"Getting Started Backpacking" was last updated on March 03, 2014
All information below is subject to change
Pearls from the forum - where to travel in Asia
Are you ready for some planning? :-)
After reading this guide, you'll find that planning a backpacking trip is less overwhelming than you thought.
It's fun and can be quite easy as long as you do your research first.
It's the research phase when you're gathering relevant information that takes time. Once you have this, creating an itinerary or a budget will make it so much easier.
Have in mind that you have a lot of planning ahead of you and number 1 rule is to:
It's not the end of the world just because not everything go as planned! You will occasionally alter your plans during your backpacking trip which is very common for backpackers.
Like, you might end up not liking the place you've planned to stay for 3 weeks, and have to be on the move again after 5 days.
... Now, let's get started!
The first question you should ask yourself is:
"Where do you want to travel?"
You don't need to ramble down specific destinations yet, start with the countries.
For travel in Southeast Asia, Bangkok is normally the gateway city to the region, if coming from Europe, US, Australia and East Asia.
Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are also practical hub cities if you're coming from Australia or New Zealand, and planning on traveling in Indonesia as well.
I recommend renting/buying books like Lonely Planet or Rough Guides. These books introduce you to all the things you need to know about backpacking, and are easy to read.
For more information on how to choose the right travel guide book, click here (opens in a new window)
Remember that your backpacker-friends are your best insider-source... AND... they're your friends. They'll probably be happy to share honest advice, thoughts and experiences!
Ask yourself these questions:
Start gently! When I started my first backpacking trip in Asia, India/Mumbai was my first stop. The country's beautiful, but if I could go back in time I would have picked the country as my last stop, or at least Mumbai as my last stop.
Be realistic. If you only have one month or two, focus on the places you really want to see. A stressful backpacking trip is not ideal if you can't even remember where you've been.
You should have other places in mind when you get in this situation. Feel free to be impulsive as well. Talk to other travelers on the road, and ask where they've been and about their experiences.
Example: From Pai to Lao border - instead of traveling via Chiang Mai again, travel directly from Pai to Chiang Khong.
The trip lasted for 4 months, and I still had all the time in the world visiting these places.
I started in Oslo, then:
Mumbai Palolem (Goa) Jaipur New Delhi
Bangkok Chiang Mai Pai Thailand Chiang Khong/Huay Xai
Luang Prabang Laos Vang Vieng Vientiane Pakse Don Det
Voen Kham/Koh Chheuteal Thom border (Laos/Cambodia) Phnom Penh Siem Reap Cambodia Battambang Poipet/Aranyaprathet border (Cambodia/Laos)
- Back to Bangkok
Koh Pha Ngan Krabi Koh Lanta Ko Phi Phi
Back to Krabi Ao Nang Khao Lak Ranong/Kawthoung border (visa renewal) Ranong Hua Hin Cha-am Bangkok
Ko Chang Island
- Back to Bangkok again
You can travel the other way around too, like starting in Bangkok, then travel to the border of Cambodia, Siem Reap and so on.
The great part of planning a route is that you don't need to stick to it!
Use route planners so you won't forget the important places you want to see, and to make sure you actually know where you're heading, more or less. There are tons of other places to go during this route.
You need to find the place YOU want to go to! And another thing: You'll get more out of your adventures if you're more spontaneous ;-)
If you want to go straight to a specific country/part of a country - click on these links:
Don't know where to travel in Asia? How to set up an itinerary?
Get all the help you can get with this step-by-step guide on how to create an itinerary. Learn how to create a good and realistic itinerary for Asia.
Here are some posts from the travel forum that can help your planning, and where to travel in Asia:
- What are the highlights of Asia, country by country
- Itinerary advice for Southeast Asia
- Six weeks backpacking Thailand, Cambodia, Laos
- Bangkok to Laos, Cambodia, South islands of Thailand in 30 days
- What is the best circuit for Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and maybe China
- Planning a trip in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia
- Visiting a large variety of places in just 2 months - possible?
- Malaysian itinerary for one month
- How to get from Goa (India) to Cambodia
- Backpacking advice for planning South east Asia trip
The weather in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and India can roughly be divided into three seasons: cool, hot and wet season.
It's extremely hot during the hot season (around February to May), and it rains more during the wet season (around May-October).
Normally the best time to go is between November-February.
When it comes to Malaysia...
The climate varies from region to region. The best time to visit the Eastern Part of Malay Peninsula, the northeast of Sabah and the west of Sarawak on Borneo would be between June and August. If you want to lay down on the beaches on the west side of the peninsula (like, Pangkor) - you should avoid the months of March and April because that's when the heaviest rainfall occurs.
However, during the cool season the prices for accommodation are higher because most people travel during this period.
Example: To get the best underwater experience, depends on where and when you're planning to dive or snorkel.
If you're going to the eastern part of the Gulf of Thailand (Ko Chang island area), the visibility is best from mid-November through May. If you're going to the western part of the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui area), the best time to dive is from March to October.
Remember that you'll be traveling together, sleeping next to each other, eat, party and relax together 24-7.
And even if you find the "perfect" partner, I'm not saying that you guys will never have a fight or a disagreement. The point is to find a person you trust because you'll be responsible for each other's safety. You should watch out for each other, if you get into trouble.
Can you trust him/her if you get to that point?
Or if you're a person who easily gets restless, may not go well with a person who likes to take things slow. However, this can go both ways. There are no obvious solutions. That's why you should compromise before and during your trip.
Click here for information on how to find travel partner
It's just healthy for your traveling relationship to do separate activities.
If you want to go solo, that's ok as well.
When traveling alone, you are never really alone. You'll always meet other travelers, make new friends and someone might even become your (new) travel companion.
I traveled alone for almost three months, and I met people from every corner of the world. It was fun!!!
However, traveling alone has both its ups and downs.
But when you're traveling learn alone, you will learn so much about yourself. Things you would only realise when you're backpacking solo.
I will mention a couple of examples:
It's your biggest lesson in life!
So, solo travelers should be proud of themselves, after been backpacking alone in unknown and new countries!
Go to my Traveling Alone page (opens in a new window)
Visit my page about solo travel in India for female travelers
Return to top of Getting started backpacking
Traveling with your boy/girlfriend for the first time?
Traveling with your loved one can be fun and exciting! Being abroad spices up the relationship, and you get to do cool things together.
But as you can imagine, it also puts your relationship to a test.
Like with other backpackers traveling in groups, your patience, tolerance and your ability to compromise will be tested.
But I have to admit that when you have a disagreement/argument with your boy/girlfriend, it can be far more emotional than it would have been with a traveling friend. That speaks for itself. How you manage to solve that is all up to you guys - TALK. COMMUNICATE.
I personally didn't have any problems traveling with my boyfriend in Malaysia in June 2009, and Thailand and Cambodia in April 2010 ;)
We had been together for two years when we traveled in Malaysia and knew each other pretty well. But we're not perfect and we argued once in a while. After talking it through everything was alright again!
All I can say is that if you manage to "survive" a long backpacking trip together, you'll know each other in ways you'd never discover back home.
The only visible downside (which I've seen) is that several backpacker couples stay too close.
When you're backpacking, get to know other travelers and try not to be too consumed by each other the whole time.
I've experienced that travelers in general seek solo backpackers or a bunch of travelers, instead of a backpacker couple cuddling each other in the back of a pub.
I've written more about couple travel here!
When you're done planning your trip, don't forget to check out the Backpacking Checklist
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