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BACKPACKING ON A BUDGET

June 6, 2018

I’ve had quite a few people asking me about my very first backpacking trip. They ask me the same questions over and over again–not that I’m complaining. They always ask me where I booked my flights, where I stayed, how I did it and how much my budget was. So I have finally written it down for everyone to see. So here goes:

I stayed for about 15 days in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. My budget was $500 for the whole trip, except my flight tickets which cost around $75 (round trip) via Cebu Pacific.

I have no idea how I’ll write this down because I wasn’t really keeping track of my expenses…but here goes.

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My first stop was: Bangkok, Thailand! I took a flight from Manila, Philippines to Bangkok, Thailand via Cebu Pacific.  It took about 3h and 20m to get there. Not very long, I must say.

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I was very hesitant to go out on my first few days because I was afraid I was gonna run out of money sooner than expected.

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I looked for places where I didn’t need to pay to get into, and one place I found was this gem of a temple called Wat Bowonniwet Vihara.

That’s one of the tricks you have to learn if you want to travel on a budget: searching for places to go to without paying money for an entrance fee.

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I was a clueless little girl when I started travelling. I wish someone had introduced me to Booking.com or something. The night I landed in Bangkok, I went to a hostel without pre-booking and I was turned away because they were fully booked. As a young 18-year old who hasn’t travelled overseas by herself, I cried…of course.

I stayed at Born Free Hostel near Khao San Road. They charge about $5 USD per night.

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I started doing the tourist-y activities the days after roaming around for free. One thing I was so glad I did was visiting the National Museum in Bangkok. So full of interesting history, beautiful architecture, and I met a lot of wonderful people. I paid for the ticket for 200 THB or $7 USD. This also includes a free tour.

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Some friends I met along the way; Joe, Myself, Matt and Josh.

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Probably one of the prettiest places I’ve been to: The Grand Palace.

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This was probably one of the most expensive places I went to in Bangkok. I paid for the ticket for 500 THB or about $16 USD…but it was worth every penny.

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I mean, come on! Isn’t this beautiful?

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Just chilling with my *grumpy new best friend, ha! Oh, and you have to make sure that you’re wearing a long pants/skirt when entering the palace grounds or else you’d have to pay another $7 USD for a rental of a cover up which will also be refunded (i think) when you return the cover up you rented…but the line is so long and it’s such a hassle.

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This was taken on my birthday at Khao San Road. Probably one of the best (and most expensive) and most memorable nights of my life.

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Before I left, I calculated everything that I was going to spend my money on. One thing I forgot to put into my budget was alcohol…yeah, I drank lots of beer and it sort of screwed up my budget a bit but it was fun. I wouldn’t have it any other way, heh!

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One thing that I miss about Thailand is their Fanta’s in ridiculously large plastic bags. The perfect thirst quencher that you can get for 20 THB or not even $1 USD. You can find these bad boys at literally every street corner.

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Of course, one thing you shouldn’t miss when you’re in Bangkok is the Floating Market. I went to the Floating Market with two of my friends and we paid 400 THB or $13 USD each. Not bad considering it was only us three inside this big boat.

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I spent about $200 USD on my entire stay in Bangkok, then I went on to Cambodia.

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I left Bangkok for Siem Reap at around 5AM in the morning. I took the train from Bangkok to the border in Aranyaprathet-Poipet. They said that it was best if you leave at dawn because it’s a very looooooong train ride–about 7+ hours. I paid for 45 THB or about $2 USD. Well technically, my friend, Joe, paid for my ticket because it was my birthday that day.

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Take note of this whilst crossing the Aranyaprathet-Poipet Border, THERE WILL BE LOTS OF CON MEN WHO WILL ASK YOU FOR MONEY FOR A CAMBODIAN VISA. DO NOT BELIEVE THEM AND DO NOT PAY THEM.

We rode a tuktuk from the train station to the actual border crossing…but guess what? The tuktuk driver took us to a ‘travel agency’. They kept insisting that we needed to pay money to get a visa. But it was a good thing that one of the guys I was crossing the border with knew where the exact border is and we escaped.

For ASEAN Passport holders like myself, you don’t need to pay for anything because your visa-on-arrival stamp will be free. For others like US Passport holders, you can get a visa-on-arrival for about $30 USD. For more information, please check out the Cambodian Embassy website by clicking HERE.

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When you think of Cambodia, you automatically think of the magnificent Angkor Wat. It’s more beautiful and majestic in person and watching the sunrise above it sets everything into perspective. Such a glorious moment.

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In order to get into the Angkor World Heritage Site, you need to pay for about $20 USD for a one day pass. If you want to explore it for one or more days, you can pay more. Oh, since the Cambodian Riel money is really weak in currency, USD is widely acceptable around the country.

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Here’s one tip when you’re going to explore the Angkor World Heritage Site: go buy your ticket the day prior your visit. If you want to view the sunrise, you have to be there really early to get a really good spot. Because, believe me, it gets pretty crowded. Also, the line at around 5AM is very, very long already so chances are, you might miss the sunrise you’ve been wanting to see. So the key is to buy your tickets a day prior.

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A big bowl of Egg Noodles at the Old Market in Siem Reap is about $3 USD per serving. It wasn’t bad, but I think it’s priced like the ones in the US. I ate this every single day. It was so goooooood!

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If you’re into parties and pub crawls and trying out the local beers, Pub Street is for you! You can try different Khmer beers, you can buy and eat crocodile meat (tastes like chicken with an after taste of a fish), and you can buy tons of souvenirs. It’s the perfect place to be at night.

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We loved exploring every bit of Angkor Wat. Here’s a photograph of my friend, Dorota, taken by me.

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I have a charm bracelet that I take with me wherever I go. I also tend to buy charms from wherever I visit. I got a Hamsa Hand charm from the Old Market for about $5 USD.

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I stayed at Hak’s House Hostel in Siem Reap. They had very clean rooms and very accommodating staff. I paid for about $5 USD per night. You may check them out by clicking HERE.

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Oh, one thing that you have to be careful for are the monkeys! They’re everywhere inside the Angkor World Heritage Site and they tend to snatch out snacks and phones from people. Hahaha.

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From Siem Reap, I took a night-bus to the country’s capital, Phnom Penh. A one-way ticket cost about $15 USD. It’s a 6-hour journey so it’s perfect if you leave at night. The thing is, you have to call your next hostel/destination saying that you’re coming at a very early time in the morning and ask if you can check in. Lucky for me, they allowed it.

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I stayed at Base Villa when I arrived in Phnom Pehn. I needed to be near the pool, so this place was perfect! You have to pay for about $5 USD per night, but you have to give them a $10 USD deposit. You can check them out by clicking HERE. Best hostel in Phnom Penh without a shadow of a doubt!

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Oh, the main mode of transportation in Cambodia is a tuktuk. Price ranges from $3 USD to $15 USD depending on where you’re going. A tip is to befriend as much traveller as you can so you can split your tuktuk bill.

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More photos of me from the Angkor World Heritage Site.

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If you don’t want to spend money on a tuktuk, you can definitely rent and ride a bike for about $5 USD per day. Now that’s a cheaper and healthier mode of transportation, right? You can ask your hostel concierge if they rent out bikes. Chances are, they do. If they don’t, they will more likely point you in the best direction, so don’t worry.

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Beers in Cambodia are all $1 USD…they’re even cheaper during Happy Hour!

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One place I went to in Phnom Penh is called the Killing Fields.

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You have to pay for a ticket at $3 USD and another $3 USD if you want the audio tour. I opted out for the audio tour so I only paid $3 USD.

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The Independence Monument in Phnom Penh. I recommend riding a tuktuk with friends and/or fellow travellers at night to see it with lights. It’s really wonderful, and this photo doesn’t give it justice.

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This is basically what I ate the whole time I was in Phnom Penh: Shrimp Fried Rice. You have to pay for about $3 USD for a plate, and it was really good!

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On some days I took advantage of the pool at Base Villa so I just hung out with my friends.

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If you’re thinking about visiting either the Killing Fields or S21, make sure that you have a buddy with you because it gets really creepy and sad if you go alone. I mean, I went with one friend and it was still ridiculously creepy…what more if you went alone?

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Now here’s a scary thought: losing your passport in a foreign country whose people barely speaks English. How scary is that? Uhm, I was also very scared because the Cambodia-Vietnam Border Crossing nearly lost my passport. Yep. Biggest scare of my life.

I took a bus from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (formerly called saigon…like that musical, miss saigon). I paid for about $16 USD for a regular bus ticket and it’s about a 7-hour drive. I wanted to kill myself when I got out because my bum was so sore…not to mention the trouble I went under at the Border Crossing.

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But I arrived!

The very first place I went to is the Saigon Central Post Office. I’m the type of person who loves buying postcards and loves sending mail to my family and friends. I wanted to send everybody the postcards I’ve gathered along the way so this was my first stop!

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Also, I have to warn you that the people in Ho Chi Minh City drives their motorbikes/mopeds like a lunatic. Too fast and they don’t care if you’re about to be run down. So it’s better to be cautious.

Speaking of motorbikes, you can definitely buy or rent a motorbike and travel through Vietnam if you’re up for the challenge. This will cost about $250 USD to $500 USD not including the gasoline and there’s no insurance. Hahaha. But if you’re up for some challenge, it’s the perfect thing to do! You can re-sell it once you’re done. There will always be a traveller looking for a motorbike to buy.

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Fooling around at the local plaza with my good friend, Adam.

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One thing about Vietnam is that it’s full of night markets. One of the most popular night markets in the city is the Bến Thành Night Market. You can buy different things at the night market, including FIFA jerseys. Funny because when I went to this night market, I was with my friends from Germany and the UK. My German friend was pretty pissed that there wasn’t any German FIFA jerseys considering that Germany won the World Cup the year prior. Hahaha!

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One place you shouldn’t miss when visiting Ho Chi Minh City is the War Remnants Museum.

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In order to enter the War Remnants Museum, you have to pay 15, 000 VND. That’s not even $1 USD.

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In this museum, you will see different relics and posters that were used during the Vietnam War.

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My friend, Ella, looking over some war relics inside the War Remnants Museum.

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We also kept looking for places to go for free whilst in Vietnam. We found this little park in the middle of the city filled with Lily Pods. Here are my friends; Verity and Ella.

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This is a replica of the Notre-Dame in Paris, France. This is called the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica.

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When you’re in Vietnam, you can’t miss trying out their signature Vietnamese Coffee. You’ll have to go to a local Vietnamese coffee shop called Trung Nguyên to try it…or you can just go to a local stall outside since it’s literally sold on every street corner.

Here’s a photo of myself, Maik, Hong and Elise.

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Of course I wouldn’t pass up and opportunity to take a photo with a Vietnamese straw hat. I mean, I just had to. I didn’t buy it though because there weren’t any space left in my luggage. Too bad.

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I mean, if you’re in Vietnam and didn’t eat phở, did you really go to Vietnam? I literally ate phở every single day when I was in Vietnam. It was sooooooo good.

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A photo of myself on my last full day in Vietnam with Saigon written in the background.

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My friends; Elise, Jack, Hong, Maik and I.

We were just enjoying ourselves eating phở and drinking the local beer in Ho Chi Minh City.

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Oh, if you have some money to spare, you should check out the A O Show. It’s a cultural show that’s worth every penny. You can check them out by clicking HERE.

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Then it was time for me to go home.

I have enjoyed every bit of my time backpacking through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Almost 15 days in 3 countries, 4 cities, with nothing but a backpack, my passport, quick wits and $500 USD. I made it. Ha!

If you have any questions about my itinerary (or the lack thereof) or my budget or any place I went to, please don’t hesitate to comment down below or message me and I’d be very happy to answer them.

If you want to check out my separate posts from Bangkok, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City, just click out which city you want to check out and you will be redirected to my post. Maybe you’ll find everything more detailed on the separate posts…maybe not. But go check it out, hahaha.

The world is yours and there’s so much to see. Just make sure you’re there to see it. Embrace your freedom and your youth because you’ll never be younger than you are today.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:33 NIV

  • Reply
    Bootsandbag
    June 6, 2018 at 16:22

    Some great advice. Back packing on a budget is the best way to travel, not only to you get to see more and stay longer, but you also get a true feel for the destination. You can stay in a fancy hotel and eat fancy food anywhere. Doing it on the cheap means you really get to live like the locals and met awesome people doing the same thig. Great Post!

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