Cheapest Asian Countries to Visit on a Budget
We all want adventure in the great wide somewhere, but sometimes our bank accounts don't coordinate. Luckily, a lack of funds doesn't mean we have to give up travel, just that we have to forget the idea of luxury resorts and yachts.
Asia is known for being a perfect affordable travel destination, providing amazing experiences, rich history and great food for a very reasonable price. Vietnam and Thailand come to mind first, but there are several other low-cost countries you can venture around for less than $100 a day.
These are the cheapest Asian countries to visit on a budget.
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Average daily cost: $98*
As one of the smallest countries in Asia, Taiwan is often overlooked by travelers. But those wise enough to get to this island nation find one of the coolest places on the whole entire continent.
Let us put it like this — we have never met anyone who didn't like Taiwan. There are very few other places that hold this honor. The locals are notoriously open and friendly (Taiwan is often deemed as the safest and most welcoming Asian country for LGBTQIA people), and there are a million things to do.
Taipei offers a typical bustling city vibe and great nightlife. It's also just a short train ride away from beaches and mountains. Food, particularly in street stalls, is very affordable and delicious. And it's easy to find bargain prices for accommodations. What's not to like?
*All average daily costs are based on estimates from Budget Your Trip.
Best Budget Stay in Taiwan
For less than $20 a night, you can enjoy an actual hotel experience at the Yi Su Hotel – Taipei Ningxia.
That's right, you don't have to stay in a hostel dorm to keep within budget. Amenities include free tea and coffee-making facilities in-suite, air conditioning and free WiFi.
Average daily cost: $94
Ah, Thailand, the place where every backpacker with no money and a proclivity for walking around barefoot ends up. The large Southeast Asian country has an undeniable charm with swirling temples hiding giant golden Buddhas, jungles vibrating to the stomps of elephants, limestone cliffs dipping into turquoise waters and some of the best food you will ever eat in your life. And it offers all this for very, very cheap.
It's really no wonder why this country has become a broke gap-year traveler paradise, though some (us) would argue that this popularity has brought overtourism and overdevelopment to the country.
Our advice would be to head to the touristy spots for a couple of days and then hop to other places that aren't yet plagued with stalls selling tacky T-shirts to tourists. Oh, and get a Thai massage as often as possible.
Best Budget Stay in Thailand
For about $10 a night, the Flower Power Farm Village & Restaurant offers an idyllic escape on the island of Ko Phayam.
It offers simple and cozy bungalows, a restaurant that serves fruits right from the property and a peaceful setting.
12. South Korea
Average daily cost: $93
It's a bit surprising to see South Korea have a slightly lower average cost than Thailand, though we suspect this has to do with the fact that there are many ultra-luxury Thai resorts.
Still, the beautiful peninsula of South Korea is much more affordable than people think. Accommodations will be your biggest expense, and food is generally very cheap and very good. You can easily pay $10-$15 for a Korean BBQ dinner at a restaurant in Hongdae, one of the most frequented nightlife districts in Seoul (yes, New York's K-Town prices are an absolute scam). Other delicious dishes like red pepper soup (gochujang) or kimchi fried rice are generally under 10 dollars — and that's including all the numerous and generous side dishes.
Soju is also extremely cheap, as is norebang (the Korean equivalent of karaoke), so going out and having fun won't leave you destitute. Plus, you can travel around the country in the low-cost and highly efficient train and bus system.
Best Budget Stay in South Korea
Accommodation isn't cheap in Korea, especially in Seoul. But Hostel Korea provides a stay in a convenient location for less than $30 a night.
If that's still over budget for you, let us bring you into a local secret: jjimjilbangs. These public bathhouses are great for relaxing during the day. But people often also stay the night in the common areas where day users take naps.
Average daily cost: $69
It's difficult to make sweeping statements about the second-largest country on Earth. But we can say with certainty that a budget trip to China is easy to achieve.
Large cities offer something for every budget, from accommodations to food and things to do. Landmarks are also fairly priced. For instance, the entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing is less than $10.
Outside of the major metropolises, food and accommodations are even cheaper, though you're also less likely to find someone who speaks English. Hey, that's part of the adventure.
While traveling within China with a limited budget, keep in mind that you'll need to pay around $140 to apply for a travel visa.
Best Budget Stay in China
You'll have to pay around $50 a night to stay at the Ibis Hotel Beijing Guloudajie, but that's a great deal for Beijing.
In smaller cities or more rural areas of the country, you'll be able to find much better prices.
Average daily cost: $68
Bordering Thailand and Indonesia, many travelers make the mistake of skipping over Malaysia. Most people associate the country with its ultra-modern capital Kuala Lumpur, whose iconic Petronas Twin Towers give off a feeling of opulence rather than being budget-friendly. Thankfully, this couldn't be farther from the truth.
The country is split into two main parts. One is at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, and the other is in Borneo. While we personally think Borneo is one of the coolest places you could ever visit (two words: pigmy elephants), it's more cost-effective to head to the "mainland."
Besides visiting modern cities, you can go to temples hidden in caves, visit national parks and enjoy perfect beaches that aren't as overrun by tourists as those in neighboring Thailand.
Best Budget Stay in Malaysia
At Moon Eleven Hostel, you can spend a night in Kuala Lumpur for about $11.
Even better, a private room will only set you back $15.
9. The Philippines
Average daily cost: $56
With more than 7,000 islands (2,000 of which are inhabited), no one ever really gets to see the entire Philippines. But you can definitely enjoy parts of it without breaking the bank. Use Manila to fly in and out of the country, as flights will be cheaper, but don't stay too long here. Leave the dizzying capital behind in favor of some of the absolute best and most beautiful beaches in Asia (and the world).
El Nido, in Palawan, has become a favored place to visit after Boracay temporarily shut down due to overtourism. You won't find the quiet secluded island you would've seen a decade ago, but if you choose your location right, you'll still get plenty of time to enjoy nature without pollution and crowds.
Beer, food and accommodations are so cheap that many people stay an entire month. And then they simply leave because that's the limit for visa-less travel.
Best Budget Stay in the Philippines
You don't have to spend the big bucks to enjoy the gorgeous beaches of El Nido.
Mad Monkey Nacpan Beach offers dorms for $8 to $30, and it's located right on the sand.
7. Vietnam (Tie)
Average daily cost: $52
It may be cliché, but Vietnam is one of our most favorite countries in the entire world. Yes, there are so many motorcycles that they often require entire sidewalks as parking spaces. And yes, crossing the street can be scary. But these don't even count as minor inconveniences, really.
You'll forget about obstructed sidewalk when you're being revitalized by a hot plate of pho or in complete awe seeing one man and five dogs ride down the street on a single bike (true story).
Plus, the long country has incredibly diverse landscapes — from beaches to rice terraces to cities hiding a colonial past. The most astonishing place is without a doubt Ha Long Bay. Limestone cliffs form a dragon descending into emerald waters that, at the right time of year, glow with magical bioluminescence.
Like Thailand, Vietnam is a backpacker's delight, one that most people begrudgingly leave, wanting to come back as soon as possible.
Best Budget Stay in Vietnam
Stay in a renovated Art Deco building in Hanoi's Old Quarter at Little Charm Hanoi Hostel and Homestay. The price is dirt cheap — we're talking around $10 a night, and the reviews are great.
Plus, there's a pool that helps you escape the heat of the Vietnamese city.
7. Bangladesh (Tie)
Average daily cost: $52
Bangladesh is just as cheap as Vietnam but definitely not as popular. The South Asian country has historically been ignored by travelers, probably because it still lacks a developed international tourism infrastructure. In our book, this is a plus.
Travelers who want to get off the backpacker trail but still want an affordable (and veritable) adventure will love Bangladesh. You won't have a cushy vacation where English-speaking staff caters to your every need. But you'll get to see how people really live when they're not shaping themselves to the tourism industry.
And you definitely won't find entire streets that exist for the sole purpose of selling cheesy souvenirs to drunk tourists (sorry Thailand, it's hard to psychologically recover from Khaosan Road).
Learn a bit of the local language (which you should do anyway when you travel), and dive head first into an intrepid quest.
Best Budget Stay in Bangladesh
How often do you get to stay at a four-star hotel for $52 a night?
Enjoy luxury on a budget at the Hotel Omni Residency in Dhaka.
5. Indonesia (Tie)
Average daily cost: $50
Few places embody the spirit of digital nomadism as much as Bali. Or, depending on how you look at it, few places have been invaded by remote workers as much as this Indonesian island.
Either way, it's undeniable that Indonesia has landscapes so beautiful they will make you cry, as well as intricate temples, tall volcanic peaks that provide great sunrise views and plenty of secluded beaches.
For around $50 a day, you can enjoy a jungle bungalow not far from the beach on many islands, including Bali. This unrivaled charm at a great price is what has attracted so many expats to the country. If you have time, try to island-hop a bit, as each region has its distinct culture, cuisine and landscape.
Best Budget Stay in Indonesia
A villa with a pool that's a five-minute walk from the beach usually costs money.
But at Villa Purin Royan, you'll enjoy great amenities and a great location for less than $10 a night.
5. Cambodia (Tie)
Average daily cost: $50
Most people go to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat and then leave without a second thought. And don't get us wrong, the largest religious complex on Earth is one of the most awe-inspiring places you will ever see. It's also affordable for pretty much any traveler, especially since everything else is so economical.
But after crossing that off your bucket list, make plans to head back to the country and visit its less-explored (and even more affordable) areas. Many travelers rent a motorbike for the entirety of their stay and explore freely, but hiring a tuk-tuk driver is also doable.
Plus, if you ask, they can take you to the places where locals eat. Based on our personal experience, these are more than 10 times cheaper than the touristy eateries.
Best Budget Stay in Cambodia
Siem Reap travelers who stay at Happy Guesthouse seem to indeed leave quite happy.
Part of that is the cheap price (around $13 a night), but we imagine the accommodation's great hospitality, convenient location and good vibes have something to do with it as well.
Average daily cost: $33
Heading to India with few earthly possessions to seek spiritual enlightenment is so overdone, that it has almost become a cartoonish representation of travelers. But you don't have to "Eat, Pray, Love" your trip to India. In fact, we encourage you not to.
It's entirely possible to experience all the best things this country has to offer without being reductionist about its religion and culture. And you can do so with very little money. This is part of what has driven droves of young travelers to the region since the 1960s.
What's best, because India is so incredibly big (it's the seventh-largest country in the world), you can go back again and again and never step into the same river twice. The country provides a lifetime of wallet-friendly travel experiences.
Best Budget Stay in India
At New Delhi's Mavens White Gurgaon you'll get amenities like free bike rentals, a private bathroom and a flat-screen TV for as little as $7.
There's also a shared kitchen where you can cook meals if you're looking to save even more money.
Average daily cost: $32
Similar to India, Nepal offers temples, mouthwatering food and the Himalayas for a little over $30 a day.
Many people come to try to conquer the crown jewel of the country: Mount Everest. And while that's definitely an experience only for the rich or sponsored, climbing other areas of the impressive mountain range, or getting to Everest Base Camp is not out of reach for the average traveler.
Outside of the mountains, you'll find deep spiritualism, not unlike that of Nepal's neighbor, but one that has not yet been as exploited for the sake of pleasing tourists. And do we even have to mention momos? We'd get on a plane just for Nepalese dumplings any day.
Best Budget Stay in Nepal
You'd usually expect only hostels to be as cheap as $6 a night, but Hotel Lapha offers a no-frills experience that doesn't require you to share a room or a bathroom.
The hotel is conveniently located near landmarks such as the Garden of Dreams and the Narayanhity Palace Museum in Kathmandu.
1. Sri Lanka (Tie)
Average daily cost: $19
India, Nepal and Bangladesh are not the only affordable places on the Indian subcontinent. The clear winner in terms of cost-effectiveness is the very underrated island of Sri Lanka.
Floating on the Indian Ocean not too far from India, Sri Lanka is a hidden treasure. Tourism was driven away by conflict in the '90s and early 2000s, but the area has enjoyed relative stability for many years now, and it won't be too long until groups of travelers start popping up more and more frequently on its shores.
Hinduism and Buddhism are the main religions, as evidenced by the imposing temples scattered throughout the country. There are also landmarks that are almost hard to believe, like the City of Sigiriya, an ancient settlement almost entirely carved into a 660-foot-tall rock.
Sri Lanka ties with another underrated destination as the cheapest country in Asia.
Best Budget Stay in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is so affordable, that you can stay at a three-star hotel for $10. Sure, you could find even cheaper hostels, but for just a few more bucks, we'd recommend staying at Hive 68. You'll get a private room and bathroom and could also have a private balcony overlooking the water.
Or treat yourself to a five-star hotel for only $57 a night by booking the Mandarina Colombo.
1. Laos (Tie)
Average daily cost: $19
If you're looking for the absolute cheapest Asian country to visit and don't want to do Sri Lanka, head to Laos. It's interesting that this country hasn't been invaded by tourists like its neighboring countries, though many committed gap-year travelers do take the time to cross into it from Vietnam or Thailand.
But regardless of why it's managed to keep overtourism at bay, the authenticity of Laos is what makes it a memorable destination. Even Vientiane, the capital, is nowhere near as busy and loud as its counterparts, even though it has many beautiful temples.
With a delightfully slow pace and prices that few other countries could offer, Laos should top your list of the best Asian countries.
Best Budget Stay in Laos
Located in the Vientianne city center, the three-star V Hotel costs about $6 a night. While amenities are limited, you won't have to stay in a dorm, and many of the rooms have private balconies.
Plus, you'll be in the middle of the action and close to landmarks like the Lao National Museum.