A guide to travelling in south-east Asia on a budget


ankor wat

Backpacking can be a wonderful experience but unfortunately it’s not one that comes cheap. That said, it’s very possible to explore the world on a budget – I’ve certainly managed a fair few extended trips away without breaking the bank – especially if you pick your destination carefully.

I think south-east Asia is a great region to visit if you’re a bit tight on cash and also if it’s your first taste of overseas adventure travel. The reasons for this are threefold; firstly, there’s a lot to see and do here, which means you won’t need to travel huge distances to see a lot. Secondly, this part of the world is very well set up to cater for backpackers and it’s popular, so there will be plenty of other people for you to meet and travel with if you’re on your own. Finally, accommodation can be very cheap and eating out is inexpensive – a winning combination.

Tips for travelling in south-east Asia

South-east Asia is a pretty big place and it’s good to have a plan for exploring before you go, particularly if you’re tight on time. If you don’t have the luxury of being entirely flexible while you’re overseas, I’d recommend that you book an organised tour.

This means all your transport will be taken care of, plus you’ll have a local guide to take you to all the best attractions and make sure you have the chance to try a host of fun and exciting activities. You can even book a two or three week tour as part of a longer trip to help you get your bearings and then go it alone from there.

Another top tip is to always stay in backpacker hostels and get to know your fellow guests. This is a wonderful way to make new friends and it could lead you to places you’d never considered visiting before or mean you try things you’d have never thought of.

South-east Asia: where to go

In just two weeks you can easily see some of the region’s top sights. Starting out in Vietnam, you should spend some time exploring the vibrant city of Saigon – or Ho Chi Minh City. Top sights here include the Ho Chi Minh Museum, the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum and the Central Mosque.

Another must-visit in Vietnam is the Cu Chi Tunnels, which were used by the Viet Cong during the war with the US. You can even crawl through some sections of these tunnels – you’ll be amazed at how people managed to live in these tiny spaces during the conflict.

From Vietnam, you can cross the border into Cambodia where you’ll find one of south-east Asia’s most iconic heritage sites – the Angkor Wat complex. This collection of temples near Siem Reap is truly beautiful and to make the most of your time here it’s best to hop on a bike to allow you to cover the site in full even if you’re only here for a day.

You can also discover a darker period of Cambodia’s history by taking a trip to the Killing Fields near Phnom Penh. This is where a large number of people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime following the Cambodian civil war.

From Cambodia, head to the ever-popular backpacker destination of Thailand – a must-visit on a tour of south-east Asia. You can’t miss the chance to explore the bustling capital Bangkok – a real feast for the senses (make sure you try some of the delicious Pad Thai served by the street vendors).

To add some adventure to your trip, head to one of Thailand’s many islands and have a go at scuba diving – there are colourful coral reefs to discover here and plenty of dive schools where you can take your first qualification.


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