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Backpackers' guide to Asia – 7 best destinations

Discover the best places for backpacking across Asia

Backpacking Asia
Chloe Best
Lifestyle Features Editor
July 16, 2018
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With its rich culture and contrast of inviting beaches, lush jungles and bustling cities, it’s little surprise that Asia is one of the most popular places for backpackers. Each country offers new adventures and once-in-a-lifetime experiences to visitors, with many choosing to spend months travelling from country to country and having no desire to leave. Join them with our guide to the seven best backpacking destinations across Asia, from well-known trails across Thailand and Cambodia to some lesser-known gems…

1.Hanoi, Vietnam

West Lake Hanoi© Photo: Rex

Ideal for travellers on a tight budget, Hanoi in Vietnam is one of the cheapest cities for backpackers. Not only is accommodation and food remarkably affordable, but you’ll be spoiled for choice of things to see and do in the city, which has a mix of Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences.

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hai Ba Trung Temple and Hoa Lo Prison Museum are just three of the popular attractions, while backpackers often spend their evenings gathered at Bia Hoi bars across Hanoi, where you’ll find the cheapest beer in the world at around 25p a glass.

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2.Luang Prabang, Laos

Mount Phousi Laos© Photo: Rex

This landlocked country in Laos may not have the idyllic beaches that its neighbours do, but it’s still worth a visit if you’re travelling across Asia. Luang Prabang is a go-to for backpackers, with much to see and do, while also serving as a great base for exploring the rest of the country.

You’ll want to have your camera close at hand as you wander the streets of this enchanting city, which has historic temples, traditional wooden houses and hints of European architecture, plus bustling markets. Hire a bike and cycle out into the heart of the countryside to discover incredible rice fields and stunning waterfalls, and be sure to climb to the top of Mount Phousi. Here you’ll discover one of Luang Prabang’s most beautiful temples and get breathtaking panoramic views across the city, along with a Buddha Cave where there is supposedly a preserved footprint of the Buddha. Find more things to do in Luang Prabang

3.Pokhara, Nepal

Pokhara Nepal© Photo: Rex

Pokhara has been described as the Goa of Nepal, thanks to its laidback vibe that attracts travellers from around the globe. Phewa Lake is the town’s main attraction, and best explored on a relaxing boat tour while taking in the views of Annapurna. Pokhara is often the starting point for treks of the Annapurna circuit, making it an ideal place to explore for a few days beforehand if you are planning to take on the challenge. Alternatively, you could just spend time enjoying the town’s leisurely pace of life, exploring by bike, participating in a yoga or meditation retreat, or chilling out at one of the lakeside bars.

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5.Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Royal Palace Phnom Penh© Photo: Rex

Ideal for a pit stop between Siem Reap and the Mekong Delta, Phnom Penh is a great destination for backpackers in Cambodia. The convenient location has helped it to become increasingly popular with tourists, and it has some beautiful temples and attractions all of its own, such as the Royal Palace and National Museum of Cambodia.

6.Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Arun Bangkok© Photo: Rex

No backpacking trip across Asia is complete without a visit to Bangkok. Thailand’s capital city is fascinating and awe-inspiring, with something new to discover at every turn. While Khao San Road is the backpackers’ haunt of choice, take the time to venture out to see all that Bangkok has to offer; 200-year-old villages, historic temples and long-tail boats are offset by ultra-modern skyscrapers, shopping centres and the Skytrain.

Bangkok is also ideally located for venturing across to other popular backpacking haunts across Thailand, both up to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in the north, as well as idyllic islands like Koh Samui and Koh Phangan in the south.

7.Kuta, Bali

Kuta Bali© Photo: Rex

Bali has had a huge surge in popularity in recent years, with Kuta the place to go if you want to spend time on the beach and enjoy a lively nightlife scene. The place to stop and relax on your backpacking adventure, Kuta’s long, consistent waves make it a popular spot for surfing (or trying to), while it’s also within walking distance from other popular resorts like Seminyak and Tuban.

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Singapore© Photo: Rex

A world away from some other less-developed tourist destinations across Asia, Singapore is futuristic and spotlessly clean – although it does come at a price. Backpackers will have to budget a little more to come here, but it is well worth a visit if only for a few days. Don’t miss out on a trip to Marina Bay, home to the impressive Marina Bay Sands hotel, which has the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool, and wander around The Gardens by the Bay, a free attraction that showcases beautiful flowers from around the world.

If time permits, get a boat over to the island of Palau Ubin, where you can get a feel for what Singapore used to be like. This untouched island is best explored by bike, offering an escape from the modern and fast-paced life in the city.

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