This is a sequel to my earlier Asia trip planning post, so if you haven’t already read it, you’ll want to start here.

Karisa and I are no strangers to taking trips with tour companies, but often you feel “over toured”.  Frequently, we find ourselves more location ambitious than tour companies offer, or more often, their trips hit our desired locations but require too many days off of work.  With this particular trip, we felt it more productive to tackle the itinerary on our own.  Our goal was to see whether we could do it for the same price or less than the leading budget tour company.

After booking our airfare, the next step was to find affordable CLEAN (sans bed bugs) hotel in a central location.  To do this we will read guidebooks, websites, blogs and refer to trusty Trip Advisor to find out exactly where the “central” location is.  Our main room requisite is to have a private bathroom, so most low-priced hostels are out.  We have no problem spending a little more for something above average; but in Asia $25-$45 typically gets us what we’re looking for.  Since there are two people in a room, I’d say $22 pp/night is a stellar deal.

The best website to book hotel rooms in Asia is typically Agoda.com.  After finding hotels in the city center, I then I narrow the results down to 3 & 4 star options and open the city map to see what’s available where.  After that, it becomes a guessing game –  I find some picturesque, pretty places and reference them against the reviews on Trip Advisor.  Another method I’ll often try is going directly to Trip Advisor’s keyword search for the city and look at “boutique hotels”, “hotels”, “bed and breakfasts” and “specialty lodging” to see if some of the top rated choices are in our budget range and location.

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And we chose…

Hanoi: 2 nights, Art Boutique Hotel $37 or $18.50 pp/night

Hoi An: 2 nights, Hoi An Greenlife Homestay $41.78 or $20.89 pp/night

Siem Reap, 3 nights Jayavara Boutique Hotel, $67.50 or $33.75 pp/night

Langkawi: 2 nights, The Frangipani Resort and Spa, $134.90 or $67.45 pp/night

Total hotel cost per person: $281.88

Why did we chose these locations?

In Siem Reap I know we could have stayed at a nice $20 a night hotel, but we heard that there isn’t a lot to do outside of Angkor, so we decided to make sure we have a boutique resort with a pool near the nightlife, aka Pub Street, for when we get “templed out”.

In Langkawi we also could have stayed for much cheaper at an off beach, in-town hostel.  However, being that our homes are land locked we chose to stay on the beach.  I will admit, temptation nearly crushed our budget because we found a gorgeous 5 star resort and spa, so we compromised – we chose a nice hotel that allowed us to enjoy the beach without completely going overboard.  We realized that we’ll only be there to sleep and use the beach, so who needs a 5 star bed for that?

We decided to have one night in Halong Bay on a junk boat, despite the shear touristy nature of the Bay.  We planned this in advance to make sure we had a boat up to our expectations with a reputable company.  Ultimately, we chose Indochina Junk Dragon Pearl cruise for $165pp for a one night 2 day trip.  Indochina was rated #1 on Trip Advisor and included a transfer from your Hanoi hotel to and from Halong Bay, which saved us about $50 per person.

As always, we could have saved a lot of cash by not booking our hotels until we get there, but given our tight timetable, we didn’t want to waste time searching for hotels upon our arrival.

Something else we had to consider for this trip was advance Visas.  Only Vietnam required a visa in advance, but it turned out we were able to get the Cambodian Visa online for an extra $8 fee.  (The benefit of this was that you wouldn’t have to wait in line for the Visa when you arrived off your flight). For the Vietnamese Visa, I emailed the Vietnamese Consulate in Washington DC because their website didn’t state how much it was.  They responded very quickly with an incredibly detailed email on how to move forward.  I sent my passport off via USPS priority (traceable) mail and they processed it within two days.

Visa Cost: Cambodia: $28, $20 for Visa plus  $5 online fee and $3 bank processing fee Vietnam: $110, $100 for Visa plus about $10 for USPS mail to and from Consular in DC

The grand total for Asian adventure was…. (drumroll please):

International Ticket  $            1,327.80
Halong Bay Boat  $               165.00
Hanoi Hotel  $                 37.31
Hoi An Hotel  $                 41.78
Siem Reap Hotel  $                 67.50
Malaysia Hotel  $               135.29
Asia Airfare  $               461.80
Visa Fees  $               139.99
TOTAL COST  $            2,376.47

It’s time to compare this against the leading low cost tour company, Gate 1 Travel.  Turns out, we come in just below their cost for a Vietnam & Cambodia 15 day trip they offer for $2,439; they also have a 3 country trip to Bangkok, Cambodia & Vietnam and that is $2,949.  Obviously this comparison isn’t apples to apples, but provides a good point of reference.

What cities would you choose if you had 13 days in Asia?

This post was written by FWTG contributor, Crystal Doro.  

CC images from Flicker.  Header: Angkor Wat sunrise by Rodney Topor.  (2) Cambodia: Angkor Wat sunrise by Renee.