Southeast Asia, a lush region spanning over ten countries, is a must for any traveler. It holds magnificent beaches, historical sites and temples and the best street food. This region promises unforgettable places at every corner. To get the most out of your trip, the best way to get around is by bus. Cheap, convenient and safe, bus travel will make your journey a seamless experience. View our Extensive Guide to Bus Travel in Southeast Asia to discover more travel tips.
The Banana Pancake Trail unfortunately has nothing to do with Jack Johnson’s awesome hit song, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sing it while you travel it. It is an itinerary popular for backpackers and budget travelers. The major stops are affordable, social, adventurous, and guarantee you’ll meet a lot of other travelers. If you’re an expert of the region already, maybe some deeper research is required and you can try a more local way to travel across the region. This trail a really good way to get started in the region and can be done really well in two months. These are mere suggestions and you should definitely plan this the way you want! You could also fit more things in each country, these are just major stops on the Banana Pancake trail.
For the start of the famous Banana Pancake road, fly into Bangkok, an airport with loads of departures and arrivals, guaranteeing you’ll find a good deal if you land there first!
Bangkok’s Khao San Road: Packed into a 1 km-long strip are countless budget guesthouses and hotels, internet cafes, bars, restaurants, bookshops, market stalls, tattoo shops and much, much more. With its carefree, anything-goes vibe, it’s quite unlike anywhere else in Bangkok.
Next, you are heading to Chiang Mai from Bangkok for only 18USD. What?! How?! By clicking right here and booking with us. You’re welcome! Chiang Mai is known is known to be a blissfully calm and laid-back place to relax and recharge your batteries. It has fabulous food and a vast array of activities on offer.
Paradise island? Check. Instagram worthy views? Check. Scuba diving? Triple check. Let’s head to Koh Tao to get scuba certified and work on that tan! After recharging your battery in Chiang Mai head back by bus to Bangkok (again only 18USD) OR even better, save money and book a roundtrip for 30 USD. Once in Bangkok you can take the ferry (cheapest way to get there) that departs twice a day.
Ferries are decently priced in Thailand and will allow you to go around and visit the Thai islands, especially Koh Phi Phi for parties! Unfortunately, we have tried to convince the bus operators we work with to put some floaters on the buses and get you to the islands, but no one has agreed yet! We promise to keep working on that.
Your venture in Thailand wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t attend a Full Moon Party in Haad Rin on Koh Phangan. Known to be one of the biggest parties ever (between 10,000 and 30,000 people show up monthly) you’re guaranteed to have a once in a lifetime experience here.
The small town of Pai in Northern Thailand is one of those places you don’t expect much out of, but somehow it creeps up on you and steals your heart away. Renting a scooter and cruising around town is common and the best way to see everything. From waterfalls to hot springs, you’ll find yourself relaxing but having fun!
Welcome to country number two; where ancient and modern worlds collide to create an authentic adventure.
Siem Reap: The cheapest way to get from your last stop in Pai, Thailand to Siem Reap is to book a bus for 6USD from Pai to Chiang Mai, Thailand and fly direct to Siem Reap for around 50USD. Once there, the first thing to do is to go see the Angkor Wat temples. Check out the markets, biking, yoga or zip-lining!
Next, head to the small town of Sihanoukville with Busbud for as little as 14USD. These buses include fully reclining seats (hello awesome nap!) and entertainment. Sihanoukville is known to be a relaxation hub for travelers, a place to recharge their batteries. With loads of beaches, parties, casinos, the town allows for lazy days of sunbathing and whirlwind nights of bar-hopping.
Once recharged, head to Phnom Penh, to get a taste of Cambodia’s history. From your last destination of Sihanoukville, a bus to your new destination, the capital of Cambodia, will only cost you 8USD with Busbud! From the genocide museum (which will guarantee a heart-wrenching few hours) to the Royal Palace, there are loads of things to visit.
Country number three is beautiful Laos. Known for being one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the region, its cities, lowlands or remote villages of the highlands, Laos will offer some wonderful opportunities for local interaction.
From Phnom Penh, a direct flight to the capital city of Vientiane is your best bet. Averaging around 60USD per person, you’ll get to the city in about 1h20 minutes. Famous for it’s biking, swimming, trekking, and spa days, Vientiane will be a city you fall in love with.
The last stop on this Banana Cake Trail is Vietnam. Get ready for a sensory-overload; one second you will be gazing over a surreal seascape of limestone islands and the next you’ll be spending a whole 10 minutes just to cross the street through a tsunami of motorbikes in Hanoi.
First stop, flying from Luang Prabang to Ho Chi Minh City will cost you around 50USD per person but will save you loads of time. In the city, you’ll be able to test everything and anything. From the finest of hotels to the cheapest of guesthouses, the classiest of restaurants to the tastiest of street stalls, the choicest of boutiques to the scrum of the markets, Ho Chi Minh City is a city of energy and discovery.
Going from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi will set you back 35USD per person and take about 3h00 of flight time. Once you arrive, you’ll find well-preserved colonial buildings, ancient pagodas, and unique museums within the city centre. A wonderful place to explore on foot, this French-colonial city is also known for its delectable cuisine, vibrant nightlife, silks and handicrafts, as well as a multi-cultural community that’s made up of Chinese, French and Russian influences.
This guide is a rough draft of what a traveler could realistically complete in a two-month window without rushing any cities. It is of course, completely flexible and easy to change! Lots of travelers opt out of some countries, add other ones or just extend their trips once they are already in the region. Many cities can be added or taken out per country, but we’ve only compiled some of the biggest hits. If you liked this post, feel free to check out the rest of the Southeast Asian Bus Guide here.