Updated August 2021
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Are you searching for the cheapest countries in Asia? Southeast Asia is one of the most affordable regions in the world to visit, and it offers something for every travel style. Here I’ll share the best cheap places to travel in Asia for every type of traveler!
Beach Bums- Southern Thailand
There are plenty of beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia, but the islands of Southern Thailand are world-famous for a reason!
Pristine white sand beaches, picture-perfect turquoise water, and world class diving make Southern Thailand a beach bum’s dream come true!
Best Thai Islands for Relaxing on the Beach
The most popular Thai islands tend to be FULL of tourists, and many of the beaches have been over-developed to the point where the entire beach is lined with bars, restaurants, and resorts. This doesn’t lend itself to a chill, beach bum-style vacation.
Not to worry! There are still a few low key Thai islands left! The islands of Koh Kradan, Koh Mook, and Koh Ngai are located in Trang Province in the Andaman Sea, and are some of the best cheap holiday destinations in Asia.
These three islands offer a TRUE island paradise getaway. Koh Kradan and Koh Ngai are so quiet there are no roads and no motorized vehicles! Once you hop off the longtail boat shuttle onto the white sand you can expect true peace and quiet.
Koh Mook is a little larger, with tiny roads that allow scooter travel, but still features some of the very best beaches we visited in Thailand. Koh Mook is also home to the incredible Emerald Cave, one of our favorite experiences in all of Southeast Asia!
You can rent a simple beachfront bungalow with a porch for and average cost of 1000 THB ($33 USD) per night, making these islands some of the very best cheap places in Asia for a beach vacation.
Tom and I are definitely beach bums, and we had a magical time relaxing on these gorgeous, remote Thai islands. For more information check out our complete guide to Koh Kradan, Koh Mook, and Koh Ngai!
Partiers- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
There are plenty of great places to party in Southeast Asia, but if you want the best nightlife (and the most variety) then Ho Chi Minh City is your spot!
Ho Chi Minh City is one of the most affordable cosmopolitan cities in the world. You can find a hostel bed for $4 per night, or if you want to splurge you could rent an entire apartment for $17 per night!
Now that you’ve chosen your shoestring accommodation you can head into the city to grab some delicious street food, often accompanied by 50 cent draft beers. Ho Chi Minh City is home to some of the best street food in the world! If you want to see how delicious AND affordable it can be check out Anthony Bordain’s Parts Unknown guide to a perfect day in Ho Chi Minh City.
Once you’ve stuffed yourself with delicious street food, and started your night off with dirt cheap beers you can make your way to District 3 for a world famous nightlife experience.
Pham Ngu Lao is a street in Ho Chi Minh that is shut down to traffic every night so that partiers can easily make their way from bar to night club, and then to more bars along the route.
The music is crazy loud, and in addition to loads of cheap drinks, you can order a hookah pipe or a giant balloon filled with nitrous oxide, and all of this comes at extremely affordable prices.
Anyone who loves to party is going to find themselves right at home in the chaotic, vibrant nightlife scene of Ho Chi Minh City, one of the best places to visit in Asia.
Foodies- Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok is world renowned for the quality and variety of it’s incredible street food. Walk down just about any street in Bangkok and you will run into a street food stall serving something delicious.
All of the traditional Thai dishes can be found at street stalls- think curries, grilled meats, seafood, and fresh fruits. The street food in Thailand is such a deeply ingrained part of the culture that usually the street food stalls serve better food than the nearby sit-down restaurants (and at a fraction of the price)!
You can easily find a hostel dorm bed in Bangkok for under $10, and often a light breakfast is included in this price. Considering a street food meal will cost you $2- $5, and Bangkok is the cheapest airport in Southeast Asia to fly into, you can enjoy an incredible foodie vacation in Bangkok on a truly shoestring budget!
History Buffs- Cambodia
If you’re a history buff Cambodia is definitely your spot. Cambodia has a fascinating ancient and modern history, and there are plenty of sites where you can explore the past in this developing country.
Angkor Archaeological Park/ Angkor Wat
For incredible ancient history Cambodia is home to the incredible Angkor Archaeological Park, a UNESCO world heritage site where you will find the famous Angkor Wat.
While the giant Angkor Wat is certainly impressive, and not to be missed, Angkor Archaeological Park actually holds the well-preserved ruins of 72 ancient temples- it is an entire ancient city! You can walk inside, climb to the top of, and fully explore many of the Angkor temples, and it is an extraordinary travel experience.
Angkor is one of the most affordable ancient wonders in the world, as you can get a 7 day pass to the park for just $72! Along with the reasonable admission costs, a hostel dorm bed in Siem Reap will cost you just $3- $5, and there are tons of cheap street food options all over the city.
Tom and I spent a week exploring Angkor, and we recommend giving yourself that much time if you’re a history lover like we are! For more information on Angkor Archaeological Park, including how we avoided the tourist crowds, check out our guide to Angkor!
The Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Cambodia’s modern history is very dark, and it can be challenging to learn about. From 1975-1979 Cambodia was ruled by the Khmer Rouge and the regime of Pol Pot. Much like the holocaust, Pol Pot was trying to create a “master race”, and more than 2 million Cambodians were killed during his reign.
Both the killing fields, and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum educate visitors on Pol Pot’s regime, and the atrocities that were committed during that time.
Both sites are located in Phnom Penh, and you can easily get a tuk tuk to take you to one or both sites. While there are tour buses that visit both these sites in one day, I recommend only visiting one site per day, as the experience of visiting either of these locations is emotionally draining.
If you’d like to learn more about the Khmer Rouge before you visit Cambodia, I recommend the book Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing Ngor, a survivor of Pol Pot’s regime. Be warned- this was one of the most disturbing books I ever read, an it contains descriptions of violence and torture that are very difficult to read.
For history buffs Cambodia is one of the best places to travel in Asia, and should not be missed. For more information check out our Cambodia travel guide.
Nature Lovers- Vietnam
When it comes to mind-blowing natural wonders, Vietnam is hard to beat. Between the otherworldly limestone karsts of Ha Long Bay, the gorgeous beaches of Hoi An, and the epic cave system of Phong Nha National Park, Vietnam is loaded with natural beauty that can be explored on a shoestring budget!
If you love beautiful ocean views then Vietnam will not disappoint. With 2,030 miles of coastline, Vietnam offers a wide variety of beaches, water sports, and water-based travel activities.
One of the most famous excursions in Vietnam is a cruise of the gorgeous Ha Long Bay. One of Vietnam’s most iconic sites, Ha Long Bay features beautiful turquoise water with giant limestone islands covered in rainforests.
If you love to explore caves then Phong Nha National Park in Vietnam is not to be missed. Hosting the largest cave system in the world, Phong Nha National Park offers cave tours for all ages and fitness levels.
The cave system in Phong Nha is so extensive that new caverns are regularly discovered. When we visited Phong Nha we hiked and swam into a cave that was only discovered a couple years ago!
If you love to hike then you must make your way to the very Northern tip of Vietnam to the mountain town of Sapa. There you can hire a Hmong guide to take you hiking through the hills and rice fields of North Vietnam.
Most of the hikes are multi-day excursions, and you will overnight in a Hmong homestay on your hike (often family members of your guide). This is an awesome opportunity to see the beautiful mountains of Sapa, and to get a taste of the lives of the Hmong people.
Travelers Seeking Authentic Cultural Experiences- Laos
If you want to authentically experience another culture in Southeast Asia, Laos is definitely the place to go. Laos is less visited than the countries surrounding it, which means that Laos has maintained an authentic culture less influenced by Western tourists.
In Laos it’s easy to get off the tourist trail and visit small towns that are happy to see a few travelers, but where the local culture is fully intact.
In every small town we visited, the custom of Sai Bat (morning alms) was observed. In this ancient Buddhist tradition the village monks walk through the streets ringing bells each morning, and the villagers line up along the streets to give the monks alms in the form of food.
Visiting Laos feels like stepping back in time, and for travelers seeking a unique, authentic, and affordable travel experience Laos is a must-visit country.
In the villages and towns of Laos you can rent a small bungalow for just $6-$8 per night, and local food is extremely cheap, with meals costing $2- $3. In the more touristed cities you can find a hostel dorm bed for $3- $5 per night.
For more information on Laos check out our Laos Travel Guide!
BEST Cheap Place to Travel in Asia- Vietnam
Vietnam is one of the cheapest countries in Southeast Asia, and with the huge variety of travel experiences available there, I think it’s easily the best cheap place to travel in Asia!
Whether you want to go caving, lounge on a beach, or hit the city for a big night out, you can do it in Vietnam at a price that won’t break the bank! A daily budget of just $25 is plenty to allow you to explore this fascinating country.
To plan your own Vietnam adventure check out our complete guide to Vietnam!
If you’re planning your own affordable Southeast Asia adventure, check out Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on a Shoestring Budget. This guidebook covers all of the countries in Southeast Asia, and was an invaluable resource when we traveled there!
We traveled Southeast Asia for 6 months with only carry on bags, click here to read how we did it!
Before Southeast Asia we spent two years traveling North America in a micro-RV! Read about our camper life adventures here.
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