You can’t expect to fit everything Southeast Asia has to offer into one trip – or two or three or four, to be fair – and we don’t suggest you try. So, to help you start planning, we’ve put together eight ideas for your Southeast Asia itinerary from The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget Dropdown content.
For a complete guide to exploring the region and up-to-date recommendations of the best hotels, hostels, activities and more, buy the full guide here Dropdown content.
Start in colonial streets of Hanoi Dropdown content (1), the country’s historical, political and cultural capital. Go for a sail around the famed natural wonders of Ha Long Bay Dropdown content (2), before heading to the northern hills to the ethnic minority villages orbiting Sa Pa Dropdown content (3).
Take the train down to imperial architecture of Hué Dropdown content (4), make a day-trip to the DMZ Dropdown content, then move south to charming Hoi An Dropdown content (5). Nha Trang Dropdown content (6) is Vietnam Dropdown content's pre-eminent beach party town, whereas Mui Ne Dropdown content (7) offers great water-sports and sandy coasts with a more laid-back vibe.
Da Lat Dropdown content (8) is your gateway to the Central Highlands Dropdown content, and from here you can strike southwest to reach bustling Ho Chi Minh City Dropdown content (9). Once you've explored the city, travel to the Mekong Delta Dropdown content (10) where you can visit one of the region's floating markets, before finishing your trip on the island of Phu Quoc Dropdown content (11), a restful place perfect for beach bums and divers.
Kick off in Yangon Dropdown content (1) for street markets and the glorious Shwedagon Paya Dropdown content, then go to Mawlamyine Dropdown content (2), Myanmar Dropdown content's third largest city. Catch a boat to Hpa-an Dropdown content (3) before visiting one of the holiest Buddhist sites in the country, Kyaiktiyo Dropdown content (4).
Kalaw Dropdown content (5) is a perfect base for treks to ethnic-minority villages, and traditional life at Inle Lake Dropdown content (6) shouldn’t be missed either. Watch the sunset over Mandalay Dropdown content (7), then head northeast to stroll the botanical gardens at Pyin Oo Lwin Dropdown content (8).
Take the train across the Goteik viaduct to Hsipaw Dropdown content (9), an increasingly popular trekking base and finish with a hot-air-balloon ride over the awe-inspiring temples of Bagan Dropdown content (10).
Begin with the unmissable two-day trip down the Mekong River Dropdown content from Houayxai Dropdown content to Luang Prabang Dropdown content (1), the city of golden spires. Then its off to the stunning natural playground of Vang Vieng Dropdown content (2), before venturing to the country’s quaint capital, Vientiane Dropdown content (3).
Enjoy the pretty French-colonial lanes of Savannakhet Dropdown content (4) and explore the Khmer ruins of Wat Phou Dropdown content near Champasak Dropdown content (5). Set course towards Si Phan Don Dropdown content (6) to chill out for a few days in one of the four thousand islands scattered across the Mekong River. Catch a mini-bus to Cambodia Dropdown content for river dolphin watching in Kratie (7).
An easy bus ride takes you from Phnom Penh Dropdown content (8) to Siem Reap Dropdown content, where the world-famous temples of Angkor Dropdown content (9) beg to be explored. But if you’re feeling a little travel-worn afterwards kick back on the beach resort and offshore islands Dropdown content of Sihanoukville Dropdown content (10) or laze riverside in relaxed Kampot Dropdown content (11).
After immersing yourself in Bangkok (1), Thailand Dropdown content’s frenetic and thriving capital, chill-out among the rafthouses and waterfalls of Kanchanaburi (2).
Rent a bicycle to explore the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya Dropdown content (3) and then make for the elegant temple remains in Sukhothai Dropdown content (4). To break free of the tourist route head to isolated Umphang Dropdown content (5), where the surrounding mountains are perfect for trekking.
Commence among the old-world charms of Thailand Dropdown content's Phetchaburi Dropdown content (1), then take a trip to the paradisiacal islands of Ko Tao Dropdown content (2) and Ko Pha Ngan Dropdown content (3) for raging moon parties or a detox.
Trek through the jungle in Khao Sok National Park Dropdown content (4) – one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet – and as you move further south, consider a stop in the slightly ugly tourist village of Ko Phi Phi Dropdown content (5) for undeniably fun all-night parties, snorkelling and diving.
Continue south to the relaxed island getaway of Ko Lanta Dropdown content (6), before winding this itinerary down in the pockets of paradise still remaining in Ko Lipe Dropdown content (7) and the stunning Ko Tarutai National Marine Park Dropdown content nearby.
Singapore Dropdown content (1) is an easy introduction to Southeast Asia with its array of tourist-friendly pleasures. But move on to Melaka Dropdown content (2) for a fascinating mix of cultures and an ideal first stop in Malaysia Dropdown content.
Kuala Lumpur Dropdown content (3) is a must, as is former-colonial George Town Dropdown content (4), with its thriving food and arts scenes. Next, make some time to relax on the beaches of the Perhentian Islands Dropdown content (5) before heading to the rainforests of Taman Negara National Park Dropdown content (6), before catching a ride on the jungle railway to Kota Bharu Dropdown content.
Attractive Kuching Dropdown content (7) is an ideal base for visits to the Iban longhouses Dropdown content, and a journey along the 560km Batang Rajang Dropdown content (8) river into the heart of Sarawak Dropdown content is unforgettable.
Nature and adventure buffs alike will love Gunung Mulu National Park Dropdown content (9), Kinabalu National Park Dropdown content (10) and the wildlife outside of Sandakan Dropdown content (11). Finish this itinerary among the teeming marine life of Pulau Sipadan Dropdown content (12), one of the top dive sites in the world.
There’s plenty to discover by starting in Sumatra Dropdown content’s Bukit Lawang Dropdown content and Danau Toba Dropdown content (1), the famous orang-utan centre, soaring volcanoes and island retreats among them.
Take time to explore Indonesia Dropdown content’s capital, Jakarta Dropdown content (2), before moving on to Java Dropdown content cultural heart: Yogyakarta Dropdown content (3), the best base for the temples of Borobudur Dropdown content and Prambanan Dropdown content. Take a pre-dawn hike up to the crater rim of still-smoking Gunung Bromo Dropdown content (4), adventure the many wonders of Hindu Bali Dropdown content and hop over the Lombok Dropdown content (6) and the Gili Islands Dropdown content for adventures in paradise.
Enjoy close encouters with Komodo dragons in Komodo Dropdown content and Rinca Dropdown content (7) before heading to the mountainous landscapes of fertile Flores Dropdown content (8). Finish up on Sulawesi Dropdown content, immersed in the flamboyant festivals and fascinating culture of Tanah Toraja Dropdown content (9).
Start by soaking up the compelling energy of Manila Dropdown content (1), a convenient gateway to some of the country’s more inaccessible areas.
Check out the shipwrecks and prehistoric landscapes of Palawan Dropdown content (2), before you pass through Cebu Dropdown content city (3) on your way to Camiguin Dropdown content (4), a small volcanic island home to a bohemian arts scene and some amazing adventure activities.
Surfers flock to the acclaimed reef breaks of Siargao Dropdown content (5), while the captivating sunsets and limited electricity at both Malapascua Dropdown content and Bantayan (6) typifies island living at its best.
Boracay Dropdown content (7) also shouldn’t be missed, home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and nightlife rivalling Manila Dropdown content. Conclude this itinerary in the cool mountain villages of the Igorot Dropdown content tribes in the Cordillera Dropdown content (8), nestled among jaw-dropping rice-terrace scenery.