south east asia backpackers

The 7 Best Places In South East Asia For Backpackers

People have been backpacking across South East Asia for decades – from the ‘Banana Pancake’ trail set out in the 1980s to new routes and adventures today. But where are the essential places in South East Asia for backpackers?

From party islands in Thailand and vibrant (and a little manic!) cities in Vietnam to sleepy towns in Laos, these are the places every traveller should add to their South East Asia backpacking itinerary.

Best Places In South East Asia For Backpackers

1. Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam – is known for its rich history, busy street life and centuries of French, Asian and Chinese influences all blended into one bustling city.

You’ll soon see that this is a vibrant city with plenty of things to see and do. Plus, it’s a wonderful base from which to explore the North of Vietnam, including Halong Bay and Sapa, while also enjoying the comforts of a modern vibrant city.

Travel Guide to Hanoi

2. Siem Reap, Cambodia

Known as a popular city on the backpacking route, Siem Reap is also the link to the world wonder, Angkor Wat temple. With a famously vibrant Pub Street (no guesses what you’ll find there!), a buzzing food market and charming homestays and hotels, it’s a cute place to spend a few days.

3. Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan is famous for its full moon parties at Haad Rin’s Sunrise Beach,  when thousands of travellers descend on the shores to party the night away with cocktails and glo-sticks. There’s solid party action here every night of the week, with beach bars, hippy hostels and soft white sand that’s made for dancing on as the sun sets.

4. Bali, Indonesia

The Indonesian island of Bali has long been a huge draw on the travel route, for everybody from surfers and backpackers through to honeymooners and luxury travellers.

It’s the paradise island that has something for everybody. No wonder it’s one of the best places for backpackers in Southeast Asia.

south east asia backpackers

5. Palawan, The Philippines

Palawan island is part of the huge Philippines archipelago, which has more than 7,000 islands. A piece of paradise that’s miles away from the hectic bustle of Manila, Palawan is simply perfect. Together with its smaller surrounding islands (which make up Palawan province), it feels untouched, with white sandy beaches and tropical jungle.

The Beautiful Island of Palawan
Image: warrencamitan/Instagram

6. Hoi An, Vietnam

The captivating lanterns in Hoi An and its UNESCO old town and rich yellow walls will make for a memorable few days during your travels, while local markets and fishing boats add even more magic. Just outside the town you’ll find rice fields, sandy beaches and organic herb and vegetable farms. There’s also a thriving local crafts community.

hoi an vietnam

7. Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos, doesn’t have as much foot-traffic as other Southeast Asian cities. That said, its calm streets, laid-back pace, and absolutely delicious food options make it a must-stop in any Asian adventure.

Think: days spent hiking mountains, drinking BeerLao, and slurping up noodles for breakfast. 

south east asia backpackers

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Sarah Clayton-Lea

Co-founder of Big 7 Travel, Sarah created the company through her passion for championing the world's best food and travel experiences. Before her career in digital media, where she previously held roles such as Editor of Food&Wine Ireland, Sarah worked in the hospitality industry in Dublin and New York.

Contact [email protected]

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