The Bangkok – Singapore backpacker route (or the other way around if you prefer) is one of the most common overland journeys most backpackers will make on their adventures – probably second only to the Sydney – Cairns east coast backpacker trail in Australia.

backpack overland travel bangkok singapore south east asia

Bangkok – Singapore Backpacker Trail

A large majority of backpackers will fly into or out of Bangkok due to it’s numerous flight routings, cheap fares and the fact the Bangkok is arguably the gate to South East Asia.

From there you have a few options.

Many people head north to Chang Mai, Pai and into Laos before hopping over the border and exploring Vietnam or looping back to Bangkok via Cambodia.

Once that little circle of Asian goodness is complete you can either fly onward from Bangkok (Europe, Australasia or anywhere else you fancy) or you can complete the over land adventure and make your way down to Singapore for the onward flight.

Or if you’re heading back from Australia/New Zealand like myself you’ll find flying into Singapore (either direct from Oz or a short flight form Indonesia) and heading up allows you a great introduction to the joys of this part of the world.

Despite bouncing around Asia for a lot of last year I never did the full journey. This year however I decided to undertake it, make note of the costs and travel times and then put it all together in a lovely post for you so if you’re planning a backpacking trip this end of the world you have a good idea of how much it costs and how long it takes between the two – and I’ve included where I stayed to give you a starting point for accomodation.

I’ve had many questions about how easy it is to explore Asia and unless you’ve been to this part of the world it’s hard to fathom things out online sometimes.

And I can certainly assure you that the first time you’re presented with a scrap of paper and a meeting point you’re half thinking you’ve been scammed! One of the joys of it though is even if you need to do a combo of boats, buses and taxis it can generally all be sorted in a single ticket in one place, so it’s heaps easy!

It also parcels nicely together with my post from last year on costs and ways of traveling around South East Asia – which also includes details of flights and trains you can use in this part of the world.

So here it is – How To Overland Singapore – Bangkok, Including Costs


Singapore – Kuala Lumpur

This was probably the easiest stint of the whole overland adventure. The bus was super comfortable – it had massage chairs, air con and even power points with the seats – and was pretty short too.

The border crossing between Singapore and Malaysia was very easy and efficient too, so I wouldn’t fret too much about it, just make sure you have your passport to hand.


Transport; Bus (including border crossing)

Time; 5 hours

Cost; £12

Accommodation in Singapore – Matchbox Hostel and Gap Year Hostel.

overland travel south east asia

Preparing For Another Long Haul Mini Bus!


Kuala Lumpur – Perhentian Islands

From KL you can either head straight to Penang (around £9) or if you fancy some island bliss you can take the detour to the Perhentian Islands on the east coast of Malaysia.

The first leg of this journey is the overnight sleeper bus (with full reclining seats!). You can book this from the Putra Bus Station on the outskirts of KL and two companies can drop you off at the Kuala Besut Jetty in time for the first speed boat of the day. I opted for the Mitiara Bus Company and had no qualms with it at all.

Once you arrive at the jetty it’s easy to grab your return tickets to the islands which are open dated.


Transport; Sleeper Bus and Speed Boat

Time; Kuala Lumpur – Kuala Besut Jetty = 10 hours, Kuala Besut Jetty – Perhentian Islands = 40 mins

Cost; Bus = £9, Speed Boat  = £14 return

Accommodation In KL – Amigos Backpackers


Kuala Besut Jetty – Penang

From the Kuala Besut it is possible to get a taxi to the Thai border and then head upwards to the islands, however I have heard quite a few sketchy stories about border crossing on this side and it’s a very much off your own back ordeal – which leads me to think it would stress me out heaps or I’d get ripped off!

So I opted to head to Penang for a night (on the west coast of Malaysia) before heading into Thailand.

This journey was pretty comfortable too, but because we wanted the overnight bus with SP Bumi Company (saves on accommodation costs!) we did ended up waiting around in the bus station for about 5 hours!

From the jetty you take a quick taxi to the station and you’re all good to go (although we had to pay more and wait due to it being Ramadan). There’s plenty of food stalls there to grab a bite to east too.

You do get into Penang at like 4am so try and book a hostel with a 24 hour reception if you can!


Transport; Taxi and Overnight Sleeper Bus

Time; Taxi = 30mins, Bus = 8 hours

Cost; Taxi = £3, Bus = £10

Accommodation In Perhentians – Ombak Dive Resort


Penang – Krabi

backpacker overland travel thailand

Our Stash of ‘Tickets’

The Penang – Krabi leg of my journey was perhaps the one I hated the most! Having only had one night in Penang I was still pretty shattered from the last long haul stint and was in a pretty bad mood!

Plus being 6 foot means mini buses feel pretty cramped.

The Malaysia – Thailand border crossing was pretty simply too, although a bit more of a wait than Singapore – Malaysia, and we arrived in Krabi at around 5pm.


**NOTE: In hindsight getting from the Perhentians to Thailand (or vv) it would have been better to go back to KL and taken a flight with Air Asia to Phuket, slightly more costly but it would’ve been heaps quicker and comfortable!**


Transport; Mini Bus (Including border crossing)

Time; 10 hours

Cost; £12

Accommodation in Penang – Cocoa Mews


stray asia travel passes epic gap year

Krabi – Phi Phi Islands

The plan from Krabi was to head over to Railay Beach first, but due to weather and Ramadan it was uncertain if the long tails would be running. So we headed to Koh Phi Phi first.

This journey is dead easy, quick mini bus to the ferry port and then the ferry direct to Phi Phi.



Transport; Mini Bus and  Ferry

Time; 2.5 hours

Cost; £6

Accommodation in Krabi – Pak Up Hostel


Phi Phi – Railay Beach

Having failed to do Railay first that was our next port of call – and a welcome addition to the itinerary actually. Getting there was pretty simple too, the ferry docks in the bay at Railay and then you jump on a long tail to the beach.

The only downside is that depending on tides you may have to wade in knee deep water with all your fro 100m to the beach…which was an interesting experience!


Transport; Ferry and Long Tail

Time; 2 hours

Cost; £6

Accommodation In Phi Phi – Tara Inn


Railay Beach – Koh Tao

sleeper ferry thailand backpacker

Sleeper Ferry Fun!

Having covered Koh Phangan and Koh Samui I opted to miss them out this time around (it’s pretty easy and cheap to take a ferry between them all – roughly £8 a journey – and then do this journey to Samui) and headed to Koh Tao.

This chunk had some good stints of waiting around between transport options which sucked a bit but you tend to meet a lot of backpackers doing the same route.

Unfortunately we ended up on the 125 berth sleeper ferry from Surat Thani rather which is a shoulder to shoulder affair and didn’t work well for a good nights sleep! If you can get the bunk bed one from Chumphon it’s a much better option so double check!


Transport; Long Tail, Mini Bus, Bus, Sleeper Ferry Combo

Time; 15 hours

Cost; £20

Accommodation in Railay – Diamond Cave Resort


Koh Tao – Bangkok

backpacker koh tao thailand diving scuba freedive

Welcome To Koh Tao!

Many people head straight to the Thai Islands from Bangkok, for either diving, beach living or the infamous Full Moon party on Koh Phangan. Personally I’d head for Koh Tao first on the East coast as it’s technically the closest to Bangkok, you can however do a sleeper bus/ferry combo to/from Koh Phi Phi too if you wish for the same price.

Or if like me you’re heading up to Bangkok then Koh Tao is the last major stop off before the capital.

Me and my brother opted for the sleeper ferry as it is a better nights sleep than the bus and arrives in Bangkok at 2pm – much more friendly for hotel check ins than the 5am arrival of the bus!

The sleeper ferry itself is a bunk bed affair, super comfortable and air conditioned, so you’ll doze off for most of the ferry crossing.

Transport; Mini Bus and Sleeper Ferry Combo (or Ferry and Sleeper Bus Combo)

Time; 15 hours

Cost; £20


Accommodation in Koh Tao – Koh Tao Backpackers

Accommodation in Bangkok – Nap Park Hostel, Viengthai Hotel, Lub D Silom, HQ Hostel, Rikka Inn Hotel or Mad Monkey Bangkok



Bangkok itself is a huge part of the trip through South East Asia – whether you’re heading down to Singapore, up into Laos or simply checking it out as part of a month long trip to Thailand. It’s not just a fleeting stop over either as Bangkok Tourism has a lot to offer.

Check out the floating markets, meander your way through the bustling street stalls, sample heaps of incredible street food or simply party hard on Khao San Road – don’t overlook the capital!


So How Much Does Singapore –  Bangkok Cost Overland?

And there you have it – my overland journey from Singapore – Bangkok, which obviously you can adjust to do in reverse too! It was certainly an interesting experience given the fact I’d done no research before undertaking it, but I was lucky enough to have the little bro along as a travel partner – some chunks of it would’ve totally sucked traveling solo!

For those of you looking for some quick facts/stats for your planning here’s a quick breakdown:


Total Distance (including boat journeys) – 2726.84km

Total Time – 68.75 hours (or 2.86 days of solid travel if you prefer!)

Total Cost – £112


Obviously all times, transport methods and cost were correct at the time of writing, I take no responsibility if any of these fluctuate!



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29 Responses

  1. Sam

    Great breakdown Chris. Really useful! I did something similar in 2009, though I didn’t go to the Perhentian islands…but I’d definitely add them in next time!
    Sam recently posted..Guide to ArequipaMy Profile

    • Chris

      Glad it’s helpful Sam!
      Definitely head to the Perhentians – they were easily my highlight of Malaysia.

  2. Mark

    Thanks so much for the website, its a great help to me and my girlfriend are heading to SE Asia in a few months and are planning to head to Koa Toa from Bangkok on the ferry you used. Do you recall the company who ran the ferry?

    • Chris

      Hey Mark, welcome to the site and I’m stoked it’s proving useful for you!
      The company is called Lamprayah (i think that’s the spelling) if you’re staying on/near Khao San road there’s a little tour booking place at the police station end just on the left as you look down the street – he’s super good to use and it’ll be 1050baht, leaving at 6am arriving on Koh Tao around 2pm

      • Mark

        Thanks Chris, that’s a great help because we plan to stay on Khao San Road. We love the site and are using it as our travel Bible. :)

      • Chris

        good times – enjoy the chaos!
        Accommodation wise the Rikka Inn is a great bit of budget luxury (about £20 for a double air con) and has a rooftop pool, but if you want a hostel Nap Park is a couple streets away and is awesome!

  3. Rachel

    This site is AWESOME – in the throws of planning a 6-8 week adventure in SE Asia en-route to live back in the UK after 5 years in Aus. Your site is going to act like my bible! Keep up the great work :-)

    • Chris

      Sounds like an epic adventure you’re having Rachel…but why would you leave Australia?! You’ll have heaps of fun in Asia though…!

  4. Cece

    Hey! Thanks so much for sharing all this info. Your website is great! I’m planning my first backpacking trip for this June, and am SO GLAD I found your site! :)

  5. Alberto Luna

    Thank you so much for this web. I´m planning a trip around Indo and Thailand from mid February to May and it helps a lot! If you know the cheapest option to fly from UK/Spain to Indonesia would be greatly appreciated!

    • Chris

      Stoked to hear it Alberto, always happy to help! Hmmm from UK/Spain to Indo can be a difficult one, sometimes a flight into Singapore/KL and then and separate internal to Bali with Air Asia is a good shout…

  6. Eleanor

    Instead of travelling from penang to krabi, you mentioned it would be easier to go back to Kuala Lumpur and fly to Phuket. You suggest then travelling from Phuket to phi phi islands and carry online that?

    This blog is so good for first time travellers like myself. So exciting.

    Many Thanks

    • Chris

      Hey Eleanor,
      In hindsight indeed the flight from KL to Phuket is probably a better move, just feels a bit unproductive back tracking that much!haha!

  7. Joe

    Sounds great! Ive got a huge trip booked, but its got gaps. Ive got 6 weeks to plan Getting from Koh Pagnan to Kuala Lumpur. This gives me a good idea of the travel costs. What were the hostel prices like? were travelling from Xmas time till February, so getting stung with the holiday season prices.

    • Chris

      Hey Joe – wow that’s a solid amount of time to get down to KL! Might even be worth spending some more time in Thailand? Hostel prices were pretty cheap (well under £10 a night) but yeah holiday season always comes at a price!

      • Joe

        thanks chris, the overall plan (which is now becomming a reality, as ive just booked outbound flights to hk) is 5 weeks around china, 6 weeks around thailand, 5 weeks in between china and Oz, then another 5 weeks in Oz… i suppose theres no set plan, just “a gap” so i reckon if thailands going well i could stay for longer :) my plan was to catch a flight from KL to cairnes/ sydney (and back upto cairnes if its cheaper) and do 4-6 weeks down the east coast :)

  8. Anna

    Hey thank you soo much for this, this is great!!
    my two girlfriends and I are doing the exact route from Bangkok down to Singapore and are soo excited! Your article will be there with us 24/7 :) I am sorry if you mentioned it in your blog and I was just too stupid to find it but how long were you on the road? Like, how long did you take from Singapore to Bangkok?

    Thank you so much again!! xx

    • Chris

      No worries Anna, stoked it helped! You looking forward to it?
      Me and my bro smashed it out in a couple of weeks as we didn’t have heaps of time to play with, still didn’t feel crazy rushed though – but we did hop through it faster than I wanted to!

  9. Nobel

    Can you tell me about the visa procedures? I mean how can I get visas of all 3 nations?

    • Chris

      Hey Nobel,
      Visa entries vary from nationality to nationality – as a Brit on this trip I got most of my visas on arrival but it’s best to double check as this can change from time to time.

  10. bill downer

    Which bus company were you booked on for the Singapore-KL leg of the journey?

    • Chris

      Hey Bill, unfortunately I can’t remember off hand. I think there are few options to choose form though and I think I splashed and went for the extra VIP option!


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