I don’t sell drugs.
I fund all of my trips myself (no sugar daddy in sight).
I am not SUPER rich (God I wish).
While I’m not a “budget” traveler per se, and I don’t always adhere to my budget, one thing I try to stick to is visiting places that are either 1) relatively cheap to get to 2) have a relatively low cost of living so my dollar goes a long way.
Reason # 2 is probably why countries in south-east Asia are my favourite travel destinations to date. Pricy sometimes (and difficult always) to get to, but once you land, totally worth it, trust me.
It has come to my attention, through a very scientific Instagram poll, that a lot of people opt out of travelling to Asia because they think it’s too expensive a destination.
I could weep.
Because while the plane ticket to get there might be a decent chunk of change (I’d say cater $1500USD per person for most destinations), once you land, you have infinitely more price flexibility where accommodation, dining, experiences, and shopping are concerned.
In order to demonstrate this, I decided to share with you guys what my trip to Bali set me back. I’m omitting the cost of Vietnam and Cambodia because I don’t think I stayed long enough in either location to give a comprehensive idea of cost of life (but if you do have questions about either country I’m happy to share what I do know).
The costs cited here are in TT Dollars.
My return ticket to NYC from Trinidad and Tobago cost me $1,136.00 (I used my miles for this leg of the journey, so the cost reflected here is the taxes I had to pay). Signing up for a miles reward programme through a credit card or through an airline is a great idea and I wish I had done it sooner. The great thing about my current miles programme (I have a Scotia Aero Rewards Visa card) is that I’m not tied down to one airline, and there are NO blackout dates for travel (I just have to book at least 14 days before I plan to travel).
In terms of my return to NYC, I have to note that I actually travelled to Bali from NYC, but returned to NYC via Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam because I travelled from Bali to Cambodia to Vietnam. That ticket cost $7,440.04. Generally, though, I’ve checked some of the more affordable months and the cost of a return ticket to and from Bali will run you around this or even less if you’re willing to try the cheapest airline. I had my heart set on flying Korean Air because I travelled with them to Thailand two years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the in-flight experience so I insisted on going with them again. I could have shaved about $1000 off of this cost if I was willing to fly with someone else.
Accommodation is something I am pretty flexible with. I can stay in a hotel one night, a hostel another and a homestay the next and be extremely happy with my choices. My requirements are pretty basic – be clean, and have a/c. Everything else is negotiable.
I didn’t use Airbnb in Bali. I booked all my accommodation on booking.com for a few reasons: I found that a lot of the accommodation listed on Airbnb was also on booking.com at comparable prices. Because I book through booking.com frequently, I have “Genius” status, meaning I get 10% off the cost of many hotels, as well as the option of early check-in and late check-out at some hotels. It was the best choice for my schedule in Bali.
I got into Bali on a Sunday night. Ubud, where I planned to base for most of my trip was about an hour and a half away from the airport, so I opted to stay at a hotel closer to the airport for the night, in an area called Seminyak. I stayed at a chain hotel – Harris – which set me back $200.
Once I got to Ubud, I checked into what I’d consider the most luxurious of all my accommodation for my trip, Adiwana Arya Villas and Residences in Ubud was my home for four nights, costing me $338.50 per night inclusive of breakfast. The only major downside to this accommodation was the distance from the town. I had to get transportation to and from every day, but the hotel had a free scheduled shuttle service, which I used as often as I could. Because I knew I wanted to stay outside of the town centre for the first few days, I specifically looked for a hotel with a free shuttle service into town so I could save on transportation costs.
When I left Adiwana, I headed to another island, Flores, to dive and trek Komodo National Park for the weekend. While this isn’t Bali, I’m still including the cost as I think anyone headed to Bali should make a pit stop to the Komodo National Park if they can.
The return flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo, Flores, was $645.84. I stayed in a private room in a dive hostel near the port – Dragon Dive Komodo Hostel – for three nights, which cost me $275.10 a night for my stay. Now, this is pricy by hostel standards. If you’re willing to stay in shared rooms at a hostel you can get spots as low as $60 a night. As a solo female traveller though, I opt only for private rooms in hostels, ideally with an en-suite bathroom but I will share a bathroom if necessary.
Back in Bali, I stayed one night in Kuta, which is an area near the airport again, and that hotel cost $188.34.
Once I got back to Ubud, I checked in to an inn (which is like a bed and breakfast, Bali style) Gatra Ubud Inn, which turned out to be my cheapest accommodation for my entire stay, costing just $120.51 a night inclusive of breakfast.
All the necessary travel and accommodation expenses for my two-week Indonesia trip came up to just over $12,000.
As for any additional expenses – my travel insurance for my entire three-week trip cost $1022.73. Bear in mind that this includes my visit to Vietnam and Cambodia as well, plus, I took the Explorer option on World Nomads so my scuba diving could be covered. A basic package for two weeks travel will cost less.
Food and drink in Bali were ridiculously affordable. The average cost of an entree in a top-rated restaurant was around $40 – $50.
Transport was also very cheap. A 1 1/2 hour taxi to Ubud from Bali’s airport run me between $120 – $140. To get around Ubud and Kuta I used motorcycle taxi and the most I paid for any trip was $6. That was the 20-minute ride back to Adiwana from the town centre. Most trips within the city centre cost less than $3.
I didn’t do many tours while in Bali but the ones I did do were full-day private tours in an air-conditioned vehicle and included a personal guide and entrance fees to major sites and cost between $355 to $400.
You can find cheaper tours if you’re travelling in a group or open to joining a group.
So there you have it, now you know all my business.
I fully acknowledge this is not a cheap vacation by any stretch, but I hope you were at least a little bit pleasantly surprised by what it cost me to travel to this jewel in south-east Asia.
Travel to far-flung destinations doesn’t have to break the bank, it just requires patience when planning, flexibility and above all else, an open mind.
Right now I’m toying with the idea of starting a vacation-planning or consultancy service to help other people make their bucket-list destinations a reality.
What do you guys think? Is something like that worth exploring?
Let me know in the comments!