For some backpacking is a means to an end — an economic way to see as many wonders as this world can offer. For others, it is a coming of age rite of passage. In either case, popular destinations on the backpacking itinerary are Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos in Southeast Asia.

This subregion of Asia — which also includes Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines and Singapore — is the port of call for the adventurous and free spirited. When most people picture Southeast Asia, warm beaches and muggy urban centres come to mind. However, the climate does vary from season to season, so know what’s in store for your travel dates. As elevation and geographical location vary, it’s best to narrow your search first and pack accordingly.

BEFORE YOU GO

Regardless of what nation you bear on your passport, it’s always a good idea to first confirm what type of entry visa (if any) is needed before boarding your flight. Most often, before you reach a border agent at your destination you can purchase the necessary visa on site at the airport but it’s best to have your paperwork sorted beforehand. Once you’re on the ground, it’s important to know what defines polite behaviour. Here are a few customary codes to keep in mind.

DINING

In a previous story about travel etiquette in Japan we touched on the proper ways to eat with chopsticks. In neighboring countries where chopsticks are the utensil of choice, those rules still apply. Avoid pointing with your chopsticks or sticking them in a dish pointing upwards.

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DRESS CODES

For starters, make sure your shorts reach your knees, and keep your shoulders covered. This is a good general rule, especially important when visiting religious sites, such as Wat Benchamabophit Dusitwanaram Ratchaworawihan (otherwise known as the Marble Temple) in Bangkok, Thailand. Though average temperatures in Southeast Asia can soar, exposed arms, legs, or chests are considered disrespectful. Keep cool and polite in light linen pants and silk shawls, which are sold all over the region.

Get more great tips from Herschel HERE