Southeast Asia Itinerary Suggestions For 2 Weeks To 2 Months

How to plan a realistic route for your Southeast Asia trip

Buddhist temple in northern Thailand

If you plan to travel in Southeast Asia, then you’ve made a good choice!

Backpacking in Southeast Asia is easily one of the best things you can do. The region offers more adventure than you can shake a stick at, and for the most part, it’s incredibly inexpensive to travel in

“But how much time do you need to see Southeast Asia?“, you might wonder. Honestly, as much time as you possibly have.

My first-ever backpacking trip to Asia lasted a whopping nine months. You can spend all that time (or more!), never get bored, and still barely scratch the surface. But rest assured, it’s also entirely possible to have a fantastic travel experience in Southeast Asia lasting a couple of weeks or months. 

Your only challenge will be in deciding where to go and how much time to spend in each place. But that can be easier said than done…

Having made several trips all over Southeast Asia, let me try to offer you some advice.

First: don’t bite off too much!

This is the most important tip I can share about creating your route for Southeast Asia.

I know you’ll be intensely tempted to include every highlight listed in your travel guide. But unless you have all the time in the world, chances are your route is already too ambitious.

It’s usually better to focus. Think about it: do you want to see loads of stuff only very superficially (and tire yourself by continually moving from place to place in a hurry)? Or do you want to pick a more realistic number of places and then see them in a more meaningful way?

If your answer is the former, that’s okay. Not everyone likes to travel the same way. But personally, I think it’s better to pace yourself.

On travel forums and on Reddit I often see people asking if, say, three weeks is enough to see Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. While it’s technically possible, I don’t recommend it. You would probably need another holiday just to recover from such a hectic schedule, and you’re likely to experience many places only very fleetingly. 

Cutting back and streamlining your itinerary can actually improve your trip, as you will have more time to get to know a country instead of just ticking things off a list. 

It’s also nice to have some recovery time in your schedule, as you might be too tired after a long journey to immediately go sightseeing.

Not to mention, it’s easy to underestimate the time and distances involved. While bus and train services are decent in Vietnam or Thailand, in Laos or Cambodia you’ll often have to deal with old rickety buses with engines that regularly overheat, or minivan services that will toss passengers like a salad as they zig-zag around potholed roads. This is all part of the adventure, but it does slow you down.

While you could take shortcuts by taking lots of regional flights, that can limit you only to the most accessible and most touristy hubs (and risks robbing your journey of some of the romance of overland travel). This is why I recommend picking several areas of focus for your trip.

The fishing village of Mui Ne in Vietnam

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Balancing your itinerary

During your planning phase, your attention will inevitably turn to the Big Things, the must-see places, the UNESCO world heritage sites. These are a good starting point.

Such major sights are easier to find information about, easier to plan for, and easier to get excited about when you’re still at home. In researching the region you may have already built up some expectations for places like Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Angkor Wat in Cambodia or Koh Phi Phi in Thailand.

These major landmarks can form the backbone of your itinerary, as they’ll ensure some definite wow-moments along the way. But don’t forget the smaller experiences too!

It’s often the humbler moments I remember most fondly from my travels in Asia, like riding a scooter through rice fields in northern Thailand, watching the sun set over the Mekong river in Laos, or just enjoying a delicious bowl of Pho noodles at a local market in Vietnam. 

If you are finding it impossible to fit in all the big bucket list items, don’t beat yourself up about it too much. You route simply may not be able to capture them all. Just know that between the famous sights are plenty of smaller things you may enjoy just as much.


Southeast Asia major sights and destinations

Just some of the major sights in Southeast Asia (there are many more!). Depending on how much time you have, hitting up all of the “big things” on your list may be impossible.


South-East Asia in 2 weeks

2 weeks is not a lot, but it may be all that you have available. Southeast Asia is a big region, which means you’ll have to make some tough decisions.

If you only have two weeks, consider just picking one country. Some 2-week itineraries out there suggest flying everywhere and spending just two or three days per country, but I think it’s much nicer to focus.

Focusing on Thailand

If this is your first South-East Asia visit, your best bet is probably Thailand. Even though areas like Phuket are mainly focused on mass tourism and fly-and-flop beach holidays, Thailand is still an amazing entry point into the region for any independent traveler. The food is phenomenal, travel logistics are relatively easy, and you’re spoiled for interesting attractions.

Be sure to read about some of the best places to see in Thailand, or check out my Thailand itinerary for a rough template for a 2 week or longer trip in Thailand.

From Bangkok you could make an excursion into Cambodia to see the sprawling temples of Angkor Wat, either by bus (7 hours) or by flying directly to Siem Reap. But Thailand also has its own ancient temple ruins at Ayathuya and Sukhothai, which are also located more conveniently on the way from Bangkok to northern Thailand.

Focusing on Vietnam

Vietnam is also an excellent choice for a shorter trip. It has some of the most buzzing cities and markets in the region, some fascinating history, and world-famous karst islands. Transportation options are good, including a railway route spanning the whole length of the country. To see all the highlights takes at least 3 or 4 weeks though, so if you have only 2 weeks to spend you could consider a domestic flight to cover more ground, or focus on seeing only specific parts of Vietnam.

Key sights in the north include Halong Bay and the rice terraces of Sapa, while the south is home to the capital and the Mekong Delta. My guide to travelling in Vietnam has some more tips.

Koh Rong island in Cambodia is a little slice of paradise

South-East Asia in 4 weeks

4 weeks gives you more to work with, but it’s realistically still too tight for hitting up all of mainland South-East Asia. My suggestion is to focus on the two countries that appeal to you most.

Some people will hate me for saying this, but Laos should probably be the first to drop from your list. Don’t get me wrong: Laos is a wonderful back-in-time kind of place. I love the Buddhist calm of Luang Prabang and the nature in Laos is beautiful.

But… it’s also a very thinly populated and stretched-out country. Buses are ancient and sloooooow and will regularly break down. To put things into perspective, getting to Vietnam from Laos by bus takes a life-destroying 36-hour ride. The capital Vientiane is in my view also the least interesting capital in the region. So if you are pressed for time, Laos might just not be your top priority. Again, I did love Laos a lot, so I only say this in the context of being absolutely forced to make a choice.

These countries are more conveniently combined into one trip:

  • Thailand + Cambodia. Start in Bangkok, then hit up northern Thailand for temples and trekking. Go back down and head into Cambodia from Bangkok. Visit Angkor Wat and head on to Phnom Penh, where you shouldn’t miss the heart-wrenching but must-see genocide museums. Loop back towards Thailand, then stay in the south of Thailand for some quality beach time. Alternatively, pick some of the much less-visited beaches in Cambodia.
  • Vietnam + Cambodia. Begin in north Vietnam, visit Halong Bay, and work your way south. Vietnam alone could take you 2,5 or 3 weeks; keep at least one week free to dip into Cambodia and see Angkor Wat and other Cambodia highlights. End your trip with some quality beach time on Phu Quoc in Vietnam or on the Cambodian islands. Alternatively, you could start in southern Vietnam, head west into Cambodia, circle upwards and back east after Siem Reap, go through a bit of southern Laos, and end on a beach in Vietnam (for instance in lovely Hoi An).

I’m not saying you must stick to just two countries: you could easily decide to do three. I’m only saying two countries in four weeks will give you a very nice unhurried pace and a chance to truly get to know these countries.

Banteay Kdei Temple near Angkor Wat. Many of the temples are overgrown with giant trees.

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South-East Asia in 2 months or more

2 months is the perfect minimum time to enjoy all four countries in mainland South-East Asia without having to rush.

You can follow the complete so-called ‘Banana Pancake’ trail, a well-trodden Southeast Asia backpacker route that runs through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

In case you were wondering, this trail was named after the guesthouses that were all starting to sell banana pancakes back when hippies were trailblazing around this region in the 1970s. At the time this pancake breakfast offered the only relief from the usual rice-based meals. The name doesn’t make that much sense anymore but it’s what stuck!

Southeast Asia backpacking route

A classic backpacker route for mainland Southeast Asia requiring 2 months or more.

Most people start their South-East Asia trip in Bangkok simply because it has the most (and the cheapest) flight connections. Spend a few days acclimatizing and exploring Bangkok, then take the train up to Chiang Mai. Consider going to Pai and exploring the Mae Hong Song loop, then head to Chiang Rai near the Laotian border. You can get a more detailed description of this segment on my Thailand itineraries page.

I can highly recommend taking the 2-day slow boat into Laos from Huay Xai at the Thai border, which stops in Pakbeng (a small town in Laos) and ends up in Luang Prabang. While nowadays it’s possible to transit faster by bus, the boat ride lets you experience the Mekong, see the landscape change, and get a glimpse of the locals who live along the river. It’s also a fantastic way to meet other travellers; I kept bumping into people from the boat all over this South-East Asia backpacking route for months after.

Take one or two weeks to see Laos, then make your way to Vietnam. Consider skipping the epic 30+ hour bus ride from Laos to northern Vietnam and fly from Vientiane to Hanoi instead. Or dip down into southern Laos to see Si Phan Don (the Four Thousand Islands) and cross into Vietnam near Hue, though you will miss Ha Long Bay and other sights in northern Vietnam unless you are okay with backtracking a little.

Make your way down Vietnam, stopping at popular locations including Hoi An, Mui Ne, and the Mekong Delta near the capital of Ho Chi Minh City.

Head into Cambodia, stopping in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and possibly other places as well. The Cambodian islands such as Koh Rong, Koh Kong and Rabbit Island are much less crowded than the ones in Thailand, so these are worth a look.

Finally, make your way to Thailand and find a beach to spend your remaining time relaxing in the sun.

Expanding your route

So far I’ve focused on the core countries of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, as these are among the most popular.

With more time to spare you could take the full loop described above (but stay longer in places or take detours), but you can also consider expanding your route outwards.

Malaysia is an obvious destination to add. Its a more conservative country with quieter beaches than in Thailand, while Malaysian Borneo has some of the best (and most accessible) wildlife experiences.

I’m a big fan of Indonesia, which is very touristy on Bali but much less-visited (in a good way) on most other islands. I like Flores and the Komodo Islands a lot and highly recommend these parts if you want to go off the usual trail.

Myanmar is another fascinating destination. Tourism still isn’t much developed there so it’s a great place to go for more of an authentic cultural experience.

But one of my favorite countries in the region is The Philippines, which is far removed from everywhere else but all the more rewarding. This country has some of the most beautiful beaches, islands, and reefs around. Its culture is a fascinating mix of influences, and the rice terraces at Batad are even more impressive than those in northern Vietnam.

Or… don’t listen to me!

On this page I’ve merely shared some of the common wisdom for travelling Southeast Asia. But maybe you have different ideas, in which case you shouldn’t let anyone tell you what to do.

For instance, earlier I advised against going to Laos if you are short on time, but maybe you are actually attracted by this more adventurous country… in which case, why not spend your time there instead of Thailand? You’ll probably come home with a few more original stories to tell. Many people have seen the temples in Bangkok, which is a staple tourist attraction, but not so many have lived in a treehouse in the jungles of Laos surrounded by gibbons. So what if transportation is slow – unique experiences like these can be well worth the hassle.

Every part of the region really has its own appeal, and in the end the only limit is your imagination. You certainly shouldn’t be afraid to go off the beaten track in Southeast Asia.

If you have at least a few weeks then improvisation becomes not only viable but also a lot of fun. In Southeast Asia you typically don’t need to reserve much in advance, so you can always just wing it and see where adventure takes you.

Important note about Vietnam

If your Southeast Asia trip includes Vietnam, keep in mind the visa process for this country is relatively more complex. Unlike some other countries, you typically can’t just show up at the border.

To enter Vietnam you often have to get prior approval for a visa-on-arrival, or you have to get a visa in advance from an embassy. Some ways of entering Vietnam are only applicable at airports and not at land borders. Another annoying thing: for your Vietnam visa you have to specify the start date in advance.

This can be a complicating factor when planning your Southeast Asia route. See: my easy-to-follow Vietnam visa explainer.


Cost of travel in Southeast Asia

One factor that I haven’t yet mentioned, but which may influence your itinerary, is the cost of each country and your overall budget.

Southeast Asia is an inexpensive region to travel by Western standards, though there are still big differences in cost within in. Thailand’s islands and beaches, Singapore, Myanmar and the Philippines are relatively more expensive for instance, while Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and much of Indonesia are quite a lot cheaper. For more, check out my travel budgets for Southeast Asia.

Regional flights can add much to your overall expenses, so it might make sense for you to choose countries that connect well overland.

It’s difficult to say how much a trip in Southeast Asia will cost, as everyone goes to different countries and has different standards or travel style. That said, I usually recommend budgeting about USD $1100 a month or $35 a day per person. But if you stay in the cheapest backpacker hostels, eat local food, and stick to the cheapest countries, you may well manage for as little as $20 a day.

Further reading

Around the web

Map of Southeast Asia by FreeVectorMaps

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  1. Sammi Reply January 15, 2018 at 7:48 pm


    Absolutely brilliant post – thank you so much. I’m probably going to stick to all your suggestions, not just because they’re great but also because I’m completely out of my depth and don’t know where to begin!

    Beginning to plan my travels from September-August, so I’ve a full year. I’m travelling from Ireland and want to spend around 3-4 months in SEA and the rest in Australia on a working holiday visa. (Maybe leave Australia early to do some more of SEA)

    Weather wise, do you think it’s best to go to Australia first then travel SEA? Or do you think it really matters?

    Am so excited and now I’m even more excited! First time traveller.

    Hope you can help, any suggestions and advice welcome!

    Sammi x

    • Marek Reply January 16, 2018 at 7:00 pm

      Hey Sammi. I’d probably do SEA first. Sept to Dec-Jan is a very nice time to travel there. You’ll get a bit of the shoulder season and a bit of the high season. You’ll have some great weather.

      I’ve only been to Australia once, but I believe the summer there is until Feb, so being in Oz after that for a bit of the summer + autumn doesn’t seem bad. 🙂

  2. Eric Reply December 23, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Hi Marek,

    Thanks for your wonderful site. A lot of useful information here. Its amazing that you can travel for so long and so frequently. How do you do it!

    Any ways, I was wondering if I can get some advise from you. My GF and I are currently on a 6 months trip through Japan and SEA. We’ve done 2 months in Japan and 3 weeks in Thailand already. Currently in Cambodia. Other destinations with flights already booked are Malaysia (for 3 weeks after Cambodia), India (2 weeks), Nepal (2 weeks), then back to Thailand (2 weeks) then a layover in Japan and back home.

    We are currently in Siem Reap with Angkor Wat and the Tomb Raider temple already visited. The problem we have is that the original plan was to have a Cambodian cousin of my gf’s to guide us around through the less touristy area but we’ve found out that he is no longer available. We’ve heard from local family members that Phnom Penh/Sihanoukville has became more increasingly dangerous. So we may end up bypassing 2 weeks of PP and Sihanoukville. We’ve reserved 1 month for Cambodia and we may have too much time on our hands now. We will be going to Battambang for a week or less. So now we are wondering if we should fly out to another country after Battambang.

    Unfortunately we do have a flight booked to fly out of Cambodia after a month but I guess we will have to accept losing the flight if we cannot make full use of a month in Cambodia.

    We have considered Indonesia but it looks like they are receiving heavy rain right now. I’ve also heard Philippines can be dangerous from many co-workers who are from there especially if we don’t know anyone to guide us there. Singapore is on the list for consideration for a short few days stay.

    We generally enjoy nature, street food, snorkeling, easy transportation, hiking, seeing animals in nature and connecting with friendly locals.

    Would love to know if you have any recommendations!

    • Marek Reply December 24, 2017 at 12:12 am

      Hey Eric. Sounds like you’re having an amazing trip! Coincidentally I’m in Cambodia as well at the moment. This is just a quick reply before my next bus departs, but considering your interests I would maybe recommend Koh Rong Sanloem or some of the smaller islands around Sihanoukville. I haven’t heard anything lately about the safety there, but Sihanoukville is a very commercial place and if you’re more into nature it could be a bit disappointing. I’m about to explore the nearby Cardamom Mountains (4 day jungle excursion) and maybe it’s up your alley too. So yeah, the first thing I’d do is consider other places within Cambodia that you might like. Seems a shame to write it off on the basis of PP and Sihanoukville (which in my opinion aren’t the best places anyway!).

      In The Philippines you may wish to be a bit cautious in Cebu and Manilla (and avoid Mindanao entirely), but I think you may also have been spooked too much! I’d still keep The Philippines in for consideration, especially given your interests (but that’s just my 2 cents 🙂 ).

      • Eric Reply December 24, 2017 at 7:55 am

        Hi Marek,

        Thanks for your quick response.

        We will definitely give Koh Rong Sanloem and Cardamom Mountains a look at. We will ask around to see the best way to get there from Battambang.

        Surprisingly it is hard to reach my gf’s relatives here in Cambodia who we originally planned to rely on for this Cambodia trip. Part of the plan was to visit an uncle in Sihanoukville but we aren’t able to reach him lol.

        Speaking of jungle excursion, I actually got wounded on my heel trekking through the jungle in Thailand a week ago and the recovery has been slow with a minor bacteria infection. And it has even brought on a fever and a sinus infection. I expect to have recovery in a few more days and then I should be able to head out to the islands and mountain you suggested. Stay safe out there!

        Thanks for the suggestions!

  3. Shelby Reply November 20, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Hi Marek,

    I just found your blog and I love your advice so far. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for getting from Cambodia to Southern Thailand. Would I have to go through Bangkok again or is there an alternate route? (Probably for January). Also, are you Czech? :p

    Thank you very much,


    • Marek Reply November 21, 2017 at 11:10 am

      Hey Shelby! I’ve personally only done Siem Reap straight to Bangkok by bus. It’s a bit difficult to avoid that city as almost all transportation goes through it, unless you fly directly down to southern Thailand from Cambodia. You could consider going to Koh Chang to break up the journey a bit if you’re going overland.

      I’m half Polish, hence my name 😉

  4. Rich Reply November 15, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Hi Marek.

    I’m in the early stages of planning 3 months (at least) in SE Asia from early January 2018, but I’m concerned about travelling the region during the hotter months. Are Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam best saved until later in the year, with lower temperatures but more rain? Or, would it be possible to spend January-February there, before moving on to other countries in the region? I’m okay in hot temperatures, but I doubt I’ve experienced the level of humidity that I’ve ready about over there in March-April.

    Any advice would be very gratefully received.

    • Marek Reply November 15, 2017 at 7:15 pm

      It’s honestly very hard to say as it depends a lot on you! I’ve travelled there in the Jan-Feb months and I was fine with it. I do remember the first few days in Bangkok were like “whoaaa” so I spent a lot of time cooling off in the pool or otherwise hiding from the heat. But after a while I got used to it and adapted, and after a week I didn’t even think about it at all anymore.

      Everything has pros and cons so there’s never a perfect time. For example I’ve been in Thailand in Oct/Nov, Jan/Feb and May and either way you’re still in a tropical climate. So you may be overthinking it and you should just go in whatever time is most convenient 🙂 (Jan/Feb is generally considered a great time to travel Thailand/Laos/Cambodia/Vietnam.)

      • Rich Reply November 16, 2017 at 4:03 pm

        Fantastic. Thanks for the helpful, prompt response and keep up the good work. I’ve found your site incredibly useful already.

  5. Samar Misra Reply November 9, 2017 at 4:41 am

    Thank you so much Marek!! Truly appreciate this and so interesting how your advice resonates with what my cousin advised earlier of best to spend 2 countries per month to get the most of it and not feel rushed as I prefer.

    Also, I like staying on a budget in a simple, yet safe way and never have really been into luxury and more into dissecting local culture.

    My plan was to visit Thailand,Cambodia and Vietnam as the minimum leaving a 35 days for them 3 and possibly squeezing in Laos. Nice how you suggested 1st to leave out is Laos due to time factor and I have usually been more into seeing Thailand, Cambodia and especially Vietnam as I have many cool Vietnamese acquaintances back in USA whom I really like and really always wanted to visit Vietnam. According to my plan, I am thinking of travelling from December 28th, 2017 to February 2nd, 2018 and heading to Singapore on Feb 3rd from one of those countries spend weekend with relatives and see Singapore for a day before heading to USA.

    Below, are few ?s:

    1. Did you ever book a tour package or have a tour guide? On a budget, what do you recommend doing when looking into hostels as well as the best way for doing site-seeing and tours on your own?

    2. When you advise up to $20 to $40 per day for some countries, did you take into account staying, site-seeing and leisure?

    3. What do you advise for a Vegan like me who wants to visit Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and possibly Laos?

    4. How do you deal with the horrific dilemmas of not being ripped off or demanded to pay a fee as a foreigner to see certain tour sites?

    • Marek Reply November 9, 2017 at 10:46 am

      Hey Samar. Some quick answers to your questions 🙂

      1. I think it’s helpful to do local tours every now and then (e.g. a day of sightseeing or a guided trek). Not everything is always completely easy to do independently. For the best tour prices, it’s best to find such tours locally at small agencies in the places you’re staying, instead of booking them ahead online.

      2. Yeah those estimates do include sightseeing and transportation and such. It’s a backpacker budget though, so it assumes you avoid the most expensive activities and focus on things that are either free or relatively cheap. It also assumes you mostly eat local food and use accommodation that is basic.

      3. Not sure, sorry!

      4. Ask people who are independent sources of information (for instance staff at a hostel, or other travellers) what the real prices are, so you know when you’re being ripped off. Always haggle a bit if you can.

  6. Shawn Walters Reply September 29, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Hi Marek,

    My fiancé and I want to go to S E Asia this coming January for about 6-8 weeks. Is going to Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia too many places? The best way to get around each country? And from the US would you fly into BKK and also out of there, or do a open jaw ticket?

    Thanks! Super helpful!!


    • Marek Reply October 2, 2017 at 6:18 pm

      It’s not too many if you just want to get a broad sample of what SEA has to offer and if you can be a bit selective with what you want to see in each country. (For instance, if you have a week in Vietnam you might want to focus specifically on Saigon and the south). For visiting 5 countries, 8 weeks total will give you a lot more flexibility than 6 though.

      I done returns to BKK or Singapore every time I’ve gone to SE Asia – budget carriers like AirAsia just make it cheap and easy to backtrack. You could have a look around for open jaw options but buying two singles can often be quite a bit more expensive, though it does save you some flight time.

  7. alice simpson Reply September 26, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    hi there, this is a great post!

    I am asking for some advice (oh no not another one haha)
    I have 12 weeks (3 months) in SEA and landing in Bangkok this October eek.

    I am wanting to do Cambodia, laos and Vietnam. I was thinking of doing a month in each but now am unsure if I should spend more time in Vietnam and less in Laos?

    The only issues would be is paying for a more expensive Vietnamese visa for 90 days (around 90GBP) but will it be worth it?

    So maybe around 3.5 weeks Cambodia, 3.5 laos and then 5ish in Vietnam.
    Sorry for all the questions!

    Thanks so much for any help!

    • Marek Reply September 29, 2017 at 4:42 pm

      Hey Alice! I can definitely see arguments in favor of spending a bit more time in Vietnam, as Laos and Cambodia are both a bit smaller and have somewhat fewer sights. That said I spent a month in Vietnam (maxing out the normal visa) and felt this was enough to get all the main highlights from north to south. So… it’s hard to say 🙂

  8. Kaeleb Reply September 22, 2017 at 11:36 pm


    Me and my girlfriend are planning on doing the 2 month route. We are leaving from Bali and are wondering if we can start in Cambodia and go this way around. Would there be any issues with travel?

    Also is the season too rainy to start in Cambodia this time of year? Would you recommend starting in Bangkok and up to Chiang mai instead?

    Thanks in advance, this is a great article btw. Appreciate sharing the knowledge!

    • Marek Reply September 25, 2017 at 10:34 am

      I haven’t experienced the rainy season in Cambodia. It’ll be rainy season in most places around this time though… not sure there’s a clever way to get around it! There’s no problem doing this route in the reverse direction though. The route is really just an example 🙂

  9. J Reply September 11, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Great post, Marek! I wanted to ask what were you using for cell phone service? Did you have a SIM card for each country? Or did you find yourself not needing it as much? Would love to get your opinion on that. Thanks!

    • Marek Reply September 11, 2017 at 6:24 pm

      Hi, thanks! I’ve travelled in Asia entirely without mobile data. I’ve found that not being connected all of the time made me be more in the moment. There’s still plenty of wifi everywhere that lets you keep in touch (in cafes, hostels, etc.) but I liked not getting any notifications etc. while exploring. If you install MAPS.ME you can still do maps and GPS stuff while you’re offline.

      • J Reply September 11, 2017 at 10:08 pm

        Thanks for that tip! That was my primary motivator for having mobile data.

  10. Vanessa Reply August 31, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Hi Marek,

    Im hoping you might be able to help me! Im planning on going travelling around SEA from June – Nov. I realise this not the best time to travel weather wise, but I was hoping you could advise me on the wisest root to take.. to make the most of it! Ive already travelled Indonesia so I’m hesitant to go back – however I was thinking:
    June – Thailand gulf islands
    July – Vietnam
    Aug – Malaysia/ singapore
    Sept – Borneo
    Oct – Loas/ Cambodia
    Nov – 2 weeks in Maymer

    I realise this is not a very streamline root at all, so any ideas or advice would be HUGELY appreciated!

    Thanks in advance!


  11. Gina Reply August 4, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Hi there! Thanks for all of the great info. Quenstion. My bf and I have 2 weeks at then end of December to do SE Asia . Initially we wanted Vietnam as we felt it was more “cultural”. But, we are finding that some of the places we were wanting to go in northern Vietnam (Sapa/ Ha Long Bay) Won’t be great in December. So, we are wondering if it would be better to do Thailand/Cambodia for this time of year. Again, we were prioritizing culture over beaches and liked the idea of Vietnam being relatively less popular. But, don’t want to do a trip to Vietnam an injustice if the weather is less than ideal… w hat do you think about this…? Either place we also want to tag in Cambodia at the end.

    1) Vietnam/Cambodia:. North to South Vietnam and then to Cambodia
    2) Thailand/Cambodia : Bangkok, Chang Mai,Siem Reap, Southern Thai island/beach to end

    • Marek Reply August 5, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      Hey Gina. I was in north Vietnam in December and it was indeed a little cold. Hanoi is still really amazing to visit but Ha Long Bay is quite misty and drab this time of year.

      Both plans are certainly doable but with plan 1 you will only be able to fit a certain number of stops (Vietnam is a big country!). E.g. maybe just Hanoi, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta, then Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. If you plan that well, it’ll be a lot of travel but you’ll be able to do it. Since you’re covering a lot of ground though you’ll be basically seeing a lot of cities. Personally I might be inclined to focus on a particular part of Vietnam so you can do more side excursions that aren’t only the major cities.

      Plan 2 also sounds good for a cultural focus (Chiang Mai area is heavy on cultural and nature sights).

      I must admit it’s hard for me to think about 2-week itineraries as I’ve usually had the luxury of more time (and less pressure) which puts you in a different mode of travelling.

  12. sol caride Reply July 28, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    hi marek!
    I am planning a trip with one of my friends from late december to early february, around 45 days. I was wondering what to do, some friends told me thailand´s beaches are so crowded that I am hoping we can avoid the crowds. And I would really like to visit Myanmar. So, my initial idea would be start in Bangkok (my flight would get there from Argentina), and after that I don´t know, what route do you recommend me to choose?
    thank you!

    • Marek Reply July 29, 2017 at 11:22 am

      I don’t know! “What should I do” is a very broad question 🙂 What are you interested in? If it’s beaches you’re looking for then your friends are kind of right about Thailand, though you can still find some less crowded beaches there. (E.g. the far side of Koh Phangang, or smaller islands). There are no crowds at all at the beaches in Myanmar. Some great beaches in Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia (outside of Bali) as well.

  13. Sofia Snellman Reply May 30, 2017 at 10:38 am

    How much time do you think I should count on planning for a one month travel in SE Asia?

  14. Joe Reply May 25, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Yo. Can you buy a flight from Vientiane to Hanoi last minute? i.e on the day/few days prior/ 1 week? i would prefer to get the flight than the long bus but i wanna be able to be flexible when I’m there and not worrying about getting to vientiane for a set date weeks in advance.

    • Marek Reply May 26, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      Hey Joe. Understand the desire to stay flexible! I managed to get a ticket a few days before. No guarantees I guess but I didn’t have any issues.

  15. Chiara de Andrade Reply May 20, 2017 at 2:55 am

    Hi Marek!

    My sister and I want to travel Asia from 17 July to 2Aug.
    We would start from Taiwan. Frankly, we have 0 ideas what to do. I have been trying to find the cheapest ways to travel but it’s been a complete nightmare figuring out how to jump from country to country. Initially, I wanted to island hop but seeing as it will be the rainy season I’m kinda bummed. What would you do?

    • Marek Reply May 20, 2017 at 9:56 am

      For islands, maybe have a look at Indonesia. Its rainy season is different from the mainland, and July is actually peak season there. You could also focus on the S-E-A mainland but less on beaches/islands and more on nature and cities. Monsoon rains are intense but they can also stop very quickly, so you could try to work your way around the weather and visit places like Ho Chi Minh City, the temples of Angkor, etc.

  16. Charlie Reply April 11, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    Hi Marek!
    Two of my friends and i were hoping to travel SEA from late april to late august. now i know that if we plan it poorly we could end up in all the right places at the wrong time. This is due to the very humid and hot seasons that take place at that time of year. However as these rainy seasons are at different times all across SEA i think with some clever planning we should be able to see everything we want to see and still successfully avoid the monsoon.
    I was hoping you could give me some advice as to a route to take that takes the weather in to account but still allows us to visit all the places in the rough route you have shown above considering we will be there for nearly 4 months

    • Marek Reply April 12, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      Hey Charlie! I think you’ll be mostly OK following the route above. The main thing is to avoid the western coast Thai beaches as they’ll be in full-on rainy season, but the east coast is still good between May and Jul. So maybe do the east coast beaches first in Thailand (instead of last like my suggestion in the article), then go up to Chiang Mai etc. and do the route as in the map. Laos is in shoulder season in May so still OK. Northern Vietnam might be quite rainy when you get there, so Ha Long Bay might be quite misty if you’re unlucky, but things should improve again as you go south.

      This is just working off the rough climate patterns though and your mileage may vary etc. 🙂

      • Charlie Reply April 12, 2017 at 2:31 pm

        Thank you so much this is really helpful advice and it will be put in good use 🙂

  17. Cassidy Reply April 2, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Hi Marek!
    My friend and I just booked round trip flights to Bangkok starting in mid July and ending in early August (exactly 3 weeks). It is my first backpacking trip without a group so we have a lot of questions as we are trying to roughly plan!
    So we are young and active and like to be moving. We want to see some of the more renowned temples but out focus is sort of coastal/activity based. Two things I really want to do while we are there is rock climb and learn to surf (maybe spend a couple days surfing). I was just wondering if you had any suggestions of where we should definitely go for the more adventurous things to do?
    We wouldn’t mind taking domestic flights, as I understand that transportation can be a bit gruelling, and are ok with a bit of a faster pace. Saying this, we would still like some R & R and to enjoy our time. Do you think trying to hit some major points in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos/Cambodia is too ambitious? I know it seems like a lot but we wouldn’t be navigating through entire countries (maybe like south along the gulf, through Cambodia and up to Ha Long Bay and fly back to Bangkok?) We really don’t have any plans yet but I just wanted to get your input on a route!
    One more question is that I know fall is Monsoon season and our trip is a bit close (July-August) so I just wanted to know if we would have to be weary of weather during this time or if it should still get mostly sunny days?

    Thanks so much and sorry about the long post!

    • Marek Reply April 10, 2017 at 11:36 pm

      Hey Cassidy. Krabi in Thailand is one of the best places for rock climbing. There are a bunch of others but they’re more inland (near Chiang Mai, or Vang Vieng in Laos), so Krabi probably fits best into a coastal route. For surfing there’s good spots around Phuket, on Koh Lanta, and around Nha Trang and Mui Ne in Vietnam where you should be able to find beginner lessons.

      You could fly from Bangkok to Phuket, spend time there at the beaches and do rock climbing in Krabi, then fly straight to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat, overland down to Sihanouksville, and on to southern Vietnam. It would take another domestic flight in Vietnam to see things in both the north and south. It’ll require a pretty tight plan. 🙂

      Actually, one snag is that the west coast in Thailand is in full-on monsoon, so maybe it’s better to drop the rock climbing requirement and enjoy the sunnier east coast at this time.

      It’s hard to say what will happen with the weather. During this time in tropical Southeast Asia it does often rain very hard but it’s also often very quick, during the late afternoon or evening (this is different from the all-day drizzle that’s more common in e.g. Europe). You can still get plenty of lovely sunshine, but things will be much more unpredictable for sure. You could get unlucky.

      Hope this helps.

      • Marek Reply April 10, 2017 at 11:43 pm

        Doh! Just remembered there’s a lot of rock climbing around Ha Long Bay / Cat Ba Island too. So maybe that should be your rock climbing destination instead… 🙂

  18. Hayden Reply November 12, 2016 at 6:24 am

    Hey Marek,
    Any plans to try and get to Sri Lanka at some stage? I really recommend it. Its got that perfect combination of good people, interesting culture, beautiful scenery and cheap!
    Hayden recently posted…Sri LankaMy Profile

  19. Kvothe Reply November 9, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    Hello, Marek. Greetings from Bulgaria. I have a question. Me and my brother are planning to visit Thailand and Cambodia for 3-4 weeks. We are adventurous, young and energetic people who are all about seeing booklike places, nature, interesting destinations. Im sorry for being lazy and not researching this on my own but i think you can be very helpful. If you have time could you suggest where should we go so we can see some wildlife and get a taste of these rarely chosen but fascinating destinations?

  20. ALEJANDRA Reply October 4, 2016 at 4:41 am

    Hi! I´m planning a 5-6 month trip to SEA I´m still checking and reading about my places of interest, do you know the cheapest months to travel? and to you have any 5 month budget?

  21. Emily Reply September 30, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Hi Marek

    This is a bit of an open question. Wondering whether you can give some advice.

    I’m currently away for 6 months volunteering in Mumbai, including some travelling round India. My visa runs out at the end of January, and thought it would be good to spend another 6 weeks effectively holidaying in a couple of different places in the area.

    I’m on my own, and I tend to get a bit stressed using public transport when I first get to a country (which I know is ridiculous), so I’d generally prefer to stick to a couple of spots (or go on group tours where I have bearings on pick up/drop off cities).

    Other considerations would be a serious lack of money, though I’m not dead set on everything being super cheap at the cost of having a good time rather than an amazing time (for example, if you day take 3 weeks just lazing on a beach, I don’t mind paying a bit extra for flights to ‘the best’ beach rather than just being in a nice beach somewhere where other stuff is really the attraction… If that makes sense).

    I’m happy to do cultural stuff or exercise based stuff (eg hiking), or just lazing on a beach for a couple of weeks hitting cocktails and teadinh. Maybe a mix of both would be good.

    Any recommendations? Or cheap group tours for hiking etc?


    PS visas on arrival would be super useful as it gives me one less thing to plan, but I know most places with tourist hotspots tend have them anyway.

  22. Jared Reply September 9, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    There’s some good advice here and I don’t mean to be critical, but I do have to say that genuinely I think for some people it can be quite rewarding to pack a lot of different destinations into one trip. Yes, it is absolutely true that many people book trips that are way too ambitious (I’m talking one night in Bangkok, one night in KL, one night in Cambodia, off to Hong Kong for a night, etc.) But to say, for instance, that a two week trip couldn’t combine both Thailand and Angkor Wat is a bit of an exaggeration. I’ve done that exact trip and it wasn’t hectic at all – chilled out in Thailand for a week and spent the other week in Cambodia.

    The reason I say that isn’t to be mean spirited. I think this is a great site from what I can see. But it’s a frequent thing I see on travel forums – on the one hand there’s the wildly overly ambitious “ticking boxes” approach to travel, while on the other there’s the “we’re serious travellers and if you spend any less than four weeks in one place you aren’t doing it properly” approach. I find the latter verges a bit on snobbery at times – almost like the point in travel isn’t to have fun but to conduct some kind of anthropological study.

    And we do have to be aware that some people don’t have several months to travel. There’s nothing wrong at all with a short 2 week trip that combines a few major sites. Remember some people might only ever get that 2 week trip in their entire life to see some of Southeast Asia. If you put it in that way it would be a complete waste to spend the entire time in one place.

    • Marek Reply September 10, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      No worries, I welcome different viewpoints!

      I agree that a well-paced 2 week Thailand/Cambodia trip is totally possible. It does take some discipline in choosing your route and locations (I personally would probably go for a max of 4-5 locations). I’ve had emails from people trying to cram 10 places into this kind of route, so that’s in the back of my head when I write this.

      Btw, this post is mainly for those wanting to travel a bit longer in Asia, but I do go on 1 to 2-week trips as well. In no way am I trying to suggest X months is the only way to travel in Asia!

      For a 2-week “highlights of SE Asia” trip it’s maybe actually better to go on an organised tour, at least if the goal is to get a maximum number of famous sights on your once-and-only Asia trip. That said I also genuinely believe going wide isn’t the only way to get the most variety on a shorter trip. Staying longer in fewer places can get you more variety, as more full days without transit means you can do a wider range of activities and sightseeing. When I’m suggesting simplifying an itinerary, that’s not the same as saying you should do fewer things (or that the goal has to be full immersion / advanced anthropological studies).

      Anyway, I should probably write a few more posts on trip planning so there’s more context for this particular post.

    • Gemma Reply May 16, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Jared,

      I am looking for doing something similar as you did and I was wondering if you could tell me where you were and how many days…so I can have an idea. My intention is to go 15 days and go to two countries (Vietnam &Cambodia or Thailand &Cambodia)..but after reading this post I got very scared.
      Could you please give me some advise and tips?

      thanks so much in advance.

  23. Diana Reply September 6, 2016 at 2:52 am

    Hi Marek, thank you very much for such of wonderful article. You just inspired me to go for that South East Asia route.

    Can I ask you a maybe silly but important question for me, which can determines the best time for me to depart. I wil be starting an online master degree that would requires me to have projects done every week. Is it possible to do this route and be able to have internet connection enough to handle school?

    Thanks a lot in advance for your answer.

    • Marek Reply September 8, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      WiFi and internet cafes are basically everywhere, though it may not always necesserily be fast. It’s especially slow in Laos and Cambodia, and in remote places (e.g. small islands). WiFi in hostels with lots of guests sharing one connection can be slow too. But yes, you can basically keep doing your online stuff while travelling through SE Asia. 🙂

  24. Clinton Cuzzort Reply August 31, 2016 at 12:57 am

    Hi Marek,

    Love the article. I was wondering what your thoughts were on kind of just wonderlusting SEA for 4 weeks. I going with my significant other in mid December. We are entering and leaving Bangkok but we don’t really have much planned. Should we plan a little or is it okay to just wing it? I do realize we need to have an end point in which we are taken back to Bangkok by flight or end up there along the trail. Your thoughts and advice would be amazing. Thank you!!

    • Marek Reply August 31, 2016 at 9:53 am

      Yes it’s definitely fine to just wing it! You can maybe do a bit of research on things you might enjoy seeing, but then just go off and sail with the wind, so to speak. SEA is a great region for doing this. 🙂

  25. Mike Reply August 15, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Hi Marek,

    first of all, thanks for all the amazing blogs! The information this site and your book has given me is brilliant. Next month, September the 13th to be precisely, my first backpack journey will begin. My first stop is in Hong Kong as I could get a really cheap flight for that destination. After Hong Kong, I’m planning to follow this itinerary within 5 months: Hong Kong – Singapore – Malaysia – Indonesia (From Jakarta to Lombok) – Thailand/Laos/Vietnam/Cambodia (Banana Pancake trail). I have 2 question regarding my plan: 1. Do you think 5 months is enough to cover this? 2. Do you think the sequence of countries is optimal regarding travel times?

    Hope to hear from you!
    Keep up the good work,

    Kind regards,

    Mike (a fellow Dutchie! :D)

    • Marek Reply August 15, 2016 at 7:34 pm

      Hoi Mike! Yes, 5 months is a realistic amount of time for those countries, and you’ll be able to do it perfectly without rushing. People often do the Banana Pancake route first and then the other countries, but your sequence makes sense for the weather/climate (Sept = dry in Indonesia, wet in Thailand). Expect northern Vietnam to get a bit cold around Dec/Jan though (jeans + long sleeve instead of shorts + tshirt) and Ha Long Bay might be misty/cold, though things will get tropical again as you get down to around Hue or so. Not really a problem but something to know.

  26. David Reply August 14, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Hi Marek, great article and thanks for sharing your experience! I have few questions on Visa. I am planning to do a 4-5months trip in SEA, and wonder if I should get my Visa in advance? I am US citizenship, and are there any countries that I must Visa prior leaving? Many thanks!

    • Marek Reply August 15, 2016 at 10:59 am

      It depends on where you’re going… you can get visa-on-arrival in most countries (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, etc.). With Myanmar and Vietnam however, a visa in advance is required. You can get it while you’re still at home, or you can apply for them during your trip (at an embassy in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur for instance). Myanmar also has an e-visa program.

  27. GoldieGirl Reply August 11, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Hello, This was so informative and has really helped me. Me and my friend are travelling SE Asia in a few months (we’re saving!) We have 6 months to do as much as we can! I love your route and would like to expand it down to Myanmar and Singapore then over to the Phillipeans. Neither of us have ever backpacked before. So i have some (probably silly, novice questions for you!) How much do we need to plan or is it better to improvise and see what happens? Do we need to book hostels and train tickets in advance, or are they easy to sort when you get there?

    • Marek Reply August 12, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      It’s nice to improvise, and this is relatively easy in Southeast Asia. You can actually improvise everything, though to be assured a bed in the best-rated/favorite hostels it’s still usually a good idea to book a day or two ahead of time (i.e. booking while you are travelling, not while you’re at home). Don’t worry about bus/train tickets, you can get those locally when you need them. Try to create a rough sketch in your head of the countries and locations that interest you and some of the waypoints you want to hit. Though since you have 6 months you can make your detailed day-to-day plans as you go.

      BTW, I have a great chapter in my book with a lot more info on how to plan the important stuff but also improvise successfully. It’s a good read 🙂

  28. Ching Reply July 19, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Reading this article made me missed Thailand much lol. I’m an asian (Filipina) but my first travel was in Thailand.. Wasn’t lucky to stay more and no time to travel in Chiang Mai. I had only 10 days coz i have to go back to my work in Dubai. Do you think i can make 3 weeks if i start my travel to Thailand then Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam? How much do you think it would cost? hmmm Thanks 🙂

  29. Davey C Reply July 11, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Dear Marek,

    Your articles are really very good. I visited Thailand and Cambodia for 2 weeks earlier this year. It was my first time and it took my breath away. It really lit me up. I’m planning on going back for a few months or more later in the year. I have plenty of time, so I’m going to take it and see as much of S.E Asia as I can, maybe finishing off with friends in Australia/NZ.

    I have a question (if you or anyone can help)….. Would it be foolish of me to travel with a small laptop whilst backpacking around the far east?

    D <3

  30. Erick John Reply July 1, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Fewer tourist go to Philippines? Check your facts first before assuming & misleading people…first, pH got 6.8 million foreign tourist last year…almost same number of Vietnam tourist arrivals…and higher than Cambodia, Laos tourist its not that less visited as many ignorant people always assumed…pH is not really attuned for backpackers coz our hotels, hostels are expensive and really caters to more affluent Korean, east Asian tourist and western holidaymakers travel within pH is expensive due to numerous domestic flights……10 million tourist expected few years from now coz ph has different types of tourist coming in not just the usual backpackers….tourism is booming here due to the Philippines being the global leader in bpo, we are also a global casino hub, education hub for foreign students, booming economy etc..manila alone has thousands of expats, digital nomads etc…so 10 million is not that low considering only few countries can achieve that arrivals…

    • Marek Reply July 3, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      Hey man, don’t take it too personally. Have a look at my Philippines page and you’ll see that I’m totally in love with your country and encouraging everyone to go. Keep in mind though that I’m not writing this blog for people going to casinos or Koreans going on a Boracay holiday. It’s aimed at independent travellers, and there’s noticeably fewer of them heading to the Philippines than some of the other countries mentioned. That’s just a neutral statement, and doesn’t mean anything good or bad about the Philippines.

  31. Jane Reply June 27, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Hi Marek! My sister and I will be traveling through Thailand and Cambodia together for three weeks. We noticed that on your route map, you seem to be able to travel from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville without crossing through Phnom Penh, but we can’t seem to figure out how to manage this via public transport. Any tips?

    • Marek Reply June 29, 2016 at 11:20 am

      Oh gosh, I honestly can’t remember anymore if I travelled there directly or not! 🙂 You may just have to transfer in Phnom Penh. There are fortunately lots of small travel agencies in Sihanouksville that would be able to help you with your onward transportation.

  32. Enza Reply June 26, 2016 at 3:43 am

    Hi Marek,

    Thank you for giving so much of your time to help novice travelers.
    I have sort of a unique situation that I could use a bit of advice on if you’re able.
    I’ll be visiting Australia in november to visit friends for two weeks. Since I will be that far away from home (I live in los angeles) I want to try to hit one other country. I will only be able to give up one extra week. I know virtually nothing about most of south east Asia. I’m a total beginner and solo traveler. My initial thought was to visit Bali, but I am super open to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia…wherever.

    My interest include:
    -Unique and delicious food and beverage experiences.
    -I am a vintage collector and love to explore marketplaces and bizarres with unique goods for purchase. clothing or not.
    -colorful culture
    -nightlife (not the touristy type though)
    -I am interested in being submerged into a culture rather than vacationing with other americans.
    -Since I will be shacking up pretty tight with a bunch of people in australia I will probably focus on staying in quaint one of a kind lodgings in SE asia.
    – Im not much of an active person (in terms of hiking and backpacking) but i LOVE to walk around all day in and out of shops and bars and resaurants. lay around the beach then keep walking.

    I don’t know if that information helps. Basically I’m looking for a unique one week quickie trip jam packed with culture and need help picking one country and one city or two (I don’t know). I know I won’t be able to see very much of one country – I’m ok with that. I don’t want to be running around exhausting myself. I just want to live like a local for a week in one kick ass place. get a little taste. Most importantly, I don’t want a bunch of touristy crap involved.

    Any advice would be hugely appreciated.

    Thank you,


    • Marek Reply June 26, 2016 at 10:34 am

      Hey Enza. Hmm, that’s a specific question! The perfect place doesn’t really exist, though I actually think your initial instinct to go to Bali might be the right one. Distances between places on the island are very manageable, so that means you can do a lot of things in one week. There is plenty of characterful accommodation as well. In Ubud you can find a lot of art and other goods for purchase. The south of Bali is veeeery touristy though so maybe inland/central/north Bali has more of what you’re looking for. Another recommendation might be Vietnam, for instance Ho Chi Minh City, as there’s so many authentic markets and great food there, nightlife, lots of culture… it feels like a whole different world.

  33. Kieren Reply June 12, 2016 at 2:41 am

    Hi Marek,
    Fantastic article and very helpful.
    However i could really use your help and opinion on something. A few friends and myself are taking some time out from Dec 12th – Jan 15th so we have just over 2 weeks (apart from one guy who can only take 2 weeks off). The idea – for the long stayers at least – is to visit Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodis and if possible, Philippines.

    Thailand – The most important one for the group, we land in bangkok, and would like to visit phuket and koh samui, and plan on doing the full moon party on NYE. We’re happy to leave this country and come back to do other activities throughout the month.

    Laos – literally the only thing i really want to do here is the tubing bar crawl at Vang Vieng which is pretty close to northern thailand, so i dont see the need to stay here any longer than two to three days

    Vietnam – purely to say we’ve been there and so we can say to people “you don’t know man, you weren’t there” as a comical thing. I’m not fussed how long we stay here or where we go so im open to ideas for ‘WOW’ destinations here.

    Cambodia – i’d like to see angkor wat or bantaei kdei but as above just to tick it off the list, dont mind how long or where we go.

    Philippines – this is sort of the bonus baby, I have a friend living out in Princess puerto and would be nice to see him plus free accomodation if its not plausible or will lesson the experience of the rest of my trip im happy to cross it off.

    The 2 week guy just wants to tube in laos and travel thailand so im guessing Nam’ and cambodia would be the after new year thing. Is this a plausible trip and how much would be a good amount of money to take with us (not including accomodation). Sorry to bombard you but im really not the best when it comes to planning, and the other guys are even worse, so any help you can give would be fantastic! thanks again, bud.

    • Marek Reply June 12, 2016 at 6:15 pm

      Okay, just a bit of tough love: I think what you’re trying to do is madness and bordering on the impossible. You’re seriously underestimating the travel logistics involved, the time needed, and how tiring such an itinerary would be. It’s also pointless to go just to Laos for a tubing bar crawl or Vietnam just to say you’ve been there. If you absolutely must have a whirlwind tour of Asia, maybe you should just buy a tour, as you’ll need someone else to figure out the logistics for you. If you want to do your trip independently, I’d recommend scrapping your entire plan and narrowing things down to 2 countries at most. Maybe this sounds harsh, but trust me: you’ll have a much better time if you don’t spread yourself so thin!

  34. Abhishek Lath Reply June 9, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Hey Marek! This article was really helpful.It did help me build a skeleton of my itinerary. I’ll still need your help though. I plan to visit Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangkok for about 16 days. I plan to start from Ho chi minh city. Then Can tho,Chau Doc, sihanoukville, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and finally Bangkok. Does this sound feasible? I’ll be travelling solo for the first time. Any other tips you would like to share?
    Thank you

    • Marek Reply June 10, 2016 at 10:41 am

      Yes that’s definitely feasible, particularly since you’ve wisely chosen to focus on the south of Vietnam and keep the route pretty tight… a good way to cover 3 countries. Solo travel is easy in this part of the world – the logistics are fairly easy and there are always other travellers to meet if you want to. Have fun 🙂

  35. Jessie Reply June 1, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Hi Marek

    Firstly great article and website in general

    Im planning a trip on my way home to New Zealand from the UK in November, looking at flights i will most likely fly into Phuket and out of Ho Chi Minh City and will have about 4 weeks travel time.

    Ideally want to get in all 4 country’s (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam)

    Would you have a suggested itinerary? at the moment im thinking:
    Phuket, Party Islands, Bangkok, Vientiane, Hanoi, Vietnam Coast, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and ending in Ho Chi Minh.

    I’m willing to skip Hanoi and that area of Laos but have been told by friends that they are well worth going to.

    I really have no idea how long ill need in each place or the best route so any advice would be hugely appreciated

    Thanks in advance


  36. Alex Bond Reply May 10, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Hi Marek

    I have a couple questions , I love the route you have planned out here and may look into doing it myself , I have a flight booked to Bangkok in august.
    I was just wondering if it will work the same going the other way around ?
    i.e Bangkok , to the south islands then up through Cambodia Laos and doing the slow boat (as ive heard this is great fun)

    could you please let me know , if not it may be best to stick roughly with the route you have planned


    • Marek Reply May 10, 2016 at 6:20 pm

      Yes you can definitely do it the other way around as well. 🙂

  37. Nick Reply April 14, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Hi great article! I was just wondering if you would be able to help me with this dilemma I have.

    So I am travelling all around SE Asia then to india then back to Asia to do Indonesia then down to Australia and new Zealand. We plan on working in Australia. We have al the time in the world to do this trip so the plan is to just take an outward flight and go with the flow.

    The dilemma I am facing is the proof of onward travel you need for Bangkok. Can I just book a train or bus out of the country will that be good enough proof? It would be great to hear your thoughts on this. What did you do about this or what would you recommend?

    Thank you

    • Marek Reply April 14, 2016 at 11:11 am

      You can get a refundable train or bus ticket out of the country and that will be 100% fine. Though to be honest you’d have to be very unlucky to get problems with this requirement with Thai immigration and many go to Thailand on a 1-way ticket without any proof of onward travel. More info here:

  38. Dawn Punter Reply April 5, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Hi just found your blog & interested as we are heading back to Asia this year after a 6mnth trip last year, wanting to see the places we missed. Particularly interested in Indonesia & Myanmar this time (we visited Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, then took the train down through Malaysia to Singapore & finally visited Bali & Sri Lanka. I’ll have a good look through your site for tips & I think logistically we’re going to need a lot more planning this time! Great I’ve found your blog!

  39. Ben Pages Reply April 5, 2016 at 4:30 am

    Hi! Great post.
    I am meeting a friend in Myanmar, and from there we have two months to wander around. I think we’ll pick up your itinerary in Chiang Mai after visitng Myanmar. Three questions for you and the community:
    * Can you recommend any local website to book cheaper flights between these countries? I am flying to Myanmar from Sri Lanka and can’t find anything below $250 at the moment through major booking sites.
    * We will be traveling from the beginning of May to the beginning of July. Any areas to avoid? I believe the monsoon is kicking in at this time of the year in most places.
    * We’re looking for a city to fly out of back to Europe. Which would be realistic given our time? Bangkok? Other?
    Dzieki Marek i gratuluje za piekny blog!

  40. Anabelle Reply April 4, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Hi Marek, thanks for this very helpful article. I am trying to find a doable itinerary for my SEA trip. I have about 8 weeks. I travel with my family, my husband, my son 19 yrs old and daughter, 10. my children are very well travelled as we have been travelling in Europe and America for the past 13 years but would really want to see Asia this time & we love beach’ing” (lol). I haven’t made my kids experience a cheap vacation but I’d like them to experience that this time. Thank you for mentioning the Philippines as we are actually from the Philippines, it is a shame there’s still many places in the philippines still to tick in my list.
    Your suggestions in this article will surely be considered in my planning.

  41. Candace Reply March 30, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Hi, I’m excited to be going to Thailand to spend a few months teaching English and then want to backpack across SE Asia for around 6 weeks. I plan to use weekends to see the key places in Thailand and in the 6 weeks I’m hoping to see Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia (maybe just Bali) if possible. Think it can be done? I was estimating a week each, give or take a few days depending on how many attractions are available- don’t need to see everything, a good mix of relaxing days and some hectic ones would suit me fine!…would love to hear your expert opinion! Thanks 😀 😀

  42. Giacomo Reply March 26, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Great blog and really useful.

    Marek, I’m planning a 5-week solo trip to SE Asia (it will be my first trip to Asia) and I was wondering if it is realistic to visit Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam during this period. Can you please let me know based on your experience if this is possible and advisable. If yes, which path is advisable?

    Additionally, since I haven’t booked anything yet I wanted to ask you about the weather conditions. I plan to go on May 4-6 until mid-June. Is this a good time or should I consider going somewhere else and make this trip to SE Asia in the future?

    Cheers! 😉

  43. Pat Reply February 27, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Hey, can you recommend any beaches in Cambodia that arnt really that popular but are still good?

  44. Laura Reply February 24, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    Hi Marek,

    Thank you soooo much for this article. I am going for 2 months and am having a hard time deciding between Myanmar or Laos. I want to spend 1-2 weeks in Norther Thailand, 1-2 weeks in Vietnam, 1 week in Cambodia, and end it with 1 week in the southern thai islands. That leaves me with 1-2 weeks left. I could rush each location and minimize each visit to 1 week, but I want to explore and not be rushed. That said, I’ve narrowed it down between the two I first mentioned: Myanmar or Laos. Do you have a strong suggestion for either?

    I’m leaning toward Myanmar simply bc of how untouched so much of it is. I’ve also heard they are a hard-working people and I find that attractive. Let me know what you think if you can. Side note: I will be traveling alone, if that influences your opinion at all.

    Thank you!

    • Marek Reply February 24, 2016 at 9:23 pm

      Hey Laura! Choosing between Laos and Myanmar is difficult, and giving a recommendation is too. For me it’s like choosing between ice cream or a backrub – both are good, but in very different ways. (Hmm, unusual metaphor there.) In my heart I would probably say Myanmar is the one to go to, exactly because it’s quite untouched. Laos might be just a bit easier if you’re solo (and fits into a route a bit more easily), but I think Myanmar is more of an adventure. There is no wrong choice though, and if you feel like you want to change your plans on the fly during your trip, you always can. If you want the convenience of putting Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam together into one circular route, that’s a great option too.

  45. Mia Reply February 24, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    Great article, your site is amazing and super useful.

    Since you tend to often reply back –
    what would you recommend for a 4 week trek through SE Asia? My partner and I are thinking Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia – with the most time spent in Indonesia of the three.
    Think we can do all 3? I know we won’t see a ton.


    • Marek Reply February 24, 2016 at 9:03 pm

      Hey Mia! The first two are easily (and often) combined, especially south Vietnam + Cambodia. Both those countries are quite poorly connected to Indonesia with flights though, but you can probably find an indirect flight going via Singapore or Bangkok. If I had 4 weeks (and this is totally subjective) I would probably leave north Vietnam for another time and focus on central/south Vietnam + Cambodia for about 2 weeks, then fly to Indonesia and focus on Bali and maybe Lombok/Gili Islands. Indonesia is very spread out so you can lose a lot of time in transit, but focusing on those islands keeps things compact.

  46. Matthew Reply February 24, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Hey Marek,

    I’m reading your book, it’s a good refresher after not having backpacked in 10 years, things have changed. I am planning on doing the Banana Pancake Trail April 20-June/July. I’d like to focus on Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. I have been researching visa options and was wondering what you think about about getting advance visas for Laos and Cambodia. Vietnam I plan on doing advance but from what I can tell Laos and Cambodia have border crossing visa options that seem to make more sense. I plan on doing the slow boat into Laos and overland from Vietnam to Cambodia, Will I be able to get visas at border crossings like this or should I see about getting visas while in Bangkok?
    Thanks a bunch, your blog is an inspiration and super useful.

    • Marek Reply February 24, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      Hey Matt, great to hear your positive feedback! For Laos and Cambodia it’s easy to just get a visa at the border. If you’re taking the slow boat you basically take a ferry across the river to Laos, sort out your visa at an immigration booth (very easy), and then get on the boat. Vietnam normally requires pre-arranged visas – it can be beneficial to get this sorted in advance at home if you know when you’re going to be there. I got my visa at the Vietnamese embassy in Vientiane and then had to wait a few days, delaying my progress. I heard some news about Vietnam trailing visa exemption for some nationalities for shorter visits, but generally you still need a Vietnam visa before you get to the border.

  47. Alex Reply February 9, 2016 at 3:52 am

    Hi Marek,

    My friend and I are booking a trip to south east Asia and are hoping to see Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Unfortunately due to work and study we can only go for just over a month. I’ve always wanted to do it on our own, but due to lack of time we are leaning more towards doing a tour. is there any tours you can recommend?

    • Marek Reply February 12, 2016 at 2:26 pm

      I don’t know much about tour companies to be honest, as I usually travel independently. Heard good things about group tours by Intrepid or G Adventures. Rickshaw Travel does great tours that are individualised (not with a group).

  48. Danny Reply February 6, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Hi Marek! My Girlfriend and I are currently planning our next round of travelling just a month after finishing our first trip, we just cant stay away!

    I’m just wondering if you could tell me the best/cheapest ways to travel between each place in the “2 month banana pancake trail” i.e (Cambodia – Bangkok etc.)? We are planning on doing the whole trail so as much information in regards to this would be amazing! Your pages are great and very helpful so keep it up! Hope to hear from you soon, many thanks!

    • Marek Reply February 6, 2016 at 5:17 pm

      Buses are the cheapest option. Trains in Thailand and Vietnam are good and cheap too!

  49. Doni Reply February 5, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Hello Marek,
    A friend and I are planning to do a 6 weeks trip through south east asia in april. We already booked our flights to bangkok where our journey will start and end. We planned to do the south of Thailand then go over to Malaysia to do Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and then fly over to Indonesia to do Bali, Gili etc. After that we wanted to fly over to Vietnam to explore the middle and south of Vietnam and then fly back over to Bangkok to go home. Now my question is whether this is realistic and to be recommended or not. My friend has already seen cambodia, so we wanted to avoid this country this time but now im concerned whether the distances are too far and it would be too rushed as many days would be taken for travelling… What do you think?
    Thanks a lot and save travels!

  50. Jeff Reply February 3, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Hi Marek-
    Thanks for the wonderful resource. Care to share your opinion? I’m meeting my brother in SEA on March 31. He’s flying into Bangkok and I’m flying into Phuket. We have just about 16 days from there. Time is more of a concern than cost. I’d like to see a lot, but I don’t want to feel rushed or overly touristy. I’d like to visit Chiang Mai for Songkran (do you think somewhere else is better?) and I need to make my way back to Phuket for my flight home on April 16. Other than that, we have discussed time in Bangkok, Phuket or Ko Phi Phi, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Hanoi and Halong Bay as possibilities. But this is likely too much for our time. What would you include? Thanks so much!

    • Marek Reply February 3, 2016 at 8:04 pm

      Hmm I’d probably pick 2 areas apart from Phuket (which is your starting point) and focus on them. For instance: Chiang Mai and Siem Reap/Phnom Penh. Or: Phnom Penh and Hanoi/Halong. To do basically 3 countries in 2 weeks is a lot. But if you can spend a week or just under in one place, and another, and top things off on a Thai island, you’ll be less rushed. Songkran should be awesome in Chiang Mai.

      • Jeff Reply February 5, 2016 at 1:56 am

        Thanks a lot. We will definitely lighten the itinerary.

  51. Missy Reply February 3, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Hey, a friend and I were planning a trip and hoping to fit in Thailand AND Laos over a period of 2-3 weeks. Any advice?

  52. Fiagbe-Mae Reply January 31, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Hey! really useful article 🙂

    I’m planning my trip to asia and i’ve left everything a bit late haha, i’m leaving england early march and coming back in august so i’ve got a long old while to explore! I’m going to be on a very tight budget but I’m sure I can manage, I don’t want to plan a huge ammount as i want to be open and easy to string along with other travellers that i meet out there. This will be my first time travelling and I’m going it alone so I’m trying not to think of how nervous I am :S my budget is going to be £100 a week do you think this will be enough? Also I’m finding organizing things very daunting as I haven’t really looked into where i want to go or how i’m going to get from place to place but everything i read on it and everything people have said about it is that its fairly easy to just go out there and go day by day not really having much of a plan!

    Will i have to take some great British pounds with me for visas etc? also how easy is it to withdraw money? Am i best off to withdraw a bit of money before heading out of the main cities?

    I’m over all extremely excited to go and explore anything and everything! I really don’t mind what i see or do!


    • Marek Reply January 31, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      Heya! I think you’ve got a great attitude to planning. It’s good to do some research ahead of time but you can certainly leave the day-to-day decisions for when you get there. That’s how I’ve travelled most of Southeast Asia too (I knew almost nothing at the start).

      I think your budget might be a bit tight and you might struggle in some places, especially southern Thailand. Since you’re on a limited budget I’d recommend maybe keeping track of your spending with a notebook or an app. Try to spend a lot of your time in Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam which are the cheapest countries.

      Don’t worry about going alone (and that nervous feeling you have is normal!). It’s very easy to figure things out and to meet people, especially if you stay in backpacker hostels.

      It’s better to have a bit of USD with you for visas or emergencies as it’s accepted more widely. You can get local money from ATMs. There are ATMs in most places but you may want to withdraw in the cities if you’re heading to, say, a tiny mountain town or a secluded island as sometimes these don’t have ATMs.

      Good luck! Also, and this will sound like a plug, but my book is also a great resource if you’re travelling Asia for the first time. It answers a lot of these questions in more detail than I can in a comment reply 🙂 It’s worth checking out for increased peace of mind:

  53. Rebecca Reply January 29, 2016 at 12:00 am

    Hi! Great article. My boyfriend and I are planning a 6 week trip to the Philippines and Thailand this spring. We realize this is a bit of a tricky combo. Any advice for pairing the two in a time efficient way? We are backpacking newbies. Which would be the ideal country to start in?

    • Marek Reply January 29, 2016 at 1:04 am

      It’s best to start in Thailand, then do Philippines. There should be flights from Bangkok to Manila…

  54. Ana Reply January 28, 2016 at 1:22 am

    Hi! Great site, super helpful!! We are planning a trip to SEA end of May to end of June. I am concerned about the weather (I know it will be pretty hot/rainy) and I was wondering what the best places to visit vs avoid are for that time of year. Primarily interested in Laos, Vietnam, and/or Cambodia, but willing to think about other options (we only have four weeks, so I’m thinking only two countries). We are hardy travelers (South America, Europe, Africa) and don’t mind a bit of rain or sweat, but we also want to make the most of our trip, weather-wise.

    Any advice appreciated! Thanks!

  55. Marcus Reply January 15, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    Thank you so much for the information!
    Im goin away for 5 weeks, and planning to do northern thailand, laos and vietnam, then home. I dont want a tight schedule, the places i wanna do so far is chiang mai, gibbon excperience, vang vieng and ha long bay.
    I was wondering if you knew if i could take the 2 day boat to luang prabang and go to the gibbon excperience after? It feels like a detour, you have any other options?
    To fill the rest of my trip im planning to go to places people i meet recomends.

    I hope this post made sense, i have much going on in my head 🙂
    Super thankful for an aswer

    • Marek Reply January 18, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      Hey Marcus. I’d recommend doing the Gibbon Experience first, then taking the boat. The national park is not so far from Huay Xai (the boat starting point) so it’s easier to backtrack there.

  56. Ryan Reply January 5, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    I am looking to travel to two countries in south east asia. I am thinking Thailand and Vietnam…What is the best options economically? I want to see the different sites and also off the beaten path.

    I am travelling from Canada…most likely in June.

    • Ryan Reply January 5, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      I am thinking Laos and Chiang Mai region…but so hard to decide…have never been out this way…have been to Europe and south America.

  57. Gemma gibbons Reply January 3, 2016 at 12:18 am

    Hi Marek I’m wondering if you can advise me please. My husband and I are looking to go away for 3 weeks over the Xmas period next year. One week before Xmas and two after. We want to spend time in Thailand, at the beaches relaxing mostly with some time spent with the elephants and a few nights in Bangkok. Do you think we will have time to add a bit of Cambodia in? Either way for this time of year could you recommend an itinery? We would quite like to visit the touristy beaches like where The Beach was filmed and Phuket etc but only for a few nights, the rest we would prefer somewhere we can totally relax and get our hands on good food etc. Thanks. Gemma

    • Marek Reply January 3, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      Have a look at my pages for Thailand and Cambodia for some ideas. It’s always best to create your own itinerary based on your interests and what places sound the most appealing to you. Angkor Wat / Siem Reap in Cambodia is not too far from the Thai border so it combines nicely.

  58. solene Reply January 2, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Hi Marek,

    once again thanks for your awesome website 🙂
    we want to go to the philippines ad heard the best season is january feb, we are leaving on the 17th for bangkok and will stay i SEA for 4 months, following the circular route bangkok, north thailand, laos,vietnam,cambodia, south thailand
    we thought we d include philippines at the beginning after laos but cant seem to find connection from laos or super expensive
    when and how would you recommend us to get to philippines?
    Thanks a lot

    • Marek Reply January 2, 2016 at 7:49 pm

      Hi Solene! Philippines is best connected to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. You might be able to find some flights from Vietnam too, but not sure. Laos is quite remote and so few budget flights go there. You might want to avoid the wet season in the Philippines (May-Oct), but don’t get too hung up on what guides say the best time is. You can have a great time in the Philippines in April at the end of your trip, for example. I was in the Philippines in March/April as well and apart from a couple of rainy days the weather was great.

  59. Angela Reply January 2, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Hi Marek,
    Thanks so much for all the information you provide.
    We have found it to be very helpful for our travel’s!
    I just wanted to get your advise on which route you thought would be better for the time of year that we will be traveling.
    We will be going from mid January to mid may. And were thinking about the route that you also had above with starting in Bangkok and doing all the north and then making our way around and sown to the south.
    But weather wise do you think that is a better option then doing it the other way around?

    • Marek Reply January 2, 2016 at 7:57 pm

      I think you’ll be fine either way. Things might get a bit cloudy/average in the north of Vietnam in Apr/May. Rainy season kicks off in Thailand in April on the southern west coast (Krabi, Phuket, etc.) but not until august on the southern east coast (Koh Tao etc.) so you could just go where the weather is best at the time.

  60. Ligita Reply December 26, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Hey Marek, nicely done on helping so many travelers plan their trips better.

    Me and my partner are planning a roughly 40 day trip around some of the budget countries in the SEA. We’ve been to Malaysia and Myanmar and are planning to go (following your advice) to Thailand and Cambodia. I was thinking of landing in Bangkok and then slowly moving up north to Chiang Mai (taking 15 visa validity days) and then leave for Phnom Pehn and Siem Reap (for the next 11 or so days) and after that go to Phuket for another 15 days of island hopping.

    I guess I have two questions (if you don’t mind) for you. What do you think about the length of our planned stays in each place? Isn’t it slightly too long? Maybe we could squeeze in another destination in between?
    Also, would you say 1000 USD each for those 40 days would be enough? Nothing fancy to spend money on, just a bed and some local food.

    What do you think?

    • Marek Reply December 27, 2015 at 3:07 pm

      Yes I think you could actually manage to add another destination – sometimes I have to go contrary to my normal advice! 🙂 You could probably spend 10 days in the Chiang Mai region and 10 days island hopping, and then have 10 days to spare for somewhere else. Maybe add a bit of Laos? It connects well with Cambodia.

      1000 USD per person sounds slightly tight but should be OK. The most expensive part will probably be Phuket, but since you’re keeping it last you’ll have a clear idea at that point of how much money is left, and then spend accordingly. Escape to less touristy places if you find that you’re running a bit low at the end.

  61. Abby Rolland Reply December 21, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Hi Marek!

    Thank you for this reading! I will be spending two months in Cambodia volunteering, and then I have two and a half weeks after. I definitely want to see Thailand, and I am debating whether to add Myanmar or Vietnam. Which one do you suggest? Vietnam seems more expensive (including the visa fee), but my family is worried about me going to Myanmar alone – what is your advice?

    Thank you for your time! Abby

    • Marek Reply December 24, 2015 at 11:15 am

      It’s difficult to say! The Vietnam visa might be more expensive, though the cost of travel there is much lower than in Myanmar (accommodation might be half or just a third of that in Myanmar for example). As far as travelling solo goes this should be totally fine in either country, though out of the two I would actually say Myanmar is the most worry-free. Myanmar may seem a bit volatile based on the news (which is what your family may be worried about?), but if you’re there in the main areas as a tourist it’s probably one of the safest and trouble-free countries in S-E-A.

      I would probably research both countries and let the sights and cities determine your choice. Go to whichever country interests you most. Do you want to see the chaos of a Vietnamese city? See Buddhists temples in Myanmar? Both countries can offer you amazing experiences.

  62. Koen Geerts Reply December 16, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    Hi Marek!
    I am currently debating on what to do.
    This summer, I will have five weeks to go travelling. I originally wanted to do seven, but I can’t because of university preparations.
    During one week, I have to do some volunteering. This was the only condition my parents gave me in order to do this. On the one hand, I am looking forward to this but on the other, it’s kinda pushing it in terms of time. Now, I was originally intending to do a North Thailand-Myanmar-Laos-Cambodia tour, but I feel like this is kinda ambitious. Instead, I’m leaning more towards a tour like this now: Bangkok – Chang Mai – Luang Prabang (via the slow boat) – Kunming, China – Somewhere halfway – Bangkok. Is this okay for five weeks or is this kind of killing it?
    I would love to hear your opinion on it!

    • Marek Reply December 17, 2015 at 11:52 am

      Hey Koen!
      Your original plan sounds ambitious though also not unreasonably so. It’ll be a whirlwind tour but it could of course be done, if you’re OK with spending no more than 9 days in each country.
      This stuff gets subjective very quickly but intuitively I’d say your first plan might feel slightly too rushed and your second plan just slightly too open. Perhaps it’s a good idea is to plan several possible options and see how things go during your trip – you can either go slower or faster, but having already researched your options you’ll know where to go next.
      Hope this helps a bit. I have yet to go to China/Yunnan myself btw so I personally can’t compare it directly to the other countries.

  63. Richard Reply December 15, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Hi Marek,

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
    Just a simple question from me:

    We have 10 days to spend somewhere in South East Asia.

    We want to do a 3/4 day trekking in the nature and for the rest we want to relax.

    We don’t want to be very touristic areas but because of the lack of time we can not travel too long to get there.

    What are the first things that pop into your mind?

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Marek Reply December 15, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      Hmmm, lots of options really!

      You could trek Mt Rinjani in Indonesia and spend the rest of the time on Lombok or Bali.

      There’s great jungle trekking in Borneo (Malaysian side) as well as Mt. Kinabalu to climb – it’s not too touristy here though it’s easily reached by plane from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.

      And there’s good trekking through hilly landscapes in Myanmar around Inle Lake and Kalaw, and Myanmar isn’t too touristy either.

      Just a few that pop to mind… hope it helps!

  64. Suzanne Reply November 30, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Great post and info Marek!
    Myself and my partner are planning to travel to Vietnam in July for 2 weeks with our 8 ‘kids’ aged from 19-26.
    Would you be able to give suggestion on how to spend our short time there?

  65. Julia Reply November 5, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Hey, My Name is Julia, I’m 19 years old and I want to discover asia next year! (end of January/Beginning of February to end of April ). This is the first that I am planning a trip and the first time in asia, so I have many many questions.

    The most important thing for me is to travel flexible, without stress and a very fixed plan. I will start my jouney alone but I am open to meet up travel companions in the regions I want to visit. Already fixed points which I want to visit : New Delhi ( Perhapt in combination with Mombai/Goa). I would like to visit Japan and some nice islands like the Philippines or Bali/Indonesia.

    I also want to visit one, two or three (?) countries like the ‘core’ countries of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam but I am also open for Indonesia, Malaysia and so on. I have planned about 2 Month for that part of asia.

    Do you have an idea which route could make sense ? –> also when lookig at the temperature, size of country and region, please let me know.

    I dont want to travel with that ” the more countries I see the better it is” -thought . I am also ok with concentrating on special regions and it would be great to have the possibility to choose my route when beeing in the countries.

    Its also a big wish to go to China but I heard that it is not easy with the visa if you not know exactly your locations and dates where and when you will stay. Do you have experiences with visiting China ?

    Which flights would you book already fixed and which flights can be booked spontaneous ? Is it possible to book some flights with a flexible date, just in case I miss the flight or whatever ?

    I know, some very crazy questions but I am a very beginner and I would be very thankful for any help or inspiration!

  66. Stacey Reply October 29, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    Hi Marek,

    Great article!! It was a great read. Got me really excited for my trip.

    Myself & my partner are flying to Bangkok in January for 8 weeks. Ideally we are wanting to go to Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam (& if we have enough money Indonesia for a few days before we fly back home from Bangkok again, this isn’t a big deal if we can’t afford to get there though)

    Could you recommend a budget?

    So far we have £200 GBP each per week. Starting to panic that might not be enough.

    We will only be eating street food & only staying in very basic rooms, travelling by sleeper trains/buses when travelling far & doing things very cheap but we do want to do alot of trips like elephant sanctuary, visit temples etc.

    What do you think? Any advice is great!

    Thanks Marek


    • Marek Reply November 23, 2015 at 10:53 pm

      I think your budget will be fine. 🙂 If you go for basic accommodation and eat the local food, 200 GBP each per week will definitely see you through. You’ll probably spend a fair bit less than that in Cambodia and Vietnam.

  67. karl oppermann Reply October 19, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    hi marek you have a pretty good trip planned by the looks of it, I’m planning on heading over for 2 months at the start of janurary and just wondering if you know how hard it would be to find hostels or rooms that aren’t full or if you have to pre book them?

    • Marek Reply October 19, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      It’s easy to find hostels/rooms. It can be nice to book ahead (by a day or two) to ensure a spot in your preferred hostel, but there’s always many options.

      I’ve had some difficulty over xmas / NYE in Asia, but you will be travelling after that period so not much to worry about.

  68. Solene Reply October 15, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Hi Marek

    Your web site is amazing and gonna be very usefull
    I ideally wanted 4 months for my first “long trip” but chickened out to go alone and so found a friend to join for a 2 months trip: 28 th dec-27th feb
    Does that sound crazy to add some time in the philippines to your 2 months recommended itinerary , should we then skip something not to be running?
    Thanks for your lights
    PS : do you think a 2 months trip requirements planning or just to book a flight and the first few nights of accommodation and go with the flow?

    • Marek Reply October 15, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      Having a rough plan is very useful, but for your day-to-day decisions on a longer trip like this, it’s nicer to just go with the flow. So it’s good to have a rough plan, but don’t book things far ahead… it’s nice to have the freedom to stay a day or two longer, or to pick up the pace depending on how you feel.

      2 months is already fairly tight for seeing mainland Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam). You can always keep the Philippines as an option… if you find that you still have the time for it, you can book a cheap flight with AirAsia to Manila during your trip and tack this onto your route.

    • karl Reply October 20, 2015 at 11:17 am

      awesome thanks very much

  69. Helen Reply October 10, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Will be travelling to SE Asia first week in January until probably first week in May. Not sure if we should fly into Thailand and start from there or fly into Singapore for few days, do Bali for a week then work our way up through the countries to Thailand. What would you suggest? We will book a room for first few days of arrival and after that it will be book as we go. What are your most “not to miss” areas and suggestions for this travel. This is our first time travelling without a plan and sort of doing it on day to day basis with probably a couple of organized tours that we may pick up in certain areas. We should be able to visit a lot I imagine in four months. Your suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Marek Reply October 10, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      Both Thailand and Singapore/Bali are great starting points in Southeast Asia, so I probably wouldn’t worry too much about this choice. Starting with Singapore and Bali might be nice if you want to ease into things a bit. Singapore is very modern and clean (also a bit dull in my opinion, though the street food is amazing). Bali sees lots of tourists and is very easy to enjoy. From either Bali or Thailand you can acclimatize and then make your way to other places. Both are good entry points to the region really (though Bali is obviously a bit further removed from everywhere else).

      There’s a lot of ‘not to miss’ stuff all over Asia – depends on what you’re after. Though with 4 months you can go with the flow. Research some places now but also ask people you meet for recommendations – this is a sure-fire way of discovering lots of great stuff along the way.

  70. AJ Reply October 8, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Hi Marek, I like the Thailand + Cambodia trip you describe above, although might have to do it in 3 weeks. What is the best time of year to do that trip considering the weather? Thanks!

    • Marek Reply October 9, 2015 at 10:48 am

      Most times of the year are fine but you may want to avoid the rainy season (roughly july-sep) if you want the best weather.

  71. Jess Reply September 9, 2015 at 10:28 am

    I am looking to do a similar trip you have described above over 9 weeks however, do you know how the VISAS work into Thailand as I will arrive for a short period in Thailand then out of Thailand when that 30 day VISA expires. Do you just get another when you go back through the board at a later stage? And do you know if you need the bus/boat ticket out of Thailand booked when you enter the country? I am from New Zealand by the way 🙂

    • Marek Indietraveller Reply September 9, 2015 at 11:24 am

      You just get another 30 day visa-on-arrival stamp when you come back later. In my experience the Thai immigration is not too fussy about things like proof of onward travel (or even overstaying your visa by a few days, so long as you pay a fine) so I’d recommend to just go to Thailand without a bus/boat ticket.

  72. anonymous Reply May 22, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Marek, I have a question! Thanks for this very thorough
    article!. I am using it for guidance as I plan a trip! I’m very
    excited but I have the interesting fortune to really play around with my
    timing. Do you think that I should go for one month in June, or wait
    until August, and go for 2-3 months — I am worried about the monsoon
    season picking up. I’m looking to do Thailand+Cambodia, but if I have
    ample time then of course Vietnam, Laos. (and hopefully Myanmar) . I’m
    traveling solo, and I am a budget traveler (30y/o woman)

    • Marek Indietraveller Reply May 23, 2015 at 11:26 am

      Hmm if given the choice between 1 month or 2+ months I’d go for the latter, just because you’ll have more time to experience Asia! Monsoon season is something to keep an eye on — but if you’ve got some time (as you will have) then it’s not necesserily a bad time to travel. It won’t rain all the time; you just might get unlucky and get a very rainy couple of days. If your plans are at least a bit flexible you can kind of work around that. Thailand has two different rainy seasons on its west and east coast as well, which might enable you to avoid the more rainy area when you’re there.

      • anonymous Reply June 6, 2015 at 4:01 pm

        Thank you so much for your reply, Marek!! My mind has been doing a lot of flip-flopping here, and I think I’m going to have to go for only 4 weeks in June-July now. Maybe I will go again to check out the rest of Vietnam and Laos later this year. : o)

  73. Corie Reply April 23, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Hey Marek, this has all been super informative. I am currently in Australia, my visa expires the beginning of June and I was planning on travelling home via South East Asia. I probably have 3-4 weeks to play with, the only thing is I will be a lone female traveller on a budget. Can you advise on what kind of budget I would need 🙂

    • Marek Indietraveller Reply April 23, 2015 at 10:55 am

      It depends. I’m in southern Thailand right now and noticing again how the prices are higher here (in bangkok and tourist areas) than elsewhere in SEA. But aside from the main draws in Thailand which are relatively more expensive, I usually give the ballpark of $800-900 usd / month if you eat local food, stay in hostels, and don’t do any unusually expensive activities like scuba diving. Your mileage may vary of course. I should probably do a post on cost of travel in SEA sometime!

  74. RobS Reply April 22, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Great post Marek! If we were to add Myanmar to your 2 month itinerary, where would you try to add it? A seperate trip from Bangkok? Head over from Chiang Mai?

    • Marek Indietraveller Reply April 23, 2015 at 10:47 am

      I would stick it to the end – makes for a nice end of a trip. No border crossings from Chiang Mai as far as I know, though you may be able to fly from there. Limited overland border crossings possible in the south. Easiest is probably still to fly in, e.g. to Yangon and fly out from Mandalay. Check out my Myanmar page for a bit more info

  75. Jonny Woof Reply April 15, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Hi Marek, I’ve got 5 weeks in South East Asia starting in May. What legs of the banana pancake route do you suggest to cut?

  76. Dani Reply April 3, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    Hi! Do you have any tips on visiting Indonesia for a first time SEA backpacker? And what about the Philippines?
    I will be setting out from Australia next November, so I was considering some of the more southern countries.

  77. Krisha Dayola Reply March 4, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Hey! This is all super informative and I love your itinerary for 2 months. I’m leaving for my own 8 week adventure starting in the Philippines. I was thinking of spending about 2 weeks there to visit my family and bask in the sun which leaves me 6 more weeks before I fly back home to Canada from Bangkok. I’m struggling with trying not to spread myself too thin and seeing as much as I can see in the remaining 6 weeks. Any suggestions for the 6 weeks I have left?

    • Janina Casanova Reply March 23, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      Hi Krisha! I’m also doing a SE Asia exploration starting in the Philippines- ending??? Currently trying to plan my route. Curious to know what you’ve decided for your route?

  78. Chloe Whitfield Reply February 24, 2015 at 12:34 am

    Hi Marek your blog is awesome very informative and flexible. The way I like to travel! Me and my partner are thinking about Indonesia and Philippines. They both look wonderful and we have 6 weeks to play with. Do you think 3 weeks in each place is enough? don’t want to stretch ourselves too thin. Thanks!!

    • Marek Indietraveller Reply February 26, 2015 at 12:22 am

      Sounds like a good amount of time! You might want to focus on specific regions within the countries as both are quite big with many islands divided by water (often requiring internal flights if you go for a spread out itinerary). But yeah you should be able to spend quality time with 3 weeks in each country 🙂

  79. Tammy Salomon Reply January 20, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Hey Marek, great post! I’m heading over to do the Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia route at the beginning of Feb for 8 weeks, but my time there coincides with the Tet festival in Vietnam (mod to end Feb) and I was told to avoid Vietnam at all costs during that time! Is there another route that you could recommend through those 4 countries that would avoid having Vietnam right in the middle? I was thinking Thailand-Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam but wasn’t sure if that’s stretching things our too much.

  80. Tammy Salomon Reply January 20, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Hey Marek, great post! I’m heading over to do the Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia route at the beginning of Feb for 8 weeks, but my time there coincides with the Tet festival in Vietnam (mid to end Feb) and I was told to avoid Vietnam at all costs during that time! Is there another route that you could recommend through those 4 countries that would avoid having Vietnam right in the middle? I was thinking Thailand-Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam but wasn’t sure if that’s stretching things our too much.

    • Marek Indietraveller Reply January 21, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      Hmm good question. I was speaking recently with someone who did Vietnam north to south, then Cambodia, then north into Laos along its spine and on to Luang Prabang, then into northern Thailand and ending on the Thai beaches in the south. That seems like a very good alternative. Yours sound good as well. To be honest there are many ways to skin a cat here! 🙂

    • Alex Perez Reply January 23, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      Hi Tammy, my gf and I will be arriving in Bangkok on Feb 5th. We’ll be in South East Asia for 2 months. We should hang when we’re there. Email: [email protected] or IG Perez418

      Safe travels!

      • Tammy Salomon Reply January 24, 2015 at 2:20 pm

        Sounds great! I’m at [email protected]
        Do you guys have an itinerary yet or are you winging it when you get there? Currently I have a million ideas and a potentia l travel partner from mid Feb but nothing concrete!

    • Sierra Stonebrook Reply February 8, 2015 at 12:01 pm

      Hey Tammy–on the contrary, I would say that tet is an ok time to visit Vietnam, as long as you are avoiding places like Sa Pa or Hoi An where all vietnamese people are booking for their tet. It is true that prices can skyrocket, like a bowl of pho goes from 20,000 VND to 100,000 VND, ($1 to $5), but it can also be a very quiet time in the capital of Hanoi, which I find to be one of the most charming parts of Vietnam. I’ve been living here in Hanoi for 3 years as an expat, so I really know my stuff on Vietnam travel 🙂 The Tet is running from feb 18-22 this year, so if you come here during those dates, I’d suggest you to visit Hanoi and then do a 2 or 3 day cruise in Halong Bay(Really a MUST DO). A good alternative to Sa Pa is Ha Giang, a completely unspoiled area with limited tourists but one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my 10+ years of travel..and I would disagree about vietnam’s beaches not being great–places like Quan Lan, Lang Co, Quy Nhon, and Con Dao are all islands or beaches with longgggggggggg white beaches that have completely no people on them for fear of getting a tan 😉 Vietnam is still a developing country but it is A LOT different than the buddhist countries of Thailand, Cambodia, or Laos, and personally my favorite out of the entire south east asian area, although the Philippines and Indonesia are also very good! I’m headed to Myanmar for work from Feb 11-21 but if you need any tips/advice, feel free to facebook me or email me at [email protected].
      Enjoy your Travels!

  81. anr anr Reply January 8, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    Hi Marek, thanks for these nice tips! I was wondering if you have any tips for boat or ferry trips along the Mekong River (in either Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam), either 1-2 day trips or shorter. All I can find are either long luxury cruises, touristy delta tours or the 2-day trip from Luang Prabang to the Thai border (which sounds nice, but not really practical as we are not travelling to Thailand!) We´ll be spending 6 weeks in these 3 countries (roughly 2 weeks in each, we´ll take it as it comes ;)) cheers

    • Marek Indietraveller Reply January 11, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      Tough to say actually. Not much springs to mind that don’t fall into those categories you mentioned. I believe there’s some boats heading north from Luang Prabang that reach villages further into Laos, which take about a day. That’s all I can think of right now!

      • anr anr Reply January 12, 2015 at 2:10 pm

        thanks, I´ll look into it 🙂

  82. Catherine McNair Reply January 2, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Hi Marek! Love your blog! We are currently trying to plan a 9-10 month trip starting in August. Would you say 6 weeks is enough for Indonesia and Philippines and then 11 weeks for Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Burma? Thanks!

    • Marek Indietraveller Reply January 3, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      Hey Catherine! Yeah I think that should give you sufficient time. I suppose with Indonesia you might have to pick a specific region as it’s such a huge country.

  83. Oregon Smitty Reply December 8, 2014 at 8:03 pm


  84. brank87 Reply October 26, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Hi Marek! Thanks for this very insightful article. I’m heading there in March for 2 months. I guess I follow your advices keeping it flexible. Thanks a lot!

    • Marek Indietraveller Reply October 26, 2014 at 10:59 am

      Thanks and good luck with your trip! I’m sure you’ll have an amazing experience 🙂

  85. Kiley Reply September 3, 2014 at 4:57 am

    Just wondering what type of budget you would allow for two months through-out the four countries?

    • Marek Indietraveller Reply September 3, 2014 at 9:54 am

      Depends of course on your travel style, where exactly you’ll be staying (as there’s differences per area within countries, e.g. southern Thailand is more expensive), and how many organized tours/treks/activities and such you’re planning to go on.

      That said, a good rule of thumb is about $800-900 a month when travelling as a backpacker (staying in hostels or cheap guesthouses, eating mainly local food, etc. and doing an average amount of tourist activities). That does not include ‘overhead’ like gear, insurance, or flights.

  86. Dean Reply August 10, 2014 at 6:01 am

    What do you do for visas, apply at the border or beforehand?

    • Marek Indietraveller Reply August 19, 2014 at 11:51 am

      Always just got them at the border. This can’t be done in Vietnam so had to request one while in Laos and wait a few days. Myanmar/Burma also required getting one in advance. All other countries have visa on arrival for most passports

      • Bartek Reply October 1, 2014 at 7:56 am

        Nice article! What do you do if you stay longer in a country than the visa is valid for? I can only get visa on arrival for 15 days in Thailand but planning to be there for about 30 days…

        • Marek Indietraveller Reply October 1, 2014 at 9:21 am

          Your best bet is probably to make a visa run. Just briefly cross the border somewhere, then come back for another visa on arrival.

          Thailand is quite lenient when it comes to overstaying, so if you are a couple of days over on your visa you typically just pay a fine for each day at the airport (which is about the same as normal visa costs but prorated). I probably wouldn’t recommend overstaying by 15 days though, they might not like that too much! 🙂

  87. Larry Reply May 12, 2014 at 3:33 am

    Hello Marek! Nice article. My first trip overseas was to Bangkok and I had five weeks. That enabled me to take a side trip to Siam Reap and Angkor Wat via bus and back to Bangkok. Overnight train deposited me in Chiang Mai with time to explore Pai and enough time to relax. Then, I flew to Krabi for a few days at Ao Nang and Koh Phangan. It was a nice balance of travel and exploring time without moving too often.

    I may travel a bit like you. After picking four or so highlights, I listened to suggestions and was flexible enough to adapt at the last minute to experiences I hadn’t heard about. It made for a wonderful trip!

    From Ho Chi Minh city, I took a boat trip via the Mekong into Cambodia which was very nice. After a month of travel in Vietnam, I enjoyed the beach time in Sihanouksville for New Year Eve.

    More to see in that region so I’m anticipating my next trip there.

    Safe travels and thanks for the insights! Larry

    • Marek Indietraveller Reply May 18, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      Great comment Larry. Sounds like the destinations you chose for your five weeks made for a great balance of sightseeing and not stretching yourself too thin. It’s also nice to keep the beach time for last as it makes for a relaxing end to a trip!

      I wasn’t too impressed with the Mekong delta sightseeing tours in Vietnam, but actually travelling the Mekong to Cambodia might be a much better way to experience the river. I wished I had done that instead of a super touristy daytrip…

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