Probably the number one stopover for travellers heading Down Under, Thailand is likely to head your “I want to go there!” list. A mix of natural beauty, fascinating culture, great food, friendly people and erm, lots of other travellers, make a Thailand stopover de rigeur for many. Most of the backpackers hang out on the sublime islands of Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan, where there’s a kicking beach-party scene that’s defi nitely worth a look. But if you want to get off the beaten track there are hundreds of other tropical islands to choose from, plus a mainland dotted with golden temples, rainforests, elephants, hospitable hill tribes and ancient ruins. Of course, you could also visit Thailand’s wonderful neighbours too – Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Where will I land? The insane capital Bangkok.
Where will I stay? Generally beach huts on the Stopover destinations islands or hostels in the urban areas.
How long will it take? From London, 12 hours; to Sydney, nine hours.
From the hi-tech gadgets, best sushi imaginable and neon-clad skyscrapers of Tokyo to the fascinating culture and stunning mountains of the wider country, Japan has to be seen to be believed. Tokyo is one of the most exciting, completely alien and endlessly interesting cities you could hope to visit. Expect to find yourself taking several million photos. Japan is also home to some of the world’s best ski slopes.
Beware that English is barely spoken and that you may have difficulty using your bank cards.
Where will I land? Tokyo’s Narita International.
Where will I stay? There’s plenty of hostel options, with dorm beds generally costing US$20-25. For a real Japanese experience, however, pay a little more and stay in a ryokan, a traditional inn complete with futons and mat flooring.
How long will it take? From London, 12 hours; to Sydney, 10 hours.
From the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong to truly iconic sights like the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors, via one of the world’s oldest cultures, China should make it onto every intrepid traveller’s itinerary at some point in their lives. Leave plenty of time to sort out a visa.
Where will I land? Most likely Hong Kong or Beijing. To avoid confusion, make sure you have your accommodation name written down in Chinese.
Where will I stay? There are more and more budget beds turning up in the major cities. A trip can cost under US$20 a day.
How long will it take? From London, 10 hours; to Sydney, 12 hours.
There are few countries that will confront you like India. Overfl owing with energy and people, its cultural and geographic diversity will undoubtedly make you look at life in a different way. From the madness of Delhi to the breathtaking sacred sites scattered throughout the countryside, this is what backpacking is all about. Winter is probably the best time to visit, from September-January, when the heat is most bearable. Beware that several areas, like Kashmir, are still prone to conflict.
Where will I land? Probably Delhi. From there you can book a pre-paid taxi to the city – but make sure the driver takes you where you want to go.
Where will I stay? There is cheap accommodation everywhere in India, usually US$2-3 a night. Prices go up in the winter “high season”.
How long will it take? From London, nine hours; to Sydney, 18 hours.
A chain of more than 13,000 islands, the major ones are Java (home to capital Jakarta), Sumatra, Borneo and the famous pleasure island of Bali. Bali is renowned as a tourist paradise with its famous beaches and nightlife in Kuta. Take note that Kuta is top of the list for young, partying Aussies, sort of the equivalent of the Costa Del Sol for Brits. Away from the bright lights and busy beaches you’ll find stunning volcanic mountains, waterfalls and lakes to explore, and more temples than you can poke an incense stick at. It offers access to Komodo Island (home of the fearsome dragon) and beautiful Lombok. Some regions are still potential terrorist targets so check warnings (fco.gov.uk).
Where will I land? Probably in Denpasar, Bali.
Where will I stay? There is a wide range of budget accommodation in Bali and Lombok. Much of it is pretty good. Beach huts are popular at resorts.
How long will it take? From London, 16 hours; to Sydney, seven hours.
A country of two halves divided by a few hundred kilometres of ocean – Peninsula Malaysia is the bit below Thailand, while East Malaysia comprises the island of Borneo. Peninsula Malaysia is more accessible and offers delights such as the Perhentian Islands, as well as some of the best food is Asia. Make the effort to get to the eastern states and you’ll be rewarded with pristine rainforest, orangutangs, longhouse-dwelling tribes and some of the world’s best diving.
Where will I land? In Kuala Lumpur (or “KL”).
Where will I stay? On the mainland you will find backpacker hostels, complete with dorm rooms. On the islands you’re likely to be kipping in a beach hut.
How long will it take? From London, 12 hours; to Sydney eight hours.
This multicultural city state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula boasts a diverse blend of environments. Most stop-off visitors brave the fearsome humidity just long enough to take advantage of the enviable shopping opportunities, but those staying longer should escape into the surrounding jungle or even beyond into Malaysia.
Where will I land? The effi cient Changi Airport.
Where will I stay? Many hostel beds are US$15-20.
How long will it take? From London, 13 hours; to Sydney, eight hours.
The United Arab Emirates might be a relatively new destination, but there’s no denying its impact on the world stage. Both Bahrain and the UAE have established themselves as major stop-offs and have gone about trying to build the biggest of everything, anywhere, as quickly as possible. As a result, sleepy old fishing villages have transformed into slick cities. Well, almost. Much of Dubai is still a building site. There’s no doubt that what’s finished is impressive, although those of you craving a bit of culture might struggle to keep themselves entertained. Head out into the dunes for some 4WD fun.
Where will I land? The main hubs of Bahrain, Dubai or the world’s richest city – Abu Dhabi.
Where will I stay? Some budget hotels have rooms as cheap as US$30, but don’t expect anything pretty.
How long will it take? From London, seven hours; to Sydney, 15 hours.