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Ultimate SE Asia & Oz Gap Year Adventure

Image of longtail boats anchored at the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand - KILROY
View the full itinerary as a list

Recommended duration

At least one year



Travel type



One-flight, some activities and Australia working holiday visa

Book this itinerary
Looking for the ultimate gap year itinerary through Southeast Asia and Australia? Well, look no further! This itinerary combines unique can't-do-it-yourself experiences with plenty of time for independent backpacking and adventure.


Start your gap year adventure in Thailand - the backpacking mecca of Southeast Asia. Arriving in Bangkok, you'll have the first few days sorted for a smooth and comfortable start to your gap year. Then it's time to travel north to Chiang Mai in the most unforgettable way - on the adventurous Umphang Trek.

From Chiang Mai, you can DIY travel through Laos and northern Vietnam to reach the highland community of Dalat, where you'll meet your motorbike guide for the trip south to Ho Chi Minh City. From there, you can travel independently through Cambodia to reach Hua Hin, back in Thailand. This is where you'll spend two weeks volunteering with elephants, because gap years are better when you can give back to the local community and boost your CV at the same time!

After all that hard work, travel as leisurely as you like south through Thailand and to the beautiful island of Koh Tao where you can learn to dive and get your PADI certificate. You'll be a backpacking pro by this point, so travel overland through Malaysia to Singapore where you can get a cheap flight over to Indonesia and explore the islands. 

Just make sure you're in Canggu in time for your surf camp! Because you'll be learning how to ride the waves before saying farewell to Southeast Asia and flying to Sydney for the start of your working holiday Down Under. 

*From price per person based on shared accommodation



What's included
  • One-way flight from the UK to Sydney via Bangkok and Bali
  • 4-day arrival package in Bangkok with airport transfer, accommodation and activities
  • 6-day Bangkok to Chiang Mai guided Umphang trek with accommodation, transport and meals
  • 4-day Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City Easy Rider motorbike tour with accommodation, transport and activities
  • 15-day Elephant Refuge and Wildlife Rescue Centre volunteering project in Thailand with accommodation and meals
  • 5-day learn to dive package on Koh Tao island in Thailand with accommodation and breakfast
  • 8-day learn to surf package on Bali island in Indonesia with accommodation and some meals
  • 1-year Australia working holiday visa with support during the application process
  • 5-day Sydney basic jobs package with arrival transfer, accommodation, activities and job support in Australia
  • 35 breakfasts, 19 lunches and 24 dinners
  • Booking fees
  • Services of your own travel advisor
What's not included
  • Travel insurance (but we can help you with that)
  • Vaccinations (ask us about our discount with Nomad Travel)
  • Meals (unless otherwise specified)
  • Optional activities (but we have loads more to choose from!)
  • Travel arrangements and accommodation during DIY sections of the itinerary (because we know you'll also want to travel independently on your gap year)
  • Return flight home from Australia (because who knows how long you might want to stay there!)

What else you need to budget for this trip

This gap year itinerary includes the perfect mix of can't-do-yourself experiences with loads of opportunities to travel independently at your own pace. That's why there's periods where your arrangements will be taken care of for you, which are covered in the itinerary cost, as well as periods where you'll be travelling DIY. 

For those, we recommend an additional budget of £3,500 in total for these DIY sections. This should cover around 14 weeks of backpacking independently through Southeast Asia. 

When it comes to budgeting for your Southeast Asia and Australia gap year, bear in mind that you'll need proof of around £2,700 in financial funds plus the cost of a return ticket to get your working holiday visa for Australia. 

Therefore, for this trip, we recommend a total budget of around £10,000. Though remember you'll have the chance to earn money in Australia and recoup some of the money spent travelling around Southeast Asia. 

And you can rework this itinerary to bring the costs down, if you're on a lower budget. 


Take Me Back To Top

Suggested Itinerary: Ultimate Southeast Asia and Australia Gap Year

Home - Bangkok - Chiang Mai - Dalat - Ho Chi Minh - Hua Hin - Koh Tao - Singapore - Yogyakarta - Bali - Sydney

This itinerary is just a suggestion and can be customised to suit your unique travel plans. Make it longer, make it shorter. Add in the things you want to do. Get in touch with our travel experts to turn this itinerary into your dream Southeast Asia and Australia gap year.

Thailand Start your gap year in Bangkok

Welcome to Thailand! And the start of your epic gap year.

We know backpacking for the first time can be a little intimidating. That's why we've set you up with a 4-day arrival package in Bangkok that includes a friendly transfer from the airport to your accommodation. Spend three nights in the city in a dorm room, where you'll get to meet other young travellers.

The package also includes a nighttime tour around Chinatown exploring the side-streets and food stalls less-visited, and a longtail boat ride along the Chao Phraya river with guided visits to different temples.

Bangkok to Chiang Mai Trek and raft your way north

Sure, you could take the bus north to Chiang Mai. But why do that when you can trek and raft your way there instead?!

In Bangkok you'll meet the people that will be your travel buddies and fellow adventures for the next six days. And over the course of those days, you'll visit local markets, soak up the mountain vistas and raft through the jungle on the Mae Klong River. You'll also see one of Southeast Asia's largest waterfalls and trek through bamboo forests and untouched jungle, spending the nights in campsites or simple homestays.

This is one adventure you won't forget in a hurry!

Thailand to Vietnam Travel DIY through Laos

Now it's time to hit the road independently. From Chiang Mai, you can head to the border and cross over into Laos. We recommend you spend at least two weeks in this gorgeous little country exploring the stunning landscapes of Vang Vieng, watching the monks do their daily alms in Luang Prabang and enjoying the capital of Vientiane.

From there, continue your journey to the north of Vietnam. Hanoi is a good place to start, where you can enjoy a cold brew on the busy streets - perfect for people-watching. Then you can strike out to Halong Bay for a night or two cruising the spectacular karst island seascapes.

If you want to follow the classic backpacker route through Vietnam, continue south to Ninh Binh for a similar karst island scenery, but this time on land. Then continue to the imperial city of Hue and the picture-perfect Hoi An.

Vietnam is well setup for young travellers with excellent and affordable transport options. And you're pretty much guaranteed to meet other backpackers along the way.

Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City Off-the-beaten track by motorbike

It's good to get off the beaten track once in a while. That's why we've included a 4-day motorbike adventure from Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City.

You'll be travelling through the highlands of southern Vietnam on the back of a motorbike with the experienced Easy Riders. It's the perfect opportunity to get a sense of the real Vietnam beyond the tourist trail and experience the local hill tribe culture and their customs.

Accommodation is included and this is definitely one experience where the journey is just as important as the destination!

Vietnam back to Thailand DIY travel through Cambodia

From Ho Chi Minh City, you're free to make your own travel arrangements back to Thailand. Before leaving Vietnam, we recommend you spend a few days exploring the waterways and communities of the Mekong Delta.

Then cross the border into Cambodia. Here you can explore completely independently (though we're always here to help with activities if you need us!). You can't visit Cambodia without seeing the spectacular Angkor Wat temple complex. In fact, you could easily spend a few days here exploring all of the different temples.

Elsewhere in Cambodia you can enjoy the beaches of Koh Rong, get to grips with the country's history in Phnom Penh or soak up the rural views in Kampot.

Once you've had your fill of Cambodia, head back into Thailand, where we've arranged a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with elephants.

Hua Hin Volunteer with elephants in Thailand

If you want to make your gap year count for more than just a fun experience, volunteering is the way to go. It's an opportunity to give back to local communities and boost your CV for future employment.

That's why we've included a two-week volunteering package working with elephants and other rescued wildlife at a refuge in Thailand. This hands-on and ethical experience will help you learn more about these majestic creatures and the challenges they face, while caring for a wide variety of different animals.

You'll be working alongside other like-minded travellers from all over the world with accommodation and meals included.

Hua Hin to Koh Tao Travel DIY south through Thailand

After all that hard work, you're free to explore the south of Thailand at your leisure. Once the volunteer programme has come to an end, head to the famous beaches and islands of southern Thailand for plenty of rest and relaxation.

You're going to need it, because we've got another adventure planned for you on Koh Tao island!

Koh Tao Learn to dive in Thailand

A gap year is a great opportunity to upskill and learn something new. That's why we've included a 5-day learn to dive package on Koh Tao island in the south of Thailand.

With calm waters and abundant aquatic life, Koh Tao is the perfect place to get certified as an Open Water Diver! You'll receive all the theory you need before heading underwater to put that knowledge into practice.

And it's the perfect point on your Southeast Asia adventure to learn to dive, so that you can use these new skills to dive in other spots in the region, like Indonesia or Malaysia.

Southern Thailand to Singapore Travel DIY through Malaysia

By this point you'll be a seasoned backpacker. So travelling from the south of Thailand to Singapore will be a breeze!

We recommend you travel overland through Malaysia, visiting highlights like Langkawi Island (if you haven't had enough of the beach life yet!), the lush Cameron Highlands, the fascinating city of Penang and, of course, the capital of Kuala Lumpur. The street food here is incredible! But once you've had your fill, continue to Singapore, where you can spend a few days exploring before catching a cheap flight to Indonesia.

We've not included this flight in your itinerary to give you maximum flexibility. Plus, Air Asia is the region's equivalent of EasyJet, with affordable flight tickets between loads of destinations in Southeast Asia.

From Singapore you can either fly to the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. But if big, busy cities are not your thing, fly instead to Yogyakarta, a vibrant city rich in cultural heritage.

Yogyakarta to Bali Travel DIY through Indonesia

What you see and do on the Indonesian island of Java is entirely up to you as this section of your gap year itinerary is independent.

We recommend starting in Yogyakarta where you can visit the impressive temple complex of Borobudur. From there you can head Mount Bromo to witness sunrise over the smoking volcanic peak. There's a few other volcanoes and some stunning waterfalls worth visiting too, before you make your way to Bali.

Bali Learn to surf

We've said it once, but we'll say it again - your gap year is the perfect opportunity to try things you've never done before. Which is why we've included an 8-day learn to surf package in Bali.

You'll learn to ride the waves like a pro with 10 hours of surfing lessons at our popular surf camp in Canggu. And there are plenty of social activities to help you make friends with your fellow surfers, like BBQ and pool parties. Accommodation, activities and some meals are included in the package.

Best of all, you'll be a more confident surfer just in time for heading Down Under where you can put your new learned skills into practice on the east coast of Australia! Because we've included a flight from Bali to Sydney where you can extend your gap year with a working holiday.

Fly to Sydney Start your working holiday Down Under

The Australia working holiday visa allows you to work while travelling around the country. It's the perfect way to replenish your bank account after backpacking through Southeast Asia! You can stay for a year on the standard visa, but there's also the opportunity to extend to up to three years in total.

We've included the 1-year Australia working holiday visa and an arrival Work and Travel package in Sydney to help you settle in and find a job. But you have many other options available to you.

Rather work in Melbourne? No problem! We can swap the flight from Bali to get you to Melbourne and start your Work and Travel package there instead.

How about New Zealand instead? We can help you with that too! If you'd rather do your working holiday in NZ, we can swap that in with a similar jobs and arrival package.

Or perhaps you'd rather spend longer exploring Southeast Asia? That's totally doable too! Why not continue from Bali to the Philippines before either heading Down Under, back home or some other region of the world?

The beauty of this itinerary is that it can be customised to your heart's content. And our travel experts are here to give you all the advice you need to make your gap year one of the best years of your life.

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