A beginner’s guide to backpacking around South East Asia

South East Asia is one of the most beautiful, exciting and vibrant places in the world, with its natural waterfalls, glorious beaches, and fascinating wildlife, from monkeys to sea turtles. There is much to see and do, and it is a place you will return to time and again to soak up the local culture.

Be prepared to try new experiences, and get out of your comfort zone. Travel is an excellent way to broaden your mind, so if you are thinking about traveling to Asia, take the following advice.


You are entering into a very relaxed culture, very different to western civilization. You may be desperate to get from place A to place B but the minibus driver might suddenly stop for an unexpected break, and the tuk-tuk riders will go their own way through the streets, no matter your protestations. The people here go at their own pace, so while tourists are not disrespected, they are expected to integrate into the daily lifestyle.

Learn the lingo

You may need your language guide as not every person you meet will use English as a spoken language. Learn a few helpful words to help you get by but expect the occasional misunderstanding, no matter your how good you are at charades.


Despite your itinerary, you should take advantage of the laidback lifestyle and explore at your own leisure, from finding accommodation to traveling locally. Part of the fun in backpacking is exploring new areas, so you may stumble across something brilliant and unexpected, without having discovered it online first.

Be vigilant

You will get ripped off, all tourists do. Stood in the middle of a marketplace with a bewildered look on your face makes you a prime target, so be careful not to get into many conversations with street traders, and be mindful of pickpockets. A premier bank MasterCard is your best choice for premium enjoyment as you travel globally, but don’t let it fall into the wrong hands.

Getting around

With a large backpack strapped to you, there are times when you will want to keep walking to a minimum to conserve energy. Thankfully, there are many ways to travel, so take up any offers from tuk-tuk or scooter drivers, who are keen to take your custom. You may not be guaranteed a comfortable trip, but they are inexpensive.

When traveling to new towns, take an overnight bus. Not only will you get to your destination, but you will get the opportunity to sleep without paying for a hotel.

Try new food

Many guidebooks tell you what to eat and where, but disregard them and follow your nose. Make an effort to eat local food, even if it doesn’t look like something you would normally eat. Fish balls are Asia’s equivalent of hot dogs and are available from many street vendors. Sushi, rice, and curry are some of Asia’s staple diets, so try new flavors and be part of the culture around you.

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Founder of Turn It To Trvl. After being made redundant from my digital marketing job, in the UK, I decided I no longer wanted to work the traditional 9-5. I found a volunteer opportunity in Malawi in 2015 and am now freelancing from the warm heart of Africa. Curently building a portfolio of clients and trying to inspire more people to live a life of travel.
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