When you’re looking for cheap countries to visit in Asia, it’s worth considering all of the options – especially as there’s some countries you may not have thought of!
You might not have specific budget destinations in Asia nailed down yet, but you want to know what your options are. You might want to get a general taste, and if a backpacking trip around Asia is going to be right for you. Or you might be completely sold on the idea, but just want to check if there’s any ideas you’ve missed. In any of those cases, you’ve come to the right place!
Alas, 2020 pummelled my Asia backpacking dreams, with a heavy mallet made out of diamond, So instead, I’ve asked some of the most awesome travel bloggers I know to give me some tips, so you – and I – can make plans, get excited, and start consuming guide books like there’s no tomorrow.
So let’s get straight into this! Here’s the best cheap countries to visit in Asia!
By Clara of Petite Capsule
Singapore is my favourite budget destination in Asia. The food is one of the main highlights, and it’s also wallet friendly. You can buy soy sauce chicken rice at Hawker Chan, a Michelin meal, for $5 SGD. Yes, a Michelin meal! Hawker Chan is one of the little food stalls in the Chinatown Complex hawker centre, which is the biggest hawker centre in Singapore. For more delicious, and affordable street food, you can visit the other hawker centres, such as Lau Pau Sat (also called Telok Ayer Market), Satay By The Bay, and Maxwell Road Hawker Centre.
There are a lot of free things to do in Singapore like visiting the beautiful Gardens By The Bay and Singapore Botanic Gardens, enjoying a light show at Marina Bay, going for a Treetop Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir, and exploring Fort Canning Park. The Singapore Zoo, including Night Safari and River Safari, is also a popular and not-to-be-missed attraction.
Public transport is excellent and cheap in Singapore, the train – MRT, Mass Rapid Transit – is a large network with freqquent services. For budget accommodation, consider the Wink Capsule Hostel @ Chinatown, the Kam Leng Hotel and the Great Madras. If you are after something more mid-range, travellers love the Carlton Hotel Singapore on Bras Basah Road. An average day’s budget is $100 SGD.
Singapore is one of the best places in Asia to visit with a baby as a couple or by to yourself because of all the fantastic attractions and affordability.
By Kelly of Girl With The Passport
Last year, I spent six months traveling throughout Southeast Asia. Three of those months were spent solo traveling Vietnam. That’s why I can say with absolute certainty that Vietnam is easily one of my favorite budget travel destinations in Asia.
Whether you’re exploring the beautiful beaches of Da Nang, the fascinating history of Ho Chi Minh City, the historic buildings of Hoi An, or the old imperial capital of Hue, you’ll always find reasonably priced hotels, cheap street food, and a wealth of fun, totally free things to do.
I mean, I stayed at the exquisitely decorated Sen Boutique Hotel in Da Nang for $15 per night. A price that is absolutely astounding when you realize that my hotel was a quick 10-minute walk away from the beach, including an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, and featured impeccable service from warm and friendly staff members.
However, if you’re looking for some slightly more cultural experiences, then head to the vibrant and fast-paced, Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Here, you can try delicious pho at Pho Quynh, shop for some great deals at Ben Thanh Market, explore the vibrant yellow interior of the Saigon Post Office, walk down the book street (Nguyen Van Binh street), marvel at the bright pink-hued beauty of Tan Dinh Church, and visit the city’s very own, Notre Dame Cathedral. Although, a visit to the War Remnants Museum is an essential part of any visit to Ho Chi Minh since it provides a detailed history of and heart breaking look at the devastating consequences of the Vietnam War. I would also highly recommend taking a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, where you can see exactly how the North Vietnamese used underground tunnels to fight against the South Vietnamese and the United States.
But, if Ho Chi Minh City is a little too hot and humid for you, you can always go north, to the city of Hanoi. Here, you’ll find a wealth of exciting and fun, free things to do.
Now, after ordering a delicious egg coffee from Café Dinh, you can watch the train roll through at train street, say hi to Uncle Ho (AKA Ho Chi Minh) at Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, take a scenic walk along West Lake, learn about Hanoi’s scholarly past at the Temple of Literature, take a scenic walk through the various themed streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, try Bahn Mi (a local Vietnamese sandwich) at Bahn Mi 25, and learn about the history of the Vietnam War at Hoa Lo Prison (AKA the Hanoi Hilton). While you’re here, you can also enjoy some of the well-appointed rooms at the Hanoi Evergreen Hotel, where rooms start at just $12 per night.
So, if you’re traveling on a budget and are in search of some of the most affordable countries in Asia, then look no further the beautiful and incredibly diverse country of Vietnam.
By Kristin of Adventures With Ensuite
Georgia sees the highest number of tourists in the Caucasus and as a result it has the best tourist infrastructure, making it the easiest country to travel within. It is also the cheapest of the Caucasus countries (although not by much). For an average daily budget expect to spend around $30-35. The visa policy is very flexible allowing citizens from 90 countries to stay for up to one year.
In the capital Tbilisi the top sights are free and can be covered whilst walking around the old town and up to the viewpoint above the fort on Narikala hill. The city is full of nice and friendly cafes and restaurants. For an overnight stay, or just for a drink, Fabrika hostel is one of the most popular places in town.
Day trips can easily be arranged from Tbilisi either by public transport or as part of an organised group. The most popular are Sighnaghi, a Tuscan-esque hill town in the wine area, Davit Gareja monastery, the Stalin museum in Gori and Gergeti Trinity Church and the fantastic mountain views in Kazbegi.
Seeing and hiking in the Caucasus mountains is one of the best things to do in Georgia. Further west lies an area called Svaneti where the country’s most famous multi-day hike is located, the Mestia Ushguli trek. Other areas to consider adding to your itinerary are Gelati monastery, close to Kutaisi, and Vardzia, an ancient cave city.
Tbilisi has the largest airport in the region although some budget airlines fly to Kutaisi, 4 hours from Tbilisi by bus. When travelling around minibuses are cheap but often require travel via Tbilisi, which can add to transfer times.
What time of year to go depends on your interests. Hiking is best from June to September, but the country also has many ski resorts making Georgia a year-round destination.
By Vaibhav of The Wandering Vegetable
Armenia is that budget-friendly gem of Asia that doesn’t generally feature on a popular travel itinerary. But those who do visit the country swear by it’s beauty, charm and pocket-friendliness. Located almost in the middle of the two continents of Asia and Europe, Armenia offers you the ultimate combination of pristine natural beauty, incredible architecture, rich history, delectable food, thrilling adventure and warm hospitality.
Add the fact that it is one of the cheapest countries to travel, and you have a bucket list destination on your hand. If you’re on a budget, there are several things to see and do for free in Armenia, especially in the capital city of Yerevan.
Exploring the vibrant Republic Square and enjoying the free magical dancing fountains show at night, visiting the Yerevan Cascade, exploring the Cafesjian Centre for the Arts (first two floors), checking out art galleries at the Freedom square, checking out the Vernissage market, learning about Armenia’s history at Armenia’s Genocide museum are some of the free things to do in Yerevan.
As for the free things to do outside of Yerevan, you can chill at the picturesque Sevan lake, visit the Geghard monastery, enjoy the beauty of the Caucasian mountains, visit the Jermuk waterfall and admire the Garni gorge. You can also attend free acoustic concerts hosted by Calumet on Mondays, or enjoy a free Chinese tea as part of the Tea with Strangers campaign funded by the Awesome Foundation’s Yerevan Chapter.
Even besides the free activities there are some top things to do in Armenia that don’t cost much. You can do a day trip to the Tatev monastery in which you get to explore Areni village, do a wine tasting, visit the Shaki waterfall and enjoy the longest reversible tramway ride in the world – “Wings of Tatev” to get to the Tatev Monastery.
You can also visit the Mother Armenia statue, hike the Amberd Fortress, experience a thrilling open-air cable car ride in Tsaghkadzor – all at economical prices. Armenia is one the cheapest countries when it comes to food and accommodation.
The currency here is Armenian Drams (AMD) and an American dollar roughly equals to 500 AMD. So you can imagine that the prices for activities and places to stay in Armenia are pretty affordable and easy on your pocket. Food, on an average, can cost you around 4,500-5000 AMD (10 USD) a day per person.
Accommodation on the budget side, like a hostel, costs you around 8-10 USD a day (even lesser in some cases) and the fanciest hotel costs you around 100-120 USD a day. A double occupancy room costs you 16-20 USD per day. When going out for a drink, alcohol can cost you around 12 USD a day per person. Local public transportation is cheap and costs you 2.5-3 USD per person per day.
All in all, Armenia is one of the most tourist friendly countries in Asia that’s not only beautiful but also cheap. So do not miss exploring this hidden gem if you’re planning an Asian vacation on a budget.
By Alya of Stingy Nomads
Nepal is one of the cheapest Asian countries to travel to. Even backpackers traveling on a very tight budget will be able to enjoy this beautiful country without struggling to save money on accommodation, food or activities. One can easily travel here on 15-20US$ per person per day.
Accommodation is very cheap in Nepal. For 10US$ (less than the price of a bed in a dorm in some countries) you can find a private double room with wifi and a hot shower. There are homestays which charge even less, 6US$ for a double room! For 20US$ you can stay in a nice room with AC and breakfast,
Street food in Nepal is very cheap; at local places, you can eat for as little as 2-3US$. Dal Bhat (steamed rice, cooked lentils and vegetable curry) is the most popular local dish and the best value for money. It’s bottomless: once you finish the rice, dal, vegetables, you can ask for a top up! It’s the best meal to have after a long day of hiking.
Local buses are the cheapest way to move around the country, though it usually takes many hours to get anywhere due to poor road conditions. A 6-hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara costs 3US$. Taxis are the most popular transport in big cities. In Kathmandu or Pokhara you pay 3-4US$ for a taxi.
Nepal offers a great variety of activities that can be done on a small budget. The country is famous for its mountains with some of the finest trekking routes in the world, such as Everest Base Camp Trek, Annapurna Circuit, or Annapurna Base Camp trek. Hiking is the man activity that attracts tourists. Trekking in Nepal is an incredible experience with a wide range of routes varying from challenging multi-day treks to easy day hikes. Most of the popular treks can be done independently and on a small budget. The average cost of a day of hiking is 20US$ per person, and includes the cost of accommodation, food, and permits.
By Sarah from Hotels and Hand Luggage
Although Japan isn’t as cheap as many other destinations in Asia, after spending 3 months in the country we discovered there are ways you can make it a more affordable place to visit.
The best way to save money in Japan is to eat from their incredible convenience stores. They have these on every corner and have a large range of on-the-go snacks, plus plenty of delicious ready meals. All the stores have microwaves and many also have an area to sit in and eat too. If you can’t go without your coffee, the convenience stores do great hot drinks too and plenty of yummy pastries for a quick breakfast! You will also find some local restaurants with affordable menus and they nearly always come with free water to drink. We especially loved the chains Ichiran Ramen and Coco Ichibanaya’s.
Transport is likely to be one of your biggest costs in Japan. If you’re visiting for a shorter period of time the Japan Rail Pass will save you a lot of money on the longer distance bullet trains. Just make sure you buy this before you arrive in Japan as it is only valid for tourists. If you are visiting for a longer period of time like we did, then it may work out cheaper to just buy the train tickets as you go as the passes are only valid for 1,2 or 3 weeks. We used cheaper trains and buses to get around for shorter distances and used the bullet train for longer journeys. In Tokyo it’s likely you’ll mainly use the metro to get around so we highly recommend the 1,2 or 3 day metro pass as Tokyo is huge and the costs of single tickets soon add up.
There are many free things to do in Tokyo to keep you busy including visiting Shibuya Crossing, Senso-ji Temple, Meiji Shrine or even going to the awesome viewpoint at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Throughout the rest of Japan you will find many of the attractions to either be free or a small fee. The most expensive attraction we went to was Borderless Digital Art Museum in Tokyo, but the cost was worthwhile!
Accommodation is usually more expensive in Japan than other places in Asia so you will need to factor that into your budget. We found the prices to be similar to Western Europe. If you are visiting at a popular time we recommend booking in advance as all the cheaper accommodation will quickly get booked out. There are many different types of accommodation in Japan from hostels to capsule hotels and temple stays. As with most places your cheapest option will usually be the dorm rooms in hostels and you may also find a good deal at a capsule hotel.To visit Japan you will need to budget higher than anywhere else you visit in Asia, but it’s all worth it! You will need to budget at least $70 USD a day, but if using the Japan Rail Pass this could go up to $90 USD a day.
South Korea probably doesn’t pop to mind when thinking about cheap places to travel to in Asia, but it is very affordable if you’re staying away from touristic restaurants and shopping malls and stick to local areas, restaurants and hotels.
Food: if you visit a local Korea restaurant that doesn’t lie on the main street you’ll get a great meal for 6000 – 8000 korean won (7$). The one thing about these kinds of restaurants is that they probably won’t speak English. Which would be ok in most places as there are pictures of the food. Apart from your main meal, you can have unlimited side dishes which mainly consist of kimchi, radishes and lettuce.
Public Transport in Seoul: a ride by bus or subway costs 1200 korean won (1$). Make sure to get a T Money card when arriving at the airport, this will allow you to transfer for free and pay less for your ride.
Activities: government run sights like the palaces, the national museums, shrines or temples are free to enter or for a small fee like 2000 won (2$). Some of the best museums to visit are The National Museum of Korea, The National Palace Museum, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Deoksugung Palace and many more.
Sri Lanka is known as the jewel of the Indian Ocean, and that name couldn’t be more fitting. Not only is it shaped like a jewel, the endless amount of different breathtaking landscapes, the friendly people, interesting culture and delicious food truly make it a jewel of a country.
What makes Sri Lanka even greater, is that it can easily be travelled on a budget. The world-famous Nine Arch Bridge, for example, is only a half an hour walk from the cute little town Ella, and it is completely free to access. So are many other awesome things to do in Sri Lanka, like the Diyaluma Falls, Galle Fort, and the beautiful palm tree-lined beaches on the south coast. The train ride between Kandy and Ella, known as the most beautiful train ride in the world, will cost you less than $1, and prices for almost everything else are negotiable. Something you should splurge a bit on is one of the incredible wildlife safaris in Sri Lanka. A half-day safari will cost about $30-$40 per person, and even that price can be haggled down. On a safari, you’ll almost certainly see elephants, monkeys and buffalos, and depending on your luck and which park you go to, you can also see leopards, sloth bears and other rare animal species.
If you eat local food, then eating out in Sri Lanka is very budget-friendly too. And to be honest, you probably wouldn’t want to eat anything else anyway because the local food is delicious. We could easily eat local dishes like egg hoppers, kottu (chopped roti flatbread with vegetables, eggs and meat) and curries every day without getting sick of them, and they won’t set you back more than $3 per meal.
Accommodation won’t set you back much either. A private room in a homestay or guesthouse usually won’t cost more than $7 a night, and if you are on a tight budget you can stick to hostels that are almost always in the $3 to $5 per night range. But even a luxurious stay won’t empty your wallet. We stayed in a massive room in a villa on top of a hill overlooking the tea plantations around Kandy, for less than $30 per night. And that included three meals per day too! Interested? Check out the Old Frankland Boutique Hotel.
All in all, we recommend a daily budget of $50 per person per day. This includes food, accommodation, transportation, daily fun activities and a few drinks. If you opt for hostels, and limit the amount of drinking and paid activities you could even go as low as $25 per person per day. Whoever said that jewels have to be expensive clearly hasn’t been to Sri Lanka yet!
By Ellis of Backpack Adventures
Uzbekistan is one of the most upcoming destinations in central Asia since the country introduced a visa free regime for most nationalities. Although it is gaining popularity it is still considered an off the beaten path destination. This means that prices are still relatively low.
Traveling in Uzbekistan can be as cheap as 30 dollars a day if you travel on a budget. A bed in a hostel dormitory is around 10 dollars and you can get a meal at the bazaar for less than 5 dollars. If you want to travel in a bit more luxury expect to pay 20 dollars for a private double room and around 10 dollars for a meal in a mid range restaurant.
With such low prices it is a surprise that still so few people have Uzbekistan on their bucket list. The country is full of history and culture. It was once an important part of the famous silk road. Traders and merchants passed through with their camel caravans carrying silk, spices and other wares from both the east and the west.
Settlements like Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva developed into wealthy cities with thriving bazaars, caravanserais and magnificent islamic architecture. Even now simply walking through the historic centers is a joy to the eye and it’s easy to imagine how things were like in the glory days of the Silk Road.
The good thing is that walking around is absolutely free as well as looking at the buildings from the outside. This way you already can appreciate much of its beauty. The entrance fees to get inside are often just a couple of dollars.
One of the top attractions in Uzbekistan is the famous Registan square in Samarkand. Lined with some of the most beautiful madrassah and mosques in central asia. The impressive facades, minarets and walls are richly decorated with blue tilework and geometrical patterns.
Other highlights include the covered bazaars in Bukhara and the walled old city of Khiva that is almost like an open air museum. Khiva also has some of the best food in Uzbekistan with regional specialities that include egg or pumpkin dumplings. Try them at Terassa cafe with a beautiful view over Khiva.
The bazaars are also a great place to try Uzbek food and prices are ridiculously cheap. Look out for the tandoor ovens where they sell samsa. They will cost you less than a dollar and if you buy 2 or 3 they make a great and cheap lunch.
At last, the best and cheapest way to travel in between the cities is by train. With new high speed trains the journeys will only take you a couple of hours. Just enough to get to know the country’s friendly people that will without doubt ask you where you are from and welcome you in their country.
By Breanna of Meanwhile in Mongolia
While visiting Mongolia is pretty much on every adventure-travleler-in-the-know’s bucket list, there’s this misconception that traveling through the land of Genghis Khan can be quite expensive. And they’re not wrong; trips can cost between $7,000 and $9,000 – they’re just not completely right either.
You can easily visit Mongolia and have equally (if not more) crazy adventures for a fraction of the cost. In fact, that’s the best way to see the country and really experience Mongolian culture, because that means you’re staying with local families, in their gers (yurts), eating authentic Mongolian food (khuushuur, buuz, tsuivan) next to the nomadic herders who prepared it themselves, and not sleeping in 5-star hotels with catered westernized dinners.
While you can rent a car and drive through Mongolia on your own, hiring a car and driver is super inexpensive, especially if you’re traveling in a group. (Think $65/day plus gas, inexpensive.) These aren’t roads you want to deal with on your own anyways, especially if something goes wrong. These driver – and their cars – are ready to handle anything and everything, which is usually what you encounter once you leave the comforts (and paved roads) of Ulaanbaatar.
To save the most money on your travels in Mongolia, stay with local families when possible and eat what they’re eating. Most tourist sites across the country are free to visit and explore, you’ll only have to spend money if you want to explore them on horseback or atop a camel (which is always worth it, and usually only about $10-20/hour). Splurge on a few bottles of vodka for your hosts along the way ($4) and you’ll instantly make lifelong friends anywhere you go.
By Kristin of Adventures With Ensuite
Azerbaijan has a reputation as the most expensive of the countries in the Caucasus, but that reputation is a little unfair since the country has become a lot more affordable in recent years. If you are backpacking a suggested budget is $35-40 per day. That number can be lowered depending on where you eat, stay and how many attractions you see – some are expensive. Baku is most expensive and regional towns are more affordable.
Obtaining a visa to Azerbaijan has become a lot easier in recent years. Today, a single-entry e-visa is available to citizens from 90 countries and costs $23. When you apply for a visa make sure you go through the official website and not one of the companies which charge high arrangement fees (these are the sites ranked at the top of a Google search on “Azerbaijani visas”).
Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan and has an impressive city wall and atmospheric old town. There are also several modern buildings such as the Flame Towers, the Carpet Museum and Heydar Aliyev Centre which should not be missed. Entrance to some of the museums is expensive but many of the best places to visit in Baku can be seen without spending any money at all.
The most interesting day trip from Baku is to the mud volcanoes in Gobustan, an hour and a half south of the capital. There is no public transport so the only option is joining a tour or hiring a car, making this one of the more expensive trips.
Other areas to consider for your itinerary are Sheki and the mountain villages around Quba. Sheki is a town with strong Silk Road heritage and the Sheki Khan’s Summer Palace in itself is worth the 5 hour bus journey from Baku.
When to go depends on what you want to do during your visit. Hiking is only possible in the summer months but this is also the period when the capital can be extremely hot. Baku is best to visit during spring and autumn.
By Stephen of Asia-Hikes
Kyrgyzstan is one of the best and least-appreciated budget travel destinations anywhere in Asia. The primary appeal for most travellers is landscapes – from the azure waves of the world’s second-largest alpine lake in Issyk-Kol to the rocky grey peaks and vibrant green valleys of the Tien Shan mountains that stretch across the country. Through it all, the country’s traditional nomadic culture still thrives and during most tourist days you’d be more likely than not to spot at least one herd of free-ranging horse trotting past a yurt tent pitched in the middle of a mountain valley.
The average daily budget for backpacker travel in Kyrgyzstan can be as little as $25 for most travelers – no more than $10 for a hostel bed in the cities or a guesthouse in the villages, the latter of which will typically include breakfast. Expect $3-5 per meal for lunch and dinner, either at a budget-friendly stolovaya cafeteria or cheap cafe in the cities or a home-cooked meal in a guesthouse or community-tourism yurt camp in the mountains. The rest of your budget will cover the cost of shared transportation between major cities. There are nominal entrance fees for museums and national parks here and there, but for the most part the country’s greatest draw is totally free: the mountains. With a backpack full of food and camping gear, there’s nothing to pay at all once you’ve gotten yourself to a trailhead (the transportation to which can become expensive; to keep costs down choose hikes near trekking hubs like Karakol, Arslanbob, and Jyrgalan).
Epic hikes like the week-long Ak-Suu Transverse can carry you through valley after valley and over pass over pass, really immersing into the country’s landscapes and offering the opportunity to interact with semi-nomadic shepherds in their true element. But even casual day hikers have plenty to choose from – waterfall walks in Arslanbob or Jyrgalan or Ala-Archa National Park, panoramic viewpoints from Naryn or Karakol, or just pleasant walks through the pastoral landscapes that rise above nearly every village in the country.
While all of Central Asia represents the possibility of epic experience in a less-traveled region than popular backpacker hotspots, none of the other -Stans offer the same low-budget and high-value experience as Kyrgyzstan.
By Linn of Brainy Backpackers
Iran might not be the most common travel destination, but it is a great country to travel to if you’re on a budget. Public transport costs close to nothing and hostels are really cheap. HI Tehran Hostel is great in Tehran, in Kashan you should stay at Kooshk-e Honar Guesthouse, and in Isfahan, stay at Anar Guest House. They are all budget friendly and the owners and staff are super nice and friendly!
Visiting the main sites like mosques and Historical houses all cost about 2-3 dollars and are what you’ll spend the most on during your trip to Iran. Except if you go on desert tours. However, if you get a shared trip, you might get it for 20-30 dollars per person and it’s worth the money.
To give you an idea, I spent 350 Euros on 15 days in Iran. This included two desert tours and a night’s stay at a desert oasis for 25 euros the night. I also took a private car with a driver for a day to get to see a few destinations on the way. That is an average of 23 euros a day including food, transportation, sights, excursions, etc.
The top sights you need to see when you’re in Iran are the mosques and historical houses in each city. If you’re an outdoors lover, there are amazing hiking opportunities in Iran as it hosts several peaks above 4000 meters, including the tallest peak in the Middle East, Mount Damavand (5610m). There are also numerous deserts and in the south you find amazing islands and warm weather all year round. Top cities for beautiful architecture and history are Isfahan, Kashan, and Shiraz.
The best thing about Iran, though are the people, and you can expect to be invited out for dinner or even home to the locals. Among the top Iran travel tips is to bring cash for your whole trip as your card won’t work in the country, women need to wear a headscarf at all times, and it’s forbidden to take photos of certain government and military places. A good rule of thumb is to always ask if you’re unsure and the locals will help you out.
There we have it! Now you’ve got some serious travel inspo and insider tips. There’s nothing stopping you from achieving those cheap travel dreams one day!
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