Tips for Backpacking Southeast Asia

Last update:2017-10-17 13:50:27
  1. Always have toilet paper – There is never any around, but when you do find some, stock up!

  2. Research cab fares before you arrive – One of the biggest scams in southeast Asia is with cabs ripping people off. Know how much it should cost to get from where you are arriving to your accommodation. You can usually figure out what cabs should cost by asking others you meet on the road. Or find out what cab companies are trusted. Email a hostel and ask.

  3. Know if there will be an ATM – You won’t have a problem with finding ATMs in most of SE Asia, but there will be the odd spot where there are none. Plan ahead! Some examples are El Nido, Philippines and Koh Rong, Cambodia.

  4. Wifi is everywhere, no need to buy SIM cards – Free wifi is honestly way easier to come by than expected and for the most part it is decent. That being said, SIM cards are super cheap so you’re not breaking the bank buying them. But why spend the money when you could easily save? And if you’re worried about getting lost, download, an app that doesn’t need wifi to use maps!

  5. Always have USD – If you ever run out of the local currency USD will be accepted. Most boarders require you to pay in USD as well. I recommend getting some in your home country and bringing it with you, though some countries (like Cambodia) dispense USD as well as the local currency.

  6. Research scams to lookout for before you go to a new country/cross borders – A lot of scams in SE Asia are common, so make sure you know what to look out for. Most have to do with cabs, renting scooters, and crossing borders.

  7. Weather! – No, unfortunately the weather is not always perfect and sunny and warm in SE Asia. Parts can get quite cold (like snow cold in northern Vietnam). You’ll also want to avoid monsoon season, especially if visiting an island. And know that the hottest month is generally April (aka you will never stop sweating). It varies from country to country, but traveling in off season can be cheaper.

  8. Don’t be afraid of street food – I’ve seen people get just as sick from eating at sit down restaurants than I have from street food stalls. The only difference is that you can’t see what’s going on in the kitchen.

  9. Agree on a taxi price before you get in – If you don’t you’ll suddenly be expected to pay a ridiculous amount. This is the same for tuk-tuks, motorbike taxis, tricycles, etc.

  10. Don’t expect anything to be on time. But if you’re late, expect it to be on time – The one time you’re late the bus will actually be on time (it happened to me). But for the most part everything leaves late. People in Asia are a lot more relaxed and don’t care about time like we do in the western world.

  11. Take pictures of your scooter before leaving the rental place – Whenever renting anything in SE Asia always take pictures of everything. Including close-ups of the scratches/dents so that they can’t blame you for anything and try to charge you. A good company will mark down any damages on paper and give you a copy or take pictures themselves. Even if they do this still take your own pictures.

  12. Learn some phrases – Learning how to say hello and thank you are a good start and people really appreciate it.

  13. Always keep your calm – This is a must. Never get angry with a local, raise your voice, or get all up in their face. This is not how things are handled in Asia. Trust me, you will never win. The locals will help the locals out, not you.

  14. Always have hand sanitizer – Just like toilet paper, you won’t find soap much.

  15. Get used to the bum gun – For those situations when you don’t have toilet paper. It’s a gun that shoots water to clean yourself. Don’t leave Asia without trying it!

  16. Have at least 6 months validity on your passport – Most countries (this applies for even outside SE Asia) require you to have at least 6 months left on your passport. Otherwise they can deny you entry. The same goes for having blank pages. I’d have a minimum of two blank pages when entering a country.

  17. Always pay the extra couple of bucks for air conditioning – Seriously, you’ll thank me later. Fans just blowing around hot air will not cut it when you’re trying to sleep.

  18. Don’t plan everything before you go – You’ll find the best suggestions from the people you meet while on the road. It is good to have a general idea though!

  19. Expect squatting toilets in most places – I didn’t stay in a hostel that didn’t have regular western toilets, but when traveling from spot to spot, at restaurants, and in public places it was mostly squat toilets.

  20. Never leave your stuff unattended – This is the most important when you’re traveling. Never leave your stuff on the bus unless you have someone watching it for you.

  21. Watch out for snatchers – For ladies I recommend having a cross body bag that you wear cross body or have your hand on at all times. All should hold onto their phones tight. Snatchers are usually people on scooters who will grab your bag or whatever is in your hand quickly while you’re walking, in a tuk tuk or on a bike.

  22. All things whitening – We want to be tanned, but in Asia they want to be white. So watch out when buying products as most will have whitening agents.

  23. If you have big feet and need new shoes, good luck – Asians have way smaller feet than westerns so if you break or lose your flip flops you may have trouble finding a new pair.

  24. Learn to go with the flow and just say yes – People are much more laid back in Asia. Travel Asia and use it as a time to relax. Don’t get caught up with things being late or schedules. Just expect things as they are or it’ll be a nightmare trip for you.

  25. Don’t expect western safety standards – You will have “OMG we’re going to die” moments when driving too close to the edge of a cliff or riding through choppy waves in the ocean. This stuff happens all the time when you backpack through Asia. Also when on a boat never expect there to be enough life jackets so don’t freak out at everything that doesn’t seem “safe.”

  26. Know visa requirements – For every country on your southeast Aia trip you will need to know how much visas will cost, to knowing if you need a picture or not, and what currency to pay in (usually USD). Know if you need to apply online beforehand or if you can get it at the border, or if you need proof of a flight of onward travel (most don’t care but the Philippines is very strict about this).

  27. You will see the same souvenirs over and over again – No need to panic and buy everything at once. Guaranteed you will see the same thing in the next city or country.

  28. Toilet paper does not go down the drain – Don’t flush toilet paper. Be kind to the next person, they don’t want to deal with a clogged toilet. Throw it in the trash bin.

  29. You will see poverty – Prepare yourself. It’s not home. And though you may be traveling to all of the pretty places, while traveling from destination to destination you will see poverty.

  30. Be Prepared to sweat a lot – This is a helpful guide with every possible tip to help you to stop sweating while traveling.

Source: Internet

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Last update:2017-10-17 13:20:23

I recently spent almost 6 months backpacking through Southeast Asia, returning home with new friends from around the world, enough souvenirs to last a lifetime, and plenty of travel tips and hacks to show you how to budget for a long term backpacking trip through beautiful Asia.

Here are 10 of the best hacks to help you plan a trip to Southeast Asia on a budget:


Traveling with others seriously cuts the amount of money you will spend on your trip. Ordering a taxi? Split it in 2 or 3 ways. Want to try 2 different dishes on the restaurant menu? Share with a friend. Splurging on a hotel room in Bali? Ask for 2 beds. If you are planning to travel solo, make some new travel buddies on the road and save money wherever you go!
Hostels are a great place to meet up with fellow backpackers, but you can also look for new friends at local markets, restaurants, activities, and of course bars around town. If you’re having trouble finding friends in the town, consult travel apps like Bungee Girl or Backpackr to see who is located near you and also looking for a travel companion.


One of the most expensive parts of traveling is booking your international flight. I flew from my hometown of San Francisco to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, a popular Southeast Asia airport hub and great starting point for any backpacking trip. Using apps like Skyscanner or websites like Google Flights will help you find and track flights throughout Asia. If I am planning a trip I will track multiple flights months in advance and wait until it’s at the absolute lowest price. Google flights will create a graph of each tracked flight and show you the price fluctuation, allowing you to pick the best time of week / month to book your flight. Check out this Google Flights tips article for more information.
If flights are still expensive in the months leading up to your trip, consider other options like spending airline miles, opening a travel credit card and redeeming miles, or alternative flight routes through international hubs in Europe.


I almost exclusively stayed at hostels and guest houses during my time in Southeast Asia. It is a great way to meet new friends and also the best location for booking transportation and activities and finding local food options. Consult sites like Hostelworld and to find the cheapest accommodations and rely on reviews for more in depth details on the backpacker experience at each hostel.
If you can forego planning, simply head to a new city with no booked bedroom and ask the hostel receptionist for the best deal. If they have a lot of empty beds, they will give you a steep discount.


While you might want to see all of Southeast Asia, some countries are more expensive than others. Do some research ahead of time for which countries you can realistically see within your budget. Consult travel bloggers and travel books for an in depth look on the cost of different Southeast Asia cities.
As obvious as it sounds, you also might want to consider avoiding big cities which can have much more expensive hostel dorms or daily activities. Instead look for small towns or beautiful islands to spend your time. For instance, I spent 1 day in Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh and 4 days on the remote island of Koh Rong, 1 hour south of Sihanoukville. If you have your heart set on seeing big cities, try to find budget accommodation through Couchsurfing, Go Overseas Volunteering or Nomador house sitting.


Public transportation will be your new best friend. In my 6 months of backpacking I almost exclusively travelled by bus (except for my flight from Singapore to Bali). It can take much longer than flying, but provides you with an opportunity to see what most locals do when they want to visit friends and family in different towns. But be warned the advertised time frame of the bus ride is often drastically less than the route will take. I once boarded a 20 hour bus from Sihanoukville Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam that was advertised to be 10 hours. Part of the beauty of Southeast Asia is embracing the madness, and meeting travelers to do so with you each step of the way.


I spent almost 6 months traveling through Southeast Asia, from June to November. June through October is commonly known as the monsoon season, allowing me to negotiate lower prices on accommodation, transport, and activities. Yes, it did rain from time to time, but I still enjoyed the vast beauty present throughout Asia, and saved a few hundred dollars along the way.
The perks of traveling Southeast Asia in the low season are discussed further in this informative article.


Travel like a local and perfect your skills on a motorbike. It is easily the cheapest and most convenient way to sightsee in Southeast Asia. You will meet hundreds of travelers that use this as their main form of transportation. Daily rentals cost around $5 USD, but can vary based on location and availability.
Be careful, this is the number one way to get hurt while backpacking. You should take your international bike licence and check with your travel insurance company what they will cover you for before you leave. It’s worth it to take a local lesson before zooming around new cities.


Avoid spending money online before getting to the location: There’s really no need to book all of your activities and accommodation ahead of time. There are shops and activity booths throughout each town that can help you plan your days, offer you special discounts, and give you advice on the most interesting tours through the city. Plus it gives you time to make new friends and sight see with them!


One night out can cost you anywhere from $5-25. Alcohol is often quite expensive in Southeast Asia because of high tax rates. If you do plan to drink abroad look for the 2-for-1 deals at hostel bars which can range from dinner drinks to late night discount prices.


Expenses will inevitably increase on the days you spend traveling. Adding in the cost of a bus, expensive/inconsistent food options, accommodation along your route, and any additional unforeseen cost will really add up travel day costs. By going slow you give yourself more time to dive deep into the culture of a new city, and inevitably save money along the way.

Finally, have tons of fun! Backpacking through Southeast Asia will change your life forever, so enjoy the stunning beauty present in every inch of the continent.

Source: Internet

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