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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

1 February 2011

Budget Update Asia

Written by Maureen, Financial Director of M&M Ltd

Our goal in Asia was to enjoy ourselves while spending less, and save up for Indonesia where we plan to meet up with friends and family. So how did we do?

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is easy to summarise. A cosy room in a budget guesthouse was a reasonable £41 per night, and our most expensive meal cost £25. But you can easily spend less on food. The only reason we did not do better in Hong Kong was because of necessary purchases such as sending a parcel home and buying a batch of contact lenses.

Average daily spend: £99 (3 nights) Special fun: £0 Verdict: Good!

Nepal and Tibet

You can survive on a very small budget in Nepal – our budget guesthouse in Kathmandu was £17 per night and it was decent even if you had to be limber to use the sink. A more comfortable stay in a boutique hotel cost £43. Food is extremely cheap – dinner for two at our favourite local restaurant came under £5, including soft drinks. At the other end of the scale, we spent all of £29 on a meal at a posh hotel restaurant.

So did we save a lot of money? Hmm, not quite. We went on two organised trekking trips which threw a curve ball at everything. In total, our treks came to £1,489, not including food and drink, or tips for guides and porters. Given that a crummy room in a crummy trekking lodge cost as little as $2 per night, we could (should?) have saved money by going it alone.

We also signed up for a package in Bardia, which costed a shocking $75 per person per day. Definitely a mistake, since accommodation-only costs around £12 per night, and it was not difficult to arrange activities independently.

The price of our 7-day private overland trip to Tibet was £243 per night. So some of this had to come out of our special fun budget too.

Average daily spend: £101 (47 nights) Special fun: £980 (trekking and Tibet) Verdict: Poor!

Thailand

There are regional differences in prices, with North Thailand being better value. Our cheapest accommodation was £8 per night in Pai, our most expensive £59 per night at a secluded beach resort on Koh Yao Noi. It came free with all manner of in-room wildlife which was a novelty if at times a little startling. Award for worst value, however, goes to our New Years Eve hotel, with its naff, compulsory, sinfully overpriced gala dinner. Worth noting that (apart from our floating bungalow on Khao Sok lake) everywhere we stayed was en-suite, super-clean, and provided free drinking water and toiletries.

Food was very cheap and we could easily survive on £9 per day, particularly eating street food and in local restaurants. They were all fantastic too. Public transport was also good value – a 24-hour sleeper train journey cost just £19 per person. Hiring a car was slightly more expensive at £21 per day.

We went on two special wildlife trips: a week in Hala Bala, and three days kayakking in Khao Sok. Apart from these which came out of our special fun budget, everything else came under daily spend, including the occasional treats such as massages, cocktails, snorkelling trips, excursions, etc.

Average daily spend: £82 (45 nights) Special fun: £1,248 (wildlife) Verdict: Good!

Cambodia

You can stay in very nice hotels in Cambodia for a song and we did. Our hotel in Battambang was marginally more expensive at £39pn, but both were superb. Like everywhere else in Asia, food was cheap and on average we spent £14 a day on meals.

Despite hiring guides in both Angkor and Battambang, treating ourselves to a couple of modest Christmas gifts and enjoying extra treats like massages and a (relatively) expensive meal, we just managed to stay under budget in Cambodia.

Average daily spend: £96 (9 nights) Special fun: £0 Verdict: Good!

Malaysia

Our backpacker guesthouse on Penang cost £19 per night, and it was pretty good though not up to the same standard as Thailand (strictly no freebies). We spent £14 a day on our crap hire car, the very definition of “a false economy”. In hindsight, we should have hired one from a reputable company and got useful extras like insurance. Food was cheap – on Penang, we sampled local cuisine in food courts and local restaurants for around £17 a day.

We also took a special trip to Langkawi to search for the oriental small-clawed otter. Including guide and transport, this came to around £250, a proportion of which came out of the special otter budget.

Average daily spend: £73 (7 nights) Special fun: £84 (otters) Verdict: Good!

Singapore

It’s true – Singapore really is expensive. Our hotel (which really was a backpacker place) costs £56 a night, but even so we might have stayed under budget, except that after weeks of budget-watching, we seemed to have buckled under the sudden onslaught of commercialism. About the hairdresser: I still think they were four hours well spent.

Oh yes, we also bought some clothes, but I seem to have mislaid the receipts for them. Lucky we only stayed four nights.

Average daily spend: £88 (4 nights) Special fun: £350 (food and hair) Verdict: Naughty but nice!

Conclusions
Having arrived in Asia at £12 in budget, we have now arrived in Indonesia a satisfying £880 under budget, and carrying a moderately fat wallet for special fun too. Mission accomplished!

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2 Responses to “Budget Update Asia”

  1. Elle says:

    Hi, again! My youngest daughter, Rebecca, 8yrs, has just noticed your traveling companions. Would you care to introduce them to me again, so I can explain properly?

    Thanks,
    L

    • shortclaws says:

      Surely! The little tan fellow is Montezuma, and he is a Mara (apparently from South America, though we found him in Gloucestershire). He likes piri-piri and is definitely not a hippo. His small companion is only called Tiny Wee Sheep, he was a gift from New Zealand and he is an incarnation of pure evil – thankfully he is very small and only has tiny woolly mittens, so he can’t do much harm.

      They travel with us everywhere, but are not very wordy and so unlike travelling mascots we have seen on other blogs, these little guys don’t make their own posts.

      Feel free to explain all that. : )

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