In 2011, myself and Ed travelled around Asia for 3 months, between our second and third year at university. The only thing we booked was our flights, in and out of Hong Kong. Initially, I was planning to do the trip on my own, but then as they always do, things changed and Ed was able to come along. I had already booked my flights, for around the £500 mark through STA travel and using Jet Airways. A nine hour flight and a short layover in Mumbai followed by another six hour flight, I would be Hong Kong. On my own. For 3 days I would wait for Ed to arrive, due to him booking the wrong date and there being no seats left to change to the correct date. This meant for a cheap start to the trip. I entertained myself by finding the local swimming pool, wandering around the streets, the space museum and of course, in my jet-lagged state, accidentally sleeping for one of the days until I was awoken by the phone in my room to check I was still alive.
Anyway, 3 days later, I was at the airport with my home made sign ready to meet Ed. I found him and off we went back to our little hostel in Sincere House, Mongkok. A few days later, we were off to China. After taking in the sights of Shanghai, Beijing, Xian, Zhangjiajie, Wulingyuan, Fenhuang, Jishou, Changhsa and Guandong for a few weeks, we were off to Vietnam (via a few days in Hong Kong) for a month. Heading from north to south, we were soon on our way to Cambodia. A week passed and we found ourselves in Thailand. Then it was almost time to return, but not before another week in Hong Kong via a night in Shenzhen airport. All in all, we managed to explore the region pretty well and had a life-changing experience.
In terms of the money, we spent a grand total of £6278.11, between us. While this figure may seem like (and it is) alot of money, we had a couple of unforeseen circumstances. But before we get into those, I will break the figure down per person. So of the £3140 odd each, here is where the money went:
Flights: £846 – 4 flights including 3 within Asia
Visas: around £150
(We’ve already racked up over £1000)
Hong Kong: £664
Miscellaneous other: £54 – including purchasing gig tickets, my travel to the airport, a couple of on-line purchases and a pre-plane snack from Tesco
(Okay, so that doesn’t quite add up to £3140 but its only £50 more)
As you can see from the figures, the money spent whilst in Asia is not a huge amount; £2114, averaging out at around £25 a day, or £176 a week, or £704 for 4 weeks. This covered everything whilst we are away; food, accommodation, excursions, travel, gifts etc.
Breaking it down even further to work out an average per country, based on the amount of time spent in each place gives us an even better set of (rounded up) figures:
Hong Kong: 2 weeks = £48 per day
China: 3 weeks = £30 per day
Vietnam: 4 weeks = £20.5 per day
Cambodia: 1 week = £17.5 per day
Thailand: 2 weeks = £11 per day
As you can expect, Hong Kong rolls in at the priciest destination. And this is partly our own fault, and partly not. After having visa issues we ended up staying in Hong Kong for a further 5 nights more than we originally planned. Having already been in Hong Kong for a few nights, and splashing out on a 5 star hotel for a little bit of well-needed luxury as well as splashing out on food, cinema, new shoes and booking some spur of the moment flights to Vietnam (after finding out we could not take the already booked trains), the entire, week or so long stint ended up setting us back near on £1000 between us.
Thailand scores as the cheapest destination. Some might be surprised at this, due to its ever increasing tourism industry, but the reason being is because we stayed in a little metal hut for almost a week in Chiang Mai, for £1.50 a night each. An absolute steal, particularly when you take into account the free tea and coffee and use of the chess set! Alongside this, we took the cheapest buses possible (which included one so cheap it couldn’t use the official bus station, instead a dodgy petrol station, and resulted in a twilight robbery from my very seat…), bought our food from the market and did not much. Which brings me to the point about excursions and tours; these make up a fair deal of the money spent. After the bad experience of the Great Wall, we ended up doing a few booked tours, including: Terracotta Warriors, Halong Bay, Angkor Wat, Killing Fields, Hue city tour, Mekong Delta amongst others. We also did a fair few trips by ourselves; The Forbidden City, Hoi An ancient town, Zhanjiajie national park, Hot Springs, many a trip in Hong Kong, plenty of temples and more. All of these visits cost money, but were (nearly) all so worth it. I would recommend that whilst it is possible to do this sort of trip a heck of a lot cheaper, you don’t want to miss out on some potentially once in a life time opportunities for the sake of money.
If we were able to stick to travelling overland, and avoid flying whilst in Asia, we would have saved ourselves nearly £400. Alas, we did not. Being in China during the peak season where every other Chinese tourist has booked up all the seats on the trains occasionally meant a flight was necessary. If we had of gone to Vietnam when planned, a couple more hundred would have been saved. But, as any traveller knows, plans always change. And, ever the optimist, I embraced the changes and made the most of them. While they stung my bank balance, I still had the best experiences, some that I wouldn’t have had should our plans have, well, gone to plan.