Travelling around South-East Asia: How to plan for a long trip

VIVA Team | 18th September 2016

South-East Asia is one of the most beautiful regions of the world, and an extremely popular destination for western tourists. Although perfectly suited to luxury holidays, the area is also synonymous with backpacking trips, and for good reason. If you want to travel on a budget and have the adventure of a lifetime, then South-East Asia is the right destination for you.


Where to go


Thailand is the first country many people think of when they consider travelling around South-East Asia. It should certainly be on any visitor’s itinerary. Bangkok is one of the busiest cities in the world and once experienced will never be forgotten. But the country is also home to unspoilt white sandy beaches in the south and remote hill stations in the north. Yes there are lots of tourists, but it’s still possible to get away from it all as well as attending the legendary beach parties and enjoying the amazing food that this country has to offer.


Vietnam is fast catching up with Thailand as a destination for its mixture of stunning scenery, history, culture and cuisine. Cambodia has Angkor Wat, one of the genuine wonders of the world, while Laos is still relatively undiscovered but is fast becoming a favourite for western visitors.


Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines shouldn’t be overlooked either. It’s impossible to see everything that South-East Asia has to offer even in one lifetime. If you’re going for six months or more you can sometimes get more out of staying in one spot for a while than you would constantly charging from one destination to the next. But equally don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track and explore the many possibilities that will arise.


Before you go


While you’re planning your itinerary and doing solid research (which is essential) it’s also important to take care of practical concerns before setting off. If you’re going away for six months or more then paying rent on a flat you won’t be using is an unnecessary expense you could do without. Subletting to a friend isn’t always an option, but thankfully there are some very affordable Self-storage units in Manchester where you can keep your belongings for far less than paying rent on an empty flat.


You’ll need travel insurance, visas and vaccinations. Make sure all your regular jabs are up to date, and add Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid, Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis. Malaria medication is recommended, but not everyone goes for this; consult your doctor on the best course of action.


Invest in a good quality backpack and travel as light as possible. Suitable clothing can be bought once you’re out there: it’s cheap and incredibly functional. But for outdoor wear like walking boots and waterproof jackets, bring these with you as they’ll be better quality and last longer.


Setting a budget


The big question everyone asks is how much will it cost? It’s true that in many places you can live for as little as £20 a day, including accommodation and food, but this doesn’t take into account extras like visa costs, passes for tourist sites, medication and toiletries. Special activities like scuba diving will also add hugely to your budget, and some countries are more expensive than others.


£1000 a month, not including flights and things you’ll need to pay for before you go, is probably a realistic budget. This assumes that you’ll mostly be sleeping in dorms and eating street food from local markets. But it also gives you leeway for an occasional restaurant meal or night in a hotel room, and the odd special treat.


Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are the cheapest countries to visit (think £500-£700 a month) while Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia are a little more expensive. Islands are generally pricier than the mainland, so Indonesia or the Philippines could see you needing that £1000 per month just for regular living costs.


Travelling in South-East Asia is a great way to have an exotic adventure that’s affordable and safe. It’s a great trip for first-time backpackers, and more experienced travellers will want to return again and again. For newbies, the big surprises will be how many people speak English, and how easy it is to get around. Travel and accommodation won’t always be comfortable, but roughing it is definitely a part of the experience.


Plan an itinerary but leave plenty of room for spontaneity. Be prepared to haggle, especially over room prices. And most of all have fun and make memories that you’ll treasure forever.