What You Need to Know to Backpack Through Southeast Asia

Backpacking through Southeast Asia is a trip most travel lovers have fantasized about at some point. The exotic beaches, beautiful temples, and excuse to eat pad Thai for a week straight are all tempting enough to make the trek. Though the flight halfway across the world won’t come cheap, the beautiful culture and scenery make it more than worth it.

When to Go


Source: Asia Places to See

While climate varies slightly depending on the country, this region generally enjoys warm weather throughout the entire year. Know that prices are highest during winter months when the region is drier and for a good deal, head to the area anytime in May through September. It’s hotter during this time of year and you do run the risk of a rain shower here and there, but it’s your best bet for scoring rates at a discount.

Countries to Visit


Source: Cambodia Snapshots

The key when planning a Southeast Asian vacation is to include a variety of destinations without overloading your itinerary. If you only have a few weeks to explore, don’t try to cram in five different countries and a handful of cities. You’ll be much better off spending your time in 2-3 different countries and really getting to know the local culture before jetting off to your next destination. Though the region consists of several countries, these five are among the most popular:

Vietnam

A quintessential stop on the backpack circuit, Vietnam is a country overflowing with incredible sites and a rich culture. The food is absolutely fantastic, and relatively affordable, so come ready to eat. Hạ Long Bay is one of the most incredible spots in the world, and a must-visit when you’re visiting Vietnam.

Thailand

Thailand is one of the most beautiful countries in Southeast Asia, and your money will go a long way here. You can score some seriously chic hotels for a fraction of what they’d go for in the U.S. or Europe, and there is a great deal to see whether you’re hoping for beach hopping or a cultural experience. Work your way through the country by visiting Chiang Mai (in the north), Bangkok (especially great for shopping), and travel through the southern islands for beautiful blue ocean waters and white sand beaches.

Cambodia

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap is the most popular attraction in Cambodia and for good reason. Start out here, but be sure to check out other parts of the country more off the beaten path. For beautiful island scenes, head to Koh Rong to experience a swim in some seriously beautiful clear waters.

Laos

While you’ll be surrounded by other tourists in spots like Vietnam or Thailand, the crowds thin out when you get to Laos. The city of Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a great place to start your journey. There are gorgeous temples to visit and one of the biggest draws is simply enjoying a country that has not yet been over commercialized with tourism.

Indonesia

We’ve all dreamed of spending a vacation on the stunning coast of Bali, and a trip to Indonesia can make that dream a possibility. The natural beauty of the island is a big draw with its volcanoes, amazing beaches, and rice paddies. Outside of Bali, the Borobudur Temple and the Prambanan Temples are two beautiful must-visit spots.

Packing and Luggage


Source: Ken Kochey via CN Traveler

When traveling through this region, a backpack is the best way to go, especially if you’re visiting several different cities and countries. But make sure you don’t get a backpack too big for your body frame and when you do find the right one, don’t overload it (you won’t be happy trekking around with 50 pounds strapped to your back). We recommend this one from eBags—it’s affordable and spacious without being bulky.

Packing light is paramount because of the traveling you’ll do on a day-to-day basis. Keep in mind you can wash your clothes while there so don’t try to bring your entire closet (even if you’re going on a longer trip). Plus, if you run out of anything it’s easy to pick up a few extra items once there (and for very cheap!).

Transportation


Source: Cruising Excursions

Because this region is frequently traveled, you’ll find it equipped with excellent transportation options. Regional flights are cheap if you’re short on time or traveling a farther distance, but buses and trains are also easily accessible and less expensive. Boats and ferries are often used as well, so you’ll likely end up utilizing a mix of options. Just remember: Research beforehand so you don’t find yourself stuck on a 20-hour train ride when you only have a week to spend in the area.

Budget


Source: Design Locations

Though flights to Southeast Asia can be high, you’ll be able to save significant money once you arrive. You can easily get by spending just $30-$50 per day, while still staying in decent hotels (especially during low season). And if you’re willing to stay in a hostel, it’s likely you’ll spend even less!

While some countries are more expensive than others, overall lodging and food are cheap—especially when compared to Europe. If you’re trying to keep daily costs down, stick with local cuisine rather than seeking out Western food. You’ll try new dishes and it’s generally the cheapest way to go.

Have you backpacked trip through Asia? Give us your tips!

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