Hi everyone! In this post, I’ll be sharing our itinerary for 16 days in South Asia visiting Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Our initial itinerary didn’t include Malaysia, as we were planning to fly directly to Sri Lanka from Bangladesh, but at the end, the flights through Kuala Lumpur were twice cheaper, so we decided to spend 2 days in Malaysia as well.
This itinerary might be too busy and tiring for some people, so if you prefer relaxed trips, I would suggest dropping Bangladesh and Malaysia from this trip and focusing on Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
Also, our itinerary didn’t include any trekking in Nepal, if you’re planning to trek, allow at least 7 days for the trek and make sure to spend 1-2 days to see Kathmandu!
Before we start with the itinerary for 16 days in South Asia, I’ll try to answer the questions you might have before the trip.
Do you need visas for the counties in South Asia?
Depending on your nationality, you might or might not be eligible for the visa on arrival. All the EU country citizens can get a visa on arrival in Nepal and Bangladesh. For Sri Lanka, you need to apply for your e-Visa before the trip and for Bhutan, you need to buy a tour package, as it’s not possible to visit Bhutan without a tour.
For Malaysia, EU citizens don’t need a visa for up to 90 days.
How to move between counties in South Asia?
The easiest (and fastest) way would be by plane. However, if you feel like it’s too much flying, you can reduce the number of countries visited on this trip. You can check the prices and availability of the flights here.
Are these counties safe?
We felt absolutely safe in Nepal, Bhutan, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. As for Bangladesh, we didn’t have any problems either, but some areas of Dhaka can be a bit more challenging than the others. It’s always great to have travel insurance though. If you don’t have any, you can check the prices here.
The best time to go to South Asia
We travelled in November and stayed in Sri Lanka during the first week in December. It’s a good time to travel around South Asia, as the weather is generally good everywhere and not too hot.
However, in Sri Lanka, we got very unlucky with the weather – we only had 1 day without rain. As for other counties, Bhutan was quite cold in November.
How expensive was this 16-day trip to South Asia?
If you’re wondering, how expensive was our 16-day trip to South Asia, I’m always open to talk about travel costs. The most expensive part of the trip was the tickets and the cost of the tour to Bhutan. We flew from London and took a multi-city trip arriving in Kathmandu, Nepal and departing from Colombo, Sri Lanka. We paid £500 for each ticket (return).
Bhutan is expensive because you need to pay at least $200-250 per day per person for the tour. That’s why we opted for the shortest and hence, the most affordable tour. The flights to Bhutan were also expensive. In total, the Bhutan part of the trip to South Asia cost us ca $3000 or £2200. Is Bhutan worth that price? You can read more in this post.
For the rest of the trip (4 night in Nepal, 1 night in Bangladesh, 1 night in Malaysia, 5 nights in Sri Lanka), we paid roughly £500 for hotels, £350 for internal flights and £400 for food. We also spent £130 on visas (visa to Bangladesh was the most expensive one).
In total, we spent around £4600 on this trip or £2300 per person, which isn’t that bad at all for a 16-day holiday, but definitely isn’t cheap.
A 16-day trip to South Asia: Our Itinerary
4 night in Nepal -> 4 nights in Bhutan -> interchange in Dhaka, Bangladesh -> 1 night in Kuala Lumpur -> 5 nights in Sri Lanka
4 nights in Kathmandu, Nepal
An obvious itinerary to South Asia would include India, however, as we went to India last year, we didn’t include India in the trip this year. Moreover, it would have made the trip even more tiring.
We wanted to travel to Nepal, so we started with Kathmandu. We didn’t want to trek this time, as for trekking, we would need to improve our physical condition first. Moreover, I don’t feel great in high altitudes, which makes trekking a bit more problematic. Anyway, it’s a bucket list activity, that I hope to accomplish in the future!
We were planning to stay in Kathmandu for 2 full days, however, as it turned out, we were tied to the schedule of the flights to Bhutan and the only available flight was departing on Wednesday. Hence, we stayed for 4 nights in Nepal and didn’t regret it.
When we realised that we will be staying 4 nights in Nepal, we itinerary wanted to visit another city, however, we found a lot of advice on Tripadvisor saying that 4 days would not be enough to see another internal destination in Nepal.
In Nepal, we spent the first night in Bhaktapur – one of 3 cities of Kathmandu Valley. We stayed at the Inn Sangrahalaya next to Durbar Square. The rest of the trip, we stayed at Kathmandu Suite Home – an amazing hotel very close to all the main landmarks and restaurants.
Kathmandu was a bit overwhelming sometimes with all the traffic and the dust, but the architecture was stunning, food was great and people were very welcoming.
I wrote another blog post about our itinerary for 4 days in Kathmandu Valley here, make sure to check it out, if you’re interested!
The highlights of Kathmandu that we visited:
Kathmandu Durbar Square
4 days in Bhutan
Our next destination was Bhutan. As I mentioned before, because of government policy, Bhutan is very expensive for non-SAARC countries.
We would love to stay in Bhutan for a week, but that would be too expensive. However, as it turned out, 4 days were perfect to see the main highlights of the country.
You can find my itinerary for Bhutan and more information on which agency we used in this post about 4 days in Bhutan.
Bhutan was very different compared to our expectations – it wasn’t better or worse, just different, that’s it. However, many people have incredibly high expectations for Bhutan. Read my second post about Bhutan and whether it’s worth it and how not to be disappointed in Bhutan.
As everything was done and organised for us (as we had to buy a tour in Bhutan), we couldn’t pick our hotels and I can’t recommend you any.
The highlights of Bhutan that we visited:
Big Buddha in Thimphu
Chorten National Memorial in Thimphu
Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest).
1 day in Bangladesh – interchange in Dhaka
The most convenient and affordable flight from Bhutan was to Dhaka, Bangladesh. However, while we were still planning the trip, the flights from Dhaka to Colombo in Sri Lanka got very expensive, so we had to come up with a different plan.
We waited for a month and bought promo tickets to Kuala Lumpur from Dhaka with Malindo Air, and from there, very cheap flights to Sri Lanka with Air Asia. Because of the late departure time, we had over 12 hours in Dhaka and we decided to exit to the city.
As there is no left luggage or lockers at Dhaka Airport, we had to book a very cheap hotel just to leave the bags, however, we ended up spending a bit of time at the hotel, as we got very tired from the flight.
Our flight to Malaysia got delayed by 6 hours, so in the end, we had even more time in Dhaka.
Everybody had warned us that traffic in Dhaka is crazy! Well, it was, but we still managed to get to the city centre and see a couple of beautiful buildings. Overall, I must say that we didn’t see much in Dhaka, however, we managed to get an overall impression of the city.
It’s certainly not as bad as it’s often portrayed and we’re happy that we managed to see it with our own eyes!
Dhaka is also changing a lot and soon there will be a metro that hopefully will help to solve the traffic problem at least partially.
What we saw in Dhaka
- Gulshan neighbourhood
- Gulshan 2 Lake Park
- Curzon Hall of Dhaka University
If you want to read more about the things you can do in Dhaka during a long layover, here’s a post I wrote: 8-12 hours transit in Dhaka: what to do.
1.5 days in Kuala Lumpur: one of the highlights of the trip
Even though our flight from Dhaka with Malindo air was severely delayed (and I recommend staying away from Malindo Air as well) and we lost a bit of our valuable time in Kuala Lumpur, we still managed to see a lot. We landed in Kuala Lumpur around 10:20 am.
In Malaysia, we had a day and a half or roughly about 36 hours. I already published a post about the best things to do during a long transit or a stopover in Kuala Lumpur, you can read it here. Just to summarise, I absolutely love to Kuala Lumpur and I think the city deserves way more than two days or perhaps even a week, if I had the chance I would stay there for at least a month.
As we were only staying for less than two days in Kuala Lumpur, we decided to book a nice hotel and it was also because there are even the nicest hotels in Kuala Lumpur is where not as expensive as the are in places like Tokyo or Hong Kong. We managed to book a Mandarin Oriental are for just £140 per night and that included a marvellous breakfast.
Our hotel was located just 10 minutes walking to the famous and popular Bukit Bintang – a buzzing shopping district of Kuala Lumpur.
Bukit Bintang is one of the main highlights of Kuala Lumpur and it has great shopping and dining options for any taste. There is even a Japanese shopping mall. There are so many food options in Bukit Bintang – from standalone restaurants to the giant food courts at the various shopping malls.
In case you won’t find what you fancy eating in Bukit Bintang, you can head to the local street food market, just about 5-10 minutes from Bukit Bintang.
Some other amazing areas to explore include Batu Caves that has recently undergone a fabulous makeover, China Town and the Central Market. At the Central Market, you can buy a lot of souvenirs, food and clothes. Also, the area around the Central Market looks very pretty.
For me, Kuala Lumpur was a foodie capital of Asia – there were so many amazing places to eat, from Japanese to Indian and everything was amazing.
If you still have time, make sure to check out the Botanic Garden of Kuala Lumpur – it’s very impressive; with a lake in the middle, it resembled Central Park in NYC.
Overall, Kuala Lumpur was probably my favourite stop of the entire 16-day trip to South Asia, however, this post is not over yet, as I have a small part about Sri Lanka as well.
5 days in Sri Lanka: driving around Sri Lanka (without a driver)
The last leg of our 16 days in South Asia was Sri Lanka. I had very little expectations from Sri Lanka, but I fell in love with this island. Food in Sri Lanka was amazing, people were friendly and the prices were very budget-friendly. It’s hard to believe that we only extracted £100 and failed to spend them during 5 days in Sri Lanka – and we ate in some great places and even paid for the gas.
We hired a car in Sri Lanka and decided to drive ourselves, without hiring a driver. It wasn’t as challenging as we thought. However, we needed to obtain a Sri Lankan driving permit before coming to the country, so Sixt car rental just made it for us for a fee. The car rental probably ended up being severely overpriced, but our car was nice and new and brought us to all the amazing places in Sri Lanka.
I wrote two separate posts about Sri Lanka: a guide to driving in Sri Lanka (things you need to know) and whether Sri Lanka is worth it – first timer’s guide to Sri Lanka (spoiler alert – it’s 100% worth it).
Overall, I must say that 5 days were not enough to see all of Sri Lanka, as the distances in the country are huge and the roads are narrow and full of cars. You might end up driving 150 km for 4 hours or even longer. Make sure not to repeat our mistakes and don’t plan too much during even 1 week in Sri Lanka. In 5 days, I just recommend you to see Sigiriya and Kandy and maybe Ella or just go to the South beaches instead – e.g. Tangalle, Matara and other beautiful beach spots in Sri Lanka.
Summary of our itinerary for 16 days in South Asia
Overall, I really enjoyed this 2-week trip to South Asia and this itinerary for 16 days in South Asia was good. However, we returned a bit tired of this holiday. Then again, our itineraries are usually busy and jam-packed and allow us to see most of the world while working full-time for a company in London.
If I had a chance to look back and change something, I would have spent only 2-3 days in Nepal (not 4-5) and try to get to Sri Lanka directly from Bhutan (via a change in Nepal or India). I think that Bangladesh in 12 hours wouldn’t be enough and Kuala Lumpur certainly deserves a separate trip (as there are amazing places to visit in Malaysia).