Asia is one of the most eclectic, diverse and fascinating regions on the planet, and has drawn backpackers and travellers on their gap years for decades. Here are some of the best backpacker hubs and stopovers that every backpacker should include on their itinerary.
With it’s unique combination of landscapes, cultures, pulse pounding night life and spiritual retreats, Asia has something for everyone. It invites backpackers to wander endlessly and explore its wonders with minimal preparation or planning, and it is easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of choice you have in front of you when travelling independently. But to get a full feel of Asia’s diversity, there are certain stops along the way that really ought to be on every discerning travellers list.
This crazy, eclectic city is many backpackers introduction to Asia, and the start of the infamous backpackers banana pancake trail. No trip to the region is complete without at least a few days here. It has everything a backpacker can ask for, awesome food, friendly people, interesting night life and a huge dose of history and culture. Everything seems like it is in a constant state of disarray and Chaos, but if you give it enough time, everything weaves together perfectly to create absolute magic.
Enjoy the touristy pandemonium that is Khao San Road before taking time to explore the history and culture of the city at the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Whatever you choose to do, you will have infinite opportunities to live life to the full in the Thai capital.
After exploring the history and culture of the golden triangle and transporting yourself to another time and place in Rajasthan, Goa is the perfect place to stop for a while and take it easy on the long journey down south to Kerala. India can often be exhausting and draining, and many backpackers use Goa as a way to rest and recharge their batteries in a relaxed, picturesque paradise.
Goa is one of the worlds most popular beach destinations and there are endless package resorts and tourist activities throughout the many beaches, but there are also hidden spots with perfect beaches, laid back vibes and the quintessential backpacker reggae bar and beach hut combo. You almost won’t want to get up to leave!
Plan your trip to India with this extensive guide.
Singapore is my absolute all time favourite city, and one that I always feel at home in every time I return. Often unfairly dubbed as clean, sterile and boring, Singapore may not have the frenetic party fuelled energy of Thailand or the relaxed natural beauty of Malaysia, but is one of the cleanest, efficient and pleasant cities in South East Asia, and has so much to offer every backpacker in the region.
Singapore boasts some of the best attractions in the world to keep any traveller busy, from the world class zoo and night and river safaris to the famed shopping meccas of Orchard Road and Hollywood style fun at Universal Studios and Sentosa island, but it is also rich with heritage and culture for those who want to dig a little deeper and is deservedly one of the worlds most celebrated foodie destinations.
Singapore is the ideal fusion of West and East, making it an ideal decompression stop for those about to immerse themselves in the alien cultures of Asia, so don’t make the mistake many travellers do and dismiss this amazing country as a simple stopover, or avoid it because you think it will be too expensive. You will be wrong on both counts and you will be missing out on one of the single best destinations in Asia.
Hong Kong, China.
Hong Kong is not only the perfect introduction to China, it is one of the absolute must see destinations in any Asian itinerary. With a super dense population, gleaming chrome and glass skyscrapers and malls towering over hidden, timeless backstreets, crowded night markets and family run eateries and even a surprising amount of greenery to explore, Hong Kong will hit you hard with culture shock before taking you in her arms and making you love her. Hong Kong isn’t as expensive as many backpackers assume either, it has a plethora of popular sites and activities for backpackers on a budget too, many of the attractions and sights in Hong Kong are free.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Another one of my favourite destinations, and yet another one that is often unfairly misunderstood and dismissed as a simple, cheap and convenient travel hub as many backpackers fly in and want to head straight out and enjoy the (admittedly awesome) sights and natural attractions of Malaysia.
Sat in between its arguably more famous and almost certainly more popular neighbours, Bangkok and Singapore, Kuala Lumpur is often overlooked by many backpackers and travellers, but this is a huge mistake. It may not have the legendary backpacker status of Bangkok or the pristine sheen of Singapore, but Kuala Lumpur does have so much to offer backpackers who take the time to scratch underneath the surface and see what is there.
Yogyakarta is one of the primary backpacker and tourist centres of Java, and many backpackers flock here not only because of the fact it is an easy jumping off point for temple hopping around the reknowned UNESCO world heritage sites of the Prambanan temples or Borobudur, not to mention the endless volcano hiking opportunities, but because Yogyakarta has a laid back ambience that soaks into your pores as you explore this old fashioned, relaxed city, making it a perfect home for backpackers who want to find a hub to settle down and relax in for a while.
Learn more about Yogyakarta in this ultimate guide to Indonesia.
Asia is a huge and infinitely diverse region with an entire smorgasboard of countries and destinations, making it a difficult task for any backpacker to decide where to go and what to visit. That is part of the fun though. You can visit Asia countless times and still keep going back for more, experiencing something new and unique each and every time. As long as you take the time to slow down, relax and enjoy some of these backpacker break destinations, you’ll never run out of options to explore or energy to do so in Asia!
Did you like this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.