Southeast Asia on a Dime: Top destinations for thrifty backpackers

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In the post covid world, backpacking is a growing trend that speaks to the adventurous soul in all of us. The beauty of this minimalist travel is the freedom it grants; with just a pack on your shoulders, you can cover a list of destinations in one go without breaking the bank. It's not just about the places you visit, but the people you meet along the way. Often spanning months at a time, it's in every traveler's dream of seeing the world as intimately and authentically as possible. If you're a fellow wanderer, you've likely heard the chorus of recommendations to travel across South East Asia. Let me tell you why these destinations are not to be missed and provide the ultimate backpacking journey.

Why go backpacking in South East Asia?

It's insanely cheap!

Backpacking across South East Asia is great because of the low cost of living. As these nations are growing economies, they still offer an affordable travel experience – from street food to accommodations, your dollar stretches further here.

Tropical haven

Because of its tropical climate it’s a year-round destination and you don’t have to carry heavy clothes. Just a few basic toiletries and clean clothes that can be your rinse-repeat!

Unexplored gems

The region brims with hidden treasures, from untouched beaches to ancient temples. Backpackers can immerse themselves in the underrated beauty that many have yet to discover. It's truly an OMG experience - we're saying it as it is!

Cultural mosaic

Visitors can expect a vibrant tapestry of cultures and traditions. Each nation offers its unique spin on food, festivals, and its own unique heritage.

Eco-friendly adventures

Traveling light with minimal baggage also means a smaller carbon footprint. Explore jungles and islands using eco-friendly transport options such as bicycles or local tuk-tuks. You'll be surprised to know, but there are a lot of sustainable hotels and restaurants in this region!

Best backpacking destinations in South East Asia

1. Vietnam

From its vibrant city streets to the emerald waters of Halong Bay, Vietnam captivates every backpacker's heart. The locals are incredibly welcoming, opening a window to an extensive cultural landscape. Be it the lush terraced fields or the chaotic charm of Hanoi, each corner offers a panorama of experiences. And the food? Simply divine – Vietnamese cuisine is an absolute delight. Banh mi is a must-try, and the flavorful pho bowls are a testament to the country's rich culinary heritage.

2. Malaysia

Malaysia is a fascinating mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and indigenous cultures and customs. One can easily experience this multicultural blend through its food, architecture, and festivals. The only backpacker’s complaint I have heard is that the infrastructure doesn’t have sidewalks and the roads are often busy, making it tricky for pedestrians at times. However, Malaysia's natural landscapes more than make up for any urban inconveniences.

3. Thailand

Thailand is synonymous with backpacking in Southeast Asia and for good reason. The land of smiles offers everything from the bustling streets of Bangkok to the tranquil beaches of the South. Its full-moon parties are worth mentioning and the northern mountains provide a great nature escape. Thai food, with its balance of sweet, sour, spicy, and savory, is an irresistible highlight.

4. Indonesia

Indonesia's vast archipelago offers an incredible variety of experiences, from the magical temples and green rice terraces of Bali to the vibrant city life of Jakarta. Adventure seekers can find plenty of opportunities to surf, dive, or explore dense tropical jungles teeming with wildlife.

5. Laos

Laos is the most underrated destination in the South East Asia. Although Laos has become a little expensive post covid, it still retains its charm with unspoiled landscapes, a languid pace of life, and friendly locals. It's a place where you can truly disconnect from the urban life and immerse yourself in natural beauty and traditional Buddhist culture.

6. Cambodia

Cambodia is a captivating country with a dark history and rich culture. It remains the go-to place for many backpackers due to the majestic Angkor Wat, friendly local villages, and beautiful landscapes. Koh Rong is an emerging beach destination perfect for those looking for a serene environment, with opportunities for diving and snorkeling in its crystal-clear waters.