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The Essential List of Southeast Asia Travel Tips – A Backpackers Guide

by | Feb 14, 2014

Welcome to the complete list of Southeast Asia travel tips. Let’s get started.

Southeast Asia is a sensory overload of vibrant temples, chaotic streets, and intoxicating smells of food.

While backpacking in this type of environment can sometimes seem a little hectic, Southeast Asia is one of the best places in the world for you to start your adventure travels.

Why Visit Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asia Travel Tips

Well, because it has beaches that will make your jaw drop, food that will make you visibly drool, and prices so cheap, that your mind will be dizzy.

Oh yea, let’s not forget some of the other perks like some of the best diving in the world, incredible landscape, amazing jungles, and some of the most warm-hearted, friendly people I have ever met.

Each country is different and has a distinct culture and so much to offer that you will desire to return to this part of the world over and again.

Go for a few months, and you will have plenty of time to mark some things off your travel bucket list without spending hours in line.

Southeast Asia has lots of yoga and mediation and is a good place to get in touch with you inner self, and reflect on some of the life lessons you learn traveling the world.

It is hard not to fall in love with Southeast Asia. In fact, for many, it is love at first sight.

Southeast Asia Travel Tips

When to travel to Southeast Asia?

Peak Season – One of the first Southeast Asia travel tips you should know is that peak tourist season is late October until early May.

This is when frozen tourists run here to thaw out in the warm climate every year.

Weather -Southeast tends to be humid all year round with some exceptions.

Summer- Summers temperatures are in the 80s-90s. June through Sept is also the monsoon seasons, so expect a couple hours of rain each day.

Winter- Winter in Southeast Asia is still warm, unless you are up north. You will want to have a lite jacket in certain areas at night.

RoamRight Travel Insurance

Do You Need Travel Insurance For Southeast Asia?

One of the Southeast Asia travel tips that I recommend is to get travel insurance.

It is vital for any traveler to protect themselves buy purchasing travel insurance before heading out on your adventures.

Here is why. For example last year my travel insurance ran out. I didn’t feel the need to reactivate it right away….big mistake. A couple weeks later I got my cell phone stolen, and got a horrific case of food poisoning. My hospital bill was upwards of $400 and replacing my phones cost $400.

Within a week I had lost $500! That’s almost the price for the entire year of insurance. If I had insurance during that week I wouldn’t of had to pay a dime.

Now I never travel without insurance to protect the electronics I travel with, and myself for any unexpected illnesses that come up.

So is travel insurance worth it? The choice is up to you, but in my experience it is better to be safe than sorry, and travel insurance has saved me money in the long run.

For insurance I use RoamRight. They are a great company that I recommenced.

The insurance is affordable and they offer fantastic coverage. They have phenomenal customer service.
Here are some of the things RoamRight Covers.

Trip Cancellation

Cancel for Work Reasons

Trip Interruption

Emergency Accident, Sickness Medical Expense, and Dental Medical

Personal Effects Accidental

Cost of Backpacking South East Asia Breakdown

Backpacking Southeast Asia Travel Tips

Southeast Asia Travel Tips -How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Southeast Asia?

If you are looking for a place to make your money last then look no further than SEA. This glorious party of the world is cheap.

My cheapest month in Southeast Asia was when I was living in Thailand. I spent less than $600.

Traveling to Europe, or the Uk can be 3 to 4 times more expensive to visit.

Yes, Southeast is the place to come if you are looking to travel long term without breaking your bank account.

Food

Ahh…. cheap, good food – that is what I am talking about.

Meal Cost – The typical meal in Southeast Asia will range from $2- $5. You could easily eat street vendor food all day for around $5.

I suggest lots and lots of fruit smoothies; they are the best in the world.

Local Restaurants- Hole in the wall restaurants delicious, and are about $2 a meal.

I have a general rule the more it looks like I don’t want to eat there the better the food will be!

Accommodation – Typically hostels dorms and guest houses– Range between $3 – $20 a night. If you are paying more than that, you are being ripped off. Of course, price does vary from country to country.

In Thailand, the average hostel is $10-$15 a night but in cheaper countries like Cambodia, it is far less with a range of $5-$10.

Privates Rooms- Private rooms range between $10 -$30 a night.

Airbnb – A lot of people have success with Airbnb. It gives you more privacy than a hostel and is cheaper than a hotel. You can even rent places for a month. I have seen awesome apartments in Bangkok for  as little as $300 a month. Want to save more?

Use this link and get $25 off your first stay with Airbnb!

Ways to Get Around Southeast Asia

Backpacking Southeast Asia

Let’s talk transportation. You can take budget airlines like Air Asia to get between destinations or if you prefer, take trains or buses. As always, buses are cheaper than trains but less comfortable.

Prices vary but for a lengthy trip between countries; it will be $20 -$50. Not bad at all.

One Backpacking Southeast Asia Travel tips I elaborate on below is not to go for the cheapest option when it comes long rides on buses and trains.

Pay a little more when it comes to overnight buses, it is worth it.

If tours are your preferred method of traveling is taken a tour, then you are in luck.

These are some great tour companies around Southeast Asia.

G Adventures – Gap Adventures is a fantastic tour company that runs tours all over Asia. They often have a lot of tour deals and you can save up to 25% on Last Minute Adventure Travel PackagesSoutheast Asia Travel Tips

Intrepid Tours – Intrepid is another travel company I recommend. They focus on small group tours, and are great at getting off the beaten path. They also offer Up to 25% Off Last Minute Deals!Southeast Asia Travel Tips

These are companies I not only like a lot, but also trust. Another way to get around Southeast Asia is by taking a tour. A couple of the most popular tour companies is G Adventures, and Intrepid and I have always had good experiences with them.

You can check out my G Adventure, and Intrepid Travel Reviews here.

Party – South East Asia backpacking nightlife is some of the best in the world.

Countries like Thailand and Laos are full of streets dedicated to parties.

Streets like Koa San have bars that are 24/7.

Yep, they never close. This can be draining on your bank account and your body, but still nothing compared to Europe.

A typical night out will range between $20-$40. Of course, prices vary by participant.

Get Off the Beaten Track – One southeast Asia Travel Tips I always stress is to get off the beaten path and hang out with locals.

The locals in Southeast Asia are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in the entire world.

In many countries in Southeast Asia, they treat tourist with respect, and kindness.

I love hanging out with locals, and the unlikely friendships I have made while traveling Southeast Asia. Don’t be afraid to talk to locals and joke around with them.

If you are not sure how to get off the beaten path and hang with locals there are some new companies that arrange this for you.

Southeast Asia Travel Tips by Country.

Backpacking Southeast Travel Tips

Southeast Asia Travel Tips For Thailand

I’ve never met a person that didn’t love Thailand.

One reason for this is that Thailand caters to tourist.

In fact, the whole country seems to be centered around pleasing and helping travelers, and tourist.

This means that the people are extremely kind, and the country is easy to navigate.

Thailand islands are famous for their beauty, parties, and diving. Basically, the islands of Thailand are small pockets of paradise.

Thailand is simply a country you can’t ignore when backpacking in  Southeast Asia.

If you are new to this part of the world, Thailand is exotic and yet pretty western making it a great place to launch your Southeast Asia backpacking adventure.

Top Cities in Thailand

Bangkok- Chaotic, crowded, and beautiful. Bangkok is an incredible city and one you have to visit at least once. I’ve been there three times, and I will be going back. Bangkok will seem like a sensory overload at first but once you settle into the city, it can be charming.

Chiang Mai- A vast expat community. There are so many great sights and temples, and the “Save the Elephant” foundation is not too far away. Chaing Mai is a perfect home base for long-term travelers and people waiting a break from moving every few days.

Pai – A wonderful riverside village has a laid back and relaxing atmosphere which might be why it has a natural draw for hippies and people seeking a care free way of living.

Things to do in Thailand

Let your lantern fly at Yee Ping- If you are anywhere near Chaing Mai, you won’t want to miss this festival. Yee Peng  is spectacular to watch thousands of lit paper lanterns soar into the sky.

Stay up until the sun rises at the Full Moon Party- The Full Moon Party happens once a month on Koh Phangan.

Numbers vary but a small full moon party is 10,000 people.

A large one can range as high as 30,000. (Careful with the red bull, it is no joke.)

Learn to Scuba Dive – Southeast Asia is one of the best places in the world to learn to dive. It is cheap and yet delivers a lot of beautiful ocean life to see even in the beginner dives.

I recommend learning in dive in Koh Tao through Epic Gap Year and then heading to Koh Lak to dive in the Similians. I was already afraid of diving, but I after saying to myself “I’m run an adventure travel blog, and I need to learn to face my fear and scuba dive”. I did! It was one of the highlights of my year, and my new obsession.

Have One too Many on Koa San Rd- This is the most well-known party street in Southeast Asia. No one has a small night on Koa San and you are almost guaranteed to have a night of full randomness no matter what your plans are.

After Koa San Rd, you will wake up feeling like you were in the movie, Hangover 2.

Make A Difference at the Save an Elephant Foundation- In this part of Asia, chances are you will be offered an elephant ride. This is one adventure you want to experience.

The elephants are tamed by being touted and mistreated. If you want to see elephants, go to the Save an Elephant Foundation. Here, you not only can see them but also make a difference.

Maui Thai Boxing – The matches are energetic. If you really want a close up experience, you can even train at the schools.

Southeast Asia Travel Tips Indonesia

When I think of Indonesia, the first thought that pops into this backpacking, travel obsessed head of mine, is the mixture of cultures, islands, and high altitude cities tucked away in the mountains.

Top Cities in Indonesia

Jakarta – The capital of Indonesia is a cultural hub, yet only lets you experience many diverse cultures from around the world. It is also a city filled with an electric nightlife, and party atmosphere.

Ubud – Heart to the Balinese culture they is no shortage of things to explore in this small Bali town.
Head out to find monkeys, grab some delicious food, or go explore the UNESCO world Heritage site of Elephant Cave, the choice is yours

Mando –The second largest city in Indonesia, Manado’s surrounded by stunning mountains, national parks, and also a great spot to go diving and snorkeling.

Things to do in Indonesia

Explore the history of Indonesia – Temples like Borobudur and Prambana are perfectly persevered examples of the old kingdoms of Indonesia and significant examples of the various religions as one temple is Buddhist and the other Hindu

Bandung – Bandung is a city that sits in the mountains ranges southeast of Jakarta. Driving between the cities, you will get to see the wonderful landscape, rice fields, and dormant volcanoes.

While flying will get you there faster, you will be missing out on some of the spectacular views Indonesia has to offer.

Relax on Gili T- There are a lot of things to do on Gili T, even though the island is so small that you can bike the whole perimeter in under an hour. No cars, no paved roads, no rush makes this island a great place to relax on the beach and snorkel.

Southeast Asia Travel Tips For Cambodia

While you will hear horror stories about the border crossing from Thailand to Cambodia, this is a country you must not miss!

It is cheaper and less touristy than Thailand. It is also rawer and ready to be explored! Are you up for the challenge?

Top Cities in Cambodia

Phnom Penh- It is the largest city in Cambodia. It is a safe place to settle into the country and get your travel feet under you. There are also impressive sites all around the city worth seeing.

Siam Rep – This will be a stop if you are planning on visiting for Angkor Wat, one of southeast Asia largest tourist attractions. This city has become an important tourist hub.

Things to do in Cambodia

Walk around Angkor Wat – The most stunning site if Cambodia, ( and possibly Southeast Asia) Angkor Wat is a beautiful example of temples and monuments.

Bayon Temple– A must see on any visit to Cambodia. Make sure to visit Bayon Temple on your visit to his famous monument.

Trek in the ancient capital of Koh Ker – The capital of the country in 944 AD. Koh Ker is now home to elaborate sculptures and ancient temples.

Southeast Asia Travel Tips For Vietnam

Most people either love or hate Vietnam. Those that hate it say it is because they felt like people were trying to con and rip them off.

I say that is just part of backpacking in this part of the world.

You do have to be wise and cautious while enjoying the amazing beauties of this country.

Top Cities in Vietnam

Hanoi Capital of Vietnam, this city is beautiful and alive and worth checking out on any trip to Asia. Lots of good food, and the heart of the country.

Halong Bay- This is an extremely popular tourist destination in Vietnam. It is also a Unesco World Heritage site.

Things to do in Vietnam 

Wander the  provinces- Head out of the cities to where life is laid back. Many small towns and villages are charming yet have the amenities of a city. Explore and learn.

Rent a motorbike and make your own road trip – Motor Bikes are everywhere in this part of the world.

Many people will let you rent them monthly which give you enough time to make your own road trip.

Party– Asia has a lively and vibrant night life. You should at least party a couple times.

Southeast Asia Travel Tips For Laos

The people of Laos are friendly and warm, and if you respect their culture, you will not have any problems enjoying your stay.

Laos is also known for its wild parties and insane nightlife.

Top Cities in Laos

Vientiane – I found Vientiane an odd for a capital city. There is a lack of skyscrappers, and it doesn’t have the buzz that most cities in SEA have.

Vientiane isn’t my favorite place in the world but if you are travelling through Laos you might want to stop for a couple days to see attractions like Buddha Park, and the artillery museum.

Vang Vieng- The heart of Laos party culture it is no surprise that Vang Vieng has become a massive tourist destination for international travelers.

Luang Prabang- Bright green banks on the Nam Khan river, golden temples filled with monks in their vibrant orange robes Luang Prabang is one of the best spots in Laos

Things to do in Laos

Get wet at Vang Vieng- Mountians, cliffs, and rivers Vang Vieng is a popular spot for backpackers looking to do a little tubing and cave exploring.

This is a party spot, but the landscape has something to offers those not wishing to party.

Visit the golden temples That Luang – One reason to visit Vientiane is That Luang. This is the national symbol and one of the most popular sites in the whole country.

Southeast Asia Travel Tips For Philippines

When you hear the name Philippines, you think white sand beaches, fantastic food, jaw-dropping landscape and beautiful women.

Top Cities of the Philippines

Manila- Manila is a hubbub of activity and a mixture of people from all over the world and the Philippines as well.

It has a vigorous nightlife with restaurants and bars from upscale to low scale that is open 24 hours a day.

Huge shopping malls scatter all over the City and five-star hotels are common sights.

Cebu Cebu is found in the Eastern part of the Philippines and is a rare combination of modern and traditional way of living.

Life’s slow paced like Manila, but five-star restaurants and hotels are all around. This is the home to the most luxurious and opulent spas in the whole Philippines.

Puerto Princesa, Palawan- One of the cleanest cities in the Philippines, it has white sand beaches and scuba diving sorties. Island hopping using a small native motorboat is an exhilarating experience.

The American colonists built Baguio- This is city for homesick soldiers. It has a western feel, and the high altitude makes it nice and neat.

Things To Do in the Philippines  

Experience a ride on a Jeepney – This is almost a right of passage in the Philippines and the national public means of transportation that can take you to all the nooks and crannies of the place to explore until your hearts content.

Eat Adobo – The unofficial food of the Philippines, which is made from either pork or chicken or both cooked in vinegar and soy sauce.

Lake Sebu – Ziplining, tropical forest, and waterfalls. Need I say more?

Southeast Asia Travel Tips For Myanmar

Myanmar is a country wherein you can see the heavy influence of Indian and Chinese culture. You can see a lot of temples and stupas scattered around the country.

The country has only started recently allowing visitors, so everything is still off the beaten track.

One Backpacking Southeast Asia Travel Tips not to ignore, get here fast it’s popularity is growing and so it will be touristy.

Top Cities of Myanmar

Yangon is previously the capital of Myanmar. Walk with the Buddhists, who constitute 89 percent of the population. Be fascinated with its gold-plated stunning temples and tupas.

Southeast Asia Travel Tips  is to get a cheap taxi rate for $2-$3 and feel dizzy with the crumbling sidewalks and cars zigzag back and forth.

Naypyidaw is the current capital of the country. Be mesmerized by the city landscape and unique culture. Experience the local typical market with friendly people.

Mandalay – It is the second largest city and former capital of the country as well. Explore the fantastic temples.

Get relax and see the beautiful city by riding a bike. Meet stone carvers and get a chance to eat street foods and drink tea.

Things to Do in Myanmar

Experience to ride bikes in Hpa-An. While doing this activity, you can enjoy a day trip to captivate the beautiful rice fields and swimming holes. You can see here as well the caves that are full of Buddhist art and a pagoda on a vertical column of rocks.

Enjoy taking a boat across the Inle Lake. Inle Lake has several resorts that provide affordable accommodation. They also have  interesting workshops in stilt villages and  you can checkout their ruined temples.

Trip to Irrawaddy River gives you the chance to see small riverside settlements. You will also meet  the locals in ferries between Pathein and Yangon.

Watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon – One of the most popular things to do in Myanmar is to wake up early and catch a hot air balloon ride of the temples. It is worth you time!

Southeast Asia Travel Tips For Safety

Southeast Asia Travel Tips -Know who you rent from: While renting quads and scooters is fun, on some of the islands, you have to be careful. Some vendors try to take advantage of you when return them.

Always ask people at your hostel which can be trusted. Oh, and never, never drive in crowded cities like Bangkok. Never!! Save the scooter for less crowded islands and villages.

Southeast Asia Travel Tips -Money Belt:  A Money Belt keeps you important documents organized, and safe.

Southeast Asia Travel Tips -Watch out for cons:People trying to con tourists are everywhere in this world.

However, the people in Southeast Asia are really, good at it. If you feel like you are being conned or hassled, just stand your ground or walk away.

Southeast Asia Travel Tips -Keep your valuables locked up:This is a general travel tip for anywhere in the world. Keep your passport, most of your credit cards, and anything else you can’t afford to lose, locked in your hotel or hostel.

Most hostels and hotels offer lockers or will hold your valuables behind the desk.

Only take essentials with you when you go exploring. Never take your passport and always have it locked away, or somewhere safe when you go out.

Southeast Asia Travel Tips -Better safe than sorry. Copy Your documents: If you do lose you documents, or in the tragic case, they are stolen, you will have copies. Always scanned and sent copies to your email before you leave on any trip.

This is a massive headache reducer when you need to replace them. This is one of the most important Southeast Asia travel tips, well or any travel actually!

Southeast Asia Travel Tips -Go the Extra Mile: Southeast Asia is cheap, and while I always try to travel as cheaply as possible, excluding my daily coffee addiction, some of the public transportation can be rough, to say the least.

Spending $3 or $4 extra to upgrade to a nicer and safer seat on the train or bus is worth it. Plus you get more leg room and sometimes even snacks,

Southeast Asia Travel Tips -Watch your drink and what your drink: On a few of the islands that you are likely to visit, the liquor regulations are not strictly enforced.

This means that some bars will serve you what is basically rubbing alcohol.

If you don’t want to be running around the island like Adam Sandler in the “Water Boy” after having too much “Tackling Fuel,” make sure to check the menu.

It should say if it is ethanol or not, and if, in doubt, you can always avoid it entirely by only drinking beer.

You need to watch your drink at big clubs and massive parties like the full moon parties.

Of course, this is good advice for anywhere in the world. I’ve not heard many stories about drinks being spiked, but it is still wise to look out for it because it can happen.

Overall Southeast Asia is a beautiful, cultural, and life changing places you can backpack.

I am completely in love with this part of the world and will return to it over and again. It is a backpacker’s dream.

I hope these Southeast Asia Travel Tips and Backpacking Tips help you have a good experience.

Other Things to Do in Southeast Asia

There are many things to do in Southeast Asia. These are a few of my favorites experience and travel tips that might spark some ideas for you own trip.

Getting a Bamboo Tattoo- This type of tattoo is an experience. These tattoos are all hand done with a sharp piece of Bamboo. It actually is less painful, heals faster, and cheaper. It is a win, win.

Do a Quiet Retreat. Some Buddhist temples let you stay when them for a week. Depending on where you go most retreats are done on a donation basis, and you have to remain silent for the entire week.

It is a great way to reflect, and think about your life.

Learn Maui Thai – There are hundreds of places that will teach Maui Thai to foreigners in Thailand. You can pay per class or arrange a couple months of training.

Get off the beaten path – Some of my fondest memories in Asia have been when I got off the beaten path and hang out with the locals

Were these Southeast Travel Tips Useful? Let your voice be heard in the comments below!

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