Backpacking in Asia

Countries  »  Asia

Why go?

Discover Asia

Asia is big. The world's biggest continent, in fact, gobbling up 30% of Earth's land area and home to 60% of the population. It includes some of the most popular gap year destinations in the world, like Thailand, Vietnam, India, China, Japan, Cambodia, South Korea, Laos, Kazakhstan, and a whole bunch more. You see, it's big! That can't be stressed enough.

As a result it can seem a little intimidating to plan a backpacking trip around the continent - there's just too much to see! But its popularity means that it's rife with established trails and reliable travel infrastructure to make it as easy as possible. We've broken the continent up into distinct regions to make the wonders it has to offer a little more digestible. It's time to rock that bucket list.


South East Asia

South East Asia is a backpacker’s adventure playground, easily the most popular part of the continent for travellers. It's all about having fun. People visiting for the first time can sometimes experience a slight culture shock, but the very things that create that will quickly become the bits you most relish: the chaotic cities, the weird and wonderful food, the rickety local transport and the other-worldly scenery. It’s also (from a Westerner’s perspective) a very cheap place to travel: music to any backpacker’s ears.

The starting point for the vast majority of people is the Thai capital, Bangkok, famous for its extraordinary temples and palaces, and rampant nightlife. This often marks the beginning of what’s known as the South East Asia loop, which covers Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Burma can also be included in this trip, having recently opened up again to tourism. You can also head south from Bangkok, which will take you to the Thai islands (stunning), Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, which straddles the equator.

South East Asia is a perfect introduction to the wider continent of Asia, which can be slightly trickier to navigate. The region is a logical stepping stone for those who began in Australasia, both because it’s slightly more challenging to travel in and because it’s very kind on those inevitably dwindling budgets.


Top Countries

Thailand

Thailand

Vietnam

Vietnam

Cambodia

Cambodia

Malaysia

Malaysia

Laos

Laos

Indonesia

Indonesia

 

Thailand is so popular with backpackers that we're positively brimming with information about it. Get inspired by reading some of our articles.


Central Asia

Why Visit Central Asia?

It's not exactly a who's-who of popular travel destinations. Also known by some as Middle Asia, the area consists of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekhistan. What they lack in name recognition, they more than make up for in wondrous sights and off-the-beaten-track adventure.

It often serves as a bridge between eastern Europe and Asia, travellers winding up first in Kazakhstan. The ninth largest country in the world has an embarrassing variety of terrain for the adventurous to enjoy, including steppes, rock canyons, desert, snowy mountains, and more. The former capital city of Almaty is surprisingly modern and hosts some truly unique nightlife.

From here it's easy to cross borders into the other countries. Central Asia served for centuries as a crossroads between civilisations, trade routes linking Muslim lands with Europe, India, and China. The result is a melting pot of cultures, evident in the people and the sights, and topped off with a large dose of Communist influence from the area's time under the Soviet Union. Central Asia is the ideal destination for any traveller seeking something a little different.


Top Countries

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan

 

Central Asia isn't as popular with backpackers as it deserves to be. We hope this inspires you to get out there and see something a little different.


East Asia

Why Visit East Asia?

This area of the continent has some of the most popular backpacking destinations outside of South East Asia, encompassing, amongst others, China, Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea.

Japan is one of the world's most coveted travel destinations, whether you want the high-tech microcosm of Tokyo, its ridiculously diverse climate and scenery, from beaches and jungles to snowy mountains, or the peace and quiet of rural villages and temples. You might never want to leave.

You might encounter the same problem with China, whether you're city-hopping between sprawling metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai, hitting world famous tourist sites like the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, and the Forbidden City, or climbing mountains in the middle of nowhere. You could spend an entire gap year here and never leave its borders.

That said, it's easy to move around the area by sea or air, taking in the hyper-modern cities and mountainous landscapes of South Korea or the iconic city skyline of Hong Kong. The more adventurous might favour the sweeping Mongolian steppes or even brave a strictly supervised tour of the secretive state of North Korea. You're guaranteed to come away with stories that last you a lifetime. 


Top Countries

Japan

Japan

China

China

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Malaysia

Mongolia

 

We also highly recommend a visit to South Korea or, for an experience you truly can't find elsewhere, a tour of North Korea.


South Asia

Why Visit South Asia?

And now for something completely different. South Asia exemplifies the diversity of this continent, offering the likes of India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and more.

Most gappers start with India, a chaotic destination unlike anywhere else, eager to suck visitors into its vibrant culture. It's home to one of the world's most popular tourist hotspots, the beautiful Taj Mahal, and from there many choose to see what else the country has to offer by travelling like a local on trains or buses. It's an experience you'll never forget.

Where you go next depends on what you fancy. Afghanistan and Pakistan have loads to offer, but require some planning to ensure your safety, whereas the Maldives offer incredible wildlife and some of the most beautiful beaches you'll ever set eyes upon. Moving around South Asia can take a bit of planning prowess, but it's more than worth it.


Top Countries

India

India

Maldives

Maldives

Nepal

Nepal

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

There's so much to see in South Asia that it's almost impossible to select just a handful. It would be remiss of me not to recommend Bhutan, sitting between China and India and home to scenery and tradition still largely untouched by tourism.

Best Experiences

Top Experiences in Asia

You could spend a lifetime trying to experience all the incredible things Asia has to offer and still not come close to completing the list! However, there's nothing stopping you trying. Below are what we believe to be the very best experiences in Asia - scroll and be inspired!

See the orangutans in Borneo, Indonesia

There are increasingly fewer places to see orangutans in the wild, and it's truly a natural encounter you shouldn't miss.


Learn to surf in Bali, Indonesia

There is pretty nothing cooler on the planet to learn, and pretty much no where better to learn it than Bali.


Walk the Great Wall, China

Obvious, maybe, but it is a wonder of the world, after all. There are few more majestic sights on the planet than the Great Wall snaking inexorably into the distance.


Watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Look at the picture. Do you want to be there for real? Yes, definitely. What are you waiting for?!


Sail Halong Bay in Vietnam on a junk boat

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for you! Set sail for a cruise unlike any other in this stunning location.


Watch a Muay Thai boxing match in Thailand

Even if pugilism isn't to your tastes, it's difficult not to get caught in the excitement of a traditional muay thai bout.


Trek to Mount Bromo, Indonesia, for sunrise

Again, look at the picture. It's stunning. Get up early and prepare for the best sunrise you'll ever see.


Walk across Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan

This iconic road crossing in the heart of Tokyo is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the city.


See the temples of Bagan in Burma from a hot air balloon

Bagan is a bit like something out of a sci-fi movie, and the best way to take in its size is from the air.


Pad quietly around the Taj Mahal, India

A landmark surely on anyone's bucket list, you can't visit India without coming here. Arrive early to avoid the crowds.


Sample some delicious pho in Vietnam

Vietnam is full of delicious signature dishes, few more tasty than a hearty bowl of pho, whether from a restaurant or street vendor.


Go island hopping in Thailand

Thailand is one of the most popular gap year destinations for a reason, and seeing all the islands it has to offer will let you in on the secret.


Dip your feet in Big Almaty Lake

Probably the most picture postcard location in existence, the placid waters of Big Almaty Lake are too inviting to ignore.


Go to a cat cafe in South Korea

Cats are awesome, cafes are awesome, so combine the two for double awesome.


Go kayaking in Vang Vieng, Laos

Laos is home to some of the best scenery in South East Asia, and seeing it by kayak is quite an adventure.


Walk the sky bridge at the Petronas Towers, Malaysia

How do you feel about heights? This is a truly awe-inspiring (slightly terrifying) way to see the city.


Go to Tajikistan

Because how many people can say they've been to Tajikistan?

Itineraries

Let Us Do the Work

We've put together some choice itineraries to help you explore Asia without having to worry too much about planning. Remember, we're experts in creating tailor made gap year experiences, so if you have a particular route in mind we want to make it happen. Just call the number on the big blue button below.

Ultimate Thailand Adventure

Explore Southeast Asia

Explore South East Asia

Totally Trans-Mongolian

The Asian Apple

The Asian Apple

Bangkok to Bali

Bangkok to Bali

China on a Shoestring

China on a Shoestring

*Calls are included in free mobile minute allowance
Monday to Friday: 9am to 6pm  |  Saturday: 10am – 5pm

Advice

Our Best Articles on Asia

Need advice on backpacking in Asia? You're in the right place! We have articles covering all the major destinations, from Thailand to China to Kazakhstan.

101 Things to Do in Thailand

101 Things to Do in Thailand

Finding Food in Laos

Finding Food in Laos

Visiting Cambodia's Killing Fields

Visiting Cambodia's Killing Fields

17 Things You Have to Do in Vietnam

17 Things You Have to Do in Vietnam

Animal Volunteering in Malaysia

Animal Volunteering in Malaysia

Finding History in Indonesia

Finding History in Indonesia

Discovering the Offbeat Side of Japan

Discovering the Offbeat Side of Japan

Top 5 Things To Do in Beijing

Top 5 Things To Do in Beijing

72 Hours in Hong Kong

72 Hours in Hong Kong

The Top Ten Things To Do in Kazakhstan

Top 10 Things To Do in Kazakhstan

Only Bonkers People Ignore Brilliant Burma

Only Bonkers People Ignore Burma

Guide to India

James Mooney's Guide to India