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Backpacking Routes


South East Asia Backpacking Routes

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Its hard to find useful backpacking routes on the web, so I have assembled several routes in Google Maps.

Your chosen route will be influenced both by time and budget. Most backpackers that travel to South-east Asia have at least 2 weeks to explore and you will need this if you want to see everything. Some people just travel Thailand whilst the majority travel Thailand and Laos. Use these routes as a guideline for planing your trip, you may be worried about transport links to some destinations, however every place listed on these routes can be reached without hassle by both public and private transport.

I think the most important thing to do when planning a route is to be logical and make sure you’re not adding unnecessary distance to the trip. Plan your route in round trips rather than forwards and backwards.


Thailand – The Full Shebang

Bangkok – Surat Thani – Koh Samui – Koh Phangan – Krabi – Koh Phi Phi – Koh Lanta – Bangkok – Ayutthaya – Lopburi - Sukhothai - Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai – Pai – Bangkok     (2-4 Weeks)

Bangkok – The starting point for 90% of the travellers in Southeast Asia. I’d recommend staying in Bangkok for 2 nights. You can see most of the stuff in this time and you will more than likely be returning several times before your trip is over. Bangkok is situated more or less in the centre of Thailand, so at some point you will need to consider your first move, do you go north or south. A lot of people you will meet in the Khaosan area of Bangkok will be planning their move around the full moon dates. If you are going to the party, than you will probably be heading south. But for those of you are not, central Thailand has some great attractions and scenery that get overlooked by most visitors.


Surat Thani /Islands – Take the overnight sleeper train or bus down south. You will end up in Surat Thani, the dropping off point for the Eastern Islands, from here you can get a boat to either Koh Phangan or Koh Samui. If you want to go to Koh Tao, you could get a boat from one of the other islands but the best bet is to visit this island first and continue south to the other islands. To do this you will need to get a bus or train from Bangkok to Chumphon, then get a ferry to Koh Tao.

Koh Samui – A very popular island that has its own airport. If you’re short for time and on a bigger budget, you can take a plane straight from Bangkok to Koh Samui. From here you can easily get to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao as well as Ang Thong National Marine Park. Personally, I think this is one of the worse islands.  It’s very touristy and over developed. But if you’re looking for a sun tan look no further, Koh Samui is the biggest of the Eastern Islands and has developed beaches in every corner.

Koh Phangan – Home to the full moon party of course. Tourism on the island centers around lunar phases. In the week approaching the party, the island will start  filling up, especially in Haad Rin. Every night on the Haad Rin Nok (Full Moon Beach) sees a mini party, in anticipation for the big one. You may think that all this island has to offer is all night parties, fire games and cheap buckets, but Koh Phangan is much more than that. There are many secluded beaches, waterfalls and jungles. Spend a few more days on the island and check them out!

Krabi – After the full moon a popular destination are the islands off of the Andaman Coast. Not too far from the Eastern islands in distance but getting to them will take all day. First a boat back to Surat Thani, then a bus to Krabi and another boat to the next island. A lot of people pass through Krabi un noticed, however it’s a town known for rock climbing and adventure activities.

Koh Phi Phi – Coined as the most beautiful island of Thailand, Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh are insanely popular with backpackers, package holiday makers and day trippers. You wont find much culture here, just a constant flow of visitors to the beach where ‘The Beach’ was filmed. Over development has took the edge of this island but the 2004 tsunami actually restored some of the beaches to there natural glory. Still nice but not so secret.

Koh Lanta – Another island off the Andaman Coast, there’s many to choose from so I’m just going to add this one in. If you’re planning island hopping for this part of your trip you should already know the best destinations. An island and national park known for its nine white sandy beaches. More popular with the older crowd.

Bangkok – After your island hopping adventure and fix of sun, sand and sea, you may want to continue your trip in cooler climates. The north of Thailand will offer a nice contrast and give you the opportunity to explore less traveled areas. To tackle the vast distance to the north, you should plan to stop over at several places on route. The next few are some suggestions. Take an overnight bus or train back to Bangkok.

Ayutthaya – A quick and easy train or bus connection from Bangkok will get you here, the ancient capital of Thailand. I went here earlier this year and although it was low season I was surprised with how few tourists there were in this beautiful city. Ayutthaya is an island at the confluence of three rivers: the Chao Phraya river, the Lopburi river and the Pa Sak river. And the island is littered with ancient temples and religious structures. I’d recommend a few nights to see everything, you will not be disappointed with this place.

Lopburi – One of the oldest cities in Thailand and another former capital. Recently featured on an episode of Karl Pilkington – ‘An Idiot Abroad’. There’s no place in Thailand like this and as for experience I rate this one a ten.  A short third class train from Ayuttaya costs around £1, it’s great!  Quite a small town with a population of 30,000 but famous for its monkeys. The Crab-eating Macaque’s run this town. They can be seen swinging from everything and plotting against unknowing tourists. There’s even a monkey temple where they all hang out.

Sukhotthai – Around 6 hours on the train from Lopburi, getting here will take you about 70% of the way between central Thailand and the north. This makes it a great stopping off place en route to Chiang Mai. The city is a popular tourist destination because it is located near the ruins of the ancient city of Sukhothai. Spend a day exploring the ruins, I recommend renting a bicycle.

Chiang Mai – AKA the undisputed heavyweight champion of the north. Surrounded by mountains and countryside, Chiang Mai is a great base in which to explore the nearby attractions. A much more peaceful and quiet city, than the hustle and bustle of the capital. A lot of people come here for jungle trekking and adventure activities. Chiang Mai can be easily reached on an overnight train from Sukhotthai or direct from Bangkok if you don’t have time to go anywhere in between.

Chiang Rai – Even further north of Chiang Mai is Chiang Rai – the main city in the golden triangle. More of a base city for exploring the surrounding landscapes. Lots of trekking and elephant riding opportunities here. Less popular and much quieter than Chiang Mai.

Pai - Set in a particularly picturesque valley north of Chiang Mai, Pai is a predominantly tourism-oriented town, offering a relaxed atmosphere with a broad tourist and backpacker scene. Wherever you go in Southeast Asia you will meet a backpacker that recommends this place for its beauty and laid back atmosphere. You can only reach this place by bus and you may have to go back through Chiang Mai to get here.


Thailand & Laos Backpacking Route – The Tubing Route!

Bangkok – Surat Thani – Koh Samui – Koh Phangan – Krabi – Koh Phi Phi – Koh Lanta – Bangkok – Ayuttaya – Lopburi - Sukhothai - Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai – Pai – Vientiane – Vang Vieng – Luang Prabang – Bangkok     (4-6 Weeks)

A popular route for young tourists, planning to go both to the islands and tubing in Laos. This is the same route as the Thailand loop, but adds in a few destinations in Laos, I’ll skip straight to these.

Vientiane – The capital city of Laos, although much more like a river town. Getting here may be a bit of a pain if you’re coming from the north. A common route is to come from Chiang Mai straight to either Vientiane or Vang Vieng. You can only do this by bus, so you could be in for a long ride here. If you are coming from Bangkok you can get a train straight here and then another over the border. So its pretty accessible no matter where you are coming from. A lot of backpackers pass straight through this city on pre arranged buses to Vang Vieng. I’d recommend staying here for a night or two to break the journey up. There’s not a lot to see or do here but the place has a laid back vibe to it. It’s funny because lonely planet put this for almost every destination, but this is the only one that lives up to it in my opinion.


Vang Vieng – Tubing! Tubing! Tubing! Float down the river in that big inner tube and chill out whilst staring at the towering mountains that look like a set from Jurassic Park. Another ten out of ten experience. I can’t rate it enough and if you’re a backpacker you will most certainly be planning this place into your route. As well as tubing, there are also a plethora of other adventure activities on offer here from rafting to rock climbing.

Luang Prabang – The next big place after Vang Vieng. Known for its monks that line the streets at dawn to collect their only meal for the day. Also famous for its Buddha caves and waterfalls. A very picturesque town that’s definitely worth a visit. This town is normally the end of the road for most travellers, you will have to go back through Vientiane to get back into Thailand, however if you’re going to Vietnam you will be able to reach Ha Noi with the transport connections from this town.


Thailand, Laos and Cambodia Backpacking Route – Tubing & Angkor Wat of course!

Bangkok – Surat Thani – Koh Samui – Koh Phangan – Krabi – Koh Phi Phi – Koh Lanta – Bangkok – Ayutthaya – Lopburi - Sukhothai - Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai – Pai – Vientiane – Vang Vieng – Luang Prabang – Nong Khai – Aranyaprathet – Siem Reap – Battambang  - Phnohm Penh - Sihanoukville – Kampot -  Bangkok     (5- 7 Weeks)

Again a similar route to the previous two but this one’s for the 6-8 week backpacker. If you can get the time, this route will not disappoint. Cambodia is the addition here and Angkor Wat is the centrepiece!

Aranyaprathet - This is the border town between Thailand and Cambodia. Accessible by train from Bangkok but not directly accessible by train from Vientiane. Plan this part of the trip into your route accordingly. There’s no perfect way to see all these countries, at some point you are going to have to go back on yourself, but my recommendation is to go to Laos first then get a bus to Cambodia. This should be at the end of your trip and the logic behind this is that you wont be too far from Bangkok when it gets to the end of your trip, thats if you’re flying back from Bangkok.

Siem Reap – 4 hours by bus from the Thai/Cambodia border. Home to the worlds largest religious building. Angkor Wat of course! When I went to Angkor Wat I was blown away, this is one that can not be missed.

Battambang- Home to the bamboo railway. Another ten out of ten for experience and one of the highlights of my trip. Also check out the bat cave. Every night at around the same time the bats fly out of the cave and there are millions of them. An incredible spectacle. One of my favorite places in Cambodia.

Phnom Penh – The capital of Cambodia, always worth a visit. Just like every other destination in Cambodia, this city can only be reached by bus. There are no functioning train routes in Cambodia, although they are being rebuilt. I wouldn’t plan too much time here because the city can start to get on your nerves. The tuk tuk drivers are amongst the worse I’ve met and constantly pester you. But on the upside check out the shooting range, it’s crazy!

Sihanoukville – The coastal heavyweight of Cambodia. The backpacker is set around the central beaches, but if you venture further away from the town you will find some real gems. If you’re going to Vietnam this is the place to get your visa. It’s easier to do it here than it is to pre arrange it before you go. The walk in service takes 15 minutes and costs $40. I think Vietnam has increased its visa cost!

Kampot – Known for its pepper!  Surrounded by the elephant mountain range that supports Bokor National Park. This is another genuinely laid back town. Not too far from the cost but actually a river town. Not too touristy but has the essentials. My favourite place in Cambodia. Again if you’re going to Vietnam this is a great place to stop off then pick a bus up to the Vietnamese border, around 3 hours I think. If you’re ending your trip here you could either get a bus to Phnohm Penh and get a flight back to Bangkok or take the bus back to the Thai border and do the overnight train back to Bangkok. But no challenge to get back.


Vietnam Backpacking Route – The entire length!

Ha Tien – Can Tho – Ho Chi Minh – Vung Tau – Mui Ne – Da Lat – Nha Trang – Hoi An – Hue – Ha Noi – Ha Long – Lao Cai – Sapa    (2-3 Weeks)

There wont be too much variation in any Vietnam backpacking route. Your route will either be from north to south or south to north. The majority of travellers fly into Vietnam, it may be hard to get here overland in any tight schedule. A good route to fit into a longer Suth East Asia trip would be to head south to the coastline of Cambodia, pick up a visa in Sihanoukville and then enter Vietnam on the chosen date through the Ha Tien border crossing in the South-West corner. Another good route for overland travellers is from Luang Prabang, although this will be a 20+ hour bus trip you will get to Ha Noi trouble free. This suggested route goes from South to North and is the route I travelled earlier this year.

Ha Tien – The border town on the Vietnamese side, not a lot to see or do here. However you can pick up buses to any town in the Mekong Delta area as well as Ho Chi Minh City.

Can Tho – The largest city in the Mekong Delta and a great base for exploring the nearby villages. A very different Vietnam can be seen here, which more resembles Cambodia. Surprisingly this area used to be called lower Cambodia and can be seen as Cambodia on old maps. Get a taste of river life in this area as the mighty Mekong meets its final destination.

Ho Chi Minh – AKA Saigon, A huge city buzzing with millions of motorcycles. Much busier and more capital like than Ha Noi. Lots to see and do around here, plan a few days. From here you can pick up the train from where you can travel the rest of the country. It takes 30 hours from top to bottom on the train. Don’t underestimate the size of Vietnam whilst planning your time. You may want to consider a domestic flight if you need to get back to Bangkok when the trip comes to an end.

Vung Tau – A hidden gem in my opinion, a short journey from Saigon by bus or hydrofoil. More popular with Vietnamese tourists and weekender’s escaping Saigon, Vung Tau is a beautiful coastal town, known for its statue of Christ which stands at 32m high.

Mui Ne – An attraction that will blow your mind. Right in the middle of the humid lands are expanses of sand dunes. The red sand dunes are on the outskirts of the town, whilst the more beautiful white sand dunes sit next to Lotus Lake, a 40 minutes drive East. Although the town is overdeveloped this does not take anything away from the beauty of the secluded dunes. Definitely a must see!

Da Lat – See a weird part of Vietnam. A strong French influence has styled this town, with its Eiffel Tower radio/tv mast. The town sits on a plateau at 1500m above sea level and is surrounded by mountains that top 2500m above see level. Waterfalls flow in every corner providing untouched beauty and supporting a large variety of plants and animals. A very picturesque part of Vietnam, and a highlight of my trip. The climate is much cooler here and on a clear night the stars look incredible.

Nha Trang - Vietnam’s premier beach resort town. A lot more of a family orientated destination as well as the beaches there are lots of spas that have natural thermal baths. Quite over developed and not too much culture left here, but you will definitely come away with a nice sun tan. For the food lover, Nha Trang provides restaurants from any corner of the globe, as well as serving the best Vietnamese dishes found anywhere in the country. Nha Trang is another destination available on open tour buses, although I wouldn’t recommend getting one of these. It’s much better to take the train.

Hoi An – A genuinely beautiful city, built beside the river Hoi An is unlike any other place I went to in Vietnam. Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and its street plan reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign, that have combined to produce this unique heritage site. Once you reach this town you will be halfway to Ha Noi in the north.

Huế – Located on the banks of the Perfume River Hue is another town bursting with history. The centrepiece is a huge Citadel that houses the ruins of the ancient Forbidden City a very important place in Vietnamese history. A more laid back town that can be easily reached by bus or train. For most people this will be the last stop before Ha Noi City. There’s an option to take a domestic flight to Ha Noi for those on a bigger budget or take the overnight train, 15 hours I think but great value for money.

Ha Noi – The capital of Vietnam, spend a few nights here exploring the city. A much nicer city than Saigon but equally as annoying with constant orchestra of horns. From here you can easily take a trip to Ha Long bay or even travel independently, although much harder. The trip to Halong City will take 4 hours.

Halong City – The gateway to the incredible Ha Long Bay. This will obviously already be on your itinerary. One thing to consider when planning this part of your trip is the weather. Although more predictable in the dry season, trips to Halong Bay get regularly cancelled due to bad weather, so you may end up camping in Hanoi for longer than planned.

Lao Cai – Welcome to the mountains, from here you can get the bus to the mountain town of Sapa or organise a trek to Fansipan, the highest mountain in South East Asia, standing at  3143m above sea level and known as the roof of Indochina.

Sapa – A mountain village surrounded by terraced fields reminiscent of Machu Pichu. Home to eight ethnic minority groups. Definitely the most beautiful part of Vietnam and not to be missed.

Southeast Asia… Pretty much everything!

Bangkok – Surat Thani – Eastern Islands – Krabi – Western Islands – Bangkok – Siem Reap – Battambang – Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville – Kampot – Ha Tien – Can Tho – Ho Chi Minh – Vung Tau – Mui Ne – Da Lat – Nha Trang – Hoi An – Hue – Ha Noi – Ha Long – Lao Cai – Sapa – Luang Prabang –  Vang Vieng – Vientiane – Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai – Pai –   Sukhotthai – Bangkok  (8 weeks+ not to be rushed!)

Got 2 months and a nice budget? Why not see all of Southeast Asia. This route is a combination of all the other routes on this page, so I haven’t re-written summaries of each place. This route can be travelled 100% by cheap public transport and 75% of it can be done on the train. Cambodia and Laos don’t have any trains, so you will have to take the bus through these countries. The borders that this route crosses are relatively hassle free. The border at Cambodia is riddled with commission based scams so be aware of these before you cross and you will be okay.

If wont be able to answer any questions for a while, I am backpacking for 3 months and I wont have regular internet access. Feel free to post your questions anyway and someone may be able to answer you. Thanks Jake

Comments (164)

  1. by jodie on February 19, 2013

    hello jake,

    this is the most amazing website I have learnt so much!!

    me and my boyfriend have booked our flight to Bangkok for the 3rd of June and staying till September.

    I want to do your route map of ‘south east asia, pretty much everything’!

    Me and my boyfriend have 2,000 English pounds each to go with, do you think this will be enough? (thats just for the travelling bit, we have already paid for the flights).

    We don’t mind shopping around for somewhere to stay, we don’t really want to book anything before we go as being tied down to a rigid plan!

    thanks in advance for the help,
    Jodie xx

  2. by Wilburn on February 19, 2013

    My brother recommended I might like this web site.
    He was once entirely right. This publish actually made my day.
    You cann’t consider just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  3. by John on February 17, 2013

    Hi Jake great website thanks.

    I’m planning to go back packing in July/August with 2 friends and we’re going for 7 weeks. Our plan is to go to Thailand not stay for too long then go to cambodia and vietnam. Then fly to Indonesia Jakarta and travel down to bali. We have a budget of about £25 a day. Does this sound feasible?

    • by Jake Birkin on February 19, 2013

      Hello John,
      Yes £25 a day is realistic especially on a 7 week scale but im presuming this doesn’t account for flights/visa costs.
      Thanks, Jake

  4. by Shima on February 10, 2013

    Hey Jake,

    Thanks for this amazing website. I’ve been reading it for hours. Wanted to get a bit of your wisdom on something. I have 17 days to travel Thailand/Laos and Cambodia in July/August. Any tips for things to make sure to do? I obviously can’t do everything and don’t want a hectic trip but would love to do a bit of sampling. I’m happy to take suggestions on where to fly to save some time not doing buses.

    Thanks so so much.

    Shima

    • by Jake Birkin on February 13, 2013

      Hello Shima,
      Some of my favourite places are in central Thailand, I really enjoyed Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Kanchanaburi and Sangkhlaburi.

      Ayutthaya is the ancient capital and a very interesting town, lots of temples and ruins and little modern development.

      Lopburi must be the monkey capital of the world, take a day trip there, the town is run down and only has a couple of hotels (The monkeys faults of course).

      Kanchanaburi has some very nice national parks and is situated close to the Burmese border. Its an interesting part of Thailand and has a lot of history.

      Sangkhlaburi – Little foreigners make it to this town, probably because there’s nothing to do there. But that’s what I liked about this town, it feels like you have travelled into the past. Very traditional and seems more Burma than Thailand.

      You could fly from Cambodia to Laos or vice versa, you wouldn’t save too much time though.

      Hope you have an amazing trip.
      Thanks, Jake

  5. by Heather W on February 8, 2013

    Hey jake,
    am the nearing the end of my anti clockwise “full shebang” SEA trip starting from phuket and am now in Luang Prabang about to head south to Vang Vieng and into northern Thailand. in all your blogs and posts you describe travelling to Chiang Mai from Vientiane (thru nong khai i assume), you even say that if you are in Luang Prabang it is better to go back through Vietiane to get to Thailand… is this true? lonely planet and other places suggest accesssing Chiang Mai is better from Luang Prabang.
    i would like to not have to retrace my steps back to Luang Prabang after we go to Vang Vieng…. so my question is: from vang vieng what the best route to chiang mai? time wise is it better to had south through vietiane? please help, my friend and i are very confused. if at all possible can you tell me what your bus transfer towns were :)

    • by Jake Birkin on February 11, 2013

      Hello Heather,
      Assuming you dont want to go to Vang Vieng or Vientiane, then it would be best to travel to Chiang Mai straight from Luang Prabang. Heres the route the bus should take you http://goo.gl/maps/OzxcX. I have never travelled this route so I dont know about transfer buses.

      If you do go to Vang Vieng, the fastest and shortest route out is through the Nong Khai border,

      http://goo.gl/maps/to4JI

      Its a much longer route from Vang Vieng to go back through Luang Prabang.

      http://goo.gl/maps/lfo83

      Hope this helps
      Thanks, Jake

  6. by Martin Ortiz on February 6, 2013

    Thanks for having this website and helping people like me on a first backpacking trip to SE Asia.
    I am planning to go to SE Asia sometime in July or August. I can do only 2 to 3 weeks but would like to visit Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and/or Cambodia. I am traveling from US (NY area).
    Since this is a short duration trip compared to many, what would be your advise on where to start as well as transportation to take once there; what places to go en-route, and where to depart from on my way back.

    Thanks again for your comments and advise,

    Martin

    • by Jake Birkin on February 11, 2013

      Hello Martin
      I think 2/3 weeks isn’t enough to see all of those countries. Its a lot of mileage if you are travelling overland. It would be possible but you will spend a lot of your time travelling. The route I would recommend is something like this: http://goo.gl/maps/71yiT. This route is similar to the last route on this page, so I would reccomend going to the places I have listed there.
      Thanks, Jake

  7. by Brad on February 6, 2013

    Awesome Site and sooooo much good info. Your responses are thorough and kind!

    I am planning on backpacking SEA in April – June and was wondering your thoughts on what the cheapest possible amount of money you would say is possible to get by on for two months. I have a free round trip ticket because of miles i have accumulated through United Airlines from my hometown of San Francisco so that is covered and I have to use them by September or they expire. But my funds are limited. I would ideally like to do the Thailand – Laos – Cambodia trip you have listed or some variation of it.

    Any thoughts, tips, or suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks in advance.

    • by Jake Birkin on February 11, 2013

      Hello Brad,
      I think the cheapest you could realistically backpack Southeast Asia for 2 months on is $2200. This equates to $36 per day, but this figure takes into account visa, transportation costs etc. into a daily budget. If its your first time backpacking I wouldnt go with any less than this amount. Save a little more and you can always bring some back. Its good to have a bit of money to the side for emergencies.
      Thanks, Jake

    • by Jake Birkin on February 11, 2013

      Hello Brad,
      I think the cheapest you could realistically backpack Southeast Asia for 2 months on is $2200. This equates to $36 per day, but this figure takes into account visa, transportation costs etc. into a daily budget. If its your first time backpacking I wouldn’t advise going with any less than this amount. Save a little more and you can always bring some back. Its good to have a bit of money to the side for emergencies.
      Thanks, Jake

  8. by Darragh on February 4, 2013

    Hi Jake,

    Cheers for the reply to my previous post, much appreciated. Me and three mates have booked our flights now, arriving in Thailand on the 22nd of June and flying home on the 13th of August. We have planned to head north first, then head to Laos and then Cambodia before flying back to Bangkok and head south for the full moon and spend approx 3 weeks around the islands. We were looking at your guide on where to visit and it seems almost perfect. Just wondering if you know the best route and mode of transport when going from Laos directly to Cambodia?

    Regards,

    Darragh.

    • by Jake Birkin on February 5, 2013

      Hello Darragh,
      That’s awesome! The best method of transport is by bus. In fact its the only method of transport unless you paid for a taxi! There’s no trains in Cambodia or Laos except the Bamboo Train! So you will have to be prepared for some long journeys on ridiculously bumpy roads. Cambodia has good roads but the roads in Laos are pretty terrible (Spectacular scenery though).
      Thanks, Jake

  9. by Lin on February 3, 2013

    Hi Jake,

    I stumbled across your site in the process of looking for a packing guide for my upcoming trip – thank you for all the information! I’m planning my first backpacking trip, and solo to boot, starting in March. Unfortunately I won’t have much time on this trip, about 4-6 weeks in total. I’m flying from Seoul to Beijing and working my way down to Hong Kong, where I’m planning on taking a bus into Vietnam. From there my goal is to see Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand before flying back to Seoul. This trip has already been parroted down from my previous plan, but I want to make sure I see more than just the highlights. Would you suggest limiting my trip to just two out of the three SEA countries or doing part of Thailand now (as in north or south, not both)?

    Additionally, my budget for the whole trip would be somewhere in $3500 – does that sound reasonable? In order to keep costs low, where would you recommend flying out of?

    I welcome any suggestions on helping me making this trip work!

    Thank you again!

    • by Jake Birkin on February 5, 2013

      Hello Lin,
      Bangkok will be the cheapest airport to fly from. You will be able to cover a lot in 6 weeks, you will have to scale it back a bit if its just 4. I recommend travelling south down the entire length of Vietnam, entering Cambodia from the far corner and then travelling through into Thailand. Maybe explore central Thailand for a while before returning home. Your will be able to live pretty comfortably on that budget :)

      Stick to the 3 countries Vietnam/Cambodia/Thailand. Flying from Bangkok should keep the costs down, but you will have to check the prices on this.
      Thanks, Jake

  10. by Siddharth on January 31, 2013

    Hi Jake,
    Your website’s amazing! Helped me travel through Thailand last month.

    I have 30-40 days in May-June free, and I was hoping to do Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar before heading back to India. Which way/route would you recommend travelling?
    Also, would the weather be too much of an issue? I’m used to the heat, India’s as bad, but torrential rain is not something I want to battle too often.
    Any help and suggestions would be great!!!
    Thanks

    • by Jake Birkin on January 31, 2013

      Hi Siddharth,
      Im glad this information helped you.

      May/June is right at the start of the monsoon season, the weather wont be a problem at all. I have been towards the end of the monsoon season, when the rains are at their heaviest and most persistent and they never really effected my trip. It rains for about 30 mins then stops as abruptly as it starts.
      Thanks, Jake

    • by Jake Birkin on January 31, 2013

      Hi Siddarth.
      I don’t think 30-40 days is enough to travel all of those countries. Id advise sticking to a Thailand, Laos and Cambodia route, similar to the one on this page.

  11. by Lucy on January 27, 2013

    Hey Jake

    Your site is truly fantastic, what a help to those of us planning a trip to SE Asia…..thanks!

    I wonder if you could help me with one thing please; I intend to leave in November and I have Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia in the itinery. I will start in Bangkok and head east (saving southern thailand until last), however I am unsure wether to go to Laos first, then head south through Vietnam or do the opposite and start in Cambodia and head north through Vietnam………would you advise one or the other considering the time of year?

    Many thanks

    Lucy

    • by Jake Birkin on January 28, 2013

      Hey Lucy
      Im glad this site has helped you :)

      The advantage of going through Cambodia first, is that you can get your Vietnam visa on the same day from the Vietnamese embassy in Sihanoukville. If you enter Vietnam through Laos you will have to already have a Vietnamese visa arranged and stamped in your passport before you get to the border. I think there is a Vietnamese embassy in Vientiane, but the is will take several days to acquire. Alternatively you could arrange this visa from your home country, but you will have to know your date of arrival in Vietnam. Apart from that there’s not much between the two different routes. Weather wont be an issue either.

      Thanks, Jake

      • by Lucy Gates on February 3, 2013

        Excellent, that makes perfect sense. Thanks very much for the advice.

        Happy travels to you :-)

        Lucy

        • by Jake Birkin on February 5, 2013

          :D

  12. by Annie Bilder on January 23, 2013

    Hi Jake,

    Annie here again. I just wanted to thank you for all of your thoughts and advice. I did think long and hard about it, but think trains would be too difficult for me with my bags. So yesterday, drum role here, I booked a ticket to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu, which I think (hope) will be a better trip for me this time.
    Again, thanks,
    annie

    • by Jake Birkin on January 26, 2013

      Hi Annie,
      That trip sounds amazing in itself. Have a great time. :D
      Thanks, Jake

  13. by Katherine on January 21, 2013

    Hi Jake

    Your website is amazing and has been a fantastic help for the hundred and one questions I have! I’m planning on travelling SE Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos) and I have 8-9 weeks in which to do it. My dates are around 26th February to the 1st May. I would like to be in Thailand for Songkran but cannot figure out the best route to take. I was thinking I would maybe go from Bangkok, head up north to Chiang Mai and then onto Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and after about 4 weeks head back to Bangkok and then down to the Islands so as to be in Thailand for Songkran until the end of my stay? What would you suggest? Really would appreciate any advise or suggestions and would I have any visa issues if I did it the above route?
    Thanks a million
    Kat

    • by Jake Birkin on January 28, 2013

      Hello Katherine.
      Thanks for your kind comments. Your route sounds great, its quite similar to the last route on this page but a clockwise route instead of an anticlockwise route. The only thing that you will have to consider if your entering Vietnam from Laos, is the visa. You will have to pre arrange the Vietnam Visa for the date you will arrive at the land crossing. You can not get the Vietnam visa upon arrival, like you can in Laos and Cambodia. Normally I suggest travelling through Cambodia first before entering Vietnam in the south. The reason for this is that you can get a Vietnam visa on the same day at the embassy in Sihanoukville, (Cambodia). This is the route I took and its pretty straight forward. But if you arrange your visa for Vietnam in your home country before you fly out, you will be flexible as to the route you decide to take. Hope this helps.
      Thanks, Jake

  14. by Diego Omar on January 21, 2013

    Hello Jake

    im Diego, from Mexico, your blog is great, it solve us a lot of doubst my girlfriend and me are going to SE the next days, we arrive Phuket Jan 25 and we have a return flight from Bangkok March 12, then will be 47 days there, im very interested knowing Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, i love to go Laos but i dont know if we have enough time, could you give us a route recommendation base in this information? we going with around $1800.00 usd do you think is enough money?

    other thin i checked that the easy way to process vietnam visa is in Sihanoukville, but what about Cambodia? i think this can be process in the border im right?

    Thanks a lot man!!!!!

    • by Diego Omar on January 21, 2013

      1800 each!!! jejeje

    • by Jake Birkin on January 28, 2013

      Hello Diego,
      I think your best route would be the one at the bottom of this page. Its better to travel through Cambodia first, so you can get your visa on the way to Vietnam. Laos and Cambodia visas are sorted out upon arrival at the border. I think your budget is achievable, but you will have to watch your spending carefully. Have a fun trip!
      Thanks, Jake

  15. by Dame on January 15, 2013

    Hi Jake!
    I am planning to visit Laos and Cambodia, particularly only to go to Luang Prabang and Siam Reap for one week travel.
    Could please advise me the best route for me. I prefer to go overland since i will be on budget trip. I will depart from Jakarta, Indonesia.

    Thank you so much Jake!!

    Cheers,
    Dame

    • by Jake Birkin on January 21, 2013

      Hello Dame.
      One week isn’t long enough to travel through Laos and Cambodia overland. Neither of these countries have trains, so you have to take the bus. The roads in Laos particularly are very poor and the journey to Luang Prabang from the Thai border takes the best part of a day. Unless you can afford to fly between these countries, you will need more than a week. If you are travelling all the way from Jakarta overland you will barely have enough time to make it to Laos or Cambodia and back.
      Thanks, Jake

      • by Dame on January 25, 2013

        Hi Jake!
        Thank you for your advice.
        Your website is so awesome. It’s so helpful for me.

        Well, one week is too short to travel around both countries.
        But, i can’t do anything about that since my company will not give more days to take leave. hehe..
        Finally, i decided to go to Thailand from Malaysia by train on October. Will it be costly to travel by train from KL to BKK?

        Thank you so much,

        Dame

  16. by Courtney White on January 11, 2013

    Hi Jake,

    Have you been to Malaysia?

    I notice you talk alot about the rest of Southeast Asia, but nothing about Malaysia.

    I really want to include KL, Penang and Langwaki in my trip! (Should have plenty of time considering I’m heading over for 6 months)

    But would you recommend getting Malaysia out of the way first or finising off the trip there?

    I’ve heard a lot of people use KL as an entry and exit point for travelling Southeast Asia, but it looks as though you recommend Thailand more so.

    Thanks for your advice in advance,
    Courtney.

    • by Jake Birkin on January 13, 2013

      Hi Courtney.
      I don’t mention Malaysia too much, as im yet to visit myself. Malaysia is very easy to integrate into your route. You can get a train straight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. Id recommend travelling down the the southern islands in Thailand, staying around there for a while and then travelling further south into Malaysia.
      Thanks, Jake

    • by Emily Barz on January 13, 2013

      Hi there.

      Great website, very informative!! I am planning a trip to SEA in November for 6 months. I am a 23 year old female and have travelled Central America by myself. In Central America the trip was basically a 3 month party. I have read so much about SEA and how it is just a party and I am looking for a different scene this time. Of course I will partake in partying all night on the beach, but I am also looking to learn about the cultures, see temples and stay in small villages. I’m big into surfing (from Vancouver Island Canada) and love the beach and the sun.

      My question for you is about SEA routes. I want to see it all! I am planning on flying into Bangkok and flying out of Jakarta. I want to see Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Phillipines and Indonesia. My budget will be about $7,000 not including flights. I am hoping you can provide any insight on this route. I want a general idea of a route but after travelling in Central America, I know nothing is set in concrete when travelling and I will go with the flow once I’m there.

      Thank you so much this website is excellent.

      Emily Barz

      • by Jake Birkin on January 21, 2013

        Hello Emily,
        From my experience I can say that the party scene is mainly limited to the southern islands of Thailand, including Ko Samui, Ko Tah, Koh Phangan (Full Moon), Phuket and Koh Phi Phi. The only other party places in Thailand would be Bangkok (Khaosan Road) and perhaps Chiang Mai. Aside from this there is only Tubing in Laos. However tubing has been closed down now and the party scene is all but gone. Anywhere else you go in Southeast Asia has a chilled out vibe.

        As for a route you will first have to book a return from Bangkok to Yangon. Foreigners can only enter Burma by air travel. No land borders are open to foreigners. So you may want to travel through Burma first and then use a similar route to the last one on this page. Instead of travelling to the southern islands first like the route suggests, travel to them after you have been through Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. You will then be able to work your way south, taking train connections all the way into Singapore. Get a ferry from Singapore into Indonesia and continue on your travels to Jakarta.

        Here’s a rough route: Bangkok – Yangon – Bangkok – Phnom Penh – Ho Chi Minh – Ha Noi – Vientiane – Chiang Mai – Bangkok – Surat Thani – Islands – Kuala Lumpur – Singapore – Jakarta – Manilla – Jakarta

        To incorporate The Philippines into this route it will probably be cheaper to get a return flight from Jakarta to Manilla, than it would be to travel overland. Let me know what you think about this route.

        Thanks, Jake

        • by Emily Barz on January 27, 2013

          Thank you so much for the informative itinerary… That looks great!! Needless to say I’m pretty stoked on the trip and I appreciate your input so I have a better idea of where I’m looking at. I agree with flying to the Philippines, and I will do that because I’ve heard such wonderful things about the Philippines if you leave the hustle and bustle of Manila and Borocay.

          Thanks again for the input. This website is really great!

          Cheers,

          Emily

          • by Jake Birkin on January 28, 2013

            Hey Emily,
            Sounds like your going to have a great time. Im yet to visit the Philippines, but it sounds crazy!

      • by Allie on February 1, 2013

        Hi Emily, just came across this site and wanted to offer my opinion on places to visit for the Philippines. You should look into Palawan (gorgeous) and Bohol. I have been to Boracay which is also amazing, but VERY touristy. (Just moved to Vancouver from California by the way)..your post made me get the itch to go travel some more! Enjoy!

        Jake -thanks for your blog. My boyfriend and I plan to do a SEA trip sometime soon and I’m glad I can refer to this blog for ideas!

  17. by Courtney White on January 11, 2013

    Of all the research I’ve done, this is by far the most helpful. Thanks heaps, it’s much appreciated! :)

    • by Long on January 30, 2013

      I am totally agree!

  18. by Annie Bilder on January 9, 2013

    Hi Jake,

    The excellent news is that I stumbled onto your fabulous post at 1 AM last night. The bad news is that I stayed up pretty much the rest of the night re-reading it and thinking about your suggestions.

    I am super impressed by both the thoughtfulness of your post as well as tthe advice you have given others.

    I’d love to get your thoughts and suggestions about a 2 month trip I am contemplating.

    I am a 65 year old (today! yikes) woman. I will be traveling alone. I wear a back brace and travel with 2 small wheeled suitcases. My back does not handle rough roads very well. Fortunately, I can afford to fly between destinations, when that is possible.

    I love being in natural beauty especially near the sea and do not particularly like to be in crowds and masses of tourists. (I found Istanbul overwhelming, but loved Cappadoccia. Barcelona was too touristy for me, but I loved the Croatian coastal cities.)

    Given my tastes and limitations I have gone back and forth about traveling to Southeast Asia. I was wondering what sort of an itinerary you might suggest for me. I had been thinking to fly into Bangkok and I would like to try to volunteer at an orphanage on Phuket. I absolutely want to see Halong Bay.

    I would like to start traveling by Febuary 1 or sooner if I can get it together, so I am trying to take the weather into consideration as I plan my route.

    Many thanks for your hard work and generosity.

    annie

    • by Jake Birkin on January 13, 2013

      Hi Annie.
      Great to hear your still travelling. I have met a lot of older people whilst travelling in Southeast Asia.

      The roads in Thailand are generally in very good condition, however this can not be said for Laos. Theres no trains in Laos either so all journeys have to be made by road or air. Laos has the worst roads out of all the countries in South East Asia. Cambodia is a lot better and the government has been busy repaving their roads on the tourist routes. Vietnam has a lot of good roads and a few bad ones. The best thing about Vietnam is that you can take the train all the way up and down the country. Taking this into consideration id still recommend travelling to all of these countries but with a few flights in between.

      My recommended itinerary for you would go something like this:

      Arrive at Bangkok – Stay a few nights
      Get a train, taxi or bus to Attuyaya – A very nice city with an older scene. Not too many younger backpackers here.
      Get a train, taxi or bus to Kanchanaburi – National parks, waterfalls, fantastic scenery.
      Possibly venture further into the town of Sangkhlaburi (The lonely planet Thailand books have a lot of great info on these Central Thailand towns).
      Get a train down Surat Thani, then get a ferry to either Koh Samui or Koh Tao. Theres also Koh Phangan but this is party central for young backpackers. Although a nice island in itself.
      Stay on the islands for a few days before getting the high speed ferry back to the mainland. Get a bus heading to Phuket.
      Do some more island hopping on the west coast of Thailand. Generally these islands have scenes that appeal to everyone. From family s on package holiday tours to solo backpackers.

      After this you could either get a train back to Bangkok or get a flight from Phuket. Upon arriving in Bangkok either get a flight to Siem Reap or get the train to the border and a bus into the town. Siem Reap is a must and more importantly Angkor Wat. Which appeals to everyone and although it can sometimes be crowded its a must see.

      Next get a bus to Battambang, theres lots to see and do around there. Including the temples, Bat Caves, Bamboo railway (Very bumpy ride).
      Another bus to Phnohm Penh, explore the city. Get a flight from here to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. (You must have your visa pre arranged for the date of arrival in Vietnam).

      Start heading north up Vietnam, the main towns to visit are listed on this page, they are all accessible by train, except Da Lat, which requires a bus transfer. Once you get to Ha Noi, get to Ha Long Bay. Incredible.
      After that id normally recommend visiting Sapa, which features amazing rice terraces. However this would have to be a return journey for you from Ha Noi. So travel to Sapa and them back to Ha Noi, where you can get a flight into Luang Prabang, Laos. I normally advise taking this route from Ha Noi to Luang Prabang overland to save money, however its probably the bumpies and longest journey you could ever take in South East Asia. Avoid this overland journey and travel by air instead.

      Arrive in Luang Prabang stay a few days. I dont know many other places in Laos, I have only been to a few including Vang Vieng, But this town is a mecca for young rowdy backpackers. Id research a few more places in Laos you can visit before taking a flight to Vietiane. Dont travel overland to Vientiane from Luang Prabang. It will be a journey from hell. There’s potholes that you could disappear in.

      See the capital of Vientiane for a few days before travelling to the border by bus. From there you can get a bus to explore the northern towns of Thailand. Before finally getting a train back to Bangkok and possibly visiting Sukhotthai on the way down.

      The weather should be great by the time you arrive in Thailand

      Let me know what you think.
      Thanks, Jake

      • by Annie Bilder on January 18, 2013

        Hi Jake,

        OMG! Is my face red. For whatever brain disconnect I had, I kept expecting to see a response from you in my e-mail. Then I realized I should check you site. Duh. THANK YOU!!!! so much for all of the thought you have put into this itinerary for me. I will get back to you as soon as I digest this.

        Again, many thanks.
        Annie

  19. by Nicola on January 9, 2013

    Hi Jake,

    Me and a friend are starting to plan travelling around S.E.A for 6 months. Our basic plan is To fly to Bangkok from the UK then heading around South Thailand, through to Cambodia, the Vietnam up through to Laos making our way back to Bangkok via Chiang Mai route.

    Possibly flying to Philippines for a few weeks (stay with family) and then back to Bangkok, Bangkok to UK.

    Our estimated budget (excluding our return flight from UK-Bangkok) £5,000. Giving us less than £1,000 a month.

    Do you think we should leave out the Philippines?
    And does this budget seem realistic?(bare in mind we haven’t worked out our visa costs, insurance, travel costs inland and accommodation)

    It’s still early days of planning, and your advice has seemed to be very helpful for others .

    Thank You!

    Nicola :)

    • by Jake Birkin on January 13, 2013

      Hello Nicola.
      Your budget works out at £27 a day, that is easily achievable in Southeast Asia. The flights to the Philippines may eat up some of that budget. I wouldn’t advise you to leave this part of the trip out, id just advise you to make the decision based on the prices of the flights. If you book them at the right time, they can be excellent value. Check out the prices if they are cheap enough, get them booked. Skyscanner :D

      Visa costs will be:
      Presuming you get a 60 day tourist visa for Thailand: £30
      Cambodia: £12 (Official price is $20, if your asked to pay more than this you are at the wrong office on the border.)
      Laos: £20
      Vietnam: £30
      Philippines: Free for 21 days

      Total: Call it £100

      The budgeting article may help you further with specific prices. If you have any more questions let me know :)
      Thanks, Jake

  20. by cliona on January 8, 2013

    Hi Jake,

    I’m hoping to travel southeast Asia in March/April. I’ve been reading articles about tubing in Laos saying that it has stopped/been banned and that it’s not worth heading to Vang Vieng. Do you know anything about this? I only found out about tubing from visiting your site (which is awesome!) and I was really excited about heading there but now I’m thinking if it’s stopped then maybe I should just skip Laos and spend more time elsewhere.

    What do you know/think?

    Cli.

    • by Jake Birkin on January 8, 2013

      Hi Cliona,

      Tubing was closed down in November and hasn’t officially opened since. The Lao government were supposed to be having a meeting about Vang Vieng in December but nothing has been reported back yet. No one knows for sure, just keep an eye on the message boards at thorntree and trip advisor.

      Watch this video: http://youtu.be/6wk0Ispwr3I

      Looks like its done for good. The riverside bars have gone.

      Thanks, Jake

  21. by Gareth on January 8, 2013

    Brilliant routes Jake, exactly what i was looking for. “pretty much everything” is what i am planning on doing since i have 12 months to travel. I am just going to do it the opposite way as i want to finish off in the islands and not blow my whole budget in the first few weeks. Thanks for taking the time to draw these up. Much appreciated.

  22. by Derek on January 7, 2013

    Hey Jake,

    This website is much appreciated, I’ve just got a question for you regarding my travel plan. I will be flying into Bangkok the 30th of January and flying out of Bangkok the 28th of Feb. I would like to do the following route, but I am afraid I won’t have enough time:
    1) Bangkok
    2) Forest Mason Koh Chang, Thailand
    3) Siem Reap, Cambodia
    4) Kampot, Cambodia
    5) Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
    6) Hanoi, Vietnam
    7) Ha Long Bay, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam
    8) Through Laos back to Thailand
    9) Chiang Mai, Thailand
    10) Bangkok

    Whats your opinion on the matter? This will be my first time to SE Asia, Do you think this route is do able?

    Much Appreciated!
    -Derek

    • by Jake Birkin on January 8, 2013

      Hello Derek,
      I think that route is too much for a month. It took me 2 months to do a very similar route. You have to remember that if your doing it all by overland transport, the route is almost 5000 miles! You would spend a large portion of your time travelling, so id advise to replan something more manageable.
      Thanks, Jake

  23. by lisa on January 4, 2013

    Hi Jake

    Happy New Year!

    I wondered if you have any advice for me as i’ve read your previous comments and it seems you know a lot about travelling.

    Ok so here goes i’m flying into bangkok on the 27th i have 2 nights booked there then i wanted to know if its possible to do cambodia, vietnam in about a week then head to the islands before flying out of bangkok on the 23rd feb. Any advice would be greatfully received

    thanks
    lisa

    • by Viet on January 5, 2013

      Hi Jake,
      Thanks for putting all of this together. I am looking to do a 7 week SE Asia tour either starting in October 2013 or Jan 2014. I am very intrigued by your “Pretty Much Everything” route. What would you suggest that I cut out if I only had 7 weeks instead of 2 months? Also, what is the average amount of time spent at each location? It seems like each place averages out to about 2-3 days for your 2 month tour. Is this sufficient when you factor travel time into it? Thanks so much!

      • by Jake Birkin on January 6, 2013

        Hello Viet,
        You should be able to do this route in 7 weeks. Id say just go there and see how it goes, once you get from north Vietnam into Laos see how much time you have left and possibly skip out the north of Thailand and head back to Bangkok. Your only a week short of the time I did the route in so you will be okay.
        Thanks, Jake

    • by Jake Birkin on January 6, 2013

      Hello Lisa.
      Happy New Year to you!
      You will not be able to do Cambodia and Vietnam in a week. You need at least 2-3 week if your travelling overland. You could see a very small part of these countries in a week if you are prepared to take flights.
      Thanks, Jake

  24. by Rachel on January 3, 2013

    Hi Jake, this site has been a life saver! My friend and I are travelling from Canada to Bangkok at the end of February, we planned to do Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia and on and on from there, we loosely planned our route and stops thanks to your guides but have hit (what we think) are 2 problems:

    1. The weather in Northern Thailand in March is awful from all the crop burning and

    2. The travel warnings against Cambodia at the moment

    Taking into account that we may skip Cambodia, do you have a suggested route so we’re not backtracking ourselves all over the place? I was thinking Bangkok, southwest and southeast islands then back to Bangkok and fly(?) to Ho Chi Minh and go up and around…hoping April is a little better in the north?

    Also, in these places, when staying at hostels and guesthouses, are there places to lock up your things while you’re gone for the day? Whats the best thing to do will your belongings?

    Thank you in advance!

    Happy Travels
    Rachel

    • by Jake Birkin on January 6, 2013

      Hello Rachel.
      The first one may be a problem. I wouldn’t recommend going to the north in March, but like you said it may be okay in April. I do however recommend going to Cambodia. The travel warning that are issued now have been persistent for the last decade. The main places to avoid in Cambodia are Preah Vihear and a Ta Moan. These places are off the tourist trail and you would really have to go out your way to get to them. The only other warning is for the Funeral commemorations of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and these will be taking place from the 1-4 February. Having backpacked Cambodia several times I can assure you that the standard backpacking trail is safe.

      Depending on whether you choose to travel through Cambodia or not ill suggest a couple of routes. I haven’t added all the stop off’s in these routes, just the main places en-route.

      1) http://goo.gl/maps/0eba7 (Route including Cambodia, All done by overland Train/Bus Public Transport. Flight from Singapore to Jakarta and onwards.)

      2) http://goo.gl/maps/HV1n0 (Similar route but skipping Cambodia out. A flight from Bankok to Ho Chi Minh.)

      On both routes I recommend travelling north first, then down to the islands second. If you do it this way you will save money and time. You can get an overnight sleeper train down to the islands, stay for a while and then get another train further south into Malaysia and onwards. Travelling through Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos first will take up enough time for the weather to get better in the north.

      Let me know what you thing about these routes.
      Thanks, Jake

      • by Rachel on January 16, 2013

        Hi Jake, didn’t see the response until now, thanks for all the info, it’s tough to know how much to take literally when you hear about all the “dangers” of some of these places. I love the first option, including Cambodia, since I was really looking forward to going there. Might be doing it all on my own now so we’ll see what comes of it. Thanks again for all of your advice, really helpful.

        -Rachel

  25. by Shaun paul on January 3, 2013

    Hi Jake,

    Great website, really good advice.
    My girlfriend and I are flying into Bangkok for 6 weeks in sept and really like your pretty much everything tour, but only have six weeks so what would you recommend leaving out? We are flying back out of Bangkok to cairns. Any help at all would be great

    Thanks Shaun

    • by Jake Birkin on January 3, 2013

      Hi Shaun.
      You may be able to do this route in 6 weeks, but you will be travelling fast. Vietnam is the easiest to leave out. Its the only country where you have to pre arrange your visa before you arrive. You may be able to save time by taking internal flights, if they are the right price.
      Thanks, Jake

  26. by Michael on December 29, 2012

    Hi There!!

    Thank you for all this useful information regarind traveling/backpacking!! I am planing on backpacking for my first time in June to August 2013. My destinations top on my list include Thailand, Indonesia (Bali in particular), and maybe Cambodia/Vientnam/Laos. I would be flying into Bangkok from Canada.

    Any suggestions on how I should plan Indonesia into the works of SE Asia to make the best use of my time?

    Thank you so much!

    M.

    • by Jake Birkin on January 2, 2013

      Hi Michael,
      My recommendation would be:

      - Fly into Bangkok
      - Travel around central Thailand
      - Take an overnight sleeper train to the islands
      - Take another train to Kuala Lumpur
      - Get a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bali (Possibly cheaper than doing it overland)
      - Backpack around Indonesia
      - Get a flight back, possibly from Jakarta to Bangkok
      - Take train to Laos
      - Travel through Laos and cross into Cambodia
      - Enter Vietnam from the south and travel north
      - Get a flight back from Hanoi to Bangkok.

      Depending on your budget a cheaper option would be booking a return flight from Bangkok to Jakarta, but you will skip past Thailand’s southern islands if you did this. Have a look at the flight prices and plan around this. Hope this gives you some ideas.
      Thanks, Jake

  27. by Matthew Jones on December 28, 2012

    Hey!

    My girlfriend and I are planning on doing the first route, of just thailand. We’re not sure whether it would be best to fly to Bangkok then follow the route you suggested, ending in Chiang Mai and flying home from there, or do it the other way round…

    Either way, we know the flight to or from Chiang Mai would pass through bangkok, but we figured it would save more time for exploring rather than having to trek back down from the north to bangkok.

    Ideally we’d prefer to fly to Chiang Mai as it’ll mean the last leg of the trip would be exploring the islands before we traveled back north for the flight. We were just wondering how you recommend we do it?

    Thank you

    Matt

    • by Jake Birkin on January 2, 2013

      Hi Matthew,
      Bangkok is normally by far the cheapest airport to fly to and from. I don’t know where your flying from but have you checked the prices for flying into Chiang Mai. If the difference is quite big id say stick with Bangkok. Its easy to jump on an overnight sleeper train and make the journey from Chiang Mai to Bangkok or vice versa.
      Thanks, Jake

  28. by Mikkel on December 6, 2012

    Hi Jake!

    First off, thank you so much for putting this website together, this is exactly what i’ve been searching for!

    I was thinking of taking the last tour that you suggest. I just have 1 question; when and where should i get visa for Vietnam, when i don’t know my exact entry date? I would be entering by land from Laos. Do you know a specific location/city in Laos, or should i get it now from home?

    Cheers, from Denmark :)
    Mikkel

    • by Jake Birkin on December 6, 2012

      Hi Mikkel,

      Glad to help you. In the last route you are referring to, I suggest going through Cambodia before entering Vietnam. The easiest place to get a Vietnam visa is the Vietnamese embassy in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. This it the only place in South East Asia where you can receive a visa on the same day. The good thing about this embassy is that it is located relatively close to the Ha Tien border. So you can be confident in your date of choice.

      There is also an Embassy in Vientiane – Laos, however you will have to allow upto 3 days for your visa to be processed. So this is another option if you don’t mind waiting around. The final option is to obtain your visa before you travel. I wouldn’t recommendatory this, it will add restrictions to your journey and you may start to rush through places on a tighter schedule.

      Thanks, Jake

      • by Mikkel on December 11, 2012

        Hi Jake.

        Thank you very much for your answer, and your time! :)

        I can deffinately use your visa-tips :)

        Mikkel

    • by Sonny Davies on December 13, 2012

      Hi Jake,
      As everyone has said, your website is great and cannot recommend it enough!. Referring to this route you suggested (excluding letter H).
      http://goo.gl/maps/A85O8 , how much do you think I will need if travelling for 4-5 weeks by myself? Also, do you think this is enough time to take in all the views of these countries? I’ve done enough partying here in the UK for the time being, so would not be too interested in the beaches etc haha. I would like to do some sightseeing/trekking, would not hire a motorbike and would rely on the buses/trains. Many thanks in advance.

      • by Jake Birkin on December 15, 2012

        Hi Sonny,
        I think that route is a bit too much for your time scale. I did the same route in 8 weeks. It would be possible in 5 weeks but that’s a lot of travelling (5000km). Sometimes less is more. As for costs ill do a little breakdown:

        Visa Costs:
        Cambodia: £12
        Laos: £18
        Vietnam: £27

        Budget Accommodation Costs:
        Dorm: £4
        1 Bed Fan: £5
        1 Bed Aircon: £7

        Food & Drink Costs:
        Street food: £2
        Budget restaurant: £4
        Beer: 50p – £1.50

        A budget of £30 a day is realistic, you have to consider transport costs in your budget. Public transport is cheap! Motorcycle hire is equally as cheap. See my guide: http://myalternativelife.net/thailand/scooter-rentals

        Id budget around £1200. You could do it in less or a lot more, you wont know until you have tried it. Have fun on your travels.
        Thanks, Jake

        • by Sonny Davies on December 17, 2012

          thanks for the reply Jake. Yeah I think that I will remove Vietnam from the list and just travel the 3 countries. Cheers for the info.

  29. by Tom on December 1, 2012

    So glad I stumbled across this site whilst frantically googling travel routes, it’s been so useful!
    Planning to travel to New Zealand for a month then flying up to Bangkok for a couple of months around South East Asia. Cheers for putting this together! Awesome.

    • by Jake Birkin on December 2, 2012

      Have fun in Southeast Asia. Cheers Jake

  30. by Katie on November 28, 2012

    Hi jake,

    This site is soo helpful! I am going traveling from May through to early september 2013. I want to do thailand, cambodia, laos,vietnam and india, and if possible stop off in Australia for a bit. I’m wondering if i will have a enough time to do all this? I am traveling with a friend and cannot wait to go, but i have no idea what visa’s and where to stay etc while i am out there. I also have no idea where to start to look for all this information. Any suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Katie

    • by Jake Birkin on December 2, 2012

      Hello Katie,
      You will probably not have to buy a visa. You get a 30 day visa exemption when entering Thailand by air. So you have a month to travel around Thailand before you have to cross into another country. When you re-enter Thailand by land crossing you will get an additional 15 day visa exemption. Don’t worry about the visa for Laos or Cambodia, these are purchased upon arrival at the land border. The cost for a 30 day visa for Cambodia is $20 and for Laos is $30. The Vietnam visa is a bit more tricky. You have to prearrange this visa at an embassy before arriving at the border and the cost is around $45. If you plan your route to go through Cambodia before entering Vietnam you can stop by the town of Sihanoukville and get your Vietnam visa in 10 minutes at the embassy. This is by far the easiest way. As for accommodation you don’t have to prebook anything, just turn up on the day and find a guesthouse. The only place that you may have to prebook accommodation on is Phi Phi. 5 months is easily enough time to do this. I have recommended some travelling times on the routes. Hope this helps.
      Thanks, Jake

      • by Katie P on January 8, 2013

        Hi again Jake,

        As always, you advice is appreciated!! I have actually decided to go to Australia before SEA for 3 months and then i am going to prety much all of SEA! But my question now is how to stoe my money in the safest way. Should i bring credit cards? or my debit card? Or carry a lot of cash (which seems like a high risk?) As i am going for 4 months i will need access to my funds etc, what do you suggest?

        Thanks so much – literally a life saver!

        Katie

        • by Jake Birkin on January 8, 2013

          Hi Katie,
          For convenience there’s nothing better than taking a debit/credit card. You will have to do some research into this. Many banks have a lot of hidden charges tied to their cards. Find out the best value card for international travel and get one. Aside from that id recommend travellers cheques. These are very easy to use any can be cashed in any Thai bank. I have used cheques on both my trips to Southeast Asia without hassle.

          If you have the time to research these things your best option would be to take a combination of cheques, cash and credit/debit cards. Don’t exchange your cash in your home country, the rate is significantly better in Thailand.
          Thanks, Jake

  31. by Darragh on November 27, 2012

    *Also, in regards to accommodation, especially in the more touristy spots like Koh Phi Phi and when tubing in Laos, would you recommend pre-booking or just arriving and trying to get somewhere on arrival?

    • by Jake Birkin on December 2, 2012

      Hi Darragh,
      I would only reccomend prebooking accomodation on Phi Phi. You wont have a problem anywhere else, so just turn up on the day.
      Thanks, Jake

  32. by Darragh on November 27, 2012

    Hi Jake,

    Seriously helpful site mate, great work!

    Got a question you might be able to help with. If I was to fly into Bangkok, then follow your proposed route 3, visiting Laos and Cambodia, would I have to apply for a triple entry tourist visa as I would be entering the country three times in the 7/8weeks?

    Thanks for your time,

    Darragh.

    • by Jake Birkin on December 2, 2012

      Hello Darragh,
      No you would not need a multiple entry visa and possibly not need a visa at all. When you fly into Bangkok you will get a 30 day visa exstension. As long as you enter Laos or Cambodia before the 30 days is up you will not need a visa. When you re enter Thailand by land you will recieve and additional 15 days. If you plan on staying in Thailand for more than 15 consecutive days without entering Laos or Cambodia again you will need to buy a visa. Does this make sense?
      Thanks, Jake

  33. by sheri on November 26, 2012

    Such a great post! I read the whole thing. I’m heading to SE Asia for my first time in January and plan to spend about five months there. I have no set plan, just sort of flitting about, but your suggestions will be added to a list of places to go. Thanks for all the info.

  34. by Tom on November 22, 2012

    Hi Jake,

    Thank you for your awesome homepage! I am thinking about doing the “Southeast Asia… Pretty much everything!” Tour. What time would you recommend to travell there?
    Unfortunatelly I just have free time between July and the beginning of August.
    Do you think it’s possible to travell at that time or would it be better during an other periode?

    Best regards from Germany
    Tom

    • by Jake Birkin on November 25, 2012

      Hi Tom,
      I don’t think it matters too much on the time of year. Your free time is in the monsoon season. I have visited SEA twice n these months and had a great time. The monsoons are short lived and never get in the way of your plans. Another advantage of travelling at this time is the off peak prices. A lot of guesthouses/hotels have lower prices at this time of year. The only disadvantage is the high humidity in the monsoon season. Although you will soon adapt to this. So my advice is just go for it, you wont have any regrets.
      Thanks, Jake

  35. by ryan on November 20, 2012

    I’m planning on goin to Thailand Laos Cambodia Vietnam Malaysia and Singapore, me and 2 friends are planning to do this over3/4 months. And then onto Australia. How much money would you recommend and also we are planning to go in may and wondering about monsoon season and if this will affect us. Also is it worth just turning up to hostels when we are there

    • by Jake Birkin on November 25, 2012

      Hi Ryan,
      The monsoon season is a great time to travel in my opinion. There are the benefits of off peak prices and less tourists. The only way to travel out there is to just turn up at the guesthouses on the day. Do it all independently and you will save a lot of cash. A budget for 4 months in SEA should be around £2500. Breaking down to £20 a day. This is if you stay in guesthouses, if you want more luxury in accommodation you will have to take this into account.
      Thanks, Jake

  36. by Rob on November 20, 2012

    Hi, i am looking at doing the “pretty much everything” with the time schedule of about 2 months with my girlfriend. How much of a budget each do you think we would need in GBP? Excluding flights to and from the UK. Great site by the way! Cheers!

    • by Jake Birkin on November 25, 2012

      Hello Rob,
      Id recommend a budget of around £1500. It really depends on how much luxury you want. I did the same route for about that cost and had a great time.
      Thanks, Jake

  37. by Charlie H on November 19, 2012

    Hey Jake!

    Your page is awesome, so helpful…

    I’ve been travelling before but not on my own so i am a bit anxious but i’m so excited to be planning it! Just a couple of questions….

    1) I’m hoping to go to SE Asia next July for 7 weeks, i want to have a really cultural experience but also enjoy the beaches and a few cheeky cocktails! What route would you suggest? Also being on my own how easy is it to meet people?! Im really sociable but worry i wont meet anyone, dont want to be a complete loner!

    2) I think i will have around £2,500 to spend….will this be enough? From other posts i have seen you reply to, am i best to just research the places i’m going andjust book trips when i’m there?

    I will for sure be directing people to your web page, thanks for putting it up! :) x

    • by Jake Birkin on November 25, 2012

      Hello Charlie,
      Thanks for that!

      I would recommend a route similar to the third route listed on this page. It features a good mix of the party, cultural and historical scenes. From the southern islands (cheeky cocktails :D) to the northern mountains (trekking and minority villages) to the ruins of Angkor Wat.

      Its very easy to meet other travellers in SEA. Stay in hostels or guesthouses with bars/restaurants. You are guaranteed to meet like minded people who will most probably be heading out to the same places as you. I have been in the position of travelling solo and meeting people; as well as travelling with a friend. Whilst I was travelling with a friend on several occasions solo travellers had started talking to us and then proceeded to spend the next few days together. So it works both ways. Everyone is friendly when backpacking.

      Yes £2500 is more than enough, does this include flights? In my opinion the best way to travel is independently and you will certainly save money like this. But there may be times when an organised trip makes more sense. Mix the two up and have fun with it.

      Thanks, Jake

  38. by Cheryl Lucas on November 17, 2012

    Hi Jake,

    Let me again congratulate you on the most useful website ever!! so glad I found it!!

    I am a lone female traveller, from the UK but have been living in Australia for the past 18 months. In January I’m travelling to New Zealand, then Fiji, then Bali, Singapore, KL, Langkawi and flying from there to Ko Sumi (arriving in April) where I plan to travel up to the North of Thailand, and want to see Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam
    I am struggling to decide whether to follow your route above and go to the north of Laos then all the way through Vietnam, then Cambodia or whether to travel North to south through Laos, then Cambodia and south to north through Vietnam?

    What would you recommend? ( I don’t know much about Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam except what I have been reading on your website and the lonely planet)

    I have unlimited time and a reasonable budget – would be aiming to get back to work in July, but flexible.

    I am not sure whether I want to return to London or Australia so have no flight booked at the end… would you recommend making my way back to Bangkok to fly home or just going from Vietnam/Cambodia?

    I look forward to your advice,

    Thank you in advance!!

    Cheryl

    • by Jake Birkin on November 18, 2012

      Hello Cheryl,
      Thankyou for your comments, much appreciated :)

      Id recommend doing the first route that you suggested. (North through Laos then all the way south through Vietnam and finally Cambodia). If you did it the other way around and went South through Laos, then Cambodia and finally travel north through Vietnam you will be stuck in Hanoi. You would have to fly out of Hanoi because if you wanted to travel back to Bangkok by overland travel, you would have to go through Laos and get another visa. You could fly back home from Hanoi, but I suspect it will be much cheaper to fly from Bangkok.

      Have a look at the flight prices from Hanoi compared to Bangkok.
      Thanks, Jake

  39. by El on November 16, 2012

    Jake,

    First, the site is fantastic! I’ve been taking a look at your suggested routes and am wondering if you can advise me: I’m planning to head over to SE Asia for 3-4 weeks in March/April. I’d love to hit Thailand and Cambodia this trip, and am trying to plan an itinerary that doesn’t involve too much back-and-forth.

    Would you recommend flying in and out of Bangkok? Or arriving in Bangkok, traveling in Thailand, heading over to Cambodia and flying out of Phnom Penh? Or the other way around? :)

    I was thinking of making a few stops in each country, since I know travel itself will take some time. I have the budget to do some (limited) air transfers between stops, but prefer to keep it overland.

    All the best, and thanks!

    • by Jake Birkin on November 18, 2012

      Hello El,
      Im glad to help. I think it depends on where you are flying from. Bangkok is by far the cheapest city to fly too in SE Asia. You also save a lot of money when booking a return instead of two singles. Bangkok is central and has excellent transport links. You also need to consider the visa. You get a free 30 day stay in Thailand when you arrive by air. You only get 15 days when you arrive by land. Id recommend booking a return flight to Bangkok.

      You can get an overnight train to the Cambodian border from Bangkok. It takes about 10 hours if I remember right, the time flies when you are on a sleeper train. Overland travel is cheap and efficient. As long as you stick with public transport instead of tour operators.
      Thanks, Jake

  40. by Kat on November 16, 2012

    Hi Jake,

    I’m heading over to SE Asia for about 4 weeks in January. I’m flying into Bali around the 27th of December and staying around the island with some friends for a week. After that I’m looking to bit of travelling on my own for the remainder. Just wondering where you would recommend as the best place to go to spend my remaining 3 weeks… I’ve just returned from 2 weeks in Vietnam, which I adored so want to try somewhere else. I was thinking maybe do 1 or 2 places well rather than try to fit heaps in. (Im from Aus so i can go back again) I love a bit of a dance, so some places with a party vibe, but really just want to make the most of the time I have, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated :)

    Kat

    • by Jake Birkin on November 18, 2012

      Hello Kat,
      You could cover quite a lot of SE Asia in 4 weeks. I would have recommended tubing in Laos, however it has recently been shut down and may still be closed when you arrive. Other places with a party vibe are the islands in Thailand. There’s plenty to see and the scenery is spectacular. The biggest party island is Koh Phangan. There’s a lot of nice islands off the west coast that have a chilled out vibe. You could do a bit of island hopping. The north of Thailand is mainly trekking and scenery. You could also check out the coastline of Cambodia. Sihanoukville has a party scene.
      Thanks, Jake

  41. by Tom on November 10, 2012

    Hi Jake – firstly just wanted to say I love your page, it’s so helpful and clear!

    My partner and I are planning a trip over the summer for 4-5 weeks in SE Asia. We were originally planning on getting a return flight to Ha Noi and basically doing a big circle; down through Vietnam, then west across the south of Cambodia, then down the east coast of Thailand and back up the west coast, then up through the north of Thailand, east through Laos back to Hanoi – although having read your advice to other travelers I’m assuming this is unrealistic for a 4-5 week trip and you would advise us to lose Vietnam – however Thailand and Vietnam are the two countries we want to visit the most, Cambodia and Laos would be fantastic but aren’t as important to us!

    We have a pretty limited budget but are very comfortable spending large amounts of time just traveling from place to place and staying in the cheapest of hostels – we would roughly have about £700-800 each (excluding flights, obviously) so if you could let us know whether this could work or not, or what the best option would be to see as much of Thailand/Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos as we can with that amount of money we would be eternally grateful! One point – we need a route that begins and ends in the same city as we can only afford return flights, eg we found return flights to Ha Noi in June-July for around £600 whereas single flights to Ha Noi and returning from Bangkok or whatever were around £500 each way.

    All the best and again, congratulations of your fantastic website :)

    x

    • by Jake Birkin on November 12, 2012

      Hi Tom,
      I appreciate the feedback, thanks.

      I normally advise leaving Vietnam out to people who fly into Bangkok. Its just because its a bit more awkward and out of the way to reach than Laos and Cambodia. The route you have planned is pretty solid but in 5 weeks is quite a push. Its over 4000 miles in distance! As you can imagine that’s a lot of travelling, especially on Southeast Asian transport. The buses and trains travel quite slowly and are always delayed in some way en-route.

      Im not sure whether there is a logical way to see both Thailand and Vietnam on your budget. Any route you plan has to pass through Cambodia or Laos twice. Id only recommend going for 4 weeks on that budget, that would give you around £25 per day, which is enough to get by on after visa/travel costs.

      All I can recommend for budget travel is follow the locals. Use public transport instead of tour operators. Eat the street food, its cheap and delicious. When it comes to accommodation, hostels that provide a bed and shared facilities work out cheaper if your travelling solo. However as you are travelling with your partner a double fan room at a guesthouse will work out cheaper per person than a hostel.

      The only way I can see this trip being possible is if you book an additional fight from Bangkok to Hanoi. My suggestion would be, booking a return flight to either Bangkok, Hanoi or Saigon, whichever is cheaper, then travel a similar route to what you suggested but only cross one other country (Laos or Cambodia) by land. Ill use this one as an example:

      Fly into Bangkok (return), travel down the south coast and then back north to Bangkok. Then travel east through Cambodia, then onto Vietnam. Travel north the entire length of Vietnam, finishing in Hanoi. Finally get a flight back to Bangkok from Hanoi and then get your return flight home. Check the flight prices for your dates. I think it will be around £70, however you will still be saving money. The money spent on travelling from Hanoi to Bangkok via Laos by land, will exceed the flight fare. To do the journey overland you must factor in money spent on on visas, accommodation, food and transport, the journey will take several days overland and you will have to stop off somewhere.

      Thanks, Jake

  42. by Alames on November 10, 2012

    Salutations!

    My partner and I wish to spend a couple o’months in and around Thailand. We want to let our hair down and escape the discrimination from home. We are travel virgins and want some deep information on travelling south east asia! Would you recommend going with a gap year company or organizing it our selves. We want to have a great time and experience as much as we can! All help would be appreciated for first time travelers like ourselves, many many thanks Jake!

    • by Jake Birkin on November 11, 2012

      Hi Alames,
      Noooooooooooo, dont go with a company. Independent travel is the only way to go! Its much cheaper and you have a lot more freedom. You may have concerns about arranging everything by yourself, but the truth is nothing needs to be arranged. Just turn up in Bangkok and start travelling. For example hotels/guest houses. I have never booked accommodation. Simply get to the destination find a guest house and get a room. Same goes with travel, turn up at the bus/train station and get on a train. Its really simple, everyone who backpacks in Southeast Asia travels like this.
      Thanks, Jake

  43. by rachel on November 10, 2012

    Hi Jake

    i am looking to travel around thailand in 2014 :) and i was wondering if you could give me a rough estimation of how much money i would need for 6months ??

    thanks

    rachel x

    • by Jake Birkin on November 11, 2012

      Hi Rachel,
      Id estimate you would need around £5000. That works out at £27 per day, if you budgeted well enough you could do it in much less than this. It depends on how comfortable you want to travel.
      Thanks, Jake

  44. by Natalie S on November 9, 2012

    Hi Jake,

    Firstly, I cannot believe I stumpled upon this fantastic website, when I was panicking that all was lost. This website is full of so much useful information.

    I was wondering if you could advise me, as I am traveling Nov 14th & I am in a right panic about what to do as nervous going by myself.

    This is my rough plan, I arrived to Bangkok on the 15th Nov. I have two nights booked there & was wanting to do Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos & be in Koh Pha Ngan for the 23rd of Dec – the 1st of Jan. I have a forwarding flight from Singapore on the 28th Feb to Sydney.
    My problem is sorting the first part out. I was looking to get my cambodian visa arranged on my first day there, as I am aware this takes afew days. Then looking to go to Cambodia for two weeks, then moving on to Vietnam for another two weeks, traveling from the South to The North & getting a flight from Hanoi to Bangkok roughtly on the 16th Dec. I really need to fly back in to Thailand so I have to 30 days entrance, as I want to be there for Christmas & NYE.

    After Jan 1st I was thinking to travel arround visiting the other islands, then travel back North so I can go to Laos, before I travel back down to get me to Kuala Lumpur before Singapore for my flight on the 28th Feb.
    I believe there is a limit of three entries into Thailand, so by doing this I think I will be ok.

    Apologises for the long mail, just hoping for some suggestions & if you think this route is possible. As, was looking to booking the Hanoi flight in the next couple of days & wanting to know if this is a good idea.

    Many thanks for your time,
    Natalie S.

    • by Jake Birkin on November 11, 2012

      Hello Natalie,
      Thank you I appreciate your feedback. :)

      No need to worry, its much easier to do these things than you think. Firstly the only visa you need to arrange is for entry into Vietnam. There are places where even this visa can be arranged within 10 minutes! You don’t need to arrange a visa for Cambodia or Laos. When you arrive at any of the land borders, you pay for the visa upon arrival. Its so easy.

      Your route seems to be a bit back and forth, you could cut out a lot of the distance if you travelled in a loop. A route like this would be ideal, if you could fit it around your dates.

      http://goo.gl/maps/A85O8

      Note the order of the letters, that’s the order id suggest travelling in. If you did this route you would not need to get a flight from Ha Noi, so you might save a bit there. Let me know what you think.

      Thanks, Jake

  45. by Natalie Fox on November 7, 2012

    Hi Jake,

    I love this site, has helped already! But was just wondering if you don’t mind to suggest a route for me and my partner. We’re going to Bangkok beginning of Dec and having abit of trouble trying to decided a route! I’d like to go North first to Chang Mai then head down to the islands for Christmas (not sure which one would be best for those days?) then through to laos, Cambodia and Vietman, not necessarily in that order and also need to get a visa for Vietnam somewhere? after that we have to get back to Hong Kong by 10th Feb for our flight home.

    Anything you can suggest will be greatly appreciated.

    Many Thanks

    Natalie

    • by Jake Birkin on November 11, 2012

      Hello Natalie.
      Glad to help you.

      The southern islands will be much busier at Christmas. There will be lots of parties/celebrations, drinking and music. The north will be much quieter and a lot less will be happening. So it depends what you want to do.

      The best order to travel the countries in is Laos then Cambodia then Vietnam. I say this because its easy to get your Vietnam visa in Cambodia. There is a Vietnamese embassy in Sihanoukville where you can get your visas within 10 minutes. This works out great, as it is only a short ride to the border from Sihanoukville. This eliminates the problem of choosing entry dates in advance. I got my visa this way and it all went smooth. Alternatively you could get a visa in Phnom Penh, however this takes a few working days.

      I recommend checking the flight prices from Ha Noi to Hong Kong, it may be cheaper to get a flight back to Bangkok first, then a flight to Hong Kong.
      Thanks, Jake

  46. by Kelly on November 7, 2012

    Hi Jake,

    Thank you for getting back to me, I really appreciate it. Yeah I have considered going to Cambodia as well, I just didn’t really know if I had the time or not. If we were to do Cambodia too when do you think we should do it, start in Cambodia instead of Vietnam? then go to Vietnam and carry on like my original plan?

    Thank you so much for helping out, youve been a huge help.

    Kelly

    • by Jake Birkin on November 7, 2012

      Hi Kelly,
      With 9 weeks you will have more than enough time. I did virtually the same trip in 8 weeks and I was travelling slow.

      You could do a route like this: http://goo.gl/maps/4A6EJ

      It will probably be cheaper to fly to Bangkok than Ho Chi Minh. So if you start in Bangkok you can travel overland to the Cambodian border. The journey takes about 10 hours but goes fast on the overnight train.

      Thanks, Jake

  47. by James White on November 6, 2012

    Hi Jake,

    Great website! Finding it very helpful as someone who has never visited the region.

    My girlfriend and I are looking to do a 2-3 week trip to vietnam in late March next year. We will be mainly travelling around Vietnam but are also looking to do a short tip to cambodia to see Angkor Wat. We want to keep the costs down so can you advise the best way of achieving this?

    Where would be best to cross the Vietnam Cambodia border, what is the best way of making the trip (train, bus, place etc), and what is the best way of actually seeing Angkor Wat (organised tour, personal arrangements etc)

    Thanks in advance

    James

    • by Jake Birkin on November 7, 2012

      Hi James,
      Ill be glad to help.

      The easiest way to cross into Cambodia is to take a public bus from Ho Chi Minh to Phnohm Penh. There are no trains in Cambodia so the bus is the only option.
      You should also consider your timing, you can get a Cambodia visa upon arrival at the border, but you have to pre arrange your visa for Vietnam. Therefore you may want to plan Cambodia into the later part of your journey.

      The best way to see Angkor Wat, is either hiring a tuk tuk for the day or hiring bicycles. If you are used to riding bicycles you shouldn’t have a problem, however the sites are miles apart.

      A tuk tuk is around $20 for the day and easy to arrange. I wouldn’t recommend an organised tour, you have more restrictions and the tour operators only care about the money. If you’d like a tour guide, you can get one at any of the sites.

      Thanks, Jake

  48. by Kelly on November 6, 2012

    Hi Jake, great blog! Ive been doing a lot of research and not one website has as much info as you do!

    I was just wondering… I am going to be in SEAsia for 9 weeks, our plan was to fly to the south of Vietnam, travel to the north stopping off along the way, then crossing into Laos, then spend some time in Laos, before heading to Chang mai then down to bangkok then down to the islands. My question is, do you think that this is a good route? and how would you get from the Hanoi to Laos? Ive been to thailand before but never been to Vietnam or Laos.

    Thank you :)
    kelly

    • by Jake Birkin on November 6, 2012

      Hello Kelly.
      Thanks for your comments.

      Yes this is the best route. From Hanoi you can either take a bus or a slow train to Lao Cai, which serves as a gateway town to Sapa. Make sure you visit Sapa its one of the most spectacular places in Vietnam. After that you can take a bus from Lao Cai into Laos; all the way to Luang Prabang in one journey if you wanted to. Its a bumpy long bus ride but its the only way to get into Laos without flying. Have you considered going to Cambodia as well, you have a lot of time on your hands and its easy to plan into a route.
      Thanks, Jake

  49. by jennifer on November 5, 2012

    Hi Jake this blog has been most helpful and I would really appreciate your expertise. I’ll be in southeast asia from dec. 19 to jan. 2 flying out of hong kong each time.. I am very flexible on where to travel but I am so confused on how to get from one country to another cheaply and at a relatively good pace– aka not 20 hour bus rides! I am most interested in thailand, vietnam, laos and burma. I was in cambodia six yrs ago so not interested this time.

    Can you help with an itinerary??? Thanks so so much

  50. by Katie on November 3, 2012

    Hiya
    Just to say this website has been such a big help! Me and two friends are planning on travelling south east asia at the beginning of December for 3 months ish (we don’t really have any plans but to be in Koh Phangan for the 25th December) – do you think we will be alright just winging it with only a rough guide of where to go or do you think we will need to book ahead of ourselves once we get out there (as in a nights accomodation a few days before hand?)
    And roughly how much would you say we budget for each month (we will be living like cheap backpackers!)
    Thanks Katie

  51. by Ivana on November 3, 2012

    Hi Jake,
    you’ve probably heard this before, but I have to ask – I’m having trouble finding a easy (and not too expensive) way to get from Laos to Vietnam. Preferably from Luang Prabang to Lao Chai. Do you have any ideas or experiences? Thanks a lot! And once again – amazing blog, very very helpful!
    Ivana

    • by Jake Birkin on November 5, 2012

      Hello Ivana,

      I don’t think there are any tourist buses that go fro Luang Prabang to Lao Cai. The tourist buses go straight to Hanoi. You can take a public bus from Luang Prabang to the border, then you should be able to pick up a bus to Lao Cai. I have some friends who did this route, they said the roads are really bad and the bus takes forever, however its the only option, short of flying from Luang Prabang to Hanoi.

      Thanks, Jake

  52. by Flo on November 1, 2012

    Hi Jake,

    i’d like to enter the circle of much obliged followers ;)
    Thanks for the fun and gain of information gathered while reading your page.
    I’m willing to stay in SEA for 6-8 weeks in Feb/March next year and I’m going to do a combination of your proposed third and fourth route. Which means starting and ending in Hanoi, travelling Vietnam from north to south and working my way up to the north again through Cambodia and Laos.
    Do you have any further suggestions on how to translate this idea into reality. Maybe some additional stops or deviations of the route? As I mentioned in the posts above, you would not recommend to cross the Cambodia Laos border directly, right?
    Actually i wanted to restrict myself to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and exclude Thailand for another journey, cause it seems to do be a little overburden for 6-8 weeks since I’m not a friend of the rushing method.

    Maybe you can give me some hints on how to solve this issue :)

    Many thanks in advance,

    Flo

    • by Jake Birkin on November 5, 2012

      Hi Flo,
      I have never crossed the Cambodia/Laos border but from what I read its a bit of a nightmare. I wouldn’t recommend crossing that border for people who are short on time. But on your time span you will have enough time to go that way and if you want to exclude Thailand it will be a much better option.

      To do this border you will have to use public buses. If you are coming from Cambodia into Laos, then you will have to find a bus in Phnom Penh that heads that way. You will see lots of tourist buses that are heading to Laos, however these buses will travel back to the Poipet border, cross back into Thailand and then continue to the Nong Khai border with Laos.

      You will have to research this route a little more. There are no big towns in the south of Laos and the majority of land is national parks. Accommodation might be hard to find but you will see parts of Laos that few get to see. Tourists in Laos don’t seem to venture further than Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.

      Thanks, Jake

  53. by Tiegan on October 31, 2012

    Hi Jake,

    Hope you’re well :-) Just want to say a massive thank you for this blog. It is extremely helpful. I’m planning on buying an open return ticket to Bangkok. Hoping there for 6 months or longer. I want to spend a good amount of time exploring Thailand as there seems to be a lot to see and do there. Then onto Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia, will end up in Bangkok at some point. I’m trying to work out how much money to take? Was thinking around £3300 excluding my flight money but not sure if that would be enough? Also wanted to ask how likely it was to get teaching work over there? I’ve just finished my TEFL course but unsure of how certain it would be for me to land a job over there to fund myself as I go. Any advice would be greatly appreciated

    Many thanks

    • by Jake Birkin on November 3, 2012

      Hi Tiegan.
      Im very good thanks. Im glad you found this information useful.

      £3300 will be enough, this works out at £18.30 per day. First time backpackers could easily exceed this amount, but as you are going for a long time, you will figure things out and start to travel on less. If you copy the locals you will see how much cheaper things are. Id advise saving another £200 or so and keeping this separate for emergencies/unforeseen circumstances.

      I have met a few teachers whilst ive been there, im not sure how much work there is out there. Most of it is semi-legal unless you have the right visa.
      Check this forum for job postings: http://www.eslcafe.com/joblist/

      Thanks, Jake

  54. by Jake Birkin on October 27, 2012

    Hello Diana,
    Glad to help you.

    It is doable in 3 weeks. I have never crossed into Laos from Cambodia but from what I hear it sounds like a pain. See this article:

    http://www.travelfish.org/feature/84
    http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2162639

    It sounds like this border is quite unpredictable. Another thing to consider is that you enter Laos from the very South. Looking at the map it looks very remote and is almost covered in national parks. It sounds like a great adventure travelling north through these areas but transport links could be hard to find if you travel independently.

    You could take a private bus from Phnohm Penh or Siem Reap, but im almost certain the bus will head back to the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border and continue through Thailand before entering Laos at the Nong Khai border. This is the most convenient and fastest route. It could be risky deviating from this route if you haven’t got a lot of time to play with.

    Thanks, Jake

  55. by Diana on October 26, 2012

    Hi,

    Your website is great! Thanks so much for the information.

    A friend and I are trying to plan a route for 3 weeks. We were *hoping* to get through the highlights of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. We were thinking of starting in Cambodia, heading north to Laos (Luang Prang, Vang Viene and Ventiene) and then crossing over to Thailand and heading back south to the islands. Is this feasible? Or do you suggest a better route? I know it’s tight on time, and I was originally planning on one week per country, but upon further consideration will probably give Thailand a few more days. Thoughts? Any help would be appreciated!

    Thanks,
    Diana

  56. by Alberto on October 25, 2012

    Hi Jake! awesome web page, thanks for the effort of putting all your knowledge online. I hope you can help me with my query :)

    I am planning a trip for 2 months (beg-april to beg-june), and I want to for sure visit Myanmar for a couple weeks and some Thailand and Cambodia.
    Since I can’t route Myanmar by land, I was thinking of doing that separatedly and using your 6-8 route of this web as a base (“Thailand, Laos and Cambodia Backpacking Route – Tubing & Angkor Wat of course!”) , maybe leaving the south-of Thailand part outside… what do you think of that?? will 5 weeks be enought or will I be in constant hurry?? I want to leave 3 weeks for Myanmar

    Other than having enought time, my biggest concern is the weather. Is it still ok that time of the year or will it be constant rains? and thinking of the weather, what should I do first, before it rains?

    Thank you!!

    Best
    Alberto

    • by Jake Birkin on October 27, 2012

      Hi Alberto,
      Thanks for the feedback, ill be glad to help.

      Two weeks in Cambodia and Laos should be enough. It does really depend on how fast you like to travel. If you skipped out the south/islands, you would have ample time. Getting to and from the islands takes days in travel. 14 hour trains, 4 hour ferries etc.

      I wouldn’t be to concerned about the weather. I have been in monsoon season twice. It doesn’t rain everyday, when it does rain it lasts for 10 minutes and on the rare occasion a couple of hours. A lot of the rain seems to come at night. Also when it rains it is still really hot and you dry out fast.

      The only downside to the monsoon season is the humidity. It hits you hard when you step off the plane. It feels like you are swimming through the air. But after a couple of days it gets much less noticeable.

      A great advantage of going in the monsoon season is the off peak prices. Especially for the more touristy activities.

      Thanks, Jake

  57. by Noren on October 25, 2012

    Hi Jake,

    Your blog has been very helpful with lots of valuable info and practical tips. :)
    I’m going to Bangkok end of January next year – most likely for three days and two nights.

    I hope you can give me some advice on the best places to go within Thailand without spending too much time traveling while at the same time being able to find many interesting info about the country. I know my stay there will be too short but I hope to get the best out of it.

    I’m particularly interested with beaches, temples and cultural finds.

    Many Thanks in advance. :) Cheers!

    • by Jake Birkin on October 27, 2012

      Hi Noreen,
      Im glad you found this information helpful.

      It will be hard to see any beaches in your stay. All the nice beaches are in the south and to get there its a 10 hour train.

      By far the best place for you to go would be Ayutthaya. Its the ancient capital city and its packed with temples and steeped in history.

      And its only 1-2 hours bus or train ride from Bangkok.

      A highly recommend this place and it has a great chilled out vibe to it. Have a read about it:

      http://wikitravel.org/en/Ayutthaya

      You may also be interested in Lopburi, this destination is more of a day trip. There’s not many places to stay in Lopburi, but he monkeys are something else!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lopburi

      Thankyou, Jake

  58. by Patrick on October 25, 2012

    Hey, thanks for giving out your insider tips and routes. I am actually studying abroad in Thailand for 4 weeks this summer and plan on staying after my program ends for around 2-4 weeks. I’ve come to find out that flying into Singapore is the least expensive way than to fly into Bangkok, would you recommend it?Anyways, during my extra time I want to visit Vietnam(Hanlong Bay, Hanoi, Mui Ne and Ho Chi Man City) Malaysia(to do some beach trips) and if I have time Cambodia. Do you think that will be too much? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • by Jake Birkin on October 27, 2012

      Hi Patrick,
      Thankyou for your feedback.

      How much cheaper is flying into Singapore? I have seen flights before that are slightly cheaper, but then you need overland travel to get to Bangkok. You can actually get a train that goes all the way! But you would have to factor in the costs.

      Malaysia could be a stretch if you plan on doing it all by overland travel. Bear in mind the distance from Kuala Lumpar to Hanoi is 1800 miles. Thats a lot of travelling!

      You need a couple of weeks to see Vietnam properly, the country is huge. You can easily cross from Vietnam into Cambodia. I highly recommend seeing Angkor Wat. Also theres a lot of beaches and islands off of the coasts of Cambodia and Vietnam.

      Thanks, Jake

  59. by Michelle on October 24, 2012

    Hi, i’m following your vietnam route, once you get to the end (Sapa) how would you make your way back to Bangkok?

    • by Jake Birkin on October 25, 2012

      Hi Michelle
      The easiest way is to travel back to Ha Noi and take a flight. I did this and the flights were quite cheap and saved a lot of hassle. If you have more time on your hands you could take a bus from Ha Noi to Bangkok, but to do this trip in one go would be insanity over 1000 miles!
      Thanks, Jake

  60. by Samir on October 23, 2012

    Hi Jake!

    Great Site!

    Im leaving for south east asia for 20 days..

    I want to travel Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Luangprabang, Vangvieng, Vientiane, Bangkok and then end with a full moon party.

    Is this possible in 20 days..? And are the connections from city to city easy to do..? By train or bus i mean.

    Thanks for the reply

    Greetz Samir

    • by Jake Birkin on October 24, 2012

      Hello Samir,
      That route will be very easy to do in 20 days. All the places on the routes are accessible by public and private transport. I recommend using the trains in Thailand. Laos doesn’t have any trains so you have to take the bus. The buses are easy to find and hop from place to place on.
      Thanks, Jake

  61. by Avinash on October 23, 2012

    Hi Jake,

    Neat site with tons of info! could you please help with my query. I’m planning my 1st trip in Jan 13 to Thailand, Cambodia, Vitenam, Laos, back to Thailand before heading home.

    The hitch – I just can’t take that many days off work to leisurely make my way through SE Asia. I have 20 – 22 days max, for now I’ve factored 5 days in each country to begin with, is it doable? In the interest of time, if I have to catch a few flights then that’s ok.

    I’m mainly into History hence would like to map the itin with visits to Historical sites although I really wouldn’t mind visiting Koh Phangan to experience the full moon party as well.

    Regards,

    Avinash

    • by Jake Birkin on October 24, 2012

      Hello Avinash,
      Thankyou for your comments. To do all 4 countries in 20 days would be a challenge by overland travel, Unless you can afford to fly from country to country. The big problem will be Vietnam, its the furthest country from Bangkok and to travel from top to bottom takes over 25-30 hours. I recommend ruling out Vietnam and spending longer in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Less is more when your travelling and its nice to be free of any constraints and travel slower.
      Thanks, Jake

      • by Avinash on October 25, 2012

        Thank you Jake for the suggestions.

        I did want to include Vietnam as well, would have loved to do a road trip from South to North along the coast but will ditch that and fly from Saigon to Hanoi to save time. The only other place apart from Saigon and Hanoi I’m keen on visiting is Halong bay.

        Let’s see, I’ve yet to finalize the itinerary, will plan out a route that works best for me.

        Regards,

        Avinash

  62. by Ivana on October 11, 2012

    Jake, you can’t imagine how helpful your website is!! Thank you thank you thank you!
    Can you give me your opinion on something – I’m planing on backpacking to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam from March till May 2013. Is that a good time of year to be traveling to these countries? And would a budget of 1300€ be enough? Thanks a lot!

    • by Jake Birkin on October 14, 2012

      Hello Ivana,
      Thankyou! Yes its a great time to go. Its the dry season and the hottest time of the year. You will also be there for the Songkran festival:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songkran_(Thailand)

      However as this will be peak season. Accommodation and general tourist activities will go up quite a bit.

      Yes a budget of 1300 euro would be a little on the short side. I recommend taking at least 1600 euro. Which works out at around 26 euro per day. This is the minimum I would take especially if its your first time backpacking.
      Thanks, Jake

  63. by Brad on October 11, 2012

    So I just found your great site! Easy to read and follow and great tips and route information! Thanks.
    Can you help me?

    Do you have a link to a google map with points like what I have read here on your site? one map with your points of interest that has Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam?

    If we were biting off more than we should with 5 weeks for 4 Countries, which country would you suggest be dropped. Would Cambodia be better dropped with transportation and linking up to the other countries on a south to north itinerary be an issue?
    We enjoy scenery, culture and cuisine, laid back beaches or towns.
    These Countries sound amazing to us!
    We are traveling with our 7 year old son Cole, but he’s a great backpacker having recently done Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands with us
    Thanks again
    Brad

    • by Jake Birkin on October 14, 2012

      Hello Brad,
      I would drop Vietnam. Its the furthest away from Bangkok, it’s the hardest and most expensive to arrange a visa for. (You have to pre arrange a visa for the date you arrive). And its no secret that the vietnamese treat tourists so poorly. Having said that it is a beautiful country with outstanding natural beauty in the north. I did meet a few nice locals out there but these interactions were few and far between. Check out this: http://bit.ly/9W3HxU

      Transportation around Cambodia isnt to bad. Although the train line is still under construction, the public buses tend to be quite good.

      Im not sure what you mean by a google map?
      Thanks, Jake

  64. by Leah on October 5, 2012

    Hi Jake!

    My boyfriend and I are going to be travelling in SE Asia for 4 months from November to March. I’m super stoked but having a hard time deciding whether to go north from Bangkok (we fly into and out of Bangkok) or to start going south. We want to hit Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Southern islands in Thailand, Malasia and Indonesia. So it’s either head north first then loop back into Bangkok to head south then fly from Indo back to Bangkok at the end of our trip, or head south first then fly from Indo to Vietnam and do the northern region before heading back to Bangkok to come home. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

    • by Jake Birkin on October 5, 2012

      Hi Leah,
      I think heading north seems like a better plan. Get an overnight train to Chiang Mai, explore the north for a while and from there on you can work south for the rest of your trip. A route like this seems logical: http://goo.gl/maps/bDwe7 Thats if you want to travel the length of Vietnam, if not you could loop back on yourself and go back through Laos and head down to Cambodia. You could also consider flying from Ha Noi to Phnom Penh, however if you do go to Vietnam you will want to stay longer to make the visa cost worthwhile.
      Thanks Jake

  65. by Daniel Alcaraz on October 3, 2012

    Hey Jake..
    My friends and I are planning a 45-60 days trip.. We would like to see as much as possible, considering it is the opportunity of a lifetime..We would like to start our trip around May the 15th..
    I love the website and it has been very helpful, but I have a few doubts.. We would like to see Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore and maybe Indonesia.. Do you think this is too much?
    I would love your feedback and maybe you could help us out on a route… Thank you very much for your time…
    Daniel A.

    • by Jake Birkin on October 4, 2012

      Hey Daniel.
      To see all of that in 45 days will certainly be a big rush. To see it all in 60 days is more viable but it will still be a push. I managed Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in 60 days all by overland travel, I was taking it pretty slow I could of certainly added Singapore into the equation. I suppose it all depends on your budget, if you have the cash to fly from destinations then it will be possible, but if you tried to do it by overland travel you will spend a lot of your days travelling. Sometimes less is more, having to rush around won’t be as fun as chilling out without much care of time.

      I would recommend travelling: Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. I’d rule out Indonesia just because of the vast distances. Have you considered starting your journey in Singapore? This would make a lot of sense when it comes to planning a route and I think its just as cheap as flying into Bangkok. Either way 60 days will be much better than 45 :D And it will be an opportunity of a lifetime regardless of the days.
      Thank You, Jake

  66. by Katherine Minty on October 1, 2012

    Hey There,

    Firstly: Your site is amazing! Full of great information!..

    Question, My partner and I are flying into Bangkok and want to See Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.. (I have already been to Cambodia)..

    We will probably take your journey mapped out for Thailand and Laos, however what would be the next step to get to Vietnam? We need to end up in Phuket as this is where we are flying home from..

    Would we do Thailand and Laos and then Fly into Vietnam, travel through Vietnam and then fly to Phuket????..

    Sorry for all the questions! Haha

    Katheirne xx

    • by Jake Birkin on October 4, 2012

      Hello Katherine,
      Thank You for your kind comments.
      ITs pretty tricky to find a good way from Laos into Vietnam. You want to be heading either from Vientiane or Luang Prabang to the capital of Ha Noi. This would be the best place to start your Vietnam trip. However all the bus routes seem a lot less direct than they could be. Either way a long bus ride will be unavoidable, theres a post in this thread that explains a few options:

      That will be the hard part, once you’re in Vietnam it is easy. Start in Hanoi and take the train all the way down to Ho Chi Minh. Stopping off at the best places in between. I’ve highlighted a few of these in my Vietnam route. Once you reach Ho Chi Minh your options are to either get a bus back to Bangkok or fly. I would recommend flying, you can get very cheap tickets to Bangkok if you pre book. From Bangkok take an overnight train to Surat Thani and then pick up a bus transfer to Phuket. All this can be arranged with ease in Bangkok Hua Lamphong train station. Choose the second class sleeper option with aircon. The beds are good enough to get some sleep, I highly recommend it.
      Hope this helps.
      Thanks, Jake

  67. by A.k. Iyer on September 24, 2012

    Hi, I am finishing school in May and planning a trip from the 27th of May to the 27th of June with some friends and we’ll be flying into Bangkok from Dubai. We are planning on going from Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Laung Prabang – Vang Vieng – Hanio – Ho Chi Minh – Siem Reap – Bangkok – Phuket and around the islands and back to Bangkok to fly home. Everything on your website that I have read has been very helpful but I have a few questions tailored specifically to this route. Firstly, how long would you suggest to spend in each of these locations? Secondly, are there any sites or places on this route that you would suggest visiting? Finally, will it be easy to get buses and trains to each of these locations and how much would the trains and buses cost on average?

    Hoping for your response, thank you very much,

    A.k.

    • by Jake Birkin on October 4, 2012

      Hello,
      Personally I wouldn’t try to plan your days out to strictly. I always plan to be in a place for 2-4 days but if the place has more to offer I will stay longer or if there is less to do I will move on quicker. You cant really tell how a place will be until you get there. Theres lots of information about these places on this website I presume you may have already came across it, but its the best for destination based travel advice.

      As for public transport, Thailand is the easiest, followed by Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Thailand has long distance train connections reaching every part of the country including the border towns. The average price for a long distance ride, Bangkok to Surat Thani for instance is between £6 – £27. The massive price difference follows the class systems. First class aircon sleeper cabins are the most expensive with 3rd class wooden seats being the least expensive. I would recommend the 2nd class sleepers for long distance travel. You get a reasonable bed and aircon for £17. For more about train travel in Thaialand is the defenitive resource.

      If you have read any stories about bus travel in Thailand or Southeast Asia for that matter you may have read some horror stories. All I can say is use the public buses that are operated by the Thai government and not the private buses that are operated by pop up travel agencies. I have used both of these buses and although the private ‘vip’ buses can be slightly cheaper and easier to find the saving is not worth it. Pay a little more and travel in comfort on the public buses. The most annoying thing about the ‘vip’ buses is how long the journey takes, not because the bus is being driven so slow, its because the driver stops at commission fueled roadside cafes every hour. In addition your bags that are locked under the bus will get searched through and if you leave anything valuable in them it WILL get stolen.

      Public transport in Laos and Cambodia is limited to bus travel only. Laos is a different story altogether, the public buses don’t really exist and private buses are much better in Laos. In Cambodia its public buses all the way. Every town has a bus station and everyone is helpful. Public buses in Vietnam are a nightmare and you will probably not have to use them, however the trains are really good.

      Hope this answers your questions.
      Thanks, Jake

  68. by Rachelle on September 16, 2012

    Hi. We will have a full eight day trip this end-November. We already got tickets going to KL, and leaving from Hanoi. So it will going to be a Malaysia-Vietnam trip. In between, we planned to get to Thailand (Bangkok) as well.
    We’d like to ask for your help on the best itinerary we can make out of this trip. The crucial part is time and budget, but I am really looking forward to this trip and I hope we can make it really worthwhile. :) Hoping for your help. Thanks a lot.

    • by Jake Birkin on September 17, 2012

      Hello Rachelle,
      First of all that is quite a huge distance to cover in eight days. You can take the train all the way from KL to Bangkok. Taking the train is much better than using buses, you can get overnight trains that cover considerable distance in relative comfort. In second class you get a bed to sleep on and air conditioning for great value. I can’t tell you how bad some of the buses are, especially the private buses that cover this route.The main attractions between Malaysia and Bangkok are the islands. So i’d reccomend a bit of island hopping, You could plan to do a few of the eastern islands and a few of the western islands. Between Surat Thani and Bangkok there isn’t much else to see or do, however you could head up to Bangkok a little earlier and see some of central Thailand.
      Thanks, Jake

  69. by Tammylynn,King on September 14, 2012

    Hi Jake I have a question we are going to Bangkok at the end of Oct.for a week we wanted to go to Chai Mai we thought about talking the train we need to find the cost I will be travel with 3 children and my adault kids lol so whats are best way to go thank you Tammylynn

    • by Jake Birkin on September 14, 2012

      Hello,
      Theres many different types of train and classes that determine the price. It can be anything between £5 and £29. See this page for the full run down http://www.seat61.com/Thailand.htm#Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
      Thanks, Jake

  70. by Gemma on August 21, 2012

    Hi Jake
    Thank you for all that information! That’s a great help, really helpful to know about the borders and bus journeys etc.
    Thanks :)

  71. by Gemma on August 18, 2012

    Hi there,
    I love your website, it is very helpful. My partner and I are travelling to Bangkok in October and have 2 months in Asia before leaving Singapore to go to Australia and then New Zealand. We are hoping to travel Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos before heading through Malaysia to Singapore. Which way would you recommend travelling? From Bangkok to Cambodia…. or Bangkok and then North of Thailand? We were thinking of Bangkok to Cambodia then Vietnam and through Laos then down to Thailand and Malaysia??
    Any help and suggestions would be great!!!
    Thanks

    • by Jake Birkin on August 20, 2012

      Hi Gemma,
      Thanks for the feedback :)

      I did a similar route to this earlier this year. The best way to do this is from Cambodia to the north. Start in Bangkok, take a train to the Aranyaprathet/Poipet border, then you will have to get a bus or taxi to Siem Reap. From there you can get a bus to Battambang or Phnom Penh or anywhere else on that stretch of road. Then from Phnom Penh take a bus down to the coast or straight to Ho Chi Minh, If you choose the coastal route you can cross at the Ha Tien border.

      You can get trains all the way from Ho Chi Minh to Ha Noi, so work your way north. Check out Halong Bay then get a bus from Ha Noi to Luang Prabang in Laos. That bus trip will be a killer and the roads aren’t the best, you may want to split the journey up with a stop over somewhere else en route. Once your in Luang Prabang you can take a bus all the way to Vientiane, passing through Vang Vieng. Finally exit Laos on the Nong Khai border next to Vientiane and get the bus from Chiang Mai. Explore the north for a bit before finally taking the train all the way south, passing back through Bangkok before reaching Malaysia.

      The route will look something like this: http://goo.gl/maps/qYahR

      Thanks, Jake

  72. by jara on August 14, 2012

    Hello!Im planning to go to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand for 2 weeks. Is possible to go visit HCMC, Siem Reap and Bangkok with that amount of time? I dont plan to go to the beach, plus my planned date is late March ’til the first week of April.

    • by Jake Birkin on August 14, 2012

      Hello Jara,
      If its just Ho Chi Minh and the south of Vietnam your planning on visiting, then this would be ideal for 2 weeks. However I wouldn’t going too far north in Vietnam, the distances between places are huge and you will spend too much time travelling.
      Thanks, Jake

  73. by Garrett on August 11, 2012

    This website is amazing! My friend and I are heading to se asia in the end of October to the middle of December. We arrive into Bangkok and we fly out Hanoi. Now the part we haven’t decided on.. head north through Thailand, cross over for 10 days or so in Laos and cut up to Hanoi and hang around northern Vietnam for a while. Or head east from Bangkok through a similar route you discussed following the coast line of Cambodia up Vietnam ending in Hanoi.

    Do you any suggestions or preference on either route? I wish I could see it all but everyone tells me less is more. Thanks for your time!

    • by myaltlife on August 12, 2012

      Hello Garret
      Thank you for your comments.

      If you are planning to travel the entire length of Vietnam then both routes are equal distance. I’ve noticed a lot more people do Vietnam from the north to the south, im not sure why, maybe its to do with the airports. I did the trip from South to north. It depends what you want to see, if you want to experience more of Cambodia you could cross at the Aranyaprathet borer and work your way down to the Ha Tien crossing into Vietnam. Or cross through northern Laos to Hanoi like you mentioned.

      You could plan a full loop, starting at Bangkok heading north through Laos and into Vietnam, then south down the entire length of the country reaching Ho Chi Minh and then crossing through Cambodia on the return journey to Bangkok. Although this route is a bit extreme for a (3 week?) time-scale. You could consider flying back from Vietnam. I flew back from Hanoi to Bangkok, the flight cost £70. Im guessing you could get a flight cheaper than this if you prebooked it.

      Thanks, Jake

  74. by Hannah on August 10, 2012

    Hi, Love your website! Route plans have been really helpful and i love that you include less touristy places!

    Me and my friend have planned our trip to go from Thailand (bangkok and then north) where we can get a boat to Laos. Work our way into Vietnam heading south to then explore Cambodia.

    We wanted to finish with the Full Moon party and were hoping that there was a boat or ferry that could take us from roughly Kompot, Cambodia, to Ko pha ngan / Ko samui.

    I know its a long shot and i haven’t been successful with my research as of yet, so i was wondering if you knew of anything like this and if not any alternaive ideas that wouldn’t take so long as going up back to bangkok and down again.

    Thanks.

    • by myaltlife on August 10, 2012

      Hi Hannah,
      Thanks for the feedback.

      How long are you going for? And that is one crazy/awesome sounding plan. Im almost certain that there are no boats from Cambodia to the southern islands, which is a shame because it does seem to cut a big corner on the map, however even if there was a ferry it would still take several days to make the 300 mile crossing so it may still be faster to go by road. The thing that sucks about getting back from the south of Cambodia back to Bangkok is that the bus will take you back up the entire length of the country to the Poipet – Aranyaprathet border! This route:

      http://goo.gl/maps/KeXYp – Which is 521 miles just to get back to Bangkok!

      There is 1 more alternative if your feeling more adventurous that will cut some of the distance. You can take either a bus or a ferry from Sihanoukville to Koh Kong and then cross through the border into the Thai town called Trat, where you can pick up a bus back to Bangkok.

      Heres the route:
      http://goo.gl/maps/vv6CP

      And here’s a video of somebody who did the same route in reverse:
      http://youtu.be/A9vgHOTnpww

      As for the second leg of the trip, you can get an overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Surat Thani. Then get the ferry or catamaran to the islands. The train takes about 14 hours and the ferry takes 4 hours, I recommend the catamaran which takes just over an hour. The only other option would be to fly from Phnom Penh directly to Ko Samui, but id suspect you would have to be a millionaire to afford that one.

      Thankyou, Jake