Travelling to the world’s top ten cities without breaking the bank

Updated 26 Jan 2018 – By Caitlyn Ng


Kuala Lumpur recently made a list for the right reason. The top 100 city destinations for 2017 by Euromonitor International revealed a surprise at the 10th spot: our very own capital city! According to the report, Asian cities dominate the list thanks to the rapid rise of Chinese outbound tourism demand.

If you’re planning to visit the top 10 cities on the rest of the list, did you know it’s possible to do so on a budget*? We’re here to show you how much you’re roughly going to need for just the basic essentials. Let the travelling begin!

*Assuming there is only one person travelling for 4days 3nights in June 2018, the indicated sum of money is a rough estimate based on: prices taken off comparison websites for flights + accommodation; real travellers’ accounts of meal prices; and official cities’ websites of transportation costs.

1) Hong Kong (RM1,000)

Hong Kong welcomes with its iconic skyline, made up of enchanting neighbourhoods and colourful traditions. As one of the top gastronomic heavens, this is city that will sate any culinary desire.

- Round-trip flight ticket: ≈RM300 (direct flight)
- Room rate per night: ≈RM120 (hostel/motel)
- Regular meals: While Hong Kong is known to be generally expensive, there are still options for more affordable food. Expect to pay RM27 for market food and simple meals; RM55 for a meal with a drink in a sit-down restaurant.
- Mode of transportation:  On-loan Octopus Card is perfect for paying fares on buses, MTRs, ferries and trams. Adults pay HKD 150 (roughly RM80), which is HKD50 for the refundable deposit and HKD100 for the initial stored value.

2) Bangkok (RM500)

With so much of daily life conducted on the streets of Bangkok, this is a city where the familiar and the exotic collide like the rich flavours in a bowl of savoury tom yam.

- Round-trip flight ticket: ≈RM180 (direct flight)
- Room rate per night: ≈RM30 (hostel/motel)
- Regular meals: You can choose to eat as cheaply or as pricey as you want! Street food from vendors can go as low as RM4; RM26 and above for a western meal in a restaurant downtown.
- Mode of transportation: There are two main train lines (BTS and MRT) that connect the main entertainment and shopping areas. The one-day BTS pass costs THB140 (roughly RM18) while the one-day MRT pass costs THB120 (roughly RM15).

3) London (RM2,000)

Immersed in history, London has something for everyone: rich seams of history and culture to fine food and good times. As a city of both wide-open vistas and leafy landscape escapes, take your pick!

- Round-trip flight ticket: ≈RM1,350 (non-direct flight)
- Room per night: ≈RM100 (hostel/motel)
- Regular meals: You can opt for fast food or Chinese dishes, both of which are aplenty and are more affordable options (starting from RM28) but still decidedly pricey. Restaurants with a meal and drink would set you back upwards of RM100.
- Mode of transportation: Purchase of an Oyster card (prepaid card) would allow you to enjoy much-discounted fares on bus lines and underground trains. Single one-way fare with Oyster card: GBP2.90 during peak periods (roughly RM16); GBP2.40 during off peak periods (roughly RM13).

4) Singapore (RM450)

Our 'beloved' neighbour to the south is a melting pot of cultures; the cuisine and buildings are just some examples that mirror it. Singapore is also the place to be for a spot of retail therapy.

- Round-trip flight ticket: ≈RM90 (direct flight)
- Room per night: ≈RM50 (hostel/motel)
- Regular meals: If your stomach is strong enough for street food, get ready to fork out RM18 at low-cost eateries, or RM62 at casual restaurants for a meal and a drink.
- Mode of transportation: There is the three-day Singapore Tourist Pass (STP) which costs SGD20 plus a SGD10 refundable rental deposit (a total of roughly RM93) that will allow you unlimited travel on the buses, MRT and LRT trains.

5) Macau (RM1,350)

The Macau peninsula and its islands are renowned internationally for being a mecca of gambling and glitz, but behind all that is a city that harmoniously blends together Chinese and Portuguese cultures.

- Round-trip flight ticket: ≈RM300 (direct flight)
- Room per night: ≈RM280 (budget hotel)
- Regular meals: Eat like the locals do – steaming bowls of noodles are a popular favourite here. You can find budget food for between RM21 to RM35 at food courts or street vendors tucked away in back alleys.
- Mode of transportation: As a tourist, you will find it convenient to use the public buses to get to your destination. The fares range from MOP3.20 to MOP6.40 (roughly RM1.70 to RM3.40) depending on the distance you'd like to travel.

6) Dubai (RM1,900)

As a retail haven, the city is host to two huge shopping festivals; traditional souqs offer timeless bargaining banter. At night, Dubai’s shape-shifting party spectrum caters to every budget and age group.

- Round-trip flight ticket: ≈RM930 (non-direct flight)
- Room per night: ≈RM230 (budget hotel)
- Regular meals: Meals in this city are best shared by the table and are easier on the pocket; you could even search for restaurant chains that serve affordable meals. Prices range between RM23 to RM35.
- Mode of transportation: The metro line and public buses, while not extensive, are efficient and can take you to many places of interest. A day pass costs AED20 (roughly RM23).

7) Paris (RM2,100)

Recognisable architectural icons welcome visitors to Paris, along with priceless artistic treasures. The city’s reputation for exquisite cuisine also precedes it; priding itself on presentation of quality meals.

- Round-trip flight ticket: ≈RM1,200 (non-direct flight)
- Room per night: ≈RM160 (hostel/motel)
- Regular meals: The French have their famed culinary skills, you have a tight budget. If you’d like to experience a nice meal paired with a good wine at least once, you can expect to pay a price ranging between RM123 to RM200. You could opt to make your own simple meals though, which are considerably cheaper at between RM45 to RM70.
- Mode of transportation: The three-day Paris Visite travel pass allows you to use all of the public transport networks: the metro, tramway and bus to name a few. Depending on the zones chosen, it will cost either EUR26.65 (roughly RM131) for Zones 1-3 or EUR53.75 (roughly RM265) for Zones 1-5.

8) New York (RM2,300)

New York City wears many crowns but the one that probably stands out the most is as the nexus of the arts: The Met, MoMa and Guggenheim. It’s also an urban wanderer’s delight, any time of the day.

- Round-trip flight ticket: ≈RM1,725 (non-direct flight)
- Room per night: ≈RM138 (hostel/motel)
- Regular meals: Aim for the street vendors, pizza parlours, or the sandwich and kebab shops, where you can easily get meals from RM20 to RM42.
- Mode of transportation: The city’s public transportation systems are extremely efficient, with the subway, water transportation and buses. You can opt for the pay-per-ride MetroCard that comes with a 5% bonus; top up USD20 (roughly RM84) to get USD21 (roughly RM88) on the card.

9) Shenzhen (RM1,600)

A useful transport hub, it’s no wonder this city is able to attract a mix of business people and tourists. The myriad theme parks, quirky specialty markets and nightlife all contribute to the colourful character of Shenzhen.

- Round-trip flight ticket: ≈RM1,120 (non-direct flight)
- Room per night: ≈RM60 (hostel/motel)
- Regular meals: Basic menu items (including a drink) in the business district would cost around RM31 whereas a simple combo meal in fast food restaurant would cost approximately RM20.
- Mode of transportation: Bus tickets in the city vary from CNY2 to CNY5 (roughly RM1.25 to RM3) depending on the drop-off point. The Shenzhen metro train tickets can be purchased via machines at the stations and the cost is between CNY2 to CNY7 (roughly RM1.25 to RM4.40).

To conclude

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it does give you a general idea of what to expect and what to save towards. If your timing is flexible, all the more better to save on your flight tickets since you can opt to travel during off-peak seasons. Bon voyage!

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