How I traveled to South East Asia for less than $1,000!

Hi! So I frequently get a lot of questions about my travels and how I find really affordable flight and hotel accommodations. Below, I'll share how I spent less than $1,000 during my 5 week trip through South East Asia (SEA), particularly Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia.

*Disclaimer: This trip was back in Fall of 2017 so this is not the most up to date but in general, the tricks will apply.

I traveled to SEA with my mom and boyfriend. However, my boyfriend and I traveled together through those various countries for 3 weeks by ourselves before I met up with my mom in Vietnam (she stayed with family the entire time) and my boyfriend had to return back to the U.S. I managed to spend less than $1,000 minus flights during the entire duration of the trip. 

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Two adults roundtrip tickets plus travel insurance for $1,400 / only $578.91 for the actual ticket. First of all, I travel to Asia carrying cash, $1,000 to be exact. I did bright my credit and debit cards but unless you have the cards where they don't charge you for using your cards internationally, you end up racking up a lot of travel fees. Also, not many places in SEA accept cards so I recommend carrying cash or wiring yourself money through Western Union once you arrive. They do have a lot of ATMs but they have huge withdrawal fees as well as the non-bank fees. I brought mostly $100 U.S. bills as they're the easiest to exchange but also some small change as well. In Vietnam, they use Vietnamese Dong (VND) and their exchange rate when I went was about $22,000 VND to $1. To put things in perspective, a typical bowl of pho or plate of food is about $35,000 VND so just over $1. You can easily just spend about $20-$30/week on food if you just stick to street food. For transportation, I rented a motorbike for about $4/day, which is very affordable. Prices will vary depending on where and who you're renting from. Practically everything is negotiable in SEA so I was able to bargain it down to $4. Gas for the motorbike is also very cheap. It costs about $3 to fill up the tank and a full tank lasts you about 3-4 days depending on how often you drive. For activities and tours, I also negotiated the costs and spent about $5-$18/per activity/tour. If you can, I recommend booking the tours or activities online as they're typically cheaper but you can't bargain the prices online. However, when it comes to popular attractions, you don't risk showing up to sold out attractions. For housing accommodations, we steered clear from hotels as they're usually pricey with all the resort fees. We did homestays, hostels, and used airbnbs ranging from $6-$18/night. We also took advantage of online apps such as or and saved on money when using hostels. For reference, we went to Phu Quoc Island, Saigon, Can Tho, Ha Long Bay, Ha Noi, Da Nang, and Can Tho. Domestic flights in Vietnam are fairly cheap. Vietnam has three major airlines: Vietnam Airlines, JetStar and VietJet. We flew Vietnam Airlines and JetStar. We booked our flights online and planned our trip according the the days with the cheapest flights, which usually are Mondays and Thursdays at the earliest flights. Thus, if you picked the cheapest accommodations, attractions, and food, you're looking at about $300 for two people for about two weeks. Not bad, right? 

Flight ReceiptA flight from Phu Quoc to Can Tho in Vietnam for only $680,000 VND or $30 USD.[/caption]   For Thailand, they use Thai Baht (TBH) and their exchange rate is approximately 50 TBH to $1. Thailand is a slightly more expensive country than Vietnam, especially in Bangkok where there's a lot of tourism. We stayed mostly in Bangkok so we had to be more conservative with our money. Street food in Asia is generally very cheap so that's what we mostly ate. Bangkok has an amazing train system called the BTS Skytrain so we used that to travel around Bangkok. For further distances, taxis are reasonable for about $7-$15 depending on where you're going. It cost about $8 to get from central Bangkok to the Don Mueang airport. We stayed in a serviced apartment in Bangkok through airbnb and paid only $16/night. It had a swimming pool, wifi, a/c, cable tv, small kitchen, and even laundry. It was exceptional for that price. We didn't do any shopping in Thailand so we saved money there. Cambodia uses both Riel and USD so it could end up being expensive if you're not conscious of what you're spending. We stayed in hostels in Cambodia but they felt more like hotels. They were fairly cheap as well for about $12/night. The hostels had free bus/airport pick-ups and drop-offs so that was definitely a plus and we saved money. There are absolutely no taxis in Cambodia. They have Tuk-Tuks instead. They're basically a motorbike attached to a carriage. It is very important that you ask/negotiate the price of the ride before you get on so you avoid any possible scenarios. However, rides are generally cheap for about $2-$10 depending on where you're going. For reference, we booked a Tuk-Tuk driver to drive us around Angkor Wat all day for only $12. Super cheap. Attractions in Cambodia are on the pricier end so I would recommend picking and choosing the ones you really want to do/see if you're on a budget. We did the Angkor Wat and zipline for $87/each. We booked the zipline through Backstreet Academy and were able to use a discount code and saved some money. And if you're Khmer or have a parent that is Khmer, you get to go see the Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples for FREE! I thought that was pretty cool. Too bad I'm not Khmer though. Again, street food are not only the cheapest option but they're really good too so we stuck with the street food. Occasionally, we would splurge a little bit and eat out at a restaurant or go to a bar. Yet, prices were still fairly cheap. Local beers in Cambodia were .50 cents and in Vietnam, they were only .15 cents. Restaurant food was about $5 or so dollars more than the street food but the price difference weren't too bad. We also took the bus several times. Once from Vietnam to Cambodia and again from Cambodia to Thailand. The bus was a cheaper option than flying for those trips. However, they do take about 8 hours but were a fraction of the flights for those routes so we opted for the buses. Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 12.06.12 AM.png 
Bus ticket from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Bangkok, Thailand for $66 for two people. One last thing, when exchanging money in these countries, always ask multiple places before you actually exchange your money because every money exchange or even bank has a different rate. If you exchange your money at the first place you see, you'll most likely be losing money. They're only like a dollar or less difference but it adds up, trust me. Also, make sure you go to places that don't take a cut/fee or you'll lose some money. I recommend going to jewelry stores to exchange your money in Vietnam as they give the best exchange rates. For Thailand and Cambodia, I used both banks and money exchanges but do ask several places before committing to one. I did use my cards when we decided to stay at a fancy hotel in Ha Noi and when booking attractions online. However, I still spent just a little over $1,000 at the end of my trip. It is definitely doable to spend only $1,000 or several hundred of dollars (depending on the duration of your trip). You just have to be conscious of what you're spending and sacrifice fancy hotels/accommodations and eating out at restaurants because I don't know about y'all but I usually spend most of my money on hotels and food when I travel. Hope this post helped for those of you wanting/planning on going to SEA. The airline economy is actually really bad right now so flights are super cheap. This is the first time I have seen flights at these prices so of course I jumped on that opportunity. 

Please let me know if you travel to SEA after reading this post, I'd love to hear about your trip and how/if this post helped you in any way. :)