I do sometimes post too much about the costs. It aims just at having an idea about the values of the journey. When you travel through different countries, you often want to compare many things. And a classic question is: is the country xy cheap? IHMO, it is not very accurate to answer by yes or no, it depend pretty much from the sectors. The following part list some sample prices I experienced during my journeys in 2012. Actually, after one week or more in a country, you soon think directly in the local currency and you know the value of the stuff, so that I had to calculate back to € or $ for this article. At the time of traveling and writing, 1€ = US $1.25 = 7.74 EGP = 0.88 JOD = 22000 IRR = 1650 MNT = 7.7 CNY = 39 THB = 69.2 IDR = 110 NPR = 1100 NMK = 167 LKR = 10177 LAK = 125 JPY = 1405 KRW. The weak euro makes some countries where the US $ is still the reference particularly expensive, e.g. Mongolia where many prices of car rental, guest houses, etc are defined in $. I summarize my observations in the table below. See the text for the details.

in € 1 night dorm/ guest house 1 meal local food 1 visit touristic temple/ museum Average expense per day*
Indonesia 2010-4 1,5 4 38
Egypt 2012-05 1 4 41
Jordan 2012-05 12 1,5 3 41
Iran 2012-06 6 3 0,5 22
Mongolia 2012-7 6 2,5 3 40
China 2012-07 8 3 4 70
Thailand 2012-08+2013-01 5 1 2,5 28
India 2012-09 3 1 2 17
Nepal 2012-11 2 1 1 17
Myanmar 2012-12 7 1 4 22
Sri Lanka 2013-01 7 1 8 18
Laos 2013-02 3 1,5 3 18
Cambodia 2013-03 3 1,5 5 19
Japan 2013-04 20 5 10 70
S. Korea 2013-05 10 4 3 30
Germany 2011 18 5 8 45

Writing these costs, I also calculated my average cost per day. What was my surprise when I realized that I spent almost the same amount every day in each countries, ca. 40€ / $50 a day! However, I did not count the flight to come into the country, just the expenses inside it. This is valid for Egypt, Jordan and Mongolia, and also my previous daily life in Germany, flat rental inclusive! Indeed, when you are working, your expenses are mainly when going out. During your vacation, you do much more activities, particularly visiting the touristic places. The exception in this calculation is Iran, where I just spend half of that, about 20€ a day, the cheap touristic places are helping.


in € 1 L gasoline (91, 92 or 95) 1h bus city bus 1h slow/fast train (2nd) 1h fly Transport index (%)
Indonesia 0,7 15 30
Egypt 0,3 1,2 1 38
Jordan 0,8 1,6 82
Iran 0,3 0,5 0,06 10 22
Mongolia 1 1,6 0,25 77
China 1  |13 65 102
Thailand 0,8 1,3 0,20 1,2 40 59
India 0,6 0,3 0,15 0,4 50 44
Nepal 0,85 1 0,15 70 62
Myanmar 0,8 1,5 0,2 1 55
Sri Lanka 0,9 0,4 0,1 0,4 37
Laos 0,9 1,5 85
Cambodia 0,9 1,5 85
Japan 1,1 10 1,5 15|40 277
S. Korea 1,2 3 0,7 3|15 50 106
Germany 1,5 8 2,4 10|20 100 248

For each column, I calculated the average, then the ratio per row to this average. The index is then the average of all these ratios. For the transport, the cheapest is either Iran or India. Buses in India are however often old and bumpy (avoid the last rows!). Sometimes you get better bus by private companies. Considering the price/comfort, I will say Iran is better: you can get a 5h bus ride for 50000 IRR, i.e. less than $3 / 2.5€ in a comfortable bus with air conditioned (Euro3 Volvo)! I wonder if there is any other country in the World where it is that cheap with this kind of bus! In Iran, you might also pay the same amount with the taxi from the city center to the bus terminal! Indeed, in most countries visited, the bus terminals are often about 10km away from the very center. In Jordan, I did not take any bus but heard about other tourists paying 7JD = 8€ for Amman-Aqaba, a 5h drive. In Egypt, I paid 90 EGP = 12€ for 10h night bus between Cairo and Dahab. In Indonesia 2 years ago, it was ~7€ for a 10h night bus, and Peru last year about XX€ for 6h drive. The 6h bus drive from UB to Karakorum in Mongolia was also about 10€, in a Kia or Hyundai bus with air con. And in France or Germany, it would be again 4 times more (>40€) although it is not that easy in many European countries, the market is just starting after over 50 years railways monopole for domestic trip! The situation might change in Iran pretty soon, because the gasoline is getting more expensive. Gasoline is around 1€ in most countries, but much lower in producer countries like Egypt or Iran. In Western Europe, gasoline is heavily taxed so you pay a liter around 1.5 or 1.6€. More about that here: The daily cost of a private car with driver and petrol is directly related: about $60 (50€) in Mongolia and Jordan, and only $25-$30 (20-25€) in Iran or Egypt. That was about transport on the roads. With the railways often having subsidies from the government, it is slightly different. Actually, most government cannot afford that and railways make sense mainly very dense inhabited areas and for big countries. I have less input to compare: no train in Jordan, none taken in Iran or Mongolia (I missed the Trans-Mongolian train as many tourist take between UB and Beijing), but took old trains a few times in Egypt: 8€ night bus 12h Cairo-Aswan in 2nd class, 90EGP= 12€ Luxor-Cairo in 1st class, 35EGP = 4€ the 2½h Cairo-Alex in 1st class and fast train. This makes an average of 1€/h, while a regional train in Germany quickly cost over 10€ / hour or 20€/hour in ICE (fastest and most comfortable train). In China, I took the fast train between Beijing and Shanghai: 1320km in 4 ½h, i.e. with an average speed close to max one of 303km/h. The fun is also quite expensive for China: 555 Yuan one way, i.e. about 70€. In Thailand, I took a train from Bangkok to Surat Thani from 18:30 to 6:23, the ticket was 358 Baht in 2nd class (out of 3), i.e. less than 10€ for 12h, less than 1€ an hour. You could get however for the same journey an express train from 22:50 to 8:05 for 558 baht, so 1.6€ an hour. Let’s put 1.2 € in average. A day train brought me from Bangkok to Ayutthaya for only 15 baht, twice cheaper than the BTS! In India, the best is the sleeper class in overnight trains!  No AC (but no need by night), but something like 350 Rs / 5€ for 10 to 12 hours, 400km or more, i.e. half the price of Thailand! I estimate 1h sleeper train at about 0.4€ while 2nd class AC about 1.2€ (3 times!) A few words about the metro: a single ticket cost 1.3€ in Paris, 2.5€ in Frankfurt, but only 3500 IRR (0.16€) in Tehran; 2 EGP (0.25€) in Cairo and 3 RMB (<0.4€) in Shanghai. In Bangkok or Delhi, it depends on the distance; let’s say 25 Baths / 25 Rs for 10 stations (twice cheaper in Delhi). Concerning the domestic flights in economic class, I took a few in Indonesia in 2010 (e.g. 1h30/700km flight Makasar-Manado for ca. 40€; 3h/1800km flight Manado-Jakarta for ca. 60€, prices still available in 2012); and one in Iran: ca. 33€ for the 2h/700 km flight Tehran-Shiraz.


In Egypt, you can find a small falafel sandwich in every corner for just a few cents, the food is very cheap there, if you are not too strict with hygiene: you often see the guy in the shop pressing your falafel with his dirty fingers! In a good restaurant, you pay ~ 10€ for a delicious traditional meal. A traditional fast food like Koshira is about 1€. I would say Jordan is a little more expensive for the fast food in the street, we got good stuff for less than 2€. The traditional fast food in Iran might be as cheap (~1€), but it is much more difficult to get, you mostly see fast food with burger and pizza which cost about 3€. In Mongolia, local fast food cost you about 4000T, i.e. ca. 2.5€. China, only considering Shanghai and Beijing, is a mixed bag: in most modern areas or shopping mall (with air con), you eat “cheap” for 30 to 40 RMB, i.e. 5€. But if you go behind the large avenues in small hutongs, you could get very basic location who serve you a plate for 10 RMB or less (I got lately one for 6 RMB in Beijing, i.e. < 1€). Thailand is the paradise of cheap and tasty (sometimes spicy!) food. Everywhere, you get your basic plate for 40 Baht (1€), also in the food court in the shopping mall (with air con) or in the main train station.  The portions are quite small so you can get 2 of them, which stay cheap. This was before coming to India and Nepal, where you can get Thali or Daal Baaht (rice with lentils soup and a mix veg curry in “all you can eat” mode) for sometimes also less than 1€! I suppose one main point to get cheap food is first about the cost of work but also about the regulation, particularly regarding the hygiene standard and street occupation. If you get food directly in the street within a few minutes, and the average income is pretty low, you pay like 1€ (Egypt, China, and Thailand). But when you stay in clean place with air con, you have to pay for these services, so you go up to 5€ (except Thailand where you still get cheap food in those places). This applies for Europe as well: 5€ is more or less the basic menu in Mac Donald’s in Germany (in France, food is always more expensive), and a Döner kebab on the street is about 3.5€.


As I try to use Couchsurfing as much as possible, I haven’t much to compare the accommodation in hostel or budget hotel: in Aswan and Luxor, the cheapest were not available, so I had to get a more normal room in a hotel for about 10€ a night. In Dahab, I think it was about 6-7€. In Amman, the dorm cost 12€, much more expensive. And in Yazd, I paid 5€ for the dorm, making Iran again the cheapest. The Guesthouses in Mongolia are in the same category, $5 / 6500T / 4€ in UIaan Baator or 8000T (5€) in Karakorum to sleep in a ger, the Mongolian yurt. Japan is not as expensive anymore as it used to be. If Tokyo was the most expensive city in 1990, the real estate prices stayed almost stable for 20 years, while it got a huge multiplication in many other cities (4 in Paris, 20 in Seoul). Thus, a bed in a dorm in Tokyo is now about 20€, half the price of Paris!

Touristic place

The entry ticket for the touristic places makes Iran really cheap, especially if the site is public: the government stopped the more expensive tickets for Foreigners some years ago. For instance, you pay only 5000 IRR (~0.4€) to enter a (public) museum, but 5-6 times more for a (private) garden, about 30k IRR ~ 1,5€. In this area, Jordan is a mixed bag: 1 JD (1.2€) for some castles or Romans ruins, but up to 50JD (60€) for the daily ticket in Petra. And the cheapest official access to the Dead Sea is the Amman Beach resort which cost 16JD, which make it even more expensive than comparative site in Europe. Egypt is in the middle field: mostly about 20 to 30 EGP for a temple (<4€), and up to 100 EGP (12€) for Abu Simbel or the Great Pyramid, the most famous ones. In Mongolia: you pay about 5000T (~3€) to enter a museum or 3500T for a Buddhist temple. Naadam in UB is very touristic, so you pay $25 as a foreigner for the opening ceremony instead of 8000 or 12000T for the locals (3 times less). Still in Mongolia, the entrance fee for some National Park is about 300T for the local but 10 times more for Foreigners. The price in China are in a similar level, in Shanghai, you pay 30Y for the Yu Garten or 10Y (1.2€) for the major temples. The Shanghai museum was free however. In Thailand, India and Nepal in the main cities, with some bargain, you can get a room for less than 300, i.e 7€ in Bangkok (THB), 4€ in Delhi (IDR) or 3€ in Kathmandu (NPR). In Nepal in some small villages, you can even get a room for less than 1€ (100 NPR) if you accept to get the sometimes more expensive dinner at the place.

3 thoughts on “Costs

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