I recently traveled to Myanmar to visit an orphanage my friend was helping out for 3 months.
To save money on travels, I employed every trick up my sleeve.
I always start with the big 3 expenses in traveling. To travel for cheap, you’ll need to save on Flights, Accommodation, and Transportation. The better deal you’re able to find for all 3, the more money you’ll be able to save.
For Flights, I found my flights using a simple Google Search on Google Flights. I input the dates and destinations I needed. The only thing I did outside of what Google Flights can do was I played around with different possible destinations and is how I ended up finding a deal a lot cheaper with a layover in Singapore.
Of course, the cheapest deal I was able to find involved a number of Budget Airlines.
I utilized 5 budget Airlines in Asia to fly to where I needed to go. This was my first time flying on Budget Airlines in Asia. I’ve traveled a lot on Spirit in the U.S. before so knew a bit of what to expect. But nonetheless, I definitely still encountered things I had to learn.
For this trip, I flew:
AirAsia from Taipei > Yangon
Yangon Airways from Yangon > Lashio (Note** local flights in Myanmar required a local travel agency to help book the flight so I was NOT able to use Google Flights for this)
Air KBZ from Lashio > back to Yangon (Note local flights in Myanmar required a local travel agency to help book the flight)
Jetstar Airlines from Yangon > Singapore (I was meeting up with family in Hangzhou and it was cheaper to fly to Singapore first)
Scoot from Singapore > Hangzhou
Air China from Hangzhou > back to Taipei (I used just 8,000 United Miles + ~$7.00 USD)
The last flight required a bit more advanced knowledge of mileage usage and the inventory of miles I had. I knew United had good short flight deals and from Hangzhou > China was the most expensive ticket.
I had some United mileage left but could have also transferred Chase Ultimate miles.
Lo, and behold, there was an award flight using United Mileage that saved me around $300!
(In case you were wondering what my flight map looked like)
Total cost for 6 flights to 4 cities and back?
A little over $500. $250 of that was from the local Yangon > Lashio flights.
AirAsia was around $70
Jetstar was $60
Scoot was $150
Air China – I snagged a deal on United Awards for just 8,000 miles, which is an incredible redemption rate. Again, I could have transferred Chase Ultimate Miles if I needed it but I had just enough United Miles left!
Not to mention, I also used the same redemption for my family (parents + sister) to fly to Hangzhou for 16,000 United Miles. For them, I had to transfer a bit of Chase Ultimate Miles but it was cheap!
What’s the Catch with Budget Airlines?
The BIG catch… was not being able to bring much (in essence, not having anything but a backpack).
I actually brought a carry-on initially, having thought there was a 7kg limit.
The policies for these budget airlines, I learned though, was 7kg INCLUDED the weight of everything in your backpack. If you only have a backpack, they don’t bother weighing it.
At the airport, I found out about the carry-on + backpack weight limit policy. To add a carry-on, it would have cost almost $100 USD. I ended up opting to ship back my carry-on to where I lived. Fortunately, at the airport there was a shipping service.
The funny story was I actually tried putting on a bunch of clothes and even threw away some of my food… unfortunately to no avail and ended up still having to ship back the carry-on.
Lesson learned: If you want to travel budget airlines and actually save a significant amount of money, be prepared to only have a backpack.
At Yangon, hotels are very cheap. I used Priceline to search for good hotels with good reviews.
It’s important to look for hotels with not only good user reviews but location. Even not really knowing Yangon well, I looked for a place not too far from the hotel and not too far from some of the sites I had wanted to possibly see.
Often, traveling is a more holistic thing where you want to account for as much as possible before you book everything.
Hotels in Yangon were anywhere from $20-40/night. And if you find the right hotel, they are quite nice. The one I booked was about $40/night. Most come with breakfast, decent wifi, and pretty clean rooms.
I think the only thing to note in Asia is generally beds are smaller… particular if you book a double room. They typically use Twin Beds instead of Queen Beds.
Also, I’d recommend just paying for hotels in Asia since they’re relatively inexpensive. Had I been traveling in the US or Europe, I’d definitely consider Airbnbs, using Hotel rewards, or other alternatives.
Transportation in Yangon is convenient with GrabTaxi. Most cab rides should cost you around 3,000-10,000 kyat which is only a few bucks.
It’s best to use the App GrabTaxi to lessen the chances of getting scammed.
At Lashio, where I spent most of time at the Orphanage, transportation was a lot trickier. Luckily, we had a local contact who brought us on motorcycle or their local pick-up trucks.
Total Cost & Savings:
The total for my trip including flights, accommodation, transportation, and food/miscellaneous costs came to about $900 (including the $50 Myanmar Visa required) for about 7 days which is considerably lower than what most people would have to pay. Under normal circumstances, the trip should have easily cost more than $3,000.
The last thing I wanted to do was to be a “burden” for the orphanage so I made sure I had everything squared as best as I could.
It was awesome to be able to give more money than my travel expense to the orphanages I visited. They really had such a dire need. Many of the children ate only rice and hot sauce or noodles and hot sauce. They owned 2-3 pairs of clothing. And they lived in a shack where any inclement weather could blow their shelter down at anytime.
Personal Thoughts from My Trip to Lashio, Myanmar:
The ultimate twist though… and what really touched my heart to see was amidst the poverty, those kids genuinely believed they had the good life.
Though they did not have parents, they knew of their Creator who loved them. Though they didn’t have much, they had much more than other kids around them who lived in mountains and truly had absolutely nothing.
And out of that outflow of gratefulness, they shared what little they had with the kids who lived in even more remote and poor places.
I think more and more I’m drawn to be able to go and see things like this happening around the World — Particularly in a place like Myanmar that was closed to the outside world for so long.
While vacationing is fun, I really believe there’s also a lot of deep joy to be found traveling to places like this. And for that, I can’t wait for my next adventure…
An Opportunity to Give:
My friend, Tim, who lived at the orphanage for 3 months recently started a GoFundme
I’ll let his summary provide more details but in short, he felt it’d be a good use of money to provide some of the disciples in Bible School a $50/month stipend for basic necessities (such as food, medicine, school supplies) as they study and learn more of God’s Word so they can be better equipped for ministry.
$50/month is equivalent to about a month’s salary on part-time wages in Myanmar.
I’ve personally seen the incredible love these disciples have for the Lord and the people around them. So much so, they went up to the most remote villages and came back sick, malnourished, and physically ill – all so that they can share the hope and love of Christ with people who have literally nothing.
I know these days it seems everyone’s asking for money and there are needs everywhere… but I truly believe God gives us not only the opportunity but the blessing to give.
After all, I believe all that we have is God’s anyways. Yet somehow we’re given resources to manage, share, and be a blessing to others.
I do believe these funds will make a lasting difference in the lives of not only the disciples but of the people in Myanmar whom the disciples plan to give their life to serving one day.
Let me know if I can answer any questions. And as always, I’d be happy to help you save money on your travels (for free) so perhaps one day we can give more and be an even bigger blessing for someone else!