4 Uncommon Cities in Southeast Asia to Explore on a Budget

The most common excuse people use for why they don’t travel is the steep cost. The belief that travel has to be expensive is a myth – oftentimes, you choose to travel as extravagantly or as frugally as you wish. Southeast Asia has been frequented by backpackers for years and it’s the perfect destination if you are looking to travel on a budget. With local food stalls serving traditional cuisine and many budget-friendly youth hostels, it is very realistic to survive on less than $20 USD a day. The following are a few Southeast Asian towns and cities off the beaten path that offer rich local culture and activities that satisfy even the most adventure-hungry travelers.

Koh Rong Island, Cambodia

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Koh Rong, the second largest island in Cambodia, is home to lush jungles and 23 white sand beaches that are still relatively unaffected by tourism. There are no paved roads on the island so you can trek through the island’s untouched beaches and tropical jungles during the day or go diving and snorkeling in the island’s turquoise waters with a native Khmer guide for only $10-20 USD a day. At night, admire the surreal phosphorescent water caused by bio-luminescent plankton illuminated by moonlight. It will feel like you are in a dream.

Many of the island’s amenities are basic but it is an ideal place to spend quiet time in serene nature at a very affordable price! Basic lodging begins at around $10 USD and fancier bungalows start at around $25 USD.

Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

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Sagada is located in Mountain Province, Philippines, and is a 12-15 hour drive north from the capital Manila. Sagada is a place largely untouched by modern culture with beautiful natural surroundings. Main attractions include hikes through vibrant green valleys encompassed by rice terraces and spelunking in the area’s two huge, naturally formed caves. Sagada is famous for its hanging coffins, hung on the side of cliffs by the indigenous Igorot people who occupy the Mountain Province. This custom has been practiced for over 2000 years.

Lodging is basic in Sagada and it is a very backpacker and budget friendly place. While you will not be pampered in a luxury hotel, you will experience a fascinating way of living along with nature and exciting outdoors adventures.

Luang Pabrang, Laos

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Situated in a valley along a river, Luang Pabrang is a funky little town surrounded by a lush, jungle-like hillside that is well known for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Every morning, monks wake up at 5am to collect offerings, walking in procession and collecting food for the day for those willing to give it to them. The main strip market is located beside the only hill within the valley, which has the popular Wat Chom Si temple sitting at the top. Main tourist attractions are the Luang Pabrang are the Kuang Si and Tat Sae waterfalls, located about 10-15 km outside of town and accessible by motorcycle tuk tuk.

Many inexpensive hostels and lodgings are within a ten minute walk of the main strip market, and local food stalls are ubiquitous. Because of its rich cultural heritage, natural beauty and affordability, Luang Pabrang has come from under the radar for backpackers in recent years.

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

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Ubud, consisting of 14 villages, is located in central Bali. The town has a strong arts and crafts culture and many temples, including Goa Gajah, or elephant cave. Ubud is a great place to rent a bicycle or scooter and explore the picturesque countryside with its landscape of beautiful rice paddies and jungles. The north of Ubud is home to Mount Batur, an active volcano with a challenging hike that must be done with a guide. Indulge in yoga, traditional Indonesian dance performances, local foods, and river rafting on the Ayung River west of Ubud as well as within the Ayung gorge.

With a range of accommodations, you can splurge on five star spa resorts or travel on a budget staying in hostels starting at $5 a night.

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