10 Of The Cheapest Countries In Asia For Budget Travellers

If you want to get more bang for your buck, add these Asian countries to your bucket list. Despite being home to some of the most expensive destinations like Japan and Singapore, as the largest continent in the world there are so many options for budget travellers. 

These are 10 of the cheapest countries in Asia where you will find unbeatable food, rich culture and unforgettable scenery for an incredible price tag. 

Before you grab your passport however there are a few points to consider that could potentially make your visit more expensive:

  • Exchange rates:
    Before booking your flight, check the current exchange rates. This will help you to plan a budget and work out how long you can stay in the country.
  • Weather:
    Cheap flight? Accommodation price too good to be true? Double check you aren’t booked for during Monsoon season. In Asia, Monsoon season is usually between June and September which can do wonders for your budget as prices get slashed, but it can also cause expensive cancellations and delays. 
  • Visas:
    Although these are the cheapest countries in Asia, some have a pricey visa fee for example China which is $140. This may be even more expensive than your flight so double-check visa rules before you book.
  • Travel style: 
    If you’re travelling as a couple you may prefer a private room instead of dorms. If you’re a solo traveller you may prefer group tours. Do you prefer sit down restaurants or street food? Could you backpack Asia with only hand luggage? Your travel style will impact the cost of your trip so consider this as you research the cheapest places in Asia.
thailand solo backpacker walking on wooden bridge through fields

10 of The Cheapest Countries in Asia for Budget Travellers

1. Thailand

When thinking of a cheap country to visit in Asia, Thailand likely came to mind first. Look beyond the full moon parties and bucket cocktails this large Southeast Asian country offers unforgettable experiences. 

From world-famous diving sites to stomping in the Thai jungle with elephants, temples to turquoise waters, Thailand offers priceless experiences at a very affordable price.  

Not forgetting the food. WOW the food! With traditional treats like Pad Thai, Mango sticky rice or Beef Panang Curry costing as little as $1 from street vendors, it’s no wonder Thailand is one of the most popular cheap places to travel in Asia.

Thailand is home to more than 10% of the world's animals, including elephants, tigers, and leopards. It’s also home to Coral Reefs that support over 4,000 species of fish. Thanks to the abundance of wildlife, it is a haven for animal lovers who are keen conservationists.

Whether you head to help with stray dogs in the North or clean beaches to save the turtles in the South, there are thousands of Workaway opportunities in Thailand that will value your support. Check out our guide to Workawaying with animals for some inspiration.

  • Budget Hostel: $10 for a dorm/$25 for a private room
  • Local beer: $2 
  • Budget Restaurant per person: Street food 30-60 baht ($1-2 USD) Restaurant Meal around 90 – 150 baht
solo female traveller smiling as elephant uses trunk to spray her with water

2. The Philippines

Although considered one of the cheapest places in Asia, with more than 7,000 islands (2,000 of which are inhabited) it would cost quite a considerable sum to see all of the Philippines. Fear not however as you can enjoy the majority for a very small budget! 

To keep costs low, fly in to Manila, but as the capital it is considerably more expensive. Once upon a time, Borocay was the budget travellers’ place to go but was forced to close in recent times due to over-tourism. Instead, Coron boasts a plethora of stunning, almost untouched islands just one hour’s flight from Manila. 

Siargao Island is super cheap and a favorite with adventure seekers or Siquijor is a great budget destination as it’s still developing as a tourist destination. Not a beach baby? How about bush babies? Head to the dense jungles of Bohol to visit the adorable Philippine tarsier!

From learning about permaculture in Siquijor to supporting social enterprises in Palawan there are endless ways to volunteer your time in The Philippines

  • Budget Hostel: $10 for a private room/$5 for a dorm
  • Local beer: $1.20
  • Budget Restaurant: street food $5/meal in restaurant $12
boy stands at the edge of a fishing boat ready to jump into the turquoise sea

3. Laos

While it is most definitely a cheap country to visit in Asia, Laos is growing in popularity thanks to its dense jungles, kind locals and mesmerising waterfalls. With growing popularity comes growing costs, but it is still an affordable destination where you could get by on as little as $15 a day including accommodation, food and activities.

As the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, it’s not a destination for beach lovers, but definitely one for the foodies. Laos is famous for its cheap but incredible street food. Popular dishes include the Khao Tom soup, rice dish Khao Jee and Sai Our which is a spicy sausage. All of which can be purchased for a couple of dollars at most. 

The best way to work off those calories is to explore Laos’ dense forests, swim in Kuang Si Waterfall or hike Mount Phou Si (also known as Mount Phu Si.)

Adrenaline junkies will love volunteering in Laos. It’s a thrill seekers’ paradise with hiking, white water rafting and kayaking all popular past times here. It’s also a great destination if you are a student teacher as there is a demand for language teachers and those willing to volunteer to teach English.

  • Budget Hostel: Dorm $5-10/ private room $15 
  • Local beer: $1
  • Budget Restaurant per person: $2 street food/$10 for 2 course meal + beer in restaurant
mountain cliff over Mekong river cruise Laos

4. India

Despite some people claiming it as the cheapest country in Asia, India offers a rich cultural history, friendly locals and incredible food. From tigers to temples, Goan beaches to the Ganges banks, India truly is a bucket list destination. 

Whether you join pilgrims in Pushkar, admire the pink city of Jaipur, party in Goa or tour Bollywood sets in Mumbai this incredible country offers something for everyone. The south is considered more touristy and slightly more expensive but overall India still remains as one of the cheapest countries in Asia - even it’s most iconic landmark, the Taj Mahal cost just $14USD!

Needless to say, as the seventh-largest country in the world, there is A LOT to see and do, but thankfully transport including rickshaw, taxis, buses, and trains are incredibly cheap.

If you’re planning a long trip for example Bombay to Delhi or Delhi to Udaipur, use overnight trains to save both time and cost. You’ll avoid a night’s accommodation but can venture city to city in the comfort of a private berth with aircon. An overnight train ride can cost as little as $8!

Yogis, listen up. It is believed yoga originated in India over 5000 years ago making it a haven for holistic communities, wellness centres and yoga retreats. While Workaway offers yoga experiences all over the world, it is truly a life-changing experience to learn and live with locals in the home of this ancient practice. To find yoga retreat opportunities in India, simply add those keywords to the host search box

As well as improving your own health and well-being, India is the perfect budget destination to improve the quality of life for others. While there have been incredible strides to improve poverty levels in India in recent years, there are still communities struggling for survival who will cherish your skills and knowledge. One way you can make a difference is by volunteering with an NGO.  NGO stands for non-governmental organization and is non-profit charities or groups set up by ordinary citizens to make an extraordinary difference. 

  • Budget Hostel: $10 for a private room/$5 for a dorm
  • Local beer: $1
  • Budget Restaurant per person: $2 for curry & rice/ $1 dosa
group of students a hiking excursion with workaway volunteers and teachers

5. Mongolia

As the world’s highest country with an elevation of 5280ft, Mongolia is a unique country with fascinating landscape from the Gobi Desert to the Altai Mountains. Nestled between Russia and China, Mongolia should be top of your list when searching for a cheap country to visit in Asia for one simple reason: yurts! 

With the exception of  Ulaanbaatar, there are very few hotels in this amazing country. Instead, the Mongolian nomadic tribes favour yurts (known as gers) as they are quick to erect, light to carry and wind resistant.

There are three styles to choose from, all of which are very affordable, even to those travelling Asia on a tight budget: 

  • Touristic yurt camps: these will have the most home comforts
  • Guest-yurts by nomadic families: the most authentic style of yurt
  • Camping: the closest to nature but you’ll need to bring your own supplies

If you’re hoping to keep costs down by sticking to street food, Mongolian street food culture is still quite new. However, during the summer season, many herding families set up their gers by the roadside to sell airag (a type of fermented milk) and few other specialty dishes to hikers and travellers. 

Staying in a traditional Mongolian yurt is undoubtedly a bucket list experience and one that you can embrace thanks to Workaway! By staying with a host family in Mongolia not only will you spend less and learn more, but it will provide a more authentic experience of the nomadic way of life.

  • Accommodation: $35+ Mongolian yurt
  • Local beer: $1
  • Budget Restaurant per person: $10 restaurant including drinks/ $3 street food
traveller and local child cuddling lambs with Mongolian yurt and desert at the background

6. Nepal

While Nepal is not as affordable as it once was, it is still one of the cheapest countries in Asia. The jewel in the country’s crown is definitely Mount Everest, a destination reserved for the rich or sponsored.

However, budget travellers can still enjoy the tranquillity and incredible mountain views, especially around Pokhara. Other highlights include the famous Mustang district near the Himalayas considered one of the last untouched areas in Asia. Boudha Stupa, Chitwan National Park and Bhaktapur Durbar Square are also bucket list worthy destinations.

The locals are incredibly welcoming and proud of their traditions, religion, music and culture. They have huge respect for visitors so much so that a phrase known by every Nepali is 'Guests equals God'. Nepal is also a very spiritual country, attracting wellness and yoga fans to immerse themselves in the peaceful surroundings. This has encouraged a demand for volunteers as locals are keen to promote a more sustainable, off-grid lifestyle.

  • Budget Hostel: $10 for a private room/$5 for a dorm
  • Local beer: $1
  • Budget Restaurant per person: $2 for curry & rice/ $1 dosa
tibetan prayer flags merging with himalayan peaks

7. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka boasts over 8 Unesco World Heritage sites as well as incredible wildlife and white sandy beaches that could rival the Maldives. All for a very affordable price tag, making Sri Lanka another underrated destination that is one of the cheapest countries in Asia. 

Noteworthy landmarks include the City of Sigiriya, an ancient settlement carved into a 660-foot-tall rock, Adam’s Peak a holy tourist destination and Ella famed for its jungles and waterfalls. Not forgetting the incredible temples scattered throughout that will take your breathe away.

Sri Lanka offers a wealth of volunteer opportunities. From supporting a sustainable lifestyle to assisting surf camps, there are experiences to suit all walks of life on this incredible island. 

  • Budget Hostel: $7
  • Local beer: $1
  • Budget Restaurant per person: $5 (seafood & streetfood is particularly cheap)
travel couple picking tea at tea plantation in Sri lanka

8. Cambodia 

Cambodia is home to Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. This vast temple complex measures 402 acres. Since 2017, the ticket price for Angkor Wat has doubled in an effort to deter tourists. As a tip for those travelling to Cambodia on a budget, skip the expensive entrance fee and visit Banteay Chhmar instead. It’s less touristy but equally impressive and just two hours from Siem Reap. 

While some parts of Cambodia have been negatively affected by over-tourism and gentrification due to its affordability, there are still islands that remain fairly untouched and ideal for those on a budget. Koh Rong Sanloem (sometimes known as Koh Rong Samloem) is one of those places. If you dream of dense jungles where there are no roads or Wi-Fi this will be your kind of place. Known for its idyllic beaches, incredible diving sites, and even bioluminescent plankton – this island is truly paradise on earth.

While there are parts of Cambodia compared to paradise, the country has a dark past. More than one million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge (the Communist Party of Kampuchea) during its four-year rule. Despite the country’s tragic history, the local Khmer people are some of the kindest humans you will ever meet and are one of the many reasons you should travel to this wonderfully affordable country. 

As the country is still recuperating and rebuilding there are many opportunities for you to get involved and make a difference. One of the best ways to do that is by volunteering with Cambodia’s young people. It is the perfect destination for student teachers to gain hands-on experience that will make your CV stand out.  Even if you are not a student teacher, Workaway is a great platform to trial teaching as a future career and Cambodia is the perfect budget destination to start.

Alternatively, If those postcard-perfect beaches on Koh Rong Sanloem sound inviting, we have over 20 hosts on the island with opportunities including teaching English, marketing hostels, and farming. 

  • Budget Hostel: $10 for a private room/$5 for a shared dorm
  • Local beer: $0.50
  • Budget local meal per person: $3
workaway volunteer in Cambodian village swimming in the river with children

9. Vietnam 

If you’re travelling on a shoestring budget, Vietnam is the country for you. From the bustling cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh (where it feels like there are more motorbikes than people) to the emerald waters of Halong Bag there is so much to see without splashing the cash.

Head off the tourist route to enchanting destinations like Cao Bang home to Ban Gioc one of the world’s most astonishing waterfalls or Ha Giang which offers some of the best mountainous views in Southeast Asia.

The street food alone should be reason enough to visit with Phở a kind of rice noodle soup and Bánh mì the famous Vietnamese sandwich costing less than $1. 

From DIY in Dalat to cat shelters in Hoi An, there are hundreds of volunteer opportunities in Vietnam with Workaway. Whether you want to plant trees on a farmstay, or house sit in the city, the hardest part about Vietnam is leaving! 

  • Budget Hostel: $15 for a private room/$5 for a shared dorm
  • Local beer: $1
  • Budget local meal per person: $3
local Vietnamese woman showing traveller how to use fishing net

10. Indonesia

Indonesia really does tick all boxes. Forests? Check. Beaches? Check. Volcanoes? Yep, those too! Although some areas such as Bali or Jakarta are struggling with gentrification, and rising costs, Indonesia is a budget traveller’s dream, if you are willing to venture off the beaten track.

Indonesia consists of over 17,000 islands, including Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi. Despite the thousands of Islands, Indonesia is a haven for digital nomads due to good WiFi and cheap living costs. Each island offers a unique way of life including different food, language, religion, and culture. As there is so much variation island to island, costs will vary too but overall, it is still regarded as a cheap country to visit in Asia. 

For floating markets, friendly locals and a volcano you can literally drive up to, nature lovers and coffee lovers adore Bandung. For iconic temples including Pranamanan temple and Borobudur temple head to Yogyakarta in East Java. Or wander round the Rainbow Village in Malang before heading off to Mount Bromo, one of the most incredible volcanoes in the world.

Indonesia is located in the Coral Triangle, which is home to more than 3,000 species of fish. This makes it a dream destination for those interested in marine conservation. If you prefer the land over sea however, then put your Instagram skills to good use by helping locals boost their businesses through social media. With tourism still recovering from the pandemic there is ample opportunity for those with English skills, Web development or marketing knowledge to help locals in Indonesia through Workaway.

  • Budget Hostel: $15 for a private room/$5 for a shared dorm
  • Local beer: $2
  • Budget local meal per person: $3-$5
travel community volunteering at sustainable project centre with local helper holding up a biodiversity map

We hope this list hasn’t just helped you discover one cheap country to visit in Asia but 10! Whether you’re a student or simply trying to travel slower and cheaper, with a little research and a curiosity to head off the beaten path you are guaranteed a priceless experience. 

By immersing yourself in local communities with Workaway along the way, your skills and experiences could benefit locals too. So before you add yet another pair of sneakers to the cart, or plan another night out add that money to your adventure fund instead – who knows where you could end up next! 

solo female traveller with hand raised sitting at rice field with Thai traditional architecture temples and pagoda background
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About Lauren

Growing up in a small coastal village in Scotland inspired Lauren to seek adventure and challenge the norm. Armed with just her backpack and trusty travel companion Darren, she quit her day job to liv... show more...

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