While it's easy to deplete your savings vacationing in Asia -- particularly if you opt for pricier destinations such as Japan or Singapore -- it's also easy enough to visit the world's largest continent without spending too much money. South and Southeast Asia in particular offer some of the best destinations for traveling on a budget, particularly if you don't mind staying in basic guesthouses and eating most of your meals at street food stalls (that, by the way, have some delicious eats). Here are a few of our favorites.
Vietnam is among the least expensive countries for travelers to Southeast Asia, and even mid-range hotel rooms in bigger cities such as Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) or Hanoi often run under $30/night. If you're willing to stick to street food (given that Vietnam has a rich street food culture, there's really no reason not to), you can easily keep your meal budget capped at well under $10/day, even if you have a decent appetite. Many street stalls sell ubiquitous bahn mi sandwiches (baguettes filled with daikon, cilantro, and meat) for around 75 cents to a dollar a pop. As of summer 2016, the exchange rate is around 22,400 Vietnamese dong to the U.S. dollar.
Ho Chi Minh City Hotel Pick:
A longtime favorite among the budget backpacker set, India is one of the cheapest places to travel in on the planet -- that is, of course, if you eschew the country's many opulent palace hotels and big-city posh restaurants in favor of cheap budget guest houses (many of which cost as little as $5 to $10/night for a room) and tasty street food (you can easily feed yourself for under a dollar here). It's also a great place to go shopping, and with a little bit of haggling skills, you can take home all sorts of beautiful textiles, jewelry, and even artwork to remind you of your visit. And while prices in India have gone up in recent years, so has the value of the greenback. As of summer 2016, the exchange rate is about 67 Indian rupees to the U.S. dollar, compared to around 40 rupees to a dollar a decade ago.
Goa Hotel Pick:
Most people who visit Cambodia make a beeline for Siem Reap to see the ruins of Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples and monuments. Visiting the ruins is one of the bigger expenses for budget travelers; entrance costs $20 for a one-day pass or $40 for three days. Visas are available on arrival, and currently cost $35 for U.S. citizens -- but make sure you have exact change, particularly if you are crossing overland, as the border guards may conveniently be out of change (as this author found out the hard way).
Unless you dine at restaurants aimed at foreigners, you can eat well on around $10/day and ultra-budget hotels can cost you even less, especially outside of more touristed areas. One U.S. dollar can get you just over 4000 riel, but you may find dollars (or Thai bhat, or even Vietnamese dong) will serve you just fine in most places, and plenty of ATMs give you the option of taking out either dollars or riel.
Siem Reap Hotel Pick:
Nepal is almost as affordable as neighboring India, with budget guest rooms in popular areas such as the Thamel neighborhood of Kathmandu costing around $10/night. It's also one of the cheaper places to eat and drink, especially if you stick to local staples such as "daal bhat" (lentils and rice) or even momos (dumplings stuffed with meat or veggies, widespread partially due to the country's large Tibetan population). Moreover, it's a good time to go. Nepal is still recovering from the damage of the 2015 earthquake, and as the national economy is heavily reliant on tourism, visitor dollars are especially needed right now. As of summer 2016, one U.S. dollar will get you around 107 Nepalese rupees.
Indonesia offers great value for travelers, and while you'll find the best bargains on less-touristed islands such as Sulawesi, even the ever-popular Bali is heaven for bargain hunters. Expect to spend around $20/night for a decent budget hotel in Ubud or another tourism hot spot, and if you eat cheap you shouldn't have a problem sticking to under $15/day for food (or even less in off-the-beaten-track locales). Bali in particular is a good option for cheap massages and beauty treatments, and while there are plenty of high-end spas with treatments that cost as much or more than they would back home, you can also get a simple massage, body wrap, or facial at some spots for as little as eight or nine dollars. As of summer 2016, one U.S .dollar is equivalent to around 13,120 Indonesian rupiah.
Bali Hotel Pick: