Why Latin America gets more points on awesomeness than Southeast Asia!?
Southeast Asia vs Latin America, a backpackers battle! It makes sense that these two regions are the most common among backpackers and long-term travellers because they are both considered budget travel. They both offer a wide variation of cultures and they both can be easily traveled overland. I’ve traveled extensively in Southeast Asia aswel as in Latin America and fell in love with both of them. When I first started backpacking in Southeast Asia, I thought backpacking would be kinda the same everywhere. But as soon as I started backpacking in Latin America, I was surprised at just how different it was. Not only in the landscapes, infrastructure, food and culture, but especially how different the ‘vibe’ and the backpacking scene is. If you’re having a hard time figuring out where to go, maybe this list with awesomeness points will help you make an decision..
Both regions are very beautiful, but Latin America is far more diverse. Southeast Asia offers also stunning jungles, beaches, mountains, volcanoes and canyons, but you aren’t going to find any glaciers, deserts or saltflats on top of that. While Mount Kinabalu is beautiful, you can’t compare it to some of the mountains in Patagonia. The Mekong Delta is a rich and stunning area, but you can’t compare it to the Amazon Rainforest! Latin America is just so big, there’s so much space especially in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, it’s hard to even imagine until you have been there. Latin America definitely wins for me if it comes to Landscapes!
Southeast Asia vs Latin America awesomeness points for LANDSCAPES goes to: LATIN AMERICA, 0-1
I love beaches. I’ve seen some stunning beaches during my travels and it’s hard for me to stay away from the ocean. My all-time favourite is the beach in Tulum, Mexico. It has everything! Crystal clear waters, sugary white sand and swinging palmtrees! I am really happy drinking a corona there in one of the beautiful beach bars… Aarghhh take me back!! The Caribbean is full of beautiful beaches but Southeast Asia has some spectacular beaches too. El Nido in the Philippines, Railay beach or Long Beach in Thailand, Langkawi in Malaysia.. There are gorgeous beaches in both, but I think Southeast Asia wins on this one, just because they are literally everywhere!
Southeast Asia vs Latin America awesomeness points for BEACHES goes to: SOUTHEAST ASIA , 1-1
Even though I’m not a big fan of big cities I fell in love with a lot of cities in South America. Rio de Janeiro, Medellin, Valparaiso, Cusco and Cartagena in particular. The cities in Central America are kinda shitty… And I didn’t fall in love, but I do love the craziness in some Southeast Asian cities like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Ho Chi Minh. The many motorbikes, the bright neon lights and the tangled electricity cables hanging above the streets makes those cities special…
Hard to decide but the awesomeness points Southeast Asia vs Latin America for CITIES goes to: LATIN AMERICA, 1-2
THE EASE OF TRAVELLING
Both Latin America and Southeast Asia are easy to travel, much easier than Europe or Northern America. Southeast Asia, and in particular Thailand, is probably the easiest place to travel in the whole world. Every guesthouse acts as a travel agent and can arrange busses, mini busses, boats and flights to wherever you wanna go. A plus for Southeast Asia is also that flying is really cheap. The low cost airline AirAsia flies a lot in and between Southeast Asian countries.
In Latin America you often have to do the figuring-out yourself. For me this makes it more fun to travel and you can make sure that you pay as little as possible. The hostels in Latin America can also always help you and offer a lot of free information and because there is a big backpacker scene you’ll most likely never travel alone..
Transport in Southeast Asia vs Latin America is cheaper but less comfy. Latin America’s long distance buses, especially the ones in South America, are very high quality. Most are fitted with comfortable reclining chairs, an on board catering service, your personal iPad to watch movies on, clean working toilets, blankets & pillows, and a driver who respects that passengers want to sleep.
This point goes to Southeast Asia because it’s cheaper and really everything is possible there! Awesomeness points for THE EASE OF TRAVELLING goes to: SOUTHEAST ASIA , 2-2
THE LANGUAGE BARRIER
In Southeast Asia you have a different language in each country and in Latin America almost everyone speaks Spanish. It’s almost impossible to learn all the different languages in Southeast Asia, but it is nice if you know at least the “Hello” and “Thank you” in the country you visit. A good thing is that nobody expects you to speak Thai or Khmer or Vietnamese, and most locals in tourism speak at least a little bit of English. You’ll get by just fine. In Latin America they kinda do expect you to speak a little Spanish. Fewer locals speak conversational English and especially if you go more of the beaten path, nobody will speak English. You’ll definitely have a far better time if you can speak a little bit of Spanish. That’s why many people start their Latin American travels with a cheap Spanish crash course. You can stay with a host family and learn the language, which is fairly easy to learn if you already know English or French! I like to speak the local language, which is impossible in Southeast Asia but if you only speak English Southeast Asia would be a better place..
Because the majority speaks English the points for Southeast Asia vs Latin America awesomeness for the LANGUAGE BARRIER goes to: SOUTHEAST ASIA , 3-2
South East Asia and Latin America have a drastically different feel. Southeast Asia has a lot of people, there are more people living in Bangkok, than in the entire country of Nicaragua. This makes it so that in Central America the people are often very relaxed, nobody is in a rush. ‘Tranquilo’ is a real thing, which means, ‘chill out mate’. Contrast this with the people in Southeast Asia where they always hassle, streets are full of honking motorbikes, screaming sellers.. Life in general is just more hectic in Southeast Asia vs Latin America.
In both regions you can expect to meet the happiest, friendliest and most hospitable people and it’s easy to make new friends. The locals will make you feel at home, no matter where you are, and treat you like a member of their family. In my experience, the Peruvians, Filipinos, Colombians and Brazilians are the most friendly. But you also meet a lot of unfriendly, annoying people. To me, one of the most unattractive things about Southeast Asia is the blatant scamming and hustling that you don’t experience in Latin America so much.
It is so refreshing not having to watch your back every second of the day so in that case I give the awesomeness points for THE PEOPLE Southeast Asia vs Latin America to: LATIN AMERICA , 3-3
Anything can happen anywhere but I think Southeast Asia is the safest region in general. That does not necessarily make it completely safe. I’ve been robbed in Southeast Asia but never in Latin America. But then again, I’ve heard so many gun shots in Latin America and never in Southeast Asia.. In both regions you have to watch your belongings, keep your stuff safe in a locker and never leave your bag unattended. In Southeast Asia you’ll hear of a lot of people getting their wallets, iPods and phones stolen. Hold onto your bags, especially when in tuk-tuks, listen to local warnings and read up on local scams. Latin America has a bit more of a reputation in armed muggings and it is home to cities with the highest murder rate in the world.
In both regions, and on every trip you take, keep your wits about you and avoid carrying valuable items around. Try to evaluate risks- if something doesn’t feel good, avoid it. Always have travel insurance, just in case something happens. I use and recommend World Nomads for this.
The points are going to Southeast Asia, just because even if your stuff is maybe less safe, you are safer in Southeast Asia vs Latin America! Awesomeness points for SAFETY goes to: SOUTHEAST ASIA , 4-3
In Southeast Asia you hear all kinds of music, it’s decent, but nothing special. Latin America, by contrast, is a party! A big party! Danza Kuduro, Guantanamera, Bailando, Livin’ la vida loca… Being in the Middle East at the moment, I really miss the Latin music. Everyone blasts salsa, bachata, reggaeton and meringue music. Even if you don’t think you’re a Latin music person, you’ll get into it, especially if you learn how to dance! If you also learn a bit of Spanish and know what they’re singing about, ha! They’re so funny! Definitely, maybe even double points for Latin America!
Southeast Asia vs Latin America awesomeness points for THE MUSIC definitely, maybe even double points for: LATIN AMERICA , 4-4
If you love hostels, like I do, Latin America is the place to be! There are a lot of awesome places where you easily get stuck and never want to leave. The hostels make you feel at home and it’s the place where you’ll meet your travel friends. A good website to check for Hostels is Hostelworld. In Southeast Asia there are less hostels but really cheap guesthouses. The guesthouses don’t have much to offer except a private room, bathroom and sometimes a fridge/TV and air con for less than $10. Because they don’t have much to offer, you’re forced to get out and explore. In Latin America people tent to stay in because the hostel has a kitchen, common rooms, tv rooms, bars, restaurants, etc. etc.
It’s more about what you prefer, but I really like the social aspect so the awesomeness points for ACCOMMODATION Southeast Asia vs Latin goes to: LATIN AMERICA , 4-5
Both Southeast Asia and Latin America are good choices for cool adventures but because of different landscapes both offer different sort of trips. Outdoor adventures in Southeast Asia include rock climbing, jungle trekking, motorbike trips, and diving. Most backpackers hire a bike in Southeast Asia and explore the beauty of different places on their own that makes the trip even more exciting. Central America is full of surf towns and is known for many unique adventures like volcano boarding, exploring ATM caves and Zip-lining and South America is known for some of the best hiking in the world. Both Southeast Asia (Koh Tao in Thailand) and Latin America (Utila in Honduras) offer the best and cheapest places in the world for learning how to dive!
I’ll let Latin America win on THE ADVENTURES because in every corner you’ll find an adventure. The Southeast Asia vs Latin America awesomeness points goes to: LATIN AMERICA , 4-6
This category totally comes down to personal choice, but everyone knows that Southeast Asia is home to some of the best food in the entire world. Who hasn’t tried banana pancakes yet!? Or the delicious Pad Thai!? Southeast Asia is famous for the delicious fresh fish, loads of vegetables and curries. The street food culture makes it even more interesting because you are able to eat a variety of foods at very low prices. Most of the meals in Latin America are a variation of different meat products, rice, and beans. The highlight of Latin American cuisine is definitely the meat in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil and the taco’s and quesadillas in Mexico.
But because there is more variety in Southeast Asia vs Latin America, the awesomeness points for THE FOOD goes to: SOUTHEAST ASIA , 5-6
This largely depends on where you want to drink and dance, and who with. If you want cheap, toxic cocktails, dancing on the beach with people from all nationalities speaking predominantly English, then Southeast Asia is the place to be. You will meet locals but the language barrier and the financial discrepancy between East and West often means that you can’t meet as equals.
In Latin America you can party in the bars and clubs with the Latino’s as equals, especially if you know a little bit of Spanish. The people are very welcoming towards travellers and I love it when a man will approach you to dance, not because they are hitting on you, but simply because everybody just loves to dance! It really depends on what you’re looking for but the music and the dancing and the contact with locals in Latin America is far more superior.
A no brainer, for the NIGHTLIFE in Southeast Asia vs Latin America the points for awesomeness goes to: LATIN AMERICA , 5-7
THE BACKPACKER CROWD
Backpackers in Southeast Asia are overall younger and often first-timers. For this reason, you see a lot of early-twenty-something backpackers drinking a lot of booze and indulging in some immature behaviour. Especially party destinations like Kuta and Koh Phangan are big with the younger crowd. If you go to more remote and quieter destinations, you’ll find more older backpackers. Latin America has definitely an older, more experienced backpacker crowed. Probably because it has a more ‘dangerous’ reputation.
Most people in Southeast Asian countries are Australian and European, while in Latin America you’ll meet more people from across the globe. In Latin America you’ll also meet a lot of people traveling their own continent, while in Southeast Asia it is very rare to see a local person backpacking their own region. Also in Southeast Asia vs Latin America you see more people on a shorter holiday.
Southeast Asia vs Latin America awesomeness points for THE BACKPACKER CROWED goes to: LATIN AMERICA , 5-8
SOUTHEAST ASIA VS LATIN AMERICA CONCLUSION
I gave Latin America more points on awesomeness just because it’s more diverse. I really love the whole vibe there and everything is just more chilled.. You’re more connected with the locals, if you want you can go shopping in your bikini and there are more places where you get stuck because they’re just too awesome! But, I’m not going to say one region is better than the other because that’s your decision.. I would say quit your job, don’t make any decision and just go to both! 🙂 But if you can’t… Check the categories that you think are important and use this list as a resource in your planning.
Southeast Asia and Latin America are two incredible regions that deserve to be explored.. I really hope you get to experience both of them!
Now, it’s your turn. Have you been to both? What's your favourite?
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