A Starters Guide to Backpacking in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia arguably sits on top of any backpacker’s destination list. From all over the world, people have been backpacking the region since as early as the the late 1960s. If you’re new to backpacking, Southeast Asia is a great place to start your travels. Not only is it affordable and safe, but also the diversity and fascinating scenery found here are second to none.
Southeast Asia is made up of 11 countries, namely: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, East Timor, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (or Burma), Thailand and Vietnam. So, obviously planning a trip to the region is no easy task. With so many things to do and see, it can be quite challenging to know where and how to start your backpacking adventure.
Worry no more, we have set out a handful of things to keep in mind to get you started.
Before you start worrying over what to pack or where to go, make sure you have a valid passport and any visas you may require in advance. Luckily, most countries allow you to get a visa upon arrival and prices range from free to some $50 USD. Keep in mind though that terms and pricing depend on where your passport is from. Each visa also has different limitations in terms of length of stay.
You will want to make sure you have all proper vaccinations and medications needed at least a month before setting off on your travels. Likewise, since your travels may get somewhat adventurous, travel insurance is highly recommended.
Finding the right backpack is almost equally important as it will accompany you throughout your entire journey.
With basics out of the way you can now consider the (remaining) budget for your backpacking trip. Your daily budget in Southeast Asia depends on where you’re travelling and what level of comfort you are looking for. While you can make it on as little as $20 a day, your best bet is to set aside a daily budget of $30 to $40 USD as you backpack your way through the region.
Generally, the most affordable countries are considered to be Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, while Singapore is the most expensive. Key to keeping your expenses in check are staying in hostels and eating street food. Using local transport to get around can keep costs low, too. Bargaining is also an accepted and everyday practice – keep this in mind so you don’t overpay!
Route and Time
A a mix of big ancient cities and tropical beaches, as well incredible scenery including volcanoes and rainforests, make Southeast Asia one of the most diverse regions in the world. As a result, deciding where to go and how long to spend in each place can be quite a challenge. Luckily, busses across Southeast Asia are cheap and you generally do not need a reservation in advance. By keeping your plans flexible, you’ll be able to improvise along the way and spend just as much time as you like in each place.
There are many variations of routes to follow along your backpack adventure. For most, the starting point is Bangkok, famous for its temples and palaces, as well as raging nightlife.
From here choices are endless. Whether you head to Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos or instead head South to the Thai islands, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, is entirely up to you. Itinerary suggestions starting for 2 weeks and up to 2 months can be found online.
When to Travel
In general, the entire region of Southeast Asia has a tropical climate. The hot and humid weather varies little throughout the year, except during monsoon season. These rainy seasons can vary from place to place, and each country also has many microclimates. Once you have a general idea of which countries you plan to include on your backpacking adventure, it is a good idea to check each countries’ best travel times and forecast. Also, contrary to popular belief, traveling during monsoon season can offer plenty of positives.
So, whether it’s the tastiest of cuisines, the fine beaches, the tribal cultures, the mysterious lagoons or the magnificent monuments, Southeast Asia has it all.
Only thing left is for you to get moving and start planning your very own backpacking adventure.
Are there other things to keep in mind as you head on a backpacking trip to Southeast Asia? Let us know in the comment section below.
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Still not sure how the whole Hop-On Hop-Off pass thing works, read more about it here.