Asia’s mystic charm and vibrant atmosphere have been a tourist magnet for years. The continent is loved by backpackers thirsty for new adventures, couples in search of budget romantic places, and families looking for an international experience at the cost of a local one.
Affordability is right up there when it comes to holidays here! And we are making the deal a lot sweeter. Here is a list of interesting free things to do for art lovers, history buffs, adventure seekers, solitude hunters, and culture vultures. You are sure to find more than one thing you love. Read on.
The first word that comes to mind when you hear of ‘Bangkok’ is fun. The second, obviously, is inexpensive. Famous for its massive malls, vivacious nightlife, and delightful massages, the Thai capital makes it to every traveller’s bucket list. From zoos and theme parks for kids, cheap shopping for all the ladies, and temples and cultural experiences for older adults, Bangkok has something for everyone. While the city has its share of five-star hotels (who stays there anyway!?) and fancy lounges, it also has loads of new things to try if you don’t want to spend a single baht.
When you are in Bangkok, and hunting for freebies, you can:
1. Take a meditation class
Buddha once said, “Rule your mind or it will rule you.” This definitely holds true. Here is your chance to master your mind by learning meditation and vipassana (a traditional concentration method) for free at the iconic Wat Mahathat temple in Bangkok. Located close to the Grand Palace, this Temple of the Great Relic is a timeless Buddhist temple offering free meditation class multiple times throughout the day – 7am, 1pm, and 6pm. The monks who live there offer both sitting and walking meditation practice. Time for some soul searching!
Address: Na Phrathat Road
2. Visit the butterfly garden
Away from the hustle bustle of the city lies this peaceful Bangkok Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. Kids can enjoy a short tête-à-tête with these colourful fluttery friends while you relax in the lush green park. The garden is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8.30am to 4.30pm. The only way to get the butterflies come really up close to you is by not moving. You will glad to play a game of Freeze!
Address: Kamphaeng Phet 3 Road Road, Chatuchak
3. Stroll through the Chatuchak market
Jump from the calm into chaos. Close to the butterfly garden is the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market. What’s so special, you might ask. Let’s get the stats in: 27 acres, 27 sections, 15,000 shops and 200,000 visitors each day (Saturday and Sunday). Is your jaw touching the floor yet? The variety of items on sale is astounding too – from vintage wear to exotic animals and antique furniture to books. You name it and they have it. Even if you don’t spend any money, the experience of strolling through this mammoth market is something you will never forget. If you have the time to lift your head up, search for a map and hold it tight. You might need it to get out of the market.
The market is open from 9am to 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays and from 6pm to 12am on Fridays. Some plant sections are open on Wednesdays too.
Address: Kampaengphet 3 Road, Lat Yao, Chatuchak
4. Get artsy
If you are an art lover visiting Bangkok, there wouldn’t be a better place for you to visit. Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC) offers the perfect peek into Thai modern art. There are a few DIY shops, a café, and plenty of seating. Even if you don’t understand art, this can still be the perfect place to spend an afternoon away from the city heat. The centre is open from 10am to 9pm from Tuesday to Sunday.
Address: 939 Rama 1 Rd, Pathum Wan
5. Click Insta-worthy photos at Chocolate Ville
If you wished to visit Europe for vacations this year but ended up in Bangkok due to budget constraints, don’t worry. The Thai capital will give you a glimpse of a fairytale European village for free. Presenting Chocolate Ville – an enchanted park and restaurant. If you love your lip-smacking, affordable street food, you can completely ignore the restaurant and enjoy the various photo ops there – a charming lake, windmills, a lighthouse, and beautifully lit up seating. The place is open from 4pm to midnight every day.
Address: Soi Nawamin 74, Yak 3-8, Kaset-Nawamin Road, Klong Kum Subdistrict, Bueng Kum District.
Visiting Tokyo is like experiencing a blast of flavour when you bite into delicious sushi. It is stylish, breathtakingly fast, and contemporary. And did we forget to mention expensive? If the cost of sightseeing in Tokyo is keeping you from visiting this dazzling capital city, think again. Tokyo offers a variety of experiences you can get for no money at all.
When you are in Tokyo, and hunting for freebies, you can:
1. Watch sumo wrestlers train
When in Japan, not watching the national sport sumo is not an option. There are various stables in Tokyo (especially in the Ryogoku area) that offer an option to observe sumo wrestlers practicing from a mere few feet away. Most sessions are held early in the morning and it is an important etiquette to arrive before it starts and leave only after it ends. And don’t forget to turn off that smartphone. Trust us, there is no better blend of culture and sport you can witness in the country; for free, that is.
2. Enjoy free beer
Yes, you read that right. Not one but three glasses of different premium malt beers free along with free snacks. Drooling already? Head straight to Suntory Brewery Musashino Factory and get a free tour (we’re sure you’re tired of the word ‘free’ by now!) of this fantastic brewery. They even provide a shuttle to and from the nearest train station! Can it get any better? Yes. They have the tour in Japanese but provide an English audio guide. But before you rush there – book the tour well in advance and guzzle down that beer quickly as the tour in only available for a limited time for each batch. Hic hic!
Address: 3-1 Yasaki-cho, Fuchu 183-0025
3. Explore a fascinating museum
No, this isn’t one of those boring, free museums located in every city. Advertising Museum Tokyo is one of its kind and is sure to keep you engaged throughout your visit. The exhibits focus on the history and techniques of advertising in Japan. There are some portions in Japanese but if you don’t know the language, don’t fret. Loads of other special exhibits, the video section, and the library, which has award-winning ads you can watch, would be the highlight of your visit. The museum has around 150,000 digitally archived advertisements for you to explore!
The operating hours are 11am to 6.30pm from Tuesday to Friday and 11am to 4.30pm on Saturday.
Address: Minato-ku, Higashi-Shimbashi 1-8-2, Caretta Shiodome
4. Learn how the famous origami paper is made
Origami Kaikan is a charming little place where you can witness how paper is made, appreciate pretty exhibits, and buy some prints or paintings if you wish to. Entry is free but they have an origami course, which is offered for a price. The store manager is said to be really friendly and has magical hands that create some incredible origami pieces. You will be lucky if you bump into him and see the magic unfold (actually, fold) yourself. The shop is open from 9am to 6pm and the gallery from 10am to 5.30pm from Monday to Saturday.
Address: 1-7-14 Yushima, Bunkyo 113-0034
5. Tsukiji Fish Market
Chaotic. Unforgettable. These are the words that describe the Tsukiji Fish Market the best. A visit to one of the oldest and the largest wholesale markets in the world must make it to your itinerary, eh? Witness or even participate in the renowned tuna fish auction that happens at the wee hours in the morning or just stroll through the wet, narrow lanes of the market and soak in the vibrant atmosphere. The operational hours are generally from 5am to 2pm. The market remains closed on Sundays, national holidays, and a few Wednesdays. Please note that the market is due to shift its location soon. So a quick check is recommended.
Address: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo 104-0045
Hong Kong is known for its love for food, fashion, and technology. This glitzy city is as traditional at its heart as it is modern on the outside. From enormous shopping malls and plush restaurants to dragon boat races and concert halls, Hong Kong has it all. This city, which has one of the most iconic skylines in the world, also has a striking rural face highlighted by its pristine beaches, quaint villages, rolling mountains, and volcanic landscapes. While Hong Kong will quench your thirst for diversity, it might not always please your pocket. This world city is known to be expensive and so it wouldn’t hurt to know a few things you can enjoy for free there.
When you are in Hong Kong, and hunting for freebies, you can:
1. Watch a spectacular light and sound show
Hong Kong is known for its neon-lit skyline. If you thought it was pretty fascinating as is, wait till you see this. The Symphony of Lights, a nightly multimedia show, across 40 buildings in a celebration of the spirit of Hong Kong with colourful laser lights, searchlights, music, and narration. The 13-minutes-long show is at 8pm every day. Tip: Grab a seat near the waterfront well before the show starts and the crowds come in.
2. Explore an aviary
Hong Kong might be all hip and happening, but there are places right in the city that give you a beautiful glimpse of nature. Edward Youde Aviary has over around 600 birds of 70 different species. So much colour! If you are lucky, you might even witness the birds zapping the live insects released by the staff. The aviary is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
Address: 7 Kennedy Rd, Central
3. Browse through a night market
Think colour. Think aroma of delicious street food. Think vibrant atmosphere. The Temple Street Night Market is all that and much more. From souvenirs to artwork and chic luggage to sunglasses, everything is on sale. However, even if you don’t buy anything, just browsing through the stalls and checking out the varied street food options will ensure you have a great evening.
Address: Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
4. Enjoy a street concert
There are regular street concerts held at the Hong Kong Arts Centre building that are open to everyone. The concerts are energetic, engaging, and have some spontaneous audience participation too! For more details, check out their website or Facebook page.
Address: 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai
5. See over 10,000 Buddha statues
If you are in Hong Kong, visiting the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is a must. Not just because it’s free, but because you would have never seen anything like it before. Be ready to climb around 450 steps flanked by golden statues of Buddha. Don’t think too much as the view from up there is well worth the efforts! Make sure you wear comfortable footwear and keep that camera ready.
Singapore, an island country that has it all. From lush green gardens and colourful bird parks to impressive casinos and rooftop bars, look no further. And of course, no mention of Singapore is complete without a word about its amazing, lip-smacking food.
However, there is one hitch. Singapore is expensive. And not just that, it is one of the most expensive cities in the world! Don’t drop the plans to visit the Lion City just yet. Take a look at these options that cost absolutely nothing.
When you are in Singapore, and hunting for freebies, you can:
1. Watch a movie
An amazing movie under the stars with your loved one and some yummy snacks. Sounds like so much fun, right? The fun doubles up when you realise you could do this for free in Singapore, thanks to MovieMob. Along with some fun movies, there is free popcorn and candyfloss too! Sweet! Check their super active Facebook page for more.
Address: Urban Plaza outside 750, Viva Business Park (in front of Yoda Japanese Dining)
2. Gawk at the gorgeous skyline from top
Singapore’s skyline is world famous. Ditch ordinary views for some awesome ones from the 56th floor from ION Sky (in ION Orchard) and click some (ok, many) amazing selfies.
3. Explore a rainforest
Mount Faber, the perfect place to bird watch or workout, is covered by a rain forest. You can hike it in around 25 minutes and enjoy the stunning views of Sentosa, other Southern Islands, the Central Business District and fancy HDB estates. You will also find one of the five official Merlions there! It will surely be the perfect day in nature’s lap. Psst… they also have free bird watching tours through the forest. Keep an eye on their website.
Address: Junction of Kampong Bahru Road and Telok Blangah Road
4. Explore botanical and horticultural wonders
Over 150-years-old, Singapore Botanic Gardens amazes with its scale. It boasts of world-class plants, exhibits, and new sections that tell your kids more about horticulture. On Saturdays (except the fifth one), they even hold free, fun, and educational guided walking tours.
Address: 1 Cluny Road
5. Enter the future
Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay is one of its top-class attractions and is free! This magnificent nature park, in the heart of the city, boasts of majestic architecture (especially those man-made trees!) and tropical atmosphere. The park is open from 5am to 2am and is perfect for those who want to escape into a magical fairytale for a day. Some sections here have an entry fee, but the light show in the evening is free!
Address: 18 Marina Gardens Drive
Seoul with its traditional charm and modern technology makes for a perfect holiday destination for singles and families alike. Its blush sakura, comforting street food, enchanting palaces, and antique teahouses scream romance, harmony, and solitude all at once. Pick what suits your mood the most. It is time to find your soul in Seoul – without breaking the bank, that is.
When you are in Seoul, and hunting for freebies, you can:
1. Go for an adventurous hike
Soak in amazing city views from Baegundae Peak that will take you around two hours to climb. This perfect day trip with a huge serving of nature’s goodness is in the north part of Seoul. While climbing the mountain is free, make sure you carry enough food, water and of course, a good camera to capture some beautiful memories. Note that hiking at night is prohibited (from sunset to two hours before sunrise).
2. Transport back in time
Peek into the interesting history of the Korean War by visiting The War Memorial of Korea. There are exhibits and preserved materials from the wartime you can study and educational and cultural events are held there regularly. The memorial is open from 9:00 am to 6.00 pm from Tuesday to Sunday.
Address: 29, Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu
3. Romance while walking along a beautiful stream
Cheonggyecheon Stream, right in the heart of the buzzing city, is the perfect place to create some lovely memories. Relax with the soothing sounds of the stream, take a leisurely stroll, or try to count the numerous fish in the water! During springtime, this place is at the peak of its beauty with abundant pale blush sakura. Parents need not worry about carrying babies as rental strollers are available.
4. Go mall hopping
The Dongdaemun Market is a heaven for shoppers and window shoppers both. From high-end brands to affordable items, you will find everything in over 25 malls here. Apart from these malls that are open 24/7, there are fancy buildings with majestic LCD screens that will surely remind you of Times Square. The place is beautifully lit up at night so don’t leave too soon!
Address: 04564 253, Jangchungdan-ro, Jung-gu
5. Enjoy Wi-Fi almost everywhere
South Korea is known for its big-heartedness when it comes to Wi-Fi. From malls to subway stations, there is free Wi-Fi everywhere. This means you can save big bucks on mobile Internet access. Also, it is super useful if you are lost or want to hunt a good restaurant nearby. Thanks, Korea! This service is much appreciated.
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