Backpacking Southeast Asia itinerary 2 months – Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore

Written by Maria Aardal

October 3, 2019

Southeast Asia is by far, one of the most popular backpacking destinations in the world. It is especially popular amongst first-time backpackers and first-time solo travelers. Why is this, what even is Southeast Asia, and what is a great southeast Asia itinerary 2 months?

What and where is Southeast Asia?

First of all, Southeast Asia consists of eleven different countries. Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Malaysia make up mainland Southeast Asia. Brunei, Singapore, Philipines, Indonesia, and East Timor make up maritime Southeast Asia. The region offers huge diversity in culture, history, economy, and scenery. All of the countries are unique in their own way, yet they also have a lot in common. The region is famous for island paradises with blue water and white beaches, a kind and caring culture, interesting history, and great food.

Easy and practical

Getting from place to place

Southeast Asia is a relatively small region of Asia. It covers eleven different countries, most of them are on the smaller side and they are nestled close together. This is one of the reasons why it has become so popular. Many people who are heading out for their first backpacking trip, first solo trip, or first long term trip chose Southeast Asia. That is a lot because of how easy it is to travel there. Getting from A to B is hardly ever a problem, even if you do not speak the local language.

You can travel around and experience a lot of wildly different countries in a short time span. Southeast Asia is also a relatively “easy” region to travel in. In most countries, the transportation system is reliable and well made. You can easily travel within countries and between countries quickly and comfortably (to some degree). There are loads of options for buses, trains, boats, and you can even try hitchhiking if you are feeling adventurous.

Visas

Southeast Asia is also relatively practical to travel to in terms of visas. This does, of course, depend on what passport you carry, but compared to many other places, it is easier. Most countries you do not need visas to, or you can get them at the border without problems. This makes it a lot easier to travel spontaneously. You can quickly change your plans and head to a different country without having to wait a long time for visa approval. Still, you ALWAYS have to check ahead of time the rules for the passport you carry, and the country you are entering.

Experience different places

Because Southeast Asia is so compact you can see and experience so much in a short time span. This is a great way to test out what kind of traveling is perfect for you. You can hit the party scene in Koh Phi Phi, the city life in Singapore, the surf culture in Indonesia, view the scenery in Cambodia, and experience the culture of Vietnam all in the same trip. You can think of Southeast Asia as a stepping stone. It is the perfect place to test out backpacking to see if it is the way to go for you. For example in the sample southeast Asia 2 months itinerary

The social aspect

If you are a first-time solo backpacker you are probably a bit scared and nervous. Especially about the social aspect of traveling. “Will I meet people?”, “Will I be lonely?”, I know that I definitely asked myself these questions. The great thing about Southeast Asia being so popular is that almost anywhere you go you will meet other backpackers. You will meet people at tours, transportation, and in your accommodation, and these are great opportunities to meet travel buddies and great friends.

Budget-friendly

Another reason why so many chose to travel to Southeast Asia is that it is very cheap. If you are on a backpacker budget Southeast Asia is THE place to go. If you have ever found yourself googling “cheapest destinations” or anything like that, I can guarantee that some of the countries from Southeast Asia popped up. Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand especially. The only country in Southeast Asia that is more expensive is Singapore. The prices there can be compared to those of many western countries.

As a general rule of thumb, you can travel for about one month with $1 000 in Southeast Asia. This is however very individual. It is possible to do it cheaper, and it is also possible to do it a lot more expensive. How much you will spend depend a lot on your travel style, priorities, food, accommodation, means of transport, and so on. The sample Southeast Asia 2 months itinerary at the bottom is made with a backpacker budget in mind.

Culture

In my own personal experience, Southeast Asia is one of the places where it is easiest to experience the culture. Even if you travel to mostly “tourist” destinations, you can still easily meet locals and talk to them. Most locals are also very friendly and you should not be surprised if you suddenly find yourself invited to someone’s house.

Even though Southeast Asia is a relatively small area, the culture is very diverse, even within countries. If you travel to Singapore or to the countryside in Cambodia it will be very different. My personal experience and impression in general about the locals of Southeast Asia is that there is a culture for kindness and helping. No matter where I was if I looked lost, someone would always ask if I needed help.

Scenery

If you appreciate lush green forests, crystal blue waters, temples, waterfalls, and steep rocky mountains you will fall in love with Southeast Asia. You have probably already heard about the clear, light blue water and white beaches, I know I had, but what took me by surprise was how green Southeast Asia was. Whether you are driving through the countryside or laying on a beach you will be surrounded by every shade of green you can imagine. You can see thick forests and many places the green, broccoli looking trees reach all the way down to the turquoise waters. If that sounds appealing to you, Southeast Asia might be the next place you should go to.

How to create a southeast Asia itinerary 2 months

Spontaneous vs. planned

One of the first things you have to take a stand on is how much you want to plan out ahead of time. You can go full-on spontaneous and only book flights to somewhere and see what happens, or you can do research, make an itinerary, and plan out your days. There are pros and cons to each one.

Being spontaneous is always fun, you can make friends and decide to travel with them for a bit. Maybe you will get somewhere and not really like it, so you can just move to a new place, or maybe you will hear of a place that you want to see and just up and go there. However planning is also great, it does feel a lot safer and more secure, especially if it is your first long trip, solo trip, or backpacking trip. Planning and researching a new place can also just be a lot of fun, and make you excited to go.

Always remember that if you go somewhere spontaneously, you should check out the entry rules and visa requirements to where you are going and surrounding countries that you might find yourself traveling to.

Mix it up

Personally I prefer a mix of both. I love planning things and researching places and things to see and do, but I also love the flexibility of spontaneity. If this is your preference too I suggest you do some research and find some things you know you do not want to miss. You also need to find out if you need to book any of them in advance. If you do you can book those and then you have a few things lined up, but you are free to do as you please in between. You just have to make it to the place where you have something booked in time.

What to plan out in advance

A great way to do that is to plan out where you are going and when. This works especially well for trips that cover multiple countries. Yet, you do not plan what to do at the destinations, and you do not book accommodation or transport in advance. This way you have the safety of planning, yet the opportunity to change it should you want to. What I would recommend you plan in advance is what countries you want to visit, how long you want to travel and how long in each country, what kind of transport you will mainly use, and what your budget is. This is mostly to stay safe with visa rules, not overstay in a country or get to a border that you cannot cross. It is also to make sure that you can plan out your budget and stay within it.

  • What countries you are going to visit?
  • How long you are traveling for, and for how long will you stay in each country?
  • What will your preferred type of transport, is it overland or by plane?
  • What is your bugdet?

Decide on countries

When you decide what countries you should add to your Southeast Asia itinerary 2 months you need to look at what is important to you and what each country can offer you. If you love to hike then northern Thailand should make it on your list, if you love to surf then Indonesia should make it on your list, and if you love beautiful ruins and history Cambodia should make it and so on. You just need to look at what you want to get out of the trip and see which places matches that the most.

You should also look at how much time you have and what budget you are on. If you are on a lower budget you should look at what countries are cheaper and if you are low on time you should choose fewer countries.

Plan out your time

When you have decided what countries to add to your southeast Asia 2 months itinerary you should think about how long you want to stay at each destination. This can be hard to decide on in advance as you can never know what places you will fall in love with and which might not be for you. So you should just make up a general idea. You should look at how long you CAN stay in a country on a tourist visa, how expensive the country is, how much you think you want to do there, and what type of transport you will be using. Overland travel does take more time, both in time from destination to destination and because of unexpected events like a bus breaking down and such.

Remember, it is always better to see fewer places and get to really experience them then to rush from place to place. I KNOW that it is easy to get caught up, and want to see everything, but if you get too focused on that you will not be able to enjoy the places you do get to see. No one can see everything.

You also need to look to yourself and what your travel style is. If you really love to immerse yourself in the culture and travel slowly you, of course, need more time at each place, then if you prefer to just jump into it and see as much as you can before heading off to the next place. There is nothing wrong with either travel style!

Plan for the unexpected

If you do plan out your time in advance make sure to not pack it too tight. Do not plan out every single day. Things will happen, and plans will change. At each place, you should make some time in your itinerary to just relax and some for unplanned events. This can be anything like just being very tired, bad weather, or getting sick.

Decide on your main mean of transport

When you decide what means of transport to use there are two main things consider, BUDGET and TIME. You mainly have to decide if you are traveling overland or opting for flying. There are positives and negatives with each. The main pro of flying from place to place is that you can travel faster and cover larger distances.

Traveling overland does take more time, and it does take some more effort However, it can definitely be worth it. It is first of all better for your budget which is why so many backpackers opt for buses and trains over planes. It is also better for local businesses and of course the environment.

With all of this, overland travel can also be an experience in itself. “It is not just about the destination, but about the journey”. Yes, very cliche, but still very true. Going by bus and trains lets you see so much more of the places you are visiting, and you also get to see them from a completely different view. You get to see the countrysides and the places that are untouched by tourists, you will see so much incredible nature.

Overnight buses or trains is a great way to save a night of paying for accommodation, and it lets you cover miles while asleep.

You have to consider what is possible for your budget and what is most important to you. If you think “time is money”, and you want to get to your destinations quick and easy, flying might be for you. If you, however, enjoy roughing it, exploring the unexpected, and want to save money then overland travel is perfect.

Sample itinerary

Southeast Asia itinerary 2 months

This is an itinerary that will work for a lot of different types of travelers. It includes a variety of places. It has it all all, from beautiful scenery, beach parties, and exploring culture to sightseeing, and just relaxing. I have traveled this itinerary myself and can therefore with confidence say that it is good.

This itinerary is for a two-month trip. It takes you through three countries, and it includes the time it takes to get from place to place. It covers seven weeks at the destinations with one day each week for traveling (eight weeks total). This itinerary is also based on a backpacker travel-style, so it is budget-friendly. It is based on traveling overland, and if you prefer to fly you can do it in seven weeks instead of eight. There is also a section at the end with suggestions on how to expand this itinerary.

Week 1 – Koh Samui in Thailand

Start off your trip in Koh Samui, the island is located southeast in the Gulf of Thailand. It has its own international airport so you can arrive directly there, or you can take a ferry from the mainland. As this is your first week you are probably going to be jetlagged, and an island paradise is a perfect place to fight it off. You can spend your days exploring and relaxing, and easing into the culture.

Koh Samui is a relatively small island, and renting a scooter is the perfect way to explore all of it. You should of course only do this if you have a license, and you feel safe and comfortable driving it. Rent it in the morning and spend the whole day exploring the island. You can see hidden beaches, tourist attractions, forests, viewpoints and temples all in one day. My suggestion is using “maps.me“, which is an offline map app that also has a feature where you can see attractions and points of interest.

Other than exploring the island you can spend your time making new friends in your hostel. You can spend lazy days at the beach with a book, and spend the evenings exploring beach clubs and the Thai backpacking party culture. This island is the perfect place to ease into the backpacking culture.

Koh Samui also has lots of spas, high-class restaurants, and luxurious resorts if that is more up your alley. There are also a lot of guided tours around the island if you do not feel like venturing off on your own.

Week 2 – Koh Phangan in Thailand

For your second week, you can move on to the next island paradise. Koh Phangan is an island just north of Koh Samui. To get there you have to take a ferry from the mainland or from Koh Samui, from Koh Samui it is about a 45-minute ride.

This island is very popular amongst backpackers mostly because this is where you will find the original Full Moon Party. No matter if you are a party person or not this is something you have to experience. The party happens only once a month, during the full moon. The party takes place at Haad Rin beach and between 10 000 and 30 000 people get together to party all night long. It is a once in a lifetime experience.

The beach is filled with techno music, glow in the dark paint, buckets of alcohol, and jumping ropes on fire. Standing barefoot in the sand surrounded by thousands of people and feeling the beat from the clubs in your chest is something truly unique. If you manage to stay awake you can be up to enjoy the sunrise over the beach in the morning.

Koh Phangan is known for partying, and if that is your style there are many different ones to choose from. Apart from the Full Moon Party, there is the Jungle Party, the Half Moon Party and many more.

However, there is much more to this island than just partying. I highly suggest going on a boat tour of the Ang Thong National Marine Park. The park covers 42 different islands. It is a picture-perfect place. Some of the highlights include hiking to the viewpoint at Koh Wua Ta Lap, snorkeling at coral reefs, and seeing Thale Nai, “the emerald lake”. You can also go kayaking, which I highly recommend.

If partying is not your main plan for Koh Phangan you should not stay at, or near the Haad Rin beach. If you explore other sides of the island away from the party beach, Haad Rin, you will find cute bungalows and quiet white beaches.

Koh Tao

You can also explore another island, Koh Tao if you want to cut your time at Koh Phangan a bit shorter. This island is especially perfect if you are interested in diving. It is a small island, 55km north of Koh Phangan. You can only get there by boat. It is famous for being far from civilization, clear waters, diving, and incredible sea life. No matter if you are an experienced diver, or you want to try it for the first time Koh Tao has something for you. It is also a great place to go swimming with whale sharks.

Week 3 – Tioman island in Malaysia

For your third week, you are traveling to Malaysia. You are moving from backpacker party islands to a quiet, off the beaten track island called Tioman. The island is located off the east coast of the Malay Peninsula, in the South China Sea. You get to the island by taking a ferry from Mersing on mainland Malaysia.

The island has a few locations to chose from, the most popular, especially amongst budget travelers is Air Batang beach, or ABC as it is mostly referred to as. This beach is especially great for viewing the sunset. It is also great for snorkeling, but it does have quite a bit of dead coral. If you want to see more majestic corals you should try the Juara Beach on the east coast of the island.

This week is the perfect week to relax after two intense weeks. You can spend your days lying on the beach with a book, getting to know the locals, biking around exploring the breathtaking scenery, and just focusing on yourself. The island is covered in rainforests, so you can be sure to see some interesting animals here. You will wake up to monkeys outside your bungalow, and giant lizards tanning on the walkways. A week here will feel like a week in another world.

Week 4 – Singapore

For the next week, it is time for the third country and that is Singapore. Singapore is very unlike the rest of Southeast Asia and it is definitely worth a visit. Singapore is a tiny country on the tip of mainland Southeast Asia. It is a very unique country because while it is a country, it is also just one city. It is just over 700 square km. Singapore is known for its diversity, strict and weird laws, cleanliness, and for being ahead in most aspects. It is more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia, but it is definitely possible to do Singapore on a backpacker budget.

Singapore is small, which makes it perfect for walking. Walking is a great way to explore new places and it is a great way to save money on public transport. You can see so much of Singapore in just a day of walking. You do not need a plan, just pick a direction and start walking. Chances are that you will stumble upon some great sights. The architecture in Singapore is unlike anything, and very unlike the rest of Southeast Asia. You will see large skyscrapers, and you will also see so much green. They have incorporated nature so well in such a big city. Since Singapore is so diverse you can also walk to Chinatown and Little India where you get a taste of different cultures.

Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens by the Bay are also worth a visit. Marina Bay Sands is too expensive for most, but you can still view it from below. It is a marvelous sight, especially at night. The Gardens by the Bay are free and every night there is a wonderful light show there that you should not miss.

Singapore is also known as foodie heaven, and not just foodies, but budget foodies. You will find great food centers, or hawkers, as they are called in Singapore. They are basically large food courts where you can find great food from all over the world. Hawker meals are known for being budget-friendly and very tasty.

If you do have some money to splurge you should make a visit to Sentosa Island. This is where you can visit Universal Studios, Madame Tussauds, a waterpark, and so much more. It is the main tourist hub of Singapore, especially popular amongst families.

In Singapore, you also have the opportunity to go up in the second-highest Ferris wheel in the world. The Singapore flyer, it is 165 meters at the highest and takes about 30 minutes to go around. It gives you the best panoramic view of the city. If you do go you should try to go after sunset when you can see the city lights.

Week 5 – Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia

After spending a week in what will feel like a big city in the US (only a lot cleaner), it is time to head back to Malaysia. This time to the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur is located on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula and you can get there by overnight bus from Singapore. It is known for great food, interesting architecture, skyscrapers, and kind people.

In Kuala Lumpur, there is so much to explore. No matter what you like, you can definitely find something you like here. You can explore temples or markets, you can taste food from all around the world, or you can venture up in the skyscrapers. Many visit this city only as a stop on their way to one of the many beach paradises you can find in Malaysia, but Kuala Lumpur can be a great place on its own.

One thing that I suggest making the time for is the Kuala Lumpur Tower. It is a 421-meter tall communications tower that is also a huge tourist attraction. There is plenty to do in the KL tower park, including a zoo, an aquarium, an upside-down house, and an observation deck. Personally I would recommend the Skydeck and maybe the upside-down house. The Skydeck is located at 300-meters above the ground. It is outside, and it features two glass boxes built off the side where you can sit. YES, the floor is also glass! Sitting up there in that little glass box was something I never thought I would find myself doing, and it is also something I would never be without. It was amazing.

Week 6 – Koh Phi Phi in Thailand

It is now time to head back to the islands of Thailand and this time the famous island Koh Phi Phi. It is located in the southwest of Thailand, in the Andaman Sea. To get there you first have to get to Phuket and take a 45-minute ferry from there. Koh Phi Phi is popular among backpackers and other tourists alike. It has a huge party scene popular among backpackers, but it also caters to others with gorgeous luxurious resorts, bungalows, and private beaches.

Koh Phi Phi is famous for its party beach, but also for its stunning surroundings, including Maya Beach, from the movie “The Beach”. The best way to explore the scenery and surroundings is to go on a boat tour. There are many different ones, and which one you chose depends on what your preferences are. There are some that focus on snorkeling, some go during the night, some are party boats, and much more.

At Koh Phi Phi there is a beach called Long Beach, right outside that beach is Shark Point. Shark Point is the perfect place to snorkel if you want to spot reef sharks. There are plenty of guided tours that bring you there. They swim with you, and they know when and where to go for the best chances of spotting sharks. It is a thrilling activity where you really get up close and personal with sharks in the wild. The reef sharks are large and definitely gets your adrenaline pumping, but they are not dangerous.

Before you travel to Koh Phi Phi you should be aware that it is very “touristy” and some find it too much. Personally I loved my time there, but I knew what I was going to. I wanted the backpacker vibe. If you are traveling solely to see culture and you only want to go off the beaten track this might not be the place for you.

Week 7 – Bangkok in Thailand

It is now time to head to the last destination on this itinerary, Bangkok. Turn away from the island paradises and head to a bustling big city. It is a huge city with over eight million people. It is located in central Thailand on the coast of the Thailand gulf.

Bangkok is a city that you will never feel like you have enough time in. There will always be so much more to explore. In one week you will get a good taste of the city and it will leave you longing for more. In Bangkok, you can find a lot of unique and gorgeous architecture. Temples and skyscrapers right next to each other. While there you should definitely make time to visit a temple or a few. If you love a good party Khao San Road is the place to be.

One thing that you cannot leave Bangkok without seeing, is the city from above. Whether it be through the ghost tower, a rooftop bar, a viewpoint, or a hotel is up to you. You will never forget the sight of the city stretching out beneath you. The view is especially wonderful during sunrise, sunset, and in the dark when you can see the city lights glimmer.

Since Bangkok is such a big city you should do some research and find a few things you know you want to see and do. You should also make time to explore with no goal, and you might come upon some hidden treasures.

Alternatives to change up your southeast Asia 2 months itinerary

Less partying

If you are not into partying I suggest skipping Koh Phangan, and maybe Koh Samui. Koh Tao is still worth a trip if you want to do diving. Koh Phi Phi is also still worth a trip to experience a relaxing island paradise, just do not stay at the hostels along the party beach. For the extra week, you can explore northern Thailand. You can visit bigger cities like Chiang Mai or Pai, or you can travel to the quiet countryside. Northern Thailand is landlocked and you can spend your time hiking stunning mountains. You can also try Workaway or Homestay to really immerse yourself in the local culture, maybe spend some time on a local farm.

Less time in Tioman island

For some people, a whole week on this quiet island can be a bit too much. If that is you, you can spend a few days exploring the eastern coast of Malaysia. The eastern coast of the Malay Peninsula is often overlooked by travelers and it is therefore perfect for those who love to venture off the beaten track.

On the eastern coast of the Malay Peninsula, you can explore incredible national parks like Taman Negara. The rainforest in Taman Negara National Park is actually 130 million years old. It is considered the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. Just the thought of that is enough to make you want to visit it.

Skip Singapore

Singapore is definitely a place to put on your bucket list, but it is also expensive. If it does not fit with your budget for your Southeast Asia itinerary 2 months you can skip over Singapore and spend a week in Indonesia instead. Indonesia has grown to become very popular among all different kinds of travelers. It has everything, cities, nature, beaches, luxury resorts, and party backpacker hostels. However, what Indonesia is perhaps most popular for is surfing. Whether you are a seasoned surfer looking to catch huge waves, or a complete newbie who just want to try it out, Indonesia has something for you.

Expanding your Southeast Asia itinerary:

Here are some suggestions for you if you want to expand your southeast Asia 2 months itinerary to a longer itinerary.

Northern Thailand

Explore more of Malaysia

Philippines and Indonesia

Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam

The banana pancake trail

What would you add to your Southeast Asia itinerary 2 months?

Welcome!

I am Maria, a 20 year old student. I am here to show you that traveling is possible for everyone, including you. I belive that traveling can be done in a lot of different ways and that you never have to limit.

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