Tips to save money in Southeast Asia

These are some tips I wish I would have known. Use them wisely.


  1. Don´t book accommodation in advance through the internet, especially if you have to pre-pay with a card. The currency exchange rate and other fees your bank might apply are sometimes higher than the price of the dorm bed. Also you won´t have the freedom to change your mind, and trust me, you will many times. Is super hard at the beginning to don´t secure an accommodation but you can always email or call (if you have a local sim card) the hostel or guest house and book directly with them, they won´t ask for a prepayment. Also, is usually cheaper and you can negotiate the price if you are planning to stay long.


  1. Go and check places to stay that are not on the Internet. Some guest houses and hostels don´t have a website but you can see them in the map with the app “maps me”. They usually are very good and cheaper as they have less demand.


  1. Book only one night and extend daily. This way you won´t lose money if you decide to leave earlier than expected.


  1. Get a Mastercard as is widely accepted in Southeast Asia, more than Visa. Amex can only be used in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.


  1. Bring a few cards. The ATM might swallow your card, it can be lost or stolen, or even the magnetic band can stop working if you pass lots of airport securities. Sadly all of the above happened to me…


  1. Create an account with Moneygram or Western Union as a backup. You can download the app on your phone and send yourself some money that can be easily collected.


  1. Use Wikitravel to travel like a local in buses or trains. The lack of information online makes us rely on travel agencies and the prices are way higher than if you travel in the local buses. Also, most of the times the tourist minivans are as crowded as the local ones.


  1. Use Grab or Uber app instead of taxis In the big cities in Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.


  1. Trust the local eateries. They might look shitty but the food is tasty and you won´t get sick. Just ask how spicy is it and tell them how you want it first.


  1. Wake up early and stock up with fruits in the market. You can buy so much for so little money and some hostels and guest houses will let you keep them in the fridge.


  1. Haggle on style. It is really an art you will master with time. Don´t be shy and ask “could you give me a special price?”. They usually put the prices up and you should pay half of what they initially ask.


  1. Avoid intermediates. There will be men waiting at stations and will ask you where you go and will offer you help with a accommodation, a tuk tuk, a boat, a bus ticket or a motorbike. Don´t trust them, they will take you to the hostel or the driver and will get a commission. The best you can do is ignore them and just smile and keep walking. Don´t talk to them or tell them where you go, they know everyone and will follow you. If they follow you stop walking and sit down until they leave you alone.



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