How to Travel Asia for Cheap

I’ve been to India several times, but traveling to East Asia is high on my bucket list! Thanks to this great article from Daniel Kao, we have some great tips for budget travel to some top sites in Taiwan, China, and more. Read on to see what Dan has to say and be sure to check out his website, Dan’s Travel Guide.


In the last couple years, I’ve been to Asia over 8 times. I live in Dallas, TX and have a fairly modest job. I’m fairly frugal and live modestly. But traveling to Asia is one of my favorite things to do because it’s inexpensive, beautiful, and the people there are incredibly friendly.

Below are 5 places you need to visit in Asia and how to travel there for cheap.

Taipei, Taiwan

(Title image)

Known as the “heart of Asia”, the tiny island off the Southeast coast of China is a bit off the beaten path and not commonly talked about as a travel destination. But there must be a reason why Taiwan topped the global ranking for expats to live last year (Source: Forbes)

Taiwan is known for its great quality of life, friendly people, beautiful mountains, and endless sights to see. Taipei 101 (the 2nd tallest building in the world, the famous night markets, & hot springs are just a few of the fun things to do in Taiwan.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Over the last decade, Hanoi has become a known tourist destination in Vietnam. With places like the UNESCO heritage site – Halong Bay, Old Quarter, and many beautiful beaches, it’s no wonder people are flocking to see what all the buzz is about in Hanoi.

But perhaps the big reason why a lot of people visit Hanoi is because of how inexpensive it is to live there. And if you’re just visiting, even hotels are very cheap. You can have a nice meal for under $3 USD and live in a nice hotel for less than $30/night.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

KL, the capital of Malaysia, is known for its rich cultural diversity, a true culinary delight for food aficionados, beautiful sites like the Batu Caves, and some of the best shops & restaurants in the world.

Almost any food you get in KL will be a surprise that’s sure to give one heck of a kick. It shares many cultural similarities with its neighbor, Singapore except it’s cheaper to live there.

Xiamen, China

There are numerous places to visit in China. And with the development of the high speed rails, it’s easier than ever before to get to popular cities like Shanghai or Beijing.

Xiamen is a city right at the Southeast coast of China. What makes Xiamen special is just how far it’s developed in just the last few years. The popular Gulangyu island continues to draw tourists from all over the world. It’s bayside beaches and scenic parks give travelers an extra appeal.

But best of all, the food and stay is cheap. Combine that with plenty to do and you have another perfect travel destination.

Thailand

It’d be difficult to end the list without including Thailand on the list. Thailand is a favorite destination for people all over the world because over there, you feel like a King. Food prices are around $2 per meal and you can get large, fresh coconuts for less than $0.50.

On top of that, there are endless things to do. Amazing beaches, the famous river markets, temples, elephant riding, tiger petting, and a plethora of night markets.

When you’re in Thailand, you live well and eat well because everything is inexpensive.

How to Travel to Asia for Cheap

The list can go on and on but here comes the fun part. This is how you can travel to those places (and most anywhere in Asia) for cheap:

Whenever I plan my travels, I use the acronym F. A. T. (Flights, Accommodation, Transportation). If you can find a sweet spot and harmonize all 3, you’re going to save the most money and travel well, for cheap.

Flights

I generally start with Google flights since it’s easy to find prices for different airlines on various dates. The difference in dates & locations is huge.

See a simple example below. Just by just slightly adjusting the dates, you can save $250 on a flight to Taipei.

Once you’ve found the best dates a place you’d like to visit, next thing is to check some of the deal sites for even better deals. I like using Orbitz, Cheap-o-Air, or Momondo.

Budget Airlines are also fantastic in Asia. Airlines such as Airasia or Scoot can save you a lot of money for flights.

It also never hurts to check your inventory of points. It’s a bit of a complex game in understanding how points work but traveling on points to Asia has one of the best redemption values.

With airlines only requiring as little as 70,000 points, that’s over $1000 in savings.

There’s also a number of small things to consider when finding cheap flights to Asia but if you try some of these methods, you’ll save quite a bit of money.

Accommodation

($35 4-star hotel I stayed at in KL)

Accommodation in Asia is cheap. I’ve lived in plenty of 4 star hotels for around $40 USD. If you stay in hostels, it’s even cheaper. And if you want to live in Asia for free? You could if you wanted to do a workaway.

Hotels: I generally start with just a google search to gauge what the price range should be. However, hotel prices can vary tremendously so I’ll look on deal sites like Priceline.

I’ve never booked directly with the hotel because deal sites will usually be cheaper. Most of the hotel deal aggregators will also find you hostels. But if you wanted to search exclusively for hostels, Hostel World is a great option.

Airbnbs in Asia are also a great option for longer stays. People in Asia are usually very friendly and pleasant to stay with. Just be sure to check reviews.

Lastly, there are numerous opportunities for completely free accommodation. Often, the homeowners just ask for fairly simple favors in return. Favor such as teaching their kids english, helping around the house, etc.

Again, just make sure to do research and check reviews!

Transportation

The last big price tag on your trip to Asia will be transportation. Thankfully, in Asia, transportation is cheap and very well organized.

Asia is known for high density cities so more often than not, you’ll find Metro Trains that take you almost anywhere you want to go.

If you need, you can always also call for a taxi which will be cheap in Asia as well. The only caveat is, unfortunately, there are a number of “bad apples” in the cab business that try and scam unsuspecting tourists.

However, there are plenty of local tips on how to find good cabs on Wiki travel. And remember, always use a meter if you do call a cab. I would always stay away from trying to negotiate with a driver. If they want to negotiate, it’s already a bad sign.

Lastly, Uber and similar ride sharing apps like Didi are also great options in Asia to go where you need to go for cheap.

Wherever you decide to go, make sure to plan ahead, take lots of great photos, and soak in the all the beauty you find in traveling.

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