Skip the crowds and travel without breaking the bank with these 10 underrated travel destinations in Southeast Asia perfect for weekend getaways

by Kylynn Seng

If you tend to yearn for those European summer holidays we always see on Instagram, you’re not alone. However, for most of us working girlies, it’s not always possible to take an entire month off — plus, going so far can be really hard on our wallets. 

Our solution? To make the most of our precious time off, consider these underrated Southeast Asian (SEA) travel destinations as an alternative. While these spots may not be the most obvious choices, they might really surprise you with what they have to offer. The thought of being able to skip the crowds and tourist traps, without even having to break the bank to live your best life — doesn’t that just sound amazing? 

Read on to find your next adventure!

1. Belitung, Indonesia 

underrated SEA travel destinations
Photo: @explorebelitung/instagram

This tranquil Indonesian island is known for its white sandy beaches and clear blue waters — sounds familiar? No, it isn’t Bali! Although the touristy island of Bali is known for excellent beach clubs and nightlife, those looking to avoid the never-ending crowds can consider going to Belitung for a quick getaway instead. 

Photo: @global._explore/instagram

Go island hopping, discover boulders that are larger than life, and pop by the famous Kaolin Lake which has bright turquoise waters — there’s certainly no shortage of things to do. 

2. Luang Prabang, Laos

underrated SEA travel destinations
Photo: @nekkochi/instagram

Laos tends to be one of the more underrated SEA travel destinations in general, but it’s actually a great choice for history buffs and nature lovers alike. Check out the old quarter of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has well-preserved French colonial buildings reminiscent of the town’s past. You’ll find night markets, old monasteries, and even French restaurants in the area.

Photo: @a_leandra_/instagram

Plus, the magical Kuang Si Falls is only about an hour’s drive away — just imagine relaxing by the cascading waterfalls and being surrounded by lush rainforests! 

3. Bagan, Myanmar (Burma) 

underrated SEA travel destinations
Photo: @joeking350/instagram

Why travel all the way to Turkey to fly 2000 feet above the ground in a hot air balloon when you can experience it right here in Southeast Asia? While Myanmar hardly comes to mind when we think about planning a short trip to one of our neighbouring countries, Bagan is one of the few places in the world where you can actually take a trip on a hot air balloon.

Photo: @ampniphaphon/instagram

The ancient city is also one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites with over 2000 temples, so you can expect awe-inspiring sights as you view the temples from a bird’s eye view. Do note that the hot air balloons may not be available all year round, so be sure to make your bookings in advance to avoid disappointment.

4. Anda, Bohol, Philippines

underrated SEA travel destinations
Photo: Unsplash

Move aside, Boracay — there’s another up-and-coming vacation spot perfect for beach lovers! Bohol is known for its Chocolate Hills, but just a two-hour drive from the popular attraction lies the city of Anda

Photo: @rujanherrera/instagram

Home to some of the most idyllic white-sand beaches and aesthetic resorts, Anda’s shores offer beautifully rich marine life perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving — think sea turtles, diverse corals and more. Plus, you can even swim in water caves that look like they’re straight out of a travel influencer’s IG post! 

5. Bukidnon, Philippines

underrated SEA travel destinations
Photo: @kingpjthe28th/instagram

If you’re an adrenaline-seeker who prefers mountains over beaches, this one’s for you! Dahilayan Adventure Park in Bukidnon boasts an 840m dual zipline that’s more than 4700 feet above ground, an alpine coaster, and even a base jump. 

Photo: @adventurephilippines/instagram

For all you certified fitspos out there, you’ll be delighted to find some of the highest mountains in the Philippines at Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park

6. Battambang, Cambodia 

underrated SEA travel destinations
Photo: @frenchiesanywhere/instagram

Have you ever wanted to visit Angkor Wat in Siem Reap? Rather than jostling with the crowds at the famous temple, consider heading to the city of Battambang, also one of the more underrated SEA travel destinations. The often-overlooked Wat Banan Temple may be smaller than its famous counterpart, but it still has the same beautiful Khmer architecture. To complete your sightseeing, be sure to take a ride on the bamboo rail to take in the raw beauty of Battambang. 

Photo: @ruimte_reis/instagram

You’ll defo be spoilt for choice when it comes to food — expect a good mix of street food, artsy cafes and laid-back restaurants. Given Cambodia’s rich history, some of these places even offer tantalising fusion cuisine (like Khmer-French food). Plus, you can even check out Cambodia’s only winery and try their version of red wine!

7. Hue, Vietnam 

underrated SEA travel destinations
Photo: @ccpham_/instagram

As the former Imperial City of Vietnam, Hue has an extremely rich history for its visitors to explore. Tour the grounds of its Imperial Citadel and discover several ornate royal tombs — a few are crumbling, but restoration is in the works to return some of these structures to their former glory. 

Photo: @tasteesubs/instagram

Cycle around the beautiful city, stroll along the Perfume River, and dine like a royal along the promenade (pro tip: look for restaurants offering recreations of Imperial dishes served to royalty in the past!) — with so many things to do, this is one destination you shouldn’t miss. 

underrated SEA travel destinations
Photo: @rubysdoan/instagram

8. Dalat, Vietnam

Photo: @petch_pechon/instagram

Where do I even begin? This underrated SEA destination is almost as romantic as the City of Love itself, with the cutest cafés, a sprawling park named the Valley of Love and a French quarter that has beautiful colonial villas. You can even live your “Alice in Wonderland” dreams at the aptly named Crazy House

underrated SEA travel destinations
Photo: @backpacker_tony/instagram

For those looking for adventure, Dalat has no shortage of waterfalls and mountains for you to explore. Go on an exhilarating alpine slide, abseil down steep cliffs and hike up the Vietnamese highlands — you decide! 

Photo: @elissawheat/instagram

9. Kanchanaburi, Thailand

underrated SEA travel destinations
Photo: @cha_bennett/instagram

Yes, I do love shopping in Bangkok — but if you’re looking for somewhere a little more scenic, this lesser-known town in The Land of Smiles may be just the place for you. Check out the national parks and discover beautiful cascading waterfalls, or book a relaxing stay along the River Kwai

Photo: @ianschepers/instagram

History buffs, this one’s for you. Take a train ride across the Death Railway Bridge and learn about its tragic WWII past as you take in the scenery around you — the war stories are bound to tug at your heartstrings. 

underrated SEA travel destinations
Photo: @eletravelife/instagram

10. Rawa Island, Malaysia 

Photo: @fish_shuyee/instagram

I’m constantly on the hunt for picturesque beaches with clear blue waters to get my (long overdue) dose of Vitamin D, so you can understand my excitement when I heard about Rawa Island in Johor

underrated SEA travel destinations
Photo: @cecilhamilton/instagram

The island only has two resorts, so it definitely won’t be overcrowded — it’s pretty near us too, making it perfect for a weekend getaway! Mersing Jetty is only about a two-hour drive from Woodlands Checkpoint, and it takes about a 30-minute speedboat ride to reach Rawa Island from the jetty. Frolic in the waters, go snorkelling, hiking, or even island hopping — it sounds like a dream come true. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m all ready to plan my next holiday to one of these underrated SEA travel destinations. Which will you be heading to?

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