There’s a reason that the first-ever Lonely Planet book was called Across Asia on the Cheap. Though a lot has changed since it was published in 1975! The world’s largest continent is so varied when it comes to places to travel, but the vast majority of Adventures in Asia can be enjoyed for a fraction of the price you would spend in the North America or Europe.
However, with tourism in Asia increasing year on year, you can sometimes end up shelling out a lot more money than you had initially expected. Let us help you to find the best budget friendly adventures in Asia – saving you money so you can do more of what you love on vacation. Let’s go!
Surfing in the Philippines
The first stop on our list is the Philippines. It’s best-known as the cheapest place in the world to surf. You can get lessons for as little as 400 pesos – that’s less than $10USD! Between July and November, head to the teardrop-shaped Siargao island northwest of Mindanao. Though it’s the surfing capital of the Philippines, it still hasn’t been taken over by mass tourism.
Head to Cloud 9 Beach in General Luna for the best waves. After the surf season finishes in Siargao, head straight on to San Juan la Union. Urbiztondo Beach’s season runs until March – and though it has soft and welcoming waves for beginners, there are some larger swells for you to build on the skills you learned at Siargao!
Stand up Paddle boarding in Bali, Indonesia
Surfing is a lot of fun, but there are some days you might be looking for something a little more tranquil and chilled out. How about stand up paddle boarding? It’s becoming more and more popular year on year, and Bali is a great place to get beginner lessons. Start at Kuta Beach, but as you get more confident, head away from the crowds and explore the flat waters around the Gili Islands and paddle from cove to cove, stopping off at the stunning secluded white sand beaches. If you want to learn more about how to paddle board, check out GILI’s guide for beginners.
Sampling Street food in Thailand
Anyone looking for a budget-friendly adventures in Asia cannot miss Thailand. The first port of call for backpackers for many years and the gateway to the region, Bangkok has just about everything for any budget. While we could talk about things to do in Thailand on a budget for the whole article, we feel street food deserves a special mention. Pick up the national dish Pad Thai or a delicious Massaman curry at a market stall for less than a dollar… it’ll beat the restaurants back home! Chinatown, Silom Road, and Sukhumvit’s Soi 38 are some of the best places to pick up cheap street food in Bangkok.
Motorcycling in Vietnam
Everything will seem expensive at first in Vietnam – 1 US dollar is equivalent to more than 20,000 Vietnamese Dong! However, once you get over this crazy currency, you’ll see that it’s one of the cheapest countries in the world. Many travellers take advantage of that not buy renting a vehicle or using public transport, but BUYING a motorcycle.
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That’s because in around 2 weeks, you can get from the northern hub Hanoi to the south’s Ho Chi Minh City or vice versa, taking in some of the country’s most impressive and incredible attractions on the way. All the while, you’ll be paying peanuts for accommodation and food if you know where to look. It’s a traveller’s dream!
Hiking in Nepal
Right up there at the top of many adventure travellers’ bucket lists, Nepal is home to the world’s highest mountain – Everest. And while that can be expensive (not to mention physically and mentally challenging), you can hike in the Himalayas on the cheap if you know where to look. On arrival in Kathmandu, look at trekking to base camps rather than peaks – it’s safer and cheaper. Be sure not to use a large international trekking company, but instead a local Nepali operator. Not only will you save money, but you’ll be completely supporting the local economy and you’ll learn more about the real Nepal.
Wildlife watching in Sri Lanka
The biodiversity in Sri Lanka is jaw-dropping. And no trip to this beautiful island off the south coast of India is complete without visiting one of its national parks. Like with Nepal, it’s best to wait till you arrive in Sri Lanka to book your tours – you’ll get a better deal that way. Hit up Udawalawe National Park for one of the world’s best places to see elephants, while Yala National Park offers an excellent chance of seeing leopards. Prefer marine life? Head to Trincomalee, Hikkaduwa, or Unawatuna for excellent scuba diving.
Island Hopping in Malaysia
Malaysia is huge and it could be overwhelming to decide what to do. However, it’s also very accessible from the capital Kuala Lumpur. Take public transport and rent motorbikes on arrival to keep your costs down. Your Malaysian itinerary should have Langkawi on it for beaches and tax-free shopping, the Perhentian Islands for scuba diving and beachcombing, and Penang for some of the world’s best street food!
Last but not least: India. The third largest and second highest populated country in Asia has so much going on that it’s hard to recommend just one activity. Trains run throughout the country and are criminally cheap – and taking an economy berth can see you meeting and engaging with local people in a way you may have never imagined! Hit up beaches in Goa, explore the backwaters of Kerala, and marvel at the ruins of the Taj Mahal. You can do all of it without breaking the bank!