Are you thinking of traveling to Southeast Asia and want some inspiration on the best SEA backpacking route? With so much to see and do in this region of the world, it can be hard figuring out how long to spend here and where to go! To help you get an idea of how much you can see with 3 months in Southeast Asia, take a look at the backpacking route I took across Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Psst, this post contains affiliate links. Read our disclosure.
Backpacking Southeast Asia was hands down one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Building up the courage to jump on a plane by myself and backpack solo around the countries of Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam completely changed who I was and irrevocably impacted the person I am today! (In, like, the best way possible.)
If you’re considering a Southeast Asia backpacking trip and wondering if it’s the right decision, this is your sign.
This is your sign to reserve that plane ticket, pack up your bags, and get your butt over to Southeast Asia for the wild ride that is backpacking this wondrous region of the world!
(That is, of course, when it’s safe to do so and this whole ridiculous pandemonium thing is over. I’m guessing we’ll be able to safely resume backpacking and travel sometime in 2022… maybe the end of 2021 if we’re lucky.)
But anyways, I digress. Southeast Asia is an incredible place to backpack, especially if you’re looking to travel long-term on a small budget!
In the sections below, I’m covering how I spent 3 months backpacking Southeast Asia, including what countries I went to, how much time I spent in each, and the places I visited in each country.
Don’t forget to read my 4-part guide on everything you need to know about backpacking Southeast Asia! Part 1 covers how to prepare for your trip, part 2 covers what you should expect when there, part 3 covers budgeting and saving money, and part 4 covers all the miscellaneous must-know tips!
HOW I SPENT 3 MONTHS BACKPACKING SOUTHEAST ASIA
You’ll find the countries of Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam on this 3 month Southeast Asia backpacking route, as well as some of the top cities to visit in SEA, like Bangkok, Siem Reap, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City.
This itinerary could be considered the so-called “Banana Pancake Trail” but with a little twist, as it starts in Bali, which I think is a must-visit in Asia!
Also, don’t miss out on reading to the bottom! I’m including some of my favorite tips on how to best backpack Southeast Asia for a ridiculously awesome trip.
First things first — where the heck do you fly into?
Well, personally, I bought a one-way flight from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Denpasar in Bali, Indonesia. It costs me around $600 for a one-way flight from MN to Bali.
As someone who was yearning to visit Bali, I found this was the best place to start my 3 month Southeast Asia backpacking trip. Not to mention, flying from Bali to the rest of Southeast Asia is pretty simple, too, as it’s become a major destination among travelers.
While in Bali, I spent 3 weeks here and traveled to:
- Kuta/Seminyak (3 nights) — awesome nightlife and restaurants
- Canggu (5 nights) — discovered the amazing vegan food here!
- Ubud (4 nights) — incredible waterfalls and awesome day trips
- Amed (3 nights) — fantastic for snorkeling and low-key beach days
- Gili T (5 nights) largest of the 3 Gili Islands; super chill, good food, great nightlife, and even better snorkeling
- Nusa Penida + Nusa Dua (day trip from Kuta) — exceptional islands off the Bali coast that are perfect for snorkeling, kayaking, and boating around
Some of my favorite places I stayed on the island of Bali include The Ruum Hostel Canggu (SUPER cheap), Green Paddy Hostel & Villa in Ubud (amazing atmosphere and pool!), and Voodoo Gili on Gili Trawangan (new property and a fabulous pool).
After spending 3 weeks traveling around Bali, Indonesia, I flew from Denpasar to Bangkok, Thailand, and spent 2 weeks hopping around its islands.
When mapping out my route around Thailand, I initially planned on doing the southern region and then heading on up to spend 10 days in Northern Thailand… however, fate got in the way and I ended up following a newfound love interest to Laos after just two weeks here!
(Hint: this love interest is now my long-time British boyfriend, Dan! So I’d say it worked out. 😉 )
Anyways, in the two weeks I spent in Thailand, I visited:
- Bangkok (4 nights; split between two visits) — exceptional nightlife, food scene, and cultural highlights
- Krabi (2 nights) — great base for exploring nearby attractions and islands; good nightlife
- Koh Phi Phi (3 nights) — party central, beautiful views, and good eateries
- Koh Tao (3 nights) — awesome snorkeling, beautiful beaches, fun nightlife, and stunning viewpoints
- Koh Phangan (2 nights) — *for the half moon party, which was incredible (you could also do the full moon party if planned right)
Also, it’s important to know I opted for bus transportation between Bangkok and southern Thailand, which is about a 16-20 hour ride. I was backpacking Southeast Asia on a budget and this was the most cost-effective option!
If you’re wanting to speed things up and you have the monetary means, taking a plane is also an option.
(However, if you’re aiming to be a more sustainable traveler, bus transportation is the way to go!)
Regarding accommodations, there’s not many places I can recommend. However, here are some places I wish I would have stayed! As they all have raving reviews from fellow Southeast Asia backpackers.
These accommodations include Folk Poshtel Asok (Bangkok), Slumber Party Hostel (Krabi/Ao Nang), JJ Bungalow (Koh Phi Phi), Koh Tao Heritage (Koh Tao), Na-tub Hostel (Koh Phangan), Maitria Hotel Sukhumvit 18 Bangkok (Dan and I did personally splurge and stayed here! It was fantastic).
Not sure what to pack? Check out my packing guides! I have one on 10 odd essentials I never travel without, my favorite zero waste packing essentials, best chemical-free and zero waste sunscreen, and what to wear (and NOT wear) in Thailand.
After backpacking around Thailand for two weeks, I headed to Laos and spent around one and a half weeks there! This country was a top destination highlight on my 3 month Southeast Asia backpacking trip, as it completely surpassed my expectations!
With 1.5 weeks in Laos, I traveled to:
- Luang Prabang (3 nights) — Kuang Si waterfall, Mekong Delta boat rides, temples and palaces, and incredible cultural activities and attractions
- Vang Vieng (5 nights) — incredible landscapes, caves, blue lagoons, temples, and river tubing
- Vientiane (2 nights) — stunning temples, incredible markets, Buddha statue park, and amazing museums
To find out more about what I did with my time in Laos, read my other posts on two weeks in Laos, the best things to do in Vang Vieng, and top things to do in Vientiane! You’ll find some good Southeast Asia backpacking inspiration and tips in those posts.
Following my jaunt in Laos exploring its major destinations of Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, and Vientiane, I went to Cambodia and spent around one and a half weeks there as well!
While in this magical country, I visited:
- Siem Reap (4 nights) — Angkor Wat, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and cool cultural attractions
- Phnom Penh (3 nights) — amazing temples, bumping nightlife, pristine palaces, awesome markets, and lots of great food stops
- Sihanoukville (3 nights) — day trip to the pristine island of Koh Rong, great nightlife, fun boat trips, and a relaxing beach atmosphere
Sounds pretty amazing, eh?
If you’re backpacking Southeast Asia and plan on visiting Cambodia, I highly recommend adding Angkor Wat at sunrise to your bucket list! As well as Sihanoukville or the island of Koh Rong for a relaxing beach getaway.
And don’t forget to read my blog post on the things you must know before traveling to Cambodia!
Plan on staying in a lot of hostels? Don’t forget to read my post on must-have hostel essentials every traveler needs to have on their packing list!
Vietnam is the country I spent the most time in when backpacking Southeast Asia for 3 months. Considering this country is so long, it can take a while to get from destination to destination! Especially if using buses as the main mode of transportation, which I did.
So to make sure I had enough time to see the best of what Vietnam had to offer, I spent 30 days here and explored the following destinations:
- Hanoi (3 nights) — discover the best things to do in Hanoi here
- Sapa (3 nights) — amazing hiking, motorbiking opportunities, and lovely locals (read this post on my top Sapa tips before heading there)
- Halong Bay (2 nights) — wondrous landscapes filled with karst limestone mountains and beautiful blue bays
- Ninh Binh (2 nights) — known as the “Halong Bay of Inland Vietnam”; gorgeous scenery, temples and boat rides
- Phong Nha (3 nights) — incredible caves to visit, mountains, hiking opportunities and backpacker nightlife
- Hue (2 nights) — known as “Vietnam’s Imperial City” with museums, temples, and more; also has an abandoned waterpark that is so cool to visit
- Hoi An (3 nights) — magical town known for its lanterns and beautiful architecture; also has lovely beaches
- Da Lat (3 nights) — great for unique temples, waterfalls, motorbike adventures, coffee plantations, and incredible canyoning experiences
- Mui Ne (3 nights) — sand dunes, lovely beaches, a magical fairy stream, and unique landscapes
- Ho Chi Minh City (4 nights) — incredible nightlife and sky bars, bustling markets, fantastic museums, historic sites and attractions, and some really cool architecture
For more information on a Vietnam itinerary and backpacking trip, read my post on how to spend one month in Vietnam! Near the bottom of the post, you can find my top Vietnam travel tips, how much it costs to backpack Vietnam, and more.
Additionally, check out my other posts on Vietnam — 9 reasons to visit Vietnam, 10 incredible experiences to have in Vietnam, 16 remarkably useful things to know before traveling Vietnam, and the peculiar tale of how a girl fell madly in love with Sapa, Vietnam.
Wondering where to stay in Vietnam?
Here are some of the top places I bunked at — Vietnam Backpackers Hostel – Downtown (Hanoi), The Little Hmong House Homestay (Sapa), Trang An Eco Homestay (Ninh Binh), Central Backpackers Hostel (Phong Nha), Azumi Villa (Hoi An), Mui Ne Hills Backpackers, and The Hangout Hostel Saigon (HCMC).
After traveling throughout Vietnam, I then caught a flight out of Ho Chi Minh City to my next destination, which was the UK and then back home to Minnesota! Ho Chi Minh City is a nice destination to end your 3 month Southeast Asia backpacking trip in because it’s quite a big hub that’s easy to fly out of.
Furthermore, I want to mention that this Southeast Asia backpacking route is simply an outline you can use for inspiration on how to plan your own amazing trip!
If you end up liking one destination more, stay there a bit longer! Don’t like a place as much or not feeling the vibe? Get outta there and go to your next stop!
One great thing about booking your accommodations through Booking.com or Agoda (which are my favorite booking sites) is that you often get free cancellation. This means you can have a more flexible plan!
Anyways, I’m a big fan of Southeast Asia and as someone who typically travels on a budget, this region of the world is incredibly affordable for many backpackers! So that’s always a win in my book.
To help you plan for your trip even more, check out these posts:
- Scoring cheap flights • The top sites I use to book affordable flights
- What to wear in Thailand (and what NOT to wear!)
- Psst, many elephant “sanctuaries” and elephant experiences aren’t ethical or responsible. Here’s why.
- 15 things that shocked me when backpacking Southeast Asia for the first time
- Must-have hostel essentials every traveler needs to have on their packing list
Curious to know what camera I use to take my photos while backpacking? I always travel with a Sony A7 Mirrorless camera and GoPro camera! They’re both lightweight and compact, and fit great in my carry-on travel bags.
My Top Tips for Backpacking Southeast Asia
Last but not least, it’s important to follow a few of my top Southeast Asia backpacking tips.
#1 — ALWAYS Get Travel Insurance
Southeast Asia can be an unpredictable and sometimes dangerous place. You never know what can happen when backpacking so it’s important to cover your ass by getting comprehensive travel insurance.
#2 — Check if You Need a Visa
Many countries in Southeast Asia require visitors to have a certain visa.
This depends on what country you’re from but from what I can remember, all countries on this 3 month Southeast Asia backpacking itinerary require visitors who hold a passport from the USA, Canada, or the UK to have a visa that you must pay for.
I recommend using iVisa for both checking if you need a certain visa and actually getting the right visa through them. They’re online visa process is super simple and completely affordable! Not to mention, it takes off the stress of getting it at the border or in the airport.
Check out iVisa here. Or use the widget below to put in your specific information!
#3 — Use Common Sense
If you’re a young backpacker in Southeast Asia, it can be tempting to slip into the Southeast Asia oblivion and get caught up in the partying, wild rides, and oftentimes, the drugs.
However, I recommend using your common sense and doing only what you know you can handle!
This doesn’t mean skipping out on all the fun — I would never do that myself! I just want to stress that you should not simply do what everyone else is doing; only do what feels comfortable to you and make sure to stay safe!
For example, I went too far in Vang Vieng, Laos, and did some very sketchy drugs. It was NOT fun and I would not recommend it to anyone. I failed to listen to my intuition or common sense and it could have ended really badly. Thankfully, nothing went wrong but that experience still haunts me!
Alright, with those top tips and my 3 month Southeast Asia backpacking route above, you can start planning your own backpacking trip here ASAP!
Tell me, are you wanting to backpack Southeast Asia for 3 months, or are you wanting to spend a shorter/longer amount of time there? Do you have any other questions for me? Stick your thoughts and Qs in the comment section below!
Not sure what to check out next? Readers love these posts:
- Backpacking Southeast Asia travel guide: preparing for your trip (Part 1 of 4)
- Packing for my long-term trip to southeast Asia
- 10 airport travel tips all flyers should know
- The best chemical-free, zero waste sunscreen to pack for Bali
- 10 odd essentials I’ll never travel without
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As mentioned above, this post contains affiliate links. Which means if you make a purchase through the links, this site receives a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read our full disclosure here.