Two Months in Asia and Beyond: Cost Breakdown
Last year, I spent two months traveling through parts of Southeast Asia, Japan, and South Korea. Because I’m always conscious of my finance, I kept track of all my spending. I traveled alone once, but didn’t enjoy it as much, nor did I kept track of any spending. This time around, I traveled to Southeast Asia together with my sister. So, here’s how much money we spent traveling in Southeast Asia, Japan, and South Korea; a breakdown of 2 months in Southeast Asia.
Total Southeast Asia Spending for 2 Months
As I’ve mentioned above, all expenses listed below are for two people, in USD. Not surprisingly, many Asian countries prefer US currency, so there was never a time I ever needed to use Canadian dollars. Which was lucky since I didn’t bring any. All I brought were US currency, and my visa and debit card. Anyways, onto the expenses. The expenses below will include airfare to give you a better idea of how much money you need to travel to Asia. Our trip was 55 days
Accommodation – $2253.81
Flights – $5,296.87
Other transportation – $420.91
Food, drinks, and activities – $2,207.10
Miscellaneous – $210.21
Total Spending – $10,388.90 USD
How Much Money Do You Need To Travel Asia? Expense Breakdown.
Nights spend in each country – Accommodation Cost: $2,253.81
Thailand – 7 nights
Cambodia – 27 nights
Japan – 7 nights
Korea – 14 nights
For 55 nights, this average out to $40.98 per night, or $20.49 per person per night. Lodging in Cambodia should be cheap for us since our parents live in Takeo Province, however, we only spent 2 nights sleeping at our parent’s place, and the rest of the time, we’re traveling around the whole of Cambodia and sleeping in midrange hotels ranging from $25/night to $55/night. Thailand was surprisingly cheap, but Japan and Korea were pretty expensive even though we opted for the Airbnb stay. Our stay in Bangkok and Phuket came to $485.62, which wasn’t too bad considering we stayed at the nicer hotels but could have been cheaper had we booked earlier.
Total Flights Spending – $5,296.87
Breakdown of flights:
Edmonton to Bangkok – $2,108.36
Bangkok to Phnom Penh – $182.37
Phnom Penh to Osaka – $869.48
Osaka to Seoul – $205.37
Return flight to Canada from Seoul – $1,931.29
As you can see, the bulk of our spending was from Edmonton to Asia and then back from Asia to Edmonton. This is to be expected, Canadian flights are generally overpriced and varies depending on the date you choose to travel. Also, we booked 3 months ahead, and it was still expensive. The rest of the flights between Southeast Asia was cheap, at a combined cost of $1,257.22, which comes out to $628.61 per person.
Other Transportation Spendings – $420.91
Transportation we spent on other than flights was car rental in Cambodia for 3 weeks of travel to most of the major tourist attractions. We paid a fixed fee of $150 since my mum knows a guy in the Cambodian travel and transportation industry, who just happens to live a block or two from her. Other transportation spending was tuk-tuks, long-tail boats, sky highway and taxi in Thailand. Not the regular taxi as there are a lot of scams, but Uber.
Southeast Asia travel tips #1: Make sure the taxi got a meter. If not, discuss the cost right upfront so there won’t be any last-minute surprises. Transportation in Southeast Asia was incredibly affordable, and once you get used to their public transportation, it was clear and easy. In South Korea, the subway was surprisingly cheap and easy to navigate, but since we booked Airbnb stays near areas we wanted to tour, we didn’t spend much on public transportation. Public transportation in Japan, on the other hand, was expensive. Their subway doesn’t have a fixed price, the price increases in proportion to the distance. It is a little confusing at first, however, people are very friendly and will help if you approach them.
Food, drinks and activities – $2,207.10 or $40 per day (2,207/55 nights)
For the 2 months in Southeast Asia, we stayed in Cambodia for 27 nights. Even though Cambodia is a small country, the roads are sometimes bad and travel can be slow, you can still hit all the major attractions in a month. Starting from Phnom Penh, we toured the impressive National Museum with its excellent collection of Angkorian sculpture and the stunning Silver Pagoda. There’s an interesting shopping area at Psar Tuol Tom Pong if you’re looking for souvenirs, but since I’m not really a city girl, we didn’t stay long. From there we went to Svay Village, which is near Takeo Province. We stayed there at my mum’s place for 2 nights and then traveled to Takeo to see Phnom Da.
From there, we went south to the colonial-era town of Kampot. We stayed a few nights to visit Bokor Hill Station, the seaside town of Kep and the cave pagodas at Phnom Chhnork and Phnom Sorsia. From there, we went west to the beaches of Sihanoukville to sample their delicious seafood, dive in the nearby waters and just soak up the sun. After a few nights, we headed to Kompong Thom and visited the pre-Angkorian brick temples of Sambor Prei Kuk.
We then headed to Siem Reap for our long-ass temple excursions. We stayed in Siem for 2 weeks to enjoy all the Angkor Wat, from Angkor Thom to Ta Phrom, Kbal Spean, and my favorite jungle-clad Beng Melea. Throughout this whole trip, we find that the food and drinks were very cheap ranging from $4 – $10, feeding a family of 4. Since we’re Cambodian, we didn’t spend any money on entrance fees to any of those major attractions we explored, so that was a plus for us. But for others, entrance fee to the Angkor attractions were $20, with a three-day pass being $40, and a seven-day ticket going for $60.
Our 2 months in Southeast Asia started in Phuket, our first itinerary for Thailand, Phuket is an island in the Andaman Sea. We wanted to hit Thailand’s most popular beaches situated along clear waters of the western shore. We stayed 3 nights in one of their beach hotels and enjoyed many of their shophouses, spas, restaurant and especially the amazing night market where there’s no shortage of interesting things to see, buy or eat.
Actually, while walking the night market, a guy came over to us and offered us a pamphlet that says they got everything from a fire show to acrobats. We were curious to see this wonderful place that is hosting all these amazing events, so we followed his guide, and ended up in a female strip joint. Southeast Asia travel tips #2: Don’t trust the Asian guy. We laughed it off and noticed we’re at their red light district/clubbing area, so we explored this rowdy, but definitely an entertaining area. Once we were done with the beaches and nightlife of Phuket, we flew over to Bangkok, which had a completely different atmosphere. Most of our spending in Bangkok were massages, boat tours at the floating market, food, drinks, and entrance fees to temples.
This was the bulk of our food and drink expenses. Their food prices were about the same as North American pricing or even more depending on what activity you choose to do. However, entrance fees to many of their major attractions were quite cheap.
Most of the spending we did in Korea was on the entrance fees to their temples, food, and drinks. Their food is much more reasonably priced than Japan. A meal for 2 ranges from $10 – 30, and that’s including alcoholic drinks. We love their makgeolli and flavored soju. Their western restaurants are as pricey as North American ones (we didn’t go in opting for a more authentic Korean stay), but their street fares are where it’s at. There are so many varieties to choose from at such a great price, that we spent most of our food money on them. It kept our budget low and our stomach full, and in the end, that’s the most important.
Miscellaneous Spending – $210.21
Most of our miscellaneous spending were souvenirs and cold medications since we got sick from the fluctuation of temperature from the super-hot Cambodia to the pretty damn cold air of Japan.
Asia Travel Tips for 2 months in Southeast Asia:
What You Need to Know
If you are planning on taking a similar South-east Asian path, these are a few of my recommendations and advice on traveling around Asia.
Take it Easy
Asia has its own way of running things. They don’t operate on a timetable, so don’t expect your organized plans to go your way all the time. So getting angry, screaming and ranting at the worker will get you nowhere, and will be a huge waste of time, and face –you’ll just look like an idiot. Sometimes, plans just don’t work. This is Asia. It’s different, take a breather.
Allow time for the unexpected –in Thailand and Cambodia, trains will be delayed, tuk-tuks will break down, minibus drivers will take a 1-hour detour to visit whoever they want at that moment, and hotels will be closed without notice. Strict deadlines are not part of local life. So, as they say, when in Rome do as the Romans do. Leave your strict deadline and hectic lifestyle behind, and enjoy the leisure. Also, if you are planning on visiting during holidays, such as New Year, expect large crowds at the airport. Save yourself the hassle of rescheduling flights, and be at the airport 2 hours ahead of your scheduled flight time.
Learn A Few Line
Here are a couple of phrases you should take the time to learn, and do not worry about enunciation. They will be happy if you try to learn about their culture.
Hi, how are you?
Excuse me, do you speak English?
That’s it. English is widely spoken in some of the tourist areas, and not spoken at all in many others. The non-English speaking locals get very flustered if English is bombarded at them before an introduction. If you have access to data, use google translate, if not, I hope you are good at charades and expect a certain amount of misunderstandings to occur due to the language barrier.
Carry a backpack, and pack lightly. For my trip, I carried a medium-sized suitcase with wheels since I was staying in hotels. However, in retrospect, it was a bad idea. Some parts of Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand and Cambodia had terrible roads with huge potholes and dirt paths. In South Korea, specifically Gangnam district, the roads were very hilly, and there weren’t many elevators so we had to lug our luggage through many flights of stairs. It was a workout. Japan, on the other hand, had elevators everywhere. It was very convenient to carry wheeled luggage there. Luckily, I packed very lightly –camera gears, laptops, batteries, 2 pants, and 2 sweaters. I basically just bought whatever else I needed while traveling Southeast Asia.
No matter how experienced a traveler you are, expect to get ripped off now and then. Avoid taxi that doesn’t have a meter, count your changes, and definitely, know your currency exchange. For example, I may have been ripped off in Cambodia twice, even though as a native-born, I speak the language. The problem was, Cambodia uses two forms of currency –the U.S., and Riel. I bought food at a stall and gave her $10 dollars. She gave changes back to me in both dollars and riel, and I was clueless. I must have looked clueless since she started telling me the exchange rates and counted out the money for me. I smiled at her because really, it was my ignorance. I should have been more informed, but losing a few bucks here and there isn’t gonna ruin the trip I’ve been planning for years. So, in the end, do your research, be vigilant, and notice your surroundings because there’s no shortage of scams, and hopefully, if you stay vigilant, you wouldn’t be caught up in the more sophisticated and dangerous scams out there.
Booking is Overrated
I booked the hotels ahead of time in Thailand, but for Cambodia, I didn’t. I noticed that the best deals you can get are usually found by walking around, and just entering hotels that you’re interested in –to get a walking tour of the room. In Cambodia, the hotel price is very negotiable and the online quotes are usually overpriced. This also goes for sightseeing tours. The best deals are the ones on the street. In Thailand and Cambodia, it is better not to stick to the scheduled itinerary, as most things don’t need to be arranged more than a day in advance. Less planning provides more flexibility and less stress for you. Japan and South Korea, on the other hand, adheres to a very strict schedule, and transportation is always on time.
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