Asia on a Shoestring Budget

How to venture to the Far East without blowing your savings

The flight times may be long and the distance far — but don’t let the cost of a trip to Asia put you off exploring the world’s most populous continent.

There are many ways to keep outlay low, from staying with families to sampling street food and checking out free-entry museums. Here we let you in on a few secrets that will help you stretch your dollars.

Streetfood in Singapore

If you are nervous about street food in general, then Singapore is the place to try it. The majority of stalls serve freshly prepared dishes — in uber-clean surroundings — that are cooked right in front of you. Try the Lau Pa Sat hawker centre, a five-minute walk from Raffles Place MRT (mass rapid transit) station, where you can sample chile crab and satay for less than a Singapore dollar (75 cents). (Photo courtesy of Flickr/nicfill)

Stay in a cozy B&B in Kuala Lumpur

Whilst cheaper than Singapore, Kuala Lumpur is still quite pricy when it comes to accommodation. Sahabat Guesthouse is a friendly, safe, cheap, and cheerful option in the heart of the city: the Golden Triangle area. The rooms are bright, clean, and come with attached bathrooms. There’s complimentary tea, coffee, cereals, and toast for breakfast, too and a lot of sights are in walking distance, which saves you cash on taxis.

To sample street food in Kuala Lumpur is an essential part of feeling the city and meeting locals. Head to Kampung Baru’s Sunday market, which actually starts on Saturday but goes on through Sunday. Malay dishes here are "cheap as chips" and the experience will not be easily forgotten. Malay’s refer to an outing such as this as "an eat, eat tour" — it’s easy to see why, and not so simple to stop once you’ve started.

Free things to do in Beijing

China is booming, and nowhere more so than in the capital, which can make a visit costly. There are, however, plenty of cheap and free things to do in the city, if you know where to go. The National Art Museum of China (pictured) is one of the biggest art museums in China and best of all, it’s free to enter. Put on your walking shoes and head to one of the city’s parks first thing in the morning; not only will you witness a (free) display of tai chi, you can also meet, and photograph, calligraphers and dancers. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/caswell_tom)

Then, Ghost Street, stretching roughly from Dongzhimen Bridge to Jiaodaokou Dongdajie, is the optimum place for cheap eats. Mingle amongst lanterns and stroll through rows of Chinese restaurants; come after sunset as this is one area in Beijing that truly never sleeps. The stalls and restaurants here are very cheap, the experience is a "must-do" as are the ma xiao, spicy prawns, that this area is known for.

Try a homestay in India’s capital, Delhi

Delhi is in dire need of more clean, cheap places to stay. Spotting and remedying this gap in the market, Mahindra Homestays offers guestrooms, often with attached bathrooms and breakfast included, at several salubrious homes throughout the city. You are sure to see an area of Delhi you might not explore otherwise, eat delicious home-cooked food, and be treated to some traditional Indian hospitality, all at a fair price.

Drink like a local in Thailand

The most obvious choice for bargain hunters on the search for icy cold beer in Bangkok is to head to Cheap Charlie’s by Sukhumvit Road — squeeze onto a bar stool, order up, and drink with old Asia hands, backpackers, and locals. One word of warning: There’s no bathroom here. Another of Bangkok’s best free-to-enter bars is Telephone, close to Silom Road. This is a slightly wild, gay-friendly hangout, where there’s a cool patio and tables that are wired together with telephones.

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