This blog post was updated on May 2, 2023.
Travelers in search of budget-friendly destinations that still offer a wealth of activities often can’t find this happy medium. A destination might be affordable because no one else travels there and yet there could be nothing to do. Asia tends to be the exception. While popular among travelers, the continent can also be incredibly affordable. Countless destinations not only pack a punch with activities but also offer you the chance to enjoy them without breaking your budget. If you’re looking to get your feet wet in Asia without spending too much, try these popular destinations.
By the looks of Taipei, you might resolve that the city won’t offer much in the way of affordability. However, while the capital city might be littered with skyscrapers and oozes a modern vibe, Taipei is a very affordable city for travelers. Free and cheap attractions include heading to the top of the Taipei 101 Tower for around $20, some 1,670 feet above the city, exploring the National Palace Museum for under $10 (home to one of the largest collections of Chinese art in the world), or merely snagging a cheap eat at the Tonghua Night Market. You can even experience Taipei’s historical side with a free visit to the beloved Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial.
Hanoi proudly identifies as the capital of Vietnam. With its blend of French and Chinese influences, the city is a treasure trove for travelers looking for ancient culture, colonial architecture, tree-lined thoroughfares and a vibrant street food scene. You can unravel Hanoi’s layers of history most cheaply by exploring the original streets of the Old Quarter. With its warren of thoroughfares, the area dates back to the 13th century. At the forefront of sightseeing in Hanoi are the city’s many temples. History buffs shouldn’t miss a stop at the Temple of Literature to see the 1,000-year-old sanctuary to Confucius. You can even witness locals practicing traditional t’ai chi each morning on the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake while in town.
Beloved by backpackers the world over, Bangkok is always a bargain for travelers in Asia. Rooted in ancient Buddhist beliefs and traditions, Bangkok embraces all things chaotic, lending a destination pulsing with energy round the clock. Blending the old with the new, the East with the West, Bangkok offers so much sightseeing, shopping, and eating that it can be hard to cover it all in one visit. You won’t have to break the bank either to enjoy Bangkok. You can explore the city’s famous Chinatown for free, which is filled with markets, shops, and restaurants. You can pop in opulent temples for free, like Wat Ratchabophit and Wat Saket. You can even join the rest of the backpackers in town on Khao San Road for its cheap buckets of alcohol and people watching. Bangkok further entices with its markets like the colorful Bangkok Flower Market and the Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the largest of its kind in Asia. Another selling point for travelers is that many airlines offer cheap international flights throughout the year to fly there.
If you don’t quite think you are up for the likes of Beijing and Shanghai, you can get your feet wet in Chengdu, China. Home to 14 million people, Chengdu is busy but it lends travelers a great deal of value as well. Most come to see the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, just 45 minutes from the city. After rubbing elbows with pandas, you can head back into Chengdu and explore Qintai Road for a taste of Old China with its traditional architecture, or tuck away in a quiet teahouse along the Fu He river that runs right through the city. The cosmopolitan capital of Western China is also known for its cuisine. You can find hole-in-the-wall cheap eats serving up some of the best Sichuan cooking.
Making that first trip to Asia can be daunting. Even if you are on a budget, you still have your choice of buzzing cities that will never leave your itinerary wide open.
What other affordable destinations in Asia would you recommend for first timers? Share your suggestions with us in the comments below.