What it cost us to travel in Asia for 1 year

travel costs for 1 year in Asia in the new normal with covid war inflation

It’s been one year!

Mid-April marks one year since we restarted our slow travel, vagabond lifestyle, on a budget in early retirement.

April 11, 2022 was the day we boarded a plane at the Caticlan/Boracay airport in the Philippines after a two-year COVID-caused travel pause.

Since then, we’ve gradually regained our ‘sea legs’, our mojo, our confidence that the COVID crisis is behind us and our wandering ways will still work in the new normal.

So how feasible is early retired, budget slow travel in an era of rising inflation, interest rates, and the cost of living?

A look back at our previous year provides some encouraging answers.

What it cost us to travel Asia for 1 year

picture collage showing travel in Asia in 2022/2023 -- thailand, malaysia, india

Below are the monthly expenditures – and the grand 1-year total – for myself and my wife (2 persons) as we’ve continued to enjoy and explore Southeast and Central Asia.

11 April ’22  –  $2161

May ’22    —    $1510

June ’22   —   $4064

July ’22    —    $1694

August ’22  –  $2492

Sept. ’22   —   $2227

Oct. ’22    —    $2269

Nov. ’22   —    $1431

Dec. ’22   —    $2241

Jan. ’23   —   $2156

Feb. ’23   —   $1882

March ’23  –  $2462

10 April ’23 –  $629


Total   =   $27,218

As a point of clarity: at the end of last year, I posted a review of all our year 2022 expenses. But that total included our spending from the first quarter when we were still living in the Philippines.

This report is 100% true world- travel expenses.

I should also point out that we did share various expense breakouts and monthly-stay cost totals in blog posts throughout the travel year. Obviously, what is shown here is our spending per precise calendar month.

Expenditures by category

Seeing the year’s expenditures by category gives an alternative view of the data.

Housing  — $7935

Health   —  $4077

Restaurants  – $3363

Gifts/Charity – $3281

Travel   —   $2224

Groceries  —  $1944

Excursions — $1247

Supplies  —  $1194

Beer   —   $1098

Local Transit — $855


Total  =  $27,218

Spending & living

We know precisely what we spend every month/day and can easily dissect it in various ways because every morning over coffee/tea we recount and record the previous day’s expenditures in our ‘Spending Tracker’ cell phone app. Every single penny.

Reminder: This is an independent travel blog. We never work with sponsors or affiliates, and we never take kickbacks.

As you can plainly see, compared to ‘first world’ standards, the cost of living in developing Asian nations remains very affordable. 

Overall, we are pleased with how our ‘restart year’ turned out. 

Most satisfying: for what could be considered a fairly modest monthly outlay, we’ve visited, experienced, and lived in some of the most amazing places on the planet.

The subways, malls, and skyscrapers of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Mumbai; the Himalayas, the Thar Desert, Penang Island; the Taj Mahal, Buddhist Thai temples and pagodas, Hindu cremations on the Ganges, Muslim prayer calls, Christian churches and bells; yoga, meditation, Ellen’s spiritual groups; ancient palaces and forts, beautiful beaches, rural splendor, sickening slums, shocking poverty.

All told, we’ve been witness to the most astounding and varied kaleidoscope of mankind and nature for under $75 per day! ($27,218 ÷ 365 = $74.57). I highly recommend it.

Monthly averages in cost to travel Asia for 1 year

Another useful view is by MONTHLY average:  (M$$$ ÷ 12 = ?)

Housing  —  $661

Health  —  $339

Restaurants  —  $280

Gifts/Charity  —  $273

Travel   —  $185

Groceries   —  $162

Excursions  —  $104

Supplies   —  $99

Beer   —   $91

Local transit  —  $71


Total   =   $2265

Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention it’s all been done with the most cooperative and supportive spouse/wife/friend/adventurer any man could ask for — as well as the help of friends old and new. Some of those friends we assisted with household, medical, or business donations. In addition, we spent more than two months touring with my remarkable mother – now in her 80s. Priceless moments and memories.

We remain excited and positive about our lifestyle and future. And we are always cognizant of our many blessings and good fortune. We continue to be amazed at how warm and welcoming people are to us Americans all around the globe. We try to represent our nation with humility and generosity.

travel in asia montage from thailand, malaysia, and india

Category commentaries

As the figures show, charity efforts and Ellen’s broken wrist put us over budget by about 13%. We always advise allowing a 20% to 25% spending cushion.

pie chart showing spending percentages with health and charity categories in red

Health category

— Over $2500 of Health expense was related to the broken wrist: car vs. bicycle / Hua Hin, Thailand, 6-5-22.

— In November, I contracted dengue fever in Jaipur, India. Two weeks of bed rest greatly depressed our spending for the month.

Travel category

— $788 in the Travel category was spent on our initial Thailand flight, required COVID tests/transport/1-night quarantine, and mandatory health insurance.

— We’ve flown 4 times:

Philippines — Thailand ($220pp)

Malaysia  —  India ($210pp)

Chennai, India  — Delhi, India ($103pp)

Nepal  — India ($112pp)

We are always on high-alert for cheap airfare. But trains and busses remain our preferred modes of distance travel.

Housing category

— During the 12 months, we stayed at 27 different rental units. 2 Thailand, 2 Malaysia, 4 Nepal, 19 India. 6 of the stays were apartments of 1 month or longer. 2 were short ‘homestays’ – a bedroom and ensuite bath in a host’s home. 8 were ‘guest houses’ – a hotel room/suite and bath with common/shared lounge, terrace, kitchen, rooftop, etc. 22 stays were booked using the AirBnb platform. We stayed only 1 night in a hotel — a lousy Indian experience!

Other notes on Asian travel

Asian rents, restaurant prices, and tourist costs have crept upward – but good deals can be found. The number of international visitors still seems way below pre-COVID times. Chinese tour groups remain mostly absent.

Our budget goal has been $2,000 per month throughout 4.5 total years in Asia. We do seek to find good value in everything we do, but we don’t obsess about it. Our comfortable, moderate standard of living is similar to what we knew in the USA.

Someone less cost conscious – or “on vacation” – could easily double our spending. A couple desiring alcoholic beverages at restaurants/bars would add $10 to $20 per meal/day. My beer is mostly carry-out and consumed at home, the beach, river, park, street corner… lol.

theo and ellen in malaysia at frog hills; ellen with juice, theo with beer in a small village near pokhara, nepal.

Travel plans into 2024

June 1 we will leave India and plan to spend the rest of ’23 into ’24 in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. We expect a budget increase of at least 30 to 40 percent.

We’ve already purchased some super-cheap airfare. Month-long Airbnb discounts are available and will be critical to our cost-control efforts.

Of course, we will continue to post detailed monthly spending breakdowns where practicable. And it will be interesting to see how things work out and add up in next year’s 12-month total travel tally.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.

Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “What it cost us to travel in Asia for 1 year.”

Afraid of health care overseas? Don’t be!

Our special guide on global health care shows you:

  • 7 easy steps to find the right doctors and hospitals
  • Specific price examples for various medical services
  • What to know about medical visas
  • And more!

We go without travel health insurance, but many of the principles apply to those with coverage.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top