Southeast Asia Travel Itinerary: On a budget
Are you eager to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and explore some off-the-beaten-path destinations? If so, why not consider a homestay in an isolated village or floating along the Mekong River observing rice fields, elephants, and trekking through mountain valleys?
Experience the delights of vibrant waterfalls and idyllic swimming pools; marvel at the intricate temples and bustling markets overflowing with vibrancy; all set against a background of captivating colour, and life-like creativity. Take in this three-week respite from frenetic pace – experiencing a slower lifestyle where food is more succulent, locals are always ecstatic smiles adorning their faces and there are numerous opportunities nearby to explore!
Thailand, Laos and Cambodia
Bangkok → Chiang Mai → Luang Prabang → Vang Vieng → Vientiane → Siem Reap → Bangkok
Here I have outlined a 2-3 week itinerary from Bangkok (Thailand), through to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, into Laos by minibus and sail along the Mekong on a slow boat to Luang Prabang.
Next, stop in Vang Vieng and then down to the capital Vientiane, followed by ducking into Cambodia to Siem Reap (Angkor Territory), and back to Bangkok. Visa costs, transport costs and times, as well as a rough guide on accommodation costs and meals (these costs are based on the prices I paid).
Southeast Asia Travel – Visas Involved
- Thailand = free 30-day visa waiver stamp on arrival at the airport for most countries – check here.
- Laos = visa for Laos available at the border, a fuss-free process at the land crossing costing around $35USD
- Cambodia = $30 visa for Cambodia is also available at the border.
If arriving at Suvarnabhumi Airport, there are public buses, taxis and sky trains available to take you into the city. If you are planning on staying in the CBD the sky train is suitable, if you are planning to stay out of the CBD (such as on Khao San Road) then you may need to take a taxi or tuk-tuk from the metro station once in the city – or grab a taxi straight to the area your staying (metro and tuk-tuk combination is less expensive than a direct taxi, although a taxi is, of course, less fuss).
If you arrive at Don Muang airport the cheapest option is taking the train to Hualampong Station and from there a Tuk-tuk or taxi to you hotel.
Bangkok Quick Guide
- Accommodation is from 200 baht (~$6.60) for a dorm bed, to 250 baht for a single room with a shared bathroom or private bathroom.
- Sky Bus/Metro Ticket 15 baht – 40 baht per trip (~$.50 – $1.30)
- Tuk Tuks 80 (~$2.60) baht from Hualampong Station to Khao San Road
- Street Food Meal 30 – 60 baht (~$1-$2)
Bangkok → Chiang Mai
- Bus – Details: 9-10 hours, 480 – 500 baht (~$16) – (including dinner, water and biscuits) – you can book these at any travel agent or go directly to the Mochit Bus Station.
- Plane – 1000 baht with Airasia or Nok Air
- Sleeper train – Travel overnight and save one day's accommodation – 1000 baht for 2nd class bed.
- Accommodation is from 100 (~$3.30) baht for a dorm bed, to 250 (~$8.30) baht for a private guesthouse room with an en suite.
- Food from 30 (~$1) baht for street food, 50-60 (~$1-$2) baht for food court meals, and 100-200 (~$3-$5) baht for restaurant meals.
Chiang Mai → Pakbeng → Luang Prabang
Mini Bus & Slow Boat: Cost 2500 baht (~$75); included in the price is a minibus, a night's accommodation, a minibus to the river, and a slow boat ticket to Luang Prabang).
Chiang Mai to the Laos border near Pak Beng on the minibus. a minibus will take you to the Thai side of the border, leaving Chiang Mai early in the morning and arriving at the Pakbeng accommodation in the late afternoon and early evening. Read more on my slow boat experience.
Laos Travel – Slow Boat to Laos From Chiang Mai – 2 Days 1 Night
- Accommodation: dorm bed from $4, private guesthouse room with en suite from $7
- Meals: large self-serve street food restaurant meals for $1, nicer indoor restaurant meals from $3
- Kuang Si Waterfall Entry = $2
- Transport To Waterfalls bus=$6, shared tuk-tuk $4, hire motorbike day from $10.
Luang Prabang → Vang Vieng
- Mini Bus $10, trip time 8 hours – There are large coach-type buses that do this trip, although because of the narrow winding roads near the cliffside the buses are very slow and I preferred travelling by minibus for this route.
- Train (update from 2022) – There is now a fast train going from Luang Prabang via Vang Vieng to Vientiane
- Accommodation: private room with shared bathroom from $3.
- Meals: open-air restaurant meals from $1
- Bike Hire: new mountain bike hire from $5/day.
Vang Vieng → Vientiane
- Mini Bus 4-5 hours, $6
- Train (update from 2022) – There is now a fast train going from Vang Vieng to Vientiane
- Accommodation: dorm room bed from $3, private room with shared bathroom from $4.
- Meals: street food snacks for $1, restaurant meals for $3.
Vientiane → Pakse → Siem Reap
- Bus 2 changes = cost $58/trip time approx 23 hours
- Plane – there is no direct flight but you can fly via Bangkok for around $120 which will take only 6 hours
- Accommodation: dorm room beds from $2, private single room with en suite from $3.
- Meals: restaurant meals from $2
- One Day Ticket To Angkor Wat: $20
- Transport to Angkor Wat: Whole day tuk tuk hire and drive $11 or $25 for a taxi with aircon
- Bicycle Hire: $1/day
Siem Reap → Bangkok
- Bus – $28 direct bus, 8 hours (bus company= Nattakan, their office is on Sivatha Rd, near KFC). The bus ticket includes water, coffee, biscuits and lunch. Arrives at Chatuchak bus station.
- Plane – Air Asia has a direct flight for $55 to Don Muang Airport in Bangkok.
And you arrive back in Bangkok, where it all started. A loop of jungles, rivers, villages, temples, monkeys, friendly faces, warm weather and good times. This trip can be done in less than 21 days, depending on how many days/nights you wish to stay in each city.
Bookings for accommodation are not necessary – as there are many accommodation options and I find it best to go and look at rooms before I commit to stay (if it is peak season or you wish to book for peace of mind then that's easily done too on booking sites such as booking.com, hostelbookers.com for example. Transport is easily booked the day before in most cases.