It’s the middle of summer, but there’s still time to plan a vacation. Don’t pay a fortune to go to Hawaii, the Maldives or other famous tourist hot spots. Instead, save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by visiting these equally if not more beautiful exotic beaches in Southeast Asia without sacrificing on comfort or fun things to do. Click through to see the 10 cheapest Southeast Asia vacation spots that offer gorgeous beaches, great food and more.
1. Tonsai Bay, Thailand
Situated between Ao Nang and Railay in Krabi, Tonsai Bay is a budget-friendly option for travelers looking for an expedition into local culture, cuisine and beach life. Climbing is the main attraction here, according to YourKrabi.com, and if you bring your own supplies and gear, you could save even more money.
Basic bungalow prices start at $5 per night; rooms for two — with private bathrooms — run an average of $20 per night. Beachside-cooked Thai and Western breakfasts can be had for $2; dinner only costs a bit more, with $4 fish barbecue being the specialty at most beach resorts in the area, according to TravelandEscape.ca.
2. Cat Ba Island, Vietnam
Cat Ba is the largest island in Halong Bay and northern Vietnam’s adventure sport and ecotourism hub, according to Lonely Planet. Frugal visitors can enjoy the area’s natural amenities: rocky cliffs, lakes, hiking trails, grottoes, a large national park and pristine sea.
You can rent an air-conditioned room for two — complete with flat-screen TV and hot shower — for $12, according to TravelandEscape.ca. A dollar or two buys some basic local fare, but fresh-caught seafood runs a bit higher at $5 per dish. Adventurous travelers can rent kayaks and boats for just $10 to explore local coves and caves.
3. Boracay Island, Philippines
This Southeast Asian island might be small, but it is becoming a big attraction. “Boracay has rapidly become the Philippines’ top tourist draw, fueled by explosive growth and a tsunami of hype,” according to Lonely Planet. White Beach is the center of activity, rivaling the Caribbean as a beach party destination point with hotels, eateries, bars, and diving and surf shops.
Boracay is located about an hour from Manila by plane, but its proximity to the Philippines’ capital city hasn’t driven up prices for lodging or food. Room rates average about $23 per night for a two-person bungalow. Street eats and other low-cost meals cost just a few dollars per serving, with some fancier offerings dished out at $10 a plate.
4. Gili Islands, Indonesia
With no cars or vehicles in sight, these Indonesian islands offer a peaceful, unspoiled escape from modern life. According to TrulyTraveled.com, the Gili Islands are a scuba diver’s or snorkerler’s paradise, and the avid backpacker or budget-minded sightseer will enjoy the panoramic, sprawling beaches and proximity to more well-known destinations like Bali.
Travel author Matt Kepnes writes on his blog, Nomadic Matt, that hotels and guesthouses on the islands are just $10 to $20 per night. Most meals average $3 to $5, with some local establishments offering grilled seafood fare for about $10. According to Kepnes, $1.50 buys you a ticket to hop the islands by boat, and rentals for scuba gear, cycling and kayaking are also cheap.
5. Balangan Beach, Bali
If you visit the Gili Islands, don’t pass up the opportunity to head over to Balangan Beach. Though located in pricier Bali, this Indonesian destination can be visited for only $25 to $30 per day.
“The cliff-backed bay is arguably one of the most gorgeous on the entire island and has just a few simple wooden huts and local restaurants,” according to TravelandEscape.ca. You can rent a double bungalow at a resort that has a swimming pool, offers a full breakfast and is within walking distance of the beach for just $20.
Local beachfront eateries charge $2 to $4 per meal. Fun comes at next to nothing, too: Surfboards and scooters can be rented for just $5, and admission to the can’t-miss Uluwatu Temple’s sunset Kecak dance is less than $10.
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6. Goa, India
Goa was a major destination point on the “hippie trail” in the 1960s and is still a thrifty attraction for backpackers, campers and beachgoers. According to TrulyTraveled.com, Goan beaches, like those at Anjuna and Baga, have a myriad of beach bars, clubs and restaurants to choose from, most with menus more affordable than those in nearby Sri Lanka.
According to one traveler who posted on the blog IndiaMike.com, a five-day-long tour of Goa cost him only $70, including transportation, lodging, food, sports equipment rentals, shopping and other miscellaneous costs.
7. Koh Rong, Cambodia
Beaches with a rugged, jungle-laden atmosphere draw intrepid tourists and travelers to Koh Rong, the second-largest island in Cambodia. Like the Gili Islands, there are no cars here, but that’s because there are no roads on Koh Rong and just a smattering of hotels and guesthouses. You can rent a high-end bungalow on the island for just $25, but if you opt for a room in a guesthouse with shared bathroom, you can knock down your cost to just $10.
Meals begin at $1 for local street food, according to TravelandEscape.ca; guesthouses, notes the site, offer their own menus — most specializing in fish barbecue — for only $5. A boat tour that starts with snorkeling, continues with fishing, and ends with cooking your catch on the beach at sunset only costs $10.
8. Koh Phangan, Thailand
This small Thai island seems much bigger because of the many activities, sights and beaches it offers. In addition to swimming in crystal clear waters, visitors can enjoy the the Ang Thong Marine National Park or go to the waterfalls of Nam Tok Than Sadet and Nam Tok Phaeng to catch a glimpse of wild crocodiles, monkeys, snakes, deer, and boar, according to TravelTriangle.com.
Bungalow accommodations start at around $30; but pay double, and you can upgrade to a chalet. The island is a bit off the beaten path — there are no direct flights and transportation is scarce — but pay a visit for a beach like no other and the outrageous full moon party held once a month.
9. Sihanoukville, Cambodia
The fact that its beaches are still white and its landscape is relatively undeveloped means this Cambodian destination is a great option for visitors who want to enjoy an uncommon spot off the beaten sand. Spend wisely, and you can make $100 go a long way over a few days here.
Find lodging starting at $20 per night, and make your way to one of several beachside bars to indulge in some genuine Thai beer for only a dollar or two. Local eateries offer fresh catches daily, such as Noh Kor Phnom, which has over 200 options on the menu, according to TravelTriangle.com.
10. Patong Beach, Thailand
The largest Thai island, Phuket, is surprisingly more affordable than you might imagine, even if you’re visiting its most famous resort area, Patong Beach. Lodging starts at $35 for satisfactory chalets and goes up to about $80 for nicer accommodations.
By day, laze around on Patong’s bow-shaped beach, and by night, check out one of the many cafes, restaurants or clubs. Consider planning your trip to this hot spot later in the year because the peak summer season brings an influx of tourists who might impede your vacation fun, or worse, drive up prices.