Popular Backpacking Route in Southeast Asia

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Backpacking Route in Southeast Asia

Backpacking around South East Asia is ever popular and it’s not hard to see why. It’s very cheap, home to unique and varied cultures, fantastic weather and scenery but with such a thriving backpacker scene, home comforts are never hard to find. Perhaps it has lost some of the mysticism it had back in the day when traveller numbers were still relatively small but there is still undeniably a certain magic about this part of the world.

The route on this page aims to give you a basic idea of what a typical backpacker itinerary in Southeast Asia looks like. It’s not the definitive answer to travelling around the region so don’t treat it as such but hopefully it will help shape your plans for travelling around this wonderful part of the world.


Could just about be squeezed into two months but would be a rush. If you’re not limited on time you could easily spend six months travelling in Southeast Asia.

POSSIBLE BUDGET – £2500 €2850 $3000

Figures are based on prices and exchange rates as of January 2017. For more specific info see backpacking budget for Southeast Asia.

These figures don’t include cost of flights to/from region or other pre-trip expenses such as getting travel insurance. They allow for a bit of partying and the odd organised tour/trip in the day-time but if you are planning on doing lots of that then you will spend more!

This is a realistic shoestring budget for Southeast Asia and it’s possible to get by on less if you stick to local food rather than tourist options. However on the Southeast Asia backpacker trail, temptation lies at almost every corner and it’d be easy to blow this budget if you aren’t great on self-discipline! If it’s your first time travelling then you’d be wise to budget for more.


Most nationalities do not require a visa for Thailand (30 days) or Vietnam (15 days) but will need to get a visa on arrival in Laos and Cambodia, the cost of which depends on where you’re from. You don’t need to do anything in advance, just show up at the border with your passport and some US Dollars.

Use our visa check tool to confirm which countries you will need a visa for.


We recommend World Nomads who specialise in providing cover for backpacking trips.


Not ready to travel solo or only have a limited amount of time? Check out Stray Travel’s Southeast Asia Flexi Tours.


Available on Kindle or as paperback from £2.99 | €3.49 | $3.79.

Southeast Asia Backpacking Route

The route begins in the traveller hub of Bangkok before heading into mystical Northern Thailand and then crossing through lazy, chilled-out Laos. Next stop is Vietnam, a rapidly developing country with a fascinating history before looping back around into the crazy kingdom of Cambodia. Back in Thailand and returning to Bangkok for the trip to the beach paradise of Southern Thailand. After a few weeks of island hopping, the route takes in the length of Malaysia before finishing off in the exciting city state of Singapore.


Backpackers in Bangkok

Bangkok – The Thai Capital is in many ways the best place to start your South East Asian trip. For starters it’s a major airline hub so it is very easy to get to, and flights are more reasonably priced than ones to other South East Asian cities which often pass through Bangkok anyway. It is the most Westernised city in the region so the culture shock is less than if you landed straight into Vietnam or Laos. It offers you a chance to stock up on anything you may need for your trip, with prices much cheaper than back home but still with great choice. Bangkok is very much base camp for travellers in Southeast Asia. Love it or loathe it, chances are you’ll return at some point on your trip.

As for the city well it’s the sort of place that divides opinion. It’s certainly something of a backpacking Mecca centred around the famous Khao San Road, possibly the most international street in the world. It is a huge place with many different districts and lots of sights to see. Then there’s the seedy side of Bangkok and its infamous sex industry, which is almost unavoidable and probably what the city is most known for around the world.

Ayutthaya – Ancient city and former capital of Siam. Ayutthaya is effectively an island in the middle of three rivers. History buffs will love it and for everyone else it makes for a nice stop on the way to the North of Thailand.

Phitsanulok – Not a on the regular hit-list for people backpacking in Thailand, but it is somewhere to break up the journey between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Explore the nearby Sukhothai Historical Park and visit some of the temples and museums in town.

Chiang Mai –
The Northern city of Chiang Mai is an intellectual kind of place with an alternative vibe and many travellers prefer it to Bangkok. It’s a good spot to study traditional Thai practices such as massage and meditation. It is also the best place to base yourself for exploring or trekking into the jungle and ethnic minority villages near the city.

Chiang Mai is also a good place for joining up with our backpacking route for Myanmar.

Chiang Khong – Right on the border with Laos, it has a real traveller vibe to it with people heading in both directions. It is in the Golden Triangle, a famous opium growing region which covers areas of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Chiang Khong is also a market town and attracts local hill tribes such as the White Hmongs. Explore the mountainous region, visit some of the other villages and learn about the opium trade which has been cut out in Thailand but still thrives over the nearby Lao and Burmese borders.

Border Crossing from Thailand to Laos:
Chiang Khong and Houay Xai are right next to each other so it’s fairly straightforward and you can purchase a 30 day Laos tourist visa for around $30-40 at the border.


Vang Vieng backpackers

Vang Vieng in Laos, CC BY-SA 2.0

Houay Xai – For a border town, Houay Xai is very pleasant and it may be worth hanging around for a day or so to adapt to the chilled out Lao lifestyle and enjoy sitting on the banks of the Mekong or consider visiting the nearby Bokeo Nature Reserve. It’s a decent spot to psyche yourself up for the long journey to Luang Prabang. (Backpacking in Laos isn’t as easy or anywhere near as comfortable as in Thailand thanks to dodgy roads and a basic to non-existent transport system).

Luang Prabang – French and Indochinese culture met here and resulted in an enchanting city, one of the highlights of Laos. The Old Quarter on the banks of the river is home to an array of temples and museums that are worth visiting. The night market is another big draw and there are plenty of companies offering trekking, biking and kayaking opportunities.

Vang Vieng – This is another hugely popular backpacking destination in South East Asia. Hop on a rubber tube and make your way between the various bars along the river. This is the main attraction here but there’s plenty of other adventurous stuff you can do around the ramshackle town of Vang Vieng, which has a real chilled out backpacker vibe. The tubing is not as crazy or dangerous as it once was thanks to a government crackdown but injuries and deaths are not uncommon.

Update on state of tubing in Vang Vieng (November 2015)

Vientiane – A capital city it may be but don’t let that deceive you. Vientiane is about as friendly and laid back a place as you’ll find anywhere. Set on the Mekong River, this French influenced town is pleasant and picturesque and the perfect place to chill out for a few days. Be sure to visit and support COPE Laos which helps the country’s many people with mobility related disabilities.

Tha Khaek – A small town with a large market selling all sorts of weird stuff including unorthodox dishes like snake and squirrel frogs. Its main use for travellers is as a base for exploring the Phou Hin Boon National Park. Don’t miss the giant Konglor Cave, which is basically a river beneath the surface that can be navigated on boat trips. You can also visit the Tham Nong Pafa Cave discovered as recently as 2004 and home to 200 mysterious Buddha statues.

Savannakhet – Second biggest city in Laos, but again it is very chilled out, with a combo of French and traditional Lao feel to the city. Stuff to do here includes a visit to the Dinosaur Museum which exhibits various dinosaur remains found in the area. There’s also a museum about the problem of unexploded bombs from the Vietnam War that still litter the Eastern side of the province. The city also hosts many different festivals throughout the year which you may be lucky enough to catch.

Border Crossing from Laos to Vietnam:
Buses are fairly high quality with air-con and run from Savannakhet to Dong Ha in Vietnam and take around 8 hours. Enquire in town for bus times. Depending on how long you wish to stay in the country, you may need to arrange your Vietnam visa in advance, which is probably best done at the Vietnamese Embassy in Vientiane.


Hoi An Boats

see our full Vietnam backpacking route here!

Dong Ha – The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is very different to Laos and it will take a little time to adjust to the increased pace of life here. The main sight near Dong Ha where the buses from Savannakhet arrive is the former de-militarised zone (DMZ) which used to separate North and South Vietnam. You won’t want to stay in Dong Ha more than a day, if that and many travellers head straight to Hue.

Hue – Ancient city on a musty coloured river with dragon boats. Lots of Vietnam War sites nearby and a pretty decent traveller scene. Good place to try Vietnamese food. It rains a lot.

Hoi An – This riverside town is pretty damn cool. It’s the place to buy tailor-made clothes of all varieties and then prance around like a prize nutter in your new bright purple suit. The beach is a short moto-taxi ride away and is one of the finest in the country. There are also some surprisingly cool bars here catering to a variety of music tastes. It made our Top 10 New Backpacking Hotspots a few years back.

Nha Trang – Nha Trang has a fairly seedy traveller area and a dirty beach but there are a few positives. A peaceful temple near the bus station is home to a giant white Buddha. There’s also a decent beach club that serves cheap cocktails and stays open till much later than anywhere you’re likely to find further north. Some decent water sports on offer here too.

Dalat – 1500m above sea level, Dalat has distinctly different feel to it to the rest of the main places to visit in South East Asia. With a temperate climate that makes nights chilly, it comes as a refreshing change and with lakes, forests and waterfalls that surround the town, it is a paradise for fans of the great outdoors. Hiking and cycling opportunities aplenty here and there’s a few villages nearby home to ethnic minority groups.

Mui Ne – The nearby sand dunes are good fun if you can stand the heat. There is one road, it’s very long and runs parallel to the 20km or so long beach which is largely deserted. Good place to unwind but not much going on.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) –
It is the biggest city in the country and has by some considerable margin the largest backpacker scene in Vietnam. Hit the Pham Ngu Lao traveller area and you will find numerous cheap places to eat, sleep and drink. The area is busy until late and has cuisines from literally all over the world. The moto drivers here will compete for your business non-stop so it’s easy to get anywhere else in town. Lots of sights relating to the war here in this ever growing and somewhat crazy city. The traffic is mental!

More about Saigon here!

Border Crossing from Vietnam to Cambodia:
Buses from Saigon to Phnom Penh are cheap and regular taking around 6 hours. You will have to get off at the border and most bus companies seem to rather annoyingly take your passports off you on the bus and charge $25 to sort out the Cambodian visa as opposed to the official $20. If you refuse and demand to sort it yourself, you risk being left at the border, while your belongings hurtle towards Phnom Penh!


temples of angkor wat

Phnom Penh – On the surface Phnom Penh is a pleasant, aesthetically pleasing and surprisingly peaceful capital city with lots of monks. Dig a little deeper and it’s a lawless, poverty stricken place where just about anything goes. Welcome to Cambodia.

Backpackers here depending on who you speak to get up to just about anything from blowing up cows with rocket launchers to attending cock fighting matches and getting off their faces on ridiculously easily available drugs. If none of that really sounds like you, then you can spend some time reflecting and trying to understand the horrors that took place here all too recently during the days of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge by visiting the Killing Fields and a former prison where unimaginable horrors took place. There’s also some stunning temples and palaces which could grace any of the finest cities on the planet. Inequality is everywhere in Cambodia and Phnom Penh demonstrates it better than anywhere.

Check out our 5 Funky Things to do in Phnom Penh!

Sihanoukville –
 24 hour bars and unspoiled beaches are the order of the day here. It’s a bit like some of the Thai beach destinations would have been like 20 years ago before they became commercialised. Much like Phnom Penh there’s a majorly psychedelic backpacker scene.

Battambang – Travelling to Battambang from Sihanoukville is likely to involve going back to Phnom Penh and changing buses such is the limited transport network in the country. The city is full of statues and interesting Wats and has plenty of river based activities to entertain travellers. Once you’re done hop on a boat north to Siem Reap. It may be worth checking the estimated length of the journey as it depends on water levels and can take up to 12 hours, in which case you may well prefer the less scenic bus route.

Siem Reap (for Temples of Angkor Wat) –
Siem Reap has grown from nothing into a thriving little town thanks to its proximity to the country’s main pride and joy, the magnificent Temples of Angkor Wat, an essential stop for anyone backpacking in Cambodia. If you’re a fairly well travelled person you’ve probably been to some ancient ruin that’s in all the guidebooks and been left thoroughly disappointed at the crappy little pile of rocks that you’ve payed to come and see. Angkor Wat however is in a different league with hundreds of impressive ruins spread out over a large area of jungle, it’s a pretty amazing place and you’d have to be very hard to please not to be impressed by the scale of it. In Siem Reap itself there are few sights but some decent bars and plenty of great food.

For more on Cambodia see our Backpacker’s Guide to Cambodia (old article but some handy tips).

Border Crossing from Cambodia to Thailand: Take the bus from Siem Reap to Poipet, a Cambodian border town which is a total hellhole. Your main objective ought to be to cross the border as quickly as possible while trying not to get scammed. The Thai side isn’t as bad but you are likely to have your luggage sniffed by dogs either at the border or once onboard your onward bus which will probably be stopped by police at some point early on in the journey. They are looking for drugs and penalties are severe if caught. Once you’ve got through immigration, take a tuk-tuk to the bus terminal in Aranya Prathet from where there are regular buses to Bangkok taking 4 hours or so.


Backpacking route in Southeast Asia

Bangkok – Kick back on the KhaoSan Road or hop straight on a night train south depending on how much you enjoyed the city first time around. Having completed the big loop around the North of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia it’s time to hop on a night train and head for the beach paradise of Southern Thailand.

Ko Samui- A large and very westernised island that tends to attract more mainstream tourism than people travelling in South East Asia on a budget. Hat Chaweng and Hat Lamai are party central for the tourist masses but there are plenty of quieter spots to explore with a vast choice of beaches to choose from and you’ll probably have to pass through here to get the boat to Ko Pha-Ngan.

Ko Phangan – This island is probably the most famous backpacking destination in the world. A tropical paradise it certainly is and the options are endless when it comes to finding a beach to spend the day on. There are no major developments here so accommodation is basic and dirt cheap with plenty of traditional beach bungalows still available. Hat Rin is the place to party and home of the famous full moon parties which attract thousands at that time of the month. The other beaches are considerably quieter and great places to relax and enjoy your days in peace.

Ko Tao – Express boats travel the 45km between Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Tao taking around two hours. This is the place to come to delve into the ocean and experience diving or snorkelling in beautiful clear waters with lots of marine life. It almost goes without saying that this is also another great island to soak up the sun and laze around on the beach all day. Hat Sai Ri’s bars are the centre of the drinking action, but Ko Tao’s nightlife is nowhere near as lively as that on Ko Pha-Ngan or Ko Samui.

Krabi – Back on the Thai mainland and now the Andaman Coast, hit the popular beaches of Ao Nang, Tang Sei and Rai Leh. Crash out in the cheap guesthouse or bungalows on one of the beaches. There’s also more opportunities for the active traveller here so if you’re bored of lazing around all day, try your hand at rock climbing, a popular activity on Hat Ton Sai and Hat Rai Leh (Railay Beach).

Ko Phi Phi – Ever popular with backpackers in Thailand, this is where the movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed (below). The main action, and again a very lively party scene, is on the larger island though and you will have to stay on it (Phi Phi Don). It’s a bit pricier than some of the other Thai beach destinations and isn’t exactly a secret paradise any more but it’s still beautiful despite being badly affected by the 2004 tsunami and a recent large influx of Chinese tourists.

Ko Tarutao National Marine Park – Over 50 little islands in the far south-west of the country. So far it has managed not to become at all commercialised or overrun by foreigners and isn’t regularly visited by peeps backpacking in Thailand. You can rent out a tent on one of the few accessible islands and enjoy a day or two in unspoiled natural surroundings.

Border Crossing from Thailand to Malaysia:
Boats travel between Satun, Thailand and Pulau Langkawi in Malaysia taking 1 hour 30 mins and costing around 300 Baht. Violence sometimes flares up in the largely Muslim provinces in the far south of Thailand so if in doubt it’s best to head straight to Malaysia.


Malaysia budget travel

Penang – A small island off the West Coast of Malaysia that is well worth visiting. Hit Georgetown, for a taste of British colonialism and experience the town’s famous markets and religious sites of various faiths. Elsewhere on the island there are some decent beaches and plenty of quaint little fishing villages.

Ipoh – There’s lots of nice sights in Ipoh, even the train station is something of an architectural masterpiece. It is a mysterious kind of place, home to haunted castles, secret passages, weird statues and various caves. You can also go trekking in the surrounding jungle, visit nearby hot-springs, enjoy a day at the water park or for the adventurous try your hand at caving and white-water rafting.

Taman Negara National Park –
It can be a bit of a pain to get to but is well worth the effort. You don’t really need a guide so you can wander around the jungle terrain at your own leisure. There are some beautifully clear lakes to swim as well as some spectacular water cascades and a 500m long suspension bridge which cuts through the jungle canopies. Longer treks deeper into the jungle can be arranged as can mountain climbing and 4WD safaris.

Kuala Lumpur –
The Malaysian capital is a developed modern city. There’s some excellent shopping and lively nightlife here in the Golden Triangle home of the Petronas Twin Towers, two of the tallest buildings in the world. It is considerably more expensive than most places on the route but still very cheap by Western standards.

Malacca – Another one of these World Heritage Sites, Malacca is considered one of the backpacking highlights in Malaysia. It’s a rather old city having being founded over 600 years ago but there’s still plenty of buzz about Malacca today. There are plenty of interesting and centuries old streets and squares to kick back in, and there’s a good choice of local dishes and drinks to try.

Read about the cost of travel in Malaysia.

Border Crossing from Malaysia to Singapore:
Heading to Singapore, one way or another you’ll need to get to the town of Johor Bahru which is connected to Singapore by a 1km long causeway. There are frequent buses from Johor Bahru’s bus station north of the city and Queen Street Station in Singapore. They all stop at both immigration checkpoints where you will need to get off with your luggage and then re-board once you’re through passport control.


Travel itinerary for Southeast Asia

Singapore Marina Bay, CC BY-SA 2.0

Check out these 5 funky things to do in Singapore!

Singapore – The glamorous city state of Singapore is full of flashy skyscrapers and is a complete contrast to most of South East Asia. The city is is very multi-cultural and has lots of fascinating districts to explore and foods to taste. The law here is famously strict so behaviour that is considered perfectly acceptable in Cambodia and Laos could be punished by the death penalty so don’t take any chances. Even chewing gum is illegal here!

As far as budget travel in South East Asia goes, Singapore is firmly on the expensive side of the scale. Beer here is probably ten times the price it is in other parts of the region and although not everything is extortionate, it’s a good idea to ensure you’ve not totally blown your budget by the time you get here.

Singapore has probably the best airport in the world and is very well connected to locations all over the world so is the perfect place to end your trip and fly home or onwards to a different part of the world. Alternatively you could make the short sea crossing to Indonesia and continue your travels there.

Many travellers then take a flight down under from Singapore and you might find some more inspiration in our backpacking route for Australia and 5 week New Zealand travel itinerary.

Budget Accommodation in Southeast Asia

Advanced booking isn’t really necessary in the majority of places on this route but it’s a good idea for your first destination (probably Bangkok) as you’re likely to be tired from a long flight. Also a good idea during festivals and certainly in or around the full moon on Koh Phangan.

What did we miss out from the Itinerary?

Northern Vietnam especially Hanoi and Halong Bay are well worth visiting and perhaps the most notable exclusions from our route. The problem is they are farily inaccessible from Laos by road. The trip is very long and bumpy so if you do fancy it, your best bet is probably to follow the route to Vientiane and then fly to Hanoi. Check out our backpacking route for Vietnam which follows the Re-Unification Express trainline from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, where you can rejoin this route.

Indonesia is a huge place and could justify 6 months travelling in its own right with the possibility of continuing onto Australia and New Zealand. Check out our suggested backpacking route in Indonesia if you’re interested. The Philippines is also a huge collection of islands and is less popular with travellers, possibly because it is off the South East Asian mainland and parts of it have a somewhat dangerous reputation.

Daytrips to Burma can be arranged from the North of Thailand and longer visits are becoming increasingly popular. For some inspiration have a read of our 3 week backpacking route for Myanmar. If you do decide and are able to visit then you will find a fascinating country with as much to see as any of the others in the region.

Backpackers Guide to southeast Asia

For a more complete overview of budget travel across the region, get our full 2017-2018 Backpacker’s Guide to Southeast Asia. It includes a similar route to this plus itineraries for Indonesia, Myanmar & the Philippines. You’ll also find more on vaccinations, visa rules and border crossings for all countries as well as the best festivals, activities, full moon parties and historical sites plus the answers to some FAQ’s we’ve received from first time travellers in Southeast Asia.

This article was last updated in January 2017.

  • RMcD

    Can you draw this route on a map?

  • RMcD

    Do you have a map of the route?

    • There used to be one but seems to have disappeared!

      Will look into it 🙂

  • James Day

    Hi My Funky Travel.
    I am planning to follow your route for S.E.A for about 6 months backpacking in early 2018. I would be naive to think I won’t have some points with rainfall, but in your opinion, when is the best time to fly out for this route to avoid the monsoon/thunderstorm seasons for all regions? I am looking at the moment in flying out from the UK in March/April time to Bangkok and onwards, for 6 months, on your amazing route. Any help would be great!
    Also I have budgeted for around £5-6 thousand, does that seem like a realistic budget for 6 months in these places and possibly parts of Indonesia?
    Thanks, James

    • Hi James,

      Your budget sounds about right for a typical backpacker in this part of the world. You wouldn’t get a lot of luxury for that but if you’re willing to stay in cheap places and eat local food then you’d certainly have money left over for a fair amount of daytime trips/activities and/or partying.

      With regards to the weather, the rainy season strikes at different points of the year across the region so it’s basically impossible to totally avoid the rainy season everywhere. As a rough guide, in much of this route (North of Malaysia) the rainy season goes from May/June to September/October so March/April is perhaps not the best time to head out if that’s a big concern. However there are exceptions. The islands in the Gulf of Thailand (Samui, Pha-ngan, Ko Tao) stay dry until more like October so April-September is viewed as a good time to go there.

      There’s some useful info here on the climate in some of the main destinations – http://www.travelzoo.com/uk/blog/whens-the-best-time-to-visit-southeast-asia/

      Personally I’d say that November/December might be the best time to head out and do this route, with the following few months generally speaking dry in most places and a bit cooler.

  • Natasha Lovell

    Brilliant guide….we are looking to spend a year travelling the world but wanted to spend a majority of our time in SEA , due to beauty, culture and of course cost !! …..Myself and my husband will be travelling with our 8yr old son, so major partying not on the agenda. Is there any places that need to be defiantly avoided with a child and can you recommend any particular beautiful beaches etc, that would be child friendly. Do most places do tours in the jungle or is this something you would have to organise ourselves, wanted to kinda get lots of culture for my son too. Just starting our plans so really am clueless at this point so any advice would be much appreciated, hoping to travel to oz after to catch up with friends.
    Many thanks

    • Hi Natasha, Thanks for getting in touch!

      Wouldn’t have thought any of the stops in the route need to be avoided completely just because you’re travelling with a child but it’s more a question of choosing where to base yourself. You’d want to avoid the main party beaches/streets on Koh Pha-Ngan, Phi Phi etc and some areas of the bigger cities like Bangkok and HCMC are probably best avoided. However it’s really not that hard to find a much quieter place to stay and there’s still plenty to see and do in those places that would be child-friendly. The less isolated beach destinations like Samui and perhaps Krabi would have more stuff that would be specifically geared towards kids.

      SEA is very touristy these days and almost every stop in this route will have a number of travel and tour companies offering a variety of different trips. Therefore you don’t really need to organise jungle trips like that yourself and it’d probably be unwise to do so.

      Given you’ve got a whole year for travelling, you don’t need to stress out too much about planning everything in advance. Perhaps you could use this or another route as a very rough guide but there’s not much time pressure and once you’ve visited a few destinations and are a week or so into your trip, you’ll have a much better grasp of what travelling in the region is like.

  • poppy large

    Hi, Love your guide, really helpful! I’m thinking of starting my travels in September, coming back early December. Really like the look of your route but was worried about rainy seasons ect.. Do you think it would be ok around that time?

    • Hi Poppy,

      There’s quite a bit of variety in when the rainy season/ hot seasons etc comes so it’s hard to totally avoid the bad weather if you’re travelling around the whole of SE Asia. Following this route you’re likely to come into a bit of rain in Vietnam during that time but by the time you get round to Southern Thailand, Malaysia etc. you’d be heading into what’s generally considering the best season to visit (November to February) as it’s generally dry and sunny but not as hot as the summer period (March to June).

      I’ve travelled roughly the same period as you and although there were spells when it rained heavily, it was mostly good weather so I don’t think it’s a bad time to visit at all.

      • matt legg

        do you recommend packing a rain jacket or just getting wet? I am trying to pack ultralight for my trip

        • Hi Matt, Maybe something lightweight is a good idea but you could always just buy a really cheap plastic one when there if you start to run into some bad weather.

  • andrew

    Greetings From America (New Yorker),

    Currently doing my homework on a 3 week (23 days) indoasia adventure. My Focal Point at the start of my trip would be Vietnam(6 Day Max) with the hopes of stopping over briefly in Laos (2 days) Cambodia and finally reaching Bangkok(2-3 days) and Phucket for what evers left hoping a 7 day stretch. Ive never traveled to any of these locations and after some reading it seems i may need to cut out a few P.O.I in the countries mentioned. So Am i biting off too much?


    • Hi Andy,

      Might be a bit ambitious but if you’re not on a limited budget, you can probably take a few flights and fit it all in.

      I’d look at doing Hanoi, Halong Bay & maybe one other place in Northern Vietnam. Then you could fly to Luang Prabang or Vientiane in Laos, before heading down to Cambodia and travelling by land to Bangkok and then flying to Phuket.

      Personally I’d consider skipping the two days in Laos though as it’s the least accessible of the countries with limited flights in/out and slow bus transfers so it’d be the most complicated bit to fit into your trip. Without Laos, you could probably do the Southern Vietnam to Bangkok bit overland as suggested in the post and then head to Phuket for the final week.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • cc123

    Really enjoyed your post! What is the best way to travel between cities if you follow the route you took ?

    • Hi varies between the countries to be honest. In Thailand and Vietnam, it was usually the train which I’d highly recommend with the odd bus where there wasn’t train lines and obviously boats to the islands. If you’re pressed for time, try Thai Lion Air for some of the longer trips in Thailand. They are very cheap and you can fly to basically everywhere in the country from Bangkok.

      Cambodia and Laos you basically have to take the bus everywhere as there are no train lines and the limited flights that exist are quite expensive. It’s cheap but slow travel! Another option in a couple of places is to take a boat up the Mekong River which is a good experience but very slow.

  • Julius Alvaro

    Thank God you left out the Philippines in your backpacking trip…I can say though, you missed another excellent backpacking experience with that 🙂 Seems like a biased comment by saying “Philippines is also a huge collection of islands and is less popular with travellers, possibly because it is off the South East Asian mainland and parts of it have a somewhat dangerous reputation.” Maybe you can try visiting Cebu, Palawan (Coron, Puerto Princesa, El Nido), Bohol, Boracay, Banaue/Sagada, Apo island, Siquijor, Ilocos Regions, etc soon.

    • Wouldn’t really describe that as a ‘biased comment’. It is more a fact that The Philippines doesn’t receive as many international backpackers/budget travellers as the other countries but more people are heading there, certainly since the article was written. We do have a Philippines route in our more recent SE Asia Guide which features many of the excellent destinations you mentioned.

      • Julius Alvaro

        I have read a lot of blogs and seen vlogs from non-Filipino backpackers / tourists who have visited the Philippines and they all agree that even though there were less international backpackers, there were a lot of local backpackers or tourists which they said that it was not seen in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam. Kudos to your “Philippine route” guide and hope to see what’s in it.

        • Thanks Julius. Would like to get a Philippines route on the site soon too. Will take your suggestions on board for sure although If you or any other Filipinos are interested in writing out a route for your country with a bit of info about each destination then we’d be very happy to feature it.

  • Greg Angus

    Great guide, quick question though. Do you need a special visa for leaving then re-entering Thailand? don’t most visa’s stipulate single entry only?

    • Hi Greg, it depends where you are from but for people from many countries do not need a visa to enter Thailand. The countries are listed here – http://www.thaivisaservice.com/visa-rules

      This means when you enter Thailand for the 1st time (presuming you are flying in) you will get a 30 day stamp in your passport on arrival. You don’t need to do anything in advance or pay any money.

      The link there and other sources suggest they are trying to clamp down on people who just leave thailand and then immediately come back to get a fresh 30 days. This is because some people have lived in Thailand for years by just doing regular border runs. As that article points out it is at the discretion of the immigration officer and if it is the first time you are doing it I think it is highly highly unlikely you’ll have any problems getting back in visa-free and without paying any money. They want tourism and if it is clear you are just travelling you should have no issues.

      I was in the region at the end of last year. Spent 30 days in Thailand and left by land to Laos before returning to Thailand 10 days later also over-land and had no problems whatsoever getting a fresh 30 day stamp.

  • Anya


    Three friends and I land in Bangkok on the 8th of Feb, and have yet to fully decide on a route to take. We have heard so many differing opinions and obviously want to make the most out of this once in a lifetime trip! 🙂 We have set aside 4+ months and aim to see Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and some parts of Indonesia (mainly Bali, the Gili Islands and Lombok).

    – Is this route above really the best way? any advice would be amazing! 🙂

    We are pretty chilled and don’t intend to rush, wanting to get our Scuba Diving certs in Koh Tao and being in Thailand for Songkran, are some on our list.

    Cheeers! x

    • It’s just a guideline really, should give you an idea of what a typical backpacking route in Southeast Asia might look like with a mix of beach/party places, cultural highlights, cities, natural sites, history etc. Wouldn’t expect anyone to follow it blindly but it should hopefully give you some inspiration and then you could tailor it more towards the interests of you and your friends.

      It might work quite well with your timescale I’d say although fitting Songkran in might be the challenge. You might want to consider doing Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos first and then you should be back in Thailand in time for Songkran. Although you’d probably need more than 30 days in Thailand if you did the North and islands in one stint so you’d have to get a tourist visa (for up to 30 days in Thailand you don’t need one, which is partly why we’ve split Thailand into two sections on this route).