Backpacking Southeast Asia vs. Backpacking Central America

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Koh Lanta Sunset

You’re ready to take the plunge — you want to start backpacking, possibly long-term, in a cheap part of the world. So, where is it going to be? We already know Europe will eat up too much cash!

Southeast Asia and Central America are two of the most popular destinations for backpackers. I’ve traveled extensively in both regions and fell in love with both of them.

You might think the backpacking world is the same everywhere. But as soon as I started backpacking Central America after years of exploring Southeast Asia, I was shocked at just how different it was. Not in just the obvious way, landscapes and food and culture, but also how different the backpacking scene felt.

So, which destination is right for you? I wrote this post to help you figure it out.

Las Penitas Beach

Weather and When to Go

Both of these destinations are similar — the weather is warm and you should visit during the northern hemisphere’s winter months.

Southeast Asia varies, but the Big Four — Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam — tend to have the best, coolest, and driest weather from January to March. There are some variations within this. Northern Vietnam can be chilly at this time; Thailand’s Andaman and Gulf Coasts often have opposite monsoons. Bali is completely different with a high season in the summer months.

You can visit Southeast Asia during the low season and still have a good time, but I would recommend avoiding Myanmar during their rainiest months of June to October due to flooding and poor infrastructure.

Central America has a similar season to Southeast Asia — you’ll find the nicest, coolest, driest weather from January to March. Central America is vulnerable to hurricane season, which runs roughly from August to November.

No matter where you’re going, look up the weather of the exact place you’re visiting to have the most accurate idea of what you’ll be facing.

Related: Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

Khao Sok Lake Fun

The Backpacking Crowd

Southeast Asia tends to draw a young, often first-timer backpacking crowd. Most backpackers tend to be in their early-to-mid-twenties. It can be jarring to be out with a group and find out that one of your companions is just 18 years old!

For this reason, you see a lot of early-twenty-something behavior. Lots of drinking to excess and immature behavior. Party destinations like Kuta, Koh Phangan, and Koh Phi Phi are especially big with the younger crowd. You do tend to find more older backpackers in quieter, more rural destinations.

You’ll find lots of Australians and Europeans in particular, though people come from all over the world. There are tons of French people in northern Thailand. Southern Vietnam beach towns have menus in Russian! And Kuta, Bali, is basically Australia’s version of Cancun.

Papaya Lodge Pool El Tunco

Central America, in comparison, tends to draw an older, more experienced, and much more North American crowd. I visited Central America at age 30 and was thrilled at how nice it was to be surrounded by late-twenty- and thirty-somethings!

Central American’s surf towns, in particular, draw a ton of Canadians. I met more people from Saskatchewan in San Juan del Sur than I’ve ever met in my life. There’s even a Canadian bar there called the Loose Moose.

Is there a reason for this age disparity? I think so. Most new backpackers cut their teeth in Southeast Asia and especially Europe, which I’d argue has the youngest backpacking crowd in the world.

Central America, along with South America, has a more “dangerous” reputation and is therefore the choice of more experienced travelers. And more experienced often means older. As for the more North American crowd, it’s much cheaper to fly there.

Of course, keep in mind that these rules aren’t absolute. You’ll find backpackers of all ages and nationalities in both regions.

Khao Soi


Southeast Asia is one of the most spectacular food destinations in the world. If you’re into food in the least, you must come to Southeast Asia at least once in your life. Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore are my absolute favorite food destinations within the region.

Food in Southeast Asia is highly varied and often complex. You could stay for months and eat a different dish every day. Plus, Southeast Asia has a rich street food culture that makes it possible to eat fantastic food on the cheap on an everyday basis. Food is the center of life here.

Nicaraguan food

Central America, by comparison, isn’t nearly as exciting. Most dishes, especially if you’re on a budget, are a variation of meat or fish, rice and beans, plantains, and tortillas. You can get tacos everywhere in Guatemala and El Salvador.

Of course, that’s not everything — there’s fresh lobster on the Caribbean coast, pepian stews in Guatemala, Creole cuisine in Belize, and the gift sent from heaven known as Salvadoran pupusas and now I want to eat a million pupusas. But for the most part, it’s fairly monotonous.

There is one exception: lots of backpackers include Mexico in their Central American trips, and Mexico is one of the best, most diverse, and most underrated culinary destinations in the world.

Koh Lanta Sunset


Southeast Asia is known for its slooooooow cover songs. I always say I’m not back in Thailand until I hear the breathy “Sweet Child o’ Mine” cover where the guitar riff is played on a flute. A FLUTE. Beyond that, the music is decent but nothing special or extraordinary.

Central America, by contrast, is a party. Everyone blasts salsa and bachata and meringue and Latin rock music. Even if you don’t think you’re a Latin music person, you’ll get into it — especially if you learn how to dance! I think within a month after hearing “El Taxi” from thinking “WTF is this song?” to singing along en español.

Vang Vieng Party


Backpackers in Southeast Asia tend to stick to backpacker-oriented nightlife. There are backpacker bars throughout the region and it’s rare to see locals drinking at the same places. Bucket cocktails are ubiquitous, especially in Thailand. Neighborhoods like Khao San Road in Bangkok are giant backpacker party zones.

The sex tourism scene in Southeast Asia has an impact on this nightlife — it’s common to go out and see young Southeast Asian women with a much older western male partners. And due to the younger age of backpackers in Southeast Asia, you see much more irresponsible drinking.

While some backpackers do cross over and party alongside locals, especially in cities, this tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

El Tunco Beach Party

Backpackers in Central America tend to join in the local nightlife. Backpacker bars have their place — particularly in more touristy zones like San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, and San Pedro, Guatemala — but more often backpackers mix with locals in bars and clubs. It’s common to end up with new local friends by the end of a night.

If you’re interested in Latin American nightlife, the single best thing you can do is learn to dance! Salsa lessons are offered everywhere and it’s a great way to get into the local culture.

Khao Sok

Outdoor Adventure

Both Southeast Asia and Central America are great choices for the outdoors, but their different landscapes offer different options.

Southeast Asia’s outdoor highlights include jungle trekking, rock climbing, motorbike trips, and diving. Northern Thailand, northern Laos, and northern Vietnam are home to hill tribe villages and excellent trekking. Rock climbing is popular in Railay, Thailand.

Renting a motorbike is a popular activity throughout Southeast Asia, and many backpackers rent for several days and do a trip. Pai, Thailand, is a great place to learn; the most epic adventure is the length of Vietnam from Saigon to Hanoi or vice versa.

Koh Tao in Thailand is known as the best (and cheapest) place to learn to dive in the region, and some of the best places to dive in the region include Nusa Tenggara region of Indonesia, Sipadan in Malaysia, several islands in the Philippines, and the Similan Islands in Thailand.

Kate Volcano Boarding

Central America’s outdoor highlights include surfing, rafting, volcano hiking and diving. The Pacific coast is full of surf towns, and volcanoes are scattered from Guatemala to Panama.

Costa Rica in particular has so much infrastructure around outdoor tourism. From hiking to rafting to zip-lining, there are tons of options and tour operators throughout the country.

Utila in Honduras is the best (and cheapest) place to learn to dive in the region. Some of the best diving is on Utila and Roatán in Honduras, the Corn Islands in Nicaragua, Isla del Coco in Panama, and for advanced divers, the Blue Hole in Belize.

Central America is also home to two very unique outdoor adventures: volcano boarding near León, Nicaragua, and exploring the ATM caves filled with human sacrifices near San Ignacio, Belize.

Ometepe Sunset

Natural Beauty and Scenery

Man. This is hard, especially since most of my Southeast Asia photos are from back when I had a bad camera and poor photography skills.

Here are five of the most beautiful places in Southeast Asia:

Vang Vieng, Laos
Relax Bay Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta, Thailand
Beautiful Pai
Pai, Thailand
Angkor Wat at Dawn
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Boracay Sunset
Boracay, Philippines

Here are five of the most beautiful places in Central America:

Rendezvous Caye Belize
Rendezvous Caye, Belize
Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey, Guatemala
Santa Cruz Atitlan Guatemala
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Ometepe Sunset
Ometepe, Nicaragua
Yemaya Little Corn Island
Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

As you can see, both regions are home to incredibly beautiful places.

Ometepe Road

Language Barrier

In Southeast Asia, nobody expects you to speak Thai or Khmer or Vietnamese, and most locals in tourism speak at least a little bit of English. You’ll get by just fine. That said, you should make an effort to use the local words for “hello” and “thank you” at an absolute minimum. “Delicious” is a great word to learn, too!

In Central America, you should make an effort to learn some Spanish before you arrive. It’s an easy language, fewer locals speak conversational English, and you’ll have a far better time if you can speak a little bit. Many people start their Central American travels with a cheap Spanish crash course or immersion program in Guatemala. English is spoken in Belize.

Longtail Restaurant

Ease of Travel and Infrastructure

Southeast Asia is probably the easiest place to travel in the world. I’m not kidding. Virtually every guesthouse acts as a travel agent, so you can be at a guesthouse in Pai and say, “I’d like to go to Koh Phi Phi,” and they’ll get you a minibus, train, second train, bus, and ferry ticket.

There are also lots of budget airlines that can carry you throughout Southeast Asia. These days I’ll always pay for a 75-minute, $60 flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai rather than a $15, 12-hour bus.

Southeast Asia has accommodation at every tier, but simple guesthouses are most popular for backpackers. Also, keep in mind that beds tend to be very hard in Asia.

Chicken Buses Antigua Guatemala

Central America isn’t quite that easy, but it’s still not too difficult to get around. Most guesthouses will be able to advise you on how to get to your next destination, though you often have to do the figuring-out yourself.

There are also several backpacker bus lines that run between destinations. I highly recommend taking them on long journeys between tourist hotspots — like Lanquín and Flores in Guatemala, for example, where you get a comfortable, air-conditioned journey instead of having to take four different cramped chicken buses.

Flights within Central America tend to be much more expensive, so bus travel is more of a norm here.

Central America has more of a hostel scene, in addition to guesthouses, but private rooms in hostels are common. I only slept in dorms in Costa Rica (due to price) and Ometepe, Nicaragua (due to everyone being early to bed and early to rise the next day). I don’t know why, but most guesthouses in Central America have absolutely terrible pillows.

Ometepe Sunset Kate


Keep in mind that you can’t paint an entire region with a single brushstroke because it varies so much within. No matter where you go in the world, the most expensive destinations tend to be cities, beaches, and tourist hotspots. The cheapest destinations tend to be rural areas and places tourists don’t visit in large numbers.

Yes, Thailand has a reputation for being cheap, but keep in mind that a cheap day in Pai would cost you $20 while a cheap day in Koh Phi Phi would cost closer to $50.

The cost of flights can also be a big factor, especially for shorter trips. You see more North Americans in Central America and more Australians in Southeast Asia for this reason.

Tat Lo, Bolaven Plateau, Laos

Southeast Asia tends to be a bit cheaper overall than Central America, particularly when comparing the cheapest destinations. The most expensive places are Singapore and beach resorts in southern Thailand. The cheapest places are rural Laos, Cambodia, northern Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

You tend to get more value here — say, a $20 guesthouse in Southeast Asia would probably be fancier than a $20 guesthouse in a comparable Central American destination.

Central America is pretty close to Southeast Asia prices but a bit more expensive. The most expensive places are beach resorts in Belize and Costa Rica. The cheapest places are rural destinations in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

Tuk-tuk in Cambodia

The Safety Factor

First of all: remember that anything can happen anywhere. You can go to a destination with a dangerous reputation and turn out totally fine; you can visit somewhere with a super-safe reputation and get robbed or worse. Nothing is absolute.

No matter where you go in the world, I recommend following my Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women and researching your destinations before arriving.

Southeast Asia has a reputation for being very safe. For the most part, it’s an extremely safe destination where violent crime is rare.

Petty crime is a factor, especially in Cambodia and Vietnam. Hold onto your bags, especially when in tuk-tuks. Lock up your stuff. Listen to local warnings and read up on local scams.

Leon Nicaragua

Central America has a bit more of a spotted reputation. While Central America is home to cities with the highest murder rate in the world, like San Pedro Sula, Honduras, keep in mind that most tourists don’t go to those cities, anyway.

You should be on guard for robbery and petty crime, particularly when in cities and on public transportation. Before I went to Central America, I bought an anti-theft day bag that locked securely (this is the one I use now). Listen to local warnings and read up on local scams.

Another safety factor in both Southeast Asia and Central America is that transportation may not be up to code. Sometimes bus drivers are hopped up on drugs to keep them awake longer to make more money. I was shipwrecked in Indonesia back in 2011; boat sinkings do happen with more frequency in Southeast Asia than at home. I talk about boat safety in this post.

It’s hard to know whether transportation is legit or not, but I recommend doing research before your trip and not being afraid to spend more on a higher quality ride.

In both regions — and on every trip you take — you should always buy travel insurance. I use and recommend World Nomads.

Kate at Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Women’s Safety

As a woman, I feel more comfortable in Southeast Asia than anywhere else in the world. Street harassment isn’t a thing here and I never get catcalled. I also feel more comfortable in Southeast Asia because street vendors are often out all night long in cities, meaning that you’re never alone.

The only place I felt remotely uncomfortable for being a woman was in the Indian communities of Kuala Lumpur because the men stared at me as I walked down the street.

Central America is different. While I felt very safe in most destinations, I did not feel safe going out alone at night in Antigua, Guatemala, or León and Granada in Nicaragua. (I recommend either going out with a group, taking taxis, or choosing a guesthouse with a restaurant in it.) Going out alone during the day is fine everywhere.

Street harassment is also constant throughout much of Central America, though it is far less pervasive in rural areas. I found street harassment to be the absolute worst in Granada, León, and San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua; Antigua in Guatemala; and Caye Caulker in Belize.

I felt the safest in rural Guatemala, particularly in Mayan areas like around Lake Atitlan. Mayan men don’t verbally objectify women. I also felt safe in small towns in Costa Rica. While people often worry when they hear the words “El Salvador,” I felt tremendously safe in the tiny town of El Tunco, even walking alone at night.

Laguna de Apoyo

So which region is best?

I’m not going to say one region is better than the other because that’s a decision you should make, not me! What’s right for you as a person and a traveler is completely different than what’s right for me. So I hope you use this list as just one resource in your planning.

That said, I think it’s smart to start with Southeast Asia if you’re a younger or less experienced backpacker, or if you’re on an extremely low budget. Central America will always be there waiting when you’re older and have more experience. But if you want to do the opposite, hey, there’s nothing wrong with that!

Overall, Southeast Asia and Central America are two incredible regions that deserve to be explored in depth. I hope you get to experience both of them in your lifetime.

Southeast Asia vs. Central America -- which is better?

Are you more of a Southeast Asia person or a Central America person? Share away!


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59 thoughts on “Backpacking Southeast Asia vs. Backpacking Central America”

  1. Just got back from a few months in Southeast Asia and am looking to go to Central America next. This was super helpful for helping me figure out the similarities and differences before planning. Excited to go and try to decide which I like best.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Just did Europe last year for 9 weeks and I just went to Beijing and Koh Lanta for a week each in May. Can’t wait to go back to Thailand and experience More there. I like the comparison between the two. I’d feel comfortable between the two options, but I really, really, really want to go explore more of Asia and the Pacific first. 🙂

  3. Awesome post, Kate! I leave for my month-long Central America trip next month so I found this really helpful! As far as accommodation in Central American (namely, Guatemala, and El Salvador) do you recommend booking in advance, or just picking something when you arrive?

    1. I prefer to book ahead of time, and I would usually look up the best accommodation and book ahead 85% of the time. But some of the places didn’t do online reservations so those I would just check into when I arrived.

  4. Loved this article! I’ve backpacked extensively around Europe, and last year my husband and I spent 3 months in Southeast Asia. I noticed a huge difference in the backpacking scene compared to my time in Europe (younger crowd, lots of partying). We’re in our late 20’s but oftentimes felt like the old married couple hangin’ out with a bunch of kids 🙂 We had a great trip but reading this makes me super excited to go to Central America – it’s next on our list!

  5. I went on my very first backpacking trip with my OH last year (at the tender age of 25!) so of course instead of easing ourselves in with Asia we leapt in at the deep end and started in Central America. Like you, I loved the fact that there were a lot more older backpackers and the variety of outdoor activities. I now worry when I eventually get to Asia I will find the backpacking crowd too young!

  6. I did Central America 4 years ago solo and found it to be quite safe. However, I did just finish up my university Spanish courses at the time – I cannot stress how useful it was in CA. A lot of people do not know English in CA countries, so it is very useful to have a bit of Spanish under your belt. After already completing 2 backpacking trips in Europe (one Western, one Eastern) a Middle East backpacking trip, and Central America, I am currently planning Southeast Asia. I am 29 and not a big party animal and drinker, so I am a bit concerned about the party scene and the youngins’. My tactic will be to stay in more local neighbourhoods to avoid that crowd. However, I am very excited for the food. You are very correct about CA having bland food options. Thanks for the great post!

  7. I did parts of South East Asia late last year (in my late 20’s) and didn’t love it. I hope to to Central America next year! Have been inspired by all your posts on the region and definitely feel I’m at the age and stage to go.

  8. Myanmar is also one of the cheaper countries to travel. Some people will tell you it is more expensive then other SEA-countries…that’s only true for accommodation (cause all hostel/hotels have to pay to the government a certain amount per guest) but on the other hand food, tours, transportation, drinks is much cheaper then in all other SEA-countries … so for me it was really cheap to travel there.
    Also the traveler are a bit older and more experienced, it’s not a first choice country with no experience…cause a lot of regions were for bitten for tourists and some places hard or impossible to travel. But now it’s much easier already.

  9. You totally hit the nail on the head with this one (as always)! I’ve backpacked extensively in Central America and a good bit in SE Asia, and I definitely noticed these same differences. And it actually surprised me how much more I enjoyed myself in Central America *because of* those differences!

    I loved that there was more general interaction with the locals, and that the backpackers tended to behave a little differently (a bit more maturely, and respectful of the local culture). Although I’m still in my early 20’s I actually ended up traveling for 2 weeks with a woman I met there who was in her 30s, and another who was celebrating her 40th! It was great.

    …Embarrassingly, I also have El Taxi on my iTunes now…hahah shhh

  10. This is such a cool post Kate!

    I like the way that you lay out the differences between the two regions. I haven’t been to Central America at all and I haven’t a clue why? I mean, I love all the history and culture, but it hasn’t yet inspired me to do anything about it lol!

    South-East Asia on the other hand, is where I cut my teeth as an independent solo traveller during my university GAP year. And I so had an absolutely party blast lol!

    Of course, now I’m married and have a child, so the party days are over (unless I’m on the VIP list Ho! Ho!) however, I still love the Asian continent and have also been to India which is part of the British backpacking route. Nowadays, I fly around and stay in more boutique set-ups where you can still meet people, but the place has a more up-market / expat /wealthier local charm!

  11. I agree with your points here Kate. My first backpacking trip was to South East Asia and I had a fantastic time – I encountered a little petty theft (I got conned on a boat along the river in Bangkok!) but nothing too bad considering how naive I was. My second trip was to Central America, although I was still pretty young (perhaps 21 at the time), I went with a G Aventures group. Central America was also a fantastic trip and I loved the volcanic scenery, however I must admit I wouldn’t have felt ‘safe’ travelling on my own at such a young age in Central America – although it wasn’t really just about ‘safety’ as most places are fine in the day – it was just that SE Asia was so easy to travel around – Central Amercia was a little trickier.

  12. This is such a great post! I’ve visited only one country in Africa (Zambia), but I felt like the people I met at hostels there were much more similar to your description of backpackers in Central America–usually a bit older, more experienced travelers, and definitely more mature. I do hope to spend some time in Southeast Asia in the next few years though, and I’m SO excited for the food!!

  13. You never let me down! I’ve been holding out on South America for fear that I’ll fall in love and never return…. However, heading to Ecuador for the first time in a few weeks and I’m quite excited. As much as I love the young bucks, I’m much more into the relaxing traveling as opposed to full moon parties ?

  14. This comparison is really useful, especially for a traveller like me who hasn’t yet been to Central America but has visited Thailand. Thanks Kate, Jess X

  15. Nicely explained and detailed description if you really have to chose between the two. Suppose it really comes down to what you as a traveller are looking for. We just did 6 months of Southeast Asia and loved it. Central Americe does also look very promising, definitely on our list now!Thanks for the inspiration

  16. I’m off to South East Asia in a couple of weeks. Currently backpacking in Italy and I’m meeting sooo many 18-19 year old. I’m 25 in the beginning of July so I’m desperately trying to seek out people my age or a bit older!

  17. Looks coool place! I liked both the places. But my first choice would be Asia and if later I’l again get a chance for vacation, I would definitely go for central America. Thanks for sharing this useful article.

  18. Hi, Kate.

    Love you site and way you changed your life 🙂 We are planing to start something similar, but local stuff. Your very welcomed to visit our small but very interesting country Lithuania. It is eastern Europe near the Baltic sea. Please do not mistake it with Latvia, this is our northern neighbor who are also ethnic balts (braliukai).

    Cheers 🙂

  19. Love this article Kate! Having done both myself, you are on point with everything! Especially the safety issue. I never felt unsafe in either Central America or South East Asia but I most certainly felt a whole lot more comfortable in South East Asia. 🙂

  20. Hi, Kate! I love your website, I’ve actually had it bookmarked on my iPhone for the past couple weeks lol, I’ve been reading it during my breaks at work and it’s a nice way to ~escape~ haha. You’re a really talented writer and I love the way you describe your travels! It makes me feel like I’m almost experiencing it all myself. I really want to try backpacking or going on a trip soon, this blog is definitely inspiring. Please continue to post and keep that same love for the world!

  21. Thank you for posting this. This post was really helpful in finding a lot of answers I wanted to know. Been wanting to take my family to Central America since quite some time. This post was of great help.

  22. Thank you so much for this Kate!!
    I am currently planning my next big trip starting in Bolivia and travelling overland to Mexico (via a sailing boat in San Blas Islands to Panama) – that’s the plan anyway!
    I’ve spent a year travelling around India and SE Asia which I absolutely loved!! And since being home have been saving for the next big adventure BUT I’m constantly being told it’s so dangerous! “Why are you going on your own?!” And that the backpacking scene is completely different … but that’s what I want to experience. I want to meet locals and throw myself into learning Spanish.
    So glad I went to SE Asia first but now I’m nearly 27, I can’t wait for more of a challenge!

  23. Going to keep this in mind when I head for S.E. Asia in 2 months, followed by Central America in the spring 🙂 Perfect timing to read this post!

  24. I’ve lived in Southeast Asia a total of 6 years–I absolutely love the food, the culture, the climate, and how safe I feel. I’d love to adventure to South/Central America someday, my husband has a lot of relatives in Mexico, so I’m sure we’ll make it to that part of the world one of these days, but I know it will feel pretty different to the homes we’ve found on this side of the globe!

  25. Super useful post as always – thank you! Not that I’m deciding between one or the other. More like deciding which one to visit first…

  26. Thank you for sharing this comparison! I’ve been thinking about back packing and where to go. I especially like how you added the safety advice. As a female I am always cautious when I travel.

  27. Now that I’ve been to Southeast Asia, I realise how spoilt I was doing Latin America first. My heart will always be in Central and South America, although I did especially love Vietnam and the diving in Indonesia… 🙂

  28. Great article! I went backpacking in India last year after following a 4 week teacher training in Central India (with Arhanta Yoga ashram – the most beautiful and peaceful place I have ever been). It was a fabulous experience. Even though I was worried at first for not knowing the country, language and culture, everything went great and I met some wonderful people. Next year my plan is to backpack in North America… I am curious to find out if my experiences will be similar to yours!!

  29. Amazing info!! “As a woman, I feel more comfortable in Southeast Asia than anywhere else in the world.” I’ve never been to Southeast Asia precisely for the opposite stigma, but I might give it a go and face some fears 🙂

  30. Really great article – we absolutely love travelling in South East Asia for all the reasons you have listed but returning this time round we have felt slightly ‘old’ and less into the mad party scene. We cant wait to visit Central America sometime next year and see what this side of the world has to offer!!!

  31. Really helpfull post for me! I want travel to both of this places but I can´t decide where I go first cause both are pretty amazing.

    Mishelle xx

  32. Thank you for sharing this comparison!But I’ve been thinking Asia for long has stood as the place for mystical ventures and the unexplored territory full of surprises. The western world has always been fascinated by the oriental aspects of the Southeast Asian countries. For more information please visit:

  33. Wow great comparison! Central America is on my list as my next big adventure, however, I always feel the draw of South East Asia as well. Your comparison cemented my decision to head to Central America…it sounds like it will suit my travel style a bit better.

    Thanks again, great post.

      1. That’s why I’m asking for permission. 🙂 It’s cool that you feel differently.

        I thought your article is awesome hence I thought of asking you. We do feature guest posts for other fabulous travel writers on our website (after seeking their approvals, of course!) and introducing them to our readers, in no way we take the article as our own and always provide link back to the writer’s website so that the writer gets readership traffic and our readers get all-rounder diversity in content.

  34. Being a pilot and having travelled and backpacked very extensively for many years I would say your assessment of Southeast Asia and Central America gives a fair oversight of the two geographic areas. I would also add that South America, at least the northern part of it (Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia etc.) is much as you describe Central America but at the extreme of your description – less safe, a bit harder to travel around, more bland food, better music etc. Argentina and Chile have a more European feel. As for Bali that I’m in at present, it’s a very easy place to travel around, including with young kids – that I would not be in a rush to do in places like Bolivia.

  35. Great post Kate,
    I’m headed to Central America in 10 days and I’ve been a bit nervous of what to expect. SEA is so easy to travel, but I’ve heard the opposite of CA. And I know almost no Spanish! Yikes. It should prove interesting. But it’s good to know that it’s a bit of an older scene as I’m 40. Us older people still like to backpack too.

  36. Hi
    Thanks for really great post. I was wondering, how to compare central america and bali if we want to live in a tent? Any thoughts??? Much love.

  37. I have travelled Central America but not yet Asia! This was a great article and so helpful for me thinking about the next trip we take. Thanks!

  38. Great insight. I’ve traveled Southeast Asia as part of a long trip, hopping from place to place, but so far, I have hopped down to Central America like 6 times for shorter trips. I hope to one day get to take a longer trip there., but it’s accessibility from the US makes it perfect for shorter visits! This post really helps me frame the trip better in my mind. Thank you!

  39. Coming to this post years later with an observation that in Laos, I encountered so many women aged 60 and up traveling solo. I expect it’s the combination of affordability and safety of that particular country, but I was impressed because the transit infrastructure is not quite as strong as, say Vietnam. I was in my late 40s when I was there, and seeing those women was totally #travelgoals.

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