A MONTH IN THAI/LAO (how much it costs me?)

A question that most would asked after a long trip and some would wonder how much is spent on such long trip. Most will be expecting a huge sum of money spend and would be astonished if the amount spent is not much. Here are the summary and the breakdown of the expenses throughout my first ever long term travel.


I spent a month backpacking on a shoestring budget. Meaning, staying in cheap dorms, taking local transportations, consuming street food, couch surfing, hitch-hiking and even sleeping at bus/train stations. Perhaps, some would spend more or possibly less. I’m figuring out which is the most comfortable budget for me furthermore, it’s my first long term travel covering areas like Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, Pai , Mae Hong Son & Udon Thani for Thailand. For Laos; Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.

Penang

  • How much money is needed for a month trip in Thai/Lao?

The most important question for those planning for a long trip. Some guide books would recommend a daily budget but usually the amount set seems unrealistic.

Before I went for this trip, I had once travelled on a weekly basis to other parts of Southeast Asia like Cambodia, Southern Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. These weekly trips gave me enough experience to gauge a comfortable daily budget in Southeast Asia. I came up with a comfortable daily budget of SGD50/per day and I had been applying this budget line to the subsequent trip of mine in Southeast Asia.

  • What I had personally spend?
    • Breaking it down:

SGD1, 500 (*a month budget)which includes daily needs, accommodations, activities etc.

SGD160 flights (the cheapest one way flight combination) *prices depending on the season

SIN (Singapore) – DMK (Bangkok) (Scoot @ SGD60) *one-way trip with no baggage

DMK (Bangkok) – CNX (Chiang Mai) (AirAsia @ SGD50) * Domestic round trip with no baggage

BKK (Bangkok) – SIN (Singapore) (Jetstar @ SGD50) *one-way trip with no baggage

Some might say round trip is much cheaper but at a certain period, one-way flights might save you some money. I always practice booking international flights using Expedia due to most of the flights have a 24-hour cancellation policy and often the best price.

I usually travel from point to point by local transportation even crossing the border to neighbouring country Laos since I have the time. Therefore, I saved quite a hefty sum on flights.

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  • Travel Gear — SGD150

My backpack alone cost me SGD120, for a 55L. It might be insufficient for that 1 month duration but I’m comfortable with it as I always travel light.

So where’s another SGD30? Its goes to my dry bag and daypack. Having a dry bag would come in handy especially during wet weathers or when doing wet activities.

Chiang Mai

  • Food — SGD10-15/day

Street food are the best way to keep your belly filled when travelling on a tight budget. The food might taste better and cost much lesser compared to a western dish.

Don’t fear street food. It’s cooked right in front of you and can even be fresher and less processed.

Ayutthaya

  • Accommodation — SGD5-15/day

Depends on the season: Vang Vieng was the cheapest while Bangkok tends to be costly as some are not value for money.

Cheapest: Vang Vieng (SGD5/night) * dorm

Expensive: Bangkok (SGD10 above) * dorm

  • Why I can manage to travel for SGD50/day?

SGD50 consist of accommodation, food etc. The cost of SGD50 seems small and most will think it’s unrealistic.

I always find alternatives to balance down my budget, hence this is where couch surfing, hitch-hiking or even sleeping at train/bus stations comes in. I saved quite a sum and at the same time I’m moving from point to point. There will be days that I did not spent any single penny on activities as I have the beach, hot spring, waterfall all for free.

Pai

And another question will rise up,

  • Why spend even lesser than SGD50/day?

Simple. The balance will be brought forward so you could spend more on a slightly expensive activities like bungee jumps, climbing, hiking etc. That is one of the best method I could come up with to keep a tight budget from being blown. You can’t expect luxury when travelling with a shoestring budget but that’s what travelling is all about, ADVENTURE!

Vang Vieng

Lastly, a summary of my trip. I spent a total of 5 days in central Thailand. The expenses are quite high there. I spend another 2 weeks in the Northern Thailand and 11 days in Eastern Thailand and Laos. I decided to head northern Thailand and Laos as my budget will definitely last longer due to the low cost of living.

Guides on ways to travel cheaply, click the link below for more details:

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10 Ways to travel Cheaply

What are others ways to manage your budget when travelling on a shoestring budget? How much you usually spend or any tips to share? I’m keen to hear and learn from you too. Write your comments below!

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