Southeast Asia Route: What do you want to see? In what order? How much time do you need?
A lot of people ask me about what route to take through Southeast Asia. There are hundreds of combinations depending on your time, what you want to visit, what you are willing to spend and your preferred mode of transportation.
One of the most fashionable routes is the one that you visit in one trip Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. If it is your first time in Asia, I always advise you to go to Thailand first. It’s the easiest country to travel to and the most touristy so you won’t have so much “culture shock”.
How long will you be in each country?
Whatever route you take, always remember to check whether the border is still open or not. The time you spend in each country will depend on the time you have available.
I always advise a minimum of two weeks for Thailand, two weeks in Laos, two weeks in Vietnam and one week for Cambodia. Although ideally one month in each country and two weeks for Cambodia which is somewhat smaller. Below, I leave you a map with the main places of interest in each country and I describe, one by one, what in my opinion are the three best routes to visit Southeast Asia:
1. Route Itinerary: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam
- Thailand: This route starts first by travelling through Thailand, in Bangkok. Visit the north to discover the deep Thailand: Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai. If you have time, visit the south of Thailand to enjoy the beaches. On your first visit to Thailand you can’t miss Phuket, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Tao.
- Cambodia: Once seen Thailand cross the land border into Cambodia by Aranyaprathet. With a week in Cambodia you have more than enough to see the temples of Angkor Wat and Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. If you have more time you can visit the beautiful island of Koh Rong.
- Laos: Then cross from Cambodia to Laos by Stung Treng (one of the most corrupt borders in Southeast Asia). Going up through Laos. Visit the Four Thousand Islands, Vientiane (the capital of Laos), Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, the pearl of the Orient.
- Vietnam: Finally, from northern Laos, go to Vietnam via Muang Khua to Dian Bian Phu and from there to the Sapa rice fields. Then you can go down Vietnam through Halong Bay, Ninh Binh, Hoi An until you reach Ho Chi Minh.
2. Route Itinerary: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam
- Thailand: Another route that many people take is: first visit the south of Thailand: Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Ao Nang, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Then go to the north of Thailand to see the beautiful city of Chiang Mai, the beautiful village of Pai and do a trekking in Chiang Rai. Cross from Thailand to Laos by the border of Chian Hong to Huay Xai (Northern Laos). You can also cross the Thai border from Nong Khai to the capital of Laos: Vientiane (central Laos).
- Laos: If you want to see the north you can see Luang Namtha and Muang Sing going up. But go directly to Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane down to the four thousand islands.
- Cambodia: After visiting Laos you cross the land border into Cambodia, from Don Det to Stung Treng. Once in Cambodia you can visit the temples of Angkor Wat and/or the beautiful Cambodian beaches at Koh Rong. There is no need to stop in the capital.
- Vietnam: From there enter the south of Vietnam through one of the border crossings and go to visit the Mekong Delta. Then you can head north stopping through Vietnamese cities to the rice fields of Sapa.
3. Itinerario de la ruta: Tailandia, Laos, Vietnam, Camboya
- Thailand: You start by visiting the south of Thailand and then go up to see the north of Thailand as far as Chiang Rai. Once you have seen the north of Thailand you go directly to the north of Laos.
- Laos: Visit Luang Namtha and the beautiful Luang Prabang. On this route you can choose to just see northern Laos and from there, cross into northern Vietnam.
- Vietnam: Then descend all the way to Vietnam, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City stopping at Halong Bay, Ninh Binh, Hui, Hoi An and/or Nha Thang to end up crossing to Cambodia.
- Cambodia: Visit Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat. Go down to the islands of Cambodia, to visit the island of Koh Rong. This route is good because you start with the incredible beaches of Thailand and end with the beautiful and almost desert beaches of Cambodia.
Our 3-month route through Southeast Asia:
In our case, for three months we were travelling through Thailand, Vietnam and Laos:
- In Thailand we spent two weeks in the north and two in the south. We went to Vietnam by plane because before to enter Thailand you were asked for an exit ticket.
- In Vietnam, we started from Ho Chi Minh City, visited the Mekong Delta and then spent a month going up to the north.
- In Laos we entered through the land border with Vietnam and spent two weeks visiting northern Laos.
- Then, in my case, instead of going to Cambodia, I chose to head north and travel to China, specifically to Yunnan Province, which is close to Laos.
Here’s a map where you can see the whole route we took. Almost everything was by bus, except the train trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, the plane trip from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh and the boat trips to the islands:
- Tailandia: Bangkok, Chiang mai, Sukhothai, Pak Chong, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi Don, Koh Phi Phi Lee, Krabi, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao.
- Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh, Can Tho,Vinh Long, Long Hai, Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Ninh Binh, Halong Bay, Hanoi, Sapa, Dien Bien Phu.
- Laos: Muang Khua, Luang Namtha, Muang Sing, Huay Xai, Pak Beng, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane.
- China: Kunming, Dali, Ruili.
Have you traveled in Southeast Asia? Have you taken a different route? Comment on your route and start a dialogue about different travel routes in Southeast Asia. And if you liked this post: comment, rate and/or share. Thank you!
I’d rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff.