It´s very important to understand that if you plan to live in Southeast Asia you can spend very little and also a lot of money. It all depends on which country you want to visit. In this blog post, we will give you money saving tips when traveling in Southeast Asia.

Go where to locals are to save money

It is very important to remember when you choose your study abroad destination to know the price levels. Furthermore, it also depends on what kind of lifestyle you are planning to live. You can survive with less than 400 Euros a month whereas there is no limit on how much money you can spend at your destination.

A map lying on a table with a camera in the right corner and money below and a compass.
The three most important things you need for your travels – a camera, a compass, and money.

1. Chose your destination wisely

Before you start your travels, always think of your budget. The prices are very different in all Southeast Asian countries. For example, living in Bali compared to living in Singapore is very diverse. While you can find a beautiful guesthouse with a Pool in Bali for not more than 240 EUR per month, the same amount of money will offer you a tent in the middle of the Singaporean concrete jungle.

That being said, destinations like Bali and Lombok are super cheap, whilst locations, such as Shanghai, Taiwan, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur are a little more expensive, depending on where you want to live. Also, you should consider the transportation costs and other important things which will be costly, before you book your accommodation. If you want to find a cheap accommodation, Airbnb is a good option. is second in my personal ranking.

Read more: Top 5 Asian Economies – Go East

Close up picture of a globe with malaysia and thailand in the focus and the median indicated with gold and black.
Each of Asia Exchange destinations has its own unique flair.

2. Negotiate strategically

Asian people usually love to negotiate and you will soon find out it´s not an easy task. When it comes to negotiation tactics, you should find out for yourself what works best for yourself. From my own experience, I realized that a friendly but tough approach is the best way to get what you want. Locals always try to make a lot of money with tourists, so the starting price will always be up to 3-4 times higher than to what the locals pay. For that reason, you can bargain hard and always start at a low price. Another important thing you can try is a so-called “BATNA” (the best alternative to negotiated agreement). For example, instead of buying at the first shop you should give it some time and check out the other stores to find better deals. With “BATNA” you will not get trapped by the seller and you will most likely keep your wallets’ content. 

Another thing you should remember is “Don’t be sorry”, sometimes sellers will try to make you feel guilty if you don’t buy. DO NOT fall for that! That’s their tactic so start improving yours as well. Always remember, people will not give you anything if you don´t ask for it. 

Read more: Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Study in Malaysia.

Person with white shirt holding money in his two hands
You can save a lot of money with the right negotiation strategy.

3. Spend money wisely when you go out

As an essential part of your studying life, going out with friends is one of the biggest money consumers. For that matter, don´t forget your budget and then stick to it. It’s not worth going into debt on your bank account just to have 4 times party a week. Therefore, try to allocate a certain part of your budget for partying and do not overspend.

Likewise, try to find a party location where there are not too many tourists. Tourist places, especially in the big cities are super expensive. There are a lot of places for locals as well where you can have a lot of fun. The other advantage of that is, you will get to meet locals and get to know the local way of living.

The crowd of the concert holding their hands in the air and making hearts with their fingers while the band is playing in the background
Party SMART and not too hard.

4. Try to find local places

This point might not be new to you, but it is very important to bear in mind. If you want to save money, you must go to Restaurants and Bars where to locals go. The difference between these places and a typical tourist hotspot can be 3-4 times more expensive. In Bali – Canggu, Kuta, and Seminyak are tourist hotspots where you will definitely pay more than in other locations. Consequently, try to find a small local restaurant or bar. There you will pay way less and most of the times the food is way better there too.

Person standing in front of Ark Bar in koh samui showing the "peace" sign with his fingers.
Locals will always try to help you

5. Use GoJek or Grab

Transportation in Southeast Asia is very cheap. Local taxis are usually 20 to 30% cheaper than the ones in Europe. If you use the Online Application GoJek or Grab the prices will be even lower. Moreover, they offer a lot of other services. You can order food, get a scooter transport, car transport, order a massage and get medicine to just name a few. So, Grab and GoJek provide their clients with very cheap fares and they work in most every Southeast Asian country. The only thing you have to consider with those Apps is that they can drop you off wherever you want, but they cannot pick you up everywhere. For example in Bali, some local taxi services are protesting against those Apps, so there are areas where they’re not allowed to pick up people. To overcome this problem, just walk a little bit around and try to find a quiet place where they accept your ride.

back of a helmet of a GoJek driver in Indonesia, wearing a green and black jacket at night
GoJek will bring you everywhere


All in all, Southeast Asia is cheaper than Europe or other parts of the world. If you have a small budget just try to stay away from the “Tourist Hotspots” and spend your money wisely. Until then, may the force be with you. Do you want to find out more about studying in Asia? 

Read more

This blog post was written by our intern Valentin

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