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The Worst Things About Backpacking in South-East Asia

Indonesia riding bike, with Hat, South-East Asia

South-East Asia can by amazing and frustrating at the same time. Behind all the charm and beauty, there are still few things that frustrated me throughout my entire trip and I wouldn’t be covering all the aspects of backpacking SE Asia without actually having to mention them.

The center of attention

If you hate being the center of attention ALL THE TIME then this is going to bug you a lot (except in Bali, too many tourists that the locals stopped caring). The streets of SE Asia will be your runway and the locals are the public, but not any kind of public, the staring in wonder only kind of public. On top of that come the taxi drivers who, ever after rejecting their offer of a ride with an imaginary price twenty times, will keep following you in hope you might change your mind and need a ride later on and don’t get that you have legs and are able to walk the 300 meters left to the next store..

Indonesia young girls in Prahu selfie with blond german tourist

Let’s face it, Bali sucks now

As a huge fan of backpacking in SE Asia, my entire trip went very well until I reached out the shores of Bali and oh boy, what can I say. If colonizations were still a thing today, then Bali would definitely be a European colonization. The number of tourists I’ve seen in Bali is incomparable to any other place in SE Asia, or maybe is it only because the island is too small to fit all the crowds?

Bali has, of course, its charm, traditions, and beauty, but if you’re going there to experience a new country, see new people or taste new food then you’re going to be disappointed real big. Bali is more and more becoming the hometown of American malls, Italian restaurants, and Ibizan parties.

You can’t drink tap water

SE Asia is very hot so carrying a bottle of water all the time with you is very important but the fact that you have to choose between either finding a shop every couple hours or so to get a new bottle or carrying a bunch of them from the beginning and dealing with the extra weight becomes a little frustrating after a while. Plus it adds up to your total costs.

local shop in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Let’s face it, it isn’t that cheap after all..

Yes, everything is cheap in SE Asia (compared to the European/American standards), but not for you. As a tourist, You’ll have to pay at least ten times more for so many things from street food to taxis. even some restaurants have two different menus, one for the locals and one in English for tourists with much more expensive prices for the exact same meals.

Sambal restaurant food menu Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Cold showers

I’ve learned to appreciate having hot water for the first time when I was in Indonesia. I grew up taking this for granted but the fact that in some Indonesian villages, they didn’t even understand why would I need hot water in the shower for, did hit me real hard.

Overall, the reasons I mentioned above should be taken into consideration but are not really crucial enough to make you cancel your trip. In fact, the time I spent in South-East Asia has been very positive and South-East Asia is absolutely a paradise for backpackers.

Have you backpacked South-East Asia before? What were the things that frustrated you the most? Let me know.


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