South East Asia For Backpackers

The 7 Best Cities 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 best cities in South East Asia for backpackers?

From vibrant (and a little manic!) cities in Vietnam to modern metropolises, these are the cities every traveller should add to their South East Asia backpacking itinerary.

Best Cities In South East Asia For Backpackers

1. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) in the South of Vietnam is a bustling city of close to 10 million people – packed with great restaurants, bars and mopeds wherever you look.

You’ll find amazing sights around each corner to capture your imagination, from street markets to French-style cathedrals.

Ho Chi Minh things to do

2. Chiang Mai, Thailand

This mountain city in northern Thailand is a calm, laid back place. You’ll find hill tribe villages, elephant sanctuaries and busy markets. Chiang Mai is a popular place for digital nomads and has an impressive coffee scene.

There’s also beautiful scenery and waterfalls to explore, all in a super safe atmosphere.

Instagram Chiang Mai

3. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Home to the famous Petronas Twin Towers, the skyline here at night is unforgettable. Plus, Malaysians are naturally friendly and nice to strangers, and Kuala Lumpur is the best example of this.

The easy-going temperament of locals and their friendliness towards visitors means that it’s easy to make friends here. KL is a top spot for both tourists and expats.

cities to live in Southeast Asia

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4. Bangkok, Thailand

The Thai capital of Bangkok is a city that’s absolutely bursting with street life, colour and a sense of vibrancy.

It’s the perfect spot to have as a base, where you can explore the beaches in the south, and other areas during your free time. It’s busy and overwhelming, but peel back the touristy layers and you’ll discover a brilliant city.

cities to live in Southeast Asia

5. Singapore

Singapore is a small island city-state off southern Malaysia which punches way above its weight on a global level. It’s also a centre of tourism and a serious hub for travel in Asia.

What makes it one of the best places to live in Southeast Asia is the sheer range of things to do, see and eat. It’s an easy city to navigate with a cosmopolitan vibe and a thriving expat community.

South East Asia For Backpackers

6. 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

7. Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After decades of turmoil, Cambodia has burst onto the scene as an emerging destination for tourists who are starting to arrive and enjoy this magical country.

Most people will start their trip in the capital Phnom Penh, which is a bustling city with a strong French connection. There’s a vibrant bar scene, with expats from every corner of the world who will make any backpacker feel like they fit right in.

South East Asia For Backpackers

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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