How much did two months in Asia cost me?

Short answer: £2,396.82

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From top left: Ayutthaya guesthouse, Sumatra cafe, Chiang Mai songthaew, Taman Negara capsule, Penang guesthouse, Sri Lankan food

Long answer

Wait… before I answer that, here’s a map of my route:

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It looks somewhat different to other peoples’ due to me basing it on where to find wildlife most of the time; history and culture were more “side-dishes”, although Thailand was more of an exception. Anyway, the fact that there are many flights in there meant I had to tell more units to hop it off my card, so two months of overland travel (perfectly doable) would have cost less. I left home on the 25th June and returned on the 27th July, for a grand total of 62 days, and that figure covers everything spent at that time; from flights down to taking a leak.

Right, let’s get down to business.

Flights: £371. I just did some shopping around on Skyscanner and Momondo for the best price and ended up flying on Turkish Airlines. It’s a pretty good deal; you get a pillow and blanket, a personal screen with lots of films (I watched Logan, The Jungle Book and Rogue One on one flight) and free meals whether you order water or whisky with them.

Vaccines and malaria pills: £70 for the vaccines, which were mostly booster shots. Last year, I got a few which had added up to more than £200. The pills (malarone) cost £30. The long game is what matters here; I’m covered for life with some of these.

Accommodation: Per night, I spent roughly £5.83 in Thailand, £5.76 in Sri Lanka, £6.28 in Malaysia and £7.70 in Sumatra, and about £380 in total over 59 nights. I spent 8 of those in dorms, another 8 in capsules, and the rest in regular private rooms. I stayed in some fairly interesting places; one was a floating river house, a few were old and made of wood, one was a flat with an infinity pool on the roof and one was a tent. Breakfast was often included, but could be a bit hit-and-miss in terms of quality. Sometimes bathrooms were shared, but I never minded. The only major sacrifice I made was air-conditioning, but fans were usually good enough, plus most places let me leave it on me as I slept.

Food: I usually ate from street stands, 7-elevens and my guesthouses’ cafe, with few exceptions. Per day, I would spend the following on filling my stomach: £4.78 in Malaysia, £5.62 in Thailand, £4.93 in Sri Lanka and £5.93 in Sumatra. In most places I would have noodles, sometimes in a soup, and had coffee with them. Sri Lanka was the exception, where I ate more curries and rotis and drank tea more.

Transport: I used planes when crossing a sea, trains in some of Thailand and Sri Lanka, and buses the rest of the way, with the occassional chicken bus. I found most towns walkable, but would take the metro or songthaews, trucks with roofs that have made themselves into buses, when need be. Uber and Grab were available in most cities, and I would use these often. I took tuk-tuks a few times, but only as a last resort. I spent about £532 on transport in total, of which £362 was on flights. A night on a sleeper train cost £19, a two hour minibus ride in Sumatra was 59p and Grab rides within cities never got up to more than £3.

Activities: Ah, the part we’re all here to see. Well, here’s a snippet of the things I did…

  • National Museum, Kuala Lumpur: £1
  • Borneo jungle trip (three days, two nights): £88
  • Rainforest Discovery centre, Borneo: £3
  • Yala National Park safari, Sri Lanka: £29
  • Kandy tuk-tuk tour: £10.50
  • Golden Triangle tour, Northern Thailand (not recommended): £22
  • Doi Inthanon National Park tour: £28
  • Bike hire (Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Phetchaburi): £1.25
  • Pinang Perenakan Mansion, Georgetown, Malaysia: £4
  • Pulau Weh snorkeling trip: £8.24
  • Berastagi volcano sunrise climb: £11.75
  • Taman Negara night safari: £7.30
  • War of the Planet of the Apes, KL: £3.25
  • Foot massages, Thailand: £4.70

Along with the ones I’ve not mentioned, I spent about £320 on sightseeing, wildlife-spotting and having my joints cracked.

Misc: Off the top of my rocker, that would cover insurance, equipment including toiletries, SIM cards, toilet fees, ATM fees, laundry and souvenirs; I spent about £130 in total. You may have noticed a pattern by now of which countries were more expensive, and that was the case here too; things cost more in Sumatra and Malaysia, and less in Thailand and Sri Lanka.

I’m saying “roughly” a lot due to things like exchange rates fluctuating – the precise figure at the top is actually based on what’s left in my bank account taken away from what was in there pre-Asia. It’s definitely less, due to the amount of currency with me right now plus mathematical errors which, with me, can never be discounted.

My life motto is: “prepare for the worst, and aim for the best”. I found this to be true for budgeting, so every time I had a dry night or took a bus instead of a taxi beefed up my savings, which enabled me to splash out towards the end on feeling like the dog’s bollocks. Asia is a pretty good deal all around, and there were plenty of moments when I thought Europe or the USA’s tourism will be fudged when people find out what’s out here. But enough of this. I’m back home now, and very glad about it, even if I twitch when people call £2 beers a “good deal”.

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