People always say ‘I could never afford to do that!’ when I tell them what my friend and I did on our gap year. Budget around £25 a day and you can spend 4 months in India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Hong Kong and the Philippines carrying a backpack around and have spent about £5000, which if you worked for 6 months beforehand is totally achievable. On this budget you’d also have the money for a spot of scuba diving, a hot air balloon ride and all the beer you can drink.
Through STA we booked 7 flights which would take us to, around and home from Asia. We phoned up, gave them a rough itinerary and time frame and they responded with a list of flights which would suit our trip which cost us a mere £1149. We booked 5 of our own internal flights which only set us back £250 but these should be booked as early as possible to avoid having to reluctantly book yourself onto 48-hour bus journeys.
If you do the maths, we were under budget in India, spending under £800 in 5 weeks. This included hostels, which were some of the best on the whole trip and tended to cost £3-5 a night, train journeys tended to be about £1 per hour of travel, endless curries and water. We also treated ourselves to an overnight camel safari, as many 50p beers as we could drink and an hour long Uber which cost us £1.11. We did so much and made the most of everything that India had to offer on a very humble, but generous budget.
Thailand was a little more on the expensive side, more so in the south than the north which meant that some days our budget had to be stretched to £30. We still did an awful lot during our time, including scuba diving, a trip to an elephant sanctuary and a cooking course. Hostels and food became more expensive, although you can seek out a meal plus a beer for £2 if you look hard enough.
Among the gems Laos has to offer, like the bluest lagoons and waterfalls, you will see tourists knocking back several double whiskey and cokes for £1 in the free t-shirts they got for buying the aforementioned drinks and floating down the river at 10 o’clock in the morning drinking 50p cans of beer. The drinking culture and imported Cumberland sausages of Laos can drain your budget a little, but not so much that you can’t afford a hot air balloon ride for £60, or a little trip out on a kayak. Laotian food isn’t great at all, but you can fill a bowl until it over flows and have a beer for £3 in Luang Prabang’s markets.
I overspent in Vietnam by a lot, but now almost everything I own is tailor-made. It’s a shopper’s paradise and a budget traveller’s guilty pleasure. The overnight buses tended to be £1 per hour of travel, so even those 15 hour journeys didn’t break the bank and meant you didn’t have to pay for a hostel that night. Do your research and rent a bike instead of taking a taxi to save yourself some pennies when it comes to sight seeing! Vietnam provided my favourite food of the whole trip and we ate for a small army every single day. If you like noodles and pho then it’s easy to stick to a £25 budget in Vietnam.
I was unfortunate enough to sample a Vietnamese hospital which only set me back £15 but I’d recommend avoiding them because sitting up from getting stitches and seeing dead cockroaches on the floor isn’t the most encouraging sight. Plan your injuries and do not get stitches removed in Hong Kong because it will cost you £80, which isn’t ideal when on a budget.
Hong Kong is expensive, but you can make it budget friendly. Our daily spend was about £45, since the hostel was costing us £18 per night. It’s worth going on one of the many hikes the city has to offer since it’s cheap and gives you a different view of the city. We ate like queens the whole time in the a very cheap Michelin Star restaurant and found the European students’ hotspot, Mr. Wong’s. We treated ourselves to a cocktail in Ozone, the world’s highest bar one night which set us back £20 for just one cocktail but the view and experience were both absolutely worth it.
Our final stop in the Philippines meant we were perhaps slightly lower on money than expected we spent about £15 a day. We still splashed out to go scuba diving and on a volcano hike but we generally lay on the beach all say drinking 30p San Migel. Don’t waste your money drinking rum in bars when a big bottle is 70p!
So if you’re thinking you’d never be able to do something like this then I hope I have proved you wrong. It would be hard to spend much more than £1000 per month if you utilise hostels, cheap transport and beer consistently being under £1. You should never have to say no to anything. Unless it’s a man on Khao San Road, Bangkok trying to get you into a ping pong show.
Edited by Nina Nagel