Five Cheapest Ways to Travel in Asia


Bronze Wordsmith
May 17, 2018
Out of all the budget travel experiences I’ve had thus far, Asian countries have remained my favorites – specifically South East Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The beaches are beautiful, the cuisine is mouth-watering, the culture and traditions fascinating, and the people generally friendly and accommodating. Oh, and I also manage to always keep within my travel budget because of the relatively affordable prices – from plane tickets, accommodations, food, through to souvenir items.

How do I achieve this? I (and my wife and kids) had to go through several Asian trips before I learned how to travel on a budget, of course. But here I am, a savvier traveler with lots of tips to share with you. So if you are planning to visit an Asian country (or several) soon, read on and learn how you can do it without spending too much.

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Nix the Tourist Traps (and Guides)

Today I prefer researching before traveling and backpacking over signing up for tour guides and travel packages. Not only does it lead me to the road less traveled; it’s also more budget-friendly! Again, I had to learn this the hard way – regrettably by spending loads of money at first.

During my family's first visits to Asia, we did the entire tour package deal. More often than not, it included “must-try” restaurants and rows upon rows of souvenir stores in-between the tourist spots. The tourists we were traveling with grumbled a lot because of the expensive menus and inflated price tags on items we could have gotten cheaper elsewhere. Worse, if you’re part of a tour group, you’re going to have to wait for tardy stragglers who can’t seem to keep track of the time and stick to the itinerary!

By avoiding guided tours, you can discover more affordable alternatives for food and shopping, stumble on exciting locations, get to meet new people, and won’t have to waste time sticking to a dull routine for each day of your vacation.

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Go Easy On the Night Life

When I was on a summer vacation with friends at a beach resort in the Philippines, I was shocked at how vibrant the night-life was on that island. I ended up practically drinking and dancing the night away for each day I stayed on that beach! Now, for the most part, a lot of the drinking and dancing were free because of the friendly locals who invited my friends and me to join them for videoke parties and what-not.

But in-between all that free partying were sociable drinking at bars and nightclubs – and the shocking moments afterward when we were handed the bill. Getting inebriated because you’re on vacation is easy enough to do, so my advice is to learn how to control your drink so that you have a good time, but still manage to stick to your travel budget.

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Eat Locally

One of the biggest reasons I love Asian countries is – you guessed it! – the food. I consider myself an adventurous foodie, so I’m game for even the most exotic dishes being offered up. It’s in Asian countries that I got to eat frog legs, seaweed salads, deep-fried pig knuckles, and various delicacies I usually wouldn’t think of tasting on my own. Surprisingly, those dishes were quite affordable, and – count me lucky here – sometimes free if they are served up as part of “fiestas” (locally themed feasts), house parties, and other celebrations I come across.

But I have to admit that there were times when I would long for the convenience of fast food – the kind I usually have back home. So I would go to American-style diners or fast-food restaurants and order my usual meal of burgers, fries, and shakes. While they were relatively more affordable in these countries, it defeated the purpose of being adventurous and looking for cheap but delicious local food.

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Use the Internet for Calls Back Home

Using the international data roaming service on my phone was of the most expensive mistakes I first made when traveling abroad. There were so many charges tacked on every call I made (even the ones that were under a minute) that it felt like I was getting ripped off big time.

I managed to work around this while still finding a way for my loved ones back home to contact me in case of an emergency – I use Skype to converse with them. Most of the hotels where I stayed had business centers where I could use a laptop expressly for that purpose. And there were so many affordable Internet cafes and coworking spaces in South East Asia that I didn’t find it hard to stay connected with my family and friends at any given time.

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Don’t Hesitate to Haggle

…whenever and wherever you can, that is. One of the most practical travel tips I picked up from fellow Asia tourists is to haggle, haggle, and haggle. Of course, you can’t do that in commercial establishments like restaurants and malls with their fixed retail prices. Anywhere else, though, is fair game for getting the initial price tag down to something you are willing to pay for.

My favorite places to haggle are hawker stalls, weekend markets, small clusters of stores that can cook freshly caught seafood and organic vegetable dishes for customers, and open-air markets where they sell souvenir and food items at unbelievable prices! There will also be vendors everywhere you turn, especially in the more touristy places, and they are almost always willing to haggle with customers.

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The Verdict?

Any savvy traveler will always have some tips to share based on their personal experiences. I just wrote five of mine, and I’m proud to have gone through all of them so that I can pay it forward to fellow travelers of Asian countries. In a nutshell, it’s always a good idea to do some prior research before booking a flight to any country. This research can be done either by reading up about a place online or interviewing people who have been there and done that.
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