If you regularly read my blog it’s no surprise to you that I am not going to be the one writing this post. Tom’s the numbers man so he put together the spreadsheets on what our 2.5 months in Japan and Southeast Asia really costs us, compared it to our budget and came up with tips on how to travel cheap. Enjoy!
Previously, I shared a three part series on how to plan, save for and budget for a year long trip. Now that part one of our Round the World (RTW) trip is complete, I’ve compiled the numbers to take a look back at exactly how much it cost and how we compared to our originally proposed budget.
Overall, this added up to a total of CAD$6,302.61 per person to visit these five countries over almost three months. We were slightly over our budget
Was it worth every penny? Absolutely. We also think we did a pretty good job at keeping our costs low while still enjoying ourselves without giving up on too many luxuries of comfort (A/C, private rooms). Of course, there were some lessons learned which I’ll share below. If you are planning a trip to Southeast Asia, hopefully, this can help you save some money as well.
- Japan is expensive to visit but we were able to save a lot of money on meals by buying groceries at local markets and 7-11 stores. The food was surprisingly good and always much cheaper than restaurants. Some of the best sushi we had came from a local grocery store. A good tip is that most Japanese grocery stores significantly discount pre-prepared food near the end of the day. We’d usually take advantage of this for a late supper or to pack for the next day’s breakfast/lunch.
- Although the bullet trains do let you get around really fast (Kyoto to Tokyo, a distance of 460 kms, in 2.5 hours), you pay a premium for that service. If we wanted to save some money in Japan, an alternative would have been to rent a vehicle or use overnight bus services.
Vietnam (Part 1 and 2)
- Southeast Asia is very cheap to travel and Vietnam is the cheapest of the cheap. Especially if you avoid the overpriced restaurants and eat local street food! Jen already shared how to find the best (and cheapest) food in Vietnam. If you follow her tips, you’ll avoid stumbling into a tourist trap restaurant like we did on our first day in Vietnam. Here’s a comparison to show how much you can get ripped off by and the food is not nearly as genuine or delicious:
|Tourist Restaurant||Two Course Meal||Two People||468,000 đồng||CAD$29.95|
|Street Food Stall||Two Course Meal||Two People||100,000 đồng||CAD$6.40|
- We made the mistake of withdrawing a lot of our spending currency (Vietnamese đồng) in Canada. We wanted to be prepared for when we arrived in Vietnam, however, this came at a hefty cost of ~7% in exchange fees. We learned later that most ATM’s charge a small transaction fee (Military Bank had no fee) and would have allowed us to withdraw money at a better rate. Throughout our travelling experiences, we have often received the best exchange rate by withdrawing cash within the actual country at a local ATM – so long as you can find an ATM that charges minimal or no transaction fees. This isn’t always the case, such as in Laos where they charge an outstanding 2%-4% transaction fee. Carrying USD is always a smart alternative as it is widely accepted and we found fair exchange rates throughout all of SE Asia.
- If you are going to Cambodia, you will most likely head to Siem Reap to visit the famous Angkor Wat temples. However, the government recently increased the entry fee (Single Day US$37, 3-Day US$72) so you’ll want to ensure you make the most of your time there. If you buy your pass 1-day prior, you can use it for free entry for sunset that day. This is also a prime example to skip the organized tour and do it on your own! We hired a local Tuk-Tuk driver to haul us around for the day for US$15, which also allowed us to customize our trip to avoid the larger tourist groups.
- We changed our itinerary plans so we could visit the Cambodian islands, which was well worth it. However, we learned the hard way that there are multiple different ferry companies providing transport to the islands. And they each follow different routes that don’t access all the same parts of the islands. We had a hard time getting to our destination of Coconut Beach and almost had to pay for an expensive water taxi. Ensure you research the different routes and ask your accommodation how to get there to ensure a smooth arrival.
Cost Saving Tips
- Despite how cheap SE Asia can be to visit, alcohol can really add up, especially when drinking out at bars/restaurants. We saved money by buying alcohol at local convenience stores and also limiting our “party” nights. After all, we aren’t so young anymore anyways.
- We learned that almost every organized tour offered by the hotel can be done significantly cheaper by doing it on your own. It also allows you more freedom to visit places as long or as short as you want and avoid the souvenir shops which seem to be mandatory stops on every organized tour. We’d typically rent a scooter (paying an average of just CAD$4.90/day) to drive around to the local tourist attractions and oftentimes wandering off the beaten path to find our own adventures.