Pack to Backpack

Backpacking around the world!

Top 10 countries in Asia for backpacking

This is a top of my favourite countries to backpack in Asia. So far I visited 15 countries in this beautiful continent, but this top will only refer to SE Asia and the cheap countries around. I will exclude countries like Japan or Turkey, even though they are geographically in Asia.

10. Malaysia

Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

From a backpacking perspective, Malaysia is behind all other countries in this top. A bit more expensive, not a party place, mixed culture and nothing special about it really. It is a shame though that during all my three visits to this country I couldn’t visit the east coast because of the rain season. Perhentian Islands are paradise on earth, but I’m not sure about decent accommodation there.

  • Pros: infrastructure, modern, diverse
  • Cons: price, hostels
  • Must do: Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Perhentian Islands, diving
  • Duration: 2 weeks
  • Budget: 35-40$ per day

9. Laos

Kuangsi Waterfall in Luang Prebang

Apart from the most beautiful waterfall that I’ve ever seen and the parties in Vang Vieng, I didn’t feel that Laos has much to offer. If I was doing the Gibbon Experience maybe Laos was a bit higher in my top.

  • Pros: price, nature, party
  • Cons: infrastructure, drugs, accommodation
  • Must do: Kuangsi waterfall, Vang Vieng, tubbing
  • Duration: 1-2 weeks
  • Budget: 25-30$ per day

8. Myanmar (Burma)

Temples of Bagan during sunrise

Myanmar opened his borders to tourists just a few years ago and quickly became a tourist attraction in the region. Bagan and Inle Lake are really cool places, but other than that this country didn’t impress me too much. People are very nice and welcoming though.

  • Pros: people, culture, nature
  • Cons: infrastructure, food
  • Must do: Bagan, Inle Lake, trekking
  • Duration: 2 weeks
  • Budget: 30-35$ per day

7. China

Great Wall of China

A country that surprised me and that was above my expectations. From big cities with long history to amazing nature and mountains, travelling in China is an unique experience. A bit more expensive than other countries and getting a visa is a bit of a hassle.

  • Pros: culture, food, nature, infrastructure
  • Cons: price, language barrier, visa, censorship, distances
  • Must do: Beijing, Pandas in Chengdu, Great wall of china, Zhangjiajie national park
  • Duration: 3-4 weeks
  • Budget: 40-45$ per day

6. Sri Lanka

Lion’s rock in Syigiria

More suited for couples than lonely backpackers, Sri Lanka is a nice island that offers both beautiful beaches and mountains. It is similar to India in terms of culture and food and you can see the most important places in less than 3 weeks.

  • Pros: food, nature
  • Cons: infrastructure, accommodation
  • Duration: 2-3 weeks
  • Must do: surfing, hiking, train ride, Ella
  • Budget: 30-35$ per day

5. Cambodia

Angkor Wat

A country that is still recovering from the recent genocide and that become very popular among tourists for the famous temples in Angkor Wat and the beautiful islands in the south. One of the cheapest countries in Asia and obviously a party place.

  • Pros: price, culture, party
  • Cons: infrastructure, drugs, food
  • Must do: Angkor Wat, killing fields, Ko Rong Sanloem
  • Duration: 2-3 weeks
  • Budget: 25-30$ per day

4. Thailand

Monkey Island near Ko Lipe

The most touristic and developed country in SE Asia, Thailand is a good place to spend a few weeks or even a month. Each island has a different vibe and if you want to get away from the islands, the north of Thailand is a good place to be. It also has the best food, best parties and hundreds of temples to be visited. Also the cheapest place to learn scuba diving.

  • Pros: food, islands, beach, infrastructure
  • Cons: price, touristic
  • Must do: diving, party, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, islands
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • Budget: 40-45$/day

3. Philippines

Beach near Port Barton

Beautiful country, still underdeveloped in terms of infrastructure and tourism, but really worth visiting. Don’t be scared about the terrorist activity or other bad news on TV. I never felt in danger there and it is a country that I really want to visit again. Try to spend more time out of beaten track and explore the white sand beaches. Expect places with limited electricity or internet.

  • Pros: still not very touristic, easy to find spots away from tourists, incredible beaches, price
  • Cons: infrastructure, terrorism, food
  • Must do: Palawan, Port Barton, Cebu, Bohol, Shipwreck diving
  • Duration: 3-4 weeks
  • Budget: 30-35$ per day

2. Bali – Indonesia

Blue lagoon in Nusa Lembongan

Almost with the same number of points as number one, Bali in Indonesia is my second favourite place in Asia. I know Bali is not a country and it is very different from the rest of Indonesia, but I will make an exception. Splendid beaches, crystal clear waters, good diving and some cool volcano hikes. I especially liked the accommodation and the food in Bali. Most of the hostels and guesthouses are built in style, with plenty of vegetation around that gives you a zen feeling.

For a short holiday or for couples, Bali is a better option than Vietnam.

  • Pros: Good accommodation, culture, party, beach
  • Cons: price, westernized
  • Must do: Party in Canggu, diving/snorkeling with manta rays in Nusa islands, Temples in Ubud, hike the volcano
  • Duration: 2-3 weeks
  • Budget: 35-40$/day

1. Vietnam

Hoi An

And finally… my favourite country in SE Asia is Vietnam. It’s a country that doesn’t shine in one category in particular, but a country that has everything way above average. From the beaches in the south to the incredible Ha long bay and mountains in the north, Vietnam is just beautiful. More than that, the food is good, accommodation is cheap, history is fascinating and people are nice. And as a backpacker, it is probably the easiest country to make friends since everyone is travelling in the same direction.

  • Pros: cheap, sociable, diverse, food
  • Cons: transportation, thefts in big cities, scams
  • Must do: Hoi An, Hanoi, Dalat, ride Hai Van pass with a scooter
  • Duration: 1 month
  • Budget: 30-35$/day

Important notes

  • Budget is an average per day considering sleeping in hostels, eating local food, partying from time to time and visiting most important sights.
  • The recommended time is for spending 2-3 days in the most important places

Safe travels,

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