One of the most popular regions in the world to travel to is Southeast Asia. And there are plenty of reasons why. You get the experience of immersing yourself in an entirely different culture that feels a world away from what we are used to in the west. You can enjoy some magical natural scenery including the karst limestone cliffs of Halong Bay and the pristine white beaches of the Thai islands. You can enjoy plenty of delicious food and drink in the knowledge that it all costs a fraction of what it does back home. And since it is a place that attracts so many backpackers from around the world, you have the peace of mind that it is a very easy and safe place to travel around.
However, if you have never visited Asia before, it can seem a little daunting. To give you some reassurance, this blog post is here to give you some tips on how you can plan the type of adventure that will live long in the memory.
Focus on Certain Areas
There are many countries that make up Southeast Asia, and it is unlikely that you are going to be able to visit all of them unless you have months and months on your hands. If you rush your trip, you are not going to have enough time to really get to know a country. While you don’t have to travel with a rigid itinerary which you can’t change, it is a good idea to have a general overview of some of the places which you would definitely like to see. Making a rough plan is one of the best ways that you are going to be able to spend your time in the best way possible.
Prepare Visas and Travel Documents
Some countries in this region will require you to get visas, whereas others will allow you free travel. The last thing that you want is to be denied entry to one of them because you have not investigated the requirements properly. Even if you do know the visa requirements, did you know that some countries require you to have at least six months’ worth of validity left on your passport? It is worth making a digital copy of all your travel documents so that you always have a backup in case you lose them – a little bit of preparation can end up saving you a lot of hassle in the long-run.
Pack Right (and Light)
Whenever you are going on a big backpacking trip, you need to think carefully about what you are going to pack. It is always worthwhile to pack as lightly as possible so that you are not left lugging a huge backpack around with you. You can easily do your laundry along the way – and the price will be minimal. Pack according to the time of year and specific countries. While it is true that this is a hot region for large parts of the year, you will want to bring some warmer clothing for any trekking or nighttime excursions that you may be doing along the way. You should also make sure to take along some waterproofs, which will be especially important during the rainy season of the year. Remember, when you are visiting temples, you will need to cover yourself up with some modest clothing. Don’t forget the invaluable extras such as a first aid kit, small flashlight, stomach medicine, hand sanitiser, tissues, insect repellant etc. You can find out about the individual vaccine requirements online or from your travel doctor.
Change Money When You Arrive
It is going to be much easier to get your travel money once you arrive rather than changing it at home. After all, every country you visit uses a different currency, and if you are going to several, this can end up getting mighty confusing. Not only this, you are much more likely to get a better rate of exchange if you change the money once you get there. However, there are also plenty of scams, so it is worth asking at your accommodation when you arrive to find out their local tips for currency exchange spots. Be aware that most of these countries are still largely cash-only societies, and you are unlikely to be able to use your credit cards in many spots outside of the big hotels, resorts etc.
Plan a Range of Activities
Some people find that they get ‘templed out’ when they travel to this region. This simply refers to seeing so many temples that you can’t differentiate one from the next. There are so many different activities to enjoy in Southeast Asia that there is no need to do the same thing day in, day out. One day, you can visit temples and cultural sites. Another, you may decide to head out on a scenic hike. If you are at the beach, you could spend one day simply lazing around, and the next enjoying an activity like scuba diving or snorkelling.
Be a Responsible and Ethical Tourist
You may have heard on the news that many countries in Southeast Asia are currently struggling with the volume of tourists who are visiting on a regular basis. So, before you embark on an excursion or activity, do your research to make sure that it is ethical and responsible. For example, you may have seen many pictures of people riding elephants in Southeast Asia. But many of these places are notorious for their mistreatment of these beautiful creatures. As well as checking for responsible tourism, you also want to make sure that the activity that you are going to embark on is safe. Stick to the recognised and accredited tourist companies for peace of mind.
Watch Out for Scams
With the increase in tourism in the region has come the inevitable increase in the number of scams. Stay on your guard at all times to avoid being ripped off. To help you out, let’s look at a few of the most common scams here and now. Before you get into a taxi or tuk-tuk, agree on a price or whether the metre will be used. Beware of people who offer you a ride for a reduced price or for free in exchange for a visit to their friend’s shop, where they could get quite insistent that you buy something. Always be aware of strangers approaching you, especially if it is around the main transportation hubs such as bus or train stations.
Vary Your Accommodation Choices
There is an abundance of hotels in Southeast Asia, but there are also plenty of other accommodation options which are worth trying out. Hostels provide a social environment and a great opportunity to meet up with some fellow travellers. You may decide that you want to rent your own apartment such as the ones from https://www.rumah.com/apartemen/disewa, especially if you are staying in one place for a long time. Perhaps you could look into homestay options, so you can experience what it is like to stay in a local house and meet the people. Ultimately, the best trips to Southeast Asia are the ones which are varied.
Stay Relaxed if Travel Plans Don’t Work Out
If you have always lived in the western world, you will be used to transportation running on time, good road links, and plans working out well. But this is not always going to be the case when you are in Southeast Asia – though things have become significantly better over the past few years. It can be hard to adopt this kind of ‘go with the flow’ mentality to start off with, but it is the best way of making sure that you enjoy your trip. If you get stuck at a bus station, make sure that you bring a book or catch up with your favourite podcast. If you have to spend an extra night in a place, you have the opportunity to see a sight which you would have otherwise missed.
Learn a Few Words in the Local Language
You will find that English is now widely spoken in Southeast Asia within the main tourist areas, but simply learning to say a few words in the local language can go a long way towards making some connections. You could find that you open up some local experiences which you would have otherwise missed out on.
Travelling in Southeast Asia is the type of experience which you remember for years to come. But making sure that you do the right amount of planning will help you out when you arrive. Otherwise, you are more likely to miss out on some incredible travel spots, and you could find yourself falling victim to one of the scams which we have previously discussed. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t still travel with some freedom and a ‘go with the flow’ philosophy.