It’s not a myth: Southeast Asia is by far one of the cheapest trips you can take.
Last November, I took a month-long trip to Hong Kong, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Bangkok, Bali, Gili Islands, and back to Hong Kong.The total amount of money I spent including flight, food, excursions and souvenirs? Less than $2,250!
Though that’s still a great amount of money, I didn’t have to pay it all upfront and I was able to use points cards and rewards to help fund it! Here’s a look at how my trip went.
I booked a roundtrip flight from Newark, NJ to Hong Kong for $487.66
The only downside was having to go to Jersey to catch this plane — but even so, with PATH trains, getting there only cost me $5.50 for the PATH ticket and Metrocard rides.
I started my trip in Hong Kong rather than directly flying to Thailand and, surprisingly, it was cheaper!
Flights from New York / Newark to Thailand were around $600-700 round trip. We also didn’t want to fly in and out of Thailand, which we thought was more dangerous than Hong Kong in terms of safety.
Stopping in Hong Kong also gave us an excuse to eat all the foods.
The cost of living in Hong Kong is similar to the USA, and with so much to buy I had to make sure not to spend too much!
Thailand – Phuket
AFTER THREE DAYS, we were FINALLY ready TO FLY TO PHUKET
We landed in Old Town, Phuket, an old city close to the ports and it was a lot less touristy than Patong, which was the beach town on the other side of the island.
It was comforting to start our trip in Old Town, Phuket first to get a feel of Thailand without being overwhelmed with tourist traps and getting hustled.
Things were a lot cheaper here since it’s not as touristy.
We booked a tour for the Phi Phi islands.
Booking tours and excursions in groups usually gets you the best prices. If all else fails, just lowball them!
After our tour, we got dropped off at Patong Beach.
We saved money without planning to do so when we booked the tour. For 1600 Baht we got the entire excursion as well as transport from our hostel in Old Town to our new hostel in Patong, which was a two-hour drive away!
Everything was a lot more expensive in Patong though.
Since this area was more toursity, the prices were all jacked up.
After two days there, it was definitely enough for us. On to Chiang Mai we went.
We fell in love with this city because of how nice the people were and how they didn’t try to rip us off! This red taxi driver only charged us 50 Baht even though we had all this luggage.
We Chose the best time to visit Chiang Mai because the lantern festival is usually celebrated in November.
The lantern festival is popular in Thailand but don’t get this mixed up with the Full Moon Party. The festival is free here, so if people try to scam you and sell you tickets, be warned!
We came a few days early so we could get a feel of the city before the madness began.
We took some time doing fun activities like taking a cooking class. It was SO much fun, and once again, booking in groups is cheaper!
We explored nearby cities like Chiang Rai.
We went with a tour since we knew how complicated it would have been if we tried to train it ourselves since Chiang Rai was three hours away.
We brushed up some more on our haggling at the night market.
We felt bad for haggling but we felt even worse if we couldn’t get the prices for cheaper. In some instances, I haggled in Chinese so that other patrons didn’t understand what we were saying and they definitely appreciate that!
And then there were the lantern ceremonies.
Loi Krathong is where lanterns are released in the water.
The lanterns were all handmade and environment-friendly. They were so intricate and only cost about 100 baht.
Yee Peng is the releasing of sky lanterns.
These lanterns were sold out the first night and people were offering thousands of Bahts to buy them off one another, and we were about to do the same. However, we waited for the second night and were able to get them for 100 Baht!
We paid a visit to our ele-phriends at the Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary.
We bathed, fed and played with a couple of elephants, whole day of adventure that we would’ve probably paid anything for.
And the next day, we were off the Bangkok.
Once again, we were hit with overpriced things, crowds and getting hustled.
We tried to do super touristy things without paying a lot.
I actually didn’t go to the Grand Palace since I had been before already so decided to walk around and stumbled upon the Bangkok Museum, which was free!
And of course, we went to Khao San Road.
We met some guys from Singapore who wanted to hang with us, and so we partied the night away for my birthday, which saved us a lot of money since we didn’t buy drinks, but we all had a really, really good time.
It was so easy to fall in love with Bali.
They emphasize a lot on religion and are overall nice people.
Food, drinks and transportation were all so cheap!
Just a little more than $1 USD for a coconut. Worth it.
We stayed mostly in Airbnbs since we had so many people (5 girls!)
We ended up only paying about $150 USD each for our luxurious villa for three nights.
We booked two tours: The first was the Ubud Waterfall Tour.
We got to hang with monkeys at the Ubud Monkey Forest, visited a waterfall, a rice field, went to a coffee plantation, Ubud Palace and the art market for IDR 350,000 or about $27 USD.
The second was for climbing Mount Batur.
This was a bit pricier — about IDR 600,000 or $46 USD — but it’s a must-do.
Me and Maggie also took a fast boat to the Gili Islands.
The fast boat was a bit expensive at IDR 500,000 ($38USD) but we were provided shuttles to and from the ports as well as transport to the island.
There was a heavy emphasis on touristy things like snorkeling, diving and yoga.
Scuba diving was a bit out of budget so I settled for snorkeling, which was just as great. I only paid IDR 25,000 for half a day but that was more than enough.
And definitely green juices, Açai bowls and raw foods.
Prices were higher on the island since everything gets transported from Lombok.
Some things like seeing sea turtles and meeting friends from different parts of the world is pretty much…
The entire trip including flights, excursions, transportation and housing cost me less than $2,500 for a total of 28 days. This is all possible with a lot of research, trial and error and just braving it and doing it! Keep posted for more money-saving tips!