Deciding which of the countries in Southeast Asia to travel isn't easy! You'll need a lot of time to see all of them. Until then, you can build an itinerary based on your trip priorities and interests.
No matter which of the places to travel in Southeast Asia you visit first, the potential for an unforgettable trip exists. Avoid making the usual newbie mistakes, arrive with an open mind, and begin exploring!
Bangkok became the world's most visited city in 2013, even beating London, New York, and Paris! Thailand still reigns as the most popular destination among places to travel in Southeast Asia. A well-oiled tourism infrastructure makes Thailand one of the easiest places to travel.
With a friendly culture, world-famous food (both spicy and otherwise), and a good mix of islands, it's easy to see why many first-time travelers to Southeast Asia begin in Thailand. Plus, Thailand is still relatively inexpensive.
Once home to the powerful Khmer empire, Cambodia is still recovering from the effects of numerous wars. Regardless, locals are among the friendliest you'll encounter in Southeast Asia.
The ancient ruins of Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples are one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in all of Southeast Asia. Millions of visitors travel to Siem Reap to see the ruins, however, the rest of the country is well worth exploring.
Much like Cambodia, landlocked Laos is still recovering from wars in the past; poverty and unexploded ordinance are still pervasive. Although there aren't any beaches or islands, travelers to Laos get to enjoy gorgeous mountain views, plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure, and remnants of French influence along the Mekong River.
The entire town of Luang Prabang was declared a UNESCO World Heritage City; the pleasant atmosphere along the Mekong River is relaxed and peaceful.
Vietnam is a favorite for many travelers in Southeast Asia, both for the unique atmosphere and unmistakable difference in culture between the north and south.
Travelers to Malaysia get to enjoy Malay, Chinese, and Indian culture (among many others) all in one place. You'll never run out of tempting food options to try in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, a world-famous food destination. Opportunities to experience different festivals for the many ethnic and religious groups are plenty.
Malaysian Borneo, only a cheap flight away, is a romantic, natural paradise with plenty of potential for adventure.
Massive Indonesia has the world's fourth-largest population spread across an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands!
Sumatra is the place to see wild orangutans and lounge on an island in the center of Lake Toba, the world's largest volcanic lake.
Only recently more open to tourism, Burma is considered a yet-to-be-spoiled destination in Southeast Asia. Plenty of authentic experiences are waiting to be enjoyed.
Not yet mutated by mass tourism, Burma is still building up an infrastructure, but now travelers can use ATMs and get internet access.
Travelers to Burma can see thousands of temples, surreal landscapes, and walk through the world's largest book! Burma is arguably the most Buddhist country in Southeast Asia.
Tiny Singapore is a city, country, and island all at the same time. Despite the size, the nation thrives and has one of the strongest economies in the world, even boasting the highest number of millionaires per capita. Singapore is also infamous among budget travelers as being one of the most expensive destinations to visit in Southeast Asia. Fortunately, eating in Singapore is still inexpensive.
Like Malaysia, Singapore is an exciting mix of local Malay, Chinese, and Indian influence. The country is also home to a large number of expats and foreign workers. Unlimited shopping, street food, impressive museums, and high-rise buildings aren't all. Singapore has plenty of green space adorned with walking and biking trails to supplement the beautiful waterfront.
The Philippines is spread over more than 7,000 islands and is the largest Christian country in Southeast Asia. It's actually the third-largest Catholic nation in the world. The Catholic inclinations give the Philippinies a completely different vibe than neighboring countries.
Lots of Western influence, including plenty of Spanish and American, is apparent in the Philippines, however, the people have adopted their own unique and enjoyable blends of food, language dialects, and culture.
You'll never run out of choices for islands in the Philippines. World-famous Boracay Island was closed for tourism due to too much popularity, but it's expected to wind back up. Fortunately, there are plenty of beautiful islands to explore!
The tiny country of Brunei separates the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah on the island of Borneo. A bit of an anomaly, Brunei is rich and beautiful yet receives very little tourism.
The generally happy people in Brunei don't pay income tax, receive free health care, and enjoy a relatively higher standard of living thanks to the country's rich oil reserves. The Sultan of Brunei is one of the richest people in the world.
Brunei is the most observant Islamic country in Southeast Asia. While typically just a stopover for people passing between states in Malaysian Borneo, Brunei is friendly and beautiful enough to be a worthwhile destination.
Note: For now, East Timor isn't yet considered a tourism destination in Southeast Asia. But that will definitely change soon as recovery of the beautiful country continues.