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How to Plan a 3-Week Southeast Asia Itinerary

How to Plan a 3-Week Southeast Asia Itinerary

By Chris QuanUpdated Sep. 5, 2023

3 weeks is a good length for a Southeast Asia trip, during which you can have an in-depth feel and not be in a rush.

You could experience the monks chanting in the warm morning sun in Laos, old temples with mysterious legends in Cambodia, a quiet sunset at the beach in Thailand, the yelling of vendors from crowded boats in the canals of Vietnam, the smell of spices wafting from the night markets, the friendly people, the lovely elephants...

Where to Go in Your 3 Weeks in Southeast Asia

Here are the most popular destinations among over 10 Southeast Asian countries.

We hope this will help you choose according to your preferences and the characteristics of these destinations.

Thailand is No. 1 for travel in Southeast Asia with its splendid palaces and temples, amazing food, elephant experiences, tropical beaches...

Thailand is also a popular destination for couples due to its stunning views and romantic vibe. >>>Thailand Honeymoons/Anniversary: 8 Best Places for Romantic Stays, Itineraries

Thai food Delicious Thai food

Vietnam is a place where you can slow down and enjoy a relaxed pace. You can see the Mekong Delta from a serene cruise boat and explore the karst-island landscape of Halong Bay on a cruise. Its colonial past in the French architecture and the history of the Vietnam War are also features best savored slowly.

Extending reading: Vietnam vs Thailand: Which to Visit (A Helpful Comparison for You)

Halong Bay Halong Bay

What makes Cambodia famous is its national treasure — Angkor Wat. It is the world's largest temple complex. Different from those glittering golden temples in Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar, Black and dark gray are its dominant hues, representing the pinnacle of Khmer classical art.

Angkor Wat Angkor Wat

A trip to Laos is usually connected with other Southeast Asian countries. If you have more time, it would be an interesting option. Luang Prabang, a quaint old town, is the main travel destination. The whole city was listed as World Cultural Heritage.

Alms giving in the morning in Laos Alms giving in the morning

Myanmar is the last frontier of Indochina, still bearing minimal Western influence. Its distinctive sights include long lines of monks in wine-colored robes and countless temples of different architectural styles.

Bagan, Myanmar Bagan, a city in Myanmar

As a famous tropical vacation island, Bali is often compared to Thailand. What sets Bali apart from Thailand is that it has much richer landscapes on the island — volcanoes, rice terraces, clifftop ocean views, and a different religion (Hinduism). There are plenty of world-class hotels offering the ultimate experience. >>>Thailand/Phuket vs Bali: Which Is Better for You?

Bali Bali

Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines also have many quaint islands with beautiful scenery. As maritime countries, they have many immigrants, and you can feel the fusion and collision of native culture and foreign culture there.

An In-Depth Experience of Southeast Asia at an Easy Pace

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3-Week Southeast Asia Itinerary: Best 3 Options

Here are three options matching different needs for your reference.

1. Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam (Most Chosen)

Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam Tour Map

Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia is the most popular and classic combination for a 3-week trip to Southeast Asia.

These three countries gather almost all the elements of Southeast Asia — splendid temples, gorgeous beaches, compelling history, amazing food, the Mekong Delta, and Buddhist culture.

  • Days 1–8: Vietnam

In Vietnam, explore the three most important cities of Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City from north to south. Try some special activities like a basket boat ride, a traditional means of transport for local fishermen.

Enjoy the karst landscape of Halong Bay and surrounding caves with a cruise and visit the Mekong Delta to see the busy lives of traders.

Suggested Vietnam itinerary:

Hanoi (2 days)

Halong Bay (1 day)

Hoi An (2 days)

Ho Chi Minh City (1 day)

Mekong Delta (2 days)

  • Days 9–11: Cambodia

Cambodia is a relatively small country. Siem Reap is the main tourist destination for the great Angkor Wat. In 3 days, besides the Angkor Wat, you can visit some unique attractions like the Cambodian Landmine Museum, showing Cambodian efforts to clear land mines, and take an ox cart ride along a country road to really appreciate its rustic views.

Suggested Cambodia itinerary:

Siem Reap (3 days)

  • Days 12–19: Thailand

Explore the most important cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai to see the Grand Palace, meet elephants, join a cooking class, and to finish, have some relaxing beach time on an island.

Suggested Thailand itinerary:

Bangkok (2 days)

Chiang Mai (2 days)

An island (Phuket or Koh Samui) (4 days)

Check out more on our How to Plan a 3-Week Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam Tour or in-depth exploration of 3 weeks in Thailand and Cambodia>>>

The Best Southeast Asia Tour for First-timers

2. Singapore, Bali, and Thailand (for Beach Lovers, Honeymooners)

Singapore, Bali, and Thailand tour map

If you are planning a beach holiday, you can consider this combo. Singapore, Bali, and Thailand all have wonderful beaches and scenery. It is also suitable for honeymoons or anniversaries.

  • Days 1–6: Singapore
Pulau Ubin, Singapore Pulau Ubin

In Singapore, feel the mix of different cultures in Singapore by discovering ethnic enclaves — Chinese culture in China Town, Malay culture in Kampong Glam, and Indian culture in Little India.

Singapore also has many quaint islands. Enjoy quiet time away from the hustle and bustle on beautiful islands like Pulau Ubin.

  • Days 7–13: Bali
Bali Bali's night

A direct flight from Singapore to Bali only takes 2½–3 hours.

Bali is rich in landscapes. You can enjoy the most stunning sunsets on Jimbaran Beach, cycle among winding terraced fields, learn about Bali's Indian culture in its temples, which differ from the Buddhist temples in most other southeast Asian countries, take a cooking class, experience the charming of Bali at night in a bar...

Find more details on our suggested 13-Day Private Singapore and Bali Journey of Discovery

  • Days 14–21: Thailand
Phuket, Thailand Phuket

A direct flight from Bali to Bangkok will take 4–4½ hours.

Visit Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and enjoy beach time on an island.

In Bangkok, feel the Buddhist culture in the Grand Palace and temples. Enjoy a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River.

In Chiang Mai, have a close encounter with elephants in the best Chiang Mai elephant park and climb Mount Doi Suthep, the landmark of Chiang Mai.

Finally, enjoy leisurely beach time on a tropical island (Phuket, Koh Samui, or Koh Yao Noi are great choices). >>>How to Choose from Thailand's Islands (Your Island Hopping Guide)

Suggested itinerary:

Bangkok (2 days)

Chiang Mai (2 days)

An island (Phuket, Koh Samui, or Koh Yao Noi) (4 days)

For more detail, see our 8-Day Idyllic Honeymoon in Thailand.

3. Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Bali

Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Bali tour map

If you want to see more and don't mind a relatively tight pace, you could consider this route.

Maybe you have other preferred countries or combos, you can also contact us and we will create your ideal itinerary based on your preferences, group size, budget, and other needs.

  • Days 1–3: Vietnam

Explore Hanoi and embark on a Halong Bay cruise.

Explore Hanoi's history and culture through its landmarks like Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Temple of Literature, and the Old Quarter.

Enjoy stunning karst views and other Halong Bay cruise features, like sea swimming and an open bar on board.

Suggested itinerary:

Hanoi (2 days)

Halong Bay (1 day)

  • Days 4–6: Cambodia

Discover Cambodia's top temples of Angkor in Siem Reap and discover its hidden story. Discover Banteay Srei, known as the 'Citadel of Women'. Visit the Cambodia Landmine Museum to see Cambodian's post-Civil-War cleanup efforts, and enjoy a sunset cocktail on Tonle Sap Lake.

Suggested itinerary:

Siem Reap (3 days)

  • Days 7–12: Thailand

In Bangkok, visit the Grand Palace, take a tuk-tuk ride, and explore Chinatown.

In Phuket, enjoy a leisurely time by the beach. Snorkel, hop to the Phi Phi Islands, enjoy a serene cruise around the mystical Phang Nga Bay...

Suggested itinerary:

Bangkok (2 days)

Phuket (4 days)

A Southeast Asia Overview for a Shorter Vacation
  • Days 13–20: Bali

Enjoy the Jimbaran sunset on a cruise. Visit its Hindu temples and find out the background legends. Try some exciting and interesting activities like white water rafting in the rainforest, Balinese cooking classes, and going on a vintage Volkswagen car tour.

Suggested itinerary:

Bali (8 days)

>>> 8-Day Private Authentic Bali Discovery Tour

How Much Is a 3-Week Trip to Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asia offers good value for money. For the price of a mediocre restaurant in Western countries, you can enjoy a superb meal at a Michelin-starred establishment in Southeast Asia.

  • For a medium budget, it will cost around 200–250 USD per day per person (including air fare within Southeast Asia, 4- or 5-star hotel, lunch, attractions, guide and transfers). Thus, it may cost about 4,000–5,000 USD for 3 weeks.
  • For a higher budget, US$250–350 per day per person is needed (including air fare within Southeast Asia, 5-star or plus hotel, lunch, attractions, guide and transfers). The cost for 3 weeks is around 5,000-7,000 USD.
Recommended Itinerary

Tips for Arranging a 3-Week Itinerary in Southeast Asia

1. Don't arrange the schedule too tight. Filling a day with attractions will only leave you exhausted.

2. Choose multi-faceted destinations. Many countries have similarities. In a limited time, it is wise to choose one that has richer experiences. For example, both Thailand and Laos are known for palaces, temples, and elephants, but Thailand has more to offer, like islands and world-class food.

3. Prepare documents in advance. Visas and entry documents related to COVID-19 prevention should be prepared in advance to make your trip smooth. For example, Vietnam and Cambodia need e-visas. Check out our Asia Visas, Southeast Asia Visas

Suggested reading: How to Plan a Trip to Southeast Asia.

4. Keep an eye on flights. Because Southeast Asian countries are gradually reopening for tourism, flight prices will change rapidly. The earlier you grab a deal, the more likely you are to get a good price.

5. Seek a travel agency. A professional agency can provide you with a well-planned itinerary that saves you time and money, help you prepare documents, deal with any urgent matters in a timely/stress-reducing way, and be your safeguard for your overseas trip.

We promise you enjoy 100% refund of any payments made to China Highlights prior to 3 weeks before departure (detail⇒).

Embark on an adventure across fascinating China, Laos, and Thailand:

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You are warmly welcomed to have us customize your trip based on your group size, interests, and other needs. Sit back and use our Create My Trip service.

Or start from a recommended fully-modifiable itinerary:

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