Top Ten Budgeting Tips for Long-Term Travel in India and Southeast Asia

AirAsia

The world’s top budget airline for the past two years and running, Malaysia’s AirAsia is the Queen of the Orient.  With heavily discounted seats, AirAsia is the cheapest way to fly into and out of the region with flights from Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand and Australia.  Also, it has the most coverage of any airline within Southern Asia, linking everywhere in-between.

Travel in the Hump Seasons

Most places in South Asia are seasonal.  You don’t want to travel during the monsoon, but high season can be equally annoying.  Prices triple, accommodation is sparse, and you may find the Asian exoticism lost in a sea of Western faces.  Travel on either edge of high season when the rates are lower and the crowds are elsewhere. 

Learn to Bargain

Bargaining is a skill that takes a bit of practice, but by week two you should be an expert.  At the market, cutting the starting price in half is often a good way to begin the long, drawn-out process of haggling.  If you act like a naïve tourist, you will get a naïve tourist price.  If you act like you know what you’re doing, you may just stumble upon a great deal.

Cut Alcohol Out of the Equation

I know, it’s crazy, right?  No one’s saying go straight edge.  It’s just a good idea to monitor your drinking.  On holiday, it’s really easy to slip into the habit of drinking every night. However, in most South Asian countries, a single beer will cost more than your entire meal.  When you start to add up all those beers, they make up a hefty percentage of your budget.  Get drunk on nature.  Or, if you need your fix, go native on some local, overproof concoctions.

Eat Local Food

The lure of the pizza is often unavoidable.  If you are looking to eat away your money, go right ahead.  But, while you’re munching on that second-rate slice, you could be savoring some local spices for a third of the cost.  Try and limit your comfort foods to once every week and enjoy the resident specialties.  Not only is this what we’re supposed to do when we travel, but it saves some precious pennies.

Travel By Land:

The best way to truly see a country and meet its people is to travel overland.  It will also save you heaps of money.  Many companies trick travelers into purchasing hiked-up tickets on “Tourist Buses,” but these are often of the same quality, if not worse, than the local alternatives.  Try the local buses, meet the local people, and you will find the sweaty joys of everyday life in each country you visit.

Travel in a Pair or Small Group

The thrill of solo travel is undeniable, but so too is the heightened cost.  Traveling in a pair or small group will cut down on costs of taxis, organized tours, and nightly accommodation.  Because India and most countries in Southeast Asia have few or no backpacker facilities, solo travelers often pay for a double room.  Everything is cheaper when you share the cost!

Don’t Race Around

The best way to cut your traveling short is by traveling too much.  We have the tendency to want to see everything all at once, but the most expensive part of traveling is the traveling itself.  Pick your top destinations and spend a few days in each before you rush onward.  The longer you stay, the cheaper your room will be.  Once you settle in and find your favorite dive, you will come to appreciate the place much more than the day-trippers.

Do Your Research

There is nothing worse than showing up to your next destination blind. If you rely on a rickshaw driver to find you a place, he will almost certainly make a commission and thus hike up the cost of your room.  Know the rates for taxis, the typical cost for accommodation, and the appropriate range for food or you will be sorely ripped off.

Set a Budget and Stick to It

After the first few nights in the country, figure out your daily budget and stick to it.  Many Southeast Asian countries can be traversed on as little as USD $15-$20 a day, and in India it’s even less.  Keep a daily account of your expenditures and try to balance your necessities with your amusements.

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Any other suggestions?  Feel free to comment below!

One thought on “Top Ten Budgeting Tips for Long-Term Travel in India and Southeast Asia

  1. Great blog and tips. Could you give a few names of the “go native on some local, overproof concoctions”. Is such alcohol branded, and available all over India or are you referring to something like moonshine? I ask because I have traveled a bit in India. And I made the mistake of buying chilled branded beer (Kingfisher) at a small village beer/alcohol store. It was spurious beer, with all the labels of branded beer. The effect of these beers (I had two beers) was that, that night I lost voluntary control of all my limbs. I could hear and see everything and vocalize some sounds. I was terrified of going to a local hospital at 3 am and made this known to others with me. Thank God in the morning I was fine, but I was completely shaken and ever since stayed clear of such liquor stores . I was staying with family and I was told NEVER to buy alcohol unless it is a major (metropolitan) city e.g. Mumbai, New Delhi, Jaipur.

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