South East Asia Budget Travel: It’s About Discipline

by Agustin Rojas | Sep 6 2017

Budget travel in South East Asia is a really hot topic on the blogosphere. Here are some thoughts on the matter.

It’s important to mention from the get-go that if you don’t prioritize saving over spending you will never make the leap over to places like Vietnam and Thailand. Yes, these are incredibly cheap places to travel but if you are down at the bar every night spending the extra 10-20% surplus you take home each day, how will you ever make it over here?

Long Term VS Short Term Pleasures

You have to burn into your mind that travel to South East Asia is more important than the short term pleasure of shooting the shit with your mates down at the pub after a hard days work. What is your savings priority? Is it travel? Is it investing? Maybe these two can work together. If it is travel, what is keeping you from saving money? What are you spending it on?

It’s important to write down your savings plan. Write down your current expenses and research the web about the target destinations. For Vietnam, you could do much worse than to check out Vietnam Coracle. They have written about every major destination and activity in the country for almost 10 years now. A real authority on the region.

For Thailand, check out Nomadic Matt. Although not a huge fan of his controversial style, there is no denying his posts are full of useful bits of info to help you save tons of money travelling through.

Budget Travel for All

A kind reminder that travel is not just for those who are rich or wild and adventurous. The middle class or even poor among us can take measures to achieve the goal of travelling for next to nothing.

Work while Travelling

A lot of people mix travel with work nowadays. You have probably heard of the nomadic lifestyle and there are plenty of approaches with this method. You could use your internet skills in many ways. Either freelance or remote work for an established company, these are popular outcomes nowadays. But there is also the infamous teaching english or working in a bar short term. Both Thailand and Vietnam have no shortage of these kinds of opportunities.

Cook for yourself

Another important aspect of traveling on a tiny budget is to cook for yourself. Granted, this will put a slight damper on the excitement of trying new foods. Even in countries famous for their cheap street food delicacies it is STILL cheaper to cook and eat at home. There might be a few false starts as the local market will probably not be the easiest place to get what you pay for, with a little persistence you can get your daily food budget down to 5 usd easily.

One of the added benefits of cooking for yourself in a place like Vietnam or Thailand is that you will be able to control your calories and the nutritional aspect of your food. There are a lot of false assumptions that soups and rice bowls are ultra healthy options. Compared to Denny’s or the chip shop, yes they are. But there are loads of hidden calories in street food!

Get around by Motorbike

In order to get around the cities and countryside most affordably, you should look into taking public transportation. The buses and trains are not so efficient and you will be using a lot of your time to learn the schedules. But in the end there is no cheaper way to get around. There are also motorbikes. Either as a taxi service, which can be cheap if you use grabike or rent your own motorbike in a place like Hanoi. This is also an affordable option. For about 50 usd a month, you won’t need to pay more than another 10 bucks for gas a week. And the benefit of renting is that repairs will be included in the contract.

Dollars a Day in Vietnam and Thailand

These are just a few simple suggestions about how to make it possible to travel in a place like South East Asia for just dollars a day and have the time of your life. There are some important differences between life abroad and at home and you need to learn about the psychology of adapting to your environment to truly thrive while travelling.

Ask for advice before setting off

You can always ask questions here or on travel forums like the lonely planet where every question under the sun has already been answered.

Having lived in this part of the world for 16 years already, and never making that much money, I can say with certainty that it is a worthwhile pursuit for almost anyone to experience. Whether you want to make it a permanent choice or just a temporary adventure is entirely up to you. Remain flexible and honest with yourself and the answers will come to you.