11 tips for backpacking Southeast Asia

Last update:2017-10-17 13:31:51

Taken from the Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget, these are our top 11 tips for backpacking Southeast Asia.
With its tempting mix of volcanoes, rainforest, rice fields, beaches and coral reefs, Southeast Asia is one of the most stimulating and accessible regions for independent travel in the world. You can spend the day exploring thousand-year-old Hindu ruins and the night at a rave on the beach; attend a Buddhist alms-giving ceremony at dawn and go whitewater rafting in the afternoon; chill out in a bamboo beach hut one week and hike through the jungle looking for orang-utans the next.
In short, there is enough here to keep anyone hooked for months. Here’s our advice for getting the most out of backpacking Southeast Asia for the first time.

  1. Plan around the weather
    Southeast Asia sits entirely within the tropics and so is broadly characterized by a hot and humid climate that varies little throughout the year, except during the two annual monsoons. Bear in mind, however, that each country has myriad microclimates; for more detail see our “when to go” pages for Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

  2. Get off the beaten track
    Though Southeast Asia has long been on the travellers’ trail, it doesn’t take too much to get off the beaten track – whether it’s to discover that perfect beach or to delve into the lush surrounds of the rainforest. Think about visiting the overlooked city of Battambangin Cambodia, taking the railroad less travelled in Thailand or exploring Myanmar’s unspoiled southern coast.

  3. Try the street food
    This is the home of the world’s tastiest cuisines, and the really good news is that the cheapest is often the best, with markets and roadside hawkers unbeatable places to try the many local specialities. Night markets, in particular, are great for tasting different dishes at extremely low prices – sizzling woks full of frying noodles, swirling clouds of spice-infused smoke and rows of glistening fried insects all make for an unforgettable gastronomic experience.

  4. Budget carefully – but have the odd splurge
    Your daily budget in Southeast Asia depends on where you’re travelling and how comfortable you want to be. You can survive on as little as $20 a day in some countries, but for this money you’ll be sleeping in very basic accommodation, eating at simple food stalls, and travelling on local non-a/c buses. Think about where paying a little more will really enrich your trip.

  5. Learn from the locals
    Tribal culture is a highlight of many visits to less explored areas, and among the most approachable communities are the tribal groups around Sa Pa in Vietnam, the Torjan of Sulawesi in Indonesia, known for their intriguing architecture and ghoulish burial rituals, and the ethnic minority villages surrounding Hsipaw in Myanmar.

  6. Embrace the great outdoors
    Up for getting active? There’s plenty to keep you busy. You can tackle world-class surf at G-land in Indonesia, take a mountain-bike tour of Vietnam’s far north or discover your own lonely bays and mysterious lagoons on a sea-kayak tour of Krabi in Thailand. And that’s just for starters…

  7. Make time for temples
    Southeast Asia’s myriad temple complexes are some of the region’s best-known attractions. The Hindu Khmers left a string of magnificent monuments, the most impressive of which can be seen at Angkor in Cambodia, while the Buddhists’ most impressive legacies include the colossal ninth-century stupa of Borobudur in Indonesia and the temple-strewn plain of Bagan in Myanmar.

  8. Get high
    No, not that kind of high. Every visitor should make an effort to climb one of the spectacular mountains, whether getting up before dawn to watch the sun rise from Indonesia’s Mount Bromo or embarking on the two-day trek to scale Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia.

  9. Hit the beach
    The beaches here are some of the finest in the world, and you’ll find the cream of the crop in Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia, all of which boast postcard-pretty, white-sand bays, complete with azure waters and wooden beach shacks dotted along their palm-fringed shores. The clear tropical waters also offer supreme diving opportunities for novices and seasoned divers alike.

  10. Take local transport
    Local transport across Southeast Asia is uniformly good value compared to public transport in the West, and is often one of the highlights of a trip, not least because of the chance to fraternize with local travellers. Overland transport between neighbouring countries is also fairly straightforward so long as you have the right paperwork and are prepared to be patient.

  11. Stay healthy
    The vast majority of travellers to Southeast Asia suffer nothing more than an upset stomach, so long as they observe basic precautions about food and water hygiene, and research pre-trip vaccination and malaria prophylactic requirements – but it’s still vital to arrange health insurance before you leave home. Some of the illnesses you can pick up may also not show themselves immediately, so if you become ill within a year of returning home, tell your doctor where you have been.

    For a complete guide to backpacking Southeast Asia, check out The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget. Compare flights, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Source: Internet

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  1. Best airline to fly with: AirAsia – They’re my personal favorite budget airline to fly with and fly to the most destinations. You will pay for checked luggage so make sure to purchase it when you book your ticket or you will be charged 4x the price when checking in.

  2. Buses are your best friend – Traveling by bus is the way to go in SE Asia if you want to save money. But if you’re tight on time, fly. Always splurge and go for the VIP buses. They’re never that more much and it will be a way better experience.

  3. Laos Kip is very difficult to exchange – If you’re heading to Laos you’ll have no problem getting their local currency but good luck getting rid of it when you’re out of the country. Exchange it before you leave or at the border if crossing by land.

  4. Take local transport – It’s not as bad as you’d expect, it’s cheap and it always makes for an adventure.

  5. Travel throughout the night – Yay for night buses! Vietnam has the best buses for overnight travel because they’re sleeper buses so you can actually lay down. By traveling at night you’ll save on accommodation and have more time to do things during the day!

  6. Get used to haggling – If you don’t haggle you will be over paying for everything. Some things you can’t haggle for (like food), but use your skills while at markets, shops and with transportation. Start low, you can usually tell by the look on the locals face if you’ve gone too low. And don’t be afraid to walk away, most will give in and accept your offer. If they don’t then you’re probably being unrealistic.

  7. Always go for the local beer – It’s cheap and often really good!

  8. Uber and Grab – Grab is the equivalent of Uber, but the Asian version (you can ride on the back of a scooter for cheaper than a car). I recommend these the most for the Philippines.

  9. Bring sunscreen from home – It is ridiculously expensive in SE Asia. It’s one of the few things I recommend bringing that are worth using the extra space in your bag for.

  10. Avoid package tours – Though some are great, they’re always more expensive than doing it yourself. That being said, don’t skip on all. I used tours for trekking in Myanmar, Sapa, and Halong Bay.

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 Booking.com 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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Blitz Visit to Hanoi

Last update:2016-12-14 17:29:34

Before I started planning for the trip to Hanoi, I had thought that it would be more or less the same as Singapore’s hot and very hot kind of weather. But the weather check gave a pleasant surprise – there’s season change in Hanoi. Yes, Hanoi has winter months but no, it’s unlikely you will see streets covered in snow. Then again, you never know, even Middle East countries are experiencing snow nowadays.

We were there in mid-February and day weather was very comfortable before becoming a-jacket-is-needed kind of cold when night falls. Very European kind of weather – I like!

Now if only I had more time for this rather short trip, technically 1.5 days to spare. Halong Bay or Sapa will have to wait but well, I just make do with it and enjoy. Took a taxi from Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport to May De Ville Old Quarter Hotel and hit the streets immediately after checking in. The first stop is Hoan Kiem Lake where the locals go for morning exercise.

WingShark's Note:
Flights from Kuala Lumper to Hanoi Now:hellowings.com/h/DEKXJ
Flights from Singapore to Hanoi Now:hellowings.com/h/PRnM4

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