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Southeast Asia Is Hugely Affordable For American Travelers – Here Are The Top 5 Cheapest Cities

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It's hardly news that international travel has got considerably more expensive this year following the resumption of flights and the soaring inflation impacting most markets.

But while the likes of Europe and Cancun are saying no to budget travelers, other destinations have flung their doors open to them.

Aerial View Of Central Phnom Penh, Capital City Of Cambodia, Southeast Asia

That is particularly true in Southeast Asia, where devalued local currencies, coupled with a significantly lower cost of living, help budget travelers enjoy their hard-earned vacations without worrying too much about their bank balance.

In fact, five cities in the subcontinent have ranked as some of the cheapest for holidaymakers worldwide, according to recent research published by Traveller's Elixir:

Five Of The Top 10 Cheapest City Breaks Worldwide Are In Southeast Asia

people riding motorbikes down Bui Vien street in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Overall, 60 different locations were assessed by the travel experts in order to establish which were budget-friendly and which were on the pricey side based on average hotel fares, transportation costs, and the price of meals and tourist attractions.

The top 10 includes destinations farther afield, such as Delhi, the capital of the South Asian country of India, which topped the list, the increasingly trendy Medellin in Colombia, and the digital nomad hub that is Tbilisi in Georgia, but Southeast Asian cities occupy five of the ten spots.

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Grand palace and Wat phra keaw at sunset bangkok, Thailand

From most expensive to least expensive, they are:

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, whose traditional full name is something impossible to memorize, is your usual vibrant capital torn between the tradition of a glorious, imperial past and the unbridled urban development that plagues most 21st-century metropolises.

It is the most expensive entry on this list, and even then, a five-day stay would equal a mere USD $289.

It just goes to show how budget-friendly Southeast Asia can be unless you are looking to splurge, and five-star luxury hotels are non-negotiable.

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Couple Of Tourists Riding An Elephant With A View Of The Wat Phra Kaew Temple During Sunset In Bangkok, Thailand, Southeast Asia

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luan Prabang is a small city of 55,000 inhabitants, as well as the former royal seat of Laos, and a cultural hub whose History spans at least 14 centuries.

Moreover, it serves as the main gateway to the pristine natural reserves that dominate the country's Northernmost provinces.

Largely ignored by backpackers, it is one of Southeast Asia's cheapest travel destinations.

Staying in a three-star hotel in the central district, eating at mid-range restaurants, and paying the captivating local museums a visit, you should set aside some USD $289 for your five-day Northern Laos adventure.

Aerial View Of Luang Prabang In Northern Laos, Southeast Asia

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand's northerly second-most populous metro area, Chiang Mai, is home to over 200 temples, some as old as the city itself, established in 1296.

Due to its well-preserved medieval moat and city walls, Chiang Mai's historical core has been added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.

Annually, it hosts one of the largest Songkran festivities in Thailand, attended by hundreds of thousands of people who storm into its centuries-old streets armed with water pistols to engage in water fights and parties.

A five-day visit to Chiang Mai will hardly break the bank too, costing USD $284.56.

Wat Phra Singh Temple In Chiang Mai, A City In Northern Thailand, Southeast Asia

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Formerly called Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam's largest urban center and a sprawling concrete jungle home to around 9 million people.

It is best known for being the former capital of the defunct capitalist state of South Vietnam, which ceased existing upon the fall of Saigon itself.

Other than Buddhist temples and war remnants, colonial buildings stand as the most easily-recognized structures in HCMC, notably a palatial French-era city hall, a ‘Notre Dame' Cathedral, and a post office architected by Gustave Eiffel himself, the same man who built the now-iconic Eiffel Tower.

There are enough attractions in Saigon/HCMC to keep the culture seeker in you busy for days, and luckily, it is incredibly affordable by Western standards, in spite of its notorious ‘Western' inclinations and relatively high development rate.

A five-day séjour will set you back by about USD $257.26.

Motobikers Riding Across The Streets Of Ho Chi Minh, A City With French Colonial Architecture In Vietnam, Southeast Asia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

This underrated Southeast Asian capital sits at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers and has distinct features of both native civilizations, namely the once-powerful Khmer Empire, and French colonialism.

Life in Phnom Penh revolves around the scenic riverfront, interspersed with lush green parks, quirky cafes, skyscrapers, and ornate pagodas.

It is the cheapest city break out of the five listed, with costs for a five-day trip averaging USD $222.71 only.

A Busy Road And Ancient Temples In Phnom Penh, Capital City Of Cambodia, Southeast Asia

The complete top 10 ranking of cheapest cities worldwide, as defined in the research, can be seen below:

  1. Delhi, India – $180.39
  2. Phnom Penh – $222.67
  3. Kathmandu, Nepal – $227.65 
  4. Tbilisi, Georgia – $247.55
  5. Medellin, Colombia – $253.77
  6. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – $257.50
  7. Chiang Mai, Thailand – $284.89
  8. Cairo, Egypt – $287.37
  9. Luang Prabang, Laos – $289
  10. Bangkok, Thailand – $289
Values for five-day stays are expressed in British pounds (GBP) and were thus converted to U.S. dollars based on current conversion rates at the time this article was written

Monaco, St Barts, Switzerland, Iceland, Honolulu, New York, and Venice, in Italy, are among the world's most expensive destinations. A five-day trip to Monaco will cost $2,258.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Bobby

Friday 19th of May 2023

I haven’t been to Phnom Penh in years, and it certainly used to be cheap. But from friends that still live there, I’ve heard it’s gotten crazy expensive.

Bobby

Friday 19th of May 2023

I’m sorry but this list is way off.. I’ve lived all over SE Asia. Bangkok shouldn’t be anywhere near this list. Ho chi is way more expensive than Hanoi (and both are more than da nang and hoi an. No mention of Philippines (other than boracay), Indonesia(other than a few parts of Bali) Malaysia or Myanmar? They’re all cheaper than Bangkok and it’s not even close

Scott

Tuesday 16th of May 2023

Shame on you for using a picture of an elephant being tortured for entertainment! Please, educate yourself about the pain and physical damage caused by riding on the back of an elephant. You shouldn't be endorsing such heartless cruelty.

Wesley

Sunday 23rd of April 2023

I lived in phnom pehn for years and you are so wrong phnom pehn is more expensive than pattaya thailand twice as much..food expensive in phnom pehn because everything exported I don't include food stalls ..I t cost me $500 a month for a room in a guesthouse no lift no pool no patio just basic room ...ever since the Chinese came to cambodia prices have scored especially food and housing...used to live sihanoukville it was paradise until the Chinese came and destroyed it

Tom

Tuesday 25th of April 2023

@Wesley, I've been going to Phnom Penh on business or for pleasure (usually for a day or two in transit to Vietnam or Thailand) for years and I concur with your sentiments. While Phnom Penh is still reasonably cheap, costs have soared in recent years and it's certainly more expensive than both Thailand and Vietnam, especially when you consider the higher cost of food, supermarket goods and fuel (though fuel costs are only marginally more expensive than Thailand).

Gabor

Sunday 23rd of April 2023

@Wesley,

I'm absolutely agree with You... this list ignored the cost of food, programs and transportation which are quite big portions of the budget when it comes to traveling. We are usually traveling 6 months every year in SEA, and I have to tell the same as You. Before Covid Cambodia was one of the cheapest country for short and long time travellers now it is one of the most expensive place in SEA when it comes to food and other expenses even if the hotels are not expensive (the prices of food items are skyrocketed to the heights which is nowadays almost as expensive as Singapore). Also Vietnam is far more expensive then before, the prices almost doubled in the last few years. So I think this post a little bit missed the mark (by the way I like the blogs on this page;), as the traveling budget is not about the 5 days accomodation prices, there are other expenses everyone have to consider. Also I missed Kuala Lumpur (or Malaysia) from the list especially because nowadays all around SEA Malaysia is one of the cheapest place when it comes to traveling or living expenses, and the accomodations are in the same price range as the abovementioned cities :)

Gabor

Sunday 23rd of April 2023

@Wesley,

100 Country Trek

Sunday 23rd of April 2023

Thanks for sharing this idea. We really enjoyed our time in Asia. Anita