Why Southeast Asia should be your first backpacking destination

We love Southeast Asia. The food, the people, the beaches, the culture – it has us chomping at the bit to go back. Hopefully soon!

But in the meantime, we’ll try to convince you why we think Southeast Asia should be your first backpacking destination. We hope you agree!

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southeast asia backpacking

Why Southeast Asia should be your first backpacking destination

1. It’s cheap

25 baht ($1) Pad Thai, anyone? An hour-long massage for less than a tenner? How about a night’s accommodation for less than your lunch at home would cost? Who doesn’t like cheap travel?

southeast asia backpacking

Southeast Asia is flippin’ cheap. Not as cheap as it used to be, apparently, but it’s still a very inexpensive destination coming from a developed country such as our home country New Zealand. It’s awesome being able to live on very little money and as a result be able to afford to do heaps of fun things.

We learned to SCUBA dive in Koh Tao, Thailand – apparently it’s one of the cheapest places in the world to get certified! Going on day trips for only a few dollars is also a big plus – like our boat trip on Inle Lake in Myanmar.

Longboat on Inle Lake

There’s no way we would be able to afford a villa with a private pool in a more developed country, but in Thailand or Bali it’s much more achievable! You can live like a king or queen in Southeast Asia without having to have the royal purse to delve into.

2. There’s loads of culture

Monks walking along the streets, being woken by calls to prayer, and the multitudes of temples dotted around, Southeast Asia gives backpackers a massive dose of culture. We love being immersed in a culture so different to our own.

It’s so interesting seeing the colourful, glittering shrines to different gods everywhere – it shows the importance of religion in the lives of the people, as well as exposing us to a different way of life than we see day-to-day in New Zealand. One of our favourite things to do while travelling is to learn about different people and their cultures.

Bangkok's Grand Palace

3. The food is amazing

Who would argue with the fact that food in Southeast Asia is some of the best on the planet? From the aforementioned Pad Thai and other stir-fries to curries of many colours, fresh spring rolls, soups, papaya salads, and much, much more. Southeast Asian food is full of spices and herbs and is exploding with flavour.

You’ll find street stalls and food markets everywhere, and you can sample many different flavours.

And of course, it’s damn cheap!


4. The people are so genuine

Throughout our travels, we have not met local people as friendly and genuine as those in Southeast Asia. I know this is a gross generalisation as you will undoubtably meet a grumpy or mean person here or there in the region, but overall the local’s dispositions are welcoming and kind (and of course they want your tourist dollar, but who can blame them!). The people are a major part of the reason why we have done most of our travels in SE Asia and will keep on coming back.

Kids chasing bubbles

5. There’s a well-worn backpacker trail

One of the best things for a first-time backpacker in Southeast Asia is that the trail has already been forged for you. This is by no means new territory for travellers, and while some may not like that, it makes it very easy to travel around and meet loads of new friends. If it’s your first trip, it’s all exciting and new, anyway!

And if you would prefer to go off the beaten track, some spots are still less ‘discovered’ than others – we went to Myanmar in late 2013 when it was only just on the backpacker radar. It’s changing quickly so we’d definitely recommend getting there soon! But there are still parts of Southeast Asia that haven’t become part of the major trail – many of the islands in Indonesia, the Philippines, and so on.

6. There’s a ton of information available

Because Southeast Asia is well-established as a backpacker’s destination, there is no shortage of travel information available about what to do, where to stay, and how to get around. From traditional guidebooks to blogs, you’ll have no problems finding inspiration for places to visit!

Some of our favourite bloggers that have lengthy sections on Southeast Asia are Alex in Wanderland, Nomadasaurus, and Adventurous Kate. We also use Travelfish as our go-to guide for up to date destination information.

visiting markets

So – do you want to visit Southeast Asia? Have we shown you that this interesting, tasty, friendly region is well worth a trip? We sure hope so. Might see you there!

Do you have a favourite backpacking destination? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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