Thrilling, stimulating, and at times extremely frustrating, traveling is such a rewarding experience, although if you’re not careful about your budget traveling, it can easily cost you a lot of money. Finding a balance between careful planning while keeping an open mind and “going with the flow” is paramount when traveling to South East Asia. Most regions speak English as a second, third or fifth language, however, I was very surprised that the city of Bangkok wasn’t as fluent as I had expected, you might have to use your hands, draw pictures, and smile a lot while trying to communicate!
Food, religions, social norms, transportation, climate, currencies, population:
Everything is so different! I have begun using affirmations in my morning meditations to help guide me through my day, one that I used today is: “No expectations and no disappointments”, embracing all differences, all comforts from home should be left at the airport gate. So you can keep on your budget traveling.
Photo: Arjuna Statue in Ubud
Food Courts, Warungs and Street Food:
In Thailand and Singapore, food courts are the places to go, fresh cooked and delicious food for anywhere between 50 to 100 Thai Baht ($1.50-$3 US) and under $10 SGD ($7 US). Ask the locals where to eat, they’ll lead you to the most affordable and delicious spots. Bali’s local eateries are called “Warungs”, stick to their local dishes and you’re all set. I ate for under 40.000 IDR ($3 US) today, my lunch included a whole grilled fish, rice, steamed vegetables, soup, and a fresh ice ginger drink. Some warungs will make an attempt to offer “western” dishes, here’s a word of caution from my 12 year old daughter, “don’t eat the spaghetti bolognese, it might be noodles and ketchup”…
Careful with the streetfood everywhere, you don’t want your trip to be spent in the bathroom sick with food poisoning!!
I limit my meals to two per day, I try to have my breakfast included in my accomodation so that I only have to pay for one meal, usually at around 4pm. I will grab some delicious fresh tropical fruits to keep me going and also be on my budget traveling, trust me the heat will curb your appetite. The important thing is to drink lots of water.
Photo: My daughter Juliette surveys the crushed ice options in Singapore.
My first stop is exploring the public transit system in big cities, I get lost a lot, which forces me to ask for help, and I have had only great experiences finding my way back! People are always very happy to practice their English with a lost visitor! Asian countries have very efficient public transport, and the price is so right! Purchase a rail/subway/skytrain pass for the day, explore the city, get off at different stops and walk around…
In less developed places like Bali, you might be brave enough to rent a motorbike (a Honda Vario or a Scoopy scooter), this can cost you anywhere between 50.000 IDR and 10.000 IDR ($4 US – $8 US), motorbike rental signs line the streets, you could also rent a “push bike” (bicycle). Hiring a driver for a day is another way to go, riding in a comfortable air conditioned car is well worth the 500.000 IDR ($45 US) per day. Before even getting into the car I always ask “how much”? Bargain Bargain Bargain!So that will keep you on your budget traveling.
Photo: Gili T and Gili Meno Islands, Bali
Finding a clean and affordable place to stay can be a little daunting, do a Google search for “cheap places to stay in (location)”, you’ll find travel blogs with recommendations and e-mail links for booking directly with the host. A lot of places SE Asia are not signed up with booking agents, this is where you’ll be using your careful planning skills. Agoda, hotels.com and booking.com are a good start.
For Bali, my recommendation is to book a place on Airbnb for the first night or two. Homestays are family compounds that will rent out a couple of rooms to tourists. You won’t get the same privacy as you would in a hotel, however you’ll be giving yourself an authentic travel experience, while saving heaps of money and keep you on your budget traveling. You’ll find some very basic rooms offering “hot showers”, while some homestays will offer you more luxury with a shared pool and air conditioning! Breakfast is usually included. You can find a place for as little as 60.000 IDR ($4.50 US) per night! Remember to always bargain for the best price.
Photo: Laplapan, Ubud Bali.
In Singapore, Little India and China Town are eccentric and quaint areas to find accommodation. I now know why everyone takes the subway in Singapore, it is just too hot to walk outside in the afternoon, everyone is indoors in the air conditioned malls!
Rule of Thumb: When booking, ALWAYS inquire if airport pick up and drop off facility is included. This will save you some stress and taxi money after a long flight also keep you on your budget traveling.
Photo: Food Court in Bangkok
Clarke Quay is a good spot for lunch, walk through the beautiful Raffles Hotel for some colonial history… Visit the three temples: The Chinese Buddhist Temple, the Hindu Temple and the Mosque. All three are spectacular and for a minimal fee you can tour each one of them, they are all within minutes of each other. Singapore can be extremely expensive, although with the right planning, you can have a very rich travel experience… Google is my new best friend.
Hiring a guide for a day isn’t a bad idea, lunch and transportation is included, and you’ll be taken to some really great spots. We visited the King’s Palace, temples, the Reclining Buddha, and floated on the Chao Phraya river. An awe-inspiring day for 3,500 Thai Baht ($100 US), this was well worth the money.
Tuk-Tuks are so much fun! Let yourself be driven around town in a motorized chariot! If you’re given a price that sounds too high, as my 12 year old daughter sais, keep walking, another one will appear… Again, make sure to ask your concierge or inn-keeper about the going rates for tuk-tuks, you always want to have an idea of the best price, so that will keep you on your budget traveling.
I’ve never really been a big shopper, but Bangkok is awesome! We went to MBK, a massive mall, where you can find anything and everything and the prices are incredible…. And make sure to treat yourself to a Thai massage!!! Photo: Shopping at MBK, Bangkok, Thailand.
Photo: Shopping at MBK, Bangkok, Thailand.
Temples, rice fields, surfing, snorkeling, yoga-ing, there is so much to do.
Bali is known for healing, nurturing and nourishing, take full advantage of the very inexpensive massage opportunities, go for a soul cleansing in a sacred spring, take a yoga class or two, and enjoy the food.
Photo: Ubud, Bali
Currencies and SIM Cards:
I like to use a currency exchange app on my smartphone, there are several, and they are easy to use. In a quick moment, I am able to verify the exchange.
Stop in at a cellular phone shop and ask to purchase a local SIM card, usually very inexpensive, this gives you a local number, so if you get lost while exploring the city, you can google map your location and find your way home! I’ve done this several times, Google Maps is a lifesaver for me!!
Photo: Reclining Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand.
Photo: River Boat, Bangkok, Thailand
There will be frustrating times, awakening moments, there will be times when you will want to just stop and absorb. Make sure to listen to your body, drink lots of water and rest when you need to. Taste the food, listen to the sounds, smile at everyone, enjoy your experience. Remember that you are offering yourself a magnificient gift, you’re opening your mind and eyes to another world, gaining wisdom and building your story. I wish you a fascinating, sublime and wondrous adventure!
Photo: Gili Meno, Bali Indonesia