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Budget Travel Series: Top 3 Must-Visit Destinations in Asia

Continental Asia offers up a diverse range of experiences and cultures for the budget friendly traveller. From unspoilt beaches and wild forests, to cosmopolitan cities and ancient cultures, here are the top 3 cheap holiday destinations in Asia.

1. Sri Lanka

From unspoilt beaches to ancient ruins, world-renowned teas and irresistible eats, Sri Lanka is a budget travel destination that demands your attention.

Located off the southern coast of India, the nation formerly known as Ceylon is surrounded by oceans on all sides, with dazzling and unique environments that beg to be explored.

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Train trip to Ella Gap

Sri Lanka by train is a charming old world experience that’s budget friendly and a great opportunity to glimpse some of the country’s most magnificent moments.

The train from Ella to Kandy is a breathtaking journey, and depending on your level of luxury, can cost as little as AUD$8.

A few days on the beaches of Tangalla

A gateway to some of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka, Tangalla also boasts temples, towers and Instagram-worthy views.

Sri Lanka is reasonably affordable year round, but a week for two in the middle of peak season (January) will set you back as little as $20 a night.

Additionally, there’s a range of delicious food options in Tangalla for that cost less than $5 a meal. For what some describe as the best beach in the world, that’s a steal.

Climb Pidurangala Rock

A lesser-known alternative to Sri Lanka’s infamous Sigiriya (Lion) Rock, Pidurangala Rock is located just 2km north of Sigiriya and is arguably just as impressive. Since Sigiriya Rock is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, most tourists will flock directly to this spot to climb the natural wonder, however entrance tickets are fairly exxy at 4,500 rupees, which is the equivalent to around AUD$38.

A visit to Pidurangala on the other hand will only set you back about AUD$4, which also grants you a visit to Pidurangala Royal Cave Temple at the foot of the path. Although the climb is slightly more challenging, the views at the top are worth it. The summit of Pidurangala offers a stunning panorama of the Sigiriya forested plain, as well as an uninterrupted view of Sigiriya – a unique perspective that you won’t get anywhere else.

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Image courtesy of Tanja_reisid via TripAdvisor

“We were heading to Sigiriya when tuktuk driver suggested Pidurangala rock as a cheaper option. We did not regret it! The views from there to Sigirya rock are definitely more spectacular that [sic] in opposite direction.” – Tanja_reisid (October 2017)

Sri Lanka budget breakdown:

  • Flights: Flights as cheap as $400 one way.
  • Visas: A 30 day double entry tourist visa will cost around $50.
  • Accommodation: $10-40 a night.
  • Transportation: Small trips $1. You can train the entire island for less than $20.
  • Food: $2-5 daily.
  • Spending: Fantastic clothes and jewellery available for under $10.
  • Daily budget: Around $55 including accommodation.

2. Northern Thailand

A playground for hikers, rafting and outdoor adventuring, Northern Thailand’s rugged landscape is the ideal adventure for travellers looking to get off the beaten track.

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There’s also a number of exciting cultural experiences on offer, exploring temples and discovering the history of Sukhothai Park. And when you’re done immersing yourself in nature and culture, Pai is the perfect place to blow off some steam.

Unwind in Chiang Mai

Thailand’s northern capital is a gorgeous escape from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, and is a city that is sure to capture anyone’s heart. Historic monasteries, night markets, white water rafting, zip lining, gorgeous temples, exceptional cuisine and so much more – Chiang Mai is any traveller’s dream.

Party in Pai

Pai’s buzzing nightlife perfectly complements the more relaxed nature of Northern Thailand. The downtown area offers countless guesthouses, buzzing bars, restaurants and trekking agencies – offering a central district to plan new adventures and recover from journeys already travelled.

Though comparisons are often made with Khao San Road and other party areas, this inland town is far more laid back than its busier counterparts. It’s a must see on your budget tour of Northern Thailand.

Get up close with elephants in Pai

Spend an afternoon in the company of elephants with Conserve Natural Forests. This NGO provides genuine conservation and restorative help to the natural ecosystems of Northern Thailand, through reforestation and wildlife protection projects.

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Image courtesy of Emma J via TripAdvisor

“I am so happy to have experienced the elephants at Conserve Natural Forests. It wasn’t just an experience, it was an entire afternoon spent in the company of elephants with amazing food … If you are in Pai or anywhere close you absolutely have to visit CNF. It will make your time here so worth it.” – Emma J (June 2017)

Northern Thailand budget breakdown:

  • Flights: Plan ahead and you get can deals for as little as $500 return. Average cost could set you back $1000-$1200.
  • Accommodation: Hostels in Chiang Mai go as little as $16, with Pai even cheaper.
  • Food: Local style meals cost about $5-8 a day. For Western foods, expect to pay a little more. Both Chiang Mai and Pai have some excellent cuisines, so let your budget stretch for the local culinary experience.
  • Transport: Quick rides around town will cost you around $2.
  • Spending: Gifts, clothes and jewellery are usually less than $10.

3. Malaysia

Breathtaking, traditional and cosmopolitan, Malaysia is a unique and engaging country with plenty to delight the budget traveller.

Separated by the South China Sea, the peninsula is crammed with cities, endless plantations and secretive islands, while Malaysian Borneo is where remote tribes dwell in deep jungles and animal abundance can be seen on even the tamest of treks.

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Explore the vibrant capital of Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia’s bustling capital is packed with soaring skyscrapers, historic monuments, lush parks, giant shopping malls, and vibrant streets lined with food delicious stalls. KL is a city best explored on foot. On almost every corner you’ll find some sort of surprise; from hawker stalls and traditional coffee shops, to antique dealers and offbeat, independent designer stores.

Mt Kinabalu & Kinabalu National Park

The National Park and its mountainous surroundings are breathtaking, and welcome the budget traveller that enjoys an outdoor adventure. However, with the monopolisation of accommodation and services on the mountain, climbs to the peak mean you’ll need to save your pennies, as prices are 4-5 times more expensive on the mountain than the rest of Malaysia.

If you’re not up for the 4095m climb and want to save on costs, the mountain base has a large network of gorgeous nature trails to explore.

Discover tropical Pulau Langkawi

Known as the mysterious “Legendary Island”, Langkawi is the largest of the 99 islands in Langkawi archipelago. Expect pristine beaches, turquoise waters and perfectly intact jungle in this untouched paradise. Still relatively underdeveloped, Langkawi is definitely tourist friendly, but retains its native charm as the locals continue to live just as they have for generations.

For those unafraid of heights, the suspended SkyBridge is a must-do activity while in Langkawi. A cable car to the bridge costs around AUD$16 whilst entry to the bridge is around AUD$3 – a reasonable cost for the unbeatable views it offers over the island.

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Image courtesy of Lalitha5645 via TripAdvisor

“The Sky Bridge is an engineering marvel. The views from there are breathtaking. You have views of the sea and islands below on one side, and of the mountains on the other.” – Lalitha5645 (September 2017)

Malaysia budget breakdown:

  • Flights: Flight prices can vary widely to airports like Kuala Lumpur and Penang, ranging from $350-$600 one way. A return trip from most international airports in Australia will set you back somewhere to the tune of $1000.
  • Accommodation: Cheap hostels are available for as little as $17 a night, though budget for $25-30 during peak season.
  • Travel: Public transport in major cities like KL is relatively cheap and reliable, and there are usually travel cards available if you plan to use them often.
  • Food: Yummy street food can be had for $4-8 AUD while a more upmarket meal with drinks costs around $20.
  • Shopping: Shopping in Malaysia can be great fun. For the budget traveller $50 in gifts and personal items can stretch a long way.

There’s never been a better time to travel

When the wanderlust sets in, there’s no use fighting it. Explore top destinations in Asia with a bit of help from SRG finance. Talk to us today and find out how we can turn your dream holiday into a reality.