Singapore to Bangkok Overland Backpacking Itinerary

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Introduction

One of the most common routes for backpacking in South-East Asia is traveling from Singapore to Bangkok overland.  It’s an absolute amazing trip with tons of incredible places to see along the way.  From starting out in amazing metropolitan cities like Singapore & Kuala Lumpur, and then breaking away to gorgeous islands — this is definitely going to be a trip you’ll never forget.  This Singapore to Bangkok guide will go over my proposed route, travel tips, helpful websites, and some of my favorite blog posts I’ve written along my travels.

Brief Overview & Itinerary Route

  1. Singapore
  2. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 
  3. Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
  4. Penang, Malaysia
  5. Langkawi, Malaysia
  6. Koh Lipe, Thailand
  7. Koh Lanta, Thailand
  8. Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
  9. Ao Nang / Railey Beach, Thailand
  10. Koh Phangan, Thailand
  11. Koh Tao, Thailand
  12. Bangkok, Thailand

Starting in Singapore (2-3 Days)

Singapore is an absolutely gorgeous city, and it is often overlooked by South-East Asia backpackers.  This tends to be a very popular “layover” destination, and I always hear people who have only seen the airport, or max spent a day in the city.  I would personally recommend staying in this city for at least 2-3 nights!  There’s a lot of amazing things to see, places to visit, and incredible food to eat!

Check out this article written by fellow travel blogger Adventurous Miriam titled,” Top Free Things To Do in Singapore“.  This is a great starting point for planning your travels in this amazing city.

Note:  Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and definitely the priciest place in South-East Asia.  Try to limit your expenses here, or else you might break your budget here!  My personal advice — don’t go out drinking.  Maybe a beer here or there, but don’t go out partying.  It’s so expensive, and it will be better to save your party energy for other destinations on this itinerary 😉

 

Bus Or Train to Kuala Lumpur (3-4 Days)

From Singapore, it is incredibly easy to get up to the Malaysian Capital, Kuala Lumpur.  Your choice between Train, Bus, or Flight.

Train & Bus Bookings:  Easybook

Welcome to Kuala Lumpur.  This is truly a special place with friendly people, beautiful sights, and delicious food (just like the rest of Malaysia).  During my travels in South-East Asia , I was lucky enough to call this city home for awhile.  The first time I visited Kuala Lumpur I actually didn’t enjoy the city too much, but after spending more time there I discovered how special the city really is.

For more information on Kuala Lumpur, check out the following blog posts I’ve written:

This is one of my favorite cities in South-East Asia, and definitely worth the visit for a few days.  If you’re on a time crunch, you won’t want to spend too much time here.  Just make sure you cover all the city highlights.

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Bus to Cameron Highlands (2-3 days)

The Cameron Highlands is a stunning hill station in central peninsular Malaysia, and has become a popular destination for visitors in Malaysia. Roughly the size of Singapore, the Cameron Highlands covers a large stretch of land, and there’s tons to see, do, and explore.  You’ll fall in love with the beautiful green tea plantations, and will leave you speechless when you visit the highest peak in the Cameron Highlands

For more information on the Cameron Highlands, check out the guide below!

A Backpacker’s Guide to the Cameron Highlands

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Bus to Penang (2-3 Days)

Penang is the cultural hotspot in Malaysia!  You’ll fall in love with it’s busy streets, beautiful artwork, and enchanting history.  Oh, and the food is absolutely amazing.  Most people come to Penang only planning a few day stay, but end up staying much longer than they expected.  You can spend a day on Batu Ferringi beach, hike through the National Park, and take the journey up to Penang Hill for spectacular views of the entire city.        

Best things to do in Penang:

  • Beach day and sunset on Batu Ferringi Beach
  • Spend some time hiking through the National Park
  • Take a visit to Penang Hill for spectacular views of the city
  • Stroll through Georgetown and check out all the artwork
  • Eat at Penang’s famous hawker stalls
View from Penang Hill

View from Penang Hill

 

Ferry from Penang – Langkawi (4-5 Days) 

Officially known as Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah, Langkawi is an archipelago of 104 islands in the Andaman Sea, around 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia.  It’s right at the border of Thailand, and is a popular place to visit for traveller’s going north/south between Malaysia and Thailand.  It is truly an amazing island with amazing things to do, cheap accommodations, tax-free booze, and beautiful landscape.

Check out some of my blog posts on Langkawi:

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Ferry from Langkawi – Koh Lipe, Thailand  *Seasonal (4-5 Days)

After spending some time on Langkawi, you’re ready to journey further north into Thailand.  You’ll start your Thailand Island Hopping adventures in Koh Lipe, which is known as the “Maldives of Thailand”.  Pristine beaches, incredible food, and amazing sunrises & sunsets.

Ferry from Langkawi – Koh Lipe only available from November – May throughout the year.  If you’re traveling during the low season, you’ll have to take the ferry to Satun, Thailand — and catch the bus + ferry combo ticket from mainland Thailand.  Traveling during this time can be a bit expensive, it just depends on your budget and time restrictions.  It might be best to skip this island if you can’t take the direct ferry. 

Check out this amazing post from my friends at Getting Stamped titled, “The Ultimate Guide to Koh Lipe, Thailand.”  This is one of the most informative guides I’ve ever seen, and will answer all your questions about traveling to this beautiful island.

Sunrise on Koh Lipe. Photo credit

Sunrise on Koh Lipe. Photo credit:  Bambo Corr

 

Ferry from Koh Lipe – Koh Lanta (4-5 Days) 

Also depends on time of the year.  You might have to catch ferry + bus combo ticket up to the Krabi Province. 

After you’ve explored Koh Lipe to your liking, catch a ferry up to your next Thai Island, Koh Lanta.

Check out this awesome travel guide from the crew over at Never Ending Voyage titled, “Finding the Perfect Balance: Our Guide to Koh Lanta“.  This post will go over all the information you need for your time in Koh Lanta.

You’ll fall in love with this incredibly relaxing island.  There’s incredible beaches, a beautiful national park, and loads of other stuff to explore.  My main recommendation would be to hire a moped, and explore the entire island.  It’s the best way to see the island.   You can pack a bag, take breaks at all the beaches, and see how beautiful the island is.

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Ferry from Koh Lanta – Koh Phi Phi (4-5 Days)

When you’re ready to leave Koh Lanta (which can be harder than you think), you’ll be on your way to one of the most beautiful, photogenic, and most well-known places in Thailand — Koh Phi Phi.  Known primarily for the nearby Maya Bay being the film location for the Leonardo DiCaprio hit movie — “The Beach”.

Some people criticize Koh Phi Phi for being too touristy now, and too focused on partying — but it is still an absolute must visit during your time in Thailand.

Read my following blog posts on Koh Phi Phi

Leaving Koh Phi Phi is no easy task.  The party vibe is solid, there is amazing food, and you’re guaranteed to make some amazing new friends!  I personally think it’s the most beautiful area in Thailand!

 

Ferry from Koh Phi Phi – Ao Nang, Railey Beach, & Krabi (4-6 Days)

After spending the past couple weeks on Islands, it’s time to cruise back to the mainland.  Ao Nang is a really beautiful beach area, has a decent nightlife scene, and is definitely worth a visit.  There’s an island hopping tour that goes to nearby places, and a really fun pub crawl at night.

Don’t spend too much time in Ao Nang though — make sure you get over to the beautiful Railey Beach & Ton Sai Bay.

You can also hire a mo-ped and explore Krabi town, and the surrounding highlights.

Read:  The Best Hostels in Thailand

 

Book a Bus + Ferry Combo from Krabi to Koh Phangan (5 Days)

There are loads of travel agencies around Ao Nang and the Krabi that will help you book this ticket.  I typically travel with Lomprayah .  It is by the most established and organized company out there, and enjoy my travels when I book with them.  During peak season, they can sell out tickets.  (Especially prior to a Full Moon Party.)

Koh Phangan is one of the craziest party islands in South-East Asia !  You’ll often hear bad things about the Full Moon Party, but too be honest — it’s a damn good time (if you’re with the right people).  There’s something really fun about getting dressed up in Neon, covering yourself in bodypaint, and dancing all night with fellow backpackers.

To be perfectly honest though, the best party on Koh Phangan isn’t the Full Moon Party.  There’s so many better clubs, venues, and events that you should look into!  If your trip doesn’t align well with a date for the FMP, definitely still go to Koh Phangan!  It’s a great place to spend some time, relax, meet people, party, and enjoy paradise!

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Ferry up to Koh Tao (4-5 Days)

Koh Tao is the very first island I visited in my travels in South-East Asia, and it is by far one of my favorite places in Thailand.  This is a scuba-diver’s paradise, and is the perfect location to get your PADI certifications.  If you don’t want to do the full course, make sure you at least do a “Discover Scuba” one-day course.  It’s one of the most affordable places to try out scuba-diving, and is absolutely beautiful.  When you’re not scuba diving, Koh Tao is an amazing island to explore by moto.  Just choose carefully where you rent it, because this island is notorious for rental places taking advantages of tourists and withholding passports until the pay ridiculous “damage fees”.  Also make sure you do a day-trip to Koh Nang Yuan, Mango View point, The Koh Tao Pub Crawl, and party hard on Sairee Beach!

Read:  7 Amazing Things to do on Koh Tao  

 

Ferry from Koh Tao to Bangkok

You’ve seen the best islands Thailand has to offer, now it’s time to finish your trip in the “Big Mango”.  Bangkok is truly an amazing city, and there’s tons of amazing things to do, see, and explore.  It’s the gateway to South-East Asia, and most backpackers out here find themselves in Bangkok more than once.  The street food is delicious, the people are friendly, and you’ll absolutely love exploring all the temples, malls, and rooftop bars.

ReadWhere to Stay in Bangkok

Read10 Amazing Things to do in Bangkok

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Congratulations!  You’ve just crossed off three amazing countries in South-East Asia, and some of my favorite spots in the world to visit!

Substitutions & Other Destinations

  • The Perhentian Islands:  When you are traveling up through Malaysia, you could easily head over to the stunning Perhentian Islands.  It’s all the way on the east coast of Malaysia, so it’s a bit out of the way for this itinerary- but it would be incredible.  You could get a bus + ferry here from the Cameron Highlands.  Then when you’re ready to leave, take a bus over to Penang to continue the itinerary.
  • Phuket & Koh Samui:  Two of the most popular touristy destinations in Thailand, but I always recommend people to skip them.  They are overcrowded, expensive, and you can find much better places to spend your time.
  • Thailand National ParksKo Yao Nai National Park & Ko Tarutao are both absolutely gorgeous, and could easily be worked into this itinerary during your time on Koh Lipe, and Koh Phi Phi.

Travel Tips & Suggestions

  • Travel slow.  I give a recommended time in each place, but if you’re in not on a time crunch, then take it slow and enjoy your time in each place.  Otherwise, you might be spending a lot of time in transit.
  • Buy a Local Sim Card.  This always comes in handy in Malaysia & Thailand.  There are really cheap data plans.
  • Download my Free-Book.  “77 Amazing, Helpful, Money-Saving Tips for Backpacking South-East Asia” for all my best backpacking tips.
  • Stay in Hostels.  This is such an awesome backpacker route, and the best way to experience these destinations is to interact with other travelers!
  • Eat often!  The food in all three of these countries is absolutely amazing!  There are plenty of places for cheap eats, and all the meals are delicious.

Check out These Articles About This Region

Malaysia Travel Guide: Trip Highlights, Destinations, & Itineraries

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Thailand (Instagram Checklist)

Thanks for reading my Singapore to Bangkok Backpacking Trip Itinerary!

If you’re planning a trip to South-East Asia and have any questions, feel free to Contact Me with any questions you have!  I’ve spent a lot of time backpacking around the area, and love helping people plan their travels!  Also, make sure you sign-up for my Newsletter below to download my FREE E-Book below that is full of amazing tips and information.

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13 Things You’ll Get Tired of While Backpacking South-East Asia

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South-East Asia is arguably the best region of the world for a long-term backpacking trip.  There is a great network of transportation in between the countries, a well paved backpacker trail, and loads of budget accommodations for travelers.  I’ve spent over 15 months backpacking around South-East Asia now, and it is has truly changed my life.  There are way too many reasons why SEA is an amazing place to backpack:  food, culture, nature, parties, people, etc.  But that’s not what this post is about…

All backpacking trips have their challenges, and these are 13 things you’ll get tired of while backpacking South-East Asia…

1.  Consistent Bug Bites

 One of the most annoying aspects of traveling through-out South-East Asia is being eaten alive by the various bugs.  Whether it be the troubling mosquito, pesky sand fly, or a devilish bed bug, there’s no doubt you will bit quite a few times during your travels.  

For some reason, these bugs always seem to destroy my feet, and I can’t help the terrific feeling of scratching them.  They turn into open wounds, take forever to heal, and even scar.  You can try holding back the urge, but sometimes it’s just damn near impossible.  Thank God for Tiger Balm.    

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2.  Bargaining for Everything

Bargaining in general can be really fun, and it’s great when you feel you got the best deal — but it can get pretty tiring having to do it all the time.  Especially when you know they are trying to squeeze as much money as possible out of you.  It’s particularly bothersome when they start so ridiculously high! Listen, I know I can get these singlets or sunglasses for $3-$5, please don’t ask $30 for a pair of fake ray-bans.  

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3.  Not Being Able to Drink The Tap Water

South-East Asia is hot.  Very hot.  It’s extremely important to keep yourself hydrated on the road to maintain your health.  My goal is to drink around 1-1.5 gallons per day.  Water is so important for your immune system, and I hate getting sick abroad so I’m constantly drinking water.  I don’t mind buying bottled water because it’s not too expensive, and there are some cities where you can fill up a bottle of reverse osmosis drinking water for practically nothing, but after awhile you really wish you could fill up a glass of water from the sink.  Especially if you had one too many drinks the night before, and forgot to buy a bottle before passing out.  

4.  The Extremely Long Travel Days

If your’e backpacking South-East Asia on a budget, you’ll understand that even though these destinations might look close to each other on a map, it’s still going to take awhile to get there.  Those 8 hour bus rides, can easily turn into 12 hours, for no explanation.  You can’t complain though when the whole trip only cost $15-$20.  

Things can go wrong when you travel, and you just gotta go with the flow.

5.  Terribly slow Wi-Fi

It’s important to disconnect from the internet for awhile when you travel, because people can get too caught up with uploading pictures, statuses, or skyping people back home.  With that being said, the internet has changed the way the younger generation travels.  We look up flights, bus times, and ferry schedules.  We research hostels, read reviews, and browse travel blogs.  As great as it is to disconnect from social-media and people back home, wi-fi is a very useful tool for backpackers.  South-East Asia is definitely not the worst place in the world for internet access, but there are many places where it’s basically non-existent.  Or even worse — it says you’re connected, but takes 30 minutes to load a page.  Try booking that last seat to Bali for the promo fare with slow internet.  You’re gonna have a bad time.  

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6.  Cold Showers & Fan Rooms  

Another aspect of budget travel in South-East Asia is staying in the cheapest room or hostel you can find.  You might not have the best night sleep, but you saved money that can now be spent on other activities.  With that being said, sometimes you just want an air-conditioned rooms, a nice hot shower, and a comfortable mattress.  Unless you want to cut your backpacking trip short, than you can’t be doing this every night.

Just don’t forget, every once in awhile it’s okay to “TREAT YO SELF!”

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7.  Bad Backpackers

One of the best parts about backpacking South-East Asia is the friendships you’ll form with people from all over the world.  It’s ridiculously easy to meet fellow backpackers, and for the most part — everyone is really genuine, and is just looking to have a good time.  But there definitely are some people you want to avoid.  For example, check out this hilarious article on The Broke Backpacker titled, “The 7 Backpacker Assholes to Avoid“.  This is a good example of some of the people you’ll meet while traveling.  For me, my biggest pet peeve are those people who really have no idea how to act in other countries.  There are some backpackers out there don’t respect the culture and customs, and it’s a damn shame.  If you’re going to behave like an asshole, stay at home.

8.  Being Treated as a Dollar Sign

 It is common knowledge that a majority of the locals in popular backpacker destinations survive entirely on tourism.  You get used to the idea that people want your money, and they are always attempting to make a sale, but after awhile — you’ve had enough.      

9.  Squat Toilets & Bum Guns      

Imagine you are on a long bus ride, and that Chicken Fried Rice you just ate isn’t sitting well your digestive track.  You wait for the next rest stop, scurry to the bathroom, and realize there are only those damn squat toilets.  Most South-East Backpackers can understand that scenario.  Well, shit happens.  It would be great if at every rest stop there were a nice fancy restaurant, clean toilets, and toilet paper — but that definitely doesn’t happen out here.  You have to learn to embrace the squat toilets and bum guns during your travels through South-East Asia.  But after awhile —  you just want to have a comfortable shit.

11.  Frigidly Cold Bus Rides

No one will ever understand why busses feel the need to have the A/C on full blast.  After several months backpacking South-East Asia, feeling cold can be a really strange feeling.  You always have to remember to bring an extra layer or two on the bus, or else you’ll toes will feel like they have frost bite when you reach your destination.

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12.  The Fear of Malaria & Dengue

Everybody can be a hypochondriac at times.  When you get eaten alive by mosquitos, that thought oftens runs through your head, “I really hope one of these bastards didn’t just give me Malaria”.  From my understanding, the majority of backpackers don’t bother with the Malaria pills.  The side-effects are too strong, and aren’t really worth the extra prevention.  Even if you do take them though, that doesn’t protect you against Dengue fever.

13.  Intense Humidity

Why is it does it have to be so hot and humid all the time?  That shower you just took will only help you feel clean for a few minutes.  You know, once you step outside, it won’t take long before your drenched in sweat again.  It comes as a shock at first, but you eventually get used to it.  There are times though where you just wish you could go outside without dripping bullets.

 Yeah, there are a few aspects about backpacking through South-East Asia that might not be pleasant — but that is all about the full experience.

This is one of the reasons we travel.  To step out of our comfort zone.  To learn how to deal with different situations.  To challenge ourselves.

South-East Asia is truly a backpacker’s paradise.  From the amazing food, culture, beaches, parties, hostels, and people — backpacking through this region will definitely be a life-changing experience.  

Have you backpacked South-East Asia before?  What were a few things that you slowly grew tired of?  Let me know!

Share With Your SEA Backpacker Friends!

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