Once the pandemic is over, I’m sure millions of people are going to gear up to travel as much as possible. One such destination is Asia. I grew up in Asia for 13 years and it is my favorite region of the world to explore. This post goes into the cost of traveling to Asia to help you save and plan.
Much of Financial Samurai’s culture is about bringing various worldwide perspectives to financial topics we care about. If we can assemble the best aspects of each culture onto one site, we could create a valuable resource of wealth and happiness for millions.
From 2011 – 2017, I traveled to Europe for several weeks at a time to understand the happiest people on Earth. We looked into more sensitive topics such as combatting apathy and whether it was so bad that America was turning into Europe with higher taxes, increased welfare, and an overall larger government presence.
I could go back to Hawaii or Lake Tahoe for a vacation, but I’ve decided it’s time to return to a region where I spent the first 13 years of my life. It’s been four years since I’ve been back and I’m curious to see how things have changed.
Disclosure: Financial Samurai has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Financial Samurai and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.
On this business trip, I’d like to research the following questions:
* Why are the Chinese so dominant in business in Malaysia? Malaysia is mostly made up of Malays, Chinese, and Indians with several rules favoring Malays. I wonder if those rules still exist. Are countries around the equator less productive? Or is this some type of misconception? I grew up in KL from 1988-1991 and want to better understand the country now as an adult.
* What is the latest sentiment about China from the Taiwanese? When I lived in Taipei from 1984-1988, there was a lot of fear that China would invade Taiwan and take the country over. Now that China and Taiwan have prospered so greatly over the past 25 years, do they dare disrupt their fortunes over politics?
* How do South Koreans feel about the situation in North Korea? What is the existing attitude of South Koreans towards Japan and the United States? Are the family empires (chaebols) gaining or losing their significance? How is the manufacturing industry competing so well against Japan’s manufacturing industry? I’ve only been to Seoul once, but Seoul seemed like a dirtier, more chaotic version of Tokyo. Korean culture is the one culture I’ve never been able to fully connect with.
Cost Of Traveling To Asia: Make It A Business Trip!
The best tip on lowering the cost of traveling to Asia is making it a business trip. If you work for a business, the business will pay for your airfare, hotels, and meals. You can then stay for the weekend or on an extended holiday.
The next way to lower the cost of traveling to Asia is by starting your own business and writing off all your business travel costs. This is what we’ve done, especially since we will write about our travels to generate online income.
If I’m going to Asia, then it’s best I go for at least three weeks since it’s so far away. The older I’ve gotten, the more I dislike sitting on an airplane for hours on end. Furthermore, I’m too cheap to spend 5X more on business class tickets. When I can happily pay $8,000 for a $1,600 ticket to Hong Kong from San Francisco, that’s when I’ll know I’m rich.
It makes me happiest working online while traveling. It’s like having just the right amount of clothes or having four people in the car. Maximizing one’s potential just feels right. I can still write, respond to comments, and stay on top of work for my consulting clients. Thank goodness for ubiquitous wifi!
Where To Go In Asia?
The cost of traveling to Asia depends on where you plan to go. Here was my trip itinerary.
Taiwan To Malaysia
I’m thinking to start off (or end) in Taiwan for about four days, which I’d really enjoy as I’ve been thinking about going back for ages. I’d have the chance to practice my Mandarin, one of my main goals for 2015, and eat some of the best dumplings in the world every day at Din Tai Fung. I’ve traveled all over China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of Asia and DTF seriously has the best food in the world.
From Taiwan, I’d fly to Kuala Lumpur for a friend’s wedding and spend some time reminiscing at my old stomping ground where I grew up. Malaysian food is also incredible. The people are friendly and the excursions to places like the Batu Caves to see thousands of bats and people climbing huge poles to get birds’ nests for food is pretty interesting. Of course it’s also a bit nerve wracking going to southeast Asia considering the Malaysian Airlines and AirAsia flight tragedies, but we can’t let terrorists paralyze us with fear.
Malaysia To Thailand Then Angkor Wat, Cambodia?
From KL, I’m thinking of flying to Phuket, Thailand. I’ve been wanting to explore more of Thailand for a while now since I’ve only been to Bangkok and Thailand seems to be the #1 destination for “digital nomads” due to the inviting culture, low cost of living, and terrific food.
Plus, from Phuket I can easily take a ferry to the gorgeous Ko Phi Phi islands. The water looks unbelievable and I’d have the chance to go diving (got certified a couple years ago) and snorkeling in the electric blue waters. After a nice dive, how awesome would it be to eat some grilled fish and curry for lunch, and mangos for desert. Then I’d take a nap, and wake up an hour later to do some writing and respond to your comments. Sounds like fun!
Next I’d fly north to Bangkok for a couple days. I’ve already been there so it’s not really that exciting of a pitstop, but I will see the temples and check out the river market again. Bangkok seems like the easiest transit to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I wonder if I’d be tired by this point, but I think it’d be worth it. If I’m already all the way in Thailand, I can see myself regretting not going to Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage site, because it’s one of the places on my bucket list.
Then Either Seoul Or Hong Kong
Then from Siem Reap, Cambodia the easiest way to get back home to San Francisco is either through Hong Kong or Seoul. Since I’m trying to maximize my trip, I figure I might as well spend a few days at either Seoul or Hong Kong to break up the flights. The cost differential between the two cities doesn’t seem to be that significant either.
It’s not the most fun way to end my trip since I’ve been to both cities before. In fact, I’ve been to Hong Kong around 10 times in the last 15 years for work. Despite going to Hong Kong so many times, I really just spent most of my time at the conference center and then out to drinks and dinner with clients. Perhaps this trip can be more adventurous.
Hong Kong is famous for its shopping, something I don’t do much. Hong Kong is also a great place to get tailored clothes made. Too bad I don’t need to dress up to go to work anymore and I already have too many clothes. If I’m going to go back to SF via Hong Kong, the most I’ll stay is a couple days.
Seoul seems like the more exciting way to go.
Custom Asian Itinerary Map
Despite tens of hours of sitting miserably on a plane, this Asia trip should be one heck of an adventure. Granted it might be exhausting bouncing around between so many places. But I’d have some great beach days midway to kick my feet up and enjoy the turquoise waters. Chances are I won’t be going all the way back to Asia for a while either, so I might as well see as many places as I can in one trip.
Here’s what my itinerary looks like on a map:
Alternatively if I decide to end the trip in Taiwan, I’d fly to either Seoul or Hong Kong first, then Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia. Then, since there’s no direct flight to Taiwan from Siem Reap, I’d probably spend a couple days in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam as a stopover and then end in Taiwan.
The Cost Of Traveling To Asia For Three Weeks
Here’s a very rough estimate on what flights and hotels would cost to see all of these places. The cost swings will depend on the quality of hotels and excursions. I looked at the 3 and 4 start hotels, and was surprised to see how inexpensive hotels cost. Food is also much cheaper in Asia than in San Francisco. Overall, a trip for two shouldn’t cost more than $8,000 since hotel rates are based on double occupancy.
As you can see there doesn’t seem to be any significant difference in price between returning home via Seoul ($4,143) or Hong Kong ($3,909).
So there you have it! Over the course of three weeks, I plan to visit six cities, possibly seven. It doesn’t seem too hectic, does it? In each city, I’d like to research various cultural and financial topics to publish on Financial Samurai.
Working while traveling is when I get the most excited about having an online business! Everybody should start one today. It’s never been cheaper and easier to brand yourself online. You can even get a lot of free goodies when traveling due to your site like I’ve received.
Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards Review
Looking for the best travel rewards credit cards to travel to more places for free? Here are my favorite out of over one hundred I’ve reviewed so far. You can lower your cost of traveling to Asia using at least one of these great credit cards.
1) Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
This popular travel rewards card waives its annual fee for the first year and offers flexible 2X miles rewards on every purchase. I’ve partnered with Capital One on several occasions and have always been pleased with their product offerings and customer service.
- Get 50,000 miles (=$500 value in travel rewards) when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
- Earn unlimited 2X miles fast on every purchase you make
- Transfer miles to any of Venture’s 10+ travel partners
- No foreign transaction fees
- Get a $100 application fee credit for TSA Pre or Global Entry if you use your card
- Built-in coverage and purchase protections
2) Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
I’ve been a happy Chase customer and cardmember for over 10 years. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of my favorite travel rewards credit cards.
- Get 60,000 points (=$750 value in travel rewards) if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
- Earn 2X points fast for travel-related and dining purchases
- 25% extra value when you redeem for travel bookings
- No foreign transaction fees
- Built-in coverage and purchase protections
- Frequent travel point transfers 1:1
- Invite friends for up to 75,000 extra bonus points
3) Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card
If you’re looking for a card with no annual fee, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card is a great option.
- Get 30,000 points (=$300 value) if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
- No annual fee to worry about
- No foreign transaction fees
- Earn unlimited 3X points fast on travel, gas, ride-sharing, transit, eating out, ordering in, and on popular streaming services
- Points don’t expire as long as your account is active
- No travel black out dates if you redeem using Go Far Rewards
- Built-in cell phone protection
Disclosure: Financial Samurai has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Financial Samurai and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
Updated for 2020 and beyond.