These Are The Cheapest Countries In Southeast Asia For Travelers On A Budget

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Now that travelers are ready to take to the skies, the costs associated with international travel have increased drastically. A majority of borders have reopened, but on the downside, an overpriced Europe or the Caribbean is no longer an option for many budget-conscious travelers.

Young Female Traveler Sat On A Rock Overlooking A Beautiful Natural Scenery In An Island In Indonesia, Southeast Asia

Fortunately, Southeast Asia (SEA) remains a highly affordable destination. Across numerous countries, most Americans are able to enjoy a higher purchasing power and better quality of life, thanks to the strong dollar and the subcontinent’s surprisingly economical luxury amenities.

But where exactly in Southeast Asia will you get the best bang for your buck? It’s time we found out:

All Of Southeast Asia Ranked From Least To Most Expensive

A Modern District Filled With Skyscrapers In Jakarta Pictured During Nighttime, Indonesia, Southeast Asia

There are eleven Southeast Asian countries in total, and if you’re wondering where they may be headed when attempting to stretch their dollars further, these are the safest bets: Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia. According to figures posted by Numbeo, the largest crowd-sourced database for information on global cities, these are the cheapest destinations for travelers in SEA.

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Sunrise Over Bromo Volcano In Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia, Southeast Asia

The complete ranking of countries can be seen below, from most to least affordable, followed by the cost of living (COL) percentage compared to the U.S average:

  1. Indonesia – 55.9% cheaper
  2. Myanmar – 54.9% cheaper
  3. Philippines – 51.9% cheaper
  4. Vietnam – 50.8% cheaper
  5. Malaysia – 50.7% cheaper
  6. Thailand – 42.9% cheaper
  7. Cambodia – 39.5% cheaper
  8. Laos – 24.7% cheaper
  9. Brunei – 23.4% cheaper
  10. Singapore – 18.2% cheaper
  11. Timor Leste – Not enough data

There is not enough data on Timor Leste on Numbeo, though it could be up to 76% less expensive than the United States, according to an alternative source, Living Cost. If this were to be considered, it would place Timor Leste as the cheapest destination in all of Southeast Asia by a wide margin, almost 16 percentage points ahead of Indonesia, assuming calculation methods are similar.

Colorful Umbrellas On The Beach In Kuta, Indonesia

Indonesia Is The Cheapest Southeast Asian For Tourists

Home to beautiful islands like Bali and Java, known for their sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and laid-back culture, as well as vibrant city breaks bustling with trade and interesting sights — with Jakarta and Yogyakarta to name a couple — Indonesia appeals to travelers of different ages and all walks of life, though it is particularly favored by long-term travelers.

While prices in Indonesia can vary drastically between provinces, rent is, on average, 80.9% lower than in the U.S. Looking at specific cities, Jakarta, the capital and largest financial center, is 63.7% cheaper to explore than New York, with rent being up to 83.3% lower. Living comfortably in the Big Apple would require a minimum of USD$9,100 per month; in Jakarta, USD$2,430 would suffice.

Jakarta Skyline

Indonesia’s new Digital Nomad Visa, which allows remote workers and entrepreneurs to reside in destinations like Bali effectively tax-free for five years, has also helped establish Indonesia as SEA’s number one budget-friendly vacation: it is officially the most sought-after winter sun destination on AirBnB.

Moving further down the list, the lesser-known Myanmar (previously known as Burma) takes the runner-up slot, boasting some of Asia’s oldest pagodas dating back to the 6th century and a promising city destination in Yangon, the renamed capital (formerly Rangoon). Sadly, Myanmar (Burman) remains a risky destination for tourists due to armed conflict and ongoing civil unrest.

Young Female Tourist Wearing A Straw Hat As She Poses For A Pic Sailing On A Long Tail Boat In The Philippines, Southeast Asia

The Philippines occupies the third spot, offering a plethora of beach sites and tropical landscapes for a small fraction of Thailand’s or Cambodia’s prices, even though they already fall within the budget category. Vietnam and Malaysia round out the top five, standing among SEA’s trendiest: other than being inexpensive to visit, they are open and restriction-free.

The least affordable in Southeast Asia is, unsurprisingly, its most developed economy: the city-state of Singapore, named the world’s most expensive in 2022.

The Triumphant Return Of Southeast Asia

Happy Young Asian Woman Removing Face Mask At The Restaurant As She Smiles

Southeast Asia is one of the trendiest tourist destinations for 2023 now that most nations within the territory have loosened their once-strict COVID curbs. Traveling to a majority of them, Americans are no longer required to undergo grueling testing regimes or check into quarantine facilities. Most importantly, they no longer face vaccine discrimination, a hard no for restriction-wary Americans returning to Asia.

There’s no denying that Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia having changed their hard stance on health crisis management was a powerful driving force behind the regional tourism rebound, but it’s not the only factor behind it: all of America’s preferred holiday spots, from Mexico’s Caribbean Coast to the European Mediterranean, have seen vacation package prices soar in recent months.

Young Female Tourist Visiting The Ta Prohm Temple In Cambodia, Southeast Asia

In Europe, the 2023 summer season will be accompanied by further hikes, as noted by experts as early as last November, while parts of North and Central America have unashamedly begun catering exclusively to high-end customers. Amid the economic chaos, it’s clear now the SEA collective has resurged as a safe haven not only for backpackers and budget travelers but also for digital nomads.

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