A huge amount of meticulous planning and organization went into the making of this trip, and the most challenging part probably was managing the expenses. Since this was going to be a full two-week trip with four countries involved, we knew from the get-go that we would have to shell out quite a bit, but we also knew we wanted/needed to keep the expenses at bay. It was also important to us that we strike a good balance between experience and ease — we want to try and do as much and visit as many places as possible, but without sacrificing overall comfort.
Below is the
very detailed breakdown of our trip expenses throughout 14 days and 4 countries.
*WARNING: Long post ahead ?
We’ve noticed recently some incredibly cheap cross-country trips going viral over Facebook, and while it may be eye-catching and absolutely possible if you forego a couple of expenses, it was not what we wanted. What we wanted was to enjoy the whole experience and connect with the places we’re going to, and we knew we can’t do that if we’re all groggy from lack of a good night’s sleep or grumpy because our backs are sore. This is why right after we booked our flights (on promo from Cebu Pacific!), our first expenses were accommodation bookings.
ACCOMMODATION – We wanted to get private rooms or whole apartments as much as possible, all the while keeping in mind our budget and the good strategic locations we wanted to be in. Coincidentally, we were able to book different types of listings for the different countries we went to (a hostel, a bungalow, a hotel, and an apartment), and it was a good mix of steal and splurge. Our Siem Reap accommodation was a total steal!
LAND TRANSFERS – We booked all our land transfers for crossing the borders online, pre-flight. We figured this was much easier and would ensure that we don’t run out of seats.
We used 12go.asia to book our roundtrip sleeper train tickets as well as the bus we took to get to Siem Reap. This made things easier because we didn’t have to rush to the railway and bus stations just to make sure that we get the trip schedules that fit our itinerary. Since our two-week trip was jampacked, there was absolutely no room for missed bus or train rides; we had to make sure that we were right on schedule, else we’d incur additional expenses or suffer sleeping on terminals. The bookings were paid in THB:
- 2nd class sleeper train ticket per pax (Bangkok-Nongkhai route,one-way): THB 1,088 (there is a THB 45 refund per person when you pick up the tickets at the 12go.asia office in across the Hua Lamphong Railway Station)
- Bus fare per pax from Bangkok to Siem Reap: THB 750
We had a bit of a hard time looking for a bus company option to go with from Cambodia to Vietnam because of all the bad reviews and blog posts online, but then we chanced upon Giant Ibis Transport, a Cambodian “affordable luxury” bus company that offers several destinations. From all our research, it was the only bus company with a good working website that also lets you book online as well as chat with a helpline agent (very helpful!). Booking a bus with them was just like booking a flight, except that we had to pay in USD:
- Bus fare per pax from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh: USD 16
- Bus fare per pax from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh: USD 19
INTERNET – We highly recommend getting the traveller sim in Thailand, especially if you’ll be spending a lot of time exploring outside. The one from TrueMoveH which we purchased right at the airport had really fast internet and wide coverage — we even got to use it on the way to Laos up to some parts of Vientiane, and since we got the 2.5GB 7-day package, we were able to use it also on our way back to Bangkok and when we were on the bus to Siem Reap.
GENERAL TRANSPORTATION – We decided to mostly make use of Uber and Grab since we were a group of four and it was the cheaper way to go even when compared with the BTS or bus fares. To get an idea of how much a trip would generally cost us, we used Google Maps‘ “Get Directions” function (Transit Mode).
If travelling alone or with a smaller group, the trains would be the best way to get around; Bangkok’s train systems are fairly easy to use and understand, and are satisfyingly reliable. Transit Bangkok provides an in-depth guide to the city’s public transportation system.
GETTING AROUND AYUTTHAYA – You can rent motorbikes and bicycles in Ayutthaya, but if you only have a day to explore then tuktuks are the best option. For this one, our initial budget based from research was just THB 200 per person, so we were slightly shocked when the tuktuk driver was asking for THB 500! It was definitely over our budget so we had to do some haggling until the price went down to THB 325 (THB 1300 for the whole tuktuk ride for 4 hours).
FOOD – Meals in Thailand are definitely on the cheaper side especially if you go to the street/local restaurants versus established ones. An average meal usually is just around THB 40-50 (pork basil, noodle soup with pork/chicken/beef, mixed fried rice); a tall glass of thai iced milk tea ranges from THB 15-25. Meals from bigger restaurants however can range from THB 60-90, or more.
LAO IMMIGRATION – There really isn’t supposed to be any immigration fee of sorts for travellers coming from ASEAN countries, so we don’t know why we were all asked THB 50 each. We tried asking why there was a fee but we were told it was for the stamp. ?? The fee was definitely unrecorded and without any kind of receipt, but what’s weirder was that the Thai national before us in the immigration line was asked THB 100, while the Australian national had to pay in USD. We all ended up paying the asked amount though because we couldn’t really argue with the officers and risk not getting in the country. ?
GENERAL TRANSPORTATION – It’s easy to take note of bus and van fares in Vientiane because the terminals almost always have signages up, but what’s hard is to get a properly priced tuktuk because most of them are very much overpriced once they see that you are travellers.
GETTING AROUND VANG VIENG – Unlike Vientiane, there’s little to no tuktuks in Vang Vieng. You can however rent bicycles and motorcycles to get around the town. Bicycle rentals cost KIP 10,000-30,000 depending on the type of bike, while motorcycles cost around KIP 100,000 for 24 hours (KIP 80,000 for automatic motorcycles + KIP 20,000 for 2L of gas). Some tour agencies also offer dune buggy rentals, but you can only use them during the tour and may cost up to KIP 100,000/hour.
FOOD – An average meal in Vang Vieng ranges from KIP 15,000-25,000 (traditional lao noodles, fried rice, pork basil with mint, fresh fruits etc), but their servings are always huge.
MISCELLANEOUS – It should be noted that most public restrooms in Laos (mainly Vientiane) require a small fee of KIP 2000-3000, which already include free use of water and some toilet paper.
LAO IMMIGRATION – Again with the unexplained immigration fee. We exited Laos via bus instead of train but like before, there was still a fee. This time however, it was a bit more formalized and with a sort of receipt, but the whole thing still seems a bit ridiculous: after getting the exit stamps on our passports, we had to line up to a counter where we were asked to pay KIP 11,0000 or THB 50 for a magnetic card that we would need to use to get pass the turnstile gates installed. It was literally just 5 steps away from the counter to the gates.
INTERNET – We bought Cellcard sims for USD 6 each which included 5GB of mobile data plus unlimited calls and texts. Technically, the sim card was just USD 5 but the load package costs USD 1. We did not expect Siem Reap to have good internet access, but they do!
TRANSPORTATION – On our first day in Cambodia, we had a complimentary tuktuk service provided by the hotel and they picked us up at the bus station. For our temple tours, we had Mr. Rith set us a package for a 1-day tuktuk service around the Angkor Archaeological Park and a 1-day car service for the Koh Ker/Beng Mealea tour; it was priced at USD 100 all in all, good for 4 pax. This also included unlimited free cold water and fruit snacks during the tour, historical stories about Cambodia and its temples, and Mr. Rith’s topnotch service.
On our trips from the hotel to Pub Street (3.3km), tuktuk rentals costed USD 3 per trip for the whole vehicle.
FOOD – Our food in Siem Reap was probably the priciest since we did not have the chance to thoroughly explore the town. We mostly ate at the hotel restaurant which averages USD 5 per meal, and at the cafe which was a bit cheaper at USD 2.5-3 per meal. We did, however, tried some happy pizza from Happy Special Pizza where pizza prices range from USD 3-5 (small), USD 6-7 (medium), and USD 9-10 (large). There is no extra fee for the happy ingredient ?
MISCELLANEOUS – Massages at the hotel range from USD 11-20, but the ones at Pub Street start at USD 8.
INTERNET – Perhaps the best internet package we’ve had on the trip, Viettel offers a whopping 10GB of mobile data with free calls and texts good for 1 month for just VND 200,000. Since we barely consumed the 5GB per sim we had in Cambodia and we’re only staying in Vietnam for 2 days, we decided to just buy 1 sim card for the whole group. We still had great internet connection even with all four of us connected at the same time.
TRANSPORTATION – Again, we stuck to Uber and Grab for transportation because of our group size. If travelling alone though, UberMoto and GrabBike seem to be the most common way of commuting around Ho Chi Minh. To get an idea of how much a trip would generally cost, we used Google Maps‘ “Get Directions” function (Transit Mode).
FOOD – A regular serving of pho or bun mam ranges from VND 45,000-60,000 while bahn mis can go from VND 25,000-35,000. Iced coffees (ca phe sua da) and juices which are commonly sold along the streets range from VND 15,000-25,000.
MISCELLANEOUS – There are a lot of bargain places along the Ben Thanh area aside from the market and night market itself. Inside Ben Thanh market, branded dried fruits (Vinamit) are sold at VND 50,000 but you can haggle up to VND 45,000-48,000 per pack. (We got the VND 45,000 price only because it was already closing time and the stall we went to was literally packing up).
All in all we only got to spend less than PHP 45,000 per person including airfare, shopping, tours, food, transportation, and other miscellaneous costs. Without the unnecessary expenses, one can even go for as low as less than PHP 40,000 all in. The total amount could still be cheaper, but we chose to fill the trip with experiences that came with a price, like our hot air balloon ride in Vang Vieng and the temple tour in Siem Reap, as well as some comfort along the way.
A roundup of all our Indochina guides can be found here.