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How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip to Southeast Asia

Bali swing
Preparing for a backpacking trip to Southeast Asia involved a lot of research. And it’s no easy task, especially if you’ve never backpacked to this part of the world before. When myself and Dan first started looking into our backpacking trip to Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand, Vietnam and Bali we had endless lists of things to get organised. What visas to get. The travel vaccinations we needed. Plus the things to buy and pack. I’ve compiled a blog post to help anyone out there who is about to embark on their very own backpacking trip to Southeast Asia.

Choose The Right Backpack

It may seem like a silly one, but when backpacking around Southeast Asia you need to be comfortable. You’ll be lugging your gear around the different countries. On and off planes, buses, trains, scooters and even boats. The backpack needs to fit right, feel comfortable and more importantly hold all your stuff. For our rucksack, we headed to the Mountain Warehouse website and chose the Traveller 60 + 20 Litre Rucksack. This backpack has a separate compartment at the bottom of the bag to keep things organised and had the additional 20 Litre backpack zipped onto the front.  We’ve since used this when going camping and still think it was a great investment. The bag was £119.99 but it’s now been reduced to just £59.99.

Research, Research, Research

The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget

Before our trip to Southeast Asia, we did a lot of research about where to visit, what to do and how to get there. I’d actually travelled to Thailand, as well as Cambodia before, and Dan had also recently visited Thailand, so we had some experience and starting points on where we wanted to go. We asked advice from friends, family and travel bloggers about where they felt best to visit and started from there.

Investing in the super handy ‘The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia‘ was a vital part of our trip planning. We poured over this travel guide book for hours in the pub. Making notes of all the places in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia we wanted to explore. It’s split by country so you can skip through the sections that aren’t relevant to you. It really helped make our first backpacking trip to Southeast Asia a lot less daunting. And was the perfect resource for researching and planning our trip too. We learnt from our trip to not over plan. Keep your schedule flexible and try not to book too much in advance.

Take the Appropriate Health Precautions

Check what vaccinations you need before heading to any part of Southeast Asia. There are some great resources online that let you check what jabs you need to get for each country you plan on visiting. Travel Health Pro was super helpful to us, as it provides general country information, as well as recommended and also suggested vaccinations for travellers. Similar information can be found on the NHS Fit For Travel site too. Alternatively, head to your local travel clinic or pharmacy and they will be able to provide you with advice about vaccinations. The earlier you get your vaccinations sorted the better, as some jabs will need to be given in separate doses a month or so apart.

Get the Correct Visa

Vietnamese Visa

Visas are one of the most important things to think about when preparing for your trip. Some countries may be easier to enter than others and will allow visa-free entry or a visa upon arrival. Others may require application forms to be completed and a visit to an embassy before you embark on your trip. My partner and I travel on UK passports so the next batch of information is based on being a UK passport holder. I would recommend visiting the GOV.UK Foreign Travel Advice webpage for more detailed information.


This was a fairly simple process. British passport holders are granted visa exemption, meaning they can enter Thailand without a visa for 30 days. But if you know you will be in Thailand longer than this period you can extend your stay once. Just be sure that on the day you enter Thailand you have 6 months’ validity left on your passport.

Bali (Indonesia)

Again this was a simple process as British passport holders can enter Indonesia for up to 30 days. But in a different way to Thailand, you are not able to extend your visa-free visit longer than the 30 days given. If you plan on visiting Indonesia for longer, you will need to get a visa before you go. Be sure you have proof that you will be leaving Indonesia before your 30 days are up. We had to purchase a flight out of Bali before they let us check in to our flight from Vietnam, so bear this in mind before you go.


Getting a Vietnamese visa was a long process and a bit more complicated (and expensive) too. If you only plan on visiting Vietnam for up to 15 days you are able to enter without a visa. For those wanting to stay up to 30 days, you can get your visa online. But as we had initially planned to stay for up to 3 months we had to get our visa from the Vietnamese Embassy in London. For two visas for stays up to 3 months, including postage of the documents, it cost us around £230 (in 2018).

Get Insured Before You Go

Getting yourself insured for your trip to Southeast Asia is another vital component to preparing for your trip. And another you should do in plenty of time. This gives you time to shop around the different providers, looking for the best one to suit your travel needs and also price range. We did a lot of research when it came to picking an insurance provider and in the end, we decided on Alpha Travel Insurance.

They offer backpacker insurance, which was perfect for what myself and my partner needed, as it covered the multiple destinations and months we were away. It was super easy to get a quote and was cheaper than the other policies we found. Plus we got money back when we booked through Quidco too.  If you’re interested, the exact policy we went for was the Alpha 50 Longstay AFW, with added Bastion Gadget Extension, for a period of 5 months. It comes to £186.73 for the both of us, plus we got just over £30 back from Quidco, result!

Alpha Insurance for a backpacking trip to Southeast Asia

And there you have it, these are just a few things that will help you prepare for your backpacking trip to Southeast Asia. If you need me to go into any more detail or have any questions just let me know!

Until next time.

*NB* I purchased all items mentioned in this blog post myself, but please note that the link to the Alpha Travel Insurance and Waterstones websites are affiliate links. These do not cost you any money to click or purchase from, but they do earn me a little commission. But please note that all views are my own.



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