If you’re planning a Southeast Asia backpacking adventure, this guide offers budget-friendly routes and essential tips to enhance your journey. Southeast Asia is one of the most popular travel destinations for backpackers. And with good reason. The people are friendly, the region is inexpensive and breathtakingly beautiful. If you’re considering visiting the area but are having trouble choosing a backpacking route, you’ve come to the correct place! By learning about the affordable routes, you will understand the fundamentals of traveling in this part of the world.

Southeast Asia Backpacking -Budget-Friendly Routes and Tips

Budget Friendly Routes

Southeast Asia backpacking is not just a random trip. When planning a backpacking route to Southeast Asia, you’ll want to consider the popular trails most trekkers choose. These trails serve as a starting point to explore all the wonders. Let’s look at the top most visited trails by backpackers!

Southeast Asia Backpacking: Navigating the Banana Pancake Trail

Source: Google Images

The first is the banana pancake trail. You may wonder what the banana pancake trail is if you’ve never heard of it. It’s not a trail so much as a sequence of stops that wind through the region.

Usually, you start in Thailand, travel via Loas, and then go to Vietnam and Cambodia. The trail’s popularity stems from its passing through many well-known locations, such as the Angkor Wat temples. It is replete with hidden treasures like cafes, festivals, and beaches that provide unique touches to the trip.

Where to Start and What to See

If you plan to take the Banana Pancake, you’ll want to start from Bangkok. You can spend your nights at a hostel on the Khao San Road. Spend a few days touring the city and seeing some magnificent sights. There’s a lot to do; take in the vibrant nightlife or visit the floating markets in the area.

Southeast Asia Backpacking -Budget-Friendly Routes and Tips - Khao San Road

From there, it’s simple to go south and relax on sun-soaked islands. It’s really where everyone goes, so don’t’ forget less travelled areas like up north where you can take in the beautiful mountain cities, such as Pai. If you want to unwind and enjoy the stunning scenery, cross the border into Cambodia, where you can visit Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Other popular destinations on the path include Chiang Mai, Phuket, and the Thai Islands), Laos (Luang Praban), and Vietnam (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hoi An).

Southeast Asia Backpacking -Budget-Friendly Routes and Tips - Siem Reap


Although most trekkers take two to three months to complete the path, you may still see many things in just one month. Alternatively, you can extend it to six months if you have the time to do so.

Budget-Friendly Stops Along the Mekong River Trail

Another popular trail that many backpackers chose is the Mekong River Trail. Here, you will start on the Tibetan Plateau and travel through ancient places in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Many people choose this particular path not because they want to get from one place to the next but to enjoy everything the region has to offer, from bustling city life to quiet sunsets by the river.

Where to Start and What to See

Southeast Asia Backpacking -Budget-Friendly Routes and Tips - Luang Prabang

Some common stops along this particular path include Luang Prabang, Laos, where you can check out some of the beautiful riverside scenery. Head to the capital to enjoy a more vibrant atmosphere. From there, many journey to Siem Reap, Cambodia, home to the famous Angkor Wat temples, to the capital Phnom Penh. Travel into the Mekong Delta to discover more popular floating markets and river lifestyles. End your journey in Ho Chi Minh City to enjoy the city nightlife. Remember, there are additional stops that you can enjoy, including Yunnina, China, where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar merge.

Southeast Asia Backpacking -Budget-Friendly Routes and Tips - Ho Chi Minh City at night

When to Go

If this sounds like it’s for you, the best times to go are generally from November to February. You won’t be likely to encounter downpours and  experience the intense heat that you would in the summer months.

The Thai Island Circuit

If you are looking for island vibes, consider the Thai Island Circuit. Most people complete this circuit within 2-3 weeks, and it’s perfect for those looking to enjoy the water and relax on the beach.

Where to Start and What to See

There are a lot of choices, and where you start is up to you. But a lot of people choose to start with famous islands like Koh Phi Phi or Phuket because of the vibrant nightlight and iconic beaches. But consider other islands like Koh Mak or the Similan Islands to escape the crowds and have a new experience. Ferries and speedboats can get you from one island to the next, offering some of the most amazing views.

Southeast Asia Backpacking -Budget-Friendly Routes and Tips - Koh Phi Phi

When To Go

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, plan your trip between November and April and avoid December and January.

Southeast Asia Backpacking: Sumatra-Java-Bali Trail

Southeast Asia Backpacking -Budget-Friendly Routes and Tips - Tumpak Sewu Waterfalls in East Java

This trail covers only one country, Indonesia, but offers adventure and takes you on a less-beaten path. 

Where to Start and What to See

The journey usually starts in Sumatra. You may want to explore the Mentawai Islands’ beaches or hike through Bukit Lawang’s jungle. Visit historic streets and temples, like Prambanan, when you next travel to Java, the region’s capital. Most travelers finish this portion of their tour in Bali. Not only does it have incredibly breathtaking ocean views, but you can also see its gorgeous highlands and volcanoes.


A typical journey takes around a month and a half because planning it like this gives you about 1-2 weeks to stay in each town/city.

Southeast Asia Backpacking: Helpful Tips

There are a lot of possibilities here, so make sure to plan out your itinerary and choose your destination. If you cram too much, your trip will seem like a race from one destination to the next. 

Choose Your Path Wisely 

Instead of choosing every place you want to go, you might be better off taking things slow and choosing the destinations you can fully immerse yourself in rather than picking every destination you wish. Because there’s a lot to see and do, after all. Remember to buy yourself an excellent travel wallet or bag to put all your essentials in while traveling. 

Find your Favorite Dish for Cheap

Southeast Asia Backpacking -Budget-Friendly Routes and Tips - street food

For foodies, take advantage of the unique mix of dishes you can find on the street markets. Thai food is lovely, and big cities like Saigon offer a meal for less than a dollar. Stay away from the fast-food choices that are more expensive and, honestly, less healthy than the options you can find elsewhere. While there are plenty of food choices, remember to bring a good water bottle, though you can’t drink water everywhere.

Activities a Plenty

Remember to take advantage of the many fun activities there are. You can go scuba diving, paragliding, or take a hot air balloon ride if you feel adventurous, or you can take time to interact with elephants; all of these activities you can do for as low as $30-$40. Take your time to plan and budget accordingly. 

Southeast Asia on a Shoestring: Budgeting for Your Backpacking Trip

Southeast Asia Backpacking -Budget-Friendly Routes and Tips - Budgeting for Your Backpacking Trip

If you’re wondering how much you’ll spend, expect around $20-$30 daily. This will cover your basics, like activities, food, and transportation. However, if you want more comfort, like rooms and tours and better dining, expect to spend around $40-$50 per day.

Southeast Asia Backpacking: Budget-Friendly Routes and Tips

So that’s it! By considering the trails you can take, you can make the most of your Southeast Asia backpacking trip. The tips and locations shared here will help you plan your next Southeast Asian trip. Make sure you take everything in and enjoy your time while there! And please share your questions, comments and photos.

If you guys enjoyed this article, I strongly suggest you take a look at this one as well. 😉

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