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Backpacking SE Asia 4 months - Return flights or one way?

Leeds, United...
Level Contributor
21 posts
Backpacking SE Asia 4 months - Return flights or one way?


In October, I'm planning to backpack around Thailand, Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia for roughly 4 months. Maybe Myanmar if I have time.

I will likely start in Bangkok. I was wondering whether people usually book return flights from Bangkok 4 months in advance? Or do they wait til they are out there to book a flight back home (UK)?

The problem is I have no strict route/itinerary so I would have to finish in Bangkok at the end of 4 months to catch a return flight back.

One way flights are more expensive, annoyingly.

7 replies to this topic
I wander the world
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4,776 posts
25 reviews
1. Re: Backpacking SE Asia 4 months - Return flights or one way?

I did eight weeks in South East ASIA round trip to Bangkok. I was pretty much flying by the seat of pants, no real plans save for a loose loop.

Do be aware of Visa terms and restrictions.

r c
Portland, Oregon
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1 review
2. Re: Backpacking SE Asia 4 months - Return flights or one way?


to disclose i have not been to SEA,yet. but i travel and hop to different countries so i see it as no different, its just a different place and travel is travel.

but you can book an OPEN JAW ticket where you fly into one city and out of another. You will see it as MULTI CITY in the flight search engines.

for what its wroth i see back tracking as a waste of time & money unless you can figure out a circular type of route and i havent plotted your places, so its up to you to figure that out.

just something to consider and again, not having traveled to SEA, but some counties i have visited want to see proof of entry/exit. Not sure if you will encounter that on your travels.

also, you will want to make sure any VISAs or vaccinations are not required to enter/leave.

good luck.

Bangkok, Thailand
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10,442 posts
99 reviews
3. Re: Backpacking SE Asia 4 months - Return flights or one way?

Four months is a nice chunk of time but it still does not permit a random walk when you take into account the requirements for visas and proof of onward travel, as well as the time getting around takes if you do not fly all the time. Advance planning helps you to save money and time by avoiding unnecessary backtracking, too.

I would buy a return ticket well in advance and adapt my itinerary to that. Personally I would buy direct from the airline and choose a bit more expensive ticket that allows travel dates to be changed. You never know if you must return sooner than you think (or later!).

You should keep in mind that Air Asia has a budget flight from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Phuket (Thailand). That would let you start your trip by heading to destinations and countries not south of Bangkok, and finish it by covering the beach locations in South Thailand before you fly back home from Bangkok.

Relating to your other thread it might turn out that you are better off by buying a multi-city (open jaw) ticket that gets you into SEA in one country and takes you home from another one. In this case worrying about a return ticket would be pointless.

San Francisco...
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853 posts
266 reviews
4. Re: Backpacking SE Asia 4 months - Return flights or one way?

Check to see if your return flight is around any national holidays in either country. This might affect flight availability and pricing. When I went to Europe for 3 months after college, I waited to book my return flight as I wanted to leave my itinerary open to allow for flexibility.

As others have said check to see what the flights are round trip from the same city, or round trip from different cities. Then check prices for one way flights to and from using different cities. This will give you an idea about what flights will cost. There are also flight trackers like Hopper or Kayak (not sure if these work internationally), that will tell you the best date to book a flight.

If it's a really good deal to book round trip, then do that. If the price is about the same for two separate one way flights, then just wait to book the second round trip. If you can't track the return flight, then just check every week to see if the prices are increasing.

Also check the visa rules to see if you need to have a return flight booked. Sometimes if you bring a copy that you have to back in your country by a certain date for school or a new job, then it shows you are not trying to stay forever to work or live.

Leeds, United...
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21 posts
5. Re: Backpacking SE Asia 4 months - Return flights or one way?

Thank you for the helpful advice. Much appreciated

Kuala Lumpur...
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6. Re: Backpacking SE Asia 4 months - Return flights or one way?

Hi, olismitho! Apart from all the SE Asia countries you mentioned in your post, have you considered visiting Malaysia? It is situated just below Thailand on the world map and if you do, I would recommend you to visit Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur (the capital city of Malaysia), and Melaka (with Dutch and Portugese influences and architecture) Do check out these cities on Google and see if anything captures your interest. All the best to you!

England, United...
Destination Expert
for Somerset, Solo Travel, Exmoor National Park
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34,921 posts
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7. Re: Backpacking SE Asia 4 months - Return flights or one way?

Love Malaysia and the people are kind. Would definitely look into visiting.

My only advice is to look into each country you decide to check if you have to have an onward or return ticket. If thems the rules then that will decide for you at least in part.

Last minute air tickets are usually more expensive so I would look to find prices from about now and book the return when the price is right. Perhaps ask if there is a time to look for cheaper flights from SEA on the Air Travel Forum though it would help if you could give only one or two destinations to return from

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