As a long-term resident of Asia, I’ve spent a lot of time in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. All three countries are located close to each other, with Singapore at the bottom of the Malay Peninsula, Malaysia to the north of it and Thailand further north still. For those considering a holiday in Singapore, Malaysia or Thailand though, which is the best country for a cheap vacation?
Singapore – Not Singapore. Unfortunately, it’s not remotely a cheap place to vacation. The last time I was there, prices were the same as in the US and higher, with hotels, restaurants and shopping really taking a bite out of your wallet.
Yes, you can eat cheaper if you eat at one of Singapore’s ‘hawker centers’ (outdoor food courts with street stalls), but as everything else, including transportation, night life, tourist attractions and shopping, can be quite highly priced, Singapore does not offer the best value for your dollar.
Malaysia – Overall, I have always found Malaysia to be quite comparable to traveling in Thailand price-wise and most Malaysians are lovely too.It’s no wonder Malaysia has been one of my favorite places to vacation for the last decade.
If you’re looking for nice accommodation, hotels are slightly more expensive in Kuala Lumpur than in Bangkok, but not so much that you’d really notice. There are also some excellent deals on Kuala Lumpur budget hotels that are cheap and in stunningly fabulous locations.
Eating out is inexpensive (a huge sandwich, a salad and a large latte at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for around $6.50 and a meal at a street stall for $2 — and they are delicious), transportation is very affordable (the monorail is cheaper than the sky train in Bangkok for certain trips), tourist attractions are dirt cheap or free and shopping is some of the lowest priced you’ll find anywhere.
CNNGo has some excellent information on just why Kuala Lumpur is a must place to visit, and the rest of Malaysia is just as nice too.
Thailand – Of course, I’ve lived in Thailand for 10 years so I’m pretty conversant with the prices here. For the cheapest place to visit between Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand it is, happily, Thailand — but only by a little bit compared to Malaysia.
Thai hotels are inexpensive and offer world-class accommodation (a gorgeous independently run boutique hotel for $23 a night? Easily available in Chiang Mai). Five-star hotels are everywhere too and as cheap as $50 a night for a phenomenal place to stay.
Food is dirt cheap even in air-conditioned restaurants and, if you eat at the food stalls or food courts in the mall anywhere in Thailand, it’s easy to pay less than $1.50 a meal.
Taxis are some of the world’s cheapest (an average trip in Bangkok is 45 baht or $1.50), as is the sky train, underground system, tuk-tuks, buses and river boats.
Traveling within the country is also ridiculously low-priced, with trips to the beach at Hua Hin or Koh Samet as cheap as $12-15 round-trip on the bus, or $99 on Air Asia.
All in all, if you’re looking for a cheap country in south east Asia to travel in, you can’t beat either Thailand or Malaysia. I’ve been to almost 50 countries, and lived in a few of them, yet Thailand and Malaysia remain two of my most favorite. Particularly for affordable cost of a holiday there.