My Southeast Asia trip for 20 days with my cousin was one of the best experiences of my life. It was a totally unexpected trip. The idea of being travel mates arose at the typical Christmas dinner where plans get made but nobody usually follow through at the end. Who would have guessed that a few months later we would be traveling to Asia for the first time?
The 20 days we spent touring Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia were unforgettable. So, upon my return of this great adventure, I decided to create this blog.
In this post and the following, we will let you know everything you need if you are planning a 20-day trip to Southeast Asia.
- General tips to organize a trip to Southeast Asia.
- Travel budget for backpackers.
- Specific travel guides so you know what to do and what to see in the places we visited. (We will leave the links during this post).
In short, we will make your backpacker trip to Southeast Asia unforgettable.
WHere IS SOUTHEAST ASIA?
All of the following countries are considered to be part of Southeast Asia: Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, East Timor and Vietnam. All of them are located South of China and East of India. The number of paradisaical islands, between the Pacific and Indian Ocean, make Southeast Asia a popular destination for tourists from all over the world, especially those who love beaches and diving.
Like most, when we decided to travel to this region of Asia, what attracted our attention most was the contrast between wilderness and modern cities. It was a very exotic destination and you will love the contrasts. Depending on the country, it was also quite cheap, making it ideal for backpackers.
The cultural differences compared to Europe are substantial, so it is a good choice for those seeking to know other cultures and traditions. In addition, despite some isolated cases, tourism in Southeast Asia is generally safe.
HOW TO ORGANIZE A SOUTHEAST ASIA TRIP in 20 DAYS
A trip to Southeast Asia in 20 days requires a lot of planning. The first thing you should know is that 20 days is not enough to travel this area completely. It is recommended to focus on only two or three countries.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL SOUTHEAST ASIA TAKING climate INTO ACCOUNT
Are you wondering what is the best time to travel to Southeast Asia? Sorry, dear reader, there is no specific time. It depends on the countries that are being visited. My advice is to choose the countries in Southeast Asia that you are going to visit based on the time of year you are going to travel.
You should know when the dry season of each country is and avoid the monsoon season because it could ruin your trip.
We used this application. Select the month which you will be traveling and check out how many days of rain are forecasted for that month in different destinations.
If you are able to travel to Southeast Asia at any time of the year and have a favorite destination, then check which month has the best forecast for that destination.
HOW TO TRAVEL TO SOUTHEAST ASIA
There are no direct flights to any country in Southeast Asia from Spain. Most of the flights make at least one stopover in the Middle East. The airports that have more and cheaper flight connections are:
- Singapore airport.
- Kuala Lumpur airport. (Capital city of Malaysia).
- Bangkok airport (Capital city of Thailand).
We ruled out Thailand because it was not a good time to visit this country when we wanted to travel in June, leaving us with two options.
From what we saw in different travel guides, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur were highly recommended and we could not decide. We finally opted for an option that slightly raised the travel budget, but one we did not regret.
We did not buy a return flight and instead we bought two independent flights. One way to Singapore and another to return from Kuala Lumpur.
TYPE OF TRIP
Like I said, 20 days is not enough even if your plan is only to see 3 countries of Southeast Asia. The first thing for you and your Southeast Asia travel mates to do, is to agree on the type of trip you want to do.
If the majority prefer to see a single place, pick one country (or even a single island), and take advantage of the holidays to rest and relax. Do not choose just Singapore because you can see it in two days.
If, on the contrary, you are as crazy and hyperactive as we are, and you cannot stand the idea of not seeing other amazing places that are fairly close, then you will love our travel itinerary. I must warn you though, you will need a new holiday at your return.
HOW TO choose THE BEST 20-DAY SOUTHEAST ASIA TRIP ITINERARY
If you have chosen to live this great Asian adventure to the fullest, and you want to see everything in 20 days, we will help make it fit! Here, we tell you our trick to visit as much as possible.
1. Select the countries where the weather is nice during the month which you are traveling to Southeast Asia. For this, we will use the application we discussed above.
2. Find out what to see and to do in these countries. Write down all the results that Google provides.
3. Open Google MyMaps and create a map. Call it “Southeast Asia trip in 20 days Itinerary ” or whatever you want. The important thing is to save it.
4. Add to the map all of the sights you searched for in step 2.
5. Discard those far removed from the rest to save time and money.
6. Categorize them by colors to differentiate those you have special interests in according to your taste.
7. Once the route has been profiled, check for connections between the different locations.
8. Decide how many days you want to spend at each of the destinations.
9. Make an Excel document to adjust places and days to visit each of them, as well as connection flights schedules.
TIME CHANGE AT THE SOUTHEAST ASIA
During the trip, we were in two different time zones, apart from the great gap with Spain. I recommend you to take that into account to avoid wasting the first day or the day after the return all fatigued.
The table above, helped us know the time in each place and helped us with remembering these time changes. The black painted cells range from 12 pm to 8 am in the time zone of each place. Although we did not sleep according to those hours for any single day, it helped us to plan the trip considering the time changes.
It is important to have a travel budget. We spent a lot less than we budgeted, taking into account flights, from Spain to Asia, as well as different domestic flights we took (5 in total), accommodation, daily subsistence, activities, etc. We spent less than € 1,400 per person. And the truth is, we did not give up anything during the trip.
Here you will find the total breakdown of the budget with all the costs of the Southeast Asia trip in 20 days.
THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR SOUTHEAST ASIA
It is especially important that you carry travel insurance. I recommend that you choose high-quality insurance for Southeast Asia, as you will be far from your country. Take into account that you are also traveling to countries where it is easy to suffer gastrointestinal diseases, or even worse, mosquito-borne diseases like Dengue or Malaria.
The only vaccine required for traveling to Southeast Asian countries is yellow fever, and only for people who visited at-risk countries within 15 days prior to arrival.
This is not to prevent you from getting sick, but to prevent you from spreading yellow fever to Southeast Asia, where there is none.
If you want to know what these countries are, click here.
Other recommended but not mandatory vaccines are:
- Hepatitis A and B
- Typhoid fever
- Japanese encephalitis
We did not get any shot to travel to Southeast Asia (other than those we got as children).
Other diseases to consider when traveling to Southeast Asia are Dengue and Malaria. These two are more common in Asia and quite dangerous, but should not be a reason to not visit Southeast Asia as the chances of getting them are minimal.
There is a treatment to prevent Malaria. This treatment is done before, during and after the trip. Some experts recommend not to undergo this treatment since it can hide the symptoms of previously contracted Malaria and aggravate the situation. In any case, it is a personal decision whether to or not follow the treatment.
We did not follow the Malaria prevention treatment. If you make this decision, you should pay attention to any signs of fever as it could be Dengue or Malaria. Contact your travel insurance as soon as first signs of symptoms begin.
Both Dengue and Malaria are transmitted by mosquito bites, so the best way to avoid them is by using a repellent with a high concentration of DEET.
Even so, mosquitoes will still bite you. But don’t worry, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have been infected by one of these diseases.
The need for a visa to access Southeast Asia depends on the countries you are visiting. I recommend you check if you need any type of visa on iVisa, which is the website we use to process all our visa applications.
No visa is required for tourists in Singapore if you have a Spanish passport or are from any South American country, although there are certain requirements to enter the country:
- Have a passport that does not expire in the next 6 months.
- A flight leaving the country for within next 90 days.
- Certificate of vaccination of yellow fever in the cases mentioned above.
If you have any doubt or want to verify that they have not changed these requirements you can visit iVisa for an update.
The visa in Malaysia is not necessary for Spanish travelers who do not intend to visit the country for more than 90 days.
However, you must meet the same requirements as to enter Singapore.
Travelers have to pay visa fees to enter Indonesia. The price is 10 $ for a stay of up to 7 days and 25 $ for stays of up to 30 days.
However, there is a way to enter Indonesia without a visa. If you travel to a small airport (we travel to Medan) from another small airport (we came from Penang – Malaysia) you will not have to go through immigration.
If you enter the country from a larger airport like Denpasar (Bali) or Adi Sucipto (Yogyakarta) apart from paying the visa fee, you will have to:
- Carry a ticket out of the country within 30 days.
- Have in possession a passport that does not expire in 6 months or less.
- Have a credit card with a credit line of 1000 $ or more.
- Proof of yellow fever vaccination if you have recently visited at risk countries.
- Travel insurance to Indonesia is not mandatory but highly recommended. I had to use it!
Each Southeast Asian country has a different currency. We used Singapore Dollar, Malaysian Ringgit and Indonesian Rupiah.
The good thing about Asia is that even though there are many poor and economically underdeveloped areas, technology is available everywhere. Even in the most remote places, there are credit card readers and ATMs, so you do not have to worry.
If you travel to Southeast Asia for 20 days, I recommend that you carry around 200 € cash. If you have any problems, they will not refuse to charge you in euros.
My advice would be to not exchange money from Spain, and instead create an Evo smart account card which allows you to withdraw from anywhere in the world. We also suggest to not withdraw so much money. The prices here are much cheaper than Europe, so even with less in quantity, you will still feel that you have more money.
Finally, to not make a mess with so many changes of currency, let me tell you a trick that we used during the first few days in each country.
Make a table with amounts that go from 0.50 € to 100 € (1 €, 10 €, 50 €, etc.). Then, in the following columns, indicate the correspondence in the currencies of the countries in Southeast Asia that you will visit. That way, you have a quick way to know if something is cheap or expensive.
Where you will really save money in Southeast Asia is with accommodation. For a very low price, you can even stay in villas with a SPA. This is why Southeast Asia is not only popular for backpackers but also for couples, with many of them spending their honeymoon in Asia.
In my case, I was traveling with my cousin, and we preferred to stay in hostels for backpackers so we could meet more people. The platforms we used to find the accommodation were:
In the specific guides of each place, we will indicate our hotels.
OUR 20-days SOUTHEAST ASIA TRIP ITINERARY
We decided to visit Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia because we did our 20-days Southeast Asia trip in June.
To be honest, 20 days were not enough and we left with a lot of things we have yet to see. Nevertheless, we made the most out of every single day of our trip. We slept for few hours and came back with broken bodies and absolute need for more vacation. This feeling can only mean that you have just returned from the journey of your life.
The places visited in those 20 days were the following:
Singapore is the smallest country in Southeast Asia. The city of Singapore lavishes wealth everywhere. In just 50 years it managed to become the 9th strongest economic power in the world.
If you want to know what to do in Singapore in two days and how to eat for free at a Hindu temple, do not miss this guide.
George Town, the most important city on the small island of Penang, made us fell in love even before we visited it. There were street art, the best gastronomy of Malaysia, jungle and paradisaical beaches.
This combination could not be out of our Southeast Asia itinerary.
If you want to know what to do in George Town and surroundings, do not miss the guide we have prepared. I recommend that you visit this destination for at least 3 days and not miss the Penang National Park.
If you travel to Southeast Asia, you can not miss seeing orangutans in freedom. Although there are others elsewhere, the best place to see orangutans is in Indonesia, in the jungle of Bukit Lawang located on the island of Sumatra. Getting to the jungle is hard as the nearest airport, Medan, is 4 hours away, but definitely worth it.
We tell you about the two-day trekking we did in the Bukit Lawang jungle to see orangutans at this post.
Visiting the largest Buddhist temple in the world (Borobudur Temple) and one of the largest Hindu temples in the world (Prambanan Temple) in one day is only possible in Yogyakarta.
This city on the island of Java, Indonesia, will make you quiver with excitement. A mystical experience not to be missed on your trip to Southeast Asia.
If you want to know everything about Prambanan temple and Borobudur temple do not miss this post.
While organizing our Asian trip I was reading the popular book “Eat, pray, love”. Ever since, I began planning the travel itinerary, and could not help but think of the rice paddies I visualized while indulging in this book.
There is no doubt that if we were to go to Indonesia, we would have to go to Bali. That is why this was the first place we chose as a must our route. And of course, we couldn’t miss Ubud, the cultural capital of the island.
Here is our ultimate guide to Bali.
This destination was squeezed onto our route at the last moment.
The idea of spending days diving in paradisiacal beaches while enjoying the best nightlife of all Southeast Asia captivated us.
They say that there are no sunsets like those of the Gili Islands and I will not be the one to say otherwise. If you want to check it out, visit our guide of Gili Trawangan.
Kuala Lumpur was our last destination in Southeast Asia. The capital city of Malaysia will surpass your expectations, as there are a lot of things you have to see. It is quite similar to Singapore in terms of the rapid economic growth that has occurred. We assure you that the Petronas Towers will not leave you feeling indifferent.
We have prepared this post to tell you what to do in Kuala Lumpur in two days.
Here you can see the outline of our trip to Southeast Asia once more.
20-days SOUTHEAST ASIA trip MAP
RUTA SUDESTE ASIÁTICO - ENGLISH
As we have said, there are infinite possibilities. How will be your Southeast Asia trip?