The Cost of Traveling South East Asia

I wanted to dedicate a post to breaking down my cost of living for the last 5 months in Asia to show how affordable traveling in this part of the world can be. To some, traveling seems too expensive and out of reach. However, from my experience it isn’t much more expensive than living in Australia. The only difference being that in Australia, there was the added benefit of money going into my bank account and not just coming out.

The following shows a very basic breakdown of my cost of traveling for the last 5 months:

Considering that no money has came into my bank account all year it was simple enough to work out. I took the total balance from the day I left and subtracted it from the remaining balance on the 25th of May (last day in Asia). Flights to/from Asia vary wildly, as does the cost and comprehensiveness of travel insurance so I decided to remove these figures.

Big Ticket Inclusions:

  • All internal flights and transportation in Asia
  • Costs of the Muay Thai camp and associated equipment (new shoes, clothes, wraps, etc)
  • Second hand iPod Nano bought at MBK in Bangkok to replace the one that drowned in Cambodia
  • Cost of climbing Mt Kinabalu and equipment bought for that (jacket, jumper, beanie etc)
  • All visa costs
  • The approximately $200 I have been charged in bank fees – for my next trip I’ll definitely be looking into a way to reduce this.


  • Flights from Australia to Koh Samui (approx $1000)
  • Flights from Hanoi to LAX ($470)
  • Insurance (approx $600)
  • All other pre-departure preparation (backpack, clothes, vaccinations etc)

To some, $1350 per month of traveling might sound cheap, to other and probably more experienced backpackers this may sound like a lot. If I was traveling by myself for the entire time my expenses would undoubtedly be closer to the $1000/month level. I also wouldn’t have had as much fun. This is mostly because the first six weeks of the trip consisted of a lot of binge partying with my brother and good mates from home. And with alcohol being 1/5th of the price of Australia, you often drink 5 times as much as you otherwise would have.

Another (higher) expense for the first six weeks was food as our group ate predominantly in restaurants that catered to foreigners. Since I’ve been traveling solo I tend to eat in a lot of local restaurants/stalls and at markets where a meal may cost $2. Or even less for a roti canai and tea in Malaysia! If the trip was on a very tight budget, it could certainly have been planned better. For instance, we flew from Laos to Phuket for a final party week before two of the group went home. We also had to fly from Phuket to Cambodia (and back again) to get our visas for Thailand because we didn’t do that when we were in Laos. Planning would have saved money, but looking back I wouldn’t change a thing given a second chance.

I also should note that for the 10 days my parents were in Vietnam with me my expenses were next to nothing which throws the figures out slightly.

For curiosity’s sake I did a quick estimate of my monthly expenses back home to compare. I actually have a thorough budget I drew up last year but, alas, it’s back in Australia so this estimate will have to do:

As you can see from this albeit rough breakdown, it really isn’t that much more expensive ($240 it seems) to travel in Asia than live in Australia.

I hope this has provided some insight for anyone looking into traveling in Southeast Asia and trying to workout how much it will cost. For anyone with travel envy, I hope this has shown that traveling for a few months isn’t as far out of reach as you may think.

If you have any questions or comments about anything I’ve covered in this post, let me know in the comments.


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