I would gladly live out of a backpack if it meant I could see the world.
Backpacking abroad has become something of a right of passage. Backpacking isn’t something new, but it is becoming more and more popular, and even easier thanks to all the information we now have and the lowering costs of travel.
But where to go?
You may already have some preferences or parameters. Or the world is your oyster. I’m going to lay out for you the top three backpacking travel circuits. Whether you’ll be backpacking in South East Asia, Europe, or in South America, I’ll break down some basic routes (with maps), what you can’t miss, and who the trip is best suited for.
Part one focused on backpacking in Europe. Specifically the Western side. Here in part two, you’ll find backpacking in South East Asia. And part three will focus on South America.
These will include some general budgets and logistical info to choose which backpacking trip is best for you. Whether it’s your first trip or your one-hundredth, there are something things you’ll need to prepare before an international trip.
First things first
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. If you don’t have one already – GET A PASSPORT.
Secondly, you’ll need an amazing backpacking backpack. This thing will be on your back for days, weeks, maybe even months on end. You’ll need to be comfortable. My absolute favourite has been the Osprey Farpoint 55. You can check out my review here. Having a day pack is an absolute lifesaver when you don’t want to carry literally ALL your shit around all the time.
Depending on where you’re going, your general feelings on the matter, overall health, and who you are as a person – you might want to get travel insurance. Realistically, unless you already have fantastic coverage, you probably should. But, I’m not going to preach to you about how you should live your life. If you do decide to get it, many travellers opt for World Nomads. They have extensive coverage for all the shenanigans you’re going to get up to and cover you for lots of countries.
Top Travel Circuits: Backpacking South East Asia
South East Asia is the go to backpacking circuit. Other than the flight there, it is extremely budget friendly. You can jump between countries easily, you often don’t need a visa, and there is so much history, diversity, and nature to explore – you certainly won’t be bored.
If you’re looking for a beach holiday, the southern islands in Thailand are perfect for you. Whether you want to just relax or spend your trip partying – you’ll find a party that suits you perfectly. If you’re looking for some amazing history and architecture, you can’t miss Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Even if you’re just visiting Cambodia for a couple days, this wonder of the world is a must see.
The temples are also breathtaking. From small and hidden away to the sprawling Wat Pho – you’ll be in awe of giant buddhas and ornate features of these temples.
South East Asia has so far been my favourite of the travel circuits. So much so that I even dared to say that Asia spoiled me for Europe. I will certainly go back to check out more of each region, but you certainly need to just go. If you want to see the highlights (and some lows!) of my trip, you can check that out here.
Click the map to find out more about each location and some awesome things you can do there!
Backpacking South East Asia is one of the most budget-friendly backpacker routes. Each country uses its own currency, however, in Cambodia you can use the USD and nearer to the border in Laos & Cambodia you can use Thai Baht. Either way, take a decent amount of cash to convert, as most places won’t take card. There are plenty of ATMs, but it’s best if you don’t need to rely on them whilst backpacking in south-east Asia.
Day-to-day: Budget for about $50/day (if travelling as a couple) or $35/day (if travelling solo):
- Meals: ~10/day
- Hostel: ~10/night (higher in Singapore, lower in Cambodia)
- Local Transportation: ~$5
- Sightseeing: ~$10
Travel in between cities are not included in this breakdown but are also quite cheap. You can take a six-hour bus ride for under ten dollars! The overnight trains are also a great option – even going in the sleeper air-conditioned cars are quite reasonable. You can get a first class overnight train for only $36 from Bangkok to Chiang Mai!
Keep in Mind:
In many of these countries, you’ll require a visa. In Laos and Cambodia, you can get one on arrival that costs roughly 40 USD. Keep some extra passport photos with you. Onward tickets (planes, buses, trains, whatever) may also be helpful when crossing the border.
Despite being a really hot area, it is important to dress modestly. You won’t see locals walking around town in a bikini and you shouldn’t either. If you plan on visiting any temples or religious areas, make sure your legs and shoulders are covered. Much of the time there is a place you can rent a sarong and scarf to cover up and then enter. Occasionally there are even ‘modesty police’ that will deny you entry if you’re not covered up!
Renting a car is an easy and convenient way to get around if you’re not a fan of buses. See why we rented a car in Chiang Mai.
Don’t forget your travel adapter!
You can easily get by while backpacking in South East Asia by speaking only English. Most of these countries rely on tourism and many people (particularly in touristy areas) will speak English. You should, however, learn some basic phrases to use in each country. Simply learning “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” and “toilet,” can go a long way.
If you’re travelling in groups – try renting a place on Airbnb. You can often get a whole house or apartment for yourself instead of paying per bed in a hostel!
Solo traveller? Sign up for an account (free!) on Booking.com. By having a ‘genius’ account they’ll show you extra savings. You can book hostels, hotels, bnbs, inns, and pretty much any other kind of accommodation on this site.
Pet lover? Try house and pet sitting! While they’re more popular in Europe, you can still find quite a few in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Backpacking in South East Asia is best suited for:
- People looking for a budget friendly backpacking experience
- Those with trips of any length – works great for even long-term travellers
- People looking to experience multiple countries in a short period of time.
- Those looking to escape the cold.