Almost all of Asia is a travel bargain once you get there, so finding an affordable flight is often the main obstacle for exotic holidays. For the 8th year we have updated all of Asia’s major destinations and ranked them from cheapest to most expensive. A few things changed, but most of the ranking will look familiar to someone who has seen any of the previous lists.
Nearly all Asian currencies gained slightly against the US Dollar in 2017, but the Euro actually gained even more so Europeans should find Asia even a bit cheaper in 2018 than they did in 2017. Inflation was mostly low throughout Asia as well, although there was a few exceptions and all of that has been factored into the list below.
It’s also worth nothing that (except for Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, and Tokyo), most of these Asian tourist cities are fairly bunched together in price. The more expensive ones also tend to be the more modern ones, but even then they are almost all very affordable once you get there.
Are you more of a 3-star hotel person than a backpacker?
Hostels with dorm beds are not nearly as popular in Asia as they are in Europe or Australia, and part of the reason is how cheap the normal hotel rooms tend to be. If you can afford a private room for the same price as 2 bunks in a big room, a hotel feels like even better value. Either way, check out our Asia 3-star traveler index to see which cities are cheapest and most expensive for hotel people.
How the Backpacker Index works
Prices for most things are fixed and certain, but prices for a “budget lunch” or a bottle of beer can vary depending on whom you ask. Still, our estimates are based on a lot of research, and should be very close if not right on.
Costs for each city
- One night in the cheapest bunk at the least expensive hostel with a good location and good reviews, or half the price of a double hotel room in places where there are no hostels
- Two public transportation rides per day
- One paid/famous attraction per day (Every city is loaded with free things to do for budget-conscious travelers, but here we take the average cost of a major attraction in each city for each day.)
- Three “budget” meals per day (We took our minimum meal price and added 20% to make it more realistic for a longer trip.)
- Three cheap, local beers each day as an “entertainment fund.” Non-drinkers might have dessert and coffee or attend a local music performance instead, so this is a general benchmark that should be proportional for each city.
Price of Travel’s Asia Backpacker Index for 2018
1– Hanoi, Vietnam (cheapest)
Vietnam’s cheapest city for backpackers is also one that gets high marks from most visitors with its unique combination of French colonial and Asian post-communism. The food is also top-notch, especially when you are sitting amongst locals at one of the thousands of plastic-chair cafes throughout the city. Keep costs even lower by sticking with Bia Hoi, the world’s cheapest beer. Hostel beds are cheap, but private rooms are too, so don’t automatically book a bunk.
- Currency: Vietnamese dong
- Best cheap hostel: Chien Hostel – 90,830/night
- Transportation: 50,000
- Meals: 201,600
- Drinks/Entertainment: 60,000
- Attractions: 20,000
- Daily Backpacker Index: VND422,430 = US$18.60/day