Are you planning your first trip to Southeast Asia? Have you already been to Thailand and want to get to know other countries? Then you will find useful backpacking tips, ideas and information here.
Southeast Asia is one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world. Whether you are interested in beaches, diving, culture, shopping, metropolises, hiking, trekking or climbing, you are guaranteed to find what you are looking for. In addition, the region has been a popular backpacking destination for many years.
Backpacking in Southeast Asia – for beginners and advanced
The following text should help you get started. It gives you an overview of which interesting places await you in which countries. You will also receive tips and background information for travel planning and on the go.
Southeast Asia: countries and destinations
Southeast Asia includes a total of eleven countries that lie in the area between Australia, India and China.
The most famous travel destination in Southeast Asia has been high on the lists of the most popular holiday countries for years. Even though more and more package tourists are spending their holidays here, backpacking in Thailand is still popular. Thailand is the entry-level destination in Asia. It is easy to travel due to the tourist infrastructure that has grown over decades. While the hotspots groan among the crowds of tourists, there are still many unknown places to discover.
Highlights in Thailand:
Krabi: the most scenic area in Thailand. The steep karst rocks on the coast offer lots of postcard motifs.
Koh Tao: popular backpacker destination in the Gulf of Thailand. Perfect place to get your diving license.
Bangkok: impressive world city with countless temples and skyscrapers. Here you can find my insider guide to Bangkok.
Koh Phi Phi: Once the most beautiful island in Thailand, but now totally overcrowded and built over. Still popular with young backpackers.
Ayutthaya: Siam’s old royal city lies at the gates of Bangkok. Here you can explore temples and ruins for a whole day.
Chiang Mai: the most popular travel destination in the north. Nice atmosphere, beautiful temples and colorful markets. Starting point for tours in the surrounding mountains.
Koh Lanta: endless beaches and picture-perfect sunsets. Great destination for travelers with children. There are some great dive sites in the area.
Koh Lipe: beautiful beaches and a colorful underwater world. However, the former backpacker’s paradise is in transition. More and more luxury hotels are being built and trees are being cleared.
Koh Phangan: Known and notorious for its full moon parties. But the island offers much more, for example mountains, dense jungles and lonely beaches.
Koh Chang: Island in the southeast with miles of beaches.
Pai: popular backpacker village in the mountains of Northern Thailand.
Koh Kood: island on the border with Cambodia. Picturesque palm beaches that have hardly been built on.
Phuket: Thailand’s largest island. In addition to the places of mass tourism, there is still a lot to discover here. Even unknown beaches.
Similan National Park: small group of islands with spectacular underwater world. However, with too many visitor numbers.
You can find more highlights in my report on the most beautiful destinations in Thailand and in my list of sights in Thailand. Can’t decide? Then read the text: Thailand – where to go first?
The temples of Angkor in particular are on the route of many travelers to Southeast Asia. But backpacking is now very popular in Cambodia not only because of the impressive historical buildings. There are also beautiful beaches, unspoiled nature and interesting national parks. Cambodia is therefore ideal for trekking and hiking tours. In addition, many places that were shaped by both colonial times and Cambodian culture have developed a special charm.
Highlights in Cambodia:
Siem Reap / Angkor: The largest temple complex in the world is undoubtedly one of the goals that you should have seen in your life.
Phnom Penh: The capital cannot compete with the mega-cities of other Asian countries, but it is still worth a trip. Also to remember the darkest chapters in the country’s history that were not so long ago.
Kratie: With a little luck you can spot river dolphins here.
Kampot: This place has a very nice atmosphere. Excursions in the area with the national park, caves and pepper plantations are part of the program.
Sihanoukville: popular coastal town with some beautiful beaches. Due to the high number of tourists, however, many travelers are now looking for other destinations.
Koh Rong or Koh Rong Samloem: fantastic islands with a predominantly young audience.
Battambang: The charming place is particularly popular with backpackers.
Bokor National Park: interesting destination in the south of Cambodia. However, massive construction is currently underway there.
Although the country has no coast, it is popular as a tourist destination. Visitors appreciate the relaxed atmosphere, the friendly people and the beautiful landscape. And of course the Beer Lao, one of the best beers in Southeast Asia. The price level in the country is low. Accommodation is available for a few euros per night. Also one of the reasons why backpacking is so popular in Laos.
Highlights in Laos:
Luang Prabang: probably the most beautiful city in the country. Countless temples, colorful markets, nice bars and restaurants. In addition, scenic, especially where Mekong and Nam Ou flow together.
Vang Vieng: Backpacker hotspot. Popular and notorious due to the tubing. While many avoid the town center and the bars on the banks of the river because of the booze, the surrounding landscape is indescribably beautiful.
Vientiane: The capital of Laos offers some sights such as temples, buildings and markets.
Clay Pitch Plain: There are hundreds of stone pots in the countryside near Ponsavan. These are estimated to be over 1,500 years old and up to three meters high. A mystical place.
Muang Ngoi Neua: a small village on the Nam Ou river. It’s on the list here because I had a wonderful time there.
Pakse: The city is well suited for a stopover and is the starting point for attractive tours in the area.
Bolaven Plateau: in the south of Laos at 1,200 meters above sea level. Here, among other things Tea and coffee grown. Nice area for nature trips and motorcycle tours.
4,000 Islands: There are countless islands and rocks in the water on a section of the Mekong near the border with Cambodia. This area is called 4,000 Islands. Some of the larger ones have accommodations. Many backpackers are drawn here.
Vietnam is one of the most versatile travel destinations in Southeast Asia. You will meet lively metropolises, 3,000 kilometers of coastline, high mountains and national parks. Since the country is long, but not very wide, all you have to do is think in which direction you are traveling. It’s the most fun with the train. Backpacking in Vietnam is very popular. Vietnam with a child is also recommended.
Highlights in Vietnam:
Halong Bay: One of the most popular travel destinations is in the north of the country. Around 2,000 islands / rocks are close together here. The area is best explored with boat tours lasting several days.
Hanoi: The capital in the north offers numerous cultural highlights. Particularly nice: drinking a freshly brewed beer on a corner in Hanoi’s old town.
Sapa: popular mountain village and climatic health resort. Ideal for hiking and trekking tours.
Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon: The capital of the south presents itself as a modern metropolis.
Hue: Vietnam’s old imperial city. Visit to temples and royal tombs. It is also the starting point for tours to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), to locations and traces of the Vietnam War.
Phu Quoc: Vietnam’s most popular island. It has great beaches and is visa-free to travel. However: the increasing tourism is not well received by everyone.
Hoi An: very trendy place with many small streets where you can find countless tailoring shops. Here everyone falls into a shopping frenzy. Highlight: the Lantern Festival.
Mui Né: popular coastal town. Long sandy beaches, often beautiful waves, kite surfing and huge hiking dunes in the hinterland.
Mekong Delta: Just before the Mekong flows into the sea, it divides into several arms. There are also countless canals and waterways in this area. The floating markets are visited particularly often.
Until a few years ago, only a few tourists strayed into the country. But since the military government began to initiate political reforms, vacationers have been lining up.
For me, Myanmar is one of the most beautiful destinations in Southeast Asia. There is a lot to see here in terms of culture and scenery. People are warm and open. If you move a little away from the standard destinations, you will get to places where there have hardly been any tourists.
With a few exceptions, progress in the country is very slow due to the poor transport infrastructure. The sudden tourist boom has led to the fact that there are far too few hotels. As a result, room prices are often far too high.
Highlights in Myanmar (among others):
Bagan: one of the most beautiful places in Southeast Asia. Thousands of temples and pagodas have been built here. You can explore them by bike, the classic way with a horse-drawn carriage or early in the morning with the tethered balloon.
Inle Lake: huge lake in the mountains. The houses stand on stilts, and vegetable gardens are also built on the lake. Here you have the opportunity to make beautiful boat tours in an attractive landscape. Also popular: trekking tours from Kalaw to Inle Lake.
Yangon: The former capital is usually the first destination of a trip to Myanmar. For me, the Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most beautiful temple complexes in the world.
Mandalay: The lively city has a lot to offer culturally and is one of the most visited places in the country. Mandalay is also the starting point for tours to the U Bein Bridge.
Chaung Tha Beach: beautiful, partly deserted beaches.
Ngapali Beach: perhaps the most famous beach in Myanmar.
Kyaikhtiyo: The golden rock attracts the masses.
Myeik archipelago: countless islands that have so far hardly been developed.
Monywa: One of the most beautiful temple complexes in Myanmar and a real insider tip!
Malaysia is one of the travel destinations in Southeast Asia that I think is somewhat underestimated. The country is divided into the strip of land in the south of Thailand and an area on the island of Borneo. Malaysia is known for its unspoiled nature, impressive underwater world and cultural diversity. Backpacking in Malaysia is definitely a good choice.
Highlights in Malaysia:
Perhentian Islands: one of the most popular destinations. The two islands attract with beaches, a nice atmosphere, a lot of nature and great underwater experiences (for example Rawa Island).
Cameron Highlands: mountains up to 2,000 meters high, tea plantations and real rainforest.
Kuala Lumpur: capital with numerous sights. Landmarks are the Twin Towers, but there is a lot more to discover from China Town to the Batu Caves.
Penang: island with many interesting destinations. Highlights are the Kek Lok Si temple and Penang Hill.
Langkawi: attractive island on the west coast. Beaches, mountains and nature. Strongly developed tourist infrastructure.
Taman Negara National Park: the oldest rainforest in the world. Huge trees, spectacular canopy walk, hiking and trekking opportunities.
Tioman: island in the southeast with beautiful beaches and dense jungle as well as exciting underwater world.
Kuching: Borneo city with many sights. Also interesting as a starting point for tours in the area.
Mount Kinabalu: the highest mountain in Southeast Asia.
Dive areas off the coast of Saba: The dive sites off Kapalai, Sipadan and Pulau Mabul are among the best in the world (observe safety instructions Malaysia).
The small city-state lies on the southern tip of Malaysia. The modern metropolis is considered a shopping paradise, but it has so much more to offer. The choice of leisure activities is long. You can also eat very well, for example in the Indian Quarter or the Chinese Quarter. Here you will find the best tips for three days in Singapore and the best excursions and tours.
The city is also ideal for a stopover. After Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, Singapore Airport is one of the most important hubs in Southeast Asia.
The independent Sultanate of Brunei lies in the middle of the part of the island of Borneo, which is part of Malaysia. The Muslim country differs in many ways from other countries in Southeast Asia. And it’s definitely worth a stopover when you’re in the area.
During my multi-day visit to the capital Bandar Seri Begawan, I met many friendly and very open people. A visit to the large mosque was a highlight as was the boat trip to the rare proboscis monkeys that live in the mangrove forests in the surrounding area.
More than 17,000 islands await you in Indonesia. And these offer everything the traveler heart commits. Fantastic beaches and impressive landscapes, dense jungles and active volcanoes. Here you can discover completely new worlds.
Highlights in Indonesia:
Bali: Indonesia’s most famous travel destination. Everything represented by great beaches, fascinating temples, picturesque rice terraces, surfing opportunities and partying. Here you will find the best sights in Bali.
Lombok: Bali’s neighboring island beckons with beautiful beaches and interesting nature. Another highlight: the ascent of Mount Rinjani.
Gili Islands: Three picturesque islands off the coast of Lombok, surrounded by clear water with lots of colorful fish and turtles.
Komodo: You feel a bit like in Jurrasic Park on this island. The lizards living there are up to three meters long.
Mount Bromo: active volcano on the island of Java. A climb to the sunrise is particularly beautiful.
Kanawa Island: small island paradise
Yogyakarta: the impressive temple complex Borobodur.
Sulawesi: a little-known but fascinating island world with world-class diving spots, jungle tours and volcanoes. More on this in this book.
Raja Ampat: unique diving paradise and incredibly beautiful landscape.
Bukit Lawang: jungle trekking with orangutans. Alternatively in Ketambe.
North Sumatra: the largest lake in Southeast Asia and the island of Pulau Weh
Although the country has more than 7,000 islands, tourism here does not develop as quickly as in other countries in Southeast Asia. One reason for this is the slightly longer journey. In addition, the country has recently been badly hit by natural disasters.
However, if you take the path, you will find a fascinating travel destination. World-class diving spots, dream beaches and spectacular landscapes are waiting to be discovered.
Highlights in the Philippines:
El Nido: beautiful beaches and a great island world in the north of Palawan.
Cacnipa Island: This island off Port Barton is a little insider tip.
Boracay: The most famous travel destination in the Philippines attracts crowds of tourists. The reason: fantastic beaches and clear water
Siquijor: popular island with beautiful beaches.
Chocolate Hills: A whim of nature has produced this fascinating landscape.
Sabang: The undergound river is a UNESCO natural heritage and is one of the new wonders of the world.
Banaue rice terraces: impressive panorama.
Malapascua Island: another dream island.
Apo Island: great place for diving and snorkeling.
Mount Pinatubo: volcano with a huge crater lake.
Donsol: snorkeling with whale sharks, which, however, are rarely seen recently.
The unknown travel destination in Southeast Asia, unfortunately I haven’t been there either.
East Timor (officially called Timór-Leste) has only been recognized as an independent state since 2002. Tourism is still in its infancy (in 2011, 50,000 foreigners traveled to the country). There are only a few hotels and hardly any tourist infrastructure. It will probably take a few more years before the beaches, mountains and diving areas get more attention. Here you can get tips on East Timor.
Other destinations in the area
The following three countries do not belong to Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, I report about them on my page. There are several reasons for this. For one, they are all beautiful travel destinations. In addition, many backpackers link their trips there to destinations in Southeast Asia.
We are talking about the following countries:
India is the country of extremes. Beautiful and ugly at the same time. Many travelers have a kind of love-hate relationship with India. They are happy when they leave the country, but soon want to go back there. India is a unique travel destination, a parallel world.
There is a lot to discover in India: impressive landscapes, cultural peculiarities, buildings, nature and also numerous beaches. And the food there is fantastic.
Highlights in India:
Mumbai: lively metropolis with a city beach.
Goa: Once a hippie paradise, Goa is now one of the most popular travel destinations in the country.
Udaipur: impressive buildings and nice atmosphere.
Jodhpur: the blue city. Unforgettable views.
Jaipur: Not only worth a trip because of the world-famous Palace of the Winds.
Jaisalmer: The desert city has something fairytale-like. In any case: Camel safari with an overnight stay in the desert.
Kanha National Park: tigers and bears in the wild.
Delhi / New Delhi: capital of India with many cultural highlights.
Taj Mahal: one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. No photo gets the feeling once you stand in front of it.
Varanasi: The city on the Ganges is one of the most sacred sites of Hinduism.
Varkala: Beach with an impressive backdrop
Madurai: Pure India and huge temples.
Backwaters: boating on rivers and canals in green nature
Hampi: historical site and popular backpacker place.
India’s small neighboring country has been popular with tourists for many years. The coasts are characterized by miles of sandy beaches. Interesting national parks await you in the interior. Sri Lanka also has a lot to offer in terms of culture.
Highlights in Sri Lanka (among others):
Unawatuna: popular beach and backpacker meeting point.
Galle: Historic Fort (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Sigiriya: impressive rock that protrudes from the landscape. The climb is worth it.
Uda Walawe National Park: Watch groups of elephants, crocodiles and rare birds.
Mirissa: Nice beach. Boat trips with whale sightings.
Adams Peak: unforgettable mountain hike at sunrise.
Arugam Bay: Popular not only with surfers.
Yala National Park: nature experiences are waiting for you.
Kandy: cultural capital of the country.
Hardly any other country is as clearly associated with dreamlike beaches and island paradises as the Maldives. There is also a fascinating underwater world that places this travel destination high on the list of diving and snorkeling fans. However, the Maldives are not exactly cheap. Many resorts are in the 4 to 5 star range.
Backpacking in Southeast Asia
Backpacking in the 80s was still a real adventure. Back then, globetrotters traveled to a completely unknown world without the internet and travel guides.
A lot has become easier now. You can almost always determine how much adventure is left in Southeast Asia today.
In addition to the classic travel guides, you can find detailed information and pictures of most travel destinations on travel blogs, Facebook or YouTube. So you can plan better, but of course something is lost. The wow effect is different if you’ve seen a building, beach, or landscape in photos many times.
In contrast to then, friends and family are not so far away on your backpacking tour. Thanks to Skype, whatsapp, threema & Co and good internet connections with mostly free WiFi, it is easy to keep in touch.
While previously the maximum flight to Southeast Asia was booked, today you can plan large parts of the trip with booking portals such as Skyscanner or Agoda. Map programs such as Google Maps and countless apps for your smartphone help with planning.
There is a lot of discussion about the term backpacker and new names are making the rounds. Flashpacking, for example, means individual travel with a higher budget and more sophisticated accommodation.
However, I only use the term backpacking. For me, this means individual travel. You are traveling on your own and organize a large part of your tour yourself. Fascination Southeast Asia is aimed at everyone who wants to explore the countries mentioned in this way. Which budget you use for it doesn’t matter to me.
Southeast Asia is ideal for backpacking. For the following reasons:
There are so many great destinations to discover.
There are a lot of other backpackers on the go, so you can make nice contacts.
Nevertheless, there are still enough goals away from the masses.
Backpacking in Southeast Asia is also feasible on a budget.
You usually have the opportunity to communicate in English on site.
The infrastructure is good in many places. There are cheap flights and countless bus connections.
Most destinations can be traveled all year round, since it is warm throughout almost all of Southeast Asia.
Attractions in Southeast Asia
Dream beaches in Southeast Asia
For most people, a couple of days on a beautiful beach is simply a part of traveling. And there is a huge range in Southeast Asia. The Philippines and Indonesia are states that practically consist only of islands. Thailand’s beaches are world-famous, Vietnam has more than 3,000 kilometers of coastline, Myanmar has hundreds of previously undeveloped islands, and countries like Malaysia and Cambodia also have some pearls on offer.
Here are 15 of the most beautiful beaches I’ve been to in Southeast Asia so far (the list could easily include 30 or more names. I hope I’ll be able to prepare even more places I’ve been to soon) .
Chaung Tha Beach, Myanmar
White Sand Beach, Boracay, Philippines
Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe, Thailand
Hong Island, Thailand
Perhentian Island, Malaysia
El Nido, Philippines
White Sand Beach, Koh Chang, Thailand
Tanote Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand
Ao Suan Yai Beach Koh Mak, Thailand
Ao Phrao Beach, Koh Kood, Thailand
Phra Nang Beach, Krabi, Thailand
Thong Nai Pan Beach, Koh Phangan, Thailand
Mae Nam Beach, Koh Samui, Thailand
Surin Islands, Thailand
Underwater world in Southeast Asia
If you like diving, you will definitely get your money’s worth in some countries of Southeast Asia.
In my opinion, the top 3 countries for diving are:
In other countries like Thailand you will also find a beautiful underwater world in some places.
I’ve been snorkeling more than diving in recent years. My highlights included:
Rawa Island (Malaysia)
Bacuit Archipelago (El Nido, Philippines)
Tanote Bay (Koh Tao / Thailand)
Hin Wong (Koh Tao / Thailand)
some snorkeling spots around Khao Lak. (For example Similan Islands, Surin Islands or Koh Tachai)
Nature and breathtaking landscapes
It doesn’t always have to be the classic sandy beach. Southeast Asia also has some other highlights in its program. From dense jungles to bubbling volcanoes to rocky coasts. Here is a selection:
Cameron Highlands: tea plantations in the mountains (Malaysia)
Mayon volcano: one of the most active volcanoes in the world (Philippines)
Mui Né: impressive hiking dunes with a desert feeling (Vietnam)
Taman Negara: the oldest rainforest in the world (Malaysia)
Hang Son Doong: the largest cave in the world (Vietnam)
Khao Sok National Park: pure nature near the tourist centers (Thailand)
4,000 islands: island world in the Mekong (Laos)
Mount Bromo: spectacular volcano (Indonesia)
Mount Kinabalu: the highest mountain in Southeast Asia (Malaysia)
Mekong Delta: a huge network of rivers and waterways (Vietnam)
Banaue rice terraces: an unforgettable sight (Philippines)
Kuang Si Waterfall: Excursion destination near Luang Prabang (Laos)
Sapa: great mountain landscape with rice terraces (Vietnam)
Gunung Rinjani: Indonesia’s second highest volcano.
Chocolate Hills: hilly landscape on the island of Bohol (Philippines)
Ninh Binh: the dry variant of Halong Bay (Vietnam)
Ijen: imposing volcanic complex (Indonesia)
Southeast Asia: fascinating temples
I don’t know how many temples I have visited during my travels. But there are quite a lot in any case.
Whether Thailand, Myanmar or Laos, you will notice a small temple or a pagoda is on every corner. While there may be an overdose of temple visits on a trip, it generally does not get boring so quickly.
The absolute temple highlights in Southeast Asia are:
Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar)
These are really superlative investments. A visit there cannot be replaced by viewing pictures.
There are also many other great temple complexes such as:
Kek Lok Si Temple (Penang, Malaysia)
Golden Mount (Bangkok, Thailand)
Uluwatu Temple (Bali, Indonesia)
Wat Rong Khun Temple (Chiang Rai, Thailand)
Megacities in Southeast Asia
Do you love the big city, traffic noise and skyscrapers? Then you will definitely find the right metropolis in Southeast Asia.
The most impressive mega-cities are:
Or you go to India. There are around 50 million cities there alone. The largest are Mumbai and Delhi.
Travel planning Southeast Asia
In this article you will find a lot of inspiration for possible travel destinations. It also contains further links on topics such as flight and hotel searches, visas, vaccinations, etc.
I name all the important tools, programs and apps as well as a lot of other aids in my article »Everything you need to travel«.
Literature / travel guide for Southeast Asia
There are many ways to collect information for your trip. I myself mostly use travel blogs and travel sites for the first research. In addition, I am often inspired by videos on Youtube and pictures on Facebook. That is usually enough to get a first feeling for where the next trip could go. But at the latest when it becomes concrete, I buy a travel guide for the corresponding country, which I then always take with me on the trip.
Many no longer think this is necessary these days, as research is also possible on the go via smartphone. That may be, but I feel better informed with a guide. Of course, when it comes to hotels or ferry connections, the Internet is the more current alternative. But travel guides report profoundly. You will learn interesting things that you probably wouldn’t have searched for on Google. And you learn a lot more about the country and its people. This is important for me when I travel.
Flights to Southeast Asia
You have a wide range of flights to get to Southeast Asia. These are generally much cheaper than long-distance trips to South America, for example. Most connections are to Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand’s capital Bangkok. Therefore, many travelers use this destination as a stopover to then travel on to neighboring countries such as Laos, Cambodia or Myanmar.
Singapore and Kuala Lumpur act as further hubs. From these airports there is a wide range of flights to the region with low-cost airlines such as Air Asia or Tiger Airways.
Direct flights from Germany, Austria or Switzerland to destinations in Southeast Asia are usually somewhat more expensive than connections with a stopover. They are usually offered by well-known airlines such as Lufthansa, Swiss Air or Austrian Airlines. In addition, it is the state-owned Southeast Asian airlines such as Thai Airway and Vietnam Airlines that offer direct connections to Europe.
Golf airlines like Ethiad or Emirates, which fly to Southeast Asia with a stopover in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, are usually cheaper. Chinese airlines are also often found in the front seats.
Occasionally there are also cheap offers with a stopover in other European countries, for example Paris (Air France), Amsterdam (KLM) or Helsinki (Finn Air).
With a bit of luck and at the right time, you can buy a return ticket from $ 450. In high season, prices climb to over $ 1,000. Inexpensive versions usually include long stopovers when changing trains.
To plan my trips to Southeast Asia, I have been testing countless flight search engines over and over again in recent years. In the meantime I have come to the conclusion that two of them are sufficient. And that’s Skyscanner and Momondo. So I’ve always found the best offer.
Flights to Southeast Asia
Flights within Southeast Asia are a quick and often not expensive option. In addition to the state-owned airlines, there is a huge selection of low-cost airlines that both offer inexpensive domestic flights, but connections to neighboring countries are also available for little money.
The low-cost airlines with the largest networks include Air Asia and Tiger Airways as well as Cebu Air in the Philippines and Lion Air in Indonesia. The best way to compare flight prices is with Skyscanner or Momondo.
Means of transportation in Southeast Asia
If you don’t want to fly, buses and minibuses are your number 1 form of transportation in Southeast Asia. So traveling is usually very cheap, and with the necessary patience you can get to every corner of the country.
The comfort in the big vehicles is different. From narrow wooden benches to comfortable reclining seats in the air-conditioned double-decker, everything is represented. There are express buses that run non-stop from the point of departure to the destination, but also those that stop at every palm tree.
Mostly faster are the slightly more expensive minibuses, of which I am not a big fan. You hardly have legroom in it. And often a risky driving style awaits you there.
You can book tickets for buses in local travel agencies or in your guesthouse. For Thailand and some neighboring countries, you can also book bus and train tickets on the 12go portal, which is very practical. For Vietnam you are in good hands at Baolau.
Train travel in Southeast Asia is more for romantics and people with a lot of time. For me, however, trains are my favorite form of transportation.
Notable rail links are only available in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. Also in India and Sri Lanka.
Hotels & Accommodation
There are various options for finding the right accommodation.
The hotels are already included as part of a package tour. But if you are traveling on your own, you have to find your own accommodation options. However, this is child’s play. Especially in tourist locations, you usually have a large selection of accommodations, from beds in dormitories to 5-star luxury bungalows.
I never used to book in advance, but just walked from resort to resort and looked for good accommodation.
But times change. More and more travelers are booking their hotels in advance. The rooms that are nice but not expensive are usually booked out first. Then there are only two options. Pay more or take a less nice place to stay.
In my opinion, a reservation makes sense if …
you are traveling to popular destinations in high season.
you travel with children
you want to have a specific accommodation (for example a bungalow directly on the beach).
you arrive after dark.
The following platforms are recommended:
Agoda: In my experience, the search engine has the best deals for Southeast Asia.
Booking: also a very good selection and you can usually cancel until shortly before the appointment.
AirBnB: Good for long stays. In addition, you can stay centrally in chic private apartments. If you register with AirBnB via this link, you will receive a starting credit of up to $ 34.
Money & Pay in Southeast Asia
Since Myanmar started opening ATMs in recent years, you can actually withdraw money with your credit card anywhere in Southeast Asia. In my opinion, the best coverage is Visa.
ATMs are identified by the abbreviation ATM. In some countries, local banks charge up to $ 4.60 per withdrawal for using their ATM! You will only get the money back if you have the right credit card. For Southeast Asia, I have been recommending the Santander credit card since April 2016, which is the only one that still reimburses foreign fees (comdirect and DKB cancel this). More on this in my contribution to the best credit card for Southeast Asia.
Visa for Southeast Asia
One of the most important topics when planning a trip is the question of the visa for your travel destination. To reassure you, you can travel to most countries with a German, Austrian or Swiss passport that is valid for at least another six months without a visa. Or you can get the visa upon payment of the corresponding fee upon arrival (Visa on Arrival). This is usually valid for one month.
Climate and best time to travel
So that there are no sad faces on site, you should inform yourself about the climate in the country and the different weather periods on site before your trip.
It is warm all year round in most Southeast Asian countries (excluding mountainous regions). European winter is often the best time to travel. It is dry season in many countries, but the temperatures are still bearable. In summer and autumn, however, the rainy season is in many places. This does not mean that it is only raining at this time, which can sometimes happen. Rather, occasional showers await you, which often occur in the afternoon.
In some areas (east coast Malaysia, Bali, Gulf of Thailand), however, is a very good travel time.
The low season also has its advantages, by the way. Everything is not overcrowded and accommodations and tours attract with low-season discounts.
Packing list for Southeast Asia
Some prefer to travel only with hand luggage to feel free and to be flexible, others only get the second suitcase with difficulty. Ultimately, everyone should handle it the way they like it. And of course it also depends on where you are going. For mountain hikes and jungle trekking, of course, you need different things than for three weeks of sunbathing on the beach. And while you can buy almost anything in Thailand, it is more difficult on a remote island in Indonesia or somewhere in the country in Laos.
Vaccination for Southeast Asia
Depending on where you are going, you should consider protective vaccinations. Which they are depends on the travel destination, the type of travel, the choice of your accommodation and the duration of the trip.
The best thing to do is to get advice from a tropical institute or a doctor specializing in travel medicine.
Travel first aid kit for Southeast Asia
Medical care in Southeast Asia varies widely from country to country. For example, while in Singapore, Malaysia or Thailand you have the choice between many doctors and clinics with an international level, in Laos or Myanmar it is already more difficult to get good medical treatment in the event of illness.
Most drugs are available without a prescription and are usually cheaper than in Europe. In the worst-case scenario, you can also stock up on medicine on site.
Nevertheless, I advise you to take some basic care with you. This way you avoid having to go to a doctor’s office or pharmacy for minor ailments. You also save yourself a consultation in English and the same language package insert.
Of course, everything also depends on where you are going. On an island with little infrastructure or with multi-day jungle trekking, you should be better equipped than on a trip to Bangkok and to tourist hot spots such as Khao Lak, Phuket or Koh Samui.
Important: I strongly recommend taking out travel health insurance if you don’t have one (this is not expensive!). You can get a good overview of the different offers on this comparison portal.
Traveling with a child
You can travel Southeast Asia with a child without a doubt. In the past few months I have started collecting experience reports on this topic.
It started with an interview with a family who traveled with two children through Southeast Asia for one year. This is followed by a survey of nine travel bloggers who explore the world with their children. It continued with a couple who first made a world trip for two and later with a child. Then I talked to a family traveling through Asia with baby and reporting on YouTube. In the latest post there is everything about Vietnam with children.
Travel alone through Southeast Asia as a woman
For women traveling alone, Southeast Asia is one of the regions in the world that are easy to travel. In most countries, men are more reluctant. Stupid sayings and nuisances are rare.
Of course, you should always try to assess situations correctly. This is especially true when alcohol is involved.
Aside from the tourist hotspots, keep in mind that local women tend to dress discreetly.