One of the cheapest and the most colourful destinations for travellers – Southeast Asia is a dream come true. Make sure that you plan a trip to Asia properly, choose the backpacking route well and craft the best travel itinerary, avoiding any problems. How? Check below!
If you follow my social media platforms (and if you don’t, better start now 😉 Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), you probably know, that I just came back from an epic trip to Asia. It wasn’t my first trip to that region – I’ve previously been to the Philippines, India, Malaysia and Russia, but this time I’ve visited two new countries – Indonesia and Singapore. My trip began with a traditional wedding in India near Bangalore, followed by visiting stunning Singapore skyscrapers, travelling through the Bali jungle, swimming with turtles in Gili islands and climbing volcanoes of East Java.
Independent travel is what I love the most and what gives me the biggest satisfaction from my trips. But how to make it right? How to plan a dream trip to Asia and make sure that everything works out well?
If you’re travelling soon, check my travel resources page, where I share my favourite travel websites and companies to book trips on a budget.
How to plan a perfect trip to Asia?
#1 Pick the best time
If you work full time, as I do, you probably need to book time off in advance. Check when you can take it and based on that choose your destination. Not having enough vacation days? Have a look here for some tips on how to travel more, even with a full-time job!
For me, the time was already decided, as I was going for my friend’s wedding in India. Based on that, I chose my further destinations.
#2 Choose the travel itinerary
Some parts of the world are simply impossible or very inconvenient to be visited at particular times of the year. Might it be a monsoon season, hurricanes, freezing cold or dreadful heat. You want to avoid that, so choose wisely and do the research!
For travelling on a budget, you need to make sure that you can get to the specific location at a reasonable price. This might get more complicated if you’re combining several countries and flying between the destinations. However, research pays off. For my trip to Asia, I searched through several flight booking sites, to find the cheapest prices for the best destinations. Kiwi.com is a very helpful one, as it allows you to search based on the radius around the location and the departure airport. Make sure to check at least a few flight search engines. Some other helpful ones are Expedia and Kayak. For the full list click here.
Based on that, I looked at different vacation destinations in Asia. Alex and I wanted to find the best places to visit in Southeast Asia, but not overly crowded and with a (cheap!) flight connection from India. We checked places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Malaysia or less known the Andaman Islands. Taking everything into consideration, we finally decided on Indonesia – a country, that I’ve always wanted to visit. Since the flights from India to Indonesia usually go through Singapore, I added it to my itinerary and made my layover longer, by fitting a day to walk around the city.
#3 Do the research or just wing it
I’m a “planner” and always want to know what is worth visiting in a particular location. I don’t want to miss out and I also prefer to avoid crowded or overly touristy places. This, together with some reading about the history of the country gives me a good background for deciding on which places I want to visit and which to skip. I base my research on the destination travel blogs, where the bloggers are always helpful to answer questions or I use the good travel guidebooks.
However, I often leave the plan open for changes to be able to adjust it if needed. I normally don’t even book accommodation, as I know that it’s very easy to find cheap and good hostels in Southeast Asia on the go. This gives me the flexibility in case my plans change. The more you travel, the easier it will be for you to act spontaneously on your trip.
For your first Asia vacation:
- make a plan with the travel itinerary based on your research
- book the first hotel night after arrival
- add some more places to the list, in case you change your mind or can’t get to the ones from the original plan and then make final decisions while you are there
- talk to locals and talk to other travellers – they are a great source of information and have it all updated, which is much more helpful than scrolling through the old posts on the Internet
#4 Plan the travel route
- Less is more – cut out
Many of us, I included, have a FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) syndrome. We want to be everywhere, see and do everything. Unfortunately, with a limited time it’s not possible, so you need to rule some things out. Focus on what you really want to see when planning your Asia travel route and keep other places as a possibility in case of change of plans.
- Add an extra day
Travelling in Asia can be unpredictable. There are massive delays on the local airlines, buses leave only when full, which involves several hours of waiting. There can be floods, earthquakes or volcano eruptions (almost happened to us!), that can slow you down. Therefore, add one or two days, just in case. This will also allow you to take things a bit slower and enjoy it more, not stressing out if you’re going to make it for the flight.
- Don’t double back
Plan your Asia travel route in a way, that you don’t come back to the same location. Take different paths, which allows you to see more. In some cases, this might be difficult, but try to avoid it as much as you can.
#5 Be flexible
It’s good to plan a trip to Asia properly, with a scheduled plan and treat it as a base and a direction to follow. However, at the same time, leave yourself space for changes. Maybe you’ll fall in love with one particular place and would want to stay there longer? Or you meet great people and follow their travel plans, instead of yours? Or get invited to the traditional ceremony by the locals, that you just can’t miss? The world is full of opportunities and missing one stop on your itinerary doesn’t mean that you’re missing out – just often the opposite!
#6 Get ready for the unexpected
As often as we like to think that “those things only happen to others, not me”, life is unpredictable and everything can happen.
When we were planning our trip to Indonesia, days before the departure the media boomed with the news of the high risk of the volcano eruption. The volcano happened to be in Bali, which was our first stop. The whole area around the mountain, that we planned to go to, was closed and we needed to change our plans last minute. We also had to be prepared in case of an eruption and know what to do for the emergency. Luckily, nothing happened (and hopefully won’t happen), but better be safe than sorry!
Last, but not least – it’s your holidays, that you worked hard for, so don’t worry too much about ticking places off the list, just go with a flow and enjoy yourself. The more you travel, the easier it will be to let it go, learn about the places from the locals and other travellers. Remember – enjoy every minute of it!
Where is your next trip to Asia to? What are your tips to plan a perfect trip to Asia? Let me know in the comments!
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22 thoughts on “How to plan a perfect trip to Asia – tips for your first Asia vacation & how to choose the best travel itinerary”
I’m Vietnamese, but have not been back to visit. Will have to refer to this when we plan our trip.
I hope you’ll manage to visit soon 🙂
Great post, I’m currently living in Thailand and love it! I remember how crazy and scary my first solo visit was, your tips are really good and I wish I had them back then! Lovely pictures!
Thanks! Wow, this must be amazing to live there 🙂 You’re definitely an Asia expert now then! 🙂
Can not wait for another trip to Asia <3 It was such a wonderful thing to explore it!
I just came back and can’t wait to go again!
I completely agree that traveling in Asia, and anywhere for that matter, can be completely unpredictable. I’m currently on my third long term backpacking trip in Asia and despite planning there are always bumps in the road – although it does add to the adventure of course. I was actually in Bali myself when the volcano was set to erupt, however luckily it didn’t affect my plans. Thanks for sharing!
That’s very true! We’ll see what happens with the volcano, hopefully, it’s all fine. Thanks for your comment 🙂
These are very useful travel tips for travelling anywhere in the world! We are backpacking now through central America and I am really learning to just go with the flow and finding joy in all the crazy, unpredictable things that happen. Thanks for your share!
You are very right 🙂 It’s important to remember about those things during travels in any place in the world. Enjoy your trip!
I’ve only been to big cities in Asia so far; Shanghai and Tokyo. Yet to venture into the South-East. I’ve travelled a fair bit over the world but I’m still a bit of a control freak and like an itinerary lol.
A good itinerary is a great help, but it’s also nice sometimes to go with a flow:) Good luck in your future travels!
From your post, i learn that,with good planning, you achieve better result and always make the plan flexible.
Thanks! I hope it was helpful!
I agree with all you wrote here, and even though I sometimes still have a little FOMO, I`ve been trying to embrace slow travel and my last trips were really good!
I think what you wrote is useful not only when planning a trip to Asia, your recommendations can be applied to other trips as well.
Didn`t know kiwi, definitely going to try it!
Thanks for your comment, Vick! Slow travel would be amazing, but I’m still in need of more time 😉 Hopefully, one day! Good luck in your travels!
I broadly agree with the points that you raise. In fact, I think that they could be applied to vacation planning in general. In particular, I thinks it’s a good idea to do a lot of research, but then to leave the itinerary open to change. Local advice often beats the guidebook. Hands down!
Thank you, Gearoid! I couldn’t agree more, that the local advise often beats the guidebooks, however, sometimes you also need to take it with a pinch of salt and filter through 😀
I’m planning a three week trip to Asia in 2022 to celebrate my 70th birthday. Not planning to backpack but would like to a week in three locations via intra flights from one to the next. Would love suggestions on three great places to visit. Considering China, Thailand, Vietnam.
Hi! That sounds great, but only a week split in 3 countries is a bit short, unless you mean a week in each of them, then it makes more sense 🙂 There is a lot to see in all of them – so it depends on how much sight-seeing you want to do and what exactly you’re interested in – nature, cities, culture, food. I’d say Thailand is more touristy than Vietnam and China is obviously huge, so you would need to decide on a small part of it. You would also need to check the visas needed for each of the countries. Good luck!
Asia has a wide range of tour spot when it comes to Asia, India is one of the best countries one can visit and explore some many histories with a lots of amazing facts India is a budgeted country you can spend money and satisfy your needs you can visit India just to see how colorful it is and it is the country of joy!thanks for the tips the article is helpful.
Glad you like it! I also have some more articles about India:
Belur and Halebid temples