveler’s budget but I knew going in that I would be spending as a standard, mid-range traveler. Word on the street is that I may have another Asia trip planned for next year so look out for more budgeting posts in the next few months ?
Questions? Comments? What did you budget for your SEA trip?