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10 Backpacker-Friendly Cities In Southeast Asia You Can Explore From S$7 A Night


Travelling the region on a budget

 

You’re bored stiff by your cyclical, mundane way of life, and you’re desperate for a short escape to a city unknown where you can explore to your heart’s content. Only problem is, you’re broke. Why, there's only one way to combat the struggles of a millennial thirsting for adventure! 

Stretch your dollar, of course! These 10 wonderful cities around Singapore have so much to offer, for no more than $25 a day. Yes, you heard me right. We’ve factored in the cost of your meals, drinks, transportation, accommodation, and a visit to at least one tourist attraction, and we guarantee that you’ll be able to milk your dollar in these cities for all its worth. There’s nothing holding you back now, so go forth and explore!

 

1. Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

 

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Chiang Mai is the cultural heart of Thailand, and one of the friendliest, most laid-back cities I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Breathtakingly beautiful cultural sites, bustling night bazaars and art markets, adrenaline-pumping activities in the heart of nature, people filled with warmth and joy - Chiang Mai has it all.

The best part is, it’s an extremely affordable place to visit. Full main meals from budget eateries and roadside stalls cost as little as 25 baht (SGD 1), the retail price of their local Chang beer is 45 baht (SGD 1.75), a visit to Doi Suthep warrants a mere 50 baht entrance fee (SGD 2), and you’ll easily find a bed in a decent hostel for around SGD 8.

Getting around Chiang Mai is really cheap too. The songthaew is a sheltered pick-up truck that functions like a shared taxi, and is the main form of transportation around Chiang Mai. Travelling within the city walls cost an average of 20 baht, and travelling outside costs between 40 - 60 baht (SGD 1.60 - 2.40).

 

Where To Stay:

So Hostel Chiang Mai

 

So Hostel is conveniently located beside the Night Bazaar and is a short walk away from the old city gate and food market. It boasts clean rooms, facilities, wifi, and a comfy common area where you can mingle with other guests.

Price: From SGD 7 per night for a bed in a mixed dorm
Website: So Hostel Facebook

 

2. Bangkok, Thailand

 

A city that needs little introduction to Singaporeans, Bangkok is the one-stop place for dirt-cheap shopping, heavenly food, and a satisfactory dose of Thai culture. There’s a myriad of shopping complexes, lively markets and cultural landmarks to explore, and you won’t even feel the pinch in your wallet.

Street stalls boast your favourite Thai dishes at a mere 30 baht (SGD 1.20), cool down with some Chang beer at just 45 baht (SGD 1.75), visit the grandiose Wat Arun on the Chao Praya riverfront for 100 baht (SGD 3.90), and lay your head in a decent hostel for just SGD 10 per night. There are also tons of cheap ways to get around Bangkok - take the tuk-tuk, songthaew, motorbike taxis, and even the metro where rides start from 16 baht (SGD 0.65). You could also hop on their local buses where rides range from 8 - 20 baht (SGD 0.30 - 0.80).

Check out our Bangkok shopping guide, and food guide for even more inspiration!

 

Where To Stay:

Siamaze Hostel

 

Siamaze Hostel is just a stone’s throw away from the city centre and near attractions such as the Huay Kwang Night Bazaar. It’s also a short walk away from Sutthisan Metro Station and has clean rooms and facilities.

Price: From SGD 10 per night for a bed in a mixed dorm
Website: http://www.siamaze.com/

 

3. Hanoi, Vietnam

 

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Hanoi is like that mixed-blood friend we all have who always happens to be beautiful - the intoxicating blend of French and Vietnamese cultures in this city makes it a gem for budget explorers. Lose yourself in the quaint haphazardness of the Old Quarter, take a quiet stroll in the many pleasant parks, educate yourself in the multitude of museums and wartime sites, or indulge in some of the best Vietnamese street food alongside the locals at their favourite roadside stalls.

A delicious bowl of piping hot pho costs as little as 30,000 dong (SGD 1.85), and you can down your meal with a good beer at just 20,000 dong (SGD 1.20). Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum at absolutely no cost, and lay your head in a decent hostel for just SGD 8 per night. Travelling within the city on a taxi also mostly cost less than SGD 5, depending on your haggling skills.

 

Where To Stay:

Hanoi Brother Inn

 

This friendly hostel is located right in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter and is a short walk away from various markets, bars and historical sites. It boasts nice, clean rooms and facilities, and is one of the top rated hostels in Hanoi on various traveller review sites.

Price: From SGD 9.50 per night for a bed in a mixed dorm
Website: http://www.hanoibrotherinn.com/

 

4. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 


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The largest city in Vietnam and arguably the most dynamic, Ho Chi Minh has so much to offer to the budget traveller. The force of Vietnamese history can be felt so strongly here with the many sites and museums relaying the narrative of the Vietnam War. Entry to the Independence Palace costs 20,000 dong (SGD 1.20) and the War Remnants Museum costs 15,000 dong (SGD 0.90).

If history doesn’t interest you, there’s tons of colourful local markets where you can put your haggling to the test, and beautiful colonial architecture for you to admire at no cost. Everyone’s favourite Bahn Mi sandwich can be bought at as little as 13,000 dong (SGD 0.80), which is even cheaper than the price of beer which costs 15,000 dong (SGD 0.90). Travelling around the city by cyclo or taxi costs barely more than SGD 4, and a bed in a decent hostel costs around SGD 10.

 

Where To Stay:

Saigon Youth Hostel

 

This hostel is conveniently located within walking distance of multiple attractions including the Independence Palace, Ben Thanh Market, War Remnants Museum, and the Notre Dame Basilica. It also has clean, comfortable rooms and facilities and the friendliest hosts.

Price: From SGD 7.25 per night for a bed in a mixed dorm
Website: http://saigonyouthhostel.com/

 

5. Hoi An, Vietnam

 

 

Hoi An is a living fairytale - whimsical buildings of vivid colours adorned with the warm glow of lanterns, wooden boats and sampans gliding across the glistening river, and friendly locals riding past on their pastel bicycles, always ready with a kind smile. For a city as beautifully quaint as this, it’s surprising how cheap everything is.

A visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Town Hoi An costs 120,000 dong (SGD 7.30), and this ticket includes coupons to enter 5 attractions. The food here is super cheap and tasty, and a bowl of Hoi An’s famous Cao Lau noodles can cost as little as 7,000 dong (SGD 0.45). Some bars along the riverside sell fresh beer for as low as 3,000-5,000 dong (SGD 0.20 - 0.30). You can also find a decent hostel bed for around SGD 10.

Read all about our time in Hoi An on our guide to Central Vietnam

 

Where To Stay:

Tribee Hostel

 

Tribee Hostel is conveniently located just 700m away from Old Town Hoi An and offers clean rooms, facilities, and warm hospitality. They also have a cozy little rooftop for a common area where you can mingle with other guests and make new friends.

Price: From SGD 12 per night for a bed in a mixed dorm
Website: Tribee Hostel Facebook

 

6. Luang Prabang, Laos

 

 

This rustic gem of a city has been on my bucket list for ages - the eclectic mix of natural beauty, colonial architecture and traditional Laotian culture makes it such a great place for exploration.

You can get a delicious bowl of Luang Prabang’s famous Khao Soi noodles at the night market for just 15,000 kip (SGD 2.55), down it with a bottle of Beerlao for 8,000 kip (SGD 1.35), and still find a decent hostel bed for the night at around SGD 8. A shared tuk-tuk to the beautiful Kuang Si Falls costs 30,000 kip (SGD 5.05), and the entrance fee is just 20,000 kip (SGD 3.40).

Read our Laos travel guide for more information on all the amazing things you can do in Luang Prabang!

 

Where To Stay:

Kounsavan Guest House

 

This guest house lies in the heart of Luang Prabang’s Old Quarter, and is a short walk away from the Night Market, Palace Museum and Phousi Mountain. It also boasts both private rooms and dorm rooms and comes with complimentary wifi and breakfast.

Price: From SGD 7.50 per night for a bed in a mixed dorm
Website: Kounsavan Guest House Facebook

 

7. Phnom Penh, Cambodia

 

Ah, Phnom Penh. City of enlightened monks, mouth-watering street food, and crazy traffic. Phnom Penh has so much character, and you have to be there in the flesh to take in the smells, sights, and sounds to understand what it’s all about. Cambodia’s painful history, the people’s resilience, the vibrant culture and the work towards progress can all be felt so strongly in her busy capital.

Try to comprehend the horrors of life under the Khmer Rouge at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum for just SGD 4, try some of the amazing local cuisine at the Central Market for around SGD 2-5, have a glass of local Angkor beer for as low as SGD 1, and spend your night in a decent hostel for just SGD 6! Hiring tuk-tuks to get around the city is really affordable too, costing between SGD 1.50 - 5 depending on the distance.

For more ideas on what to do in Phnom Penh, read our Cambodia travel guide

 

Where To Stay:

The Mad Monkey Hostel Phnom Penh

 

If there’s one hostel to stay at in Phnom Penh, it’s The Mad Monkey. This funky hostel is popular among young travellers who want to make friends and have a good time, and they pride themselves to be a socially responsible business. The dorms are roomy and clean, the hospitality is top-notch, and it’s centrally located near bars, restaurants and shopping areas.

Price: From SGD 10 per night for a bed in a mixed dorm
Website: http://madmonkeyhostels.com/phnompenh/

 

8. Yangon, Myanmar

 

 

Myanmar has only begun to widen its gates to international tourists in recent years, so much of her quiet cultural charm remains unspoiled. As much of the tourist infrastructure is still underdeveloped, prices may be a little higher compared to other Southeast Asian cities, but we’ll definitely still be able to stay within budget if we’re really conscious!

Entrance fee to the must-see Shwedagon Pagoda costs around SGD 9.20, and a decent hostel for the night would take another SGD 10 from your wallet. If you stay in a central location, you can easily walk to many of the city’s attractions. Thankfully, food and drinks are ridiculously cheap, and you can easily get a full meal by the streets for 1,000 kyats (SGD 1.15). Drinking is not culturally accepted for girls in Myanmar, but the guys will be able to find pint glasses of beer at local beer stations for just 600 kyat (SGD 0.70).

 

Where To Stay:

Agga Youth Hotel

 

This hotel is wonderfully located just a stone’s throw away from attractions such as the Shwedagon Pagoda, Sule Pagoda, Scott Market, National Museum and China Town. It boasts clean, comfortable dorm rooms, bathrooms and is inclusive of breakfast.

Price: From SGD 11 per night for a bed in a mixed dorm
Website: http://aggayouthhotel.com/

 

9. Malacca, Malaysia

 

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Jonker Walk Night Market Source

What’s there not to love about Malacca? This city’s rich in culture, heritage, and is bursting with the flavour of all our favourite food. The best part is, it’s just a 5 hour bus journey away from Singapore! The Singapore Dollar is strong against the Ringgit right now, so it’s the perfect city to escape to for a short weekend of exploration.

The best way to experience Malacca is to roam around the city and take in the cultural sites, which can be done at absolutely no cost. Admire the quaint architecture of Christ Church, take a peaceful stroll along the Malacca River, appreciate the intricacies of the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, and have fun in the bustle of the Jonker Walk Night Market.

Bicycles can be rented at RM 10 per day (SGD 3.35), food can be really cheap as well with Nasi Lemak and Beef Rendang costing as little as RM 7 (SGD 2.35). Finish your meal with some delicious Cendol at just RM 4.50 (SGD 1.50). A clean hostel bed or homestay for the night will cost just around SGD 7.

 

Where To Stay:

Apa Kaba Home & Stay

 

A stay here will send you back in time to the good ol’ kampong days. This cozy little homestay is situated in the heart of Malacca’s UNESCO World Heritage Zone and is within walking distance to most attractions. Guests have given wonderful reviews of its clean rooms, rustic atmosphere and the hosts’ warm hospitality.

Price: From SGD 7 per night
Website: http://www.apa-kaba.com/

 

10. Penang, Malaysia

 

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Penang is a food island, and cultural paradise rolled into one. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Georgetown will satisfy both your palate and your inquisitive mind to no end with its cultural landmarks and scrumptious local food galore. Tranquil beaches such as Teluk Duyung, Muka Head and Pantai Kerachut on the north-western coast of the island are also great for relaxation. Don’t forget to have some fun with Penang’s iconic street art murals too!

Penang’s food requires little introduction, and you can get your favourite Char Koay Teow, Assam Laksa, and Mee Sotong for around RM 8 (SGD 2.70). All you lucky durian lovers can also get a taste of Penang’s unique durian for around RM 8-15 (SGD 2.70 - 5). A visit to the opulent Peranakan Mansion will cost RM 20 (SGD 6.70), but there’s so many free and wonderful things to do in Penang that you could give it a miss if you want to save money. A clean dorm bed for the night will cost just around SGD 8.

 

Where To Stay:

Dreamcatcher Traveller’s Refuge

 

This pleasant hostel is situated within walking distance of Penang’s street art and various museums, temples, cafes, bars and hawker centres. Rooms are clean and functional, and the hosts really make an effort to introduce you to the city and help you feel at home.

Price: From SGD 7 per night for a bed in a mixed dorm
Website: http://www.dreamcatcherpenang.com/

 

Happy Heart, Happy Wallet

 

With all these exciting ideas for a budget trip, there’s no excuse for you to stay put and give up on your desire for exploration. If you’ve any tips on how to make the most of your dollar in an exciting new city, feel free to share them with us in the comments below!

 

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