Many people believe that travel in 2023 is totally off the cards for them! In part, this is due to the spiralling cost of living crisis and ever-increasing inflation. Many people just assume travel is ridiculously expensive and more out of reach than ever.
What if we told you that there is a way around this? All you need to do is be strategic about where you choose to travel and when. Choosing a destination where your currency is strong, where flights don’t cost the earth to get to and it isn’t the busiest time of year are all ways to bring the possibility of international travel to you in 2023.
If you are lucky enough to be from a Western country where you earn USD, EUR, GBP, AUD and so on, then there are many countries in every corner of the world where your money will stretch a long way.
In this post, we are sharing our pick of the top cheap destinations in Asia to add to your travel list for 2023. These countries will likely have a much lower cost of living than your home country with affordable food, transportation and accommodation options. We are covering 5 countries that span Asia. For each country, we spill some of the best places to go and a budget and will also give you a rough idea of how much money you will need each day to travel there.
At the end of the day, we all need a holiday! So get saving, get back out there in the world and help the tourism industry and local communities get back on their feet after a long hiatus!
Coming in at number one for the cheapest country to visit in Asia in 2023 is Nepal! Nepal is an incredible country to visit that won’t make much of a dent in your bank account once you reach there. Nepal is most famous for having the highest mountain in the world, Mt Everest. If you love hiking, mountains and adventure, then you will adore Nepal.
Where to visit Nepal
Nepal is home to many other incredible things worth seeing. The lakeside town of Pokhara is a haven for backpackers and those hiking to Annapurna. Bhaktapur is an incredible town near Kathmandu full of traditional architecture, culture and temples. Kathmandu is home to beautiful temples, with the Stupas being the most striking.
There are also many lesser-known mountain villages in Nepal to explore such as Seti Beni. Expect vast vistas, terraced rice fields as far as the eye can see, deep valleys and drawstring bridges. You can spot wild Rhinos at Chitwan National park and go and visit the very spot where the Buddha was born called Limbini.
The essence of Nepal
Nepal is a deeply spiritual place with the roots of Buddhism running deep and permeating every corner. The energy in these mountains is very special and needs to be experienced to be understood.
On top of all of this, Nepal also has incredible street food which costs barely anything. Dhal Bhati (lentils and rice) is the staple Nepalese diet. But they also have incredible noodle soups (thukpa) and dumplings (momos). Look out for street vendors selling laphing which are like slimy yellow rolled noodles with a spicy sauce. Nepalese food is comfort food at its finest.
Good things to know about Nepal
The people in Nepal are incredibly friendly and hospitable and will literally bend over backwards to make sure you have a bed and food on the table. You will feel welcome and actually honoured to be there. Many remote villagers will offer you a room and food for a very minimal charge.
The most expensive thing to do in Nepal is to go on guided hiking tours to places like the Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit. If you skip these (not saying you should) you will find Nepal extremely affordable.
The thing to know about Nepal is that the amenities and infrastructure are quite behind, even compared to India. Roads can be very rough and you can expect many places to not even have running water or power. All of these things just add to the experience of this magnificent country.
Daily Budget: £12 - £20 per day for everything that you need
When to do: Peak season is October to November when it is dry and not too cold. The monsoon season from June to August is warm but wet. Shoulder season in March - April is a good time to go
When it comes to cheap travel destinations, India is the king. You could almost get away with having no money in India in some places! If you wanted to you get could by in India on next to nothing, with rooms in guest houses costing as little as £5 a night (hostels are even less). The longer you stay somewhere the cheaper the rate will be. An all-you-can-eat thali from a street vendor in some places can cost as little as 50p!
If you aren’t quite ready to go that rough, you can stay in luxury hotels and fancy guest houses for less than £40 per night and eat restaurant meals for less than £5.
Getting from the top of India in the mountains to the very south by the tropical beaches is also very affordable. You can get all over the country relatively easily by train or plane. In the north, you can get comfortable sleeper buses almost anywhere for a very affordable price. Even hiring a private driver is very affordable if you aren’t travelling alone.
Where to visit in India
India is a vast country with a huge diversity of cities, climates and cultures to explore. Most travellers will find every place incredibly affordable. Where you decide to go is up to the experience you’d like to have.
In the southern state of Kerala, you can experience beautiful jungle mountains, amazing beaches, spectacular sunsets and incredible South Indian food (dosa anyone?). Travel a bit further north to the state of Karnataka to experience the up-and-coming tech city of Bangalore and some of the most unique landscapes and ancient temples in the town of Hampi. Head over to Goa for some wild nightlife, cheap booze and beautiful beaches.
To get in touch with the spiritual side of India, head up into the mountains. Practice yoga on the banks of the Ganga in Rishikesh, walk with the Tibetan monks in Dharamsala and explore the deep mountains in Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir. At any point in the year, there will be a different place in India that is ideal to visit. Try and see India when you have at least 2-4 weeks to explore.
Good things to know about India
Travelling in India isn’t always comfortable. It can be confronting, a bit chaotic, and very dirty but it is full of life and definitely worth experiencing in your life. India will teach you patience, trust, how to sniff out a scam and also how to enforce boundaries with people who want to get a bit close!
Daily Budget: £12 - £20 per day for everything that you need
When to go: Dry season from October to March is best for most parts of India, particularly the south. It starts to get extremely hot in and around Rajasthan/Delhi in April and May and then the monsoon season lasts from June to September. May to September is the best time to go up into the mountainous regions where it is warm enough to go.
Vietnam is another incredible destination in Asia to visit in 2023 that is super cheap. It is even cheaper than Thailand and many people would argue has even better street food. We adore fresh rice paper rolls, Pho, Bahn Mi and Vietnamese coffee! Vietnamese food is truly to die for and is a reason to visit in and of itself. Plus you will find locally made beer on tap which is so cheap it might as well be free!
Where to visit in Vietnam
Vietnam is full of so many incredible cities and towns to visit with beautiful nature to feast your eyes on. In the north, Hanoi is a charming city full of hipster-style cafes, restaurants and amazing nightlife. Hoi An is a romantic ancient town situated on canals. Picture cobblestone streets, beautiful lanterns and traditional architecture. Ho Chi Min city is another must-see city brimming with culture.
Halong Bay is a must-visit. Book an overnight boat trip to explore the lush green islands and caves. Places like Ninh Van Bay and Phu Quoc island are excellent places to get your beach fix. For the adventurous souls out there, there is a famous motorbike route between Hah Chi Minh & Hanoi.
Good things to know about Vietnam
Vietnam, in particular Hoi An is an amazing place to go and have whatever clothes, shoes or bags you’d like to be tailor-made to you. Vietnam is also one of the best places in the world to spoil yourself with affordable manicures and pedicures! However, perhaps the best part about Vietnam is the people. They are outrageously friendly and so funny. You will be sure to have an incredible time.
It is easy and cheap to get around Vietnam via bus, train and plane.
Daily budget: £20 - £38 per day to get everything you need.
When to go: Dry season is the best time to visit between November and February. Shoulder season in April to June and October is a great time to avoid the rain but save more money.
Thailand as a cheap destination is not news to anyone. Backpackers have been doing the rounds in Thailand for decades, but it's for a good reason! Thailand is full of beautiful temples, hectic yet vibrant cities, beautiful tropical islands and beaches as well as an idyllic mountain region. Oh, we can’t forget to mention the best thing about Thailand which is the street food!
The best thing about Thailand just happens to be the cheapest thing you can buy there - making this a very attractive destination for foodies on a shoestring budget. We are particularly in love with the noodles dishes (Pad Thai, Pad See Ew & Drunken Noodles) and the street banana pancakes!
Where to visit in Thailand
The city of Bangkok is an experience that every traveller to Thailand cannot miss. A visit to Thailand wouldn’t be complete without an island-hopping adventure to places like Koh Samui, Koh Phangan (the full parties happen here), Koh Tao, Koh Lipe and Koh Phi Phi (the location of the ultra-famous Maya Bay).
Chiang Mai in the mountainous northern region of Thailand is the cheapest part of the country. Expect incredible jungles, breathtaking temples and an amazing selection of cheap food and accommodation. The small hippy town in the north called Pai is another top destination for backpackers. It’d be wrong for us to forget to mention the world-famous Thai Massage. When in Thailand you can get a massage every day without seeing much of a dent in your wallet.
Getting around Thailand is easy and affordable with many buses, trains, flights and ferries to get you to where you need to go.
Daily budget: £25 - £40 per day to get everything you need.
When to go: Dry season is the best time to visit between November and February. Avoid the northern region between January and March as it is the burning season. Shoulder season in April to June and October is a great time to avoid the rain but save more money.
5. The Philippines
Another incredible and cheap destination to visit in South East Asia is the Philippines. If you love pristine tropical islands, clear blue water and white sand beaches without forking out for the Maldives or Fiji, then make your next destination the Philippines.
Where to visit in the Philippines
The Philippines is made up of an extraordinary number of islands! While this does make it a bit more complicated to travel around, it is certainly worth it. Our picks for lust-worthy spots in the Philippines that won’t break the bank are the surf island of Siargo, the insane beauty of Palawan (El Nido beach in particular), and the beach destination of Boracay. In many of these places, you can stay at incredible luxury beachfront resorts for a fraction of the price of other tropical destinations.
Good things to know about the Philippines
It is also another place where you are in control of how much you want to spend. Stay in hostels and eat local street food to keep your costs super low. Or you may want to spend a little bit more for some luxury without having to remortgage your home. On top of all of this Filipinos are also incredibly friendly, warm (and they LOVE karaoke, like A LOT) and welcoming to travellers which just adds to the magic of this beautiful country.
The cost of flights between different islands can really add up so if you are on a tight budget we suggest sticking to one region or if you have more time getting around via ferry where possible.
Daily budget: £30 - £50 per day for everything you need
When to go: Dry season is between December & February. Prices are higher in the peak of the dry season with better prices in November, April and May. The rainy season (June - October) isn’t the best time to go to the Philippines if you are after a beach holiday! Siargao is a bit different - this region has a microclimate and has the most rain when the rest of the country is in its dry season.