9 Cheapest Countries in Asia to Visit

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When it comes to backpacking, Asia and Southeast Asia in particular, are widely known to be budget-friendly destinations. But what are the cheapest countries in Asia? 

We have over 10+ years of combined backpacking experience across the continent and have learnt a thing or two about Asia’s cheapest places! From shoestring destinations where you can grab a beer for less than 50 cents to others where luxury hotels can be experienced for the same price as your local Holiday Inn, this article on the cheapest Asian countries has got you covered! 

If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, read on brave adventurer! 

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As much as we try to keep up with current affairs, entry requirements, currency fluctuations and everything else in the world of travel, we are just a very small team of humans! The economy often changes in Asia and a country that is considered to be cheap one day may not be so the next. This list is in no particular order.  Always do your own research before embarking on a trip! 

9 Cheapest Countries in Asia for Backpackers

1. Sri Lanka 🇱🇰

Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee 
Exchange rate: Approx. 1USD=320LKR

  • Bed in a dorm room: 2870LKR (approx. $9USD)
  • A hotel room in a major city: 5465LKR (approx. $17USD)
  • Street food/fast food: 350LKR (approx. $1USD)
  • Meal and drink in a budget restaurant: 750LKR (approx. $2USD)
  • Beer: 550LKR (approx. $1.50USD)

Recommended backpacker daily budget: $20-30USD

Often overlooked in favour of neighbouring India, Sri Lanka is a burgeoning travel destination for budget travellers. Offering eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there is no shortage of culture to explore on this small but mighty island. 

Surfer in Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a beach lover’s dream!

The street food in Sri Lanka is tasty and delicious, not to mention low cost. Even eating in restaurants won’t set you back too much – providing you stick to the local fare. 

A local beer is likely to only cost around a dollar or two, however, if you’re looking to party, Sri Lanka may disappoint. Those looking for clubs and beach bars would be far better served in a country with better traveller infrastructure, for example, Indonesia or Vietnam. 

There are a lot of free things to do in Sri Lanka, however, some of the popular activities will cost you. Sri Lanka is one of the best countries to learn to surf in Asia but lessons will eat into your daily budget. Wildlife tours in one of the many national parks in Sri Lanka can also be costly. 

2. Laos 🇱🇦

Currency: Laotian Kip
Exchange rate: Approx. 1USD=17,200LAK

  • Bed in a dorm room: 80,000LAK (approx. $4USD)
  • A hotel room in a major city: 320,000LAK (approx. $18USD) 
  • Street food/fast food: 20,000LAK (approx. $1USD)
  • Meal and drink in a budget restaurant: 42,000LAK (approx. $2.50USD)
  • Beer: 15,000-35,000LAK ($1-2USD) 

Recommended backpacker daily budget: $25-35USD

In our humble opinion, Laos is one of the most overlooked countries in the world. Combine a rich, verdant landscape full of natural wonders with some of the most welcoming people on the continent and you’ll go a little way to understanding just why we love Laos so much. Plus, it’s cheap! 

Laos Drone Image 3
Laos is a wonderful destination to explore independently.

Laos offers a range of delicious street food options as well as fresh juices, all for a steal of a price. To keep your costs down, avoid Western food and opt only for local beer. You can’t drink tap water in Laos so although the initial outlay will be big, a filtered water bottle will quickly offset the amount you paid for it. The planet will also thank you for the reduction in single-use plastic! 

Tours tend to pose the biggest threat to the budget of a shoestring traveller in Laos. Luckily, many attractions and excursions are easy to arrange independently – just ask around in hostels or Facebook groups to find the information that you need. 

While several accommodation booking engines operate in Laos, Agoda tends to yield the best prices (although there are sometimes additional fees so check between them all to be sure!). Dorm rooms are super cheap and of pretty good quality. Private rooms for couples often include breakfast and are also priced extremely well, making it very easy to stay within budget, even when you’re seeking a bit of private time. ?

3. Nepal 🇳🇵

Currency: Nepalese Rupee
Exchange rate: Approx. 1USD=131NPR

  • Bed in a dorm room: 660NPR (approx. $5USD)
  • A hotel room in a major city: 1600NPR (approx. $12USD)
  • Street food/fast food: 100NPR (approx. less than $1USD)
  • Meal and drink in a budget restaurant: 500NPR (approx. $4USD)
  • Beer: 500NPR (approx. $4USD)

Recommended backpacker daily budget: $20-30USD

Nepal is a massively budget-friendly country, making it a great backpacker destination. The local food is cheap and delicious, offering loads of options. There are plenty of choices for veggies too! Tea and coffee are cheap but beer is more expensive so keep your drinking to a minimum if you’re on a real shoestring budget. 

Langtang Valley Trek, Nepal.
Nepal is most famous for its epic mountain treks.

Accommodation is plentiful and cheap across Nepal. Dorm beds can be as cheap as a few dollars a night and offer a great way to meet like-minded travellers. Bear in mind that more well-known hostel chains cost more. 

In general, activities and tours are pretty cheap in Nepal except for the big guided treks like the Annapurna circuit and up to Everest Base Camp. It is possible to do some hikes on your own provided you follow an offline map and have experience. Don’t be an idiot though, it is far better to spend on a guide than end up lost and stranded in the mountains! 

When it comes to buying stuff on markets, always remember that people aren’t going to charge you the ‘real’ price upfront. Haggling is the name of the game here, just don’t go too hard or you could end up going viral like this woman found out… 

Interested in backpacking elsewhere? Read our other budget guides!

4. Cambodia 🇰🇭

Currency: United States Dollar/Cambodian Riel
Exchange rate: Approx. 1USD=4,130 KHR

  • Bed in a dorm room: $4USD
  • A hotel room in a major city: $10USD
  • Street food/fast food: $3USD
  • Meal and drink in a budget restaurant: $6USD
  • Beer: $2USD

Recommended backpacker daily budget: $30-40USD

Note: Cambodia uses the United States Dollar as their main currency. ATMs dish out dollars and nearly all payments will be made in USD. The only time that you’ll need Cambodian Riel will be for really small purchases on the street. You’ll likely get all the Riel you need in change after paying for things in USD. Don’t worry about getting money exchanged! 

Famous for the impressive Angkor Wat complex, spectacular islands and more culture than you can shake a stick at, Cambodia is a must-visit destination in Southeast Asia. And the best thing? It also doubles up as one of the cheapest countries in Asia! 

Angkor Wat Sunrise, Cambodia
Cambodia is definitely one of the cheapest countries in Asia.

Dorm beds are pretty cheap in Cambodia, even in popular backpacker hangouts such as Siem Reap. We even heard that you can get a dorm room in Koh Rong for a measly $1USD (though we have no idea whether it is actually liveable!). However, for couples, a trip to Cambodia is likely to be more costly. You have to pay for your privacy here! 

An overnight bus costs around $15USD depending on the route and duration. Food is also cheap in Cambodia, with street food generally quoted at being around $2USD (sometimes less). And what about the sacred beer? Local beer can be purchased from around $1USD and imported beer usually costs double. Be warned, with the price of beer, it is easy to get carried away. Limit your drinking to avoid blowing your entire budget on booze! 

Tours tend to be the biggest outlay for travellers in Cambodia but you’ll be able to save money if you embark on trips with more people. Get talking to people in your hostel to gather a group and keep costs down.

Finally, remember that haggling is commonplace in Cambodia and the best way to save dollars when buying stuff on the street. Don’t be cringed out by the process, it is a local part of life here and the original price quoted reflects expecting to drop the price. Don’t haggle too hard though, prices have jumped up since the pandemic, making everything much more costly for locals. 

Top Tip! Stuff will cost less out of peak season. To help plan your trip, check out this guide to the best time to visit Cambodia.

5. India 🇮🇳

Currency: Indian Rupee
Exchange rate: Approx. 1USD=81.7INR

  • Bed in a dorm room: 800INR (approx. $10USD)
  • A hotel room in a major city: 1,800INR (approx. $22USD)
  • Street food/fast food: 250INR (approx. $3USD)
  • Meal and drink in a budget restaurant: 580INR (approx. $7USD)
  • Beer: 150INR (approx. $2USD)

Recommended backpacker daily budget: $20-30USD

In general, India has a well-beaten backpacker trail which means that there is an abundance of hostels available all over the country. Dorms are the cheapest option but a private room in a hostel can be fairly cheap too, especially when split between two people. 

India is a crazy place but it’s also super cheap!

Food and drink are cheap if you stick to buying on the street. Not only is this some of the best food out there but in a non-touristy area, you can eat for just a couple of dollars a day! Beer is more expensive than local drinks but still not crazy. If you’re on a seriously tight budget, it is best to limit your drinking to save money.

As India is such a massive country, the prices you pay will largely depend on where you are. Popular tourist areas like Goa and Rishikesh will generally cost more. 

Luckily, the public transport in India is very reasonably priced, making it a cheap country to travel around. Trains tend to be the most popular mode of transport and it costs just a few rupees to cover an awful lot of ground. While often not the most comfortable mode of transport, sleeper trains are ideal for large distances and save you the cost of a bed. 

The biggest money-saving tip we have for travelling India is to haggle. Bartering is an essential part of Indian culture and everyone and his nan is a pro. You will need to hone your skills to avoid getting ripped off and stay on budget! 

6. The Philippines 🇵🇭

Currency: Philippine Peso
Exchange rate: Approx. 1USD=55PHP

  • Bed in a dorm room: 940PHP (approx. $17USD)
  • A hotel room in a major city: 1700PHP (approx. $30USD)
  • Street food/fast food: 100PHP (approx. $2USD)
  • Meal and drink in a budget restaurant: 600PHP (approx. $11USD)
  • Beer: 100PHP (approx. $2USD)

Recommended backpacker daily budget: $25-350USD

It might not be the cheapest country in Asia as a whole but the Philippines definitely makes it into our shortlist! Budget backpackers can easily stick to a daily budget of between $25-35USD if they eat cheaply and stay in dorms.

El Nido Beach 4
When visiting Filipino islands, stick to ferries to keep costs down.

Dorm beds cost very little in the popular backpacker areas but can still be expensive in the city and also in tourism hotspots like Boracay. No matter where you are, private rooms lean to the pricey side so if you’re on a tight budget, use these sparingly or try to share with someone so you can split the cost. 

Although not internationally known for its cuisine, the Philippines offers a range of cheap and cheerful street food which will fill your tummy without breaking the bank. Meals in local restaurants tend to be fairly cheap but not as budget-friendly as in some other Asian countries. 

As it is an archipelagic country, travel in the Philippines is more complicated than in a lot of other countries in Southeast Asia. Flights are the most efficient way to get around, however, these are very damaging for the planet and can be very expensive – no good for shoestring travellers!

To keep your costs down, stick to ferries whenever possible and make the most of the long-distance bus routes on the bigger islands. Unfortunately, travelling in the Philippines is a time-consuming process – make sure you’ve brought your e-reader!

7. Thailand 🇹🇭

Currency: Thai Baht
Exchange rate: Approx. 1USD=34THB

  • Bed in a dorm room: 300THB (approx. $9USD)
  • A hotel room in a major city: 600THB (approx. $18USD)
  • Street food/fast food: 80THB (approx. $2.50USD)
  • Meal and drink in a budget restaurant: 120THB (approx. $3.50USD)
  • Beer: 100THB (approx. $3USD) 

Recommended backpacker daily budget: $30-40USD

Thailand is not generally considered a very cheap destination anymore.  Over recent years, it has become very popular among more cash-touting tourists. You’ll pay through the nose in beach resorts and on popular islands such as Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui and Phuket

Elephants walk wild in the jungle.
Do your research if you want to partake in animal tourism.

However, once you’re away from the most popular spots, costs drop right down. There is plenty to see and do in these other parts of the country too – from ancient temples to motorcycle loops and wildlife encounters! 

Of course, most backpackers will want to see a range of what the country has to offer, so the above recommended daily budget has been tweaked to reflect this. However, steer clear of the most popular spots and it is possible to spend much less! 

Food in Thailand is a huge selling point of the country and it would be a wasted opportunity not to gorge yourself on the local cuisine. Luckily, street food is very cheap, along with those legendary booze buckets! 

Thailand is firmly established along the Banana Pancake Trail and there are a wealth of high-quality hostels offering accommodation for backpackers. Many of these offer fantastic value for money but be aware you’ll pay a lot more in popular areas and in places where there is less competition. 

8. Indonesia 🇮🇩

Currency: Indonesian Rupiah
Exchange rate: Approx. 1USD=14,600IDR

  • Bed in a dorm room: 100,000IDR (approx. $7USD)
  • A hotel room in a major city: 200,000IDR (approx. 14USD)
  • Street food/fast food: 10,000IDR (less than $1USD)
  • Meal and drink in a budget restaurant: 30,000IDR (approx. $2USD)
  • Beer: 50,000IDR (approx. $3USD)

Recommended backpacker daily budget: $25-35USD

It’s hard to generalise a country that consists of over 17,000 islands and over 250 million people! From the busy streets of Jakarta to the party shores of Bali and the remote landscapes of Sulawesi, there is so much variation in cost across Indonesia that it’s hard to make broad statements on prices for food, accommodation, transport and beer. Despite this, Indonesia still offers a lot of bang for your buck – if you’re careful!

Kelingkling beach, Nusa Penida
Prices vary all over Indonesia – some places are cheaper than others!

Meals seem to be around $1-3 USD for street food or meals in a local ‘warung’ (restaurant). Indonesian buses are some of the cheapest too! An overnight bus costs just a few dollars, complete with chickens, betel nut spit and karaoke! 

Good to Know!

Travellers to Bali beware of the 10% tax and 10-20% service charge in most restaurants. It’s often automatically added to your bill. Always read the small print on menus. 

Being a Muslim country, beer is more expensive in Indonesia than in other Asian countries, ranging from $2-3USD for a bottle of Bintang. Still, that’s a lot less than I am used to paying in my local!

A quick search on Booking.com will yield plenty of accommodation options, starting at around $3USD. And if you don’t want to stay in the cheapest of the cheap, you won’t have to splash out too much for budget luxury either! 

9. Vietnam 🇻🇳 

Currency: Vietnamese Dong
Exchange rate: Approx. 1USD=23,460VND

  • Bed in a dorm room: 120,000VND (approx. $5USD)
  • A hotel room in a major city: 300,000VND (approx. $13USD)
  • Street food/fast food: 25,000VND (approx. $1USD)
  • Meal and drink in a budget restaurant: 75,000VND (approx. $3USD)
  • Beer: 15,000VND (approx. $0.60USD)

Recommended backpacker daily budget: $20-25USD

There is no doubt that Vietnam is one of the cheapest countries in Asia. Boasting economical prices for accommodation, transport, food and activities, (especially out of the main tourist areas), this is one country that offers a lot of bang for your buck! 

Bia Hoi: The Best Backpacker Beer in the World?
Home to some of the world’s cheapest beer, it’s no wonder Vietnam is so popular!

Hostels are commonplace across the country and many offer free breakfast or even sometimes a free beer! These deals are a great way to save money and meet like-minded backpackers. Private rooms don’t cost an arm and a leg either, budget around $13USD for a decent room in a budget hostel. 

The cost of an overnight bus frequently comes in under $15USD and they cover a lot of ground! Remember that sleeper buses always make for an economical choice – you’ll be able to save on the cost of a bed in a hostel overnight. Check out this guide to transport in Vietnam for more money-saving tips!

The average price of food is around $1-2USD for a street food meal or a little more per person for a restaurant meal. With so much mouthwatering cuisine available on the corner around the clock, you may not even need to step foot in a restaurant! 

Perhaps the most exciting cost factor is the price of beer! It can be as little as $0.20 cents for a beer in Vietnam… (We’re talking Bia Hoi here, the refreshing local beer that’s served in short glasses all over the country, and drunk on little plastic stools in the street). 

One backpacker claimed, ‘During our motorbike trip through Vietnam, we ended up in a small town near Ninh Binh and paid a breathtaking 60 cents for 20 cans of beer’. Cheaper than a bottle of water. Let that sink in…

Asia on a Budget FAQ 

What is the cheapest country in Asia? 

A whole range of factors such as inflation and exchange rates mean that the cheapest country in Asia changes often. At present, India is the cheapest country to travel in Asia – of course, how much you end up spending will depend on your travel style and how much comfort you need when you’re on the road!  

What are the most expensive countries in Asia? 

Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Bhutan are some of the most expensive countries in Asia. In fact, Bhutan charges a tourist tax of $200USD per day just to be in the country! 

Should I haggle in Asia? 

Haggling is commonplace across the continent and you should do it to avoid getting ripped off. Check out our guide to haggling in Southeast Asia for more information. 

What is tipping etiquette for Asia?

As a general rule, tipping is not an expected practice in Asia. However, it is always appreciated. Consider tipping between 5-10% for exceptional service. 

What is the cheapest way to travel Asia? 

The cheapest way to travel around Asia is to backpack. Take local buses whenever possible, stay in dorm beds and eat street food. Who needs home comforts anyway!

How much money do I need to travel Southeast Asia? 

This entirely depends on the countries that you plan to visit. For more information, check out this budget guide to Southeast Asia

Marina Bay Sands
Swanky Singapore is one of the most expensive countries in Asia.

All of the above cheap Asian countries offer incredible bang for your buck, rich culture and a range of activities to suit every kind of traveller. Whether you like long days lazing on idyllic beaches or prefer frenetic big-city energy, there is something on this list for you. 

Did you notice that over half of the cheapest countries in Asia were in Southeast Asia? This is just one out of a whole long list of reasons why we think Southeast Asia is one of the best places to backpack in the whole world! 

What is the cheapest country in Asia you’ve travelled to?

Nikki Scott - Founder South East Asia Backpacker
Nikki Scott | Founder & Editor

Nikki is the founding editor of South East Asia Backpacker and The Backpacker Network. In her early twenties, she left her home in the North of England on a solo backpacking adventure and never returned! After six months on the road, she founded a print magazine that became legendary on the Banana Pancake Trail. The rest is history.

Find me: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

5 thoughts on “9 Cheapest Countries in Asia to Visit”

  1. Great summary & very helpful – have been to India for 10 months & Thailand for 6 – now wish to escape increasingly drab England & see Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia. Thanks Nikki – great job. Robert.

  2. I expected something lower when read about “extremely low” monthly rentals price. For $300 you can rent an apartment in many countries of Eastern Europe, including those in the EU like Poland, Hungary, Romania or Bulgaria. These countries provide you a definitely higher standards of living than South East Asia, just check the photos of cities and apartments.

  3. Would like to interact with NIKKI herself…..to ask about more experiences…. hope she gets a buzz…. to my mail…

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