.Over the last decade, South East Asia has conquered the hearts of international travelers and we understand why: the region is incredibly cheap, safe, and interesting.
Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, Denpasar, Ubud, Yogyakarta, Jakarta, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Bangkok
While Thailand has earned itself a name as a backpacker paradise already a few decades ago, other countries in the region are just now emerging as tourism hot spots: Cambodia, Malaysia, and Myanmar being some of them.
We’ve been looking for the cheapest way to get around and put together an incredible itinerary that allows you to visit at least 15 different places, spending less than $400 USD in transportation.
What to expect? South East Asia for first-time visitors.
AirAsia is your best friend: flights in the region can be as cheap as $10USD.
If you’re on a budget try to use Kuala Lumpur as a hub; it might seem counter-intuitive but sometimes it’s cheaper to go back to Kuala Lumpur from wherever you are and book another flight.
If you don’t want to catch a flight get used to overnight buses and ferries.
Travel platforms: to save most book on the Airline’s website directly, however, Google Flights or Skyscanner usually offer very comparable fares
Bus travel is common and usually safe. Busbud.com is a great platform to buy tickets. Anyway, if you buy them at local bus terminals tickets are usually cheaper.
Laos and Vietnam are the more expensive countries to travel to in terms of transportation and accommodation while Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia are very cheap.
Expected trip length: min. 6 weeks
Assumed start date: April 16th, 2018
How to get there from the US: fly into Bangkok about $550 USD return flight
How to get there from Europe: fly to Stockholm or Oslo; then fly to Bangkok return about $550 USD.
Welcome to Asia! Make sure you stop by the famous Khao San Road and Chatuchak Weekend Market to try some street food!
2. Bangkok – Chiang Mai, flight, $24 USD
Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are must-sees for their nature and temples in the north of Thailand. Chiang Mai used to be the capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom and is still a cultural and religious center for Buddhists. Two of the most famous temples are the14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang.
Flight: $18-$40 USD
Sample date: April 16th (book fast prices are going up!)
Airline: Thai AirAsia
Sample flight found on Google Flights: https://goo.gl/flights/xyzpZ
3. Chiang Mai – Pai, bus, $2.70 USD and back
Pai: definitely worth a stop if you’re looking for a travel companion or just want to enjoy a few days in backpacker company. What used to be a “sleepy, hippie village” that people traveled to in the 90s and never left. To get there catch a public bus from Chiang Mai. It takes about 2h 30min and costs about 90 baht each way.
Option to take minibus (double the price): https://12go.asia/en/travel/chiang-mai/pai
More info: https://www.tripsavvy.com/getting-to-pai-thailand-1458630
4. Chiang Mai – Kuala Lumpur; $55 USD; flight
Time to move on to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Not talked as much about as Thailand, Malaysia still has plenty to offer: sandy beaches, lush green highlands, and cheap flights – you’ll love it.
Flight: Thai Air Asia
Sample flight https://goo.gl/flights/WPgji
Sample date: April 30th
5. Kuala Lumpur – Penang; $16 USD; flight
Welcome to food heaven! Delicious Chinese food, street art, cute architecture – that’s George Town.
Air Asia: https://goo.gl/flights/4hprJ
Sample Date: May 8th
6. Penang – Langkawi; $13 USD
Close to the Thai border, the island of Langkawi offers similar beaches and pristine water as Thailand – the only drawback: alcohol is a lot more expensive in Muslim Malaysia (compared to Thailand). If you fancy crazy parties at the beach: probably head over to Koh Samui or Krabi in Thailand. Time to hit the beach, take the cable car for amazing views of the island and recharge.
Sample flight found on Google Flights: https://goo.gl/flights/mMqaH
Sample date: May 11th
7. Langkawi – Kuala Lumpur – Denpasar, Bali $49 USD
Next stop: BALI
Denpasar is the gateway for Bali; right when you arrive book a mini-van to take you to your preferred destination: don’t underestimate the size of the island! It’s quite big.
Sample date: May 16th
Sample flight Langkawi – Kuala Lumpur $18 USD https://goo.gl/flights/3x8ha
Kuala Lumpur – Denpasar $31 USD https://goo.gl/flights/4bhFh
8. Denpasar – Ubud $2 USD bus
From Denpasar take a bus to Ubud, the capital of Yoga retreats, temples, and digital nomad coworking spaces.
9. Ubud – Denpasar $2 USD
Head back to Denpasar.
the NomadApp team practicing their Yoga skills
10. Denpasar – Yogyakarta; flight; $35 USD
Bali is just one of Indonesia’s 17,508 islands and one of the only ones that is Buddhist while the others are Muslim. Fly from Denpasar to Yogyakarta and explore the beautiful temples in the area, hike up to Color Lake, explore volcanoes and see a different side of Indonesia.
Sample flight: https://goo.gl/flights/f631q
Sample date: May 30th
11. Yogyakarta – Singapore; flight; $18 USD
Time to head on to the city state of Singapore – probably the most cosmopolitcan place on this trip. Sip fancy cocktails in rooftop bars, eat at the only streetfood stand that has a michelin star and take a walk around Marina Bay.
Sample Flight: https://goo.gl/flights/zQ7aN
Sample date: June 6th
12. Singapore – Ho Chi Minh City; flight; $45 USD
Ready to head over to Vietnam? It’s time for some history. Of course, there’s plenty of fun to have in Ho Chi Minh city but probably the most memorable experience will be the Vietnam War museum and a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels. The Mekong Delta is a more entertaining, nice day trip.
Sample Flight: Jetstar https://goo.gl/flights/jJRcy
Sample Date: June 15th
13. Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh; bus; $11 USD
The history lesson doesn’t stop yet. Pnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, was the scenery of one of the largest genocides in the history of mankind. The Cambodian genocide was carried out by the Khmer Rouge (KR) regime led by Pol Pot between 1975 and 1979. Almost 3M people were killed or died. The country is still recovering from that time and has only recently opened up to tourism. Pnom Penh is very much still a work in progress: visit the Killing Fields and the genocide museum; sad but important.
Bus: book in Ho Chi Minh City for about $11 USD or $70 USD for a flight on AirAsia
14. Phnom Penh – Siem Reap; bus; $15 USD
Time for some happier memories: Siem Reap is the gateway to the ruins of Angkor, an ancient temple city. The main “Angkor Wat” temple is a major tourist attraction but there are many, many temples to be explored. Take at least 3 days cycling around or hire a tuk tuk driver.
Book an overnight bus at your hotel or the bus station in Pnom Penh.
15. Siem Reap – Bangkok; flight; $45 USD
Fly back to Bangkok on AirAsia and spend a few more days in the vibrant Thai capital.
Sample flight: Air Asia https://goo.gl/flights/96yev
Sample date: June 28th
WHAT A TRIP!
TOTAL: $334 USD
PLACES VISITED: 15; 6 countries
DAYS: approx. 6-12 weeks
We hope this guide will inspire you to pull the trigger and explore South East Asia! Putting this guide together was hard as a lot has to be left to chance and tickets for ground transportation is best bought on the spot. Take your time for this life-changing adventure and don’t pressure yourself to hit every single destination exactly like outlined. Go with the flow and enjoy Asia.
If you have any feedback on the itinerary, please let us know!