The numerous cheap, but enjoyable budget-friendly things to do in Southeast Asia prove that you don’t need to spend a lot to have fun! For just under $10, you can already enjoy delicious food, museums, performances, parks, and many more!
Here’s a list of affordable activities that you can do in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore!
Watch the Kecak Dance
Location: Bali, Indonesia
Your visit to Bali will not be complete without watching some of the most captivating traditional performances. One of those is the Kecak Dance, a form of Balinese hindu dance and music drama that was developed in the 1930s in Bali, Indonesia.
Held in the open air at sunset, usually above a cliff facing the sea, the drama depends entirely on the natural light of day. What makes this dance unique is that the drama doesn’t use artificial backdrop and musical instruments. The focus is entirely on the concentric circles of about 50 to 60 men, bare-chested, wearing only distinct Balinese sarongs sitting cross-legged around a set of torches in the center.
Eat Babi Guling
Location: Everywhere in Indonesia
Cost: $4 – $10
Babi Guling is an Indonesian dish similar to the Philippines’ lechon. It is a roasted suckling pig. What people like about Babi Guling is its golden crispy skin and tender juicy meat. Don’t miss this when you’re in Indonesia.
Visit the Jakarta History Museum
Location: Jakarta, Indonesia
The Jakarta History Museum, also known as Fatahillah Museum, is housed in the former City Hall located in the old part of the city now known as Jakarta Kota. The museum exhibits a collection of antique furniture, pieces about the history of the capital from Dutch colonization to the Japanese occupation, an underground dungeon where Indonesian heroes Pangeran Diponegoro and Untung Suropati were said to have been imprisoned, and more.
Stroll in Intramuros
Location: Intramuros, Manila
A trip to Manila isn’t complete without exploring its Walled City—Intramuros. Be amazed by the city’s preserved old hispanic architecture and cobblestone streets while riding a bamboo bicycle. The bamboo bike rental starts at $1. You can also go to Fort Santiago where the Philippines’ National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal was imprisoned before his execution.
Explore the National Museum of the Philippines
Location: Ermita, Manila
If you really want the best budget things to do in Southeast Asia, you should already include the National Museum of the Philippines in your list. You’ll love it here if you’re an art and history lover. The National Museum of the Philippines houses some of the country’s greatest masterpieces—from history, art, and culture. You can find here one of the most precious art pieces in the world, Spoliarium, by Juan Luna, that features a glimpse of Roman history centered on the bloody carnage brought by gladiatorial matches. With a size of 4.22 meters x 7.675 meters, it is the largest painting in the Philippines.
The National Museum of the Philippines also has other branches and galleries you can visit like the National Art Gallery and Planetarium.
Food trip at Chinatown
Location: Binondo, Manila
Cost: $2 – $10
Since you’re already in the Intramuros area, why not go straight to Binondo and have a food trip at Chinatown? Enjoy the Filipino street food and authentic Chinese food all in one place! From haka and toasted siopao to beef lamien and hopia. Plus, they’re so affordable so you can eat everything you want without breaking the bank. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Southeast Asia.
Ride a boat in the Floating Market
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Cost: $1 – $5
Complete your Thailand experience by riding a boat in the Floating Market. Shop like no other at the floating stores or just stroll around the area. The boat ride here is affordable but the goods sold in the floating market are kind of expensive compared to the ordinary markets. Also, don’t be too surprised when the river has a traffic, too because the floating market tends to get crowded due to tourist influx.
Visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Can’t think of what to do in Southeast Asia? Go to Thailand’s temples! The Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most sacred temples in Thailand. According to legend, the temple was built in 1386 to hold a Buddha’s shoulder bone. One of those bones was mounted on a sacred white elephant who then climbed Doi Suthep mountain. After trumpeting three times, the elephant laid down and died in the jungle. The place where he lay is where Doi Suthep’s temple was founded.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple also houses a meditation center where you can learn and practice meditation. And just a reminder, make sure you’re wearing proper clothes that cover your knees and shoulder before entering the temple as they are very strict with the dress code.
Eat Mango Sticky Rice
Location: Everywhere in Thailand
Cost: $1 – $5
Oh when in Thailand, don’t you dare miss its famous delicacy—mango sticky rice! The mango is paired with sweet glutinous sticky rice with coconut milk. It’s very delicious and very filling that could already be an alternative meal. If you’re an adventurous foodie, you can try different flavors of mango sticky rice. Some sell it with colorful sticky rice with different flavors.
Explore Batu Caves
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
One of the best things to do in Southeast Asia that you shouldn’t miss is exploring Batu Caves. It houses several caves and Hindu shrines. While you’re there, you can visit the three main caves composing the Batu Caves: Art Gallery Cave, Museum Cave, and Cathedral cave—the most famous cave. To reach it, visitors must climb to 272 steps. The interior of which is decorated with ornate Hindu shrines and features a large opening at the top where the sunlight streams through.
Visit National Planetarium
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
If you’re a science geek or just someone who loves astronomy, the National Planetarium (Planetarium Negara KL) is for you. It’s a fun and educational place to learn about the planet and universe. The main entrance shows a teleport chamber which leads into a series of halls containing two planetariums that have interactive exhibits: the touch-screen interactive computers and hands-on experiments, plus a Space Theater.
Eat at Purradise Cat Cafe
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Want a taste of a different cafe vibe? Check out the Purradise Cat Cafe where you’ll dine with cats of different breeds! Oh the cat moms are so gonna love this! While in the cafe, you may play with the cats, feed them and even take them home!
Watch a free movie
Location: Sentosa, Siloso Beach
On selected weekends and holidays, you can watch a free movie screening of popular movies at Sentosa. This is perfect for families and couples who want an unforgettable evening of entertainment under the stars. Watching a free movie by the beach is definitely one of the best budget things to do in Southeast Asia!
For more information about the movie screenings and date, check out their website.
Visit the Singapore Art Museum
Location: 8 Queen St., Singapore
The Singapore Art Museum exhibits international contemporary art practices, specializing in Singapore and Southeast Asia. SAM houses the world’s largest collection of modern Southeast Asian art. From film to experimental media, you won’t find the typical oil paintings here.
Explore the Gardens by the Bay
Location: Marina Gardens Dr, Singapore
If you don’t know what to do in Southeast Asia, just explore Gardens by the Bay and you’ll never be disappointed. It’s like being in a whole new universe when you enter. Entrance to this beautiful park is free and getting a glimpse of the giant SuperTree Grove is simply a Singapore-must. Come at night and enjoy a spectacular sight as the trees light up during the Garden Rhapsody lights show.
Keep ZEN Rooms in mind on your next adventure. Book your accommodation at a very affordable price so you can travel more and pay less!