Are you looking for an awesome Southeast Asia itinerary? I traveled Southeast Asia from November to early February visiting Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. It was quite a puzzle to figure out what I had to arrange in advance, such as vaccinations, travel insurance, but also having a global route was useful. But what is a good backpacking itinerary for Southeast Asia in 3 months?
3 months of traveling, it can be a bit of a problem. A gap year, unpaid leave or even resigning offers space for such a trip. The latter I did and I haven’t regretted my choice for a moment. During my backpacking adventure I met a lot of nice new people, saw the most beautiful nature and landscapes and experienced special things. It was the perfect combination of culture, beaches, national parks and cities. Below I’ll tell you everything about my Southeast Asia itinerary.
Southeast Asia itinerary for 3 months
Keep in mind that you need a visa for all these countries. The visa regulations are different for every country and mostly also different nationalities.
Thailand (part 1)
Bangkok ➜ Khao Yai National Park ➜ Ayutthaya ➜ Chiang Mai ➜ Pai
Bangkok is the start of your Southeast Asia itinerary. After Bangkok you can travel directly to the Khao Yai National Park where it’s possible to spot millions of bats, gibbons, hornbills and even wild elephants. And that’s really a must. From Khao Yai National Park you can easily travel to Ayutthaya where you can visit beautiful temples. In Ayutthaya you can easily take the night train to the awesome city of Chiang Mai. Then you travel to the cozy mountain village of Pai.
Read all about an awesome Thailand itinerary here.
Luang Prabang ➜ Vang Vieng ➜ Luang Prabang ➜ Nong Khiaw ➜ Muang Khua en de grensovergang
From Pai (or Chiang Mai) you travel with an organized “tour” to the great city of Luang Prabang. You take this route by bus and two days on the slowboat over the Mekong. You love it or you hate it! In Luang Prabang you can visit beautiful temples and the Kuang Si waterfall. Make sure to arrange your Vietnam visa in Luang Prabang or arrange your visa online.
Afterwards, travel from Luang Prabang by bus to Vang Vieng to admire the beautiful karst mountains and blue lagoons. To get to the beautiful landscape of the village of Nong Khiaw, you first have to travel back to Luang Prabang. In Nong Khiaw you take the slowboat to Muang Khua. From Muang Khua you travel by bus to Vietnam.
Read here in detail about 2 great Laos itineraries.
Dien Bien Phu ➜ Sapa ➜ Hanoi ➜ Cat Ba ➜ Ninh Binh (Tam Coc) ➜ Phong Nha ➜ Hoi An ➜ Quy Nhon ➜ Da lat ➜ Mui Ne ➜ Ho Chi Minh
The first stop in Vietnam is the border town of Dien Bien Phu, where they aren’t used to tourists yet. In Dien Bien Phu the next day you take the bus to Sapa which is high in the mountains. Here you can make a beautiful trekking through the rice fields, bamboo forests and along waterfalls. After Sapa you travel to Hanoi, the hectic capital of Vietnam. The next stop is the island of Cat Ba where you can take a fantastic boat trip through Lan Ha and Ha Long Bay.
After Cat Ba you travel directly to Ninh Binh province and preferably stay in the village of Tam Coc. Here you can take a boat trip through the beautiful surroundings. From Tam coc you travel to Phong Nha where you can visit many caves and the national park. Then it’s time for the cozy coastal city of Hoi An where you can do plenty of fun activities, including workshops, yoga, visiting the old center and having clothes made. From Hoi An it’s a very long drive to Da lat, so visit Quy Nhon first. A non-touristy city with a number of great beaches, temples and a viewpoint. Recommended!
From Quy Nhon it’s not a very long drive to the city of Da Lat where you can visit some beautiful waterfalls and tea and flower plantations. After Da lat, travel to the coastal town of Mui Ne and visit the red and white dunes. The last destination in Vietnam is the gigantic city of Ho Chi Minh where you can visit, for example, the Cu Chi Tunnels that were used in the Vietnam War.
Read everything about my Vietnam itinerary and useful tips here.
Kampot ➜ Koh Rong Samloem ➜ Sihanoukville ➜ Phnom Penh ➜ Battambang ➜ Siem Reap
In Ho Chi Minh you take the bus to the town of Kampot. Highlights are Bokor Hill and the pepper plantations. After Kampot you travel in one day to the tropical Koh Rong Samloem via Sihanoukville. Pearly white beaches and crystal clear water guaranteed!
After Koh Rong Samloem you may be able to travel directly to the capital Phnom Penh, but if you don’t make it, you can also stay overnight in Sihanoukville. In Phnom Penh, learn about Cambodia’s recent bloody past at the Tuol Sleng Museum and the spine-chilling Killing Fields. After Phnom Penh you travel to Battambang and then to Siem Reap to visit the world famous Angkor Wat.
Thailand (part 2)
Bangkok ➜ Krabi ➜ Khao Sok National Park ➜ Khura Buri ➜ Surin islands ➜ Khura Buri ➜ Krabi ➜ Koh Lanta ➜ Koh Lipe ➜ airport Krabi / Hat Yai / Trang ➜ Bangkok
After Cambodia it is time for beautiful Thailand, where you will now discover the south. From Siem Reap you travel to Bangkok, where you continue to Krabi. You may also be able to fly to Krabi. Flights from Bangkok are very cheap! In Krabi you can enjoy the beautiful karst mountains, beautiful beaches and a great viewpoint! Your next stop is the incredibly beautiful Khao Sok National Park where you can do an overnight tour on the lake.
After the Khao Sok National park you drive by bus to Khura Buri from where you visit the incredibly beautiful Surin islands the next day. These are the most beautiful islands in Thailand. After the Surin islands you will spend the night in Khura Buri and leave for Krabi the next day. From Krabi you take the boat to the large and cozy island of Koh Lanta. Your last real destination is the tropical island of Koh Lipe, where you can snorkel, dive, kayak or just do nothing. Perfect!
Costs Southeast Asia itinerary
If you want to travel for 3 months, you should of course save some money together. Fortunately, these countries in Southeast Asia are generally very cheap and your daily budget will be quite low. Read all about the prices, my budget and my costs in Southeast Asia.
Best travel time Southeast Asia itinerary
This Southeast Asia itinerary can, in principle, be traveled all year round (with the exception of the Surin islands, which are closed between May and October). But it’s of course better if you travel in Southeast Asia during the dry period.
The best travel time for Thailand and Laos is approximately from November to March.
For North Vietnam the best time to travel is globally from November to March (although the rice fields are at their best in our summer months), the best travel time for Central Vietnam is between January to July and the best travel time for South Vietnam is approximately December to April.
The best travel time for Cambodia is between December and March.
You could therefore say that the best travel time for this Southeast Asia itinerary is between November and March. That’s why I did this itinerary from early November to early February. I had great weather everywhere except in Central Vietnam. Because I was there in the middle of the rainy season, which was quite disappointing. In Ninh Binh, Phong Nha and Hoi An, it was quite rainy. The streets of Hoi An were completely flooded for a day!
What to arrange?
Of course you can just start your travel, but some things must be arranged in advance if you want to travel for a while.
First, consider getting your vaccinations. The recommended vaccinations for Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia are DTP and Hepatitis A. If you go longer than an x number of months, they often recommend Hepatitis B and the Rabies vaccination. If you are unsure about taking the Rabies vaccination, read my experience with taking the Rabies vaccine in Cambodia.
Secondly, it is necessary to take out travel insurance. Choose a temporary travel insurance or a continuous travel insurance. Sometimes you can cancel the continuous travel insurance prematurely and that saves you some money. Ask the health insurer about this.
In addition, you obviously need a good backpack that can take a beating. You will carry a lot with it and it will not always be transported in the best way. Don’t have a backpack yet? Check all the tips for buying a backpack.
And what do you take with you in that backpack? I love microfiber towels and my Lifestraw!
Need more handy travel gadgets? Then check this article for an overview of 15 useful travel gadgets for backpackers.
Oh how happy I was to have these apps on my mobile while taking this backpack route in Southeast Asia. These apps cannot be missed on the mobile:
- Grab. The Southeast Asian variant of Uber. Ideal for short trips or to rent for an x number of hours. All can be arranged via the app and you see exactly what you have to pay in advance.
- XE Currency. How much Euro is 250,000 Dong? No idea, but with the XE Currency app you will have an answer in no time. The app also works offline.
- Maps.me. You don’t have internet everywhere when traveling. That’s why Maps.me is the lifesaver for offline maps. You can also often find trails or places of interest that cannot be found via Google Maps. That’s how you get somewhere!
- Booking. I have used the Booking app a lot of times to book my accommodations. Just on the road in the bus or train or from the airport.
- Windy. The best app to see the weather forecast in Asia. With the app you can see the temperature, rain and wind live.
- Skyscanner. Taking (domestic) flights is not strange in Southeast Asia. With the Skyscanner app you can find and book cheap flights in no time.