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Finance and money

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Mr and Mrs backpacking on £8000

Posted by mcbees on 8/3/2009 at 23:33

My husband and I are planning a 6 month trip SE Asia only. We had planned on taking no more than £8000, is this going to be enough?

Thanks in advance.

#1 mcbees has been a member since 8/3/2009. Posts: 6

Posted by Lother on 9/3/2009 at 02:42

That comes to about £22 each per day. It really depends on your style of travel, but I'd say it's enough as long as you don't plan on splurging often or taking expensive flights etc. Also depends on which countries you're going to and how long you plan to spend in each. Laos is really cheap, and Thailand outside the main tourist centres is too. You'll do fine with that budget in Vietnam and Cambodia as well, but Malaysia is a little more expensive.

A lot of beer and other entertainment can raise the costs quickly, as can only taking AC rooms. For myself I've found it's a good idea to try and stay in fan rooms from the start so you don't get too used to AC :).

But anyway, overall I think it's a fine budget, people have travelled with less.

#2 Lother has been a member since 12/5/2006. Location: Earth. Posts: 214

Posted by mcbees on 9/3/2009 at 03:54

Thanks, that's useful to know especially re Malaysia where we are thinking of spending some time.

#3 mcbees has been a member since 8/3/2009. Posts: 6

Posted by amazon_blonde on 9/3/2009 at 22:45

McBees, if my exchange rates are right, that's about $60 USD (or $80 CDN) per day for the two of you. That is probably just enough, but it depends on a few factors, such as:
- when are you going? (high season/peak season/low season makes a big difference)
- where do you plan to spend the most time? (costs vary from country to country)
- what standard of accommodation do you have in mind? (I.e. I'm going to assume double rooms with ensuite bathroom, but not necessarily a/c on the thai islands because it's too expensive)
- are you willing to eat street food or would you like to eat 3 meals a day in a restaurant?
- do you plan to scuba dive or rock climb or do a look of motorbiking? (all these add extra costs)
- do you plan to drink a lot? (believe it or not, this can be a HUGE factor. e.g. in krabi, thailand you can get a good room for 500B a night, but cocktails are about 100B each or more, so it doesn't take long for your booze to be more than your room)

Overall, I think it's reasonable, and that's about the budget that my partner and I have been travelling on in SEA (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam) over the past few months. We're travelling high season but avoided peak season prices, stay in double rooms ensuite with a/c in BKK and big cities, eat a decent dinner at a budget resto but are always willing to try cheap street food where we feel comfortable. (But we didn't eat any street food in Laos or Cambodia -- there were too many people getting sick around us, and even then we got very sick once.) Our budget of about $60 USD per day does include ground transportation, but no airfares (that's extra) and no scuba or rock climbing expenses (which we've racked up).

Being the cautious Canuck that I am, I'd want to have a couple extra thousand pounds available (either cash or credit) in case of emergency or some irresistable activities or shopping etc. but if the 8000 doesn't include your airfares to SEA, you should be fine.

Have a great trip!

#4 amazon_blonde has been a member since 20/12/2008. Posts: 116

Posted by mcbees on 11/3/2009 at 03:30

Amazon blonde, thanks, v comprehensive!! We're all up for cheap accommodation, street food (where suitably tasty and safe) and avoiding lavish spending eg big drinking, loads of excursions etc... Reserve fund is food for thought - is this your caution or do others think along these lines too?

Early days of planning so not sure where yet to spend bulk of time or what we want from each place but this all helps, thanks.

#5 mcbees has been a member since 8/3/2009. Posts: 6

Posted by amazon_blonde on 11/3/2009 at 12:02

I'm not sure what other people's approach is to a reserve fund. I honestly wouldn't feel comfortable travelling for that long around SEA without some kind of safety cushion, whether that be credit cards, a line of credit, family, etc. It's unlike, but what if something really awful happens? One of my best friends broke his back when a rope swing broke, in Portugal, and that was chaos and required a lot of cash up front -- not necessarily for the medical treatment but for hotels and flights and emergency evac for his girlfriend. They got almost everything back from travel insurance, but they needed to have the resources to pay up front.
And I like to have a bit extra, because however much I budget, it usually ends up costing more ... inevitably.

#6 amazon_blonde has been a member since 20/12/2008. Posts: 116

Posted by dageshi on 12/3/2009 at 17:08

mcbees, that should be more than enough in my opinion but here is my recommendations.

start with fan rooms and acclimatise to them, in the long run you'll save a ton of money by avoiding air con. or at least you'll know when it's *really hot* amd it's worth spending the extra on aircon. But any place that's *really hot* probably won't be a comfortable travel experience.

most south east asian destinations have a "backpacker district" that is one street, one block or one qurter of the whole city (I'm thinking of you Chiang Mai) that's packed full of guesthouses, restaurants e.t.c. finding this one area in advance will massively make your life easier, you can spend 10 minutes walking around and checking rooms to find something you like.

if the major attraction of a destination is "the food, the drink and the beaches" chances are your going to spend far more money than you expect because "the drinks are so cheap" they arn't when you drink 15 of them in a night (I'm thinking of you Sihanoukville) so plan for a set amount of time in these places not just to "leave when you fancy" or more likely when your visa runs out and you end up paying $5 at the border in overstay fines. Seriously maybe you or rather I should stop going to Sihanoukville.

Finally some advice on picking a good room.

The best rooms are on the second floor or higher (ground floor rooms mean you ghave to close the curtains to get some privacy)

They're on the corner of the building (corner rooms often have two windows meaning you can get some natural air flow, these rooms are much cooler)

The higher the ceiling the better, high ceilings make for cool rooms.

If your staying three days or more somewhere ask for a discount on the room, you'll often get something off and it all adds up.

You don't have to take the room shown to you, ask if they have a corner room e.t.c.

Finally, hope some of this helps, it's hardwon knowledge. Oh and may I recommend, your very close to China during this trip, Yunnan province above Burma is well worth a visit.

#7 dageshi has been a member since 1/3/2008. Posts: 56

Posted by mcbees on 9/4/2009 at 05:09

Thanks Dageshi. Like the practicalities of cool rooms and image of wonderfully symmetric buildings with an empty middle over as we all gravitate to the corners!

Slight detour, but anyone with experiences of Korea (South mainly), its lifestyle, customs, climate, costs and TEFL potential?

#8 mcbees has been a member since 8/3/2009. Posts: 6

Posted by amazon_blonde on 9/4/2009 at 08:20

We did a very short (3 day) stopover in Seoul on the way back from SEA to Canada. It was a great contrast -- such a different Asia in terms of culture and society, nevermind development, from SEA.

Seoul is not cheap though. Hotels are $100+ for international standard, although "love motels" can be found for about half that, I think. Meals run about $5 USD for lunch for one, same up to $20 USD each for dinner. It's an OECD country and dining out costs are comparable to Canada, US, New Zealand, Australia, etc.

Climate is temperate. It was cold (0-5 C) in March. But summers are hot.

#9 amazon_blonde has been a member since 20/12/2008. Posts: 116

Posted by fivesilver on 9/4/2009 at 16:02

Seoul now has several pretty good hostel/guesthouses for about US$30 for a double room.
Korean public transport is inexpensive compared to Western countries, and goes absolutely everywhere in the country. The Seoul subway is huge and easily navigated, with a lot of English signage.
Eating out can also be a lot cheaper than in the West if you're willing to eat the local food. Don't be afraid to eat in little poky restaurants - in eight years living in Seoul I never got food poisoning.
Most young Koreans also have enough English to be able to help out in the street (combined with a bit of sign-language). You could also check out the 'Goodwill Guides'.
There are a few very hot, humid weeks in summer, and winter nights can get way below zero, but the climate is overall tolerable, and autumn is absolutely wonderful.
Koreans are for the most part very helpful and friendly (although not overly demonstrative about it).

Overall, South Korea is considerably more expensive than SE Asia, but is a wonderful country - I went there 'for six months' and left eight years later.

As for EFL, I don't have much direct experience, but I know there are endless job openings. However, try to research each one pretty well, because there are a lot of very dodgy operators in a sector that's often seen as a licence to print money.

#10 fivesilver has been a member since 3/8/2008. Posts: 39

Posted by brucemoon on 2/5/2009 at 10:03


There is much above that will assist you.

May I add (at this late stage) another perspective.

You may have noticed that I've written widely as responses to queries on Travelfish that too many people try and rush through SE Asia and in that 'process', all-too-often only see the inside of transport/waiting rooms/bedrooms, etc.

Given this, I have found that not only does slowing down the speed of the journey make for a more experientially enjoyable visit, but also it tends to slow down the expenditure.

Wherever one goes, travel is time consuming and expensive (some options more than others).

When we (my wife & I, we're over 60) travel, we also notice that most 'must visit' tourist destinations (especially cities) are quite expensive when compared to non 'must see' tourist destinations.

For example, Luang Prabang is much much more expensive than Luang Nam Tha. As a means to experience Lao culture, Nam Tha is equally as good (and is a wonderful place to visit in its own right).

So, as we seek to experience Asia rather than be at 'must see' places, we tend to limit our time at those 'must see' places.

We've also found that backpacker areas in cities can be more expensive than places 'just a little away'.

Let me explain. Many tourists (backpackers included) take everything they'll ever possibly need plus the kitchen sink just in case. They finish up with humungous packs/bags. That means that when a bus/plane/train arrives at a city, they don't choose to appraise alternate locations to find accommodation.

We only take airline carry-on, and only that which we can comfortably put on our back (at 60+ it's not a lot). We plan to buy 'emergencies' rather than take them.

Recently, we arrived by bus in Saigon (outside the Sinh Cafe bus 'station') in backpacker headquarters. We found the backpacker 'price' and started walking. About 3/4 a mile away, we found a cleaner, nicer, much cheaper and roomier place.

We've repeated this experience so so often.

Also, there are many things tourists do, and the travel industry gears up to sell to them. For example, tourists now 'must do' trekking. And, in Thailand, the marketing machine has people wanting to go to Chiang Mai for trekking.

There are alternatives.

Travelfish has a 'feature' section:


And, for trekking in Thailand, it has a feature about 'better' trekking options:


Many of these trekking options are not only better (experientially) than from Chiang Mai, but also cheaper.

So, the simple message is - if you want to contain your expenditure, choose not to do what most 'must see' focussed tourists do.

ps. I agree with Am and others regarding an alternate source for back-up funds.

For example, we recently went from Chiang Mai to HaNoi overland through Laos. We had a Mastercard pre-loaded with cash. In Dien Bien Phu, the ATM's would only access Visa-cards. We had a back-up.

But, we've also been in places where Travellers Cheques were the only form of exchange (sometimes ATM connection lines are down).

And, it is possible (though not probable) that your hard earned money may be stolen. So, you may need to be able to access money from another source.


#11 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by MADMAC on 19/8/2009 at 01:57

"Overall, South Korea is considerably more expensive than SE Asia, but is a wonderful country - I went there 'for six months' and left eight years later."

I used to have a Korean girlfriend back in 1984 - guess that doesn't really count though.

#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

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