Travel Destinations For Friends On A Budget Under $500: Based On Real Reviews

Travel Destinations For Friends On A Budget Under $500: Based On Real Reviews

3 min read

Work stress, Study stress, Mundane mid-year, end-holiday blues, the list goes on — There’s always a reason for a getaway with your friends. Need a short break? Go for a trip! Here are some travel destinations recommended by the Smarter Way Community so you can pack your bags and run away to with your group of best buddies on a budget. Don’t worry, they aren’t just the typical Taiwan and Bangkok.

Under $500 per pax? Easy. Here’s a TLDR of where you can go:

Travel DestinationPrice (Under $500)Length of stayRecommended for
Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)$5004 Days 3 NightsCulture
Shanghai (China)$5004 Days 3 NightsCity Life
Bali (Indonesia)$5004 Days 3 NightsChill
Cebu$5005 Days 4 NightsAdventure and city
East Java (Indonesia)$4003 Days 2 NightsAdventure

Note: All flights and accommodation prices are according to dates in the first week of August, for 3 travelers. Prices may vary over time!

1. Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)

Credits: Cao Dai Temple The Pinay Solo Backpacker

Community Member, Shimei:

“Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Jogjakarta, Langkawi! Nice views and flights there are cheap!”

Culturally diverse Ho Chi Minh and bustling Saigon won’t fail you with its many sights, delicacies, temple, and memorials. Take a city tour in Saigon, visit floating markets, and eat all the Pho and Bahn Mi you can.

Calculations are according to 4 Days 3 Nights in Ho Chi Minh City.

Flight costs (Round Trip):

  • Scoot: $280
  • Lionair: $295
  • AirAsia: $301

Transport and food costs:

  • $130
  • Taxi

Accommodation costs:

  • Airbnb: Total $90 per person, 3 nights

Attractions: Cao Dai Temple, Binh Tay Market, Hang Pac Bo (Cave)

Estimated Total Expenditure: $500

P.S. A community member suggested trying It brought her on an adventure within budget to Vung Tau in Vietnam!

Here you can choose your preferred travel “theme”, budget, number of travellers and so on. They will help narrow down your preferences and surprise you with something fun!

Similar Travel Destinations: Jogjakarta

2. Shanghai (China)

Nan Jing Dong Lu

Community Member, Zhi Rong:

“Just found out Shanghai is about $650 for 5 days with hotel and travel. Can be cheaper if sharing!”

Can’t get enough of the city life? Shanghai is a place with modern, contemporary, museums yet rich in Chinese culture. Look out for attractive Zara sales (cheaper than in Singapore), cruise along The Bund, take in the rock formations at Yu Yuan garden and relax your day away.

Calculations are according to 3 Days 2 Nights in Shanghai.

Flight costs (Round Trip):

  • China Southern: $350
  • Shen Zhen Airlines: $400

Transport and food costs:

  • $100
  • Metro, Public bus

Accommodation costs:

  • Airbnb: Total $90 per person, 2 nights

Attractions: The Bund, Yu Garden, Nanjing Dong Lu (Shopping), Oriental Pearl Tower, MoCA Museum of contemporary art, The Jade Buddha Temple

Estimated Total Expenditure: $500 – $550

Similar Travel Destinations: Hong Kong

3. Bali (Indonesia)

Jimbaran beach

Community Member, Cindy:

“Bali – If you’re travelling with a bunch of friends, Bali definitely can do for $500 for like 4D3N or 5D4N? Note that don’t go during peak season and a lot of cheap & nice villas for 5-6 pax in Bali. Can try to look at or Agoda!”

Bali is a favourite amongst many with its beautiful beaches and scenic Mount Batur sunrise hike. Fancy a dip in the ocean?

Here’s your chance. Bali is the destination for relaxation, so take in nature as much as you can and spend some quality time with your friends!

Calculations are according to 4 Days 3 Nights in Bali.

Flight costs (Round Trip):

  • Scoot: $280
  • Lionair: $295
  • AirAsia: $301

Transport and food costs:

  • $150
  • Bemo (Chartered driver) or taxi

Accommodation costs:

  • Airbnb: Total $120 per person, 3 nights

Attractions: Musa Penida Beach, Mt Batur (Hike), Omnia (beach club)

Estimated Total Expenditure: $500 – $550

Similar Travel Destinations:

  • Langkawi in Malaysia
  • Lombok in Indonesia

4. Cebu (Philippines)

Source: Kawasan Falls

An all-in-one place where you can enjoy the city life yet visit natural waterfalls, go on hikes, enjoy the nightlife and immerse with the locals. Perfect for a short holiday where you simply can’t decide on a location. Go canyoneering at the Kawasan Falls, hiking at Osmena peak, cafe hop your day away and end it with a fun night at one of Cebu’s bars. Remember to dapao some Cebu Lechon back on the last day!

Calculations are according to 4 Days 3 Nights in Cebu.

Flight costs (Round Trip):

  • Cebu Pacific Air: $293
  • AirAsia: $293

Transport and food costs:

  • $140
  • Transport: Grab/ Taxi

Accommodation costs:

  • Airbnb: $70 for 4 nights

Attractions: Sugbo Mercado (Night market), Kawasan Waterfalls, Osmena peak (Hiking), Candongao Peak (Hiking), Nightlife clubs and cafes.

Estimated Total Expenditure: $500

5. East Java (Indonesia)

Mt. Ijen

Community Member, Cindy:

“I’d recommend this tour package in East Java (can go to Surabaya first), then you can visit Ijen Crater and Mount Bromo!”

For the adventurous! You can easily book day packages that take you to the sunrise on both Mount Bromo and the Ijen Crater here in East Java. 3 days 2 nights is sufficient but 4 days would be great for one more day to explore Surabaya or head to Malang too!

Calculations are according to 3 Days 2 Nights in East Java.

Flight costs (Round Trip):

  • Scoot: $129
  • Jetstar: $140

Transport and food costs:

  • $200 (Inclusive of day package for driver pick-up to hike destinations)

Accommodation costs:

  • Airbnb: $50 for 2 nights

Attractions: Surabaya (city), Ijen Crater, Mount Bromo

Estimated Total Expenditure: $400

Quick Travel Tips:

  1. For more cost savings, book with ShopBack to get cashback on hotels and flights (Agoda,, Airbnb, Expedia, Airasia etc.)
  2. Don’t forget to buy your travel insurance. Check reviews for which is the best for you.
  3. Prepare yourself with travel hacks: Download offline google translate if you are visiting a place that doesn’t speak your language

Other Recommended Travel Destinations by the community:

  • Yangon, Myanmar
    • Zhi Rong: Better go there before it becomes over-rated!
    • Trichie: Yangon or bagan myanmar! 
  • Pontianak, Indonesia
    • Zhi Rong: Pontianak, Kalimanatan!
  • Langkawi, Malaysia
    • Kenneth: Lombok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Penang, Langkawi!
  • Hong Kong
    • Mingli: Hongkong. Doable lah. Share hotel room mah. Food – order and share.

Remember, you don’t have to break the bank (or your adventure funds) to go on a trip to Paradise Falls (“Up” movie references, anyone?)

Any more travel-money questions? Ask our enthusiastic community here!

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