Southeast Asia Itinerary Suggestions For 2 Weeks To 2 Months

How to plan a realistic route for your Southeast Asia trip

Jump to: In 2 Weeks, In 1 Month, In 2+ Months, Longer Trips

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

Backpacking through 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 experience a 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…

Some of the popular routes and sights around the region (link to image).

Don’t bite off too much!

This is easily 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.

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 when you’re frantically pinballing around the region, you’re likely to experience many places only very fleetingly. 

Cutting back and streamlining your itinerary can actually improve your trip. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. You will have more time to truly get to know a country instead of just ticking things off a list;
  2. A tighter route typically means more time available to experience things, and less time wasted in transit;
  3. You’ll have more opportunity to go beyond just the obvious tourist hubs.

Not to mention, traveling long distances can be tiring! While infrastructure is improving in Southeast Asia and budget flights are increasingly available, it’s still easy to underestimate the time and distances involved, especially if your goal is to travel mostly overland.

The fishing village of Mui Ne in Vietnam

Balancing your itinerary

Okay, so you don’t want to stretch yourself too thin.

Apart from that, I also recommend having a nice mix of Big Things as well as small things in your itinerary.

What do I mean? Well, in your research, much of your attention will inevitably be drawn to Big Things. I’m talking UNESCO world heritage sites and iconic famous places (which are also heavily marketed). Maybe you’ll read about Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, or the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, or the famous karst islands around Krabi in Thailand.

I’m not saying these places aren’t worth it. They usually are! But they are also usually rammed with tourists and drones and a few too many selfie sticks. Having some major landmarks in your itinerary is definitely very cool, but it should never be an obligation, and it’s nice to mix them with some less assuming places.

Many of my favorite travel memories in Asia are actually not of grand or iconic locations. For example, I often think back just to riding a scooter through rice fields in northern Thailand, watching the sunset over the Mekong river in Laos, or simply 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. (I wrote before about fighting your travel FOMO.) Just know that between the famous sights are plenty of smaller things you may enjoy just as much.

Now enough with the disclaimers… let me share a few actual suggestions.

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South-East Asia in 2 weeks

Two weeks is not a lot to be thinking about a whole region. You’ll have some tough decisions to make.

Some 2-week itineraries out there suggest flying everywhere and spending just two or three days per country, but I think that’s a huge waste. Consider just picking one country.

Think about what sort of activities you like and pick a country that you most like the sound of.

If you’re new to Southeast Asia, then Thailand is always a safe bet. The food is phenomenal, travel logistics are relatively easy, and you’re spoiled for interesting attractions. Check out my Thailand itinerary for a rough template for a 2 week or longer trip to Thailand. From Bangkok, you could also make an excursion into Cambodia to see the sprawling temples of Angkor Wat, though Thailand also has its own ancient temple ruins at Ayathuya and Sukhothai.

Vietnam is also a good choice for a shorter trip. It’s a big stretched out country but transportation options are great, including many railway connections (with sleeper trains too). Seeing all the highlights would take at least 3 or 4 weeks, so with 2 weeks you may want to choose to see either the south or north. (I like the north and middle parts the most.)

Both Thailand and Vietnam can be very touristy though. If that’s not your style, there’s plenty of other options. Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia… they’re all really great. Inexperienced travelers often go for Thailand first, but that is far from a requirement.

The easygoing island of Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia

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 Southeast Asia. My suggestion would be to focus on the two countries that appeal to you most.

For example, you could combine Thailand with Laos. The latter is a very gentle country – it’s great for jungle and mountain trekking and visiting small rural places. If you have a keen interest in nature and cultural experiences and don’t need much in terms of entertainment or nightlife, then Laos might just be the place for you. Northern Thailand and northern Laos go together rather well, letting you travel in a neat little loop.

Or you could combine Vietnam and Cambodia, for instance. You could start in northern 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 one or two other highlights. End your trip with some quality beach time on the Cambodian islands.

Of course, if you don’t want to travel strictly overland, you can easily spend 2 weeks in one country and then fly off for another 2 weeks somewhere totally else.

I’m not saying you must stick to just two countries: you could easily decide to do more or less. I’m just saying two countries in four weeks will probably give you a nice unhurried pace.

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

Southeast 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!

An example (very roughly) of what the Banana Pancake route commonly looks like. Only showing key waypoints, not smaller places. (link to image)

Due to having so many flight connections, many people start their trip in Bangkok. (Though Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are also common entry points into the region.)

You can get some ideas for how to kick things off in Thailand on my Thailand itineraries page. Head north up to Chiang Mai and Pai, then head for Chiang Rai and the Laos border.

Many backpackers like to take the two-day slow boat from the Laos border to Luang Prabang along the Mekong. It’s nice to see the landscape slowly change and to get a glimpse of the locals living along the river. The boat is also a great way to meet other travelers. On my first Southeast Asia sojourn, I kept meeting people from the boat for months after.

Be sure to spend some time in northern Laos. I think it’s incredibly scenic and a totally underrated part of the region. If you’re following the classic route from Luang Prabang down to Vang Vieng and the capital of Vientiane, it may be worth flying to Vietnam from there. While infrastructure is gradually improving in Laos, overlanding from Vientiane to Hanoi still makes for an epic 25+hour journey that you may wish to skip.

Work your way down Vietnam, then through Cambodia, and end your trip lazying on the Thai islands.


Alternative Banana Pancake

The route above is roughly how I traveled through Indochina back in 2012 as a first-time backpacker following more or less the beaten path.

Knowing what I know now from subsequent trips (and if I had to cherry-pick), I would maybe create a different route. Below is probably how I’d do things now, with more focus on nature and rural regions, and a bit less focus on cities (and less of super touristy Thailand).

This is probably how I’d do a circular overland route now (link to image)

Some of the differences in this route:

  • More focus on nature in northern Thailand and northern Laos
  • Removed Vientiane as I (humbly) believe it’s one of Asia’s dullest capitals
  • Removed Vang Vieng; Nong Khiaw is similarly scenic but without the bars, making it an easy substitute
  • Viang Xai and Phong Na added for caving adventures
  • Bai Tu Long Bay instead of Ha Long Bay
  • Pakse (Bolaven Plateau) and Si Phan Don for a quiet Mekong experience
  • Removed southern Vietnam in favor of middle/north Vietnam (though this could easily be added back in)
  • Less time in southern Thailand, which is very touristy and less adventurous

Of course, there are a million ways to travel through Southeast Asia and this is just one other way.

Creating your own route can be as simple as putting some markers on a map and connecting the dots! If you’re not sure how to get from point A to B, just put the two place names into Rome2Rio (though journey times are not always correct).

Expanding your route

So far I’ve focused on the four core countries as they connect well overland. But with more time to spare or with some added flights, there’s clearly a whole other chunk of Southeast Asia to consider.

Malaysia makes for an obvious extension from southern Thailand. It’s a more conservative country with quieter beaches than in Thailand, while Malaysian Borneo has some of the best wildlife experiences and the tallest mountain in the region.

But some of my favorite destinations are actually on Southeast Asia’s periphery. I’m a big fan of Indonesia, which is hyper touristy on Bali but rather low-key and uncrowded elsewhere. I like Flores and the Komodo Islands a lot. Mount Bromo and the Ijen Plateau are amazing.

I also love The Philippines. I know, it’s a bit far removed from everywhere else, but it’s totally worth it. I have been getting more questions about this country lately — it’s maybe not helping that it’s run by a pretty crazy guy right now — but rest assured it’s a safe country and it has some of the friendliest people and best beaches and islands. (Seriously, just go!) I’ve heard that Palawan is getting a bit overcrowded these days, but you can’t go wrong with a trip through the Visayas or Northern Luzon, among literally countless other islands.

Myanmar is another fascinating destination, with much less developed tourism (especially outside of Bagan and Lake Inle).

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Or… don’t listen to me!

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

Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track and make whatever crazy route you want. Just be realistic about how much time you have, as I tried to caution in the beginning.

Not everything has to be planned out in advance, especially for a longer trip. Improvisation is fairly easy in Southeast Asia, so you can always just wing it and see where adventure takes you!

More information


Most visas are easy to get on arrival at the border for many nationalities. Vietnam is a bit of an exception (see: my Vietnam Visa Explainer). Myanmar also requires pre-approved visas.

Cost of travel

Southeast Asia is an inexpensive region to travel by Western standards. Some places are more expensive than others though (e.g. Singapore, Philippines, Myanmar). See: Travel Budgets for Southeast Asia.

What to pack

Be sure to pack as light as you can. Typically all you need for Southeast Asia is just a 40L backpack and some basic gear. See also: Packing Like a Pro and Traveling Light – My Ultimate Guide.

In-depth advice

There is only so much you can cover in a blog post! I also wrote a 272-page travel planning book that helps you with every possible question you might have before setting off on your journey. Readers have called it “reassuring, inspiring, and specific” and “the single most helpful piece of writing I have read regarding travel”. If you have any questions or doubts about your trip, my book is sure to help you out a lot!

This post was first published in 2014. Updated in 2018.

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 😉

      (* Edit: I have just done Sihaoukville > Koh Kong > Trat > Koh Chang > Bangkok and can highly recommend this route.)

  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. 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 limited number of stops (Vietnam is a big country!). You might end up just seeing a lot of cities. I might be inclined to focus on a particular part of Vietnam so you can do more side excursions and see the countryside.

      Plan 2 also sounds good for a cultural focus/ I must admit it’s hard for me to think about 2-week itineraries as I’ve usually had the luxury of more time.

  11. 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. There are no crowds at all at the beaches in Myanmar. Some great beaches in Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia (outside of Bali) as well.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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 🙂

  15. 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. I’ve also seen it near Chiang Mai, Vang Vieng or Nong Khiaw in Laos, or Kampot in Cambodia. I am not sure where there’s good surf.

      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, then onward 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 and every day 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).

      • 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… 🙂

  16. 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?

  17. 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 your different viewpoint!

      I actually 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’ve had emails from people trying to cram 10+ places into this kind of route, so that’s in the back of my mind when I write this.

      I do also go on 1- or 2- week trips and understand the desire to see as many highlights as you can. Though I also believe that even on a shorter trip, staying longer in fewer places can get you more rewards. Less time spent in transit is more time spent sightseeing or going on activities. The goal doesn’t always have to be full immersion / advanced anthropological studies – simplifying your itinerary can simply be a method for time optimization. 🙂

    • 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.

  18. 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

      Yes, you can basically keep doing your online stuff while traveling through SE Asia. There’s WiFi and good 3G or 4G in most places now. Though the more remote you go the more difficult it gets.

  19. 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. 🙂

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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 pretty easy in Southeast Asia. You might want to book accommodation just 1 or 2 days ahead of time (as you travel). Don’t worry about bus/train tickets, you can get those locally when you need them. with 6 months you can be pretty flexible.

      BTW, I have a great chapter in my book with more info on what to plan vs. what you can improvise. 🙂

  23. 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 🙂

  24. 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

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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, as it probably won’t leave you satisfied. I’d pick two countries you like most and then plan a trip around that.

  29. 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 🙂

  30. 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. 🙂

  31. 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

  32. 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!

  33. 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!

  34. 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 slightly different ways. Myanmar is quite untouched but so is Laos outside of Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. Can’t go wrong with either!

  35. 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.

  36. 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. 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 have some more details on Vietnam visas here.

  37. 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).

  38. 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!

  39. 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.

  40. 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:

  41. 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…

  42. 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!

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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!

  50. 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.

  51. 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.

  52. 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

  53. 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 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.

      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.

  54. 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)

  55. 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!

  56. 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

  57. 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?

  58. 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?

  59. 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 🙂

  60. 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!

  61. 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 🙂

  62. 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.

  63. 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 🙂

  64. 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.

  65. 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! 🙂

  66. 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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