12 of the Cheapest Countries to Visit in Asia (2023)
Updated: Mar 7
So you want a change of scenery, but your budget is saying no to those lavish European vacations everyone seems to be on. Been there, still there.
The good news is that you don't have to resign yourself to a life of staycations (not that they can't be incredible in their own right). Asia is full of beautiful places where budget travelers can indulge without breaking the bank!
Whether you've never been to Asia, or you're simply looking for the best places to visit on a budget, this list of the cheapest Asian countries (in no particular order) will be useful for your planning.
Note that the average daily cost for each country came from budgetyourtrip.com and reflects the average costs of all travel styles (budget, mid-range, and luxe). The actual daily cost is much lower for budget travelers and you can go to their website, search for the country you are interested in, and filter it to the style of travel that most suits you.
Note: Any country marked with a crown is one that I have been to myself!
1. Sri Lanka
Average Daily Cost: $18 USD
An island country located just south of India, Sri Lanka is a great place for vacation with its beautiful beaches. That being said, Sri Lanka isn't just for the beach lovers out there - it is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites!
Get around via tri-shaw (think three-wheeled tuk tuk) or use the local buses if you prefer to stick to a tight budget. Train travel will grant you more comfort, but it will be slower. Perhaps another selling point for train travel are the observation cars available for tourists so you can enjoy the scenery as you head to your destination.
One thing to keep in mind when planning a trip here is monsoon season (or seasons since technically there are two). The first monsoon season is from October to January and the second, shorter one, is from May to July. During monsoon seasons flooding is a major risk and roads become tough to navigate, making travel times longer.
2. Malaysia ♕
Average Daily Cost: $68 USD
Home to the famous Batu Caves, Malaysia is super budget friendly! Don't let the high average daily cost scare you - you can easily spend less than this in a day especially if you opt for a hostel for a couple bucks a night rather than a hotel.
I spent maybe $20-30USD a day both times I visited Kuala Lumpur (and that's being pretty generous). Also since KL is the capital city, I would imagine it to be the most expensive, so you could probably explore other parts of the country for far less.
It is quite easy to get around via public transportation and you also have the option of renting a scooter for ~$2-10 depending on how long you'll be renting for. Your best bet for traveling between cities? Long-distance bus. These buses will run you anywhere from $5-20 depending on the length of the journey (definitely beats Greyhound prices any day).
Malaysian food is an absolutely mouth-watering mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malay cuisines, but learn from my mistake and pack some tums or other antacids - traveler's stomach is VERY real.
If language barrier is a big concern for you, you will probably want to put Malaysia at the top of your list of cheap destinations in Asia. English is pretty commonly spoken here and most signs and menu options will have an English translation as well.
Average Daily Cost: $30 USD
While Nepal is famously home to Mount Everest, odds are you won't be going here to summit the notoriously difficult mountain - if you are, it'll cost you a pretty penny. Instead, you can experience the country's rich culture by meeting locals, trying out the regional foods, and visiting the temples (you may even see a monkey or two hanging around in one).
Aside from trekking, Nepal also offers a host of other outdoor activities to keep the adventure seekers more than satisfied. You can choose from paragliding, jungle safaris, whitewater rafting and more, but of course hiking is king when it comes to Nepal.
Pro tip: Many treks ask foreigners to obtain a permit. Carefully research the hikes you are planning on doing ahead of time so that you are prepared with everything you need!
4. Cambodia ♕
Average Daily Cost: $49 USD
Not only does Cambodia house numerous historical sites, but it boasts the largest religious monument in the world! Angkor Wat anyone? While not exactly the cheapest country on the list, it is such a popular destination with so much to offer, I would be remiss to not add it.
The riel is the local currency of Cambodia, but it is actually preferred to use US dollars to pay for things as inflation on the riel is so high. Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are the two most popular destinations for tourists and tend to be on the pricier end of things, but haggling is a sport here! Always ask for a better offer and you'd be surprised at how much you can get costs down.
If you're really on a shoestring budget like I was at the time of visit (don't worry I didn't spend anywhere near 50 bucks a day), a dorm room in a hostel is going to be your cheapest option for accommodation.
Pro tip: When dealing with vendors, they will often give you change in riel even if you pay with USD. Make sure the note that they give you is not too worn out! When you try to use a note that looks too old, other vendors will turn you down, leaving you with money that can't be used anywhere.
5. Thailand ♕
Average Daily Cost: $97 USD
Thailand is noticeably one of the most expensive countries on the list, but keep in mind as with most of the other destinations, you can easily cut out extra cost by spending less on accommodations. Luckily, Thailand has a wealth of nice affordable options available so you won't have to sacrifice quality for the sake of saving money.
This is a country known for its grandiose ancient temples, so you definitely can't miss out on seeing them for yourself! Most of these temples are located in the north. In addition to the incredible temples, northern Thailand is known for beautiful landscapes and is a perfect place for nature lovers.
If temples aren't really your thing or maybe you're just all temple-d out (completely understandable if you've been traveling through Southeast Asia for an extended period of time), you'll find that some of the best beaches are in southern Thailand.
6. Laos ♕
Average Daily Cost: $15 USD
When thinking of a popular tourist destination, Laos doesn't typically come to mind, but this often overlooked Asian country is one of the cheapest places you'll find! Those who are visiting this small country are usually backpackers and other budget travellers which makes it a great option for meeting people who are on the same page in terms of spending.
Laos has three seasons - hot, dry, and wet, so make sure you keep this in mind prior to booking your trip! Peak season is from November to March, when there is less rain and the temperatures are cool.
There's a little bit of something for everybody in Laos. For the thrill seekers, there are plenty of adrenaline rush-inducing activities from ziplining to climbing the karsts in Vang Vieng. Those more inclined to more nature-based activities can spot many animals such as elephants, giant flying squirrels, and more than 700 species of birds. Foodies can partake in cooking classes or simply indulge in the local food at will. Lastly, culture lovers will want to visit Luang Prabang, a UNESCO world heritage site.
7. Vietnam ♕
Average Daily Cost: $51 USD
Food. History. Culture. Water sports. Vietnam has it allllll. It's no secret that Vietnam is my favorite country of all time!
Let me start by saying you can absolutely get by with spending much less than $51 a day, especially if you mostly stick to street food or finding a local restaurant, which I highly recommend because YUM! My meals were often just a little over $1 and included a super filling dish plus a drink.
If you're adventurous, plan on spending a lot of time in Vietnam, and want to see the whole country, the best way to do so is to travel by motorbike which you can easily buy or rent there. Alternatively, it is also extremely easy to travel between cities by long-distance bus or train. If you're shorter on time, there are many cheap flights available so you can get to a couple of cities.
I recommend seeing at least both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi - the former for the history and the latter for the delicious food!
There is no shortage of activities in Vietnam. You can enjoy gorgeous white sand beaches on a lazy day or engage with the past by visiting prominent spots from the Vietnam War. Vietnam's landscapes are some of the most truly epic representations of natural beauty I have seen to date and it will leave an imprint in your memories for sure.
Pro tip: Check out my 21 day Vietnam itinerary and chop it up any way you see fit to apply to your travels.
Average Daily Cost: $32 USD
India ranks consistently as one of the world's most affordable countries, but of course this isn't all it's known for. As one of the oldest civilizations in the world, India has a rich history showcased in its intricately designed palaces and buildings from hundreds of years ago.
It goes without saying that India is a large country. Because of its vast size, it is best suited to be seen over the course of several visits unless you plan on being there for many weeks or even months.
Pro Tip: Make sure to keep an eye on train tickets if planning on traveling between cities. Some routes are fully booked weeks in advance while others can be booked with simply a day's notice.
9. China ♕
Average Daily Cost: $67 USD
At the time of writing, tourist visas still aren't available for China, but given the recent change in covid restrictions and canceling of quarantine for international arrival I'm 99% sure that will change soon (most likely even in the next few weeks or so)!
China is SO cheap. Food is especially cheap, but experiences won't cost you an arm and a leg either. Not to mention just about everything is made in China, so if you want a shopping trip, China is the place for it.
An absolutely massive country, China is made up of 34 provinces and autonomous regions. Across these provinces, you'll find a multitude of hyper modern cities as well as positively stunning natural scenery. Truth be told, some of the most beautiful places I have ever been to are in China.
Pro tip: Pretty much every major tourist attraction and museum in China offers a 50% student discount regardless of what country the school is in. If you have one, make sure you bring it to potentially cut expenses by half!
Average Daily Cost: $44
Bangladesh may not be at the top of most tourist bucket lists, but this is exactly what keeps costs low. Like some other countries mentioned earlier, haggling is a sport here so put your negotiating pants on when visiting!
There are a whopping six seasons in Bangladesh: summer, monsoon, autumn, late autumn (cooler than autumn as this is the transition to winter), winter, and spring. Choose your time of visit wisely - read: avoid the monsoons.
The national language is Bangla (Bengali) Since tourism isn't huge in Bangladesh, English is not widely spoken here. It is recommended that you hire a tour guide who speaks both Bangla and English when leaving the cities.
Bangladesh is known for its inviting and hospitable culture. If you enjoy avoiding tourists and mingling with locals, this country should absolutely be on your radar!
Pro tip: Even if the price says "fixed" or otherwise indicates that it is non-negotiable, it's usually still negotiable. Haggle away!
Average Daily Cost: $17 USD
When you think of countries with breathtaking landscapes, does Kazakhstan come to mind? It should! Located in central Asia, Kazakhstan radiates beauty in everything from its ornate architecture to its stunning natural views. This paired with the extremely low cost of living makes the country one of the best budget destinations for travelers!
The metropolitan cities have a heavy European influence and you'll find towering skyscrapers, quaint cafes, and a bustling nightlife. Venturing away from the major cities, you'll find that Kazakhstan has a ton of biodiversity. Flatlands, snow-topped mountains, canyons, deserts - you name it, Kazakhstan probably has it.
Traveling by train is a common and easy way to get across Kazakhstan plus you'll be able to watch the scenery rolling by. However, Kazakhstan is quite large (it's the ninth largest country in the world!) and taking the train between cities can be time consuming. If you're in a time crunch and can splurge a little, you might want to swing for a domestic flight.
12. Philippines ♕
Average Daily Cost: $53 USD
The Philippines are made up of more than 7,000 islands and each part of this gorgeous country is special in its own way. There are countless activities for those who love experiences and you can try your hand at hang gliding, scuba diving, surfing, dune buggy/ATV riding, and so much more.
Again here I'd say take the average daily budget with a grain of salt - the Philippines are an affordable destination and quite cheap even for southeast Asian standards. You can easily spend less than this in a day and still enjoy your time here!