Cheapest Destinations in Southeast Asia to Travel this 2022

Wade (2022) ranked major destinations in the world according to Backpacker’s Index developed by Price of Travel in 2020. The ranking is based on daily expenses to include a dorm bed in a good and cheap hostel, 3 budget meals, 2 public transportation rides, 1 paid cultural attraction, and 3 cheap beers which can also be called as “entertainment fund.” Most of the destinations that dominate the ranking are from Southeast Asia while destinations in North America are among the most expensive places backpackers can visit (Wade, 2022).

Here is the 2022 Ranking of the Cheapest Destinations in Southeast Asia for Backpackers

1. Vientiane, Laos

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Vientiane is 19.39 USD (Wade, 2022). The city is a great bargain destination for travelers to Southeast Asia with nearly everything cheaper than Bangkok and more along the likes of Hanoi or Jakarta. Being a small city, there aren’t loads of hotels in Vientiane but fortunately most of them are quite cheap and staff are friendly.  The main attractions in the city cost little or nothing, so it should be quite easy to keep one’s budget intact (Price of Travel, 2021).

2. Luang Prabang, Laos

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Luang Prabang is 21.38 USD (Wade, 2022). Luang Prabang deserves its reputation as one of Southeast Asia’s most charming cities. The mixed colonial architecture and the many picturesque temples add to an ambiance that is unusually romantic and pleasantly laid back. There’s a good reason why Luang Prabang is now Laos’ most popular touristy destination. The city has far more fancy and expensive restaurants than Vientiane or anywhere else in Laos but there are plenty of cheaper places as well. Drinks are also quite cheap in most places especially for those who like fresh fruit juice or Beerlao (Price of Travel, 2021).

3. Chiang Mai, Thailand

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Chiang Mai is 21.80 USD (Wade, 2022).  Thailand’s northern capital is extremely popular to anyone exploring Thailand beyond Bangkok and the islands. Chiang Mai is the hiking and trekking capital of Thailand so there are plenty of outdoor activities and tours available here.  The food in Chiang Mai is another highlight since many of the famous dishes here are different from those that are popular in Bangkok. Also, hotels and hostels in Chiang Mai are inexpensive that many long-term travelers come here to stay for weeks or months which mean many expats and tourists make Chiang Mai their base (Price of Travel, 2021).

4. Hanoi, Vietnam

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Hanoi is 22.44 USD (Wade, 2022).  One of the world’s great travel bargains, Hanoi offers a fascinating mix of colonial French and modern Vietnamese at prices that are hard to believe. The capital of Vietnam is still far more traditional than the larger Saigon in the south. There aren’t a lot of must-see sites, but the city center makes up for that with excellent food and drink at very low prices (Price of Travel, 2021).

5. Yangon, Myanmar

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Yangon is 22.45 USD (Wade, 2022).  Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is the former capital and by far the largest city in Myanmar. Since the semi-official tourism boycott was lifted in 2012 after the country started with democratic reforms, things have been changing rapidly. As of now the tourism infrastructure is weak compared to other Southeast Asian countries but that’s part of the charm of Myanmar (Price of Travel, 2021).

6. Hoi An, Vietnam

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Hoi An is 23.46 USD (Wade, 2022).   With a former Chinese fishing village at its core, Hoi An is impossibly charming and it often becomes the top highlight of any tour to Vietnam. Since it’s much smaller than Hanoi or Saigon, Hoi An feels much more relaxed. This is a touristy place for sure, but it’s also very pleasant and an amazing travel bargain. Hoi An is most noted as the best place in Southeast Asia to have clothes custom-made at very good prices, and it’s true that you’ll see scores of tailor shops all over. The city is also a top culinary destination, with specialties from all over Vietnam available in its many reasonably priced restaurants (Price of Travel, 2021).

7. Saigon, Vietnam

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) is 24.24 USD (Wade, 2022).  Saigon (officially Ho Chi Minh City) is Vietnam’s largest city is much more sprawling and modern than the capital, Hanoi. Nearly all of the downtown buildings are new and it has a very different feel than Hanoi. It’s best to visit both cities if you have a chance and the long train ride that connects them is an excellent way to see even more of the country. Saigon is easily one of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant cities and is a fast-moving destination with plenty of attractions to see.  In Saigon, one can see thousands of people on motor bikes going in every direction which can feel exciting even if it also makes crossing the street a bit challenging (Price of Travel, 2021). Tip: when crossing the streets with thousands of motorbikes, just go straight ahead and never stop.  It is more chaotic if you stop-and-go while crossing (Price of Travel, 2021).

8. Jakarta, Indonesia

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Jakarta is 25.11 USD (Wade, 2022).  Jakarta has an unusual reputation compared to most big cities in Southeast Asia. Many people recommend skipping it altogether, but it’s the main hub for reaching almost anywhere else in Indonesia except Bali where many many international flights fly direct to the island. Jakarta is enormous, crowded, sprawling, and always hot and humid. On a positive note, it has excellent shopping and nightlife, and things tend to be pretty cheap. As long as one like Indonesian food, then one can eat very affordably in Jakarta. There are also plenty of fast food chains and international options but the best deals are always on the local stuff (Price of Travel, 2021).

9. Bangkok, Thailand

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Bangkok is 25.89 USD (Wade, 2022). Bangkok is truly one of the world’s great cities and also a bargain destination for travelers in almost every way. Bangkok is the gateway to Southeast Asia and necessarily, the best place to start a visit to the region. In Bangkok, not only are the attractions top-notch, but the tourist infrastructure is far better than anywhere else in the Southeast Asia. The temples and other main sights are stunning and worth a few days for first time visitors. The nightlife scene is also among the best in Asia including some edgy (adult-only) things that aren’t available in most other countries (Price of Travel, 2021).

10. Manila, Philippines

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Manila is 26.90 USD (Wade, 2022). Manila is a huge city with limitless number of things going on and it’s becoming more popular among cultural travelers and those exploring Southeast Asia. It’s relatively cheap compared to most of Asia in general, though it’s generally more expensive than mainland countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia (Price of Travel, 2021).  According to Wade (2022), food prices in Manila are quite low by international standards but most don’t find the cuisine itself to be too special.

11. Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Phnom Penh is 27.26 USD (Wade, 2022).  Phnom Penh is yet another great travel bargain in Southeast Asia. Cambodia has its own currency, The Cambodian Riel, but all ATMs dispense US dollars and nearly everything is priced in USD so one can most likely to deal with Riels as small change in place of coins. Generally, Phnom Penh is more expensive than cities in Vietnam and Thailand (Price of Travel, 2021). 

12. Siem Reap, Cambodia

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Siem Reap is 28.25 USD (Wade, 2022).  Siem Reap is the staging ground for all visits to the amazing Angkor Wat temple complex. Siem Reap is a surprisingly lovely small city that is worth at least a few days of trip especially if one is spending too much time in larger cities. Siem Reap in itself is a very pleasant and easy-to-visit city with very appealing prices on food, drinks, and hotels (Price of Travel, 2021). 

13. Bali, Indonesia

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Bali is 28.65 USD (Wade, 2022).   Bali is a gorgeous island with gentle locals and a great tourist infrastructure. It also has a pretty serious traffic problem so it’s best to rent a motorbike when going around. The hillside town of Ubud is the art capital of the island and it’s one of the better places to stay. Kuta area is where the beaches and partying are. Many say that Bali is one of the most magical destinations on the planet and visit to Bali can be a dazzling and spiritual experience. However, Bali is also become over touristy to the point that it’s easy to have a frustrating visit if you don’t plan your itinerary well (Price of Travel, 2021). 

14. Phuket, Thailand

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Phuket is 33.18 USD (Wade, 2022). Phuket is Thailand’s most popular island with its own large international airport.  Hence, visitors don’t have to change planes in Bangkok like for the other islands in the country. Phuket has 32 white sand beaches around the islands’ perimeter so it’s very important for a visitor to book for a hotel in an area that suits ones travel style.  Patong Beach is the main beach area on the island and its home to most of the island’s shopping centers as well as its nightlife and “adult entertainment.” It’s a perfect place for some people and the worst choice for many others (Price of Travel, 2021). 

15. Boracay, Philippines

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Boracay is 33.18 USD (Wade, 2022). Boracay Island rewards those who seek it out with gorgeous beaches and an old-school charm that is getting harder to find in Asia. The western side of the island is basically one huge beach that is lined with hotels and guesthouses. The other side of the island is a short walk away and home to some of Asia’s best windsurfing. As with most beach destinations, Boracay Island is ideal for those who want to relax on the sand. There’s almost no car traffic on the tiny roads, and most guests get around on foot along the sandy path along the beach (Price of Travel, 2021). 

16. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Kuala Lumpur is 33.18 USD (Wade, 2022). Kuala Lumpur has almost everything a tourist asks for. Kuala Lumpur’s modern architecture is world-class and the historic temples and monuments are also excellent and accessible. The combination of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures and cuisines make for a wonderful mix that makes it feel like several cities at once (Price of Travel, 2021). 

17. Singapore

The average daily budget for a backpacker in Singapore is 63.40 USD (Wade, 2022). Singapore is one of the world’s most modern cities. Singapore has transformed itself in recent years to a must-see city for anyone going to Asia. It’s now quite expensive compared to most other large Asian cities, but it still mostly feels like good value. Even before the exposure in Crazy, Rich Asians, Singapore had been known as one of the world’s great food destinations. Better still, many of the city’s best eateries are the super-affordable hawker stalls found in almost every neighborhood. The architecture is also a huge highlight in Singapore especially with the amazing Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino that dominates the skyline (Price of Travel, 2021). 

According to the study made by Walde (2022), the top 20 cheapest destinations to visit are:

  1. Vientiane, Laos
  2. Luang Prabang, Laos
  3. Chiang Mai, Thailand
  4. Pokhara, Nepal
  5. Hanoi, Viet Nam
  6. Yangon, Myanmar
  7. Kathmandu, Nepal
  8. Zanzibar City, Tanzania
  9. Delhi, India
  10. Hoi An, Viet Nam
  11. Colombo, Sri Lanka
  12. Saigon, Viet Nam
  13. Quito, South America
  14. Jakarta, Indonesia
  15. Bangkok, Thailand
  16. La Paz, South America
  17. Manila, Philippines
  18. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  19. Siem Reap, Cambodia
  20. Granada, Nicaragua

On the other hand, the top 15 most expensive destinations for backpackers are:

  1. Boston, United States
  2. New York City, United States
  3. Zurich, Switzerland
  4. Chicago, United States
  5. Honolulu, United States
  6. San Francisco, United States
  7. Las Vegas, United States
  8. Los Angeles, United States
  9. Reykjavik, Iceland
  10. Washington D.C., United States
  11. Vancouver, North America
  12. Oslo, Norway
  13. Bergen, Norway
  14. Interlaken, Switzerland
  15. Tel Aviv, Middle East

The study was conducted in 2020 and the result was released by Price of Travel on July 2022.  There were 136 destinations included in the study and inflation and currency fluctuations have been considered in the ranking.  The first list was made in 2010 and this is the second update since then.

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