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Europe Vs Southeast Asia Travel

If you’re a beginner traveler, you’re probably trying to decide between Europe and Southeast Asia for your first big trip abroad. Both regions offer something unique to travelers. If you travel to Europe, you can visit world-class cities such as Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, and Amsterdam. The region offers history, culture, and old-world charm. In Southeast Asia, you’ll enjoy beautiful beaches, tropical weather, and an exotic atmosphere. In this guide, I outline the pros and cons of Europe Vs Southeast Asia travel. This guide covers travel costs, food, things to do, natural beauty, safety, culture, nightlife, weather, accommodation, ease of travel, and much more.

Rice plantation in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia consists of 11 countries including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Timor-Leste, and Brunei. Many southeast Asia travelers also include Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, China, or Hong Kong in their Southeast Asia adventure as these countries are all easily accessible from Southeast Asia.

Europe consists of 44 countries. The continent is full of diverse cultures and destinations, making it difficult to decide where to go. Popular tourist countries like France, Italy, Spain, Greece, and the U.K. often top lists of favorite European destinations. There are many other wonderful places to explore as well including Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Norway, the Czech Republic, Austria, Ireland, Iceland, and more. If you feel like visiting someplace a bit more exotic or less well-known, you could head to Eastern Europe to visit Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, or Montenegro. From Europe, it’s also easy to take a side trip to Turkey or Morocco.

A canal in Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy

Europe Vs Southeast Asia Cost

Southeast Asia is the best travel destination for those on a tight budget. You can backpack Southeast Asia on a budget of around $1200-$1500 per month. If you travel slowly and stay in hostels, you can get by on as little as $800-$1000 per month. For the average backpacker, $1200 per month is a good budget. Check out the Asia Backpacker Index for an idea of daily travel costs in the region.

In Europe, a budget traveler will have to spend closer to $2000-$2500 per month. In most large Western European cities, you’ll spend an average of $50-$80 per day. It’s possible to get by on less if you cook your own food and stay in cheap hostels. If you want to stay in private accommodation and eat out, you’ll spend around $100-$150 per day. Check out the Europe Backpacker Index to get an idea of your daily costs in various cities around the continent.

Pretty much everything is cheaper in Southeast Asia including accommodation, food, transportation, and entertainment. Accommodation is particularly affordable in Southeast Asia. You can find a bed in a hostel dorm for $8-$15 per night in most cities in the region. Sometimes even less. Budget hotel rooms go for $25-$30 in most cities.

Food is incredibly affordable in Southeast Asia as well. If you eat street food, you can enjoy a tasty and healthy meal for just $2-$5. A decent meal in a restaurant can be had for $10-$15. The real bargain is the street food. For just a couple of bucks, you can feast on world class cuisine. Long distance buses and budget flights are also affordable. YOu can travel between countries for $25-$30 by bus or take a budget flight for less than $100. Southeast Asia offers some of the best value for your money of anywhere in the world.

In Europe, everything is significantly more expensive. You’re lucky to find a bed in a hostel for less than $25-$30 per night these days. In some expensive Western and Northern European cities, hostel dorm bed start at $40-$50. Even camping in Europe is getting expensive. Many European campgrounds are charging over $20 per night these days. A hotel room in most cities will cost $80-$100 per night. In expensive cities, you’ll spend closer to $150 for a basic hotel room. A basic meal in a restaurant costs $20-$30.

In Europe, prices vary greatly by region. Western and Northern Europe are the most expensive regions. If you want to visit Europe on a budget, head east. Eastern Europe is still affordable. You can find a dorm in a hostel for $10-$15 per night in the region. Food and transport in Eastern Europe are also far cheaper than in Western and Northern Europe. You can eat well on a budget in Europe if you buy food at the grocery store and cook for yourself in a hostel kitchen. Check out my guide to cooking in a hotel room for some money-saving tips.

The lower prices in Southeast Asia allow you to travel longer. You could travel for 2-3 months in Southeast Asia for the price of a month of travel in Europe. You can also travel more slowly without feeling bad about wasting money. If you stay in for a day and spend $30 it’s no big deal. If you stay in for a day in Europe, you might spend over $100 just on accommodation and food.

Some of the cheapest cities in Southeast Asia include Hanoi, Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Vientiane, Laos, Luang Prabang, Laos, Chaing Mai, Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand, Yangon, Myanmar, and Jakarta, Indonesia. In these cities, you can get by on $25-$30 per day. Some of the more expensive cities in Southeast Asia include Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Phuket, Thailand. In these cities, you’ll spend $40-$50 per day.

Some of the cheapest cities in Europe to visit include Budapest, Hungary, Bucharest, Romania, Krakow, Poland, Belgrade, Serbia, and Sofia, Bulgaria. In these cities, you can get by on less than $50 per day. Some of the more expensive cities in Europe include London, U.K., Oslo, Norway, Paris, France, Zurich, Switzerland, Venice, Italy, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Dublin, Ireland, and Reykjavik, Iceland. In these expensive cities, you’ll spend $100-$150 per day.

For help budgeting, check out my guide: How to Create an Accurate Budget for Long-Term Travel

Winner- Southeast Asia is much cheaper than Europe.

Weather in Europe Vs Southeast Asia

Krabi, Thailand
Krabi, Thailand

The weather in Southeast Asia is hard to beat. It’s a tropical paradise. Temperatures are always comfortable. You can walk around in a t-shirt and shorts year-round. you can visit whenever you like.

Southeast Asia has two seasons, the dry season and the wet season. The dry season runs from November through May. During these months, the weather is slightly cooler and rain is rare. This is the best time of year to visit Southeast Asia.

The wet season usually runs from June through October. During the wet season, expect an hour or two of rain per day in the late afternoon or during the night. Temperatures are slightly warmer during the rainy season as well. In some regions, flooding is an issue during the monsoon season. This rarely affects tourists. The wet season is also known as the rainy season or the monsoon season.

I have visited Southeast Asia during both seasons. The weather is always great. Some travelers don’t like having to deal with the rain during the wet season. season but I kind of like it. The rain is only a slight inconvenience. I just carry an umbrella in my day pack and use it for the hour or so that it rains per day. Sometimes, I pop into a restaurant for a drink when it starts raining.

In Europe, the weather is pretty lousy for half of the year. Between late October and March, the skies are gray and the weather is chilly. During the winter months, you’ll experience freezing weather across most of the continent. Rain and snow are common. The one exception is the Mediterranean coast which stays warm and pleasant for most of the year.

The best time to visit Europe is the summer. Between late May and early September, the weather is comfortable and dry across most of the continent. Unfortunately, summer in Europe is the busy season. During the months of July and August, touristy cities are packed. Prices are higher during the summer season as well.

A great time to visit Europe is the shoulder seasons during early fall and late spring. During these seasons, the weather is still decent and crowds are a bit thinner. Prices are lower as well.

Winter travel in Europe can be nice as well if you don’t mind packing a heavy jacket, gloves, and boots. One benefit of traveling Europe in the winter is that prices are lower and crowds are thin.

Winner- Southeast Asia has better weather than Europe.

Food

Both regions offer world-class food. In Europe, you can enjoy three of the world’s most popular cuisines including Italian and French. Mediterranean cuisines such as Greek and Spanish are phenomenal as well. Every European country also has its own specialties. Cuisine varies from country to country.

Southeast Asia also offers excellent cuisine. Both Thai and Vietnamese foods are loved around the world. Everyone enjoys spicy Thai curry, a hot bowl of Vietnamese Pho, or a Bánh mì sandwich. In Malaysia and Singapore, you’ll find a unique mix of Malay, Indian, and Chinese flavors. Indonesia offers excellent curries. The Philippines and Cambodia aren’t known for their food but also offer some excellent dishes.

Probably my favorite part of traveling in Southeast Asia is the street food. Street food is fast, tasty, and cheap. It’s also available everywhere. You can sample a wide variety of dishes for just a couple of dollars. Southeast Asia is probably the best place in the world to eat street food. The variety and quality is insane.

A street food stand in Thailand

A few of my favorite street food dishes in Southeast Asia are pad thai in Thailand, Bánh mì sandwiches in Vietnam, and fried tempeh in Indonesia. Delicious barbecued chicken, shrimp, and beef skewers are also served throughout the region. Street food can be a snack or a whole meal. Freshly cut tropical fruits and smoothies are also sold on the street. Southeast Asia is a great place to sample tropical fruits.

If you enjoy eating in restaurants, Europe is the better choice. Some of the finest restaurants on earth are located in large European cities like London, Paris, and Rome. You can find fantastic restaurants all over the continent.

In Europe, you will have to go to sit-down restaurants in order to enjoy the cuisine because street food isn’t as common. This means you’ll be spending a lot more money. A decent meal will cost $20-$40 depending on where you are.

There are street food stands in Europe. On the street, you’ll find Sausage and pretzel stands in Germany, fries and waffle stands in Belgium, pizza in Italy, and kebab stands and hot dog stands across the continent. In some cities, you can also find food trucks or pop-up restaurants.

Personally, I prefer eating street food to eating at sit-down restaurants. It’s faster. This leaves me more time for sightseeing. Sometimes I don’t have time to sit down and wait for food. It’s also cheap. This is good for the budget. As a solo traveler, I also prefer being able to sit at a street food stand rather than having to sit down alone at a restaurant. It’s less awkward. I don’t really like eating in restaurants alone.

Europe offers a greater variety of food. In a large European city, you can find excellent Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican food, and local food as well as classics like burgers, pizza, and more. In Southeast Asia, you can usually only find local food. International options are less common. I made the mistake of ordering a pizza in Vietnam. It was the worst pizza I ever ate.

Winner- If you’re a foodie, Europe wins. Which region has the best food depends on your taste.

History

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
The Grand Palace, Bangkok

For history buffs, Europe is the better choice. An incredible amount of major historical events took place on the continent. There are ruins, museums, battlegrounds, monuments, and all kinds of historic points of interest to explore.

For example, if you’re interested in World War I history, you can spend your trip visiting famous battlegrounds such as Verdun, Ypres, and Somme. If you’re interested in World War II history, you can visit sites like the D-day landing beaches in Normandy and other World War II battlegrounds, the Warsaw Ghetto, the Anne Frank house, and Oscar Schindler’s factory.

For those interested in the medieval period, you can spend your trip visiting the iconic castles scattered throughout the continent. There may be more than 25,000 castles in Germany alone. A few of the most spectacular castles Heidelberg castle, Neuschwanstein castle, and Hohenschwangau castle.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

If you’re interested in ancient history, you can spend your trip visiting ruins of the Roman empire. Points of interest include the Coliseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, and Pont du Gard. The Greek empire is equally as interesting. Visit sites such as the Acropolis, Delphi, and Olympia.

Southeast Asia has plenty of historic sites as well including Bagan in Myanmar, the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, and Hue in Vietnam, Wat Rong Khun in Thailand, as well as thousands of other temples and historic cities throughout the region.

While the Southeast Asian historic sites are beautiful and fascinating, they are more limited. These sites are also less relevant to westerners, like myself. Many of us had parents or grandparents involved in WWII, for example so the history just feels more relatable. The history we learn in school focuses more on the West. This makes European history a bit more significant.

Winner- Europe offers more historical sites than Southeast Asia.

Natural Beauty

The Matterhorn, Switzerland
The Matterhorn, Switzerland

The natural landscape of each region is completely different. Europe lies in a temperate climate zone while Southeast Asia is a tropical region. Both regions have varied geographies. Southeast Asia offers tropical islands and beaches. There are lots of bays, inlets, and gulfs. Inland, you’ll find mountains, plateaus, and plains. Europe has more mountainous terrain. Europe also has a lot of coastlines. The continent is sometimes described as a peninsula of peninsulas. On the Mediterranean coast, you’ll find some of the planet’s most spectacular islands.

There are a number of mountain ranges in Europe including the Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites, Urals, Caucasus, Carpathians, and more. These areas are great for hiking, skiing, snowboarding, climbing, and mountain biking.

Natural wonders of Europe include the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, the fjords of Norway, The Matterhorn in Switzerland, and Mont Blanc on the border of France, Italy, and Switzerland. Along Europe’s southern coast, you’ll find spectacular Mediterranean beaches and islands in Spain, Italy, France, Croatia, and Greece. In the north of the continent, you can visit the arctic tundra in Norway. The natural landscape of Europe is stunning.

Southeast Asia is naturally beautiful but much less varied. Natural wonders include Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, the limestone cliffs of Krabi, Thailand, the Mekong River in Laos, and Inle Lake, in Myanmar. There is some great climbing and hiking in Southeast Asia.

Hai Van Pass, Vietnam
Hai Van Pass, Vietnam

Throughout the entire region, you’ll find incredible tropical beaches. One of the best beaches I’ve ever experienced was Long Beach on Koh Rong island, Cambodia. Thailand and the Philippines also have some spectacular beaches. There are also thousands of beautiful tropical islands to visit in the region.

This choice comes down to your landscape preference. If you prefer mountain scenery, Europe is the better choice. If you prefer tropical beach destinations, Southeast Asia is the better choice. I’m giving this win to Europe because of the more varied landscape.

Winner- Europe offers more natural beauty than Southeast Asia.

Islands in Europe Vs Southeast Asia

Europe and Southeast Asia are two of the best destinations for island lovers. You can island-hop across the Mediterranean, Southern Thailand, the Philippines, or Indonesia.

Southeast Asia is also an excellent destination for island lovers. Indonesia and the Philippines have more islands than you could visit in multiple lifetimes. For example, Indonesia has over 18,000 islands and the Philippines has over 7500 islands. Thailand is also known for its islands. Some of the most popular Thai islands to visit include Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan, and Koh Lipe.

Santorini, Greece
Santorini, Greece

Europe also has some spectacular islands as well. The Greek islands, in particular, are some of the most beautiful islands on earth. Some of the most popular European island destinations include Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes in Greece, Ibiza and Majorca in Spain, Capri and Sicily in Italy, and Corsica in France.

Winner- It’s a tie. Both destinations have spectacular islands.

Safety

Both Europe and Southeast Asia are perfectly safe places to travel. Having said this, a few dangers exist in Southeast Asia that you don’t really have to worry about in Europe.

One of the biggest dangers in Southeast Asia is traffic. Statistically, the region has one of the world’s highest rates of injury related to auto accidents. According to this Wikipedia article, Southeast Asia sees 20.7 road fatalities per 100,000 per year. This is the second highest rate in the world after Africa. To compare, Europe sees just 9.3 road fatalities per 100,000 per year. That’s less than half the rate of fatalities.

You can see why traffic fatalities are so high in Southeast Asia while you’re out walking around. In large cities like Bangkok, Hanoi, and Phnom Penh, people zip through traffic on motorcycles without a care in the world. Pedestrians walk wherever they want. Riding a motorcycle through Hanoi was one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever endured.

A motorcycle in vietnam
The motorcycle I bought in Vietnam for $150

You have to be careful while crossing the street and traveling around. If you hire a tuk-tuk and the driver isn’t safe, get out and look for a safer driver. Traveling around Europe is safer.

Food safety is another issue. Food hygiene standards in Southeast Asia are lower than in Europe. If you travel in the region long enough, you’ll probably end up catching a case of traveler’s diarrhea. There’s really no avoiding it. You’re less likely to get food poisoning in Europe.

If you do happen to get sick or injured during your trip, your treatment options may be less limited in Southeast Asia than in Europe depending on where you are. In large developed cities like Bangkok and Singapore, healthcare is world-class. In rural areas of Cambodia and Laos, you may be out of luck if you require treatment. The closest hospital could be hours away. Hospitals in smaller towns may not have the technology to treat some injuries and sicknesses.

I crashed a motorcycle in rural Vietnam and got some serious road rash on my leg and arm. There were no hospitals nearby. Luckily, a kind man and his son who lived nearby had some first aid supplies. They helped me wrap up my wounds.

In Europe, emergency services exist pretty much everywhere. Medical care offered in the region is some of the best in the world. In Europe, you’re also less likely to get sick or injured due to the higher health and safety standards.

Winner- Europe is safer than Southeast Asia.

Crime and Scams

Europe and Southeast Asia are both safe regions to travel to. Both regions are stable. Violent crime is rare.

The most common crimes that you’re likely to encounter in Europe are pickpocketing, petty theft, or scams. Large European cities such as Paris, Rome, and Barcelona are notorious for pickpockets and scammers. Check out my list of common travel scams for more info. Violent crimes like robbery and terrorism exist in Europe but they are pretty rare these days.

Southeast Asia also has relatively low crime rates. In big cities, you have to look out for petty thieves. Always keep an eye on your belongings. Violent crimes such as robbery or assault are pretty rare in Southeast Asia.

I don’t feel that safety needs to be given much consideration when deciding between these two destinations. Both Europe and Southeast Asia are perfectly safe places to travel. After all, they are two of the most visited regions in the world. As long as you take some basic precautions, you will be safe.

Of course, Europe and Southeast Asia are both big regions. There are places in Southeast Asia that are less safe to visit. For example, Mindanao in the Philippines, the Southern Provinces of Thailand, Papua New Guinea, and Parts of Myanmar are dangerous for various reasons. These areas are easily avoided by tourists.

Europe also has some cities that are less safe. Bradford, United Kingdom, Belgrade, Serbia, Nantes, France, and Minsk, Belarus are some European cities with higher-than-average crime rates by European standards. By international standards, these cities are still relatively safe.

Before you travel, it’s a good idea to read the travel advisories for each country you plan to visit. You can read travel advisories from the U.S. Department of State here. They cover pretty much every region.

Winner- Europe is slightly safer than Southeast Asia. Both regions are safe to travel.

Nightlife and Parties

Paris at Night

Both Europe and Southeast Asia offer excellent nightlife. The party scene in each region is pretty different.

If you’re into clubbing, Europe is the top destination. In large European cities, you can see the world’s top music artists and DJs perform. You’ll hear the newest music. The venues are clean, organized, and high-class. The clubs are open all night long. Some of the best European destinations for nightlife include Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Ibiza, and Mykonos.

There are several drawbacks to clubbing in Europe. The biggest drawback is the cost. Cover charges and expensive drinks eat up your budget quickly. You could easily burn through a couple of hundred euros during a night out clubbing in an expensive European city. A drink in a large European club can cost 10-20 euros. Cover charges can cost 20-50 euros. If you’re a backpacker on a tight budget, you might not be able to afford to go out much.

You have to dress up to fit in while going out in Europe. You can’t just show up in a t-shirt and shorts. Some European clubs are picky as to who they let in. This is particularly true in Berlin. If the doorman doesn’t like the way you look, you could get turned away for no reason, even if you’re dressed according to the code.

OF course, Europe also offers plenty of laid-back nightlife options for those who don’t like clubbing. From cozy pubs, beer gardens, and street cafes to traditional music performances, outdoor concerts, and movie nights, there’s something for everyone in Europe.

Southeast Asia offers a much more relaxed nightlife. You don’t have to deal with ridiculous cover charges, long lines, and high drink prices. One of the biggest parties in Europe, Thailand’s famous Full Moon Party, takes place on the beach. You just show up and buy a drink at one of the little stands and enjoy the night. Some beach parties offer activities and shows. You’ll see people jumping flaming jump ropes and playing drinking games. Of course, there will be music and dancing all night.

Another nice thing about the Southeast Asia beach party scene is that it’s less formal and structured. You don’t have to dress up. Because the party takes place on the beach, normal attire is board shorts and a t-shirt.

The drawback to parties in Southeast Asia is safety. It’s kind of the wild west. There is security but it’s not as tight. The flaming jump ropes have injured many travelers as well. I still have a burn scar on my leg from getting caught up in a flaming rope in 2013.

You can get the clubbing experience in Southeast Asia as well. Large cities like Bangkok, Singapore, and Hong Kong have high-end nightclubs that rival European clubs. If you don’t want to party, you’ll find plenty of laid-back beach bars and restaurants throughout the region.

Some travelers argue that partying is not a good reason to go traveling. I disagree. The goal of travel is to have fun. You’re on vacation after all. If you’re into partying, by all means, travel to a party destination. Going out abroad is a valid cultural experience. At the same time, you don’t want to party too much and miss out on sightseeing.

Winner- Europe is the better choice for those who enjoy clubbing. Southeast is the better choice for those who enjoy more casual nightlife. Both regions offer a wide range of nightlife options.

Culture

A street in Vietnam

Both Europe and Southeast Asia contain many different nations, each with its own unique culture. Both regions offer fascinating cultures with great histories, cuisines, music, architecture, holidays, art, and religions. Which cultural experience is better really depends on where you’re from and what you’re looking for.

Most people reading this come from western counties. If you come from a western country, European culture is probably pretty familiar to you. After all, it’s where western civilization began. If you’re from Europe, you’re not going to experience too much culture while traveling your own continent. You will be somewhat familiar with the culture that you experience.

If this is the case for you, traveling in Europe probably won’t offer you as great of a cultural experience as traveling to Southeast Asia. For those of us from the west, Southeast Asian culture feels much more exotic than European culture. Everything is different. The food contains different seasonings and spices. Common religions in Southeast Asia are Islam and Buddhism while Europe is mostly Catholic and Christian. Different holidays are celebrated. You’ll see unique art and architectural styles that you may not be familiar with. People speak different languages and even behave differently.

If you prefer to travel somewhere with a similar culture to yours, you may enjoy traveling in Europe more. The local customs will feel more familiar. You probably won’t experience culture shock in Europe. You may experience a bit of culture shock in Southeast Asia. Particularly if you travel someplace a bit less developed, like rural Cambodia or Myanmar.

Winner- If you’re from the west, Southeast Asian culture feels more exotic. European culture feels familiar. Both regions offer plenty of culture.

Transportation Infrastructure in Europe Vs Southeast Asia

Both Europe and Southeast Asia offer excellent transportation options. An extensive network of buses, trains, and ferries can take you wherever you want to go. Both regions are served by multiple budget airlines, making long-distance travel affordable. Having said this, the transportation network in Europe is vastly superior.

The European rail network connects pretty much every city on the continent. The trains are efficient, fast, frequent, and comfortable. They usually run on time. Consider purchasing a Eurail pass or Interrail pass if you plan to travel around by train often during your trip. You can view a map of Europe’s extensive rail network here.

A train in scotland

Southeast Asia’s rail network is much more limited. You can really only travel between major cities and the lines aren’t all connected. Thailand and Vietnam have the best rail networks in the region. For some journeys, you’ll have to take a bus. You can view a map of Southeast Asia’s passenger rail network here. The trains in Southeast Asia are older, less comfortable, and offer fewer amenities than European trains.

Bus travel in Europe is better as well. The buses are generally new and comfortable. Busses generally operate on time. Long-distance bus travel in Southeast Asia is much less comfortable. The seats are far too small and there is no legroom. Sleeper buses are even worse with their partially reclined seats that can’t be adjusted. I spent 24 hours on a bus from Vietnam to Laos. I thought that journey would never end.

It’s easier to get around European cities. Most cities have a metro, tram, and city bus network. These transport networks are usually integrated so you use the same ticket for each. You can travel pretty much anywhere with public transport in Europe. It’s incredibly convenient.

Southeast Asian cities usually don’t offer the best transport systems. In most cities, there are shared taxis, tuk-tuks, and Ubers. Large Southeast Asian cities such as Bangkok and Singapore have underground transport systems that are very convenient and affordable.

A Tuk Tuk in Thailand
Tuk Tuk in Thailand

As far as budget airlines go, the experience is about the same. In Europe, you have Ryanair, Wizair, Wow Air, airBaltic, Pegasus Air, and several others. In Southeast Asia you have Air Asia, IndiGo, Jetstar Asia Airways, SpiceJet, Peach, Scoot, and several others. All of these airlines offer sub $100 flights between nearby countries.

In my experience, Asian budget airlines are slightly better than their European counterparts. They are a bit more lenient with baggage allowances and offer better customer service. They also don’t charge as many fees.

One major benefit of travel in Southeast Asia is that transportation is cheaper than in Europe. Bus and train tickets are much more affordable. Local transport is cheaper as well. You won’t spend nearly as much on transportation if you travel to Southeast Asia.

For more info on transportation, check out my guide to bus vs train travel.

Winner- Europe offers a better transportation network. Getting around Southeast Asia is cheaper.

Accommodation in Europe Vs Southeast Asia

Paris, France

Both regions offer accommodation options for every type of traveler from budget to luxury. The main difference lies in the value you get for your money.

Southeast Asia offers some of the greatest value in accommodation in the world. In almost every city, you can find a bed in a hostel dorm for $8-$15 per night. In small towns and rural areas, you can sometimes find a bed for as little as $2-$3 per night.

Hotel rooms in Southeast Asia are reasonable as well. Even in large capital cities, you can find a decent room for $25-$40 per night if you look around. These budget rooms are clean, secure, and often well-located in the city. You can get more luxurious a room in a higher-end hotel for around $120.

In Europe, the value varies by region. In Western Europe, a bed in a hostel dorm costs $25-$40 per night. Usually toward the higher end of the spectrum in major touristy cities like Paris and Amsterdam. For a bed in a dorm, this feels like a bit of a rip-off. If you book at one of the cheaper properties, it will be located far outside the city center. Hotels are far more expensive. Expect to spend an average of $80-$120 for a hotel room in Europe. In more expensive cities, hotel rooms go for $150+.

One budget accommodation option in Western Europe is camping. If you don’t mind traveling with a tent, you can often stay in a campground for less than the price of a hotel room or hostel dorm bed. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also wild camp pretty easily. In many Scandinavian countries, wild camping is perfectly legal if you follow the rules.

Eastern Europe offers excellent value in accommodation. You can find a bed in a decent hostel for $5-$15 per night pretty much anywhere in the region. Hotel prices are reasonable as well. It’s not too hard to find a private room in the $30-$50 range. All across Europe, the quality of hotels and hostels is pretty high. They are generally secure, clean, and well-managed.

A backpack sitting on a bunk bed in a hostel dorm room

If you’re looking for luxury accommodation, Europe is the better destination. Europe offers a plethora of luxury accommodation options. Particularly From the Swiss Alps to the French Riviera to the Greek Islands, there is something for everyone. Europe is home to some of the most beautiful and most luxurious properties on the planet. You can enjoy high-end amenities such as spas, swimming pools, and gourmet restaurants. Of course, there are plenty of luxury properties in Southeast Asia as well. They are just a bit fewer and farther between.

Winner- Southeast Asia offers better value for accommodation. Europe offers more luxury accommodation options.

Adventure

Both regions are incredibly touristy. It’s difficult to get off the tourist trail in Europe or Southeast Asia. Having said that, there are plenty of adventures to be had on both continents.

Southeast Asia feels slightly more adventurous to travel. The region has much less regulation than Europe. Activities that would be considered too dangerous in Europe are permitted in Southeast Asia. It feels like the wild west.

For example, you can buy a motorcycle in Vietnam and ride it across the country. You can go shoot rocket launchers in Cambodia. In Thailand, you can ride an elephant or pet tigers. You can go tubing down a river in Vang Vieng, Laos. On the beach in Thailand, you can jump a flaming jump rope or limbo under a flaming bar. Traveling in Southeast Asia is an adventure.

Southeast Asia is also an excellent destination for water sports. You can go surfing, diving, snorkeling, paddle boarding, windsurfing, paragliding, sailing, kayaking, and more. There are also some great hiking opportunities.

There are also adventures to be had in Europe. The many mountain ranges of the region offer some amazing hiking, mountaineering, climbing, mountain biking, skiing, and snowboarding. Europeans love their mountains. The Mediterranean is a great destination for water sports. Europe also has what is probably the world’s best network of bike paths in the world. It’s a dream for cyclists. For a unique adventure, consider bicycle touring in Europe.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Eastern Europe has plenty of non-touristy areas to explore. If you’re looking to get off the tourist trail, travel to Moldova, Macedonia, or Belarus.

Winner- Southeast Asia feels more adventurous than Europe. Europe is an excellent destination for extreme sports and adventure activities.

Cities

Europe is the better choice for city lovers. In Europe, you can easily visit some of the world’s most important cities including London, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, Vienna, and Moscow. You could spend months in any one of these cities and never run out of things to do. They are all packed with attractions, nightlife, restaurants, museums, culture, and architecture. These are some of the most historically and culturally significant cities on earth.

Amsterdam
Amsterdam, Netherlands

In Southeast Asia, your big-city options are a bit more limited. As far as major world cities go, you have Bangkok, Singapore, and Manila. You could also include Hong Kong. Even though it is not considered to be part of Southeast Asia, the island is easily accessible from the region by budget flight. There are also large cities that are a little less significant including Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, and Jakarta. These are all cool cities to visit but they may not be quite as significant as large European cities.

While the Southeast Asian cities are cool to visit, they really don’t have as much to offer. There isn’t quite as much to do or see in large Southeast Asian cities. This is because the cities are newer. They don’t have as much to offer in terms of culture, history, museums, or architecture. For example, Jakarta and Manila are two of the world’s biggest cities. They really don’t offer any major tourist attractions. The one exception is Bangkok. is one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s spectacular.

Winner- Europe has more interesting cities to explore than Southeast Asia.

Crowds

Many European cities have become overcrowded with tourists during the busy summer months. 5 of the world’s top 10 most visited countries are in Europe. While visiting the continent, you’ll see all types of tourists including backpackers, cruisers, tour groups, families, school groups, church groups, and elderly travelers. Everyone goes to Europe. Overtourism is a real problem throughout the region as tourism becomes affordable for more and more people.

For example, according to this article from Bloomberg, receptionists at the Louvre museum in Paris went on a one-day strike to complain that they could not handle the ever-increasing number of visitors that the museum sees. In some particularly touristy cities, locals have started becoming hostile toward tourists.

Some of the cities most affected by the increasing number of tourists include Paris, Prague, Venice, and Barcelona. Recently they have begun attempting to reduce the number of tourists through regulation. Some cities have tried limiting the number of visitors to the city from cruise ships and reducing the number of available Airbnb rooms available with some success.

If you want to visit Europe during peak season, you will have to book accommodation at least a month in advance. You may have to make reservations at restaurants. You’ll also have to deal with crowds at all of the main tourist attractions. You’ll be waiting in line a lot.

Southeast Asia, on the other hand, doesn’t get quite as crowded. Most tourists that you see are backpackers, digital nomads, and expats. The region doesn’t see cruise ships full of tourists or as many large group tours. You can usually book buses the day before. Oftentimes, you can just show up to a hotel or a hostel and rent a room.

That’s not to say that the region isn’t full of tourists. After all, Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world with around 38 million visitors per year. Bangkok is the most visited city in Southeast Asia with 22 million international visitors per year. You’ll see foreigners everywhere you go. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t feel as overcrowded with tourists as many European destinations do.

Some Southeast Asia destinations do get extremely crowded. For example, Bali is often packed with tourists. Many Thai islands also fill up around Christmas. You will have to book

It’s also important to note that European cities aren’t always crowded. Europe is really only packed with tourists for a couple of months per year during the summer. July and August are the busiest months in most European cities. You can avoid the crowds by visiting during the shoulder seasons in the early spring or late fall. If you want to avoid crowds, winter can also be a great time to visit Europe.

Winner- Southeast Asia feels less crowded than Europe.

Language

In Southeast Asia, you can get by speaking only English. You don’t have to learn any of the local languages if you don’t want to. Most people working in hotels, restaurants, and shops speak at least basic English. Even taxi drivers and tuk-tuk drivers speak enough English to negotiate a fare. It’s easy to get around Southeast Asia without any foreign language experience.

You can also get by in Europe speaking only English. You’ll find English speakers everywhere you go on the continent. In Northern Europe, almost everyone speaks English fluently. There are some parts of Europe where it can be a challenge to get around if you don’t speak any of the local languages.

For example, in France, Spain, and Greece, it’s rare to come across someone who speaks English fluently. This can make it a bit more challenging to get around or connect with locals. People who deal with tourists regularly speak good English.

Winner: It’s easier to get around Southeast Asia speaking only English. Europe is also easy to travel if you don’t speak a foreign language but you may struggle in some countries.

The Colosseum, Rome
The Colosseum, Rome

Europe Vs Southeast Asia Final Score

Southeast Asia wins with a score of 9 to 7.

Southeast Asia wins in the categories:

  • Cost
  • Food
  • Culture
  • Accommodation
  • Adventure
  • Weather
  • Crowds
  • Language

Europe wins in the categories:

  • History
  • Food
  • Natural Beauty
  • Safety
  • Parties
  • Transportation
  • Cities

Who Should Travel to Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asia is the better choice for those who are on a tight budget. It’s possible to travel the region for as little as $1000 per month. Your money will go much further in Southeast Asia. Accommodation, food, transportation, and entertainment are all significantly cheaper than in Europe.

Those who are seeking adventure are also better off traveling to Southeast Asia. The region offers exotic cultures. You’ll try new foods, explore tropical jungles, and visit ancient temples. There are also plenty of adventurous activities to enjoy. Rent a scooter, learn to surf, or trek through the jungle. You can also sample exotic foods, such as tropical fruits.

If you’re looking for a tropical paradise, you will find it in Southeast Asia. The weather is always warm, even during the rainy season. There are thousands of spectacular beaches to discover across Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

Hai Van Pass, Vietnam
Hai Van Pass, Vietnam

Who Should Travel to Europe?

If you’ve never traveled before or if you’re taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip, Europe is the ideal destination. When you travel to Europe, you’ll see some of the world’s most significant cities including London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Athens, and Barcelona. These are major world cities that every traveler should visit.

Europe is also a great destination for history buffs. You can view ancient Roman ruins, medieval castles, and sights from WWI and WWII. European cities are packed with thousands of years of history.

Europe is also an excellent foodie destination. You can sample Italian, French, Greek, and Spanish cuisines. Mediterranean cuisine is fresh, healthy, and tasty.

Those who prefer to travel in developed countries with good infrastructure will also prefer Europe. You can travel first class everywhere you go if you like. You can stay in luxury accommodation and be waited on and pampered. Southeast Asia is a bit less developed. You’ll have to rough it at times.

Europe is also the better destination for those who enjoy the great outdoors. You can hike, camp, or climb in the mountains. There are endless cycling opportunities. On the Mediterranean coast, you’ll find some spectacular beaches.

Copenhagen, Denmark

My Choice: Europe Vs Southeast Asia

In my travels, I have visited both regions on multiple occasions. My first international trip was to Europe. Ten years ago, I backpacked around the continent for 3 months. My second big trip was to Southeast Asia. I spend 3 months exploring Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Singapore. Both trips were unforgettable.

Personally, I prefer traveling in Southeast Asia. It’s cheaper. The food is great. I also prefer the climate. I grew up in a cold climate. The tropical beaches of Southeast Asia are a nice change. I also find the region more exotic. It’s an adventure. Europe feels somewhat familiar, even though I’m an American.

That said, I think Europe is the better choice for first-time travelers. The reason is that it is so significant culturally and historically. Every traveler should visit London, Paris, and Rome at some point in their lives. This is particularly if you’re from the west. These cities offer an enormous amount of culture and history that is relevant to your life.

Europe is also easy to get around. The transportation infrastructure is probably the best in the world. I traveled by train with a Eurail Pass. I also took a couple of long-distance buses and budget flights. The whole continent is well connected.

I plan to visit both regions again in the future.

Final Thoughts: Europe Vs Southeast Asia Travel

Both Europe and Southeast Asia have so much to offer in terms of culture, food, history, and natural beauty. You could spend a lifetime exploring either region and still not see everything.

For a first-time traveler, Europe is probably an easier destination to navigate. Everything operates pretty smoothly from transportation to restaurants to tourist attractions. The region has seen so many tourists for so long that they have everything figured out.

Southeast Asia is also an excellent destination for first-time travelers. It’s affordable, easy to get around, and has an exotic factor that Europe doesn’t really have. While vising the region, you may have to put up with a few more minor inconveniences and do without a few modern comforts from time to time, but that is part of the adventure.

Do you prefer to travel in Europe or Southeast Asia? Share your experience in the comments below!

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