Southeast Asia Cost: Koh Tao, Thailand

Have you heard that Southeast Asia is cheap? I definitely did. But how cheap I wondered. Especially since, let’s face it, I’m thirty years old and sometimes I will pay for nicer things. Now I think I definitely still “backpacked.” I stayed in hostels, ate cheap food, and, yes, traveled with a backpack. And now that I’m back, I want to help you figure out just how much it costs to travel to Southeast Asia for 3 months.

Now, confession, I only went to three countries. So I didn’t “backpack” like some people I met did. They often would hit up Laos, Cambodia, & Vietnam as well. But this will at least show you what a 3 month budget could look like. And since I went to the most expensive places, this will hopefully show you the top end. So where did I go?

Thailand, Malaysia, & Bali. Oh and Hong Kong. And I’ve broken each of these countries down below so you can see my budget for each one.

I also spent about 11 days in true vacation style and I’ve separated that out below as well.

Southeast Asia Cost: Liveaboard in Thailand
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Backpacking For 90(ish) Days

My Budget

I started with roughly $50/day. And then started to build up my categories from there. And though I ended up with a daily budget over $50, it gave me a good starting point to think about.

My Monthly Budget was $2,050:

  • Accommodation: $750
  • Food: $300
  • Transportation: $500
  • Excursions: $300
  • Alcohol: $100
  • Shopping: $100

Which meant my budget per day was about $68:

  • Accommodation: $25
  • Food: $10
  • Transportation: $17
  • Excursions: $10
  • Alcohol: $3
  • Shopping: $3

So how did I do?


Actual Expenses

These are all of my backpacking expenses. The time I spent in vacation mode has been removed. Which left me with almost exactly 90 days left (basically 3 months). The other big expense missing is my flight from/to the United States. My “Pre-Trip” expenses are detailed below if you’d like to see what those were.

This is what I spent on the ground in Southeast Asia for 3 months.

  • Accommodation: $1,177
  • Food: $822
  • Transportation: $1,371
  • Excursions: $831
  • Alcohol: $229
  • Shopping: $708

Total Cost: $5,138


Budget Vs. Actual

So how did I stack up? Well I basically spent almost $1,000 less than I thought I would. Most of this in accommodation. But I only exceeded my budget in one area: shopping. And I should have budgeted more here because I like souvenirs. Plus I had two big unforeseen expenses (like a new phone and a doctor visit).

And my final cost per day?
$60

Here are two tables (sexy I know) of my expenses. Total and cost per day:

Backpacking Southeast Asia: Cost for 3 months
Backpacking Southeast Asia: Cost for 3 months

Vacation For 11(ish) Days

So that was backpacking. But what about my YOLO 11 days that I spent in vacation mode? Well I didn’t create a separate budget, so let’s stick with the one above and see just how much more I actually spent.

Total Cost: $1,597

My Cost Per Day: $145

Now as a note I spent these days in Hong Kong and Thailand. And anything related to these days I stuck here.

Below you’ll see where I spent this money and just click on each heading to expand it to see the details about the actual expense.

1. Accommodation: $270

Now this doesn’t look too bad…until you realize that it only covers 7 nights. So what was this breakdown?

(Also it’s important to note that this is my share only…so the real cost of these rooms is x2.)

– Hong Kong Hotel – 1 night: $74
Sabai Corner (Koh Yao Noi) – 4 nights: $81
Baan Khaolak Resort – 2 nights: $115

2. Food: $159

We just ate at slightly nicer places. Less street food and more sit down dinners with good seafood. Plus I had a tendency to skip lunch…and didn’t do that during these days.

And again this is only the meals on like 7 of the days.

3. Transportation: $462

This is only expensive because of the two flights I took. One to Hong Kong. And one back to Thailand. And then a sort-of expensive taxi ride from a boat pier on Phuket to Khao Lak.

4. Excursions: $40

This is just a motorbike rental and one snorkeling trip to the islands around Koh Yao Noi. But our “big” excursion I broke out into its own category…

5. Liveaboard: $595

This was our 4 night Liveaboard trip. With 12 dives spread out among those 4 days. And…I didn’t even scuba dive due to my ear injury. So this was my snorkeling cost. Here’s the exact breakdown:

– Snorkel Price for the Trip: $534
– National Park Fees: $32
– Tip for the Crew: $19
– Beer Money Onboard: $10

6. Alcohol: $40

Basically beers and cocktails at a few nice bars in Hong Kong will really set you back.

7. Shopping: $30

This is basically a few supplies we bought in preparation for the liveaboard. And a small painting in Hong Kong.

Southeast Asia Cost: Liveaboard in Thailand

Pre-Trip Expenses

Now what about before my trip? And that pesky international, transpacific flight?

These are what I classified as my pre-trip expenses. Things that were definitely related to my trip but aren’t reflected in the costs I listed above (or in the country sections below).

  • Travel Insurance: $251
  • New Backpack from REI: $186
  • Amazon Supplies (like locks, flashlight, etc.): $66
  • Vaccinations: $253
  • Roundtrip flight from Atlanta to Hong Kong: $434

Total: $1,190

Okay so I got a flight that cheap because I waited till a sale and then planned my trip around that. If that flight hadn’t landed in my inbox, I wouldn’t have gone on this trip. But I was waiting for a sale like that. And I booked it that night.


Hong Kong For 5 Days

I started and ended my trip in Hong Kong. Just a couple days on either side. This is definitely an expensive city so keep that in mind if you plan on coming here!

Total for Hong Kong: $470

Costs Per Day: $93

Below you’ll see where I spent this money and just click on each heading to expand it to see the details about the actual expense.

1. Accommodation Total: $143

For my first three days I got a private room (Elog) and then my last night I just stayed in a hostel, but had such a late flight I stored my bag for the day.

Elogg Inn (3 Nights): $120
Urban Pack Hostel (1 Night): $16
– Bag Storage: $6.50

2. Food Total: $129

I ate pretty cheaply but I had a couple of more expensive meals. I had Dim Sum twice at about $15 for each meal, some amazing ramen for $13, and a nice last meal for about $28.

3. Transportation Total: $187

Flight to Hong Kong (from Thailand): $128

The rest of the money here went to Octopus Top-Ups. Because I spent most of my time just exploring Hong Kong.

4. Shopping Total: $11

This was my Hong Kong sim card.

Southeast Asia Cost

Thailand For 50 Days

This was where I spent most of my time. And even most of that was spent in southern Thailand, because I fell for a couple of places and didn’t coordinate very well. I could have easily cut this time way down by just planning a bit better. Oh and plus I wanted to be in Koh Tao for Songkran but needed to get my certification from there before then…and ended up going twice.

Plus I had a few unexpected expenses (like a new phone). And the flight back to Thailand from Bali was not exactly cheap.

Total for Thailand: $2,991

Costs Per Day: $60

Below you’ll see where I spent this money and just click on each heading to expand it to see the details about the actual expense.

1. Accommodation Total: $721

My cost per day on accommodation was just $14. I stayed in mostly hostels or cheap guesthouses. Occasionally I had to stay somewhere nice. (Like the resort after I discovered my guesthouse had bedbugs and everywhere else I checked was full. But that was $50 well spent to get out of there.)

2. Food Total: $406

So all of my meals were cheap. Food is where you’ll save money here. I had literally only 3 meals that were over $10. And one of those was in an airport.

Cost per day on food: $8

3. Transportation Total: $648

This is mostly minivans, ferries, buses, tuk tuks, taxis, and trains. So why the high cost? I spent about $400 on two flights to Thailand. The one to Chiang Mai from Bali was particularly expensive.

4. Excursions Total: $651

This is mostly motorbike rentals, snorkel trips/rentals, and entry fees. Except for a few big splurges listed below.

– Open Water Padi Certification (Scuba Diving): $296
– Overnight Lake Tour to Khao Sok National Park: $80
Elephant Nature Park (Overnight): $180

5. Alcohol Total: $114

I didn’t actually plan for this and that was a big mistake. Mostly because I like to drink and go out. So if you’re going to do this (even just a little bit), make sure you plan for it!

Though I did drink very cheaply. Think beers purchased mostly at hostels and minimarts. And then maybe one out at the bar. Sometimes it pays to be a bit of a lightweight.

6. Shopping Total: $451

This expense was SO much more than I thought it would be. And this makes it look like I purchased a lot of things. And while this does include sim card data plans, souvenirs, and a lot of supply replenishment on the road (think sunscreen), there are two very large expenses here.

The first being the new phone I had to purchase in Bangkok because my old one broke. And then the clinic visit and medicine for my ears when I injured them scuba diving.

– New Phone: $217
– Clinic Visit & Medicine: $70

Southeast Asia Cost

Malaysia For 11 Days

I was not planning on heading to Malaysia. And there’s so much more to do here than simply exploring the western coast of the peninsula. I’ve heard great things about the islands off the east coast. But I wanted to go to Bali and knew I needed several weeks there. So this was just a short stopover, but I had a great time nevertheless.

Total for Malaysia: $434

Costs Per Day: $39

Below you’ll see where I spent this money and just click on each heading to expand it to see the details about the actual expense.

1. Accommodation Total: $77

My cost per day on accommodation was just $7. My cheapest country by far to stay in. But again I picked mostly hostels. And one of those hostels was a 12 bed dorm…and I stayed there for 5 nights.

2. Food Total: $96

Cost per day? $11. I basically did two big things in Malaysia. Eat and drink. Though be warned! Malaysia food was definitely the spiciest. Even for basic things like rice and noodles.

3. Transportation Total: $157

Other than my flight to Malaysia and one very nice train ride from Penang to Kuala Lumpur, the rest of this is very cheap ferries, buses, and subways. Oh and Grabs. (This is the equivalent as Uber and was my main way of getting around on Langkawi.) They were super affordable (especially when split).

4. Excursions Total: $40

This is just a couple of items including going to the top of Penang Hill ($8), half of a scooter rental ($4), the cable-car on Langkawi ($14), and a mangrove boat tour ($13).

5. Alcohol Total: $39

See! I really just ate and drank here. But I met some amazing people. And we’d go out and have fun. Sometimes that’s all you need to have a great time.

6. Shopping Total: $26

This is basically some laundry, a few souvenirs, and my sim card.

Southeast Asia Cost

Bali For 20 Days

In the back of my mind I knew I wanted to go to Bali. I mentioned it to my friend as a possibility months before I left. And when I spotted a cheap flight from Kuala Lumpur, I booked it. I told myself I was going for only 2 reasons: surfing and sea turtles. But I ended up having an amazing time and doing so much more than that. Bali is beautiful.

Total for Bali: $1,081

Costs Per Day: $54

Below you’ll see where I spent this money and just click on each heading to expand it to see the details about the actual expense.

1. Accommodation Total: $237

My cost per day on accommodation was about $12. All hostels like normal. But some of these were a bit nicer. And I did usually spring for the deluxe type of rooms (because A/C). And Bong Hostel on Nusa Lembongan was “expensive” at about $15/night. But I loved it.

2. Food Total: $192

Cost per day? $10. I didn’t love the food in Bali. So I usually spent my time doing other things. And I occasionally did spring for some healthy and western food at this point. Because by this point I was getting a little tired of rice and noodles.

3. Transportation Total: $217

My two big costs here was my flight to Bali (~$100) and my fast boat to/from the Gilis (~$50). The rest of the boats/vans/grabs were relatively cheap.

4. Excursions Total: $140

This is mostly entrance fees and motorbike rentals. But a few things did push this much higher.

– Private Surf Lesson: $43
– Mt Batur Sunrise Hike: $22
– Snorkeling Trip from Nusa Lembongan: $25

5. Alcohol Total: $75

I exceeded my budget here a little bit. But I’m happy to do it if I get to meet amazing people. And I definitely did.

6. Shopping Total: $220

Yep I exceeded my budget here by $150. So why?

I did a lot of souvenir shopping in Bali. Think lots of earrings. Plus I had to buy a sweatshirt for the hike up to Mt. Batur for sunrise. And cheap sweatshirts don’t really exist because it’s usually hot as hell. So I got one from Hurley. That was expensive, but I do like it so I’ve re-worn it.

Oh yea! And I mailed home a box of stuff. That postage fee was more expensive than any of the souvenirs in the box.

Okay that’s it! Keeping track of every single expense I made for 3 months was not easy. So I hope you all find this helpful!

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