This is a summary of all our travel expenses for the 29 nights / 30 days we spent in Thailand, Malaysia & Singapore during April / May 2014. We flew into Phuket, Thailand and out of Singapore (these flights are not included in this report) and made our way south by means of boats, busses and trains.
We found it easy enough to make this journey including both border crossings with flexible travel plans and no fixed itinerary. The weather treated us well for most of our journey although one should carefully consider the shoulder season which can affect the availability of some ferry crossings.
We would consider both Thailand and Malaysia to be good budget destinations, while Singapore can be considerably more expensive. If you travel slower, you will be able to reduce your expenses by up to 20-25% by getting long stay discounts, preparing food for yourself and reducing your overall travel expenses. If you stay away from the tourist hot spot areas and travel to more remote undiscovered areas, this will also reduce your spending significantly. There are so many absolute gems off the typical tourist trail which are well worth exploring. Travelling from island to island in both Thailand and Malaysia is a fun experience and a convenient way to get around, but these costs do tend to add up quickly.
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(Note that the following spending does not include our main flights to Thailand and back home from Singapore.)
We found that the best two sites to use when searching for and booking accommodation on this trip were Booking.com and Agoda. We did not book all our accommodation beforehand and simply booked online a few nights in advance, or sometimes only once we arrived at the destination. There is plenty of accommodation available and even in high season, you will almost be sure to find something suitable last minute.
We stayed in most places for 2 - 3 nights before moving on. We found it easy to get good value for money accommodation, even in the last minute. There are of course even cheaper stays available, however, we always opt for a double en-suite room and try to also get breakfast included where possible. Our choices for this trip were very comfortable and we would recommend the following stays:
Phuket - Nai Yang (2) Ideo Phuket Hotel
Phuket - Kata Yai (2) Southern Fried Rice Guesthouse
Phuket Town (1) Quip BnB
Koh Phi Phi (3) Kitty Guesthouse
Koh Lanta (3) Baan Rim Lay Hotel
Koh Lipe (2) Forra
Langkawi (3) Easy
Penang (Georgetown) (3) Hotel Mingood
Kuala Lumpur (4) Sunbow
Melaka (2) D'Hotel Malacca
Singapore (2) Perak Hotel
We generally try to eat like and with the locals. In both Thailand and Malaysia, this is an absolute treat as the local food is both affordable and delicious. Singapore has an amazing food culture, but due to budget constraints, we stay out of fancy and western restaurants, so we opted for the more budget-friendly street-style food from little India and Chinatown during our stay. We mostly ate local food from small restaurants and street-side vendors. Our food expenses included a few too many big sunset beers, mango shakes and Thai style banana and Nutella pancakes in Thailand as well as Apam Balik in Malaysia and of course the occasional ice-cream or two! We have subsequently found (2019) that by being somewhat more budget-conscious, we could quite easily reduce our daily food cost to $16 per day for the two of us. Drinks can very quickly add up to increasing your overall spending.
We also bought bottled water throughout the trip, so if you can make use of a water filter this would help to reduce your overall spending. We now make use of the Survivor Pro Water Filter which is very compact, easy to use and which we are very happy with and can highly recommend.
We really enjoyed travelling from one island to another all the way from Thailand to Malaysia and although this definitely added to our overall travel expenses, it was a great fun experience. Travelling such a distance across 3 countries definitely upped our overall travel expenses. Travelling slower would be one way to reduce your daily average cost of transportation by up to as much as 50%. Our transport expenses reflected here mostly included boats, busses, trains and local metered taxis. We also rented a scooter for a few days in Thailand (about $10 per day) and took one internal flight with Malindo Air from Penang to Kuala Lumpur ($33 pp).
We recommend using 12Go website or BookAway to view schedules ahead of time and buy tickets. Skyscanner.com is a fantastic tool for finding great flight deals.
When renting a scooter overseas, make sure that you have the necessary international drivers permit and that you carry it with you at all times together with the rental vehicle’s registration documents. You can read some of our guidelines about Renting a Scooter in a Foreign Country here.
You can easily look up bus and train schedules and even book and pay for tickets with 12Go.Asia
CELLPHONE & DATA
We did not purchase any local SIM card or data for this trip as we were not in any one country for long enough to justify it. Most of our accommodations did have free wifi included.
Our "General" category includes everyday expenses like toiletries, medical, laundry & small shopping items.
We generally try to stay away from very touristy places and prefer to explore independently. This is easier on the islands where our main activity of choice is scuba diving (costs excluded here). However, in the cities, there are simply some “tourist activities” which we couldn’t miss out on. These included the following:
Langkawi SkyCar ($10 pp)
Penang Hill Funicular ($10 pp)
KL Tower Observation Deck ($17 pp)
Melaka Tower ($8 pp)
Melaka Boat Ride ($6 pp)
Singapore SkyWalk ($20 pp)
There are so many activities which are well worth doing when visiting these 3 countries, these are just a few that we would highly recommend:
Malaysia: KL Tower Observation Deck; Penang Hill Funicular; Langkawi SkyCar