Backpacker’s paradise that is Southeast Asia is home to numerous energetic cities that provide travelers looking for immersive experiences with affordable adventures, a diverse range of cultural experiences, and a warm and inviting atmosphere with the opportunity to meet other likeminded backpackers from countries across the globe.
These below Southeast Asian backpacker-friendly cities are a patchwork of experiences, making them the perfect gathering places for low-cost tourists looking for interesting encounters, breath-taking scenery, and a diversity of cultures. Unfortunately, backpacking is not as cheap as it used to and since Covid-19, we have found the airlines have raised their prices, so it will cost you a bit more to travel to Southeast Asia. However, once you are here, we are sure you will love it and will find it to be one of the most affordable places to travel for a length of period anywhere in the world.
In this article, we will give you our list of the best backpacker cities in Southeast Asia to visit where we think you will have the best time and will be the most affordable.
Khao San Road Area in Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand’s thriving metropolis of Bangkok is a refuge for travelers looking for a combination of exciting nightlife and diverse cultural offerings. Known as the backpacker’s epicentre, Khao San Road is lined with inexpensive lodging options, food carts, and unique bars. Travelers can enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and engage in story-sharing over pad Thai in this melting pot of cultures.
Areas such as Sukhumvit and Silom provide a variety of lodging options for those looking for a more laid-back atmosphere, ranging from affordable hostels to mid-range hotels. Modern shopping malls can be found in Sukhumvit, while a blend of traditional markets and modern nightlife can be found in Silom.
Backpackers can fully immerse themselves in Bangkok’s history by visiting the Old City. Three must-see cultural sites are Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace. Explore Chinatown’s winding lanes to find hidden treasures and real street food experiences.
When night falls, the backpacker scene spreads to areas like Ekkamai and Thonglor, where hip clubs and rooftop bars offer an alternative nightlife. Bangkok meets backpackers’ varied interests, whether they are interested in dancing the night away or exploring historic temples. For those who are looking for adventure and cultural exploration, Bangkok is a must-visit place.
Old Quarter Area in Hanoi, Vietnam
Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, is a mesmerizing location for travelers looking for a unique combination of colorful street life, a wealth of historical sites, and a diversity of cultural experiences. A favorite among backpackers is the Old Quarter, with its winding streets and French colonial buildings. The lively atmosphere is created by the inexpensive lodging options, bustling markets, and local restaurants that serve banh mi and pho.
The backpacker-friendly neighborhoods around the city’s central Hoan Kiem Lake include Ta Hien Street, dubbed “Beer Street.” This is the ideal place to relax with a glass of the local bia hoi, or fresh beer, and make new friends from other travelers.
The French Quarter has a variety of inexpensive and moderately priced lodging options, as well as beautiful boulevards and historical landmarks, for those seeking a more sedate stay. Travelers can discover the depth of the city’s culture by visiting places like the Temple of Literature and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
Hanoi comes alive in the evening with bustling street food vendors and night markets. Backpackers congregate frequently to exchange tales and take in Hanoi’s distinct charm at locations like Train Street and the evocative bars surrounding West Lake. With its bustling streets and historical sites, Hanoi offers a mesmerizing setting for an incredible backpacking trip.
Bui Vien Street Area in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Backpackers can enjoy an exciting backdrop in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, a bustling metropolis in southern Vietnam. Known as the “Backpacker District,” the Pham Ngu Lao area is a popular destination for inexpensive lodging, exciting bars, and a lively street scene. Backpackers will find reasonably priced hostels, street food vendors selling mouth-watering Vietnamese fare, and a variety of bars serving both domestic and foreign beverages here.
The Backpacker District’s main drag, Bui Vien Street, comes alive at night with neon lights and a bustling nightlife. It’s a great place to meet other travelers, take in the vibrant atmosphere, and hear live music.
District 1 has a selection of reasonably priced guesthouses and boutique hostels for a more laid-back stay. Backpackers can relax in rooftop bars with views of the city skyline at night or explore famous sites like the War Remnants Museum and Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon during the day.
Backpackers interested in experiencing the vibrant culture of Vietnam will find Ho Chi Minh City to be an immersive and unforgettable place with its dynamic street life, historical sites, and diverse culinary scene.
Tha Pae Gate Area in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Nestled in the northern Thai mountains, Chiang Mai is a popular destination for travelers looking to experience the perfect fusion of natural beauty and cultural diversity. Nestled between historic walls and moats, Chiang Mai’s Old City is a well-liked destination for low-cost lodging. Affordable lodging is available at hostels and guesthouses, many of which are housed in quaint traditional Thai architecture.
The trendy neighborhood of Nimmanhaemin, also known as Nimman, has a youthful vibe. Here, travelers can choose from a variety of boutique hostels and affordable options. Nimman is not only a fantastic destination for lodging, but it’s also the center of cool cafes, galleries, and an exciting nightlife.
Renowned Tha Pae Gate area is another popular destination for backpackers, with a mix of inexpensive lodging and a bustling street life. Discover the Night Bazaar, which is well-known for its lively marketplaces and street food vendors, here. With bars and live music venues, the area around Tha Pae Gate comes alive at night and offers a great social atmosphere.
Backpackers love Chiang Mai’s outskirts, especially the Pai District, for a more tranquil experience. The small town of Pai, which is encircled by gorgeous scenery, has a relaxed vibe and a range of reasonably priced guesthouses.
Chiang Mai offers a vibrant cultural experience with its yearly Yi Peng Lantern Festival, historic temples, and busy marketplaces. Backpackers will discover Chiang Mai to be an enthralling destination with a warm atmosphere, whether they choose to explore the Old City’s historic temples or take advantage of Nimman’s exciting nightlife.
Old Town Area in Luang Prabang, Laos
Backpackers looking for a peaceful and culturally rich experience will find Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Laos, nestled along the banks of the Mekong River. The town offers the ideal fusion of natural beauty, Buddhist temples, and beautifully preserved colonial architecture.
Hostels and guesthouses around the town offer accommodations for backpackers on a budget when they visit Luang Prabang. The neighborhood surrounding the Night Market is well-liked since it offers convenient access to the market’s lively ambiance as well as the tranquil Mekong River environs.
For backpackers, the Old Town is a great option as well, with its charming French colonial buildings and winding streets. Here, visitors can take in the daily Alms Giving Ceremony, a spiritual and cultural tradition, as well as tour ancient temples like Wat Xieng Thong.
In comparison to other cities, Luang Prabang has a more subdued nightlife scene, but travelers can still find welcoming bars and riverbank restaurants to spend a relaxing evening. Travelers love Utopia Bar, which is situated beside the Nam Khan River, for its picturesque surroundings and laid-back vibe.
Slightly outside of town, the Kuang Si Falls provide a cool respite for those looking for a little more adventure. A wonderful day trip is made possible by the surrounding natural pools and the cascading turquoise waters.
Backpackers can visit traditional weaving villages, explore the local markets, or take a boat ride along the Mekong River during the day. Luang Prabang is a special place for backpackers visiting Southeast Asia because of its unique combination of natural beauty, cultural richness, and a peaceful atmosphere.
Alona Beach Area in Bohol, Philippines
The Philippines’ charming island of Bohol is a haven for travelers looking for a mix of natural beauty, rich cultural history, and exciting nightlife. Bohol has a variety of experiences to offer, from the well-known Chocolate Hills to the charming tarsiers and the exquisite beaches.
Backpackers often use Alona Beach, which is located on Panglao Island, southwest of Bohol. There are lots of inexpensive guesthouses, hostels, and beachside lodging options in this area. Alona Beach is a great place to relax and mingle because of its vibrant atmosphere, which includes beach bars and seafood eateries.
A more sedate option is White Beach on Panglao, which also has reasonably priced lodging. Cozy beachfront bungalows and hostels are available for backpackers, offering a more laid-back vibe without sacrificing proximity to Alona’s exciting scene.
While Bohol’s nightlife may not be as vibrant as that of bigger cities, Alona Beach comes to life at night. Live music, fire dancers, and the opportunity to socialize with other travelers are all provided by beachside bars such as the well-known Alona Vida Beach Resort. Some beachfront venues offer a calm environment for enjoying a cocktail while taking in the sound of the waves for a more relaxed vibe.
Backpackers can explore the Chocolate Hills, the Loboc River Cruise, and the Tarsier Conservation Area, among other natural wonders of Bohol, during the day. Adventurers may choose to go on island-hopping excursions to remote beaches and locations for snorkeling.
Bohol is a top pick for backpackers visiting the Philippines because of its combination of breath-taking scenery, a wide range of activities, and a friendly atmosphere. For travelers on a tight budget, Bohol provides a well-rounded experience, whether they choose to explore cultural sites, relax on the beaches, or take advantage of the exciting nightlife.
Bukit Bintang Area in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Backpackers find Kuala Lumpur, the bustling capital of Malaysia, to be an enticing destination because it seamlessly blends modernity and cultural richness. Kuala Lumpur has a lot to offer, including famous landmarks, delectable street food, and a bustling nightlife.
Accommodations for Backpackers: Because of its central location and wealth of inexpensive lodging options, Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur is a popular destination for travelers on a budget. The well-known street food strip Jalan Alor is lined with reasonably priced hostels and guesthouses. Well-known backpacker destinations with a mix of comfort and social atmosphere are Reggae Mansion and BackHome Kuala Lumpur.
Another excellent choice for a more authentic experience is Chinatown (Petaling Street). In the middle of bustling markets and traditional Chinese architecture are guesthouses that are affordable. Because of the area’s excellent public transport connections, exploring the city is simple.
Nightlife and Entertainment: There is something for every taste in Kuala Lumpur’s nightlife. The well-known street Changkat Bukit Bintang is dotted with taverns, pubs, and clubs. Backpackers can enjoy a range of musical genres here, including electronic beats and live bands. Situated on the 33rd floor of the Traders Hotel, SkyBar provides breath-taking views of the cityscape.
Visit the Sri Hartamas neighborhood for a more cultural experience. There are bars there with live music, fusion cocktails, and a laid-back vibe. Another well-liked option is the Reggae Bar in Bukit Bintang, which is well-known for its inexpensive drinks and reggae vibes.
Activities for the Day: Backpackers can explore Kuala Lumpur’s famous sites during the day, including Merdeka Square, KL Tower, and the Petronas Towers. A must-try is the city’s varied street food scene, where food vendors sell regional specialties like char kway teow and nasi lemak.
In conclusion, Kuala Lumpur is a great place for travelers wishing to experience the real Malaysia because it provides a dynamic blend of reasonably priced lodging, a wide variety of dining options, and a vibrant nightlife.
My Khe and An Thuong Areas in Da Nang, Vietnam
Tucked away on Vietnam’s central coast, Da Nang has become a well-liked travel destination for those looking for the ideal fusion of vibrant urban life, scenic landscapes, and cultural traditions. For tourists on a tight budget, Da Nang offers a unique experience with its stunning beaches, historical sites, and relaxed vibe.
Lodging for Backpackers: My Khe Beach’s gorgeous coastline and array of affordable lodging options make it a top choice for travelers on a budget. Near My Khe, in the An Thuong neighborhood, there are plenty of guesthouses, hostels, and homestays that offer a laid-back beach atmosphere. The Han River neighborhood is another well-liked option because it offers reasonably priced hotels with easy access to the city’s attractions.
Nightlife and Entertainment: A wide range of people are catered to by Da Nang’s nightlife. Bars and pubs with a lively atmosphere can be found along Bach Dang Street, which runs alongside the Han River. Backpackers congregate at waterfront bars to sip on house brews and sip cocktails as they watch the city lights. Situated on the 35th floor of the Novotel Da Nang Premier Han River, Sky36 Bar is a well-liked destination for its breath-taking views and exciting nightlife.
Visit the expat-friendly bars in An Thuong for a more laid-back evening where you can socialize with other tourists and locals. There are also reasonably priced street food vendors in the area that serve real Vietnamese food.
Activities for the Day: During the day, take advantage of Da Nang’s cultural highlights, which are conveniently located near the ancient town of Hoi An and the Marble Mountains, Dragon Bridge, and bus or motorbike. My Khe Beach is a great place to sunbathe and enjoy water sports while taking a leisurely break from exploring the city.
Visit the Han Market for a distinctive experience where you can purchase souvenirs and savour regional cuisine. Foodies should also sample the regional fare, which includes the well-known Banh Mi Phuong in Hoi An.
In conclusion, Da Nang offers travelers looking for a genuine Vietnamese experience the perfect blend of vibrant nightlife, cultural diversity, and charming coastal scenery.
Pub Street Area in Siem Reap, Cambodia
The vibrant city of Siem Reap, Cambodia, is the entry point to the famous Angkor Wat temples. This city, a backpacker’s dream, offers a distinctive fusion of vibrant street life, ancient history, and a bustling nightlife.
Backpacker Accommodations: There are plenty of inexpensive lodging options in Siem Reap to suit the needs of budget-conscious tourists. Backpackers often stay in the city center’s Pub Street area because it’s close to markets, dining options, and, of course, the exciting nightlife. A variety of affordable hotels, guesthouses, and hostels that provide cozy stays can be found here.
Nightlife and Entertainment: Pub Street, a busy pedestrian promenade dotted with taverns, eateries, and clubs, is the center of Siem Reap’s nightlife. Popular among backpackers is the famous Angkor What? Bar, which is well-known for its colorful interior, inexpensive drinks, and upbeat music. There are night markets in the vicinity of Pub Street where you can purchase handcrafted goods and trinkets made locally.
Explore the Riverside neighborhood for a more laid-back evening; it offers a more tranquil setting beside the Siem Reap River. Pub Street is lively, but riverside bars offer a calm alternative where you can enjoy sunset views and cocktails.
Activities for the Day: The UNESCO-listed Angkor Archaeological Park is the main reason for Siem Reap’s fame. Travelers on a backpacking trip can explore the historic temples, which include Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom, and Angkor Wat. For those who are interested in history and architecture, the Angkor Pass is a must-have since it grants access to numerous temples.
During the day, wander around Psar Chaa and the Old Market to enjoy the vibrant local culture, sample local cuisine, and purchase traditional Khmer goods. For a truly unique cultural experience, you should also think about visiting the floating villages around the largest lake in Cambodia, Tonle Sap.
In summary, Siem Reap is the ideal destination for backpackers who want to fully immerse themselves in Cambodia’s rich heritage because it provides the ideal balance of historical wonders, cultural experiences, and an exciting nightlife scene.
Chinatown Area in Yangon, Myanmar
Backpackers will find Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, to be an intriguing destination with a blend of colonial architecture, historic temples, and a bustling street life. With the nation undergoing fast transformation, Yangon offers a singular window into Myanmar’s rich past and culture.
Backpacker Accommodations: There are several affordable backpacker-friendly accommodations in Yangon. Budget travelers love visiting Chinatown and the area around Sule Pagoda in the city center. Budget hotels, hostels and guesthouses in this area provide cozy lodgings with convenient access to the area’s top attractions and transportation hubs.
Discovering the City: Pay a visit to the famous Shwedagon Pagoda to start your exploration of Yangon. This golden temple serves as both a place of worship and a cultural icon for Myanmar. Spend some time strolling around downtown Yangon’s colonial-era streets, where old buildings highlight the history of the city’s architecture.
Visit Bogyoke Aung San Market, which is well-known for its traditional handicrafts, textiles, and gemstones, for a taste of local culture. The market offers a lively environment and chances to socialize with locals.
Nightlife and Entertainment: Although Yangon doesn’t have as much going on at night as some other Southeast Asian cities, there are still some interesting areas to check out. In the evenings, Chinatown comes alive with teahouses, local restaurants, and street food vendors. The lively atmosphere and barbecue stalls of the 19th Street area have made it famous.
Travelers seeking a more Western-style nightlife experience can visit Theingyi Zay Plaza, which has a number of pubs and taverns with a laid-back vibe.
Make Friends with the Locals: Go for a stroll through Kandawgyi Park or along the shores of Inya Lake to get to know the people living there. These calm areas offer a break from the busy city and chance to socialize with residents taking advantage of their free time.
In conclusion, travelers interested in experiencing Myanmar’s largest city will find Yangon to be an intriguing destination due to its unique combination of historical landmarks, cultural experiences, and glimpses into local life.