Asia has been the core of tourism for travelers looking for some more. A majority of these travelers choose either South Asia or Southeast Asia for their ideal vacation. A group of friendly nations with so much to offer for every kind of traveler, only a few will not find Asia fantastic. For cultural, adventure, and natural tours, there are few places as complete as these regions of Asia. Even those not planning to be here will place these on their bucket list once trying one of the tours. 

South Asia (SA) has been a region of new experiences for many. With a bulk of the Indian-subcontinent and the Himalayas making the most of it, travelers are in for an adventure. For starters, it is a mixed bag of some well-known destinations and some-newer countries among travelers. Tourism here has been limited to these countries until the past decades. Travelers can now experience the lively sites and the quieter ones depending on their preference.

Southeast Asia (SEA) is a land of exotic delights. It has made up its name with multiple budget experiences ideal for backpackers. Adding to that, the tourism industry here is comparatively the fastest growing in the world too. From a luxury stay at some of the finest locations to the completely random and rural wilderness, South Asia has them all. One can plan several different types of quality vacations without leaving the premises of this region.

There are no second thoughts that Southeast Asia and South Asia are sublime for every type of traveler. Situated nearby but there is a significant difference in many other factors here. We have a few key information helping you to choose between South Asia and Southeast Asia in this article for you.

General Comparison

South Asia is a group of eight nations making the most part of the Indian-subcontinent and more. Among these India, Maldives, and Pakistan are the most popular travelers’ choices. Similarly, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka have been the ones to look for for the coming decade. Bangladesh and Afghanistan both are the least traveled countries here but it is soon to change.

Southeast Asia is the region south of China and East of the Indian Subcontinent consisting of eleven countries. Among these, almost half are included in the top 20 visited countries of Asia. Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia are the popular selections for tourists. Similarly, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos are the nations to look forward to in this decade. East Timor and Brunei both come as the least traveled nations but new plans are soon to deploy here too. 

Geography and Climate

The region of South Asia is slightly bigger than Southeast. India is the largest and the most populated nation in SE. Similarly, Indonesia takes those titles in SEA. The highest point of SA is located in Nepal Being Mount Everest (8848 m). In comparison, the highest peak of SEA is Hkakabo Razi (5881 m) in the border region of Tibet and Myanmar. Apart from the extremes, you can find similar geography in most of the areas. Southeast Asia is home to the oldest rainforests in this continent making most of the Borneo. The average elevation is about a thousand meters varied when you head from South East to South Asia.

In comparison to other continents, both SA and SEA have a very pleasant climate. Great for travelers all around, one can have a good time for most parts of the year. However, it is wise to skip SA in extreme winter and SEA during heavy monsoon. For South Asia, the average temperature is 24 degrees in summer and it is 11 in winter.  This does change in the higher elevation countries. As for SEA Summer temperature averages around 26 degrees and it goes down to 14 degrees Celsius for winter.

Culture, History, and Religion comparison 

Both these regions are very mixed and diverse socially. There are some modernized cities and nations too. Almost every country here has a well-preserved and rich culture, tradition, and heritage. One of the major attraction and factors for any traveler here is due to this too. The vibrant traditional dresses, local lifestyle, and regional cuisine with some very unique experiences make SEA and SA unrivaled in Asia. However, if we have to choose a tour solely focused on culture and lifestyle, SEA edges over the other. 

As for History, there are different eras with so many specific qualities of their own. For colonial tours, most of South Asia was either never colonized or under British rule in mid-century. Southeast Asia was under Frenchcolonization and the monuments remind travelers of this era. Focusing on religion, SEA is a majority Buddhist region. South Asia is much more diverse in this context too. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Afghanistan are Islam countries. Nepal and India are majority-Hindu nations with secularity. Similarly, Sri Lanka and Bhutan are Buddhist countries.    

Natural Tour Comparison

Natural Tours are the next specialty in Asia. If we have to directly compare this category South Asia is better. The different variations here including some extreme natural areas make SA amazing. Jungle Safaris, Trekking routes, natural viewpoints, and biodiversity tours in South Asia is something special for travelers. Southeast Asia also has some amazing natural destinations including fantastic beaches, islands, caves, and forests.

Adventure Options in Both

Adventure travel is ever-growing in Asia for the past decade. South Asia provides a wide variety of adventure options. This includes trekking, paragliding, rock climbing, mountain biking, rafting, and more. Similarly, Southeast is also popular for some fantastic adventure locations. Surfing, Diving, Spelunking, and other several activities make your list here. SA and SEA are both great for adventure travel enthusiasts in 2021.

Ease of traveling in SA vs. SEA

South Asia is accessible easily from all around the world. India is the easiest of them all with 34 international airports. You can reach the other seven nations from here. In the case of the Southeast, you have many more options. Travelers can find direct flights to Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, or Indonesia with ease from different parts of the world. Once you have entered this region finding domestic flights and land transportation is faster and smoother in South East Asia. Due to some geographical factors, it can be a problem in South Asia. Booking the flights beforehand is highly recommended too. You can then find very trustable tour/travel operators and continue with it here.

Best Season for traveling

November to February is considered the best time to visit Southeast Asia. It is a bit cooler and drier period with some major festivals. South Asia is best experienced from October to March. However, it might vary depending on your itinerary. It is a much pleasant period to be here and have a great time.

Luxury and Budget Travel Comparison between SA and SEA

South and Southeast Asia both provide amazing value for money no matter what your budget is. Travelers can literally get through days spending less than 50 US$ including food, transport, and accommodation. For Backpackers, you can survive a long time here with a very limited budget in your pocket.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t do a luxury tour or plan a luxury vacation here. You have plenty of great options to spend as much or more than some popular European destinations here. Experience royalty while you are here if you are looking forward to an affluent travel experience in both Southeast and South Asia.

The tipping points for Southeast Asia

  • Southeast Asia is more accessible in comparison to SA
  • It is less populated than SA. 
  • For luxury tours you have better options in Southeast Asia
  • Southeast Asia is home to some pristine and magnificent beaches for visitors.
  • SEA is known for the local exotic foods which are not available anywhere else in the world.
  • Better Wi-Fi than SA for those it matters.
  • Amazing nightlife and lively parties to attend.

The tipping Points for South Asia

  • There are more adventure options for you in South Asia. 
  • Apart from India, you have plenty of fantastic less-touristy areas to enjoy here.
  • More religious and cultural diversity for travelers to explore.
  • Hospitality and local experiences are better in South Asia. 
  • South Asia has some of the most beautiful mountains for trekking lovers.
  • More community festivals and celebrations that travelers can be a part of. 
  • Several picturesque options and much more than SEA for photography lovers and influencers.

Our Top 5 picks for visitors in South Asia

1. Bhutan 

One of the highly recommended places to be in Asia for 2021. It is the only carbon-negative nation out there. For unique experiences and authentic local feels, Bhutan is great. 

2. The Maldives 

Majestic beaches and islands perfect for couple and family vacations. A highly recommended place to be for a luxury vacation in South Asia.

3. Nepal

Nepal is an underrated nation sandwiched between China and India. Mostly known for some astounding trails for trekkers in the Himalayas, we also recommend the cultural tours here.

4. India

A land of Vibrant colors and cultures, India is our top pick in Asia for exotic traveling. Travelers can select a specific region/state here depending on their vacation preference.

5. Sri Lanka

An overall complete nation with cultural and natural tour options topped with some breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. The pearl-shaped island is packed with local experiences.

Honorable mentions: –Bangladesh, Tibet, and Pakistan  

Our Top 5 picks for visitors in Southeast Asia

1. Vietnam

Vietnam encapsulates different aspects of Southeast Asia beautifully. Developed cities, and lively suburbs, leads you to the tribal regions here which has something for every kind of traveler.

2. Thailand

Thailand is best known for its electric and spirited nightlife. Enjoy the Thai cuisine and try being here during one of the beautiful national festivals for more delights.

3. Myanmar

Myanmar is the unknown surprise that travelers can mix with their tours involving Southeast Asia. The land of the thousand pagodas is a sublime place to spend a week and enjoy a destination laid-back in time.

4. Laos 

Laos is Thailand but before all the modernization and urban glow. It has some fantastic nature and adventure-packed sites that travelers seek in their vacation.

5. Cambodia

Cambodia has been that country which either someone highly recommends or exclusively separates from their Southeast vacation. We highly recommend Cambodia for someone who wants something extra in their second time in South Asia.

Honorable Mentions: – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Brunei.

Over-tourism claims in Southeast Asia

There are multiple claims of over-tourism going on in Southeast Asia. Well, truth to be told it is the case for major cities and capitals of this region. However, people often forget that Southeast Asia is so much more than the cities. Any traveler enthusiastic enough to dig a bit deeper can find some unexplored and hidden culture, nature, cuisine, and other delights of the Southeast. If you are planning to be here in 2021 try being in some lesser-known places and you can witness the true beauty of Southeast Asia.

Multi-country tours combining the likes of both

Here is the best Idea if you are still not able to choose between these two regions to travel to in 2021. Why not combine them both. Yeah, we know it would take a lot of time but you wouldn’t have to do it in a single time. Try carving your vacation selecting some of the wonderful nations from these nineteen. Make a list of things you love to try and experience and just go for it.

If you do some research and dive deeper, there are some balanced and delightful multi-country tours combining the likes of both South Asia and Southeast Asia. We suggest you separate at least a week for a short vacation and around two or three weeks for a comprehensive tour. Trust us you won’t regret it if you combine these regions for one fantastic Asian Tour.

Southeast and South Asia have been the destination to visit for modern traveling. A mystery and magic combined within your journey here will provide you moments that are there to stay. Try for yourself and share your thoughts with us.