My head says "GO" but my budget-brain says "not yet"
April 6, 2008 9:35 PM   Subscribe

Help me to figure out a budget for some fairly extravagant backpacking travel.

So i'm going to be doing an academic exchange next year, and there will be two periods of time where I'll have about a month and a half to do with as I want. I really REALLy want to spend these travelling to parts of the world (Asia and Australia/New Zealand mainly).

The problem (which, despite being maddening at times, is actually more of a benefit to myself in the long run) is that I'm a meticulous budgeter, so although the first of these trips won't be until mid-February of 2009, I'm already thinking about where to go/how much I'll have to spend. I'm not interested in how much flights will cost, that's easy enough to figure out for myself (I'm rather good with discount airline sites), I want to know how much I'll be able to do on what kind of rediculously low budget.

I know I can survive in Europe on 50 Euros (or less) per day while in Europe (including Paris), an amount which included all food, local transportation, and hostel costs, so I'm really good at living on the cheap. As long as I can afford a place to sleep, some food in my belly, and enterence into museums, I'm happy. I will walk for hours to get to the museums if it will save me money on transportation.

So finally my question. What can I expect to spend to be able to survive at a fairly meager level in the following countries:

-China (Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai mainly, but other suggestions appreciated)
-Japan (Tokio, or others)
-the Philippines
-Australia (Sydney, any others)
-New Zealand (here I have a small amount of family, so an idea about local transport and food prices would be nice, if not hostel prices)

Just to mention it again, I'm looking for approximate total budgets necessary for when I actually GET to the cities. Travel, visa and all other costs are very much a secondary budget which has it's own limit.

Thank you very much for helpful budget input!

Note: none of my plans are in any way in stone right now, so if there are suggestions, please pass them my way through comment or MeFi mail. I just want to make sure these trips are financially viable before I start booking things!
posted by Planet F to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
i'm from singapore, and i can tell you that travel and food will be cheap. s'pore's public transport system is pretty much ubiquitous, and you can get a tourist pass for buses and trains all-day at $8/day. If that's not meagre enough for you, bus trips are rarely more than $2 and train rides rarely more than $3. You can get a pretty good meal for $3 at a hawker centre, which are almost everywhere. Wireless internet is available pretty much everywhere, so no need to budget for that, if it matters to you. I'm not sure about accomodation but dorm beds run around $20/night I think. If trimming your budget is of paramount importance you can sleep outdoors; it's warm and balmy at night and actually, lots of people do it -- sleep in public places, that is. If it rains, sleep in the large underground hall at the end of the City Hall subway station. ;p
posted by Xianny at 10:09 PM on April 6, 2008

In Australia you can get a dorm room in a hostel for $25- sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less.

Buying supermarket food and cooking in the hostel kitchen you could get by on $10-$15 a day for food easily.

Public transport costs vary from city to city, but usually you can get some sort of day or weekly pass that will let you have unlimited trips during a set time period for a one-off fee. Sydney transport info here says for $35 you can travel around the inner city on busses, trains and ferries for a week. So.. $5 a day?

Daily total = $45. Although now that I've written it down, that seems ridiculously low.

Make it $55 to give yourself some wiggle room and you'd be fine, I reckon.

Although, obviously, this doesn't include paying for entrance fees, or longer trips or activities, or whatever.
posted by t0astie at 5:03 AM on April 7, 2008

In the Philippines, 15USD a day is more than enough (exclusive of lodging), you might have room to splurge a little. To compare, a Quarter Pounder meal costs 3USD (and I consider that expensive because you can certainly get something more filling for that price). Eat on the streets and you'll have plenty for less then a dollar, though that depends on your stomach for it. Rooms with the basic necessities can cost as little as 15USD (depending on where you are in the Philippines). Transportation -- the MRT/LRT in Manila costs less than a nickel a ride so get a stored value card for 2.50 USD each. Cabs are recommended as opposed to the more ubiquitous jeepney because the risk of getting lost is high, though locals are friendly and helpful. You'll need a bit more for the longer journeys, i.e. island-to-island and such. Everything is cheaper outside of Manila, too. Unless you're in a really popular destination like Boracay or you're staying in an internationally-priced hotel.

Mefi-mail me if you need/want help planning.

P.S. the stored-value card in singapore is what an SMRT officer recommended to me rather than the all-day tourist pass. He was right, there was no way I could have used up 8SGD a day in transpo. In three days, I used up 17$ and I was already on the train most of the time shuttling from place to place. You don't get 3SGD back though, to make up for the cost of the card.
posted by drea at 6:02 AM on April 7, 2008

Oh, and if you know where to look, you can score a buffet meal for 3-5 dollars.
posted by drea at 6:04 AM on April 7, 2008

Singaporean here. Xianny has all the information you need on budgeting for accommodation, food and transport.

A student admission ticket costs S$5 for the National Museum, S$2.50 for the Asian Civilisations Museum, and S$4 for the Singapore Art Museum. Free or further discounted entry may be available for certain museums on Friday evenings and/or weekday lunchtimes.

Also, couchsurfing will be a unique way of making friends with locals - and it's free.
posted by hellopanda at 7:05 AM on April 7, 2008

In Hong Kong, getting around is fast and cheap. Riding the buses, subway system, or water ferries- plenty of options. Anywhere from $0.20 to no more than a dollar. You can take scenic high speed ferries to a bunch of little islands nearby for the equivalent of just a couple of bucks as mini side trips. To get to mainland China, I think can be done by taking a ferry to Shenzhen, then a plane to a larger city like Shang Hai for about $200. As for food, you can go to local side noodle shops for $1.5 to get a filling meal or $1 for street snacks. Or their version of fast food or a regular meal (like here in the US, Boston Market/Panera-ish) for $5-7. For sit down restaurants, it's Hong Kong and can get really pricey if that's the route you decide to go.
posted by Jimmie at 2:24 PM on April 7, 2008

I've just got back from a month travelling around New Zealand. In general, we found most things to be cheaper than they are in the UK. My memory is a little hazy about the figures, and I never budget (I am almost completely the opposite to you - go! and then figure out how to pay for it all!), so I'm afraid I can't give you a ballpark per day figure. We went slightly out of season (March), so things were a little cheaper than they would have been in December/January. All these prices are in New Zealand dollars.

A big deal that you will need to figure out is how you are going to travel around the country. There are only a few public buses between towns and only a handful of tourist routes. The most common options to get about are to hire a car or a camper van or to use one of the many different backpacker buses that operate. Which one you choose will affect your budgeting; obviously, if you hire a campervan, you'll save on accommodation. We paid about $75 a day for car hire. I can't remember the cost of petrol, but I'm sure you can find that out fairly easily.

We mostly stayed in motels, in what's called there a family apartment, which is usually two rooms and a bathroom, a room with a kitchen and one double bed, and another with two single beds. The price of these varied (sometimes wildly) around the country, from about $115 to $180 a night per unit. I also stayed in a backpackers for a few nights and this was about $25 per person a night in a dorm. That was in Auckland, in a really nice hostel, again the price can again vary a bit depending on where you are.

I don't really know how much we spent on food, we ate out a bit, and also did a lot of our own cooking. I think that groceries were quite cheap (compared to the UK - I know that doesn't give you much of a guide!), and restaurants were definitely cheaper that back home. The wine was very good ;)

Apart from food, car hire and accommodation, we didn't spend that much else, New Zealand isn't a big hive of commercialism. Most activities revolve around admiring great scenery, which generally costs nowt. A big expense that some travellers have is to cover the cost of doing some big brave adventure activity, like a sky dive or bungy jump or a helicopter ride across a glacier, if you have adrenaline monkey tendencies, build that in as well.

If you want more info, contact me.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:32 PM on April 7, 2008

Here's some traveler's budget links, maybe they'll help. Do look at the date, as some places will have increased by 2-5% in the past few years.

Beijing and Western China, Japan + more

Saving for Travel lets you calculate costs but I found it to be about 1/3rd too high for a budget backpacker.

Some general guidelines

I've been to China three times on a lower end backpacker budget but stayed away from the East coast. 1.5 months could all be spent in China, don't try to fit too much in! If you want any specific travel advice let me know.
posted by Bunglegirl at 4:13 PM on April 7, 2008

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