You’re off to Asia and rumour has it, the region is one of (if not THE) cheapest place to travel. We can confirm this rumour is true, but that still doesn’t mean you should go over there without a budgeting plan. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together our top 10 budgeting tips for your Asian adventure.
Don’t go crazy because everything is cheap
You’ll go to markets, restaurants, basically everywhere and be so bowled over by how cheap everything is that it’s extremely easy to just throw your money at anyone and everyone. “A bandanna for 10p? I don’t even need one but sure”. Classic anti-budgeting.
Haggle for everything
It’s like a sport in Asia – haggling for the best price. You will see this done most often in markets, and the stall holders will actively encourage it – if you start to walk away they’ll start offering it at cheaper prices until you eventually give in because you either really want the item or you just feel bad.
Don’t use regular cabs
They just completely rip you off most of the time. Nine times out of ten they won’t use a meter and just quote you an outrageously high price, when you know you can get it cheaper. If you want to, you could just haggle with them to a price that suits you better, but we suggest using an app like Uber or GrabTaxi (Asia’s go-to Uber rival). And you’ve got to try a Tuk Tuk at least once.
It’s all about the street food
One of the best things about travelling to Asia is the amazing amount of street food on offer around every corner. You want a Michelin Star noodle dish from Singapore for $6? Head to Tai Hwa Pork Noodle in Singapore, you want Char Koay Teow (stir-fried rice noodles) in Penang – just walk down the street and you’re sure to find lots of food stalls, or how about the classic Phad Thai in Thailand? It’s literally everywhere, for around 40baht (90p).
Plan out your weekly budget
Even though you can easily spend little in Asia, you can just as easily spend a lot, so it still makes sense to plan out your weekly budget. You can live like a King for a week in Asia for at least a third of the price of anywhere else … but you still don’t want to run out. And believe us when we say, it can happen.
There’s no doubt that Google Maps could become your new best friend when you’re out there, but instead of using up all your data on that, try downloading the free app maps.me. It does exactly the same as Google Maps but you can use it offline (frees up your data for more important stuff). It’s a pretty nifty app when you find yourself walking around in circles.
Get a travel cash card
Most bank accounts have a travel cash card, usually a MasterCard, which you can pre-load with money in whatever currency you need, and you will usually get benefits like lower withdrawal fees or no fees when using the card directly. It helps you keep track of your money, and not spend half of it on ridiculous ATM charges.
Use public transport/hire a scooter
It might look scary but once you’ve got the hang of it, using public transport is wayyyy more cost effective than any other type of transport – plus you’re immersing yourself in the local way of life, and that’s always a great experience. Alternatively, if you’re in a town that requires extensive travel to get to the cool places, e.g. Pai in Thailand, then it makes sense to hire a scooter. Or maybe you just want to do a cool road trip between places, like Hue to Hoi An in Vietnam. Scooters work out super cheap and you can rent them for as long as you want. Plus, scootering along the country roads with all that beautiful scenery around you is an experience like no other. Try not to join the bandage crew though (you will see TONS of backpackers walking around with bandages on).
Get an ISIC card
If you’re a lover of a discount card – and you’re a student – then listen up. An ISIC card is a globally recognised student card that gets you tons of discounts in over 130 countries! You don’t need to just be in your home country to get great student discounts. Think of the money you’ll save (and then can spend on other cool experiences instead). Westpac actually offer you a free ISIC card when you open one of their everyday Choice accounts – even further budgeting!
Consider staying in the cheapest hostels
You can get dorm rooms in hostels for as low as £2 a night – we’re not joking. So if you’re looking to spend your money on experiences more than where you rest your head at night, think about staying in those places instead. Look at reviews and find the best of the cheapest bunch and you should be good to go. You can use the ISIC card on these too!