Housing 48 countries, Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent. While not all of its destinations are ideal for the budget-conscious traveler, many are able to be deeply experienced for a seemingly impossible price.
Exploring Asia is to unfold a world of delicious food, wonderful people, stunning landscapes and endless opportunities, and it won’t involve the unfolding of your wallet anywhere near as much as you may think. Here are ten of the best when it comes to pushing your dollar as far as it can go.
10 Dalat, Vietnam
Vietnam is a country that can be experienced at whatever budget level you desire, and Dalat strongly reinforces that. Hostels can be booked for under $10USD a night, with 4-star hotels often less than $50.
Located in the Southern Vietnam Highlands, visitors with sturdy footwear can climb Langbiang alone or with a personal tour guide, stop at Ba Hung for the best (and cheapest!) rice paper rolls on the planet, or sample local beers for under $1. In true Vietnamese tradition, the night markets are a must-see, and travelers will always come away with unique mementos to fill their backpack, no matter what the budget.
9 Luang Prabang, Laos
With the option to arrive in Luang Prabang by slow-boat, even the journey can be done at low cost. Once there, a riverfront hotel room will set you back as little as $15, including a daily breakfast of local delicacies.
Mount Phousi at sunset provides travelers with a view that is one of the greatest joys imaginable without paying an entrance fee. Each night, traders take to the streets and create the night market, where just a few dollars will have even the hungriest belly bursting with a remarkable variety of local foods. Add to all of this the wildlife, waterfalls, and warm weather, and Luang Prabang will never disappoint the soul or the bank balance.
8 Chiang Mai, Thailand
From the moment of arrival, Chiang Mai will welcome you with tasty food, refreshing drinks, and local hospitality for a price that won’t have you checking the bank balance. Don’t miss the breakfast rush featuring sweet roti crammed with banana and condensed milk and piping hot or iced coffee served with the smile that never seems to leave the locals faces. You won’t need more than $5 to get your day started right.
Street food options will leave you flustered with the array of colorful delights, hotels will ask for under $20 for most rooms, and a night out on the strong stuff won’t require a second visit to the currency exchange.
7 Penang, Malaysia
If you want seafood for next to nothing, you need to find your way to Penang. For under $15, a plate of the ocean’s finest will be brought to your table, complete with a drink to wash it all down.
Hostel accommodations can be found for under $15, and there are plenty of free activities such as Lok Si Temple and astounding jetty villages. There's even a DIY hunt for unique graffiti art throughout the city that will fill your Instagram pages faster than you can get all the delicious meat out of that crab you ordered.
6 Cebu City, Philippines
For as little as $20 a day, Cebu City will provide travelers with everything needed for a perfect journey. Accommodation options cover every budget range, restaurant food is nearly as cheap as the dazzling displays of street food, and tours worth much more than the price of admission can be found without a strenuous search.
Mt Busay grants views of the entire city for little more than a dollar, landmarks from the 16th Century have no interest in your money and the surrounding islands welcome guests with inexpensive jaunts to witness the unique wildlife and naturally forged landscapes.
5 Yogyakarta, Indonesia
It doesn’t cost anything to explore on foot, and Yogyakarta will not disappoint the weary wanderer that takes to its streets. The artistic and cultural heart of Indonesia, a storied history smiles back wherever you go. Street art, galleries, museums, and resplendent dining choices abound in the shadows of the elegant walled palace that dominates Yogyakarta’s epicenter.
Get your own room for under $30 a night, an extravagant dinner for under $15, and start the day with an energy-creating local coffee, setting you back little more than a single dollar.
4 Siem Reap, Cambodia
The gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap has a rich history and a desire to share it. Some hostels will only ask for a single digit figure when it comes to reserving a bed, while four and a half star spa resorts won’t set you back more than $50.
Transportation is easy, with a tuk-tuk driver happy to spend their time getting you where you want to go for as little as $10 a day. Food is just as cheap, and exploring the upbeat party zones, thrilling shopping variety, and creative cultural scene will not have you reorganizing the budget.
3 Galle, Sri Lanka
Just $1 in Galle will get you a freshly made vegetable curry with rice, and the same amount will quench your thirst before dessert makes its way to the table. Basic hotels can be found for under $20, with beachfront options available for not too much more.
Money also doesn’t need to be spent when it comes to taking in the sights—Galle itself is the site. The walled city has ramparts so thick they can be walked along and used to get a full view of the 16th Century city. On departure, even if you have just a few coins leftover, make sure you get one last Kottu Roti. Or maybe two.
2 Jaipur, India
It won’t take long after arrival in Jaipur to understand why it is referred to as ‘The Pink City’. Almost every single building within the historic, walled city center is painted a terracotta pink as a result of a law dating back to 1876.
The Amber Palace is something that must be experienced when discovering Jaipur. The huge, incredible complex is set into a hillside and stands watch over the beautiful Maota Lake. Get lost amongst the cobbled paths and marvel at the 427-year-old tale the sandstone and marble walls tell. Accommodations can be found for as little or as much as desired, a sit-down meal with a drink to beat the heat won’t ask for more than $10, and entry to most tourist attractions sits around the $2 mark.
1 Kathmandu, Nepal
Nepal’s capital city has no trouble presenting an unarguable case to travelers, thanks to a lengthy list of remarkable sites and budget-friendly options on accommodation, food, adventure, and everything a visitor could want. Stepping into the dizzying activity of rickshaws, vendors, sounds, smells, and unbridled positivity that is Kathmandu is something that will never be regretted.
Find a place to sleep without handing over more than $15, a traditional dish of dal bhaat flies off the table for under $5, and those wanting to be super thrifty can easily live on just $20 a day as they get to know Nepal.