With tons of travel companies selling gear, trips, accommodation, insurance and transport, your choices are almost limitless.
But how do you know the best companies to use?
At South East Asia Backpacker, we have decades of combined backpacking experience and have used more than our fair share of travel companies.
The resources listed below are compiled using our own experience and the help of thousands of backpackers in our Facebook Community. Each delivers an excellent product and has good working practices. We trust them to help you get the most out of your trip!
This article contains affiliate links. Booking/buying through links you find on this site is a great way of supporting the work we do at no extra cost to you.
When travelling in Asia, Agoda should be your first port of call for accommodation. They have a huge market share of hotels, hostels and apartments across the continent. A quick search for Bangkok shows Agoda has three times the number of available properties as Booking or Hostelworld.
They also have a good loyalty program which allows you to collect points towards free stays or even air miles!
One of the world’s biggest and most popular accommodation search engines, Booking is always a safe choice. They feature 5-star hotels, bare-bones hostels and everything in-between.
Use it to book accommodation in advance of your arrival to a town or city. Frequent users are eligible for Genius discount or free room upgrades at certain establishments.
For the largest and most eclectic collection of hostels, look no further than Hostelworld. You’ll find options on here that don’t appear on Booking or Agoda.
It’s always worth checking if you’re set on staying in small, quirky hostels!
Airbnb is a good choice if you want your own space or a more “local” experience. It’s possible to book entire apartments or houses on the platform but you can also rent a single room in a person’s house or flat.
Airbnb is rarely the cheapest way to find accommodation but having your own space can improve your trip drastically — especially if you’re travelling as a couple or as a family.
Alternative Accommodation Options
Workaway is a little different to the previously mentioned accommodation platforms. Rather than paying for your accommodation, Workaway allows you to exchange a few hours work a day for food and a place to sleep.
They have programs all over the world but the work, food and quality of accommodation can differ wildly. One week you could find yourself working in an eco-lodge deep in the Amazon, the next you could spend your days mucking out horses.
Much like Workaway, Worldpackers specialise in work accommodation exchanges. They’re based in Brazil and have large coverage in the Americas.
Their community is growing across the rest of the world but they don’t have as many global opportunities as Workaway.
Use the link above for a $10USD discount on Worldpackers!
House sitting involves staying in someone’s house while they’re away. It could be for days, weeks or even months. You’ll need to look after the house and any pets that the owners have. In exchange, you get to stay for free and use the household facilities. Different hosts will have different rules but most are laid back and grateful to have someone in their home while they’re away.
Be warned, getting these gigs can be highly competitive. Don’t plan to housesit your way around the world!
Finally, we have Couchsurfing. It relies on local people offering up a bed, sofa or even a space on the floor for you to crash for free. This gives you a great insight into local life wherever you’re visiting.
Contact potential hosts through the app or website and wait for their reply. Although stays are always free with Couchsurfing, it’s common practice to give your host a small gift upon departure.
Skyscanner is the go-to flight search engine for many travellers. The user interface is clean and simple to use. The calendar view makes choosing your flights easy and they compare thousands of routes from hundreds of airlines. Skyscanner offer price alerts to let you know when your desired route has a price dip too!
Much like Skyscanner, Google Flights searches through hundreds of airlines and destinations to bring you a range of flights. The user interface is easy to use and the map function is excellent. However, Google Flights is often criticised for not being as cost-effective as the competition.
While not as popular as Skyscanner or Google Flights, momondo is worth checking if you have the time. It consistently finds cheaper flights than Google but the user interface is a little confusing and the site feels frustratingly slow.
Hopper differs from the other flight search engines thanks to its powerful AI price prediction. After searching for a flight, Hopper tells you whether it’s best to wait, or buy now to save the most money.
While their AI is only predicting prices, they claim it’s 95% accurate and 95% is enough to save you a good chunk of change on your flights!
Onward Ticket make proof of onward travel hassle a thing of the past. For a small fee, they can provide you with proof of a legitimate onward flight reservation. They do this by booking a flight in your name, then cancelling it after you’ve used the proof of onward travel.
12Go Asia allows you to book all forms of transport across the continent. Trains, buses, ferries and even planes are all available to book on 12Go Asia, making it your one-stop-shop for all your transport needs!
Using Busbud while travelling can make booking buses much less stressful. With its multi-language app and ability to accept multiple currencies, Busbud helps get travellers on over 2 million bus routes each year. It’s available in 80 countries and connects more than 21,000 cities!
The Man in Seat Sixty One is the ultimate resource for global train travel. Everything you could ever need to know about routes and the trains themselves is included. The website might look like it’s fallen out of 1999 but the content is second to none.
Our favourite travel insurer, SafetyWing, offers flexible subscription-based travel insurance policies. Unlike most insurers, SafetyWing allow you to start your policy if you’re already travelling! The plan auto-renews every 4-weeks so you don’t need to worry about choosing the right end date for your policy.
Another popular choice among backpackers, World Nomads offer cover for all your classic backpacker activities including diving and riding a motorcycle*. They’re well priced and cover can last up to a year.
*Always read your policy wording to see if there are any exceptions to this cover.
True Traveller offer customisable insurance packages so you can get the perfect policy for you. They offer good value for money, cover the usual backpacker activities and have a maximum policy length of 18 months.
Osprey are a household name. They make backpacks for every environment, traveller and journey. Easy to pack, comfortable to wear and some of the most durable backpacks money can buy, you won’t go far wrong with a bag from Osprey!
Market leaders in personal water purification, a Grayl bottle makes travelling cheaper and more eco-friendly. They remove everything from viruses and bacteria to heavy metals from your water supply. Even if tap water at your destination is not potable, a Grayl bottle will make it safe to drink! Save yourself and the planet from the cost of buying bottled water every day.
If you’re looking for travel shoes, Tropicfeel have you covered. Their range of versatile footwear is specifically built for travellers. You can expect all Tropicfeel shoes to be lightweight, quick-drying and super comfortable!
Tropicfeel also produce a range of travel backpacks.
When it comes to buying travel or outdoor gear, there’s nowhere better than REI. With their excellent satisfaction guarantee and an incredible range of stock, REI can easily be your one-stop shop for travel gear!
The companies listed here are some of our favourite travel brands – not an exhaustive list of companies we use. They’re chosen for their excellent, long-lasting travel gear, eco-friendly practices and overall popularity with backpackers.
Formerly known as TransferWise, Wise offer a multi-currency bank account complete with a debit card and $250USD of free cash withdrawals each month. They’re popular with digital nomads and people working on the road thanks to the ability to receive payment in different currencies.
Starling is available to UK residents only. They offer a full bank account which is all controlled through their app. Cash withdrawals abroad are free and they offer the Mastercard exchange rate— this will always be a better deal than the ATM exchange rate.
Only available to residents of the European Union, N26 is another digital bank we love. Everything is operated through their app and they have excellent 24/7 customer support. On the free account, foreign withdrawals are charged at just under 2% while using the debit card to pay for items is free.
Available to residents of the European Economic Area, UK, US, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland and Japan, Revolut is another popular bank for backpackers. They allow you to withdraw around $250 abroad for free before charging 2% per withdrawal.
Read More: Best Mobile Banks and Travel Cards
Here at South East Asia Backpacker, we believe in supporting small local businesses. We eat at street food stalls, drink in small establishments and travel on local buses whenever we can. Spending your money like this ensures local people benefit from our being in their country — plus it’s by far the cheapest way of doing things!
As such, we’ve partnered up with local tour providers to offer experiences and trips across the region. From intensive Muay Thai training camps and liveaboard diving trips to laid back cooking lessons and meditative yoga retreats, there’s something for everyone on our bookings platform.
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