20 Tips on How to Travel to Asia on a Budget

These 20 tips will not only save you money, you will have a richer travel experience in Asia as well.

#1 Bargain! In most Asian countries bargaining is customary. Start low because tourists are always quoted a higher price than locals.

#2 Use trains or buses for long trips between cities. Hiring taxis can end up costing you more and they are usually less reliable.

#3 Make friends with locals. Free meals, rides and a place to stay are benefits that can save you a lot of money and not to mention give you a more memorable travel experience.

#4 In Singapore and South Korea you can take advantage of Global Refund, a VAT tax claim system. A 9.9% tax (20% for some items) at over 600 retail outlets can be reclaimed with proof of purchase in South Korea. The GST tax in Singapore is 5% and can be reclaimed on all purchases of goods and services by tourists. Look for the Tax Free Shopping logo.

#5 Track the dollar. The dollar has held steady in China, India and Taiwan and it is fixed in Hong Kong so the deals are still the same. Southeast Asia is generally always a good value and Japan is usually the worst. By researching where your dollar goes the furthest, you can plan accordingly and save.

#6 Use the Cathay Pacific All Asia Airpass. It includes roundtrip airfare from New York or Los Angeles plus 21 days of travel to 18 Asian cities starting at $999. Open only to US residents, it is a great way to see all of Asia without spending a fortune on airline tickets.

#7 When shopping for souvenirs like handicrafts and clothing stay out of tourist shops in airports and shopping centers. Try local markets and small shops where there will likely be the same souvenirs (or better) at far lower prices.

#8 On Singapore Airlines, be sure to take some free postcards while on board. They’ll even pay the postage and mail them for you.

#9 Take advantage of free offers like Tai Chi lessons in Hong Kong. Under the Tsim Sha Tsui clocktower near the Star Ferry every Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 8 a.m. Offers like this can often be found in English newspapers and at tourist centers.

#10 Find package deals that include airfare, accommodation and tours. Not only do they usually save you money, they offer peace of mind with knowing you can sit back and relax and everything is taken care of.

#11 Get outside of the big cities and tourist spots. Consider staying on the outskirts of a city or even in a nearby town or village. Rates are far cheaper and it allows you to immerse yourself more deeply into the culture.

#12 Students and senior citizens can receive discounts all over Asia with international ID cards. Many places won’t have this discount posted, so be sure to ask.

#13 If you are planning on traveling extensively in Japan, a rail pass can be purchased before you leave the states. It can save a ton of money compared to individual train tickets.

#14 If you are on a really tight budget, you might just want to skip Japan altogether.

#15 Theft prevention! An often overlooked, but very necessary budgeting tool is precaution. Money belts, locks and a watchful eye can prevent a theft that could put a major dent in your travel funds. Places like Japan and Singapore generally have very little petty theft, but in poorer countries like those in
Southeast Asia more caution is necessary.

#16 Plan your day and how you’re going to get where you’re going. Unnecessary transportation costs because of poor planning and indecision can really add up, so plan a logical route for your day and how you’re going to get from place to place.

#17 Hotels in large tourist cities like Beijing and Tokyo offer convenient sightseeing tours, but shop around first. Often the same tours can be found nearby for half the price.

#18 Be a thorough reader and ask questions. Read hotel contracts, rental car agreements, and tour information carefully before you sign anything. Tiny clauses in the contract can turn into huge charges if you don’t pay attention.

#19 Instead of eating at nice restaurants every meal, try noodle stands on the street. They are very cheap and can be just as good as restaurant food. Most are clean, but be careful with any meat you eat.

#20 Prioritize sights and attractions. Decide which ones you absolutely can’t miss then see how much money you have left to use for others.