I am an Australian planning to travel to South-East Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam) for two to three months later this year. I have never travelled before so I'm a little apprehensive about the monetary side of things. Would anyone be able to give me an approximation of how much cash would be adequate for a trip such as this? I wont mind sleeping and eating cheap but I would like to be able to have enough to enjoy myself and see and do the things I'd like without stressing about having enough cash.
There are money threads all over about Thailand and SE Asia on this site. We have this conversation weekly. Bottom line,,,the more money you have the better. Costs: rooms, daily transpo, transpo btween regions, food, drink (fun), unexpected finds (small shopping), extra food (when feel like western or fast food on occassion), and travel insurance. (insurance is something people skip. Most wont need it but those that did.......ouch! )
I say $2000 a month and you won't be worried.
I echo Rasheed here. Some people actually enjoy getting by on as little as possible - like it's a contest. They live in roach infested, fan only rooms, eat Noddle Soup or Fried Rice with Water every day, and travel in only the cheapest buses. If you go that route, then you can get by in Thailand for somewhere around 400 to 500 baht a day (used to be cheaper, but not anymore).
Women and booze are two big budget eaters - so take it easy on those, and it will be considerably cheaper.
Cheap rooms (ten bucks a night in Thailand) are to be had. But you get what you pay for.
If you want to go see important / known sights, most of those cost money. So factor that in - where are you going, what you are going to see, what will it cost.
Don't forget transportation.
Generally speaking Cambodia is cheaper than Thailand. But the people I know who have lived in both places say Thailand is more fun and accomodating and cleaner.
I found Laos to be cheaper on the accomodation side, more expensive on the food side.
Can't say much about Vietnam, better to ask others here.
What specifically are your interests and dislikes. That's a great place to start.
#4 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
'Women and booze are two big budget eaters'
Women,-agreed but there's always Lao Cao or Meh Khong whiskey to get blitzed, and what's wrong with a fan-room?
I wouldn't stay in any other kind. Air-con is for wimps
#5 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557
"Women,-agreed but there's always Lao Cao or Meh Khong whiskey to get blitzed, and what's wrong with a fan-room?"
Lao Cao or Mekong are fine - if you don't care a white about your liver and the next days hangover. And if your tastes are not too discriminating.
And a fan room? Depend on the temperature of the room. Heat doesn't bother me at all during the day, but when I go to sleep, a room sitting at around 90 kind of blows.
#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I doubt today's youth think much of their livers by what I see drunk in Europe and over there.My last time in Bangkok most of them were drinking Lao cao with coke or a thing called a Mekhong bucket.Now I've had one of these, and note I said one, because the hangover was something unique-never to be forgotten.
The secret of getting to sleep under a fan is to take a cold, cold shower before lying down.This always worked for me except when there was a power out and I'd wake up covered in sweat and ants!
BTW you can get reasonable,clean, fan accom. outside of Bangkok for 200 baht easily. In Bangkok that'll get you a plywood room the size of a coffin but it never ceases to amaze me that people can live like this for months to make their money last.
As far as comparing Cambodia and Thailand.
Food is far better in Thailand especially street food which is usually edible unlike Cambodian (I'm sure Abigail will disagree with me on this but I always get ill if I eat it).
Transport is better in Thailand;same price but Thailand has vastly superior buses.
Cambodia wins on accommodation.
I recently spent time in Phnom Penh in an hotel with a doorman, spotless room which was cleaned daily with new sheets and towels.Picture windows overlooking the city and cable tv. All for the princely sum of $7 a night. Beats Thailand.
#7 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557
I notice nobodies yet said anything on Vietnam.Accommodation tends to be hotel rather than guesthouse so around $15 a night unless you are in HoiAn or NahTrang where there is a lot of competition so hotels are cheaper.For $15 you'd expect to have air-con,cable,fridge and hot water.Food is incredibly cheap if you eat the local stuff and not go for Western food, even cheaper than Thailand. Beer is unbelievably cheap if you go to Beer Hoi places.These are basically places selling draught keg beer locally brewed.
#8 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557
"BTW you can get reasonable,clean, fan accom. outside of Bangkok for 200 baht easily."
The cheapest that I know of in Mukdahan in the Hua Nam - about 280, bathroom down the hall. In Laos I stayed at a decent place, actually, for 180. That was a deal. Moce wood floors and hot shower!
Today my Thai teacher asked me if I ever stay at Khao San Road. Why I asked? "People there are very impolite" - I think he noticed the Mekong bucket drinkers!
#9 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
'Today my Thai teacher asked me if I ever stay at Khao San Road. Why I asked? "People there are very impolite" - I think he noticed the Mekong bucket drinkers!'
I think you are referring to hotels whereas I was thinking of guesthouses.For example, the accomodation in Ayhuddaya was 180 baht I recall and although basic was clean and comfortable.
#10 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557
Well that's the cheapest "accomodation" we have here. Hotel or guest house. We don't really have "Guest houses" or "Hostels". We've got short time hotels and regular hotels. The backpackers that come through here almost always stay at the Hua Nam - because it's the cheapest place around. Not that we get many backpackers.
#11 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I spent 3 months in SE Asia this past summer/fall and averaged $1000 a month. I NEVER had shared bathroom facitilies or anything too bad for sleeping (if it was bad, we would always move in the morning). I also did pretty much whatever I wanted while I was there, always going on tours and site seeing. What you need to do is to get good at figuring out how to cut corners. For example, there was this temple we wanted to see and tons of tours that went there. For WAY cheaper, we simply rented a moped fro 5$ a day and found the place our selves. Now obvsiously the drive was easy, and doing it this way allowed us to have more freedom of time. If you are willing to try new things like this then you should be fine!
A few things to note: I generally did not have air con. Lots of places you stay has the "option" of air con and they will only run it if you pay for it. If you feel this is an issue and you want air con then plan on spending more!
Also, I was traveling with my boyfriend, making everything cheaper! If you ware traveling alone, lots of single travelers make friends and share rooms (you can find lots of places with 2 beds in the rooms). This is a way to save $$ so you can spend it on other things.
A third thing to note: I wasn't drinking THAT much. I mean definately did, but maybe only 3-4 times a week, and usually not a lot, just a few beers. Drinking can be expensive...not every place has $5 buckets, so depending on how much you want to drink I would definately budget more than I did.
We never went scuba diving, and if you plan on that, it is expensive, so plan for more $$ for that.
I think really $1500/month and you will be more than fine!!
Hope this helps!!
p.s. this is all in USD, and does not include flights. There were a few times we flew between countries because of time contraints and to avoid backtracking. Air Asia is the budget airline that facilitates most of SE Asia.
#12 ecbaker has been a member since 17/3/2011. Posts: 18
Ok...$100 a month. Doable......but for me a big man, that is very low. Fist off you have to include that extra for flights and travel so the $1000 goes up. You said $1500 so OK. I say take the extra money. If you don't spend it great! Come home with it. Halfway through your trip you can decide if you will use it to get extras. Maybe you want to buy more, do more, etc. To hell with fan rooms. I meet a lot of self righteous "no AC man, do like the locals. Kiss my azz. I ain't sweatin all night. I like to get my clothes laundered regularly and I like my clothes looking and feeling good. I want new towels sometimes and nice room safes. If you don't have the money do what you can but to hell with this, I can do it cheaper contest.
That said, sometimes in the cooler seasons fan rooms are OK. But base your budget on your own desires and happines. Just realize that you will have a better trip budgeting a little more. Once you are on the ground you will realize what kind of traveller you are. Then you can adjust your costs. But don't buy into the "I live cheaper and give more of my money to the locals" bullshit. If you gotta bargain for bannana pancakes and 30 baht Pad Thai, while always having enough liquor but your clothes stink, you need to reconsider your budget. But hey, to each his own. If I had a dime for every girl who stayed the night with another traveller because he had an AC room and bought them food......but those are stories for the road.
As regards AC. I spent 3 years living in Malaysia and never had the luxury of AC.You shouldn't be sweating at night if you get a room with a ceiling fan as opposed to one of those little swinging things. The problem with AC is it never allows you to acclimatize properly.Better to get under the cold shower frequently during the day to cool your temperature down.
Thomas,laundry is done for around 30 baht a kilo in Thailand and much the same price in Cambodia so there is no excuse for anyone to wear dirty clothes.If they don't automatically supply me with a clean towel everyday, I ask and have never been refused.
#14 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557
Almost all of my neighbors use AC - and they are all indigenous persons. No expats among them. It really depends on the type of structure. I live in a shop house, and they don't breath well and the concrete retains heat. Not using AC blows. Ditto the hotel I stay in in Bangkok. Turn off the AC and in an hour its unliveable. No circulation. In general, I would say in the hot months a place with AC beat a place with a fan. I'm climatized, and I don't mind the heat when I'm active at all. Indeed I prefer it. But not when sleeping.
As for costs figure:
1. 300-500 baht per day for accomodation.
2. 100-300 for food - depending on your dining preferences.
3. Add in travel expenses. This is a variable that only you can calculate.
4. 100 baht for incidentals (toothpaste, laundry or whatever).
So that covers existing. Then there's expenditures for what you are actually doing - touring parks, chasing women, going clubbing - whatever. Again, only you can determine what you want to do and how much it will cost you. Some guys blow through 200 bucks a day here. Some use 20. Impossible to guess unless we know more details on your plan.
#15 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
........... I do love Cambodian street food, and don't get sick (often!). I'm just a sucker for a cart serving corn or soup or doughnuts or spring rolls!
Breakfast of pork and rice, with half a fried egg and some pickled vegetables - 2500 reil (about 60 cents). Iced coffee with milk - 2000 reil. Or, museli, yoghurt and fruit with coffee, at least $4. Draft beer, anything from 60 cents a glass during happy hour. Or cocktail, $5.
It's definitely all about the choices you make, what you rank as important and what you can live without.
I hardly ever use air con, not because I'm in a contest, but because I find a fan is enough, especially if there's an outside window with a mozzie screen. I also hate stepping out of air con and getting the hot blanket feeling.
In Phnom Penh, as already said you can get a clean fan room for $7, or find someone to share with and go for a more swanky $20 a night place and split the cost. Motos are cheaper than tuk tuks, but you might need more language skills and/or patience.
You can easily get by on $25 a day in Cambodia if you don't each much Western food and find the happy hour draft beer places. Some days you'll spend less, which will even out the days when you spend $6 on a bus ticket.
I suppose the problem is most houses built now in Thailand are built with air-con in mind.We used to live in a traditional wooden house with lots of windows and it was usually cool but as you say if it's brick and mortar with a tiled or even worse, metal roof it can get like an oven.The problem is Thais using the wrong kind of architecture.Also you guys get free electricity now. Air-con in hotels is expensive and puts the room price up quite steeply.Personally I hate it, just think of the Skytrain positively Arctic-brrr! Saw a great t-shirt in Bangkok which read.'Help fight global warming-put your air-con on full.'
Another factor is try and find a room which doesn't get the sun especially the afternoon sun.and of course lots of windows to let the heat out in the evening (and let the mozzies in-I know)
I DO eat street food but not if it's got meat in it.The sausages are deadly as is the pate.But the corn or bananas or nom ban jok I'll usually eat.The best food is to be found around O'Russey market IMO. Best to find a restaurant which has a high turnover since I find, unfortunately, the Khmer never throw food away, no matter how old it is.I've had great pork and rice and I've been served meat that's been cooked so many times it's black.
As regards motos-it can be a problem.It doesn't matter if you have the address written down as most of them can't read! You really need a map and do your own navigating by learning turn right-'bot sadam' or turn left 'bot chaweng' You can then tap on his shoulder and shout directions.I'll be back in 2 weeks for a nice bowl of nom ban jok and an evening meal of barbequed beef with prahok salad and a large jug of fresh beer all for $4.
#17 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557
I don't eat street food much at all. I don't think most of it tastes good to start with and I've gotten the runs from it enough that I'd just prefer to avoid it. I'll eat it on occassion out of convenience (the night market is a short distance from my house) but it's not something I enjoy. A decent meal at a sit down restaraunt here with a beer is about three to four bucks. Not a big deal, but as Abigail says, it's all about priorities. For you as a tourist coming here for a short period of time, eating local cuisine will be novel and fun, so you should be able to gourge on that for most of your stay. I'm sick of SEA food, but it's just about all we've got around here, so I live with it. That shouldn't apply to you though.
As for AC vice fan - you'll have to make up your own mind. I don't like AC during normal activities, but if, say, we're dancing - then AC is a must or we all turn into funk monsters in about fifteen minutes. So sometimes you've gotta have it. Whether you would prefer it sleeping or not is up to you. But I would budget for it, and then if you don't need or want it, great.
The real question is less how much it's going to cost you to exist - no matter what if you don't eat western food or stay in top notch hotels, it won't be that much. The budget eater is more likely to be the other stuff... the fun. And there is goes back to the basic question, what do you want to do?
Speaking of which, where did Jarrod go? A lot of people here have given some good advice on things. Jarrod, you still out there?
#18 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Hi again all
Thanks for all the great advice and suggestions. I wont mind staying in fan rooms (it can get pretty hot here in Oz!). Definitely wont mind eating like the locals, as I'm hoping to immerse myself a little in the cultures of the region. I was thinking perhaps I should limit myself to one or two of the SE Asian countries in order to better do this. Cambodia is a must as I've always dreamed of travelling there. As to which of the other countries in the region to go to I'm open to suggestions. I guess I'm a bit of a spiritual, hippy type so I'm more interested in culture and the natural world than laying on a beach or getting plastered every night (not that I don't enjoy that sometimes too! lol). But yeah, I'm keen to visit alot of the temples and historical sites of the region, get a taste of how the locals live, and get out and enjoy some nature (but no diving as I cant even swim! lol).
Again thanks for all the help guys.
............................ For nature, Laos probably the least spoilt country in the area, although that's changing fast. There's plenty of temples around Luang Prabang, and good trekking from Luang Nam Tha. And the cave network at Vang Xia near Sam Neue is worth a look too. It's a peaceful and slightly odd town with beautiful limestone karsts and interesting history.
Further south, there's 4000 islands and you can cross into Cambodia overland.
I'll leave it to others to comment on Vang Vieng - I've not been there, but I understand some people love it and some loathe it (or at least, the clientele).
Northern Vietnam also has beautiful countryside and ethnic minority tribes, but it's generally more hectic than Laos. Sapa is a good starting point, but I'd recommend visiting Bac Ha during the week, getting up early on Sunday to see the market before the tourist buses arrive, then going off for a good long walk around peaceful villages.
Given that, I would stay in Cambodia. That way you will only have to wrestle with learning the basics of one language. Go kick it a bit with Rasheed, he lives in the sticks (or did) and he'll steer you straight. Spend your time not only checking out "the sites" but just travelling around the smaller towns and meeting indigenous people. Instead of hanging out with other tourists in bars, hang out with Cambodians in bars. Go to towns where the white population is thin. You sound like the kind of guy who would really enjoy that approach. That's what I'd do anyway.
#22 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Don't confuse smaller towns in Thailand with smaller towns in Cambodia.
In Thailand you get basic facilities everywhere whereas in Cambodia it can be a bit rough.I mean I've been to small towns where there's no food other than packet noodles and no accom. other than wooden beds but if that's what you want..
If I was advising someone to see the other side of Cambodia away from tourists I would suggest start with Oudong,it always amazes me how backpackers miss out on this little gem.Climb the hill and see the beautiful stupas, have your fortune told by a recluse in a cave, walk down to the Monk's college and see the dead Abbot in his glass case supposedly he's never been preserved and is uncorrupted because of his good Kharma-make your own mind up. If you go make it a weekday as the Khmer go in droves on the weekend. You can lie in a hammock and eat barbequed fish and frog mmm! whilst being served the drink of your choice and all very reasonably priced.
Another place which is a favourite of mine is kampong Speu just 50 minutes south of Phnom Penh.There is a 'resort' there where you can hire a little lean-to for shade and have all sorts of goodies brought to you, feed the monkeys and see the Wat with its glass dome of bones, sounds gruesome but it's exactly like the 'killing fields' in PP, a monument to those killed by the KR. and a much more tranquil atmosphere.Then walk by the river in gorgeous countryside.Get a van to kampong Speu then a moto will take you to the resort.
If you feel more adventorous get off the bus to Sihanoukville at Kirirom and hire a motodop to take you up the mountain and around the stunning lake and forest walks.Or hire a motorbike and do it yourself.
As Madmac says have a drink with the local guys, and another and another...and watch them fall down because that's how most Khmer drinking sessions end. At least you'll learn how to say 'cheers' in Khmer as the beer flows!
#24 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557
Have a great time man. Let us know how it goes.
#26 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957