Backpacking in Asia

Backpacking in Asia is a great experience for every backpacker! Generally speaking, Asia is referred to as backpackers’ paradise and it is usually safe, cheap and easy to travel. Of course, you cannot say this for the whole continent, but it is valid for most parts of it.

Asia is by far the largest and the most densely populated continent in the world. Therefore, considering the strong correlation between the geographical proximity and the culture, there are quite a bit of cultural differences among different regions of the continent. I backpacked from one end of Asia all the way to the other end (from Indonesia to Turkey) through 16 countries overland (without flying) and here are some of my observations:

South East Asia

Backpacking in South East Asia is highly recommended for travelers of all levels of experience. This regions covers several countries all the way from Indonesia to Vietnam, namely Indonesia, Singapore,Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is possibly the world’s one of the best and easiest regions to backpack and is highly recommended. It is cheap, easy to travel and safe. People are extremely friendly and you see both culture and history.

My favorite countries in this region were Indonesia (beautiful landscape and very friendly people), Myanmar (still undiscovered), Laos (very laid back atmosphere with friendly people) and Cambodia (great history and friendly people). I would also recommend Thailand, although it is not as undiscovered as some other countries in that region.

Backpacking in China

China is an interesting country with a huge difference between its east and west. Some cities like Beijing and Shanghai in the east are extremely developed and are packed with westerners. However, western China is still very underdeveloped resembling more of a third world country. Getting around without speaking Chinese in the west is way more challenging than it is in the eastern part of the country and hence it is not as easy to travel as it is in South East Asia. The prices are also higher than they are in South East Asia, although it is not a terribly expensive region.

The autonomous regions like Eastern Turkistan (Xinjiang in Chinese), where the ethnic Uygur population lives, and Tibet have very different cultures than the rest of China. And, apart from the travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese, these two regions are pretty difficult to travel around and there are huge language barriers.

Backpacking in South Asia

Taj Mahal in India

Taj Mahal in India – Backpacking in Asia

This region, which comprises of India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan, is somewhat more difficult to travel, but it is a very rewarding and colorful region, and I had totally good experiences in all of these four countries. Indians, Pakistanis and Nepalis look very much like each other physically. Yet, these are three very different countries.You can easily get by using English in this region except in Afghanistan.

I found India a little more intense, harder to travel and chaotic, but at the same time very colorful. Travelers either love or hate India, because it is so different and intense. It is more of a place for more hardcore backpackers and there is so much to explore in an inexpensive way.

Nepal is a more laid back version of India with great hiking opportunities. There is very little hassle and this is the place to chill out. If you are into nature and mountains, this is a great place to explore the Himalayas.

I didn’t know much about Pakistan before going there and I hadn’t met anyone, who had been there either. Therefore, I was very pleasantly surprised with the warm hospitality and the friendship I experienced while backpacking in Pakistan and it was definitely one of the most interesting undiscovered places I have ever been to. I was treated as a guest everywhere I went and the locals were very protective of me. People paid my bills without even knowing me and having talked to me before. Other than the warm hospitality, Pakistan offers some beautiful mountain scenery in the Karakoram Highway region in the north , if you are into nature.

Afghanistan was a totally different experience for me than those in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Not only did Afghanis look different, but their war-torn country, run by the Taliban, had a very different feel. People were nice and curious, and there was no hassle. So, it was an easy destination in some ways, but not in many others. There were literally no roads and hence it was a big deal to travel from one town to another in old minibuses or shared taxis. The places I stayed were awful and they obviously had food shortage – I had the same dish for 15 days. Also, language was a huge barrier most of the time. Please read my backpacking in Afghanistan post for more information on my experience in this country.

Backpacking in Iran

Crossing the border from Afghanistan to Mashad in Iran, Iran seemed to me more developed than it really was. It was the first country I saw fashion after backpacking for a long time in that region. Other than the language barrier, Iran was pretty easy to travel around. It had a comfortable bus system and very safe cities with friendly locals. I couldn’t really use English, however my Turkish was very handy thanks to the Azerbaijani speaking population living all around the country.

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