Flying in South East Asia: 5 Tips for Choosing Flights Over Buses for Cheaper Shorter Journeys!

Sitting at a hostel connecting with fellow travelers it’s likely that the conversation with flow to your recent travel. How horrendous was that bus ride? No doubt it was an adventure, but most likely not a comfortable one. The first thing everyone has probably picked up on, they like to blast karaoke on long bus rides throughout South East Asia, which normally pleases a very select few travelers. In addition, the lights might blare all night long, causing you to tie your shirt around your head in hopes of blocking out the florescent glare.

Then there’s the journey itself one that will with out a doubt leave you slightly perplexed. Why did we stop at midnight for dinner? Did you know that the pink receipt actually got you a free plate of unidentifiable mush? Why did they wake me up at 2 am in order to give me a wet washcloth, it was considerate, but I had also just finally fallen asleep? Or you might be left wondering why so many middle of the night pit stops were necessary, the reality is you will never quite understand.

It’s almost imperative that you take at least one night bus journey while you are in South East Asia, experiencing the world of a sticky upright nights sleep is a must.

However, after you’ve arrived once in Chiang Mai at 5am off of an overnight bus, groggy and understandably irritable, we don’t think you have to keep subjecting yourself to these sorts of traveler’s adventures over and over again.

IMG_0714Traveling from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang why not fly?

Here’s the secret that you realize once you’ve lived or travelled in South East Asia a bit, flights are cheap. Sometimes for a mere 30 dollars you can turn that overnight journey into a short one-hour plane ride!

Imagine in the time it takes to eat lunch you are transported from the metropolis of Bangkok to the beaches of Krabi. Arriving rested, happily full, and with a jump-start on your next book. No need to force yourself to sleep, but if you want to take a quick nap in the cool cabin nobody singing karaoke will disturb you.

Top 5 Tips for Flying Into and Around South East Asia


1.    LOW COST AIRLINES – there are loads of great ones!

There are loads of cheap and cheerful budget airlines in South East Asia that can have you up in the air and back down again safely in a new location for less than $40 USD! Air Asia is one of the most backpacker friendly in all of South East Asia; sometimes flight tickets may actually cost you less than a bus ticket will. For example, a regular flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is around 2,000 baht, or even less if you book in advance.

IMG_0533Air Asia- now everyone can fly!

Another cheap, yet portrayed as more luxury airline is Bangkok Airways– which offers flights within Thailand and to other international locations within South East Asia. Known as Asia’s Boutique airlines this is a great choice for a splash of flight sophistication paired with completely reasonable prices. They also have a hilarious flight safety video, so come prepared to jam along to the diddy “fly fly fly with me”. You can also enjoy the airlines free lounges before you fly, with free WIFI and an all you can eat buffet (for those backpackers wanting to save on breakfast)!

Also check out Cebu Pacific and Zest Air for flights in and around the Philippines. These guys also have a hilarious (and rather controversial) Lady Gaga pre-flight video that has made the news – make sure you watch before you fly! Other great inexpensive carriers include: One2go, Nok air, JET2 (for flights in Vietnam), Cambodia Angkor Air, and Malaysian Airlines. All worth checking out before you opt for the bus or train!

2.    Use Flight comparison search engines, like Skyscanner

What do we use when we are booking flights? We always go through Skyscanner, an excellent flight comparison flight, which ensures that we’re getting the best deal available. Other flight comparison sites include Orbitz and eDreams.

3.    LUXURY AIRLINES! Sometimes they have great deals!

Don’t be put off by airlines that appear to be luxury carriers as they sometimes have great deals and aren’t as expensive as you may think! Especially for long haul the good meals and updated movie list can make a big difference to your comfort and relaxation.

For example, if you’re looking for a bit of added luxury with your flight from Europe to Bangkok, why not check out flying Emirates. Awarded with the ‘Airline of the Year’ award in 2013, this line is pure comfort and doesn’t skimp on any extras when it comes to inflight entertainment! Often times Emirates offers great deals and promotions flying to all major hubs, and is also an excellent choice for international flights coming to and from South East Asia.

IMG_0539So long Bangkok, hello Krabi… all in an hour! 

Other long haul luxury carriers from Europe to Asia include Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways (stopping in Doha), Cathay Pacific. From America look into, American Airlines and the surprisingly good value Jet Blue Airways. Sip on a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee whilst listening to Sirius Radio – you’ll feel like you never left home! They also have some interesting routes connecting you to less known destinations.

4.    Don’t book through a travel agency, instead book your flight online

In order to get the best deal go online to book your flight. When you walk into travel agency offices you will be charged commission, on top of the price of the ticket, for using their services. Make sure you check out all the websites direct or book through Skyscanner for the cheapest deals.

IMG_0558If you choose to fly in South East Asia, head straight into their office to book a ticket! 

5.    Finicky rules to be aware of when flying

Make sure when you are booking your ticket that you check country rules for onward travels. For example travelers from England arriving in Thailand will have to show proof that they will be leaving the country.

Travel with the credit card you paid with. At check in some airline carriers will ask you to show the card- make sure you know if you will need to before you let Mom foot your ticket bill!

Always look into baggage restrictions before you fly. Booking cheaper tickets means that sometimes you might not be able to check much or any luggage. When traveling with Cebu Airlines, for example, you have to jump on the scale with your bag and make sure that the two of you come in under weight!


Cover Photo by: Regin Reyno

Join Our Community!

  • Join Our Facebook Group: South East Asia Backpacker Community.
  • Join Our Newsletter: Find out about opportunities to review trips for free.
  • Our Recommended Travel Resources

  • Travel Insurance: True Traveller and World Nomads.
  • Transport: Skyscanner (Flights) and 12Go.Asia (Local Transport).
  • Accommodation: and HostelWorld.