5 Backpacking Tips for Southeast Asia

picture of fisherman boats in the blue seas and beautiful limestone formations in south-east asia perfect for backpacking

5 tips for your travel to Southeast Asia

Backpacking in Southeast Asia is one of the best experiences you should have in your travel wishlist. Although it may seem easy at first but could be dreadful, because there are so many options to choose from which sometimes can create confusion. Choosing the flights, picking an accommodation or planning a route could be a tiring job. Here are some backpacking tips we believe that could help you solve this problem before heading your way to Southeast Asia.

1. Choose hostels instead of hotels

a picture of bunk beds in a hostel with bedding, hostels are the best accomodation type when backpacking asia
Choose hostels instead of hotels

Even though everything is cheaper in Southeast Asia, it does not mean choosing a hotel would be the best option if you are on a budget. Since you will be spending a lot of time strolling down the streets, you would prefer to not be spending a fortune for space and services that you would not be occupying for the whole duration of your trip. That is why you should choose a hostel where you can share the space and listen to all of the other backpacker’s travel stories as well. It will only make your trip more interesting. This is definitely the first backpacking tip we advise you. 

Before you book, it is always recommended to check out the reviews of the hostel you are going to be staying at, make sure they have the contact phone number, and a location where you can navigate from train or bus stations, or airports. In case there is no information available, you can post a question in one of our traveling groups on Facebook or create a post in case somebody who happens to know the answer to your question can share some valuable advice. 

2. Enjoy the street food with a budget price 

picture of person wearing a rice hat whilst cooking street food in asia, different street foods found when backpacking asia
Enjoy the street food with a budget price 

We all know that Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Vietnam, or Singapore has amazing cuisines, but at the same time, it could be hard for you to choose what to eat. If you managed to book a good hostel, they would prepare some basic food like bread, butter and eggs for your breakfast, and sometimes lunch. But it’s always better if you can stuff your luggage with some snacks from home so that you will not be hungry in the worst-case scenario.

For lunch and dinner, a good backpacking tip is to go ahead and ask the receptionists for a local recommendation, just be honest and tell them that you’re in need to find some good spots for street food. They are locals and they know where to search for whatever you need according to your budget. Keep in mind, an average worker in Vietnam spends only 5$ per day for food, so you can do it as well! 

3. Use public transportation instead of taxi

The hardest part is to communicate with the bus driver and to pay for your tickets, but it is worth doing or would you rather spend money on taxis? If you are traveling to big cities in Southeast Asia, there should be no complications on the bus and not knowing where to go because they all should have signs of the stations that will help you navigate. 

Nevertheless,  you may have to count on walking and asking for instructions all the time. The good thing about it is that it is free of charge and saves you quite a lot of time in the cities. A common backpacking tip a lot of travelers use is to download an offline Google Maps in advance, it can help you locate where you are, even when you do not have Internet on your phone. You can also discover some hidden gems by yourself.  Meanwhile, taxis and other riding apps are beneficial when it is not the peak time of the day. 

You could also plan a trip together with other travel buddies on JoinMyTrip so you all can go on a backpacking experience and not feel lonely when you get lost 😉 

4. Always bargain and avoid tourist traps

Backpackers should be able to bargain not only for souvenirs, but also for food, tour tickets, and anything that any sellers try to convince you. Normally there is no golden rule to bargaining, but one good backpacking tip is that you can begin with the price that you are willing to pay regardless of how expensive you think it is. 

Sellers know that you will bargain and they will not accept at first. But after a while, you might get lucky. Don’t fall into tourist traps or any invitations that may sound interesting at first. It could include a lot of service fees later on, and not tell you in advance. Be aware of tourist traps which can even happen when you are walking in the street, e.g.: massage services, lottery tickets. 

5. Pack light, and carry all the medical stuff from home

The north face backpack and water bottle on a seat
Pack light, and carry all the medical stuff from home

A common mistake some travelers used to have is to ignore bringing the medical necessities when backpacking. Beware that hospitals and pharmacies in Southeast Asia will be very different from your home. Some medications might not work with your body there. Pack only necessary clothes but stuff yourself with a lot of medical prescriptions that deal with food poisoning, flu and most importantly get the right vaccinations that helps fight against any tropical diseases you may encounter. This is an absolutely important backpacking tip.

You’re now all set and ready to start your backpacking journey to Southeast Asia! We hope you take our tips into consideration to make sure you have a smooth experience in Southeast Asia and avoid any possible problems that you may encounter.

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