Southeast Asia by the Numbers

Budgeting: Southeast Asia by the Numbers

Let’s be clear…I am not a “play it by ear” type of person. Moreover I am a firm believer that preparation is 90% of success in anything, particularly in planning a successful trip. When the itinerary was finally set and budget itemised for my first extended trip I can honestly say that the trip throughout Southeast Asia (SEA) will encompass much more than I ever thought possible, simply because I planned ahead of time.

I began planning the trip through SEA with a pretty vague dollar/day amount in mind of $80 total for two people (I know, that $2000 week in Florida last year just started looking like quite the bad deal). I’m sure you’ve seen figures in this range if you’ve browsed around the web a bit. For SEA this is a comfortable number and will easily cover accommodation, food, local transport (planes, trains, and automobiles), and a small activities budget.  Small activities would be defined as snorkeling, yoga classes, tour guides, entrance fees to parks/temples/attractions, night at the local bar, drinks and a lounge chair beach side, motorbiking rentals, etc. This doesn’t include larger, unnecessary expenses like diving or private trekking guides, these should be factored into your budget on top of the base daily expenditures. This also doesn’t include plane tickets to/from your destination as this will vary largely person to person. For itemized daily budgeting specific to a country/city check out our Destinations Pages.

Once I had established my base $80/day (for two people) it was time to determine what I could realistically save and how quickly I could do it. I knew I wanted to make the trip happen by the end of 2015 so I only had a few months (8) to get my finances together. It is important to know what you will realistically be able to save each month. I decided early on that I didn’t want to be pinching pennies to the point that my day-to-day life back home was unenjoyable but I will say that this trip has helped me cut unnecessary spending out of my life and I couldn’t be happier about it. Knowing what I could come up with in that amount of time coupled with my base budget is how I arrived at a duration of 3 months/90 days planned travel time.

My scenario: I set my goal at $12,000 in 8 months, less $2,000 for plane tickets in/out and less $1000 for “backup” money, divided by $80/day lead to start with a planned duration of 110-ish days on the road.

[$12000-$2000(plane tickets)-$1000(backup cash)]/$80= 112.5 days

I was confident that I could reach my budget goal of $12k, however there were some things on my bucket list (diving, extreme treks, etc) that meant I would be going over my $80/day goal. This lead me to shave some time off the 112 day mark and made me feel much more comfortable with my plan. As time passed and I eventually surpassed my budget goal, I was able to go back and add in more activities. It was nice knowing that I could survive the duration of my travels and that if anything unexpected came up I could simply eliminate “extra” activities from my budget to keep myself afloat.

I am a big fan of Microsoft Excel, use it for your budget and make your life easier! I started off by creating a file that was comprised totally of estimated figures. Then, as I booked or planned certain destinations and activities I replaced them with actual dollar amounts and highlighted the cell to indicate it was a “real” expense. This was a huge help in keeping myself on track.

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9 months and countless hours planning later and….viola! Below is my finalized budget that I set out with this January. I am going to do side by side comparisons of my budget to actual expenditures over the next few months to see how I did in planning and ideally to make what I am doing more feasible to you!

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Again, to see what all these numbers translate to in terms of accommodation type, activities, transportation used, etc just go to the Destinations Pages and check out the location summaries!


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