Travel Itinerary: Costs of Sights and Transport Around Southeast Asia (2018)

Before embarking on my three-month solo backpacking journey around Southeast Asia, I researched the costs of sights, activities, and transport – and when I say researched, I mean too many hours sitting before a laptop scrolling through website after website. So guess what? I’m sharing everything I discovered with you, for free, because I know the struggle. However, the costs of accommodation and food are excluded as that differs for everyone. Personally, I would spend up to 15 MYR (3.7$) on a meal (30 MYR, or 7.5$, if I’m indulging) and anywhere between 15 MYR (3.7$) to 80 MYR (20$) a night on accommodation, depending on regional prices and the availability of female dorms (which, mind you, are always more expensive than mixed dorms).

So without further ado, here are the costs of sights, activities, and transport in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar in 2018; with tips on how to save money whilst backpacking + what to expect from using local buses included after the itinerary!

Vietnam

  • Ho Chi Minh: 3-4 days

Museum(s) of: War Remnants (15,000 Dong), HCMC (15,000 Dong), Vietnamese History (40,000-15,000 Dong), Southern Women

Religious Monuments: Saigon Notre Dame Basilica, Vĩnh Nghiêm Pagoda

Markets: Ben Thanh Market

Misc.: Saigon Central Post Office, Botanical Gardens, HCM Free Tours

Nearby: Chu Chi Tunnels (110,000 Ben Dinh entrance fee, 90,000 Ben Duoc entrance fee)

Transport: due to sudden change of plans, I flew to Hoi An via Da Nang for around 150 MYR (37.6$)

  • Hoi An:  4-5 days

Entrance into the ancient town of Hoi An costs 120,000 Dong

Museum(s) of: Hoi An, Trade Ceramics, Sa Huynh Culture, Folk Culture

Nearby: My Son (150,000 Dong + 5$ for transportation and a guide) and Marble Mountains

Transport: bus to Hue costs 99,000 Dong

  • Hue: 2-3 days

Royal Complex: Hue Imperial City (150,000 Dong)

Museum(s) of: Le Ba Dang Art

Misc.: Abandoned waterpark (Ho Thuy Tien)

Transport: bus to Phong Nha costs 150,000 Dong

  • Phong Nha: 2-3 days

National Park: Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park (entrance into Phong Nha Cave costs 150, 000 Dong)

Transport: bus to Cat Ba Island costs 400,000 Dong

  • Cat Ba Island: 3-4 days

Tour: Day-tour around Hà Long Bay (12$) – read more on how I found a tour so cheap here 

National Park: Cat Ba National Park (Ngu Lam Peak and Hang Quan Y)

Transport: bus to Hà Nội costs 200,000 Dong

  • Hanoi: 3-4 days

Museum(s) of: Hoa Lo Prison (30,000 Dong), Fine Arts (30,000 Dong), Military History (40,000 Dong), National History (40,000 Dong), Ho Chi Minh (100 Dong), Ethnology (40,000 Dong), Revolution (40,000 Dong), Women’s Museum (30,000 Dong)

Religious Monuments: St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Ngoc Son Temple

Misc.: Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre (60,000 – 100,000 Dong), Temple of Literature and National University (20,000 Dong), Ho Chi Minhs Mausoleum

Transport: bus to Sa Pa costs 12$

  • Sa Pa: 3-4 days

Tour: Red Dao Homestay via Sapa O’Chau (80$) – read more on my homestay experience here

Transport: bus to Muang Khua (Laos) costs 400,000 Dong + overland border fees (2$ tourism fee, 30,000 Laotian Kip for the immigration police, 5000 Laotian Kip for a fever check)

TOTAL COSTS OF SIGHTS AND TRANSPORT: 418.6 MYR or 104.9$, excluding the categories ‘nearby’ and ‘tours’ + overland border fees


Laos

  • Muang Khua: 1-2 days

Transport: boat to Muang Ngoi costs 100,000 Laotian Kip (LK) and to Nong Khiaw costs 130,000 LK; the boat(s) only depart in the morning

  • Nong Khiaw: 3-4 days

Hike: Nong Khiaw View Point Hike (20,000 LK)

Nearby: Tham Pha Thok Cave (10,000-5000 LK) and Ban Nayang Village

Transport: mini-van to Luang Prabang costs 40,000 LK

  • Luang Prabang: 2-3 days

I have previously published an itinerary on Luang Prabang here 

Transport: bus to Phonsavan costs 95,000 LK (+ an additional 10,000 LK for private transfer to the bus station)

  • Xieng Khouang Province/Phonsavan: 1-2 days

Nearby: Plain of Jars (15,000 LK for Site 1, 10,000 LK each for Site 2 and 3)

Transport: bus to Pakse costs 180,000 LK + combined ticket (bus and ferry) to Don Khon costs 75,000 LK

  • Si Phan Don/ 4, 000 Island: 3-4 days

Misc.: Tat Somphamit Waterfall (35,000 LK)

Transport: bus to Siem Reap costs 20$ + overland border fees (7$ for immigration)

TOTAL COSTS OF SIGHTS AND TRANSPORT: 359.7 MYR or 90.2$, excluding the categories ‘nearby’ and ‘tours’ + overland border fees


Cambodia

  • Siem Reap: 2-3 days

I have previously published an itinerary on Siem Reap here 

Transport: bus to Mondulkiri costs 18$

  • Sen Monorum/ Mondulkiri: 3-4 days

Tour: Trek With and Bathe Rescued Elephants via Mondulkiri Elephant Project (50$) – read more on my interaction with the elephants here

Transport: bus to Phnom Phen costs 11$

  • Phnom Phen: 2-3 days

Museum(s) of: Tuol Sleng Genocide (6$), National Museum (5$)

Royal Complex: Royal Palace + Silver Pagoda (10$)

Nearby: Killing Fields (6$)

Transport: bus to Kampot costs 8.50$

  • Kampot/ Kep: 2-3 days

Tour: La Plantation (FOC)

Market: Kep Crab Market

National Park: Kep National Park ($1) and Bokor National Park (2000 Riels or 0.4$)

Transport: bus to Sihanouville costs 5$

  • Sihanoukville: 3-4 days

Nearby: Koh Rong Samloem (20$ for a day-trip)

Transport: bus to Bangkok costs 26$

TOTAL COSTS OF SIGHTS AND TRANSPORT 362.4 MYR or 90.9$, excluding the categories ‘nearby’ and ‘tours’


Thailand

  • Ayutthaya: day-trip from Bangkok

I have previously published an itinerary on Bangkok here 

Religious Monuments: Ayutthaya Historical Park (50 Baht), Wat Pra Mahthat (50 Baht)

Museum(s) of: Chao Sam Phraya (150 Baht)

Transport: train to Ayutthaya costs 20 Baht, one way + train to Kanchanburi costs 100 Baht, one way (but I was in Bangsaray with friends after Bangkok so visited Kanchanburi from Bangsaray for 290 Baht)

  • Kanchanaburi: 2-3 days

Museum(s) of: JEATH (30 Baht)

National Park: Erawan National Park (300 Baht) – read more on how to visit Erawan waterfall here

Misc.: Bridge on the River Kwai

Nearby: Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum and Prasat Muang Singh Nationa Park (40 Baht)

Transport: bus to Chiang Mai costs 535 Baht + 150 Baht to Pai

  • Pai: 3-4 days

Nearby: Mueng Peang hot-springs (FOC) and Pai Canyon (FOC) – read more on how to visit the only free hot-spring in Pai here

Misc.: Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery – read more on my experience at a Buddhist monastery here 

Transport: mini-van to Chiang Mai costs 150 Baht + bus to Chiang Rai costs 300 Baht – due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to return midst-meditation for a family emergency so did not visit Chiang Rai but will include my research nonetheless

  • Chiang Rai: 4-5 days

Museum(s) of: Hilltribe (50 Baht), Oubkham (300 Baht), Hall of Opium (50 Baht)

Religious Monuments: Wat Rong Khun (50 Baht), Baan Dam (80 Baht)

TOTAL COSTS OF SIGHTS AND TRANSPORT 296.6 MYR or 74.4$, excluding the categories ‘nearby’ and ‘tours’ + transport to Myanmar


Myanmar

  • Mandalay: 4-5 days

Religious Monuments: Shwenandaw Monastery, Kuthodaw Pagoda

Royal Complex: Mandalay Royal Palace (10,000 Myanmar Kyats)

Misc.: Mandalay Hill (1,000 Myanmar Kyats), Mandalay Marionettes Theater

Nearby: U-Bein Bridge, Sagaing, Mingun

Transport: train to Hsipaw costs 3,950 Myanmar Kyats (MK)

  • Hsipaw: 4-5 days

Tour: Three-Day Trek via Mr Bike Hsipaw (52$) – read more on my trek through Shan state here

Transport: bus to Bagan costs 17,300 MK

  • Bagan: 3-4 days

Entrance into Bagan Archaeological Park costs 20$

Museum(s) of: Archaeology (5$)

Misc.: Lacquerware Museum & Institute

Nearby: Mt Popa

Transport: bus to Yangon costs 15,000 MK

  • Yangon: 2-3 days

Museum(s) of: National Museum (5,000 MK)

Religious Monuments: Shwedagon Pagoda (10,000 MK)

Misc.: Peoples Park, The Secretariat (5,000 MK)

TOTAL COSTS OF SIGHTS AND TRANSPORT 298.2 MYR or 74.8$, excluding the categories ‘nearby’ and ‘tours’


Tips On How To Save Money Whilst Backpacking:

  1. Drink only water, and the occasional coconut – juices, shakes, soft-drinks etc costs more than water so avoid the extra expenditure
  2. Eat local – I witnessed many Westerners clinging to Western food but I advise you to avoid it because it’s always more expensive than other food and you’re in a foreign country so owe it to yourself to try the local cuisine
  3. Skip breakfast – find accommodation which includes breakfast and when you can’t, skip breakfast for a heavy brunch instead
  4. Don’t shop – at least, not until the end of your journey
  5. Always haggle – if you do shop, remember you’re in Southeast Asia and can haggle
  6. Embrace walking – in Nong Khiaw the bus station was a 30+ minute walk but instead of being ripped off for a less than 10 minute drive, I decided to walk and highly recommend walking wherever possible
  7. Use taxi apps – speaking of being ripped off, another tip to avoid it is to download local taxi apps like Grab (Vietnam and Thailand), PassApp (Cambodia), or Oway (Myanmar)
  8. Split costs – as incredulous as it may sound, sometimes a private twin room would cost less than a bed in a dorm room so find a friend to split the luxury with
  9. Use local transport – buses, and the occasional boats, are not only cheaper than planes but also more scenic
  10. Compare prices – as mentioned in point 5, you’re in Southeast Asia so 99% of the time prices aren’t fixed; for example, when I was in Phong Nha I was initially quoted 500,000 Dong to Cat Ba Island but after patiently going company to company, scored a ticket for 400,000 Dong

What To Expect From Local Buses in Southeast Asia:

  1. People will vomit
  2. Babies will cry – and there’s almost always a baby on-board
  3. Karaoke, or local music, will drown it all out – often in the shape of a giant television screen above the head of the driver looping local tracks
  4. Air-conditioners may be apart of the bus but that doesn’t mean it works
  5. Toilets may not be on-board but there will be breaks – sometimes even too many, depending on your driver
  6. You almost never leave on time and certainly never arrive on time
  7. You may be the only foreigner on-board and that’s ok – don’t freak out, they’re as scared of you as you are of them
  8. The scenery makes up for everything

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” Freya Stark

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