How to Travel Around Asia on a Budget


Asia is a wondrous place full of vivid, diverse cultures and fascinating people. Traveling around Asia doesn't need to be expensive. Many Asian countries are downright cheap, and there are bargains even in the pricey countries. There are even inexpensive ways to travel the vast distances between the countries of Asia. Here's how to enjoy an Asian adventure while spending a reasonable amount of money.

Choose your destinations carefully. The cost of a trip to Asia can vary drastically depending on where you go. Japan is one of the most expensive places on Earth to travel. Taiwan is nearly as pricey. China can be expensive, because organized tours are usually required. Places like Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea can be affordable if you know where to look. Countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are downright cheap. By choosing a destination that suits your budget, you can minimize costs. Do plenty of research. Look at budget travel guides like "Lonely Planet" or "Let's Go." Avoid mainstream travel guides like "Fodor's" or "Frommer's." You wont be staying in five-star hotels and dining in fine restaurants, but you will soak up the culture and have a great time.

Bundle flights together to significantly reduce the cost of your airfare. An All Asia Air Pass combines round-trip trans-Pacific airfare with flights to other Asian destinations. For someone on a budget with a limited amount of time, this is perfect. Cathay Pacific Airways has one of the most popular air passes. Specific prices are subject to change, and you have 21 days to use your pass. You can add cities and time for an additional cost. Note that the biggest expense you will encounter is your airfare. It is a 12 to 16 hour flight to most parts of Asia from the United States. Distances are also vast around Asia, so the only practical way to get around is by plane.

Forget about the big chain hotels. You are in Asia to soak up the culture. Budget lodging isn't just cheap. It's also a cultural experience. Stay where the locals stay, and you will get a taste of what their lives are all about. You may also make some friends. Every city and town in Asia has a hostel or budget hotel where backpackers stay. They cost a fraction of what you would pay at a hotel. Accommodations vary widely, but some places are very nice. Depend on fellow travelers to point you in the right direction. Reservations are rarely needed. If you are adventurous, all you need to do is ask around when you get to town. Just look for other people who look like they are traveling on a budget like you. Be sure to look for lodging early in the day. Nice-quality budget places fill up fast. If you wait too long, you may spend more than you want to that night.

Forget about fine dining when you are traveling. Nothing will drain your budget faster than a few ritzy restaurants. The best food in Asia is found on the street. Look where the locals eat. In Asia, most food is fresh. They don't preserve and freeze their food like in America. You may be disturbed to see all the freshly killed animals around, but you will be assured that they haven't been dead long. Watch the locals. If what they are eating looks good, give it a try. It doesn't matter if you don't speak the language. Just point and smile. They will be happy to feed you. Also, leave your diet at home. You didn't come to Asia to eat healthy. Enjoy the delights of Asian cooking. If the food doesn't look safe, opt for fast food. At home, fried chicken and french fries aren't considered healthy. However they are a good alternative if the fresh food looks like it will give you hepatitis.

Don't waste your money on lots of tourist sights. All of Asia is a tourist sight in itself. Soak up the culture. Most things worth doing are cheap or free. The Star Ferry in Hong Kong costs less than a dollar. Go to the places where locals congregate and watch the people. Old folks doing Tai Chi in the park or a wedding ceremony at a Buddhist temple are things you won't see at home. Spend your money only on the "must do" things. Of course you have to see the Great Wall of China. But you don't need to spend money on a museum full of stuff you wont remember when you get home.

Tips & Warnings

  • Put yourself on a budget and do your best to stick to it. However, you need to be flexible. Unforeseen circumstances may require you to spend more one day and less another.
  • Prices change, so be sure to check the latest about your destinations before you depart.
  • Never sacrifice safety to save money. If you don't feel comfortable somewhere, then don't stay there. It's best to travel with others and do most traveling during the day. Never eat food that looks like it is unsafe. If necessary, resort to McDonald's rather than eat something that will make you sick. Even a McDonald's in Asia is a cultural experience.

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