A major vacation to Asia doesn't need to break the bank. Just because the plane tickets are pricey doesn't mean you can't make up some of that money with affordable accommodations and activities. To get your planning started, here are five Asian cities that are surprisingly affordable to visit.
Price of Travel listed Hanoi as their top pick for the cheapest city in Asia. When it comes to cost, there are plenty of more affordable hotels in the Old City, while more luxurious options can be found in the outskirts. Attractions are quite budget-friendly, which means you can see and do more than in some other destinations.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and has notable influences of French, Chinese and Southeast Asian cultures throughout the city. Located on the Red River banks, travelers to Hanoi will find plenty of French colonial buildings along with ancient pagodas. Hanoi is also highly-regarded for its cuisine. Be sure to try the exciting street eats you’ll find at the markets here. Hanoi is also a key jumping off point for Ha Long Bay.
You definitely won’t go hungry in Taipei, which is renowned for its street food scene. Night markets are everywhere, and $5 can buy you a filling meal.
Taipei has no shortage of things to see and do, many of which are free or quite inexpensive. Relax at some of the local hot springs, hike Elephant Mountain for incredible views of the city or take the Maokong gondola up to see the Muzha tea plantations. Stop by the tea museum there to learn more about local tea culture or stop by one of the numerous tea houses to take part in a traditional tea ceremony.
Getting around Taipei is easy and safe. Hop on the MRT system with regular trains that connect all the main tourist stops, or hail one of the many taxis on any Taipei street for a short trip across town.
Vientiane, the capital of Laos, feels more like a large village than a chaotic city. It’s located along the banks of the Mekong River and has a strong French colonial vibe. There is even a replica of the Arc de Triomphe here, built in 1969 to commemorate those who died in pre-revolutionary battles. You can climb the stairs to get a bird’s-eye view of Vientiane.
There is no shortage of Asian culture present in Vientiane either. You’ll see monks wandering the streets while the smell of delicious dishes waft from local noodle shops. If you need a break from Asian eats, Vientiane is also known for its countless cafes — pop in for a decadent cake or pastry one afternoon. There are plenty of attractions to work off all the delicious food too. You can also arrange a variety of adventure tours to neighboring areas, including biking, trekking and rafting.
Your dollar will go far here, with super cheap hostels and meals that can run you around $5, but there are also beautiful resorts if you want to splurge.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
If you’re looking for a city in Asia that could serve as a home base for a month or two, consider Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s become one of the top cities for digital nomads due to its infrastructure, numerous coworking spots and inexpensive cost of living. If you opt to stay in local accommodations, you might find an apartment for only several hundred dollars a month, while meals can run just a couple of dollars.
For short-term travelers, there is no shortage of fascinating attractions nearby. Chiang Mai is often called the “Rose of the North” with its beautiful architecture and several hundred temples. Because of its location, it’s cooler than other cities in Thailand, and it’s less chaotic than Bangkok.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur has long been regarded as one of the more affordable cities in Asia. It often makes the roundup for cheapest cities in Asia. Your dollar will go further here than many other large Asian cities. You can save even more by taking advantage of numerous free attractions in the city.
Lodging options run the gamut, with everything from $10 hostels to $200 5-star hotels. Kuala Lumpur is the home base for Air Asia, one of the biggest low-cost carriers in this part of the world. You can hop all over Asia for a fraction of the cost if you look for flights to and from Kuala Lumpur.