Is Southeast Asia Really As Cheap as Everyone Says?


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When you talk to people who have travelled in Southeast Asia, you will probably hear them boast about how incredibly cheap it is to make your way around this part of the world. They will rave about the 25 cent beers they drank in Vietnam or the $8 hotel room they had in Thailand. Are these prices really an accurate representation of what it costs to travel around Southeast Asia, or are these claims too good to be true?

Travellers Selectively Exaggerate

When a traveller is telling you about how cheap Southeast Asia (or any destination) is, remember to take their claims with a pinch of salt. They are probably not lying – they very likely did have a three course meal somewhere for $2. However, the traveller will usually only be telling the stories about the very best value experiences they had during their trip. They will tell you about the cheapest hotels and the times when they got the most for the least money – which can make it sound like everything is cheaper than it really is.

For example, although the price of beer in Cambodia probably averages out at a few dollars a bottle, anyone who has just come back from a trip will probably tell you about the time that they only paid 50 cents for a drink. However, if you go to Cambodia expecting to pay 50 cents for every drink, you will find that this is not exactly the case in every restaurant.

This phenomenon also happens in other situations, such as when describing temperature. If you are making a point to explain how hot somewhere is, you will probably mention the day when the temperature soared to 38 degrees Celsius, but perhaps not the majority of the other days when the temperature was around 30 degrees. A 30 degree day is still very hot, but not as extreme as you might be implying.


Southeast Asia Is Cheap – But Look for Value Rather Than Rock Bottom Prices

The truth is that Southeast Asia is a very affordable travel destination. Your money will go a lot further here than it will in other destinations such as Europe or North America. However, my advice to you after travelling in this region for 10 months is to search for the best value – rather than the cheapest prices.

For example, although it is possible to get an $8 hotel room in this part of the world, you might find that your ultra-cheap room has quite a few flaws such as a cold shower, no Wifi, no windows or an unpleasant smell. By paying even a few dollars more, you will be able to find a room in a slightly nicer hostel or hotel that will give you a much more enjoyable experience overall.

The idea is to focus more on the value you are getting for your money, rather than always seeking out the cheapest price.

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run, packed full with travel guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style for the last three years, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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