The good news is, it's likely going to be cheaper than most other places you're planning on hitting on that bucket list.
Just like any trip, how much you spend is going to be made up of your fixed and variable costs, divided by how many days/weeks/months you're abroad to give you your budget.
Fixed costs: Flights in/out, visas, passport, insurance
Variable costs: Accommodation, food, transport, entertainment
Your fixed costs will be based on where you live, how long you're going for, and timing among other things. Your variable costs will be day to day expenses, like hostels, food and and entertainment.
Total SE Asia Budget = Total Variable Costs + Fixed Costs
Weekly SE Asia Budget = (Daily Variable Costs * 7) + (Fixed Costs / Total Days Abroad * 7)
Typical Fixed Cost Breakdown for SE Asia
|Fixed costs||Price (USD)|
|Total per day (30 Days)||$25|
|Currency||Total Fixed Costs||Total Per Day (30 Days)|
The total per day is going to be a separate item in your variable costs, so the idea is that we're spreading the fixed costs throughout our trip.
If this doesn't look right to you, particularly in the flights department, adjust it, calculate the total and then you can divide it by however many days you're going to be in SE Asia.
Important note: For inter-city travel, the easiest way to get a ballpark figure for me has been to count up how many individual trips I have x ~$26
Example: This SE Asia trip has only 4 legs, 4 x 26 = $104 will be the total fixed cost estimate.
- Bangkok ➡️ Chiang Mai
- Chiang Mai ➡️ Hanoi
- Hanoi ➡️ Da Nang
- Da Nang ➡️ Saigon
I calculated the ~$26 (25.7) figure by averaging 8 trips, 3 cheap, 3 mid range, 2 expensive. You can use your own estimates.
This method prioritizes the freedom of a flexible travel circuit. If you have set-in-stone plans, you could make it even more accurate by finding the exact prices.
Typical Total Cost Breakdown: Variable Cost + Fixed Cost Spread for SE Asia
Weekly variable expenses, so the expenses you have control over, can total whatever you want depending on your spending habits.
|Variable costs||Price per week (USD)|
|Food + Water||$112|
|Entertainment + Drinks||$67|
|Inner City Transport||$35|
|Fixed cost spread||$175|
|Total Variable Cost||$266|
|Total (Variable + Fixed)||$441|
This price might make you excited or do the opposite depending on what your expectations were. But good news either way, we can bring this right down. If you look at the pie chart, you realize that a lot of these expenses are because of the initial fixed costs associated with the trip, like flights and inter-city travel - the good news is, this doesn't have to be like this.
We'll break it down in the next section. But before that, here's some more useful information.
|Currency||Weekly Variable Costs||Weekly Total Costs|
Bringing The Costs Down
Just by simple math, that weekly budget/cost will get brought down the longer you spend abroad. $750 flights will be a big expense for a 3 week trip, but if that was a 3 month trip, it'd be a drop in the ocean.
As you can see in the breakdowns above, we went from $266 a week to $441. A big jump just because we included fixed costs, but if this trip was 2 months, we'd be down to $355 a week as we'd spread those costs further.
So when you're going for a longer trip, yes you're spending more money, but relatively speaking, your fixed costs become only a small portion of your entire travels.
If you're looking to bring the cost down in it's entirety, not just relatively, you have many other options. Besides reducing some variable costs, or cutting down on inter-city travel, you can also earn an income working abroad.
- Working in a hostel for board, food, and entertainment - In the example above you'd save all of your hostel fees and half your food & entertainment - shaving off ~$140 from your weekly budget
- Teaching English remotely - as an example, just teaching two 1 hour lessons remotely on a contract basis would earn you ~$100
This should be enough information for you to get an idea of how much it'll cost for you to backpack around SE Asia. Note that each country is a little different and this list is heavily based on averages and my experiences.
This article will be continually monitored and updated accordingly. The next step will be including an easy to use calculator 😎