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52 Quick Tips for Backpacking Southeast Asia

A couple of years ago I spent three and a half months backpacking Southeast Asia. In a little over a month, Matt and I are heading back to Asia. During our prep and storytelling I find myself giving quick tips to my friends and family. So, I thought I would share 52 quick tips for backpacking Southeast Asia!

Know the visa requirements for each country. I like to try to get my visas ahead of time. It can keep you from having to pay an extra fee and you know how much to budget. There’s nothing worse than thinking you can walk into a country and it really costs you $60 to get in!

Do a little bit of research on the scams in each country. There are many scams that are running anywhere in the world. A quick google search will let you know what to keep an eye out for.

Exchange money in the country you’re visiting. I used to exchange money before visiting a country, but some of the best exchange rates I’ve ever gotten are at ATMs outside of the airport.

Keep some US dollars handy! Many countries accept USD and it can really just come in handy. Plus, in Cambodia it’s their preferred currency. The ATMs give you USD.

Invest in travel insurance. It’s one of those things, you hope that you never have to use, but it’s great when you need it. You don’t want to lose your computer while backpacking Southeast Asia and have no means to replace it. Or worse, have an accident and no means to take care of yourself or even get back home. These are the things that travel insurance are for!

Bring a few passport photos with you. It comes in handy to have them ready at border-crossings or airports. It also saves you a “photo fee” that isn’t always a legitimate fee.

Backpacking Southeast Asia

Don’t plan a super strict schedule. One of the great things about backpacking Southeast Asia is that you’ll meet loads of people who have done something you don’t want to miss, but you’ve never heard of! You want to leave some wiggle room for those spontaneous stops.

Learn pleasantries. I’m not saying you have to be conversational in Khmer or Thai. However, it really opens up doors when you can say a few simple things (even if it isn’t perfect pronunciation) like hello, thank you, yes, no, please and bathroom. I write these down in my journal so I can reference them if need be.

Be prepared for squat toilets. While this seems like a given to anyone who’s been there, I’ve heard it was quite the shock to many backpackers. Luckily, most accommodations have a western toilet, so your legs do get a break.

Be prepared for the aforementioned squat toilets to not have toilet paper. I always make sure to have a roll of TP ready and available in my day pack. You’ll miss it if you don’t have it.

In addition to that bring soap or sanitizer. There’s rarely soap on roadside stop bathrooms, as they’re frequented by many travelers and locals. If you want to be sanitary post-squat-session it’s likely BYO.

Schedules can be flexibleIt seems like most countries that I’ve visited while backpacking Southeast Asia have times for buses or shows, and then 15 minutes earlier or later, your bus is leaving or the show has started. Ha! Just be sure to arrive a little bit ahead of time and be prepared to wait a bit. I like to call it “Southeast Asia Time”.

Before renting something (like a motorbike) be sure to take photos before you leave. I’ve heard horror stories of companies holding your card info and even a passport hostage because owners wanted renters to pay for dents that were already in it.

Watch out for bag-snatchers. I personally haven’t had any issues with any bag-snatching attempts, or known anyone who has. However, I have heard the warning a million times. So, I have to think that I hadn’t had issues because I’ve kept my bags securely across my body.

Remember that safety standards aren’t the same as you may be expecting. When booking tours or walking across bamboo bridge just remember it may not have the same safety standard you might expect. I’m not saying to avoid everything just trust your gut on this one! Did I explore five miles of caves without any safety equipment? Yes. Did I ride the sketchy-looking zipline I  saw in rural Laos? No. Make your own judgements and, as always, be safe.

Haggling is a must. It’s such a part of the culture in markets + streets. Plus, when you’re an outsider, people will more than likely try to get you to pay more. Once you get used to it, it’ll just be another part of your day. A lot of people haggle over accommodation as well. I don’t like to do that unless I’m staying for several days, and then I’ll try to get a deal for staying so long.

Don’t stress about an international plan or SIM. I only had a total of 36 hours without access to wifi in the 3.5 months I was there. Backpacking Southeast Asia isn’t as cut off from the world as it used to be.

Don’t forget about whitening agents in skin-care products. Sunscreen, lotions, makeup and more can have bleaching agents. Check for those before making a purchase.

Be prepared to have your personal space violated. This was hard for me to get over. I like my personal space. However, lines, transportation, cafes and markets are very crowded and people will bump into you over and over with no apologies. It’s not them trying to be rude. It’s just because it’s crowded.

Keep calm. Losing your cool is not normal in Southeast Asia. People will not react well to you shouting or yelling. Just take a breath before discussing a sensitive subject – like rates, damage, etc.

Eat the street food. A lot of people are so afraid of food poisoning that they never try some of the best food in a country. Just be smart. If something looks sketchy, pass on it. In fact, I got a really bad bout of food poisoning from an actual restaurant in Bali.

Don’t stress too much about the ice either. The vast majority of ice is brought in as a massive chunk from filtered water. I had smoothies and iced coffee each day. Again, just be smart and use your own judgement.

But still don’t drink the tap water. I’ve not even attempted it. Also, check the seals on your bottled water. That’s a popular scam in parts of Asia.

Drink the coffee! I can’t emphasize this enough. Rich, flavorful coffee and the perfect amount of sweetened condensed milk make for absolute perfection. Don’t be shocked if it comes in a cup, glass, or even a bag!

Be prepared for stomach issues. Even if you’re really careful, you’ll catch some sort of bug! Be sure to take care of yourself and get plenty of rest when you’re ill.

Drink the local beer. It’s as cheap as 10 cents in certain countries. It’s not bad and in case you didn’t hear that, IT IS TEN CENTS! Ha!

Be smart when drinking. Don’t overindulge, watch your drinks, and just be safe, just like you would anywhere at home. Have fun, but be smart.

Don’t be ashamed to get Western food. Sometimes you just need to get your western fix. However, don’t expect it to always taste like home. French fries are one of the easiest/best things to get, just FYI.

Don’t pack too much. Not only because it weighs you down, literally, but also because you’ll find about a million things that you want to buy!

Don’t forget to splurge on occasion. Just find things that are important to you and do it! I love experiences. So, it was worth it to me to splurge on Canyoning in Da Lat or Swimming with whale sharks. Matt loves a little more luxury than I do, so we’re splurging on a private bungalow in Bali for Christmas this year. Love food? Try a nice restaurant. Do things that make you feel comfortable, inspired or excited. To be honest, you can get these upgrades for not much more a lot of the time.

Talk to locals. Especially when staying in hostels, it can be easy to only hang out with people you meet there because it’s easier to communicate with travelers. However, if you take the time and effort to talk to locals, your experience will be so much richer.

Get outside. The nature in Southeast Asia is amazing. Get off the beaten path, explore natural sites and get some exercise in the great outdoors. You won’t be disappointed.

It’s humid, so stay hydrated! Like, seriously humid. If you put makeup on, it melts off.

Don’t forget the insect repellent. Those little buggers are intense. My mosquito bites opened up and oozed. They’re intense.

Don’t forget to relax. I tend to be a go, go, go traveler. Sometimes I forget to take the time to stop and relax. I tend to wear myself to the point of exhaustion and then I collapse. Instead, I have started scheduling in relaxation time. It make life much easier.

Bring a first aid kit. I made this mistake one too many times. Now, I always carry my travel first aid kit with me. Also, don’t forget to get enough of the prescriptions to take with you.

Travel slow + dig deep. Some of my favorite experiences are the ones where I stayed a few extra days or sat in a temple a little longer and was approached by a monk. You learn even more when you’re able to take your time.

Don’t ignore your morals. If something doesn’t feel right. Don’t do it. That goes for volunteer opportunities, animal tourism or anything else. If your gut reaction is that someone is being harmed or taken advantage of walk away, even if it isn’t what the “cool kids” are doing.

Take advantage of hostel book exchanges. Books can start to weigh you down. However, if you’re like me, it’s hard to leave home without one. The great thing about hostels is when you finish your book you can trade it for another for free!

Check other amenities in hostelsMany provide meals, tea, classes, potlucks and more! I also always use the free things that are provided to help make my trip go further – like soaps, hairspray, snacks, etc.

If you’re traveling with a companion, compare the price of two dorm bunks vs. a private room. In some cases it was actually cheaper to have a private room and it was frequently only a dollar or two more to have your own space and your own bathroom, which is actually pretty nice. Especially if you’re part of a couple.

Your room will likely have lizards in it. This sounds crazy at first. True story, I asked a woman to remove a lizard from my room in Laos. She sweetly proclaimed, “You sleep; it sleep.” Ha! They actually eat the mosquitoes so it’s not too bad.

Don’t forget to bring or purchase some modest clothing. Many cultures are more modest, and it’s always best to be respectful. If visiting a temple, remember that your shoulders and knees should always be covered.

Be respectful in temples + religious ceremonies. Don’t get too close, dress inappropriately, be loud or disruptive. If you aren’t worshiping, participating or meditating, keep a respectful distance. Feel free to ask questions at appropriate times, but the key word there is appropriate.

Arrange for local guides. Some of my favorite experiences were things that I hired a local guide to show me. Like street food, farms, jungles and more. Ask your guest house for recommendations.

Have the price you’re paying for a tuk tuk or taxi set before you leave. Don’t leave it up to a meter. Traffic can be crazy. This is a common scam. (I had this happen to me, and I protested, but it was a very uncomfortable situation.)

Take night buses + trains. They aren’t always the most comfortable night of sleep, but even if you have to snooze a bit upon arrival, it saves you a night of accommodation and it’s a much more peaceful time to travel.

Spring for Air-conditioning on trains. It’s worth it.

Pack snacks for long journeys. There are places to that many drivers stop, but it may not have what you want. Plus, you never know when you’re going to be hungry.

Don’t stress about booking ahead. Unless it’s festival time, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a place to stay or even a tour. If there’s a festival or holiday, book ahead though! Even transportation can become more difficult!

7eleven will become your best friend. When I think of 7eleven in the states, it’s basically a gas station with overpriced snacks. In Southeast Asia (Thailand particularly) it’s a destination for toasties, snacks, cold drinks and even laundry detergent. Plus, they’re air-conditioned so I found myself stepping in just to escape the heat from time-to-time.

Keep an open mind. You may see things that challenge your cultural norms. That’s 100% normal and 100% okay. Don’t call it wrong or weird. It’s just different. If you keep an open mind, you may come away with a whole new way of thinking.

Are you a seasoned backpacker? What tips would you give to someone backpacking Southeast Asia for the first time?

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128 Comments

  • Reply
    Sabine
    July 14, 2017 at 4:18 am

    This is actually a good and very comprehensive list for any first timer visiting, or better backpacking through South East Asia. It has been a while for me, since I have been travelling through Africa the last years, but I used to travel quite a bit to South East Asia. I’m craving to go back. And when I do, I’ll have a look at this list again 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 7:51 pm

      Thank you! Traveling through Africa sounds pretty incredible itself! I’ll have to come back and ask you for tips when we get there!

  • Reply
    Claudia
    July 14, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Thank you for such useful tips and such an extensive article! So many things here that I wasnt aware of that I will be putting into practice . From now on I will always be checking to see if my water bottles are sealed properly or not .

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      Thanks for reading it! It’s something I read a few places, but I’ve never found one that wasn’t sealed, but I figure better safe than sorry, right?

  • Reply
    elphie1
    July 14, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    This is very interesting. I’ve never had to get a visa yet but it scares me because there is so much involved! This is very helpful!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      It’s really not as stressful as it sounds when you’ve not gotten your first one. I was super intimidated myself. Many countries you can get them upon arrival. It’s really just essentially a fee to enter the country. Nothing to stress about.

  • Reply
    Nicole
    July 14, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    I really enjoyed this post!! I am so excited to one day have similar experiences. This was thorough, specific, and was filled with new to me information. Thanks, I’m gonna keep following your blog 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 8:01 pm

      Thank you so much, Nicole! I appreciate the compliment and that you’re following along! I’m excited to see your experiences as they happen! <3

  • Reply
    Jane M
    July 15, 2017 at 1:09 am

    Great tips to help our first time travellers to Asia! I second the one about not stressing too much about ice in most countries and places in Asia. Usually it’s commercially made and I’ve never (knowingly) had a problem. For stomach troubles, I’ll add a tip I discovered on my travels. You can buy “activated charcoal” pills at most pharmacies in Asia. As soon as you feel some food poisoning coming on, take one and then take another 12 hours later. It works like magic to dry you up and get you back on your feet. I always carry them now.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 8:07 pm

      It’s so interesting that so many people tell you to stress about that constantly, but most that I’ve ever spoken to haven’t knowingly had issues with that. I’ve never heard of activated charcoal pills, but I’m definitely going to have to look into those! They sound perfect.

  • Reply
    Cindy Collins
    July 15, 2017 at 1:16 am

    That’s some very great tips! Thanks so much for sharing. I lot of them I didn’t even know about. The toilets tips make me laugh 🙂 Yep it takes a bit of getting used to!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 8:08 pm

      Thanks for reading. They definitely do! I know my knees were shaking after the first week or so, but you really do get used to them.

  • Reply
    Janine Thomas
    July 15, 2017 at 2:13 am

    What a great tip to take a photo before renting. I never would have thought of that, but it does make perfect sense, especially if you may have a language problem to contend with as well.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 8:51 pm

      Exactly! You’d hate to have to pay for something that someone else did.

  • Reply
    Charli
    July 15, 2017 at 3:11 am

    SO many great suggestions here Paige! I agree that moderating your alcohol consumption is a must – it’s important to let your hair down and have fun, but not at the expense of your safety.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 8:54 pm

      Thank you so much, Charli! Exactly. I’m not a party-pooper or anything, but you’re the only person who can keep you safe. Things are much more likely to happen when you get too out of control… I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way!

  • Reply
    Lydia Smith
    July 15, 2017 at 4:59 am

    Thanks for these tips. They are virtually useful to anyone travelling to South East Asia or not.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 9:04 pm

      Thank you! There are some that are more specific, but I agree that they’re good backpacking tips in general. Cheers!

  • Reply
    Mike Cotton (@MikeCjourno)
    July 15, 2017 at 5:01 am

    I’ve bookmarked this page. I’m hoping to visit SE Asia next year. Some great tips here.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 9:15 pm

      Thank you so much, Mike! I hope you have a great time. Let me know if you need help planning any other part of it!

  • Reply
    flydriveexplore
    July 15, 2017 at 5:43 am

    A really useful list about the practical issues you will face. Yes, keep an open mind.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 9:16 pm

      Thank you so much! Open mind is one of the best tips you can give.

  • Reply
    Kavey Favelle
    July 15, 2017 at 6:00 am

    This is a really helpful and comprehensive list, and whilst many are familiar to those who travel a lot, these are the kind of things many newbie travellers just don’t realise, and they’ll be super thankful to take all of them onboard before setting off. Great resource!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      Thank you. I was hoping that it would be a good tool for newbies. I know I relied a lot on different lists when I first got started.

  • Reply
    quirkywanderer
    July 15, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Haha this one was a lovely read! Lizards are common in Asia. Boy! I am petrified. But you sleep they sleep cracked me up! Super helpful and very practical tips. Water bottle scams are very common!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 9:21 pm

      Thank you! It was one of those moments where immediately after it came out of my mouth I felt super ridiculous. Luckily, I felt much more comfortable with them after that, and when they were in the room I managed to get less bug bites! 😉

  • Reply
    Eric Gamble
    July 15, 2017 at 11:18 am

    you hit everything. I think the squat toilets is more a warning for western girls as I know most guys don’t seem to care as much. Love the research for scams as a note, even here in new Orleans we have street hustles that I see tourists getting hit by. Love you promoting hostels. They offer so much from great rooms at good prices to extra bonuses like discounts around town and insider local info.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 27, 2017 at 9:59 pm

      That’s true. Guys definitely have an edge up on those squat toilets. It’s absolutely true that scams are everywhere and it’s always good to look out for them. Thanks! I love staying in hostels. There are so many bonuses, including meeting awesome people.

  • Reply
    Katherine
    July 15, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Great comprehensive list of backpacking in Southeast Asia. I agree about don’t be ashamed about eating Western food, we spent 2 weeks eating Vietnamese food whilst I love the food I was really glad to eat a pizza one night!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 27, 2017 at 9:56 pm

      Thank you so much. It just feels good to have a taste of home, doesn’t it? Pizza or pasta Carbonara are my go-to splurges.

  • Reply
    thebelgianwanderers
    July 15, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    Great tips! 🙂

  • Reply
    cassie
    July 15, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    These are seriously great tips-most I didn’t know about like the bathrooms, or the bottled water scams! Yikes, thanks for the heads up!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 27, 2017 at 10:01 pm

      Thank you! I’m glad to hear that I was able to help you out.

  • Reply
    Christina
    July 15, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    Some good tips here. There are plenty of scams you need to look out for throughout Asia but as long as you are aware of them you’ll be safe. The food is amazing everywhere!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 27, 2017 at 10:12 pm

      The food definitely is amazing everywhere. Being aware is one of the biggest truths!

  • Reply
    April
    July 16, 2017 at 12:46 am

    Such great advice that I have to agree with after backpacking in Thailand! I really wish I had read this before we went! Haha yes 7 eleven! I was so shocked but pleasantly surprised to see this. What a savior!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 27, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      Thanks! 7Elevens definitely got me through some days that my budget felt a bit tight. Those toasties… Yum! Ha

  • Reply
    Danik
    July 16, 2017 at 3:21 am

    Fantastic post and great tips here. I only done the major cities in China and KL and haven’t done any hardcore backpacking. So these tips will come in handy for me.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 27, 2017 at 10:17 pm

      I hope you have a lot of fun when you do go backpacking and that this list helps.

  • Reply
    Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad
    July 16, 2017 at 3:34 am

    Brilliant post, I don’t think I could add anything to it! I laughed at the lizard one – they really surprised me, but I loved them!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 27, 2017 at 10:20 pm

      Thank you! I was so terrified that I was going to take one with me in my backpack! Haha!

  • Reply
    Mindi Hirsch
    July 16, 2017 at 5:49 am

    So many great tips here! I especially like your tips about the food and coffee. We were just telling somebody last night about the great street food in SE Asia. I can’t wait to get back and eat more.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 27, 2017 at 10:23 pm

      Thanks, Mindi! I think the food is one of the top things that I’m most excited for. I cannot wait to get me some veggie noodles and pad thai in just over a month!

  • Reply
    Indrani
    July 16, 2017 at 6:55 am

    Back packing in South east Asia is lot different than in Europe. So precautions and reminders are very necessary.
    A good collection of important tips.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 27, 2017 at 10:25 pm

      It definitely is a lot different. Just as good, just different. Thank you for reading!

  • Reply
    Jetsettera
    July 16, 2017 at 7:06 am

    These are some really useful tips for people who want to set out on a big adventure around south-east Asia. It is important to be prepared for a big trip like this.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 8:30 pm

      Thanks! It really is important to have a good head on your shoulders before you go on any big trip, I think. Hopefully this will help someone.

  • Reply
    Megan Claire (@mappingmegan)
    July 16, 2017 at 7:52 am

    These are really great tips – especially taking a couple of extra passport photos with you – I had to get mine replaced while traveling as I left it unprotected in my luggage in extreme tropical climates. Passport photos came in really handy for replacing it – so I guess that’s my other tip – keep it in a weather controlled protector since many SE Asian countries are very humid! I had no idea that they could hit you for a “photo fee” at the border though – which I guess goes to your other tip to research common scams in the region you’re visiting.

    Thanks for sharing your insight – super helpful!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      Thank you! I never thought about keeping your passport in a weather-controlled protector. That’s a great idea. Oh yeah. It totally happened to me in Laos. The official visa price is one thing, and then you had to have a separate amount of money to hand them for your “stamping fee”. It was at the land crossing when we walked across the border.

  • Reply
    Jen Joslin
    July 16, 2017 at 8:04 am

    My partner and I have been living and traveling in Asia for the past six years, and you absolutely hit the nail on the head with these tips! As you mentioned, you don’t need to stress about booking ahead unless you’re traveling during a festival/holiday time. Otherwise, go with the flow and be flexible with your plans. You never know who you will meet or what you might learn along the way that will change the course of your journey 😀 Going to share this post with friends of ours who are visiting us in Cambodia soon!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 8:55 pm

      Thank you, Jen! I’m glad that even though my experience in Asia was much shorter, I still got a decent feel for it! Thanks so much for sharing it with your friends. I hope they enjoy Cambodia – it’s one of my favorites! My husband and I are going there in November!

  • Reply
    Natasha
    July 16, 2017 at 8:59 am

    This is brilliant as I am travelling to South East Asia in September for 9 months so all these tips are fantastic! One I find interesting is that Cambodia’s preferred currency is the USD, I would never of thought that! I also feel street food is some of the best food you will try. I will defo be doing it again when i’m over there! This is a fantastic article!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 8:58 pm

      Thanks, Natasha! I’m so glad that I could help! I was really shocked to find that out myself! I was especially irked when I had to pay a “foreign transaction fee” for my home-nation’s currency. Haha!

  • Reply
    Arnav Mathur
    July 16, 2017 at 9:30 am

    For anyone who has been to South East Asia or is planning to, these tips are bang on. I have been to Bangkok before, and I can very well relate with few of the tips. Am heading out to Vietnam in August, which is going to be a first for me – solo backpacking. So yeah am going to keep my expectations low, eyes and ears open and open up my personal space.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 9:05 pm

      Thank you so much, Arnav. Good luck on your first solo backpacking experience. It’s going to be a life-changer, I’m sure. Soak it all up and enjoy!

  • Reply
    Erica
    July 16, 2017 at 9:44 am

    You are so right about researching about the scam in each country! Each place has their own unique little hustle going on. Also, the squatting toilets, haha I don’t think I’ll ever be used to it.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      They absolutely do! I don’t enjoy them at all, but I sure do hate that I get used to them after a while. Haha!

  • Reply
    Karla
    July 16, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I am from South East Asia an reading through your list I found myself saying— yep, yep, yep! I often warn my guests about this too.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      That makes me feel good that I covered a lot of the tips you give! What country are you from?! I’d love some insider tips on locations!

  • Reply
    sherianne
    July 16, 2017 at 10:59 am

    I haven’t been to this part of the world and really don”t have it on my list, it always seemed too overwhelming. This helps A LOT — thanks for all the great tips, pinning this one

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 9:21 pm

      Oh I hope that you change your mind! It can be overwhelming at times, but it is just oh-so-beautiful! I’m glad that you think this helped though. Let me know if you decide to head that way and want any other tips! Xx

  • Reply
    Jenna Kvidt
    July 16, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    Haha, I love the bit about the lizards–“You sleep; it sleep.” 🙂 Too cute! Lots of great tips. Thanks for sharing! Completely agree about checking prices on dorms vs private rooms–there have been quite a few times we’ve saved money by booking a private room as a couple and it’s great to have the extra space!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 9:23 pm

      Haha! I’m really glad that people seem to be enjoying that. It was definitely a humbling experience for me – isn’t it interesting how the smallest things can be such big memories? It’s so true and it seems like that would never be the case, but we found that it was often the same or only $1 or $2 more. Which is nothing compared to the comfort.

  • Reply
    Siddhartha Joshi
    July 17, 2017 at 12:12 am

    Wow…those are some wonderful and practical tips. My own experiences of SE Asia travels are limited and I am sure these will come handy when I do make my way there more often in future 🙂

    The tips on night busses and trains is great, and works great in India as well 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 9:24 pm

      Thanks, Siddhartha! I’m glad you found it useful! I’m very glad that it’s helpful in India as well since I’m heading there for the first time in March for Holi!

  • Reply
    Darlene | PS+W
    July 17, 2017 at 4:51 am

    I liked that these tips came in bit size. Easier to digest and to remember. Makes me reminisce my own backpacking around Asia! Very practical and sensible tips.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 9:39 pm

      Thanks, Darlene. I tried to keep them short and sweet! 😉

  • Reply
    Trisha Velarmino
    July 17, 2017 at 6:13 am

    You’ve got a great list of tips for backpacking Southeast Asia, Paige!! Every tip is short but very informative. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks, Trisha! I appreciate you reading it!

  • Reply
    Lillie
    July 17, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Agree with so many of these, especially not stressing about booking ahead. I was wowed by how user-friendly tourism in SEAsia is!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 9:41 pm

      That’s very true! It’s very open to tourism.

  • Reply
    Heather
    July 17, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Excellent tips, a must-read for anyone traveling to SE Asia for the first time! I certainly wish I had these tips prior to my first visit. You did a great job of providing a lot of info in digestible doses. I can certainly relate to dipping into the 7-11 store just to get a much-needed blast of AC. The only other tip I can think of is It is to not point or gesture at someone with your foot (like when sitting). This can be taken as an insult.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      Thank you so much, Heather. I tried to keep them short and sweet, but I definitely wanted to make it easy for travelers to get tips I was glad I had had or wished I had hears. Oh! That’s a great one! I totally forgot about that! Thanks for reminding me.

  • Reply
    elphie1
    July 17, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    Researching the scams is SUCH a good idea! I wish I did that before I went to Peru we got scammed by the police! These are great tips

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 28, 2017 at 9:45 pm

      The police in the Philippines tried scamming us! It’s crazy! So much to research and it can be hard to know who to trust sometimes!

  • Reply
    Peter Korchnak
    July 17, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    What a comprehensive list, I agree with all of these. As I was reading through it, I was checking off items from my own experience. I’d have a hard time putting it all together like this, luckily you did it for the rest of us.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      Thank you, Peter! I appreciate you taking the time to read through them!

  • Reply
    kristelleclarae
    July 17, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    i remember my first solo southeast asia trip last year. it was one of the amazing experience i have ever did. Yes i like your thoughts that done plan super strict schedule. you dont know what youre going to miss

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:12 pm

      It’s so true. There are so many things that aren’t on the “banana pancake trail” that you’d hate to miss because you had already booked a place to stay every single night.

  • Reply
    Jenn and Ed Coleman
    July 17, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    This is a very solid list. I like “don’t forget your morals”, watch drinking and staying hydrated. Those three tips will take you a long way in life, even if you’re not backpacking.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:16 pm

      That’s absolutely true. I think SE Asia has taught me the most about ethical travels and even though I still make mistakes out of ignorance, I’m growing in that area with every trip.

  • Reply
    Archana Singh
    July 18, 2017 at 1:30 am

    Fantastic list for backpacking in South East Asia. And I agree many countries accept USD. Infact at some places they are more have to have dollars than their local currency.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:17 pm

      Thank you! I definitely saw that in Cambodia.

  • Reply
    jannaonajaunt
    July 18, 2017 at 1:42 am

    Great tips! I actually did some of the things you listed during my trip to Asia. I completely agree with most of the things you listed. And thank you reminding me of some that I have forgotten.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:18 pm

      Thank you for reading! I’m glad you could relate!

  • Reply
    AllGudThings
    July 18, 2017 at 5:41 am

    Thank you for such an extensive list. It is a wonderful list and it helps one to make up his/her mind before backpacking. Backpacking in Southeast Asia is really different.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      It is different, but it’s really special!

  • Reply
    Danielle Guy
    July 18, 2017 at 5:55 am

    This was a very great list, especially the warnings of people scamming you! I certainly want to see more of Asia, so I appreciated this advice! The squat toilets lol so much truth. When I lived in Turkey I would do anything for a European toilet!!
    http://www.daniellefarideh.com

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:23 pm

      I’m glad this was helpful to you! I bet! They take some getting used to, but my legs were toned as hell at the end of my trip. Haha 😜

  • Reply
    Shruti Prabhu
    July 18, 2017 at 10:00 am

    I’m not a backpacker but these tips are useful for me as well. Insect repellent is a must! I get bitten by bugs wherever I go. A little bit of research on the scams goes a long way! Great post!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      Thank you! My husband is like a walking buffet for insects so it’s a MUST for him, so he gets your pain. The mosquitos in Cambodia loved me, but after there I didn’t get many. I still bring that deet with me though.

  • Reply
    Annie
    July 18, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Oh this brings me back to living in Thailand! Great tips, especially waiting to change your money until you get there. Just make sure to use it all before you leave, or exchange at the border for the next country!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:28 pm

      Thanks! I learned that lesson the hard way. Especially with Laos kip. It took me forever to find a place in Thailand that would take it. I got lucky that our first few days were in Bangkok or I wouldn’t have found a place to exchange I don’t think.

  • Reply
    Tami
    July 18, 2017 at 11:32 am

    I have absolutely no intention of ever backpacking in southeast Asia, but I still found your list of tips very interesting. And of course, many of those tips apply to any travel!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      Some of these do apply to multiple locations or general travel for sure. I have to ask is it the backpacking part or the Southeast Asia part (or both) that you have no intention of doing?

  • Reply
    Foodie Flashpacker
    July 18, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Great tips! I wish I had something like this before I started on my trip. I could have not been scammed so much lol

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:32 pm

      Oh! I hate to hear that you got scammed a lot! Mind sharing your experience? I don’t want to fall victim to the same one!

  • Reply
    authenticfoodquest
    July 18, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    These are all valuable tips. Having just recently returned from Southeast Asia, I completely agree. Having TP is a big one a must…at all times!! Have a safe trip!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      Thank you! TP is essential. I’ve had to make several emergency stops in my travels, so I never leave without a roll.

  • Reply
    Rudderless Travel
    July 18, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    These are some fantastic tips. Asia is definately on my to go to list. The scams are a big one to watch out for…I’m always sceptical ever since visiting Paris and having a Gypsy trying to give me a brass ring try to pass it as gold for a few euros…wow. I like the idea of keeping some extra passport pics too!!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:52 pm

      Thanks! I’m sorry to hear that you almost got scammed in Paris. I don’t think anyone should live in fear abroad, but knowing what the scams are give you a step ahead, ya know?

  • Reply
    Cat
    July 18, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    All the great things to keep in mind when backpacking in SEA! It is important to have travel insurance when traveling long term. And you’re right, having some US dollars is a good idea!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:54 pm

      Travel insurance is one of those things you hope to never use, but you really miss it if you need it and don’t have it!

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    July 18, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    This is indeed an exhaustive list of tips for South East Asia, and something that is going to be of immense value to first time travelers. Water and food are something one needs to be prudent about, but definitely not paranoid as long as they are aware about the surroundings.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:55 pm

      Absolutely! I’m weary of being paranoid about anything. Just be aware and mindful, that alone will get you far.

  • Reply
    consiec2011
    July 19, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Wow, this is some list. Am super impressed you pulled together a tip for each week of the year. So many good ones though. Probably my biggest is to eat the street food. I reckon SE Asia is easily the best street food destination in the world. You’re massively missing out if you don’t give it a go!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      Hey! That is a tip for each week of the year! I didn’t even think of that. I agree. I met someone who was terrified of street food and I just instantly felt bad for all she had missed out on!

  • Reply
    emilykydd1984
    July 19, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    I spent 6 months in Southeast Asia about 12 years ago and definitely agree! Have a few things always on hand, toilet paper, sunscreen, a sense of patience. Great tip about the passport photos and taking a pic of a rental bike or scooter. We rented motorbikes out of Phuket and unfortunately one blew a tire during our day. Luckily, fixing it was cheap and speedy!
    Have a great time on your upcoming adventure, enjoy some street food for me!

    Cheers,
    Emily

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      Thanks, Emily! I’m glad you were able to fix that tire for cheap! Nothing can bring down a trip like an expensive fix. Luckily that wasn’t the case for you!

  • Reply
    Megan Indoe
    July 19, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    These are AMAZING tips and advice for anyone going to SE Asia! I especially love don’t have a strict schedule. We ended up loving that we had freedom and flexibility in our schedule as we kept meeting people and making alternative plans or trips with them along the way! I feel like everyone planning to go to SE Asia should read this useful set of tips!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      Thank you so much for the compliment! It’s amazing how one person you meet travel can totally rearrange your entire itinerary. Being flexible is the way to go.

  • Reply
    Christina
    July 20, 2017 at 12:14 am

    Such a great post!! I’m thinking about traveling around SE Asia early next year, so definitely bookmarking this for some future reading/reference. Great post xx

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 8:01 pm

      I’m glad you found this helpful. I hope you make it to SE Asia and keep me updated because we’ll still be there until March-ish when we go to India for Holi!

  • Reply
    Patricia Steffy (@PLSteffy)
    July 20, 2017 at 8:23 am

    These are fantastic tips! There was a time when I would have never considered going the backpacker route, but I’m tempted now, and I think my husband would be tempted too. Love the night train tip — we did that in Europe when I was a student and it made a huge budgetary difference. And I think the safety and “don’t get ripped off” tips (like taking pics of rentals when you rent them) here are excellent. Bookmarking this now!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 8:03 pm

      Thank you so much, Patricia! I really love backpacking and it’s truly what you make of it. It’s not all 21-year-old party craziness. I just love that it’s so budget-friendly to help us travel as long and far as we can!

  • Reply
    sarah ricks
    July 20, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    So good to hear about your good experiences with street food. I’ve felt a little nervous about trying it, but this is reassuring. Great ideas about Googling scams, extra passport photos, and being prepared for squat toilets – all news to me, so useful. And about not stressing about wi-fi!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 8:05 pm

      Thanks, Sarah! I’m glad you felt it was useful! I tried to write what I was glad to have known or wished I had known when I went on my first trip.

  • Reply
    Myrthe
    July 21, 2017 at 5:43 am

    That’s a great list you made. I can relate to all of them, especially the one about 7-eleven haha :-). Nice blogpost!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 8:07 pm

      Thank you. 7-Eleven is definitely heaven-sent when in SE Asia. Especially Thailand.

  • Reply
    eatyourego
    July 22, 2017 at 1:47 am

    Love this! Helpful and easy flow to each tip. I’m going backpacking after a year in Australia, so I’ll remember to read over this information once the trip is on the horizon.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 8:08 pm

      Thank you very much. I hope your trip is so much fun!

  • Reply
    100cobbledroads
    July 22, 2017 at 5:20 am

    This post offers insights and sets the expectations for anyone travelling to Southeast Asia, and specially backpackers. Once we are prepared, we can ignore the irritants and focus on the essentials…the real beauty of the region.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 8:09 pm

      Absolutely! I want people to be prepared so they can simply enjoy once they get there.

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    July 22, 2017 at 7:14 am

    I’m not a backpacker, but a fair amount of your tips also apply to any kind of travel in South East Asia. The geckos really don’t bother me – they even make it in to the most luxurious hotels. But I always make sure I keep my bags zipped up so that I don’t get any hitch hikers in my bags.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 29, 2017 at 8:10 pm

      Haha! Definitely don’t want any hitchhikers! I brought a hitchhiker on the plane from Mexico once and it sadly did not make it. So that’s a great tip to add to that tip.

  • Reply
    Agness of aTukTuk
    July 26, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Amazing and practical tips! Did you experience any scams that you’d like to share?

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 26, 2017 at 9:15 am

      I did encounter a few. Kids begging you to buy them formula, then they return it to the store and both the children and storeowners take a cut. (Very common in Cambodia)
      I also had a lot of teenagers trying to be our “guides” in Angkor Wat. They followed us around shouting random facts at us, ironically most about America, and then said they were our guide we need to pay them to help pay for school. It’s best not to give to children as it encourages them to not be in school where they should be and can truly benefit later in life.
      Then not agreeing upon a price first when getting in a cab. I had someone rig their meter in Vietnam and drive us in circles. I noticed it on the second circle, yelled at the man and demanded he let us out. He got very defensive, but ultimately I was right and he let us out and I refused to pay.

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