Backpacking Tours, South East Asia

Pros and Cons: Independent Backpacking Through South East Asia

Thailand Boat Dock - The The Working Backpacker

What is Independent Backpacking?

This style of backpacking is where you decide where to travel, how long to travel, and what mode of transport you use. This style of travel can be as a group or solo.

Many travellers prefer this style of travel compared to backpacking tour groups due to the flexibility you have. For more information on backpacking, tour groups click here.

What are the pros and cons of independent backpacking?

Below are the major pros and cons I found from travelling independently. These views are based on my personal opinion. It might be worth saying now that I am terrible at decisions which are maybe why there seem to be more cons than pros. Fun Fact of the day: I suffer from mild anxiety. Even everyday tasks such as picking something to eat can cause an attack. I hate decisions, and for me, the freedom that some travellers need causes me a lot of stress.

Pros to Independent backpacking:

Independent backpacking -The pros and cons- The Working Backpacker

  • The biggest bonus choosing where you wish to travel. The freedom this gives you is second to none!
  • There is no time limit on how long you stay in a location.
  • You get the choice to choose how you travel and where you stay. This can depend on your preference and your budget.
  • You don’t have to stick to a set itinerary. Generally, while travelling you meet tons of travellers, each traveller will share their stories of where they have been or where they plan to go next. Their stories and plans will inspire you to also visit those places. Without a set itinerary you are free to change your plans to visit those locations.

Cons to independent backpacking:

  • PLANNING IS STRESSFUL!!  I am very disorganised and indecisive, so trying to plan routes and ideas gives me anxiety. I HATE OPTIONS! My lack of organisational skills has resulted in the following mess ups: booking the wrong airport for a connecting flight, been in the wrong city to catch a flight, paid stupid amounts of money getting to and from different locations. Although some would say these were life lessons, they have been repeated, so I’m not sure I have fully learnt from them. The more options you have, the more that can go wrong – in my world anyway!
  • The standard of accommodation has been questionable and trying to find it can be draining.
  • Unless accommodation has been booked prior to leaving, the cost of living can be quite expensive. The initial amount of money needed to take away will be considerably higher compared to doing a tour, as you only need spending money on guided tours.

What style of backpacking do I prefer:

As mentioned above, there are pros and cons to travelling with a tour group and independent backpacking. After returning from my first trip, I knew my second trip had to be independent, mainly to compare them.

While on my second trip to South East Asia, I travelled independently and every few days was a headache! I attempted to travel in the same style as I did while on the tour, see as much as you can in the shortest time possible, this was a mistake! As a whole, the experience felt rushed. It didn’t feel like I could completely engross myself in a location because I was so focused on planning the next stop.

In conclusion, I would travel both independently and on a guided group tour again. If I had more time and wanted to visit fewer places, I would go independently. In contrast, I would book a tour if I had limited time or if I wanted an easy trip.


Independent backpacking -The pros and cons- The Working Backpacker


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