Budget Bust: How We Spent a Fortune in South East Asia

If you have ever scrolled through Pinterest for more than a minute, you have likely seen a post touting something along the lines of “SOUTH EAST ASIA ON A BUDGET” or “TRAVEL THAILAND FOR $10 A DAY!”.  After compiling our expenses once our trip was over, these posts now make our eyes roll.

Our mistakes started long before we departed. While discussing our planned itinerary, I asked Brigette if she had seen the e-mail about the change in our flight times, to which she said she hadn’t seen any e-mails ever about the flights. After a frantic search for her e-mail confirmation, it soon became evident that I had only booked my flight & Brigette’s did not process. AWESOME! My flight itinerary had now sky rocketed in price (to the tune of $10,000 instead of the $750 I had paid). With no other option, and our departure date quickly approaching we booked new flights & I sacrificed my original flight. (#dropinthebucket)

A $419 view (@Marina Bay Sands, Singapore)



Our budget went awry before we departed because of some poor flight planning (as detailed above & below).

+ $750 (mistake flight)

+ $893 x 2 (new flights from Boston to Singapore, via Dubai)

Prior to even planning our Asia trip, we had purchased an Air Asia pass for $160 that touted up to 10 flights.  This was too good to be true once we actually tried to book the flight routes & times we needed Our regional flights broke down as follows:

Singapore > Bangkok $57 each

Bangkok > Siem Reap $91 each

Siem Reap > Kuala Lumpur $106 each

Kuala Lumpur > Colombo $105 each

Air Asia Pass $160 (only used to book a flight to Chaing Mai, which we didn’t end up using)

TOTAL SPENT BEFORE TAKE-OFF: $3,574 ($1787 per person)



SINGAPORE (2 nights) :

Park Regis $162

Marina Bay Sands $419

BANGKOK (2 nights)

Eastin Grand $194

SIEM REAP (2 nights)

Hotel Tara Angkor $155

MALAYSIA (4 nights)

Pangkor Laut Resort (3 nights) $1279

Kuala Lumpur Hilton (1 night) $102


Colombo OZO (1 night) $124

Ramboda Villa (airbnb) (Central Province, 1 night) $116

Uga Bay (Kalkudah, 3 nights) $439

KumbuckRiver Tree House (Yala National Park, 1 night) $202





A total guesstimate, but we spent around $700 on nourishment

& about $500 on libations (don’t you dare judge us)


 Total food & wine: $1200



Crashing a rental car in Malaysia +$700

A private charter boat to Pangkor Laut Resort +$300

Transportation in Sri Lanka +$500

Enjoying a 6 hour van ride in Sri Lanka

Total additional expenses due to stupidity: $1500

Total spent on our South East Asia adventure:  $13,040 ($6,520 per person)


So, there you have it.  If you’re looking for advice on how to travel Asia on a budget, you have landed on the wrong blog!  But, if you are looking to learn from other’s mistakes and travel to 5 countries, stay in ten hotels & take 8 flights in 3 weeks time, you have come to the right place!  For more on our SE Asia trip, have a look here!


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  1. Kari (Happy Coconuts Travel Blog)

    October 2, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    This is hilarious and so honest! It’s way too easy to spend money traveling, especially when you don’t know a place and all the shortcuts.

    1. sarah.mamis@gmail.com

      October 5, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      Thanks Kari! Expenses add up very quickly when we’re on the road!

  2. whereispriyanka travel blog

    October 2, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    ouch that hurts that you had to spend on the flights again! I know this kind of mistakes happen, but I guess its a lesson well-learned both for you and your readers. I always double check my flights for this matter and keep asking my friends to do so! Nice humble post, thoroughly enjoyed reading it

  3. Paula - Gone with the Wine

    October 2, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Too funny! But I’m glad you are able to laugh about it though. That is exactly what makes the best travel memories. I did have to buy a new flight also few years ago. I was going to stay in USA for 3 months, but what I didn’t realise is that it is exactly 90 days, not 3 months, so my return flight was 1 day too late. Oh well, lesson learned 🙂

  4. Sara

    October 3, 2016 at 5:46 am

    Ohhhh!!! That is so bad! I am really sorry that for a trip that is known to be cheap, you guys started with such a lost. On the bright side, I am sure you guys had a great adventure, hopefully next time it would be cheaper 😉

  5. Marinel

    October 3, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Positive thinking comes along way. You learn and get better at it. I hardly focus on counting the dollars but then I guess it’s because I really go for the cheapest possible such as camping and being in the wilderness – no $ needed for that for the most part. I’m sure people will learn from your blog – nothing is ever a mistake – it’s all part of the lessons!

  6. Kathryn OHalloran

    October 4, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    I see some of those $10 a day posts and wonder how they do it. It’s not my style of travel. I travel and work full time so a bunk bed in a dorm with no privacy would cost me more in lost earnings than I’d save 🙂 Same if I was on a short vacation, I’d rather spend money and stay somewhere nice. That’s what vacations are about. If you’re a backpacker trying to stretch your money out for a year or two though, then yeah, do the budget stuff.

  7. Lena

    October 10, 2016 at 11:07 am

    wow you are clearly not travelling on a budget 😀 But there are some situations where yolo is the good attitude.. I know we will stay in Marina bay if we make it to Singapore.. and if it´s only for a night.. really, i need a selfie in that pool!

  8. Christina

    November 24, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Wow you really splurged out at Pangkor Laut! Was it worth it? You got a bargain at the Park Regis Singapore and KL Hilton. Was the Hilton a five star hotel or was it one of the older Hiltons?

  9. Danni lawson

    November 24, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    At least you are very honest! I think we can all relate too, I have misbooked flights and crashed a hire car too. What happened with the Air Asia pass? How come you couldn’t use it much?

  10. Stacey

    November 24, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    I am always skeptical about these budget posts! I think I would have managed to come in lower on the accomodation side of the budget though. I hope you had a great time regardless of being over budget!

  11. Belinda

    November 24, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    Oh my goodness. Anyway, I think sometimes we have to learn from experience

  12. Carly Wayward Heyward

    November 25, 2016 at 1:50 am

    It’s amazing how things add up! I love that you also put your exact prices because so often I wonder about these other bloggers! I also splurged for the Marina Bay Sands #WorthIt

  13. Janine Good

    November 25, 2016 at 4:57 am

    Very honest Sarah! Yikes, I was sad to read how much you paid for your flights! Holy cow! I don’t think I have ever paid that much 🙂

  14. Diana - MVMT Blog

    November 25, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    I can definitely relate to your feeling of seeing all these budget SEA trips after spending a lot more on your own trip. I’ve made my fair share of budget travel mistakes for sure. I’m a big fan of hostels so hopefully that would help me cut down on my accommodation costs a lot.

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