The world’s top rated budget airline, year after year now, is AirAsia. This Malaysia-based budget carrier has brought dirt-cheap fares to nearly every corner of Southeast Asia. Simply put flying from one country to another in this region is cheaper than anywhere else on earth. (Except the best fares from Europe’s Ryanair, which occasionally beat AirAsia when it comes to cost per mile flown).
Here are nine ways to get the cheapest airfares in Southeast Asia:
1. Watch for a Good Sale
AirAsia has web-based promotions very regularly and frequently. The best fares are found by watching the sales over the course of several weeks (or even months) and buy your tickets when you see a great bargain.
2. Book Well Ahead of Time
AirAsia’s most ridiculous cheap-airfares require you to book 8+ months in advance. If you know that you’ll need to get from Bangkok to Phuket sometime next winter, then watch for those AirAsia sales right now!
3. Regular Fares Can Be Good Too!
Even if you don’t score a great sale price, some regular fares are still very good. Particularly popular routes with lots of competition. (Think Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok or Singapore to Kuala Lumpur – each ticket can be had for $30 at times, even without a sale or advance purchase.)
4. Travel Light & Don’t Check Luggage In
Just think 90-degree (30+ Celsius) temps. You won’t need heavy clothes and certainly won’t want to drag around a lot of dead weight through that heat. Plus you’ll save on AirAsia’s considerable checked baggage fees. Note that the airline has good customer service and is pretty lenient about the size/weight of your carry-on bag. If you’re concerned about bringing an oversize bag onboard, try to hide it from the AirAsia check-in and gate agents.
5. Know Your Abbreviations!
Malaysians love abbreviating everything whenever possible, but make sure you get this one right: LCCT is not exactly the same thing as KLIA. LCCT is AirAsia’s airport terminal at their Kuala Lumpur hub called the “Low Cost Carrier Terminal”. The terminal is a part of Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport (KUL or KLIA to locals) but be warned: if you need to transfer from the budget airline terminal to the regular terminal, you should allow 40 minutes to make this trip between the two terminals. Making the transfer requires either a 20-minute bus ride or a taxi ride. (Buses leave every 20 minutes and cost RM 1.50 or about US $0.50.) And while the main terminal at KL’s international airport is world-renown, the LCCT is nothing special to say the least.
6. Avoid Flying During Holidays
Watch out for local holidays that will make prices skyrocket. AirAsia is known for their cheap fares, but if you want to fly during Chinese New Year for example, you won’t find any cheap fares at all. In fact, the price of a one-way ticket for the one-hour flight from Singapore to Penang during this holiday could easily be hundreds of dollars (compared with $10-$20 fares during non-peak times).
7. Bring Food & Water on the Flight
Bring you own food and water onboard to avoid eating airplane food and paying ridiculously inflated prices. While the prices for water onboard AirAsia are not as outrageous as Spirit Airlines, I still prefer to buy my own in the departure terminal before my flight.
8. Dodge the Upsells
AirAsia makes lots of their money selling services and amenities to their passengers. If you politely refuse every one of AirAsia’s attempted upsells you’ll still be able to have a comfortable flight.
9. Check Out Another Service
If you don’t have luck finding a cheap Southeast Asia flight, consider using an expert airfare search service, such as Airfareninja.com, that guarantees they’ll find you a better fare or your money back.
Have you heard of any other tricks for finding the cheapest flights in South East Asia?