We spent nearly three months in Asia and found things to be a good bit more expensive than we’d expected. This was for a few reasons but mostly had to do with needing a visa for almost every country (included in the ‘Misc’ column in the table below) in the region and using planes to get around (reflected in the transportation costs) rather than bus after bus after bus. We treated ourselves well [for backpackers] while in the area (lodging was still quite cheap) and allowed ourselves to enjoy a few of the finer things…
|MEX & C. AMR.
|AFRICA & LEVANT
China: A big expensive visa was part of our expense but the big problem here was traveling over the Chinese National Holiday. Overnight trains helped to bring down our lodging costs as most hotels were geared toward the Chinese middle class. Budget options were generally sparse but the hotels we stayed in afforded a pretty high level of comfort for their reasonable price. Food was always cheap provided we didn’t eat in western restaurants (we shared a meal in downtown Chengdu for less than one Häagen-Dazs scoop of ice cream a few blocks over and our activities were pretty much limited to entrance fees at major attractions like the Terra Cotta Army and the Mogao Grottos. If we had better timing everything would have been less expensive, especially transportation.
Vietnam: We found ourselves enjoying all Vietnam had to offer. By not paying bare-bones prices we had a headache and hassle free time here and we’d recommend other backpackers to do the same. For $25, our hotel room in downtown Hanoi was as nice as any #$200 boutique hotel back home and with a computer to use in the room as well as a nice big satellite television. Flooding forced us to fly the length of the country which was only twice the price of the roach infested buses and trains. By traveling with another couple we were able to share on a few taxi’s and book some private tours. There was a visa as well which accounts for a decent chunk of that miscellaneous budget. The Vietnamese tailored clothing from Hoi An is not included in these costs.
Cambodia: We came to see Angkor Wat and then we left. In doing just that little bit we actually traveled through most of the country rather quickly. Again, we treated ourselves to nicer hotels (for $25) than we usually had and some nicer meals as well. Admission to Angkor Wat is the only thing that could be considered expensive here and for that we also needed to hire transportation for the day.
Laos: It was here that we started staying in more typical backpacker accommodation again and that is the big price difference between Laos and Cambodia. Again we needed to purchase a visa to enter but overall it was a cheap country. Renting our own motorbikes for a few days helped to drive up transportation costs but was a highlight of the region for us and the caving activities of Vang Vieng were worth every penny.
Thailand: In Thailand we took three overnight trains for our 8 nights in the country. We visited a hospital (medical expenses not included here since they weren’t really related to Thailand) for a checkup and pretty much just hung out. We had hoped to visit an elephant training center but ultimately swapped this for a fairly inexpensive, but awesome, cooking class. This was the first country since Georgia that didn’t require us to purchase a visa to enter. We skipped on the beaches so that we could visit India.
India: The cheapest, expensive place we’ve seen. Travel here is quite inexpensive but just getting to the subcontinent will cost you. We had to fly both into and out of India as overland options are quite limited. Last minute planning ended up biting us budget wise when we couldn’t get a train from Mumbai to Delhi and ended up flying. Not all of the to/from India airfare is included as part of our Indian expenses (most goes to Asia group as a whole) but when you consider those transportation costs with a very expensive visa, then it is easy to see why India looks a bit more expensive than it actually is. Once there though we ate yummy vegetarian food, did some yoga, and couchsurfed almost the entire time…so not so bad after all.