RTW budget: What it costs to travel in SE Asia


So, after six weeks in Asia, what was the damage?

Confession: I didn’t track those first four days in Malaysia. We were getting settled into travelling, using a lot of cash gifts from the wedding, and spent some on phone calls and taxis to meet with friends and family – but also had some meals covered by them. It was all a bit messy, in short.

I did, however, track our spending pretty closely from then on. Here are the Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam breakdowns.

Averaged out, that came to…

NZ $82.10 a day

Could you do it for cheaper? Yes, absolutely.

We weren’t out to spend as little as humanly possible. Our budget is more reflective of a flashpacker budget – frugal but not cheap, comfortable not stingy. Starting our trip in Asia meant we could be a little looser with the purse strings and have a bit of a honeymoon phase before entering bona fide backpacker mode in the Northern Hemisphere.

Our travel style

Accommodation was in guesthouses and budget hotels, usually about about $12-15 for a double air con room.


Food varied widely – anything from $1-2 street food/pastries to $5 meals at restaurants. If you eat like a bird and don’t mind eating noodles for breakfast, you can probably get by on $3-6 each a day . If, like us, you have a normal to large appetite, you’ll spend more – potentially a lot more. (That said, portions aren’t uniform. Some are so small you could practically inhale a bowl in one go; others are reasonably sized, though in most cases I was left wanting more.)

We love food, so we were happy to splurge quite often. There were plenty of fruit smoothies, milkshakes, fizzy, and sugarcane purchases. (Don’t forget about drinks – you’ll spend a couple bucks on water every day, and you won’t want to miss out on the fresh fruit drinks in Asia. The cheap alcohol tempted even us non-drinkers into a few mixers throughout Thailand and Vietnam.) There were treats like cake, snacks, and ice cream from time to time. But our food expenditure really went up in Vietnam, because T got sick multiple times there, and after the first time, was (understandably) wary of street food. From then on, he stopped eating soup – which is, of course, the staple in Vietnam) – favouring starches and solid stuff, and mostly ate in restaurants rather than on the street. I still ate street food at least once a day, though.

Transport wise, we mainly travelled overland. Train, bus, minivan … We used public transport a few times, but most of the time, it was taxis or tuktuks. They’re convenient, not too expensive, and most of all, more comfortable for T, especially for journeys where we were lugging our packs around.

8 thoughts on “RTW budget: What it costs to travel in SE Asia

  • Reply Liz July 8, 2013 at 16:41

    Imagining all of the lovely drink options is making me seventeen kinds of thirsty right now.

  • Reply Untemplater July 8, 2013 at 17:45

    $82 NZD a day is great! Nice job keeping your costs down and getting to see so many fabulous places. I wish food was that cheap here. We have a lot of Asian cuisine in SF but the prices can get steep.

  • Reply Jennifer July 8, 2013 at 19:10

    We averaged around £12 each a day in se asia so probably about the same as you. I wouldnt really like to do it any cheaper because I feel i’d have to start majorly missing out of activities

    • Reply Kelly Abroad July 8, 2013 at 20:29

      Twelve pounds per day is NZ $23 per day which is quite remarkable!

  • Reply Kelly July 8, 2013 at 20:26

    Is this for two ? Or per person ?

  • Reply Chris July 12, 2013 at 19:07

    Looking to head to SE Asia after Australia. Great to get an idea of the main daily costs with the option cost of being more frugal. Cheers!

  • Reply RTW budget: A six-month recap | NZ Muse January 14, 2014 at 07:05

    […] For a little over a month in Asia, we spent about $3034, averaging $82 a day. I’d consider that a mid-level comfortable budget – we certainly didn’t deny ourselves anything (especially when it came to food and drink) but we didn’t stay in ritzy places or do anything super extravagant. See also: individual country spending breakdowns for Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. […]

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