[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Backpacking Southeast Asia is becoming more and more popular and it is easily one of the best “backpackable” places out there. Backpacking in Southeast Asia, is affordable, easily accessible, fun, and filled with culture, adventure, and many others just like you backpacking those Asian countries.

With increased (and hopefully safer) infrastructures, new technologies, and globalization, backpacking Southeast Asia has never been easier.

If you are thinking about backpacking Southeast Asia, or have your first trip coming up, we are here to help. We have collected tips and tricks on our trip for Backpacking Southeast Asia to make your backpacking trip the best one yet![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

1. Get a Backpack that is Comfortable and does NOT have wheels

I can’t tell you how many friends we had that “backpacked” with a rolly backpack. I’m sorry, WHY? It’s so inconvenient and most people had to lug these around in sand, dirty water, or cobblestone. It was bad.

Get a backpack that has adjustable straps to set your comfort setting, a padded back, and a rain cover (you never know how useful those are until you experience wet season in Asia). Our backpack we used was perfect (so perfect, I bought Jack one for his birthday after buying mine!). It was a Guerrilla 60L Backpack, with a detachable day bag, top-side-bottom loading, rain cover, and adjustable straps. It was wonderful and we highly recommend it.

backpacking southeast asia backpack

2. Drink more water but be careful of the source

I think we say this every time, but do not underestimate the Southeast Asia Sun and heat. It’s hot. You will get dehydrated if you are careless (and drinking alcohol). The last thing you want is a day of dehydration, vomiting, and nausea when you are traveling. Drink lots of water, and drink them from bottles. STAY HYDRATED. Southeast Asia is getting better with their water, but to be on the safe side, just buy a large bottle of water for 50 cents and drink one of those. If you are really paranoid there are charcoal pills or even purifying bottles.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

3. If you are on a budget, don’t eat Western food and limit your alcohol

Western food is a lot more expensive than local food. Let’s be real here, you aren’t in Asia to have a mystery meat hamburger. It is time to explore the local foods, although, we missed cheese while in Asia, and the temptation overwhelmed us a few times.

Every time we got pasta with cheese or a cheeseburger, we were even more disappointed and kicked ourselves in the butt that we didn’t get local food because 1. it didn’t taste good 2. it was expensive. Jack also says that Asians know how to prepare and make good Asian food, and that you are more likely going to get sick when they can’t cook western food. Makes sense, right?

Southeast Asian food is so good too, you don’t want to miss out! Also, drinking obviously becomes a big expenditure that hikes up that budget. Have fun, but if you are looking to save, try not to drink too much out. (or just go to a 7/11 for a cheeky cheap beer!).


4. Find your path throughout Southeast Asia

The beauty of backpacking Southeast Asia is that everything is interconnected and it is so easy to get to other the countries. We did northern Vietnam to South, into Cambodia, to Laos, and then North to South Thailand. It was all an easy path and mostly done by bus.

You don’t want to jump around from Vietnam fly to Thailand, fly to Indonesia, then back to Laos. It becomes expensive using these flights and  it wastes time (especially when you can do an overnight bus into another country!). Just make sure you find the path you want to travel that way you save money, aren’t locked into scheduled flights, and you will continuously run into people travelling! Everyone sticks to an easy travel path.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

5. Find all attractions you want to see and events you want to go to

Finding your path is key, but you also want to make sure you have a rough outline of the events you want to attend in Asia. Angkor Wat, Kuang Si Falls, Halong Bay, The Royal Palace in Bangkok, are all attractions that you have to see if you are in that area. However, there is the Full Moon Party, The Lantern Festival, Songrakan Water Festival, Tubing in Laos, Chinese New year, and many others that only happen on certain dates.

If you want to make it to those, have a general idea of when they are and the best path to take. That way you can make sure you make it to these amazing parties and celebrations!

backpacking southeast asia full moon

6. Sleep won’t always be in a bed

Even a bed in Asia, isn’t the most comfortable bed! We found ourselves sleeping in hammocks on the beach, on busses (and hotel busses), at the airport, and even sitting upright on a loud train for 14 hours. It is all part of the experience, but as backpackers, it won’t always be luxurious.

We traveled on overnight busses to maximize our time and to save money on a nights accommodation. Some busses were smaller and more compact than others, and some were pretty cool with full beds in them. Make sure you have a travel buddy though because they can pair you with another person in a little bed cubicle, which can be awkward to share the space.

We also bought a sleeping liner just because things, uh, smelled weird and were wet sometimes. Learn to embrace the experience, it can be pretty cool!

backpacking southeast asia Overnight Bus China_Who Needs Maps

7. Adjust your stomach

I am one to have a weak stomach, while Jack has a stomach of steel. When I first landed in China, I found that the oil and spices to be a bit overwhelming and upset my stomach for the first few days. I stuck to noodles, chicken and rice in the beginning to adjust my stomach to the new foods (this tends to happen to a lot of people in India with Curry.).

You just need to slowly build your tolerance and adjust your belly to these new flavors and spices. We aren’t saying don’t eat any local foods, just slow it down in the beginning and give your body time to adjust to not only food but the time change too.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

8. Get out of your comfort zone

You are in a new country and things may feel a bit different and uncomfortable at first, but this is your time to explore the new. Get out of your comfort zone and go meet new people, try a new adventure (whether it’s eating scorpion or jumping off a 10 foot cliff), or visit a place you have seen in postcards. Do something you wouldn’t normally do! Asia provides you with so many opportunities to do something different and to visit so many unbelievably cool places, you have to embrace it!

backpacking southeast asia canyoning

9. Get Travel Insurance

We can never stress this enough, GET TRAVEL INSURANCE. Farang tattoo (the burn mark on your leg from a motorbike), food poisoning, unknown bug bites, you lose your phone or even an air con panel falling on your face (yes, that does happen), s*&t happens. Asia is not known for its amazing medical care and hospitals, so it is best to get travel insurance just in case something happens to you.

I got stitches, which was the last thing I thought was going to happen (I was being cautious, I WAS IN BED for peets sake!). We got travel insurance with World Nomads. I received everything and more back from my travel insurance. It was so worth it and they were so easy to work with. If travel insurance is too pricey for you, invest in a good medical kit.

backpacking southeast asia - adventures in life stitches

10. Get Vaccinated

Many Southeast Asian countries require specific vaccinations before even entering the country. Make sure you check vaccination regulations prior to traveling. Malaria pills, typhoid, hepatitis, rabies, yellow fever, tetanus… every country requires something different and for your own safety, check the requirements. The more rural you travel, the more necessary the vaccinations are. You can get rejected from entering a country for not having the right vaccinations![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

FREE Download: Get the Perfect SouthEast Asia Travel Checklist Send it to me!


11. There is no itinerary; you just roll with the punches.

Have an outline (what country you are going to, what events you want to be at) but don’t expect everything to go to exactly the way you want it. We have been stuck on islands due to overbooked ferries, stayed a few days extra in Hoi An due to the stitches, LOVED Koh Rong so much we stayed longer, and had several overnight busses come way too late. Allow yourself to be a bit flexible. It’s like they say, expect the unexpected. In Asia, everything is unexpected, in the most marvelous way… well…for the most part!

backpacking southeast asia indo

12. Haggling will become a normal skill

Yes, it’s annoying to constantly haggle for the right price or fight against “tourist prices”, but welcome to Asia, my friends. You will be scammed, ripped off, and over charged but just learn to expect it. Getting really good at haggling can turn into a life skill! Need to get a good deal for your business? Just think back to your awesome haggling skills you learned from Asia and you will win the negotiation :). Haggling is definitely one of the biggest lessons you will learn while traveling. By the end of Asia, you will be a PRO!

backpacking southeast asia tip

13. Riding a Motorbike/scooter in Southeast Asia is liberating

Riding a motorcycle is probably the cheapest way to get around in Southeast Asia, and not to mention, the best way to see the scenery. Don’t be afraid to use a motorbike to get around. We have met plenty of people riding from north to south Vietnam and had the time of their life! Be safe, be careful, but look into riding bikes as a means to get around and see the city!

backpacking southeast asia motorbike

14. Don’t fall for things that may sound too good to be true

In Asia, they love the up sell. Happy hours, “my friend, good price for you”, great deals, VIP busses- the majority of the time, they aren’t what they seem. VIP busses are seen as these glamorous-free wifi-comfortable beds-lots of leg room- quite- experience. Nope. Not even close. There’s no leg room, loud, weird smells, wet pillows… not quite the VIP experience, but nonetheless, a fun experience! Some things will sound too good to be true, but always ask around and check reviews.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

15. Learn to let some luxuries go

One big one for us was the flushing toilets—there are none. Squatters, holes in the ground, running water streams, and buckets have become the norm for toilets. But that is something you learn to give up. Clean bedding was hard to find, drinkable water is something you have to be careful with, eating utensils are most likely not forks and knives, there is little dairy, dodgy wifi. Welcome to Southeast Asia, my friends. You will learn to adapt to not having the things you love, and you will learn to love not having those things anymore.


16. Toilet paper is your best friend

ALWAYS bring toilet paper everywhere you go. ALWAYS. It’s not a joke. Most places in Asia don’t have toilet paper for your disposal. We were on a 14 hour overnight bus in China that didn’t have any toilet paper. Every rest stop, the bathrooms don’t have toilet paper.

It is sometimes good to carry just because gross things can happen (like you touched something sticky…). Carry wipes and toilet paper with you at all times. You’ll thank us for this one after you experience your first “no toilet paper in an Asian bathroom” experience.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

17. Don’t book hostels online

Hostel websites usually take a commission, require to pay a tax and cancel out the opportunity to bargain. The great thing about backpacking Southeast Asia is that accommodation was easily found and prices were easily negotiable. We found it to be MUCH cheaper to just walk around, visit hostels, ask prices, and bargain than to book online.

Especially during low season, prices are severely different than those shown online. Plus, the majority of hostels and home stays aren’t even online and THOSE, my friends, are the best hidden gems!

If you are wanting to pre plan and be organized on your trip we suggest going with hotels through a price comparison site, you can usually get pretty good deals and hotels are less likely to be negotiable compared to home stays and hostels.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any friends that are backpacking Southeast Asia for the first time and would find this valuable, please share!


What tips do you have for first time Southeast Asia Backpackers?

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