Guide To Planning Your Own Holiday On A Budget

It’s no secret that I enjoy travelling.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Since moving back to Kuching, I have hopped on flights to Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, Phuket, Jakarta, Hanoi, Egypt, Auckland as well as KL, Penang, Ipoh, Malacca, Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia.
That’s an insane number of place to cover in a short time.

Macau night view

For all those places, I travelled independantly. That means I planned my own trips and booked my own flights, accomodation and tours without using a travel agent or joining a tour group.
In fact, I hate joining tour groups. I hate it with a vengeance. I hate it so much because they are so bloody expensive, their schedule is so rigid, and half the time they cater for boring uncle-auntie types who don’t wanna walk too much.

Perfume shop in Egypt. “Factory Outlet” price: US$10. Outside price: RM10

Then 99% of the time they’ll throw you into some overpriced “souvenir shops” in the middle of nowhere, forcing you to waste time in there, just so you might buy those useless junk which you know they’ll be getting commission for.
I don’t want that kinda crap when I’m on holidays. That’s why I always prefer to plan my own travels.

Taking the overcrowded Bandung-Jakarta economy train in Indonesia

I’m pretty much on a limited budget when I travel. After all, I paid for most of these trips entirely out of my own pocket.
After working so hard day and night, a holiday is only something I deserve. Going away takes my mind off things for a while. And I come back with fresh ideas and new perspectives, ready to take on the world again.

Nexus Karambunai Resort, Kota Kinabalu

When I travel, I document my experiences on my blog. But lately I’ve been travelling so much that is in danger of turning into a pure travelogue.
A lot of readers have also been e-mailing me, asking for advice on the places I’ve been. Almost every other day, someone will be asking me how to go about climbing Mt Kinabalu or how to find cheap lodging in expensive Hong Kong.
I try my best to answer lah. But with the limited free time that I have, it is difficult to be of much help.

South Peak, Mt Kinabalu aka the picture on the RM1 bank note

I don’t mean to ignore. The thing is, it is easy for peple to take 5 seconds to shoot an e-mail. It is not easy for me to explain in detail how to go about actually doing it. It’d be easy if I were a travel agent, but I’m not. I’m just a regular guy with a full time job.
What’s worse, on rare occasions when I DO take time and effort to reply to those e-mails, the only form of gratitude I get is “Oh. Ok. Thanks. Bye!”
Very tulan ok.

Lantau Island, Hong Kong from the plane

So here’s a guide for those who wanted to do what I’ve been doing – plan your own holiday, reap the most out of your destination, get the best value out of your spending, and still have a comfortable good time.

I reckon we are very blessed to live in centre of South-East Asia.
Within a radius of a 4 hour flight, we get access to hundreds of interesting places and different cultures. We have the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines and Thailand, the best shopping centres in Singapore and Hong Kong, the safest and best low-cost airlines in AirAsia.
Along with the rise in spending power and intense competition between airlines, its no wonder budget travel is becoming trendy.

Wish I could stay like this all the time (The Venetian, Macau)

First thing you gotta take care of is accomodation.
If I’m travelling alone or with like-minded travellers, I usually opt to stay in guesthouses. Hey, all I needed is a place to sleep. Not like I’m trying to impress someone.
Why pay for the swimming pool, the gym, and the 10% service charge when most of the time I’ll be outside exploring the city anyway?

But I can only afford to stay like this most of the time (Dragon Hostel, Hong Kong)

For me, staying at hotels is an unneccessary luxury. If you’re in an expensive city like Hong Kong or Singapore where a decent hotel would cost you a minimum of a whopping RM600 a night, you’d rather stay in a guesthouse.
Unless you print money for a living, it’s silly to pay that much money just to sleep ok! Money could be better spent on shopping and booze.
A lot of people have this misconception that guesthouses are not clean because they’re so cheap. That is not true. From my experience, the guesthouses I’ve stayed at are heck A LOT cleaner, comfier and cheaper than those dodgy hotels in the red light districts.
You just gotta know how to choose.

Damn cheap accomodation

To pick the right one, go to Else, try your luck scoring cheap hotel rates from or
If you’re REALLY on a budget, you may try instead.

When you go to some place new, you don’t wanna be left hanging wondering where to go or what to do. Remember, you’re only there for a limited time. It’s always a good idea to read up a bit on the place before you depart. and are my favourite websites to start. It gives me an idea on what to look out for. For something more substantial it’s a good idea to purchase one of those Lonely Planet guidebooks. The scams you’ll avoid and the time you’ll saved is worth the price of the book already.

9 hour train rides from Hanoi to Lao Cai, near the Vietnamese-Chinese border

The best a city has to offer is usually not within the city itself. Sometimes it’s a rewarding to travel long distances to reach an attraction few tour agencies would bring you to. has a comprehensive list on how to travel by trains, buses and ferries. The website is a little outdated but still helpful nonetheless.

Snorkelling in Phuket, Thailand

Lastly, nothing beats information from people who have already been there and done that. is good, but I much prefer to use Google Blog Search to dig out all the travel blogs by other people, just to note to myself where to go and what to avoid.
These are priceless and honest information you know you could trust.

Egyptian kids outside Mohammed Ali Mosque

Anyway, that’s about it from me.
With good prior planning on your own, you could easily spend less cash and STILL see a lot more of the city than the people who joined tour groups. If you’ve never travelled on your own before, give it a shot. Who knows? You could like it better that way.
Some people might call it daring.

I call it having a life.


108 Replies to “Guide To Planning Your Own Holiday On A Budget”

  1. Yup, totally agree! Planning trips by yourself is much better than taking a tour where half of the places don’t interest you anyway… I’ve used hostelworld before, and I usually try to do a Google search on the places I’m going, but I’ve never thought of actually searching for blogs. Might try that next time. Thanks!

  2. Kenny,
    since you travel a lot
    why don’t you create a simple travelling forum for Malaysians.
    Like that easier for travelling Q and A
    and I am willing to share my extensive, crazy travelling experiences.
    peace !

  3. nicole, when will we have the chance to do a world tour? ๐Ÿ˜›
    don’t think of chocolate and loosing weight all the time haha

  4. Nice tips, I might try them out some time? It’s also nice if you can get a contact locally, so they can be impromptu tourguides, or at least tell you what’s a must-see.

  5. Thanks for sharing. I have to agree not everyone can live in those guesthouses or backpacker places, but having experience living in them, i would of course prefer staying in a nice hotel ๐Ÿ™‚
    By the way, the picture of South Peak is really beautiful…

  6. Agree on the self-planning part. I also do practise it when I travel.
    Just don’t like to be packed up with tight schedule and “รจยตยถรฉยธยญรฅยญย” style of traveling where the tour guide only allows you a certain time on some spots for photo taking purpose.
    It’s nice to read someone’s interesting travelogue though. Haha, so I am looking forward to read “Kenny’s รฆโ€”โ€ฆรฆยธยธรฆโ€”ยฅรจยฎยฐ” in the future.

  7. I like the ending of your journal.
    Sometimes people tend to keep on bugging on their job, till they didn’t notice they are not having a life.
    I’m always eager to try on the travelling via limited budget type, and ALONE too.
    Thanks for sharing. it gives me ideas on how limited budge travelling works.
    Good Day~

  8. You are a good planner for all your vacation. When is your next trip… can i tag along ๐Ÿ™‚
    I’m going to Phuket/Phi Phi Island for 7 days. Free and easy. Any nice place that i should not miss?

  9. I couldn’t agree with you more Kenny. Travelling independently is the way to do it. I guess that sets apart a tourist and a traveller. I wouldn’t have been able to see that much during my month-long trip to Japan if I had gone with a tour group. Like you said, those tours make you spend more time at the ‘sounenir shops’ than at the destination scenics and are always in a rush.
    Travelling independently does require doing some ‘homework’ prior to departure but it is all worth it. And it is not that hard really.
    On a side note, the state of your Lonely Planet guide is quite similar to mine and I use Virtual Tourist too. We are both travellers, not tourists, i guess…

  10. But on a holiday means not to worry about the lodging and the makan and the logistics. But this is your boring Uncle/Grandpa talking, lah. I might want my kids to plan for me next time.

  11. hehe. thanks so much for the info kenny!! Next time i want to go travelling, i’ll be sure to drop by your blog 1st for some info..
    Love your blog lots… ๐Ÿ˜€

  12. this is the first time i found your entry useful to me.
    i have always wanted to travel alone, it’s life, a truly life!
    thanks for heaps of handy information available!

  13. I don’t go travel often, but I do find the above info very helpful. I should do that next time when I have hols. Hopefully, I can save a lot from it. Thanks so much for sharing. Will let u know when I manage to do it ๐Ÿ˜›

  14. Your blog’s not as funny as it used to be, but I don’t mind the travelogue part one bit; we get to see a lot of things we didn’t know about, it’s very interesting and entertaining on it’s own. Thanks for the tips and website links too, those will come in handy very soon ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Hi Kenny,
    Sometimes guest house really is not so clean after all, encountered my budget trip last year to HK, booked the guest house after much survey, with, bt my 1st nite with guesthouse was bitten by “mok-sat” luckily the owner good enuf to change my room to a bigger nicer room after complain else i will complain till his pant drop! so nowadays, i will think twice before booking a guesthouse…

  16. Kenny, looks like you take the wrong train to goto Bandung … the one on the photos is Jakarta – Bogor train … by train from Jakarta to Bandung is 3 hours plus … 8-).

  17. thanks for the useful information. I actually like travelling, especially travelling alone. U get a peace of mind because u don’t have to argue with a friend where to go 1st, 2nd etc. The whole holiday is up to u to plan & go at your own pace. In my opinion, it relaxes the mind as well after toiling through uni & stuff.

  18. i dont think the ones who wrote emails to u asking abt how to go this and that will learn anythg from this since u emphasised on INDEPENDENT RESEARCH and planning.
    nope. dont see it working. or else they wld research then ask u specific questions.

  19. hey kenny,
    thanks for the tips on the websites. I used a lot of Virtualtourist but i definitely think that is a better bet ๐Ÿ˜‰
    just in time for me to do some research before i hit off to munich, london and paris ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Totally agree with travelling urself?? Been to Japan once wiht my family only?? So much more easier and we can stay 2 whole days in DIsney land itself… And what more to spend time with people you love instead of ah peks and ah mas…

  21. Thx Kenny,
    this post is really inspiring. It does change my perception bout going on vacation alone. I’ve been planning a lot of trips alone but never successfully went to any. Worrying it’ll be boring going places alone, fear of not knowing where to go or what to do. But everything that you wrote proves me wrong that traveling alone can be so much fun with all the freedom you get, nobody nagging ya if you got lost =p .

  22. hey i’ve been to egypt too!!
    i remember i was going to the pyramids, then there was this local who was overfriendly and brought us to smaller pyramid, claiming to show us some interesting things..(don’t really understood what he said actually)
    I didn’t trust him and stayed just outside the pyramid while my friend got down.
    My friend said there were practically nothing inside and he had to pay 5 usd to come back up.
    What’s more, when we were leaving, the person on top asked for more!!
    yea, so my friend gave him some more as to not cause problems because we were the only ones there.
    Other then that, the trip was good and the food was absolutely great!!

  23. I really, really, think/know that this is an awesome blog. No stupidy humour or at least wicked humour for once. pure pleasure reading it..and love how u ended ur blog.
    anyhow, i just wanted to know, if its not, “oh ok, thanks n bye” what do you expect them to say?

  24. eversince i did my own travel plans when i was in uni, i’ve never joined any tour groups. always thought it’s a better way to experience the culture, know the people and enjoy the food…

  25. Wow, this entry is great and just in time too! Planning for a trip on my own to god-knows-where this year end. Thanks once again, Kenny ๐Ÿ˜‰

  26. hey dude…great tips….thanks for remembering the mail..haha i know this sounds lame…but thanks alot! your blog entry helped ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. you’re right!! travel independantly is always the best thing to do. Without having to accomodate your travel partner. I’ve had one of the best experience travelling alone in Spore, my very first independant trip though… ;> Great post!

  28. Thank you for the tips Kenny..
    been reading your blog for quite some time already…
    Among the fun and laughter.. I personally find this entry the most useful.
    And I’m not one of those that ask u for travel tips..
    Thanks for the info again.

  29. wow….the first picture halong bay so beautiful, so mesmerizing, wish i could see it with my own eyes.
    thanks for sharing ur tips!

  30. hie kenny!!
    tq for all the lovely advise on travelling. been wanting to go somewhere just to get take a break off my hectic uni schedule. if we ever bump in msia or penang (my hometown), i’ll buy u a nice dinner! ๐Ÿ™‚ take care!

  31. your tips are very useful but wonder if it would apply to female travellers? Is it safe for single girls to stay at those guesthouses you mentioned? When I was in Auckland, me and my 2 gal pals stayed at a YHA and we were too scared to go to the toilet located outside at night as we were afraid of 2big tattoed guys staying next room.Price was within budget but pity our poor bladders man!!!

  32. i love traveling too and its undeniable that it is call having a LIFE ๐Ÿ™‚ even if it is budget travel cos exploring is what I call life. Great tips there. *cheers

  33. hi Kenny,
    yeah, its better to for an independent travel rather than group tour as it will save a lot of $$$. package tours has all those hidden cost or anything that may not interest you at all, while individual vacation let you have the flexibility. you can dine in the cheapest place, visit more hidden treasures, get bargains, skip all those expensive hotels that you only need to sleep in for few hours….

  34. ooh! i normally search using google, spend a lot of time doing ‘homework’ before travelling, i found that virtualtourist has become out of date, but will definitely try the other few site that u suggest, although i have only a few experience staying in guesthouse, but i found them good enough…thanks for your info. kenny.

  35. Hi Kenny, read your blog and love it. And I agree with you on how we do not need to pay for extra frills while looking for a hotel. I’m handling the PR & Marketing for Tune Hotels.Com, the new group of ‘no-frills’ hotel by Dato Tony Fernandes, and was wondering if you’d be willing to do a review on the hotel. Do check out for more information and email me if you are agreeable in doing the review. Thanks and looking forward to meeting you. – Kristy

  36. Obviously, I agree with you 120% that we don’t need to spend so much on expensive hotels. All we need is a place to sleep. (^_^)b
    Anyway, thanks for sharing some of the nice links on budget travel. I seriously need to unwind myself, travelling will be a good choice. ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. Hello
    I did manage my whole family’s holiday trip to australia before. It was bloody hard. Have to see in every aspect, foods, accomondation, transport, time…bla bla bla tiny stuffs so that we wont get lost when we reach there. It ws so hard. Day and night da and night doing that. But, like you said, its worth it. We can enjoy the holiday at last..

  38. Wow.. nice post. Those link is help me a lot. Thanks. I’m going to SR on Jan 08. My very first back-packing + independent trip. Research is really important for me now. Any advice from you for a gal who going to travel alone for her first trip?

  39. dude…. awesome entry … u rock Kenny!
    sigh, if only i can make use of ur tips and go travelling… nO mOnEy… sigh sigh sigh…

  40. Hey Dude, when you visit America, you can rent a car and drive across the country. Plan ahead, I am sure a lot of readers would let you stay at their place.

  41. Actually, all it takes to travel alone is proper planning, plenty of guts and determination. I am way younger than Kenny and a female but i started travelling alone not long ago. Really rewarding and an excellent way of learning to be independent.

  42. Thanks Kenny, your tips is extremely useful since I am currently planning to backpack to Hong Kong. I’m finding ways to make my money worth with joining tours!
    Thanks again. ๐Ÿ™‚

  43. Hey, Kenny,
    maybe u can organise a backpack trip to any place with your fans and readers like us.
    i jst backpack to Cambodia recently. it’s fun and enjoyable. if u r planning to go Cambodia, let me know. i’ll show you my notes / homework.

  44. Hi, Kenny. U may b able 2 make big $ by publishing ur travelling stories. It seems like u r quite popular. ๐Ÿ™‚

  45. Great entry. ๐Ÿ˜€
    Bookmarked this page. It might be useful in the near future since I am dying to have a budget trip for a long time!
    Anyway… girls doing budget trip alone staying at those cheap hostels might be a little dangerous… since the people there might be a little complicated…

  46. When you are going to travel it is good to plan for the budget before going to anyplace. Sometime you could have not enough money to spend when you reach the place.

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