Tips for backpacking Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is a classic when it comes to backpacking. Not only is it stunning, it’s also known to be safe, easy to travel around in and it’s a well established tourist destination. It’s perfect for those who are going to backpack for the first time, or just looking to travel deeper in Southeast Asia. There’s so much to see and do here that you’ll probably come back a few more times – some even move here permanently! Whatever you’re thinking of doing, there’s a few tips for backpacking Southeast Asia that will make your trip a bit smoother. Take a look!

Passport and visas

Whatever you do, don’t forget your passport! And secondly, don’t forget to research if you need a visa to the country/countries you’re going to. For example, Vietnam requires most nationalities to have a visa to enter the country, so double check if you need one or not. If you do, there’s many ways to get a visa online these days, or you can go to the nearest Embassy or Consulate and apply with them.

Always bring your own toilet paper

Not kidding. Stock up! Don’t expect the toilets to provide you with toilet paper. In fact, 80% of the times you probably have to bring your own.

Don’t enter a cab before deciding on the price

Cabs are ripping people off left and right, and you don’t want to be one of the people who get scammed. Make sure that the taxi either has a meter or decide on the price before entering the cab. Otherwise, you most certainly will end up paying way more than what the normal price is. If you’re unsure, you can either ask your hotel about what the prices should be, or you can download the apps Uber or Grab where the prices are fixed.


In the bigger cities, you won’t have a problem finding an ATM. In fact, they’re quite difficult to miss since they’re literally everywhere. But this is not the case for all places. If you’re going to the island of Koh Rong in Cambodia for example, or El Nido in the Philippines, there are no ATMs so you need to plan ahead and withdraw as much money as you think you’ll spend (and a little more, just in case).

Always have USD

Doesn’t matter where you are in Southeast Asia, it’s always smart to have USD with you. Most borders require you to pay in USD for example, so bring some from home and have in your bag just in case. If you run out of local currency, most places accept USD as well.

Beware of the weather

Are you traveling during rainy season? Then make sure you pack appropriate clothes for the weather. Unfortunately, the weather isn’t always perfect in Southeast Asia. In fact, it can even get quite cold. Northern Vietnam for example gets chilly during the winter months and you’ll need a warm socks, proper shoes, warm clothes and even a jacket to survive the cold weather. Also know that most places don’t have heaters so it might even be colder inside than outside.

Also know that when it rains, it pours. If you’re planning on taking a tour during rainy season, know that it might get canceled it there’s storms, or even typhoons.

Eat as much local food as you can!

Even though there’s plenty of international food these days, don’t forget the delicious local food in Southeast Asia. Where else can you get authentic, Asian food than there? Also, don’t be afraid of the street food. Just make sure your food is properly cooked and use your judgement. If the place has tons of customers, it’s probably a safe place to eat at.

Nothing is on time

If you’re on time, expect nothing to be on time. But if you’re late, expect it to be on time. The locals in Asia are way more relaxed about time and they don’t really put a lot of emphasis on time as we do in the western world. So the only thing you can do is to try to be on time, relax if they’re not on time and just go with the flow.

If you’re renting a scooter, always take photos of it before driving away

This is the number one rule when renting a motorbike – always make sure that you take pictures of everything, including close-ups of dents/scratches so they can’t blame you for it. Otherwise, some companies might try to charge you for old scratches that’s been caused by other people. But if you have photos to prove it wasn’t you, they won’t be able to charge you extra.

Don’t plan everything ahead!

Be spontaneous! Perhaps the place you thought you only wanted to stay at for 2 days proves to be incredible and you want to spend the rest of your life there. Okey, perhaps not, but you’ll still want the freedom of staying there a few extra nights.

Beware of the whitening creams

Well, this only applies if you prefer to be tanned rather than white of course. But most travelers who goes to Southeast Asia have a goal to hit the beach as soon as they land and get tanned. Asians however, want to stay white. So a lot of the creams they produce in Asia makes you white. If this is not your goal, make sure to read the labels carefully before buying anything.

Don’t flush the toilet paper down

There are some places in Southeast Asia where you can flush the toilet paper down, but if there’s a big sign that says “don’t flush the toilet paper down”, then don’t. It’ll most certainly get clogged and there’s a person that has to deal with it.

Watch out for pickpockets

Keep your valuables somewhere safe and hold onto your phone tight. There’s been incidents when people have been looking at their phone and someone on the motorbike snatched it out of their hands. It always happens a lot with bags.

Go with the flow and have fun!

The most important thing is just to have fun on your trip. You’ve paid a lot of money to get there, there’s endless opportunities in Southeast Asia, the weather is (for the most part) sunny and you’ll get to meet people from all over the world. So even if something doesn’t go the way you wanted it to, don’t let it get you down. Go with the flow and enjoy your journey in Southeast Asia.

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