No more about what places to visit in Southeast Asia. Here we tell you how to travel this region. These backpacking tips to travel Southeast Asia is an interesting mix of what to eat and drink, how to interact with people, money saving tricks, where to stay for cheap etc.
Southeast Asia – a beautiful blend of rainforests, volcanoes, beaches, coral reefs, festivals and food. It has forever tempted travelers from far and beyond. Southeast Asia is one of the most exuberant and stimulating regions for an independent travel in the planet. You can spend the day exploring a hundred-year-old reminiscence or even museums; attend a Hindu/Buddhist ritual or go surfing in the sun; chill out in a bamboo beach and rave at night; hike through the deepest jungle and look for orangutans the next. If you have been wondering how to backpack in Southeast Asia, tighten your seatbelts for this amazing ride.
No matter which way you explore, Southeast Asia never ceases to surprise you with its vibrant, beautiful and exotic versatility. It is one of the greatest regions in the world that you can explore more than just once. Here are some amazing travel hacks to backpack across Southeast Asia to keep yourself hooked up for months.
60 Backpacking Tips To Travel Southeast Asia
1. READ before going. Be it travel guides, travel blogs, websites. Expect the unexpected.
2. Take a deep breath, relax. This is Southeast Asia. There are certain things that may work and others that may not. When things don’t go your way, accommodate yourself to its way. Simple hack.
3. Having a flexible time and loads of patience could make you adapt to situations such as delays in trains, closed hotel bookings or even a bus breakdown. This could be your answer to how to backpack in Southeast Asia without losing much patience over things that are beyond your control. Don’t stick to strict deadlines.
4. Saving your money while having the best time must be your priority. Don’t worry about losing a few bucks here and there. A simple Southeast Asian backpacking idea is to compensate by spending less on shopping or food.
5. Backpacking should be as minimalist and easy as it could get. If you want to know how to backpack in Southeast Asia without slogging your luggage from one place to another, here’s a great tip for you. A wheeled suitcase could be a bad idea after you get off the plane. The roads aren’t always like the runway. Be aware of potholes and clogged gullies. Carrying around a heavy suitcase in the heat and humidity for hours could drain your energy. A backpack in such a case seems like a great idea!
6. Learning few words of the local language could be one of the most engaging backpacking tips to travel Southeast Asia. Always try to play the charades, expecting few misunderstandings. It doesn’t matter if it goes wrong; it will at least give a positive impression.
7. Have a proper plan and carry a map around just in case you don’t go in circles or miss out a place you could have visited on the way. This provides more flexibility and less cost. This is among the most important Southeast Asia backpacking ideas or tips. If you don’t want to get lost and loose time and money, knowing where you are going is important.
8. The weather! One thing you need to know about backpacking in Southeast Asia is that packing as per the weather is impertinent. It’s that part of the world that’s entirely within the tropics and so is broadly characterised by a humid and hot climate that varies throughout the year, except during the two annual monsoons. However, keep in mind that each country has myriad microclimates and travelling during off season could be cheaper.
9. Here’s a great Southeast Asia backpacking idea to travel light – don’t worry about missing out souvenirs or hoarding them into your backpack all at once. You’ll find them again in a different city or country.
10. One thing that’s worth considering while backpacking to Southeast Asia is to tie your itinerary with some of the biggest events in the calendar – cultural festivals, music festivals, half-moon parties etc. You’re bound to have an amazing experience. Plan around your budget as well.
11. Understand the cultural norms of each place before you enter a region. It’s important to know the do’s and don’ts of each destination you’re visiting. Certain places are indeed conservative about clothing and more obviously you may encounter cultural differences in various other things too.
12. Among the most amazing travel hacks to backpack Southeast Asia to ensure safety of your cash, cards and other such belongings is to carry a handbag that cannot be easily snatched on the streets – a sling bag or a waist pouch/fanny packs. Snatchers can be on scooters or on foot and can grab your bag while you are walking or sitting on a tuk-tuk. You need to be careful that you have a tight grip on your bag.
Food and Drink in Southeast Asia
13. There isn’t a need to rely on websites or brochures on where to eat and drink. Follow your nose. The smell of Southeast Asian food is always in the air.
14. If there’s anything that’s inexpensive in Southeast Asia, it’s food! You find food in every street, every corner.
15. Eat Local! Things you need to know about backpacking in Southeast Asia is to eat street food. Look for a cook to order stalls that are always busy, it’s much fresher and tastier.
16. Drinking local beer and packaged water is the right choice. Use filtered water for everything including brushing your teeth.
17. Don’t compromise on food, but always keep a check on what you eat. It’s a bad idea to be on a diet during travel. The essence of Southeast Asia is in its food and culture.
Travel and Stay in Southeast Asia
Here’s all you need to know about how to travel and backpack across Southeast Asia.
18. Have at least 6 months’ validity on your passport while entering most countries and not just Southeast Asia. The same goes for having blank pages on your passport. Sometimes this may cause discrepancies or you might be denied the entry.
19. Know your Visa requirements – from how much it will cost, to what currency to pay in and keeping your picture handy. Know if there are online applications beforehand.
20. There’s always a Good Samaritan who’s willing to take you for a ride or drop you off at the nearest tourist destination. It might not be comfortable or fast but certainly cheap! Travel hack in Southeast Asia on point!
21. One of the many things you need to know about backpacking in Southeast Asia is that the public transport can be a lifesaver. If you want to go somewhere far, take a bus, or if you really want to make a conversation with the locals, catch a local transport. This could be much fun since you’d have a company along the drive (highly recommended for the extroverts).
22. Watch out! Never leave your stuff unattended. This is one of the most important backpacking tips to travel across Southeast Asia. Wear a cross body bag and keep your belongings safe.
23. Waiting for few minutes at a busy road might draw the attention of few rickshaws or tuk-tuks as they call them. So, don’t panic or worry if you don’t find one.
24. Overnight travel is a great way to maximise your time and minimise your accommodation. Visit places in the morning and travel to your next destination at night. Being nocturnal is an amazing travel hack to backpack in Southeast Asia or anywhere else.
25. Small share taxis with no meter could be another amazing travel hack to backpack Southeast Asia. It’s cheap and easier.
26. Flights like Air Asia and Tiger Airways can get you around the region. These are cheaper and faster. They often provide offers which can get you anywhere in Southeast Asia in no time.
27. Renting a scooter is the best backpacking tip to travel South-East Asia. This combines freedom and flexibility. The only rule – DON’T BREAK RULES!
28. Always take pictures of your scooter before leaving the rental place. Including close-ups of the scratches and dents so that they don’t blame you and charge you extra. A good company will take down the damages themselves, even then take pictures to be on a safer side.
29. Research cab fares well in hand before you book one. Like mentioned earlier, local transport is a life hack in saving a few bucks.
30. Do not book anything before landing in a city because that’s a sure way to overpay. Always wait until you get there. There are tonnes of tour operators and small shops dotting the backpacker streets that you can negotiate with to get a good price.
31. Exchanging currency beforehand (in your own country) is one of the best backpacking tips to travel Southeast Asia or anywhere else that you need to go. For whatever reason, do not exchange them at the airport because they cost way more than doing it at any other place in the city.If you exchange money while traveling, always count it on the spot and demand the whole amount if anything is missing.
32. Among the many backpacking tips to travel Southeast Asia, keep in mind this one especially – you won’t have an issue finding ATMs in most of Southeast Asia, but there are odd spots where there are none. Plan ahead!
33. Carrying more than just one debit or credit card could be an amazing travel hack to backpack Southeast Asia. There could be discrepancies or you may face issues like losing the card, damaging it or it being demagnetized.
34. Carry some spare cash, in case debit/credit cards aren’t acceptable, you may want some money handy.
35. Keeping a toilet paper and hand sanitizer could come handy. They aren’t found everywhere for your convenience and also get used to the water gun for those situations when you run out of toilet paper.
36. Don’t look around for western toilets everywhere. Most public places like restaurants have squatting toilets. This is one thing you need to know while traveling around Southeast Asia.
37. Agree on a price before you get into a taxi/rickshaw or tricycles. If you don’t, you’ll suddenly be encountered with a ridiculous amount.
38. It’s okay to pay that extra couple of bucks on air conditioning, you might need it during the hot, humid nights. Sleep is a necessity while traveling, don’t compromise on that.
39. It’s good to research your place of stay well in hand but does not always trust online reviews. Always look at the place first, hence avoiding advance bookings.
People of Southeast Asia
40. One thing you need to know about backpacking in Southeast Asia is that it could be a task getting to know the culture and people of a continent. Give everyone a fair chance. Don’t generalize Southeast Asian people by that one chai wala on the roadside. People are nice, even if the last thing you want to do is talk.
41. Be respectful of local beliefs. Take heed of notices regarding things like removing your shoes in temples. If you’re not sure, pay attention to what other people are doing. Many people, especially in the Buddhist countries, may not say anything if you’re being offensive but that doesn’t make it acceptable either.
42. Most people are only happy to help if they can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when in need.
43. Some of the most beautiful memories you could cherish are those small talks with local fishermen, taxi drivers, and random strangers along the way. Take time to mingle with the locals whenever possible and wherever you are.
44. Prepare yourself, it isn’t home – you’ll see poverty everywhere. Don’t empathize with everyone you meet on the street until you’ve got a huge bank balance (pun intended). It’s common while traveling from one destination to another to see the poor and downtrodden.
Money saving backpacking tips to travel Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia is really cheap when it comes to food and accommodation, except if you’re looking for a luxury stay. There’s little opportunity to really spend a lot of money. Two major reasons why most people end up spending too much money is that they eat western food and drink too much. If you want to save money while traveling this part of the world, you might want to follow this amazing travel hack while backpacking across Southeast Asia – cut down your expense on drinking and eat local food.
45. Couch surf – staying with the locals who have extra beds and couches for free can’t get any better than cheaper accommodation.
46. Book tours and day trips as a group – while buying multiple things, you’ve more negotiation power when you’re in a group than alone. Planning a trip with your roommate could be a great idea.
47. Bargain hard – the price that’s quoted first wouldn’t be what you’ll pay in the end if you bargain. Some things are negotiable, you know?
48. Eat local and minimise drinking – like mentioned earlier. They do really add up to your expense.
49. Wi-Fi is everywhere so don’t bother buying a separate sim card for it. This is one of the most amazing travel hacks to backpack across Southeast Asia or anywhere for that matter. SIM cards are super cheap and it wouldn’t break the bank, but why think about spending money when you could easily save? If you’re worried about getting lost, download Maps.me, an offline map that doesn’t need the internet.
50. Pack your sunscreen before leaving home – this is an amazing backpacking idea to travel across Southeast Asia. Sunscreens are ridiculously expensive.
Now for the final round of some Southeast Asia backpacking ideas. Here are a few must-to-do things so that you’d know how to backpack in Southeast Asia in all its conditions.
51. An essential piece of advice while traveling around Southeast Asia is to cover yourself. Not with something thick and hot as the heat could get unbearable at times but with something light and breezy like a shrug, wrap etc. Also, do carry sunglasses and a hat.
52. Whatever you read on how to backpack in Southeast Asia will have one thing in common – pack proper shoes and fewer clothes. Treks in Southeast Asia are quite common. Pack shoes that easily slip on and off while visiting temples and such places and others that would have a good grip on sand and gravels. Of course, don’t pack too many clothes either. Clothes in South-East Asia are cheap and affordable; you can buy a few pair along your way. This is an amazing travel hack to backpack in Southeast Asia.
53. Talking about clothes, it’s necessary to pack appropriate ones. Certain places are more conservative than others – wearing skimpy or short outfits while entering temples or other sacred places wouldn’t be respectable to the locals. For once you’ll need to forget your hometown because you’re in a different part of the world altogether.
54. Backpacking involves a lot of walking and one of the most amazing travel hacks to backpack Southeast Asia that will help you walk comfortably for longer periods is to find alternatives for jeans; they’ll be difficult to dry and rather chafe in the humidity. You might need to think the same about sleeping bag liner, it occupies too much space and wouldn’t protect you from bed bugs, hence not of much use.
55. One of the most amazing travel hacks to backpack Southeast Asia or anywhere else in the world is to not carry things that are easily available there. Like your toiletries. Most hotel rooms and dorms provide soaps and shampoo. Why think of packing them if they’re provided for free?
56. Do not even think of traveling anywhere without insurance. Though health care services in Southeast Asia can be cheap for minor injuries or other issues, if you break a limb or come down with any major illness and need to be hospitalized, you’re encountering some hefty bills.
There are a few health tips you may need to know to while backpacking in Southeast Asia, but always consult a physician if something isn’t right.
57. You may need Imodium for those unexpected times – during long bus rides or boat trips after a questionable meal. Take sunflower seeds for a balanced gut or visit a doctor if things go out of hand.
58. However, do carry prescription drugs in case you find it hard to explain what you need so that they don’t give you the wrong medicine.
59. Drink only bottled water and filtered ice if necessary. Always check if the seal is intact.
60. Eat where the locals eat. Look for crowded eateries and food stalls. It’s tasty too!
Summing It Up
There! You’re all set to visit Southeast Asia. The above Southeast Asia backpacking ideas and tips will surely help in making your travels easy. Even though you think you’re fully prepared, there are surprises waiting right around the corner when backpacking Southeast Asia. Regardless, embrace the thill and have fun!
An Aspiring blogger and a wanderer living in the fantasies of music and art.