These are some of the cheapest backpacking destinations in Asia that you can visit.
Backpacking is one of the best ways to see a country as travelling cheaply not only saves you money to be able to travel more, but can also bring you closer to the people of the places you go to.
I have visited almost all the countries in Asia over the past 20 years and these 10 countries are the ones I recommend the most for being cheap places to travel in Asia, and also for the variety of things to see and do.
Some of these make great backpacking destinations for beginners and some are the best places to backpack alone.
Either way you should have a great time!
Bear in mind that “cheapest backpacking destinations” is for the overall cost of general travel. Start adding activities to that and the skies the limit on what you could spend.
But these are some of the best places to go backpacking cheaply and make for some great budget trips in Asia.
They’re in no particular order. Well ok, I do have a soft spot for Kyrgyzstan so I’ll put that first 🙂
Cheapest Backpacking Destinations in Asia
1. Backpacking in Kyrgyzstan
I love travelling in Kyrgyzstan, it’s one of the best backpacking destinations (well except if you like the sea and beaches).
It’s cheap to travel and also small in size so easy to get around, allowing you to see a lot in a short period of time.
The prime reason to visit Kyrgyzstan is to get into the mountains. There you can go trekking and stay with nomads in traditional yurts. If you’re feeling slightly lazy you can also do horse trekking instead.
There are plenty of cultural things to experience in the summer months, especially every 2 years when the World Nomad Games are held.
Kyrgyzstan is also the easiest country to enter Central Asia as you get a visa on arrival and the cheapest flights to the region go to its capital, Bishkek.
See more of backpacking in Kyrgyzstan.
2. Backpacking in India
India is the ultimate backpacking destination in Asia. It can be very overwhelming and somewhat of a love/hate relationship so may not be the best for a beginner starting out backpacking.
But if you just go ahead and dive into the full on intensity then India has absolutely everything you could imagine to offer the backpacker.
Not surprisingly it has the reputation as being one of the cheapest backpacking destinations in the world, never-mind just in Asia.
It has beaches, mountains, jungle, deserts, culture, food, and so much more. And being so large the vibe changes as you move around, with the south being more relaxed with its beach life, the main cities being seriously full on hectic, and the north getting colder in the mountains and more of a Buddhist feeling in parts.
Eventually you should at some point in your backpacking life make it to India.
See more about backpacking in India.
Get the best guide for India: Lonely Planet India (Travel Guide)
3. Backpacking in Thailand
Just as India can be one of the hardest countries for a beginner backpacker, Thailand is one of the easiest, in fact one of the best backpacking destinations for beginners in Asia.
It’s been a backpackers haven for many years and yet, outside of the main tourist spots and party places, retains its unique Thai charm.
Although mostly known for its famed beaches, some of the best experiences can be found in the north of the country in the mountainous areas.
It’s still very affordable being one of the cheapest backpacking destinations, especially in the north, and some of the cheapest flights into Southeast-Asia come into Bangkok.
Nervous about backpacking in Asia for the first time? Then Thailand could be the perfect country for you.
Grab the Lonely Planet Thailand guide.
4. Backpacking in Nepal
You could put Nepal and India under the same category as they are very similar in price and for similar mountain experiences.
But Nepal is home to some of the highest mountains in the world, including Everest, so makes for the perfect backpacking destination in Asia to go for long treks, such as the Annapurna circuit and the Everest three passes basecamp trek.
If you want to get away from the mountains then there is also the lowland areas where you can see wildlife such as in Chitwan National Park.
Also Pokhara is a very relaxed town next to a lake which makes a good place to unwind for a while after some hard trekking.
Cheap and amazing scenery. What’s not to like?
5. Backpacking in Sri Lanka
Another one of those perfect small countries as one of the cheapest backpacking destinations, just like Kyrgyzstan. You could call it a mini-India as they are very familiar, although I found Sri Lanka to be less intense and more friendly than its larger neighbour.
For such a small size it offers almost everything except snow capped mountain peaks and desert.
You have the famous surfing beaches and the surf culture that goes with it. Hiking in the highland areas. Ancient cities. Tasty food.
And the excellent railway network to get you around. It has one of the cutest railway journeys in the world, as you can dangle your legs out of the open doors as the train meanders along slowly through the highlands, as you watch women in the fields picking tea leafs.
There is a friendly backpacking scene there and is very laid back.
One of my personal favourites.
Read more about backpacking in Sri Lanka.
6. Backpacking in Indonesia
Indonesia is massive with over 17,000 islands to explore. Most travellers stick to Bali, Java, and the surrounding islands near them, but get off the beaten path and there is so much more to backpacking in Indonesia.
Now I say it’s cheap to go backpacking in Indonesia, and for the most part it is one of the cheapest backpacking destinations in Asia, but it all depends on where you go.
If you want to get to very remote areas, like Raja Ampat which is known for its excellent diving, then it will end up costing more due to the difficulties of getting there and around.
Being such a large country it’s best to try and get a 2 month tourist visa from an embassy before arriving, as you will only get 1 month on arrival (for most nationalities).
It’s the kind of backpacking destination that sucks you in for more. I have spent around 10 months travelling in Indonesia and there is so much more still to see.
One of my favourite areas in Indonesia is one the island of Sulawesi and the region of Tana Toraja that has a very unique culture and some awesome offbeat adventure opportunities.
7. Backpacking in Laos
Southeast-Asia in general is a great place for budget backpacking, and the classic backpackers circuit generally evolves around Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and maybe Malaysia.
I highly recommend picking up the Lonely Planet Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & Northern Thailand (Travel Guide) for the region.
I didn’t include Cambodia in this list as I want to give options in other parts of Asia, and to be honest it was my least favourite country out of the ones I have been to that I’ve mentioned here (although it’s still good to visit).
Laos is on the list for it’s diversity, beautiful mountain areas for hiking, chilled vibe, backpacker scene without to many “party” areas, and friendly people.
If anything add the small city of Luang Prabang as a few days trip from a neighbouring country to get a feel for the place. It has some of the best temples to see and one fo the most beautiful waterfalls I have been to.
8. Backpacking in Vietnam
Oh Vietnamese coffee. I know you shouldn’t really judge a country on one thing, but I could easily go back to Vietnam just for the coffee, never-mind the spicy delicious soups.
It is a great country for renting or buying a motorbike and travelling across the country on it. That’s what many backpackers do if they have time.
If you end up buying a motorbike you should have no problem selling it on to another traveller at the end. In fact it’s most likely that you bought the motorbike from another backpacker!
Otherwise there is a good network of buses and trains.
Like backpacking in most of the rest of Southeast-Asia you will have good hiking areas, vibrant cities to visit, beaches, culture, and more.
And yes it’s very cheap like all the others as one of the cheapest backpacking destinations.
9. Backpacking in Malaysia
Sadly most backpackers stick to just Peninsula Malaysia for backpacking, going along the classic route of Singapore up to Thailand, or vice-versa.
Yes you can find highland areas for hiking, awesome food in the big cities, cultural gems, and islands with perfect beaches.
But some of the best adventures to be had can be found in Borneo Malaysia in Sarawak and Sabah. There you can climb Mount Kinabalu, go caving, go hiking in the highlands and jungle, see orang-utans, take a small boat up a jungle river, and so much more.
Oh, and some of the best diving in the world can be found at Sipidan Island and around that area if diving is your thing.
Borneo Malaysia can easily be reached with budget airlines from Kuala Lumpur so you really should put it on your list for not only one of the cheapest backpacking destinations, but also for its adventure.
This is an adventure I had in the Kelabit Highlands of Borneo hiking in the jungle and staying with tribal people, to give you an example.
10. Backpacking in Iran
This is a seriously off the beaten path destination for backpackers and yet super cheap and friendly, with so much to see.
Yes there government is a bunch of assholes, but the people themselves are generally welcoming and friendly to foreigners. In fact it’s because of the people that I highly recommend to go to Iran and not just because it’s one of the cheapest backpacking destinations.
It’s mostly well known for its historic cities like Esfahan, and its massive deserts. But there is plenty of mountainous areas to explore as well.
Don’t believe everything you see in the news and go pay a visit. The only bitch is getting the visa, as it can be a long process (at the time of writing, please mention in the comments if this changes).
More of why you should go to Iran.
Bonus! 11. Backpacking in Japan
Ok, I’m joking! Japan is seriously expensive compared to the other countries listed here and is definitely not one of the cheapest backpacking destinations.
And because of that I didn’t go to Japan for a long time, but when I did eventually make it there I was very surprised that it wasn’t as expensive to travel as I thought.
One of my most popular posts is Japan is cheaper to travel than you may think, and for good reason, it probably is.
Getting Around When Backpacking in Asia
This is just to give you a rough idea about the costs of getting from region to region.
If you’re planning to go backpacking in Asia for a longer time then chances are you’re thinking of going to a lot of different countries.
Well the good news is there are many budget airlines servicing some of the most popular areas, like India to Malaysia, and all around the Southeast-Asia countries.
AirAsia is one of the best budget airlines for this.
More good cheap flights can also be found with these airlines:
Indigo is a good option especially for India.
Scoot is based out of Singapore and services many Asian cities.
Nok Air is a good budget option for Thailand.
I’ve flown on all of these.
Although budget airlines prices start cheap they will get more expensive if you have to check in heavy backpacks.
Take a look at what I recommend to pack for backpacking in Asia that will allow you to have a backpack small enough for hand luggage, but also enough space for everything you need.
The search engine I use most for booking flights is Momondo.
The places that get a lot more difficult are when wanting to visit Kyrgyzstan or Iran as they are not as visited as backpacking destinations, which is a good reason to go in itself. Thankfully though Kyrgyzstan, like mentioned before, is the easiest of the Central Asian countries to get to.
Cheap Places to Travel in Asia
So that gives you a good idea of some of the cheapest backpacking destinations in Asia.
There are many countries that could be included as Asia has many of the cheapest countries to visit, but I wanted to include a good range of different areas and experiences to have in Asia.
If you’re planning a backpacking trip to Asia and trying to figure out what to take, then have a read of my essential packing list for backpacking.
*Disclaimer time! This post contains affiliate links which means I get a small commission if you purchase anything through them at no extra cost to you.
SHARE IT –