Before You Wing It… Save

Ok, I lied. You will need to do a little planning. But I must reiterate again– too much planning will sour your experience. That I can promise you. Though you are going to wing this trip, there are a few things you need to sort out first.

Funding Your Trip

This may or may not be the aspect of your dream that gives you the most anxiety. I’m not going to tell you that this will all be free. But it will be relatively affordable if you let it.

Asia can vary wildly, from the expensive (Japan) to the dirt cheap (Laos) and everything in between. It’s hard to say exactly how much you’ll need to make this all happen. Here are a few things to consider:

  • The most expensive part of your trip will be getting there and back. You’ll have to do your own research to find the best deal. Depending on your departure point, a round-trip to your entry point in Asia will likely run you anywhere from $1000-$2000. You can choose to buy a round trip with a set date of return. A better way is to budget the cost of your return and choose later when you feel the time is right. Be careful with this approach– you’ll have to be disciplined enough to set that return money aside, or be comfortable with hitting up mom and dad at a later point. The worst option is to get addicted to the experience, run out of money and turn to muling drugs to fund your trip home. I would definitely not recommend doing that (not that I know from experience!)
  • Asia has a broad range of accommodation options. You could easily spend hundreds or thousands of dollars per day on swanky hotel rooms, private drivers and high-end restaurants. Forget all that. You are a backpacker and thus, must plan to budget. The rule of thumb I’ve commonly heard of is to plan for $100 a day. That still sounds to me like King money. I’d say $50-$75 is a little more accurate unless you want to really slum it. That being said, if you plan to do a lot of drinking, you will blow a hole in your budget very quickly. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun, in some places more than others, but I really recommend you be disciplined. Have your fun and move on quickly. There’s so much more to do and see in Asia than a trashy bar strip in a tourist trap.
  • US dollars are widely accepted in Asia, and at the least, can be easily exchanged at airports, banks or less ideally, local money changers. The best way to go about it is to make sure you have a widely accepted credit card like a VISA or MasterCard and a reserve of US dollars in crisp, new bills obtained from your local bank.
  • Make sure to get as many small bills as you can as it can be difficult to find a tuk-tukdriver who can break a hundred. Keep your money in a secure waste belt that you keep on you at all times. Don’t leave it in your hotel. Crime is very low in Asia but you are probably more likely to be robbed out of your hotel or hostel than on the street. That being said, I never once had a problem. Remember… people don’t need to break the law when they can just convince you to hand over your money for cheap trinkets and lousy tours. I kid, I kid.

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