Southeast Asia Travel FAQs

We here at South East Asia Backpacker get asked A LOT of questions! To help you get the answers you need quickly and easily, we’ve created this handy page that details the most frequently asked questions about Southeast Asia. 

Disclosure: Some links on this page are affiliate links. If you purchase through them, we earn a small commission at no cost to you. This helps us fund the site and the community. 


Contents

Southeast Asia FAQs

What are the current travel restrictions for Southeast Asia? 

In the era of COVID-19, travel has become considerably more complicated for backpackers. Keep up to date with our overview of the current travel restrictions in Southeast Asia. This guide links to more in-depth travel restrictions guides for each country in the region. These pages are updated weekly.


What is the best way to find travel buddies?

The South East Asia Backpacker Community is the name of our Facebook group.  With nearly 20,000 active members, this is a great way to meet other travellers and get your travel questions answered. 

Simply click on the button below to be transported to the most helpful community on the internet! 


What travel insurance provider should I go with for my trip?

We put together this article about travel insurance with the help and recommendations of our Facebook community.

Our three favourite insurance providers are: 

  1. SafetyWing – Ideal for digital nomads and long-term travellers for their flexible subscription policies. (Read our full review here!)
  2. World Nomads – Perfect for adventurous travellers thanks to their variety of activity add-ons. 
  3. True Traveller – Great value for money option which also covers those already backpacking.

What is the best backpacking route in Southeast Asia? 

The most popular backpacking route for travellers in Southeast Asia is the Banana Pancake Trail. This route is generally recommended for first-time backpackers and solo travellers. 


I need a return ticket but I want to be flexible with my trip. What should I do?

Many countries in Southeast Asia will only allow you to enter if you have proof of onward travel. This is enforced (if at all) by the airlines.


What visas do I need for Southeast Asia?

Check out our visa guide for more information about obtaining visas for each country in Southeast Asia. 


What vaccinations do I need for Southeast Asia? 

The mandatory and recommended vaccinations for Southeast Asia are all documented in our vaccination guide to the region. It is important to note that different countries will have different criteria for COVID-19 vaccination status. Please see our article on travel restrictions for this information. 


Is Southeast Asia safe?

Southeast Asia is one of the safest regions in the world. Aside from the occasional bout of political instability, the most popular backpacking countries in the region are full of friendly, helpful people. 

Of course, you should always keep your wits about you as petty theft or minor crime can happen anywhere.


Should I take malaria tablets in Southeast Asia? 

The advice for taking malaria tablets will vary depending on where you are. Check out this post for more information on malaria tablets in Southeast Asia. 


How do I get money in Southeast Asia?

ATMs are common across most of the region and usually accept Visa and Mastercard – you should try to get one of each as occasionally you’ll find an ATM that only accepts one or the other.

Traveller’s cheques are unnecessary but if you insist on taking some, make sure they’re in US Dollars. 

In more off the beaten track locations, there may not be any ATMs. Ask at your accommodation about the status of ATMs at your next destination.


Which are the best travel cards that will save you money on exchange rates? 

Read about the best travel cards and learn how to save on ATM fees while travelling in Southeast Asia. If you don’t have time to read the article in full, these are the travel cards we recommend:

  1. Starling Bank (UK Citizens only)
  2. Revolut (EU Citizens)
  3. Monzo (UK Citizens only)
  4. N26 (EU Residents)
  5. Wise (formerly TransferWise) (Worldwide)

Can I use US dollars in Southeast Asia?

It’s best to stick to local currencies while travelling in Southeast Asia. US Dollars are widely accepted for large transactions or hotels in very touristy areas but you’re unlikely to get the right change or a fair exchange rate. 

Cambodia is the exception. Along with the Riel, the US Dollar is the main currency used in the country. For transactions under $10USD, it’s advised that you use Riel. For transactions over $10USD, US Dollars become the preferred currency.


What’s WiFi like in Southeast Asia?

In some areas the WiFi is fantastic. Southeast Asia has become a digital nomad hotspot after all. Big towns and cities generally have strong connections available all over the place. 

In more rural locations, expect the WiFi to be spotty at best and non-existent in many cases.


Can I use my phone in Southeast Asia? 

Getting a local SIM card is the best way to stay connected in Southeast Asia. In our SIM country guides, we detail how to get one and which ones are best. 


Do I need a permit to ride a scooter in Southeast Asia?

YES! Anyone who is planning to hire a motorcycle or car in Southeast Asia will need to hold an international driving permit valid for the vehicle in question. 

Don’t forget to check whether your travel insurance covers motorcycle use too! 


How much does it cost to visit Southeast Asia? 

How much you will spend in Southeast Asia depends on what kind of traveller you are. To give you a rough idea of what to expect, we’ve put together a Southeast Asia budget guide. If you are heading to one country, in particular, we also have links to individual budget guides in the post. 


When is the best time to visit Southeast Asia?

Luckily for backpackers, there is no bad time to visit Southeast Asia! No matter what time of year that you go, there are incredible opportunities and places to explore. However, the following guides may be useful in helping you to plan your trip:


What’s the best way to travel around Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asia is generally very well connected and getting from A to B isn’t too difficult. The most cost-effective way to travel is via bus. Some journeys span just a few hours while others can last more than a day! 

Big cities in the region are well serviced by regular flights. However, as travellers, we do enough damage to the environment already so try to avoid flying when there is another option! 


I’m a vegan, what can I eat in Southeast Asia?

We may be biased but we think that Southeast Asian cuisine is the best in the world. However, with common ingredients such as meat, peanuts and seafood, it is understandable that vegans and those with nut allergies may be concerned about travel in the region. 


Do I need to book my accommodation in advance? 

Generally, unless you are travelling during the high season, you will not need to book your accommodation in advance. However, if you have a particular hostel or hotel in mind, it can be better to book rather than show up without a reservation to avoid disappointment.


What plug sockets are used in Southeast Asia?

A number of different power outlets are used across Southeast Asia. Some countries, like Thailand, have up to five different outlets in use across the country!


Do you have any tips for solo travellers?

Of course! The following posts contain heaps of useful advice and tips:


Where should I stay when I arrive?

Many travellers choose to start their backpacking journey in Bangkok. It tends to be cheaper to fly to and has good transport links both domestically and internationally. 

Different neighbourhoods will suit different types of traveller but this guide will provide a good overview of your options. A few of our favourites are:

  1. Greater Banglamphu
  2. Thonglor
  3. Ari

Is there a list of recommended hostels in Bangkok?

Yes! This list was put together with help from our Facebook community!


What apps do you recommend for backpackers?

How funny you should ask! We have an entire article about the best backpacking apps for travellers, put together using the recommendations from our epic Facebook community.


Why is Southeast Asia so popular for backpackers?

In a nutshell, Southeast Asia is popular with backpackers because it’s budget-friendly, safe, easy to travel around and is full of beautiful scenery. 


Southeast Asia vs South America, which is better for backpackers?

Both regions offer an amazing backpacking experience. Far be it from us to tell you which is better.

As a general rule, Southeast Asia is safer and easier to travel around. Backpackers have been exploring the region for decades and the main routes are very well-trodden. 

South America can be more challenging because the backpacking infrastructure isn’t as well developed. You’re more likely to need to travel on local transport and eat in local markets if you want to keep costs down. 


Gear Questions

What size backpack should I get for travelling? 

Most of our community like to take a 40-litre pack travelling. This can often be taken as carry-on (depending on dimensions) and is easier to transport. 


What backpack should I buy?

According to our best backpack guide, the most popular bags for backpackers are the Osprey Farpoint 40 (for men) and the Osprey Fairview 40 (for women). 


What should I pack for Southeast Asia? 

This varies depending on how light you travel. The following posts will be useful:


What is the best filtered water bottle?

According to our readers, the Grayl Geopress is the best filtered water bottle for travel. We must say, we quite agree! Read our full review of the Geopress here. 


Do I need to take a sleeping bag to Southeast Asia?

No. Hostels, hotels and guesthouses will provide bedding. A sleeping bag will take up unnecessary room and weigh you down.


Where can I find all of your gear articles?

You can check out our gear hub here. 


About South East Asia Backpacker

South East Asia Backpacker is the brainchild of one backpacker who set off on a journey of self-discovery. If you want to find out more about this website and how it got started, check out this page or grab a copy of SEA Backpacker creator Nikki Scott’s book


Can’t see your question listed?

If you can’t find the answer to your question about travel in Southeast Asia, you should ask in our Facebook community. This group has nearly 20,000 members and is THE best place to go for travel advice or to find out what is happening on the ground.

Read: South East Asia Backpacker Facebook Community FAQs

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