Thinking about dipping your feet into the warm sands of Bali Or roaming around the vibrant streets of Hanoi? Or maybe going on a relaxing shopping spree in Singapore? Southeast Asia truly does offer an unlimited stream of fun and charm, urban and nature, unadorned simplicity and high-tech modernity everywhere you look - sometimes even all at once! But as always, there are considerations to be made when you're making rounds in a region this rich, varied and sprawling. Read below to check out our top 10 tips for when you're travelling Southeast Asia!
Take the time to learn about where you are going, what you want to see, what the culture is like, and what the recent political happenings are in the country you are visiting. We promise you it will make for a much richer trip. But remember to slow down and dig into the culture of a single country and/or just a handful of places, rather than exhausting yourself by hopping all over the territory. For example, Bali and Hanoi may be within Southeast Asia, but they’re a seven-hour flight away from each other!
We're certain you don't want to trek around with overweight backpack or heavy roller suitcase! Keep everything at a bare minum: make sure to bring your cotton shirts since the region is known for its humidity also some modest clothing that covers your knees and shoulders for when you visit certain temples. Also, arm yourself with a first aid kit, a small flashlight, all kinds of stomach medicines, earplugs, hand sanitizer and travel packs of tissues. Don't forget to pack a multi-port plug to charge a few of your electronics at once!
Sure you can have all the fun city life has to offer, but don't forget to embrace the great outdoors too! Urban areas like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are of course great, but the real beauty of Southeast Asia lies in its rural areas, in the long stretches of rice paddies backed by soaring limestone cliffs. The majestic temples. The spectacular mountains. The out-of-this-world beaches. These are the places where you will realise that Southeast Asia isn't all chaos and noise.
Ride in a tuk-tuk in Bangkok, take a motorbike tour or longboats on lakes and ferries up rivers in Ho Chi Minh or sit on the roof of a bus in Siem Reap. With that said, we do advise that you splurge on river cruises for luxurious and scenic! Take as many different forms of transport as you can and learn about the ways that locals live.
If you're not quite the adventurous type or in crunch time, it's time to ask for the help of a local! Hire a car or a moto-driver for the whole day to take you everywhere you want to go for a very nominal price. Your driver can also work as a de facto tour guide, getting you around to the spots you may not have thought of... and that you would regret not seeing!
Still undecided on where to go but too shy to ask around? Pick up local rags and mags at the nearby tourism bureau and check out the recommended spots. Southeast Asian countries have become very good at creating mini-tourism hubs with information written in English. If you are looking to just find your bearings and want a safe bet on places to go, pick one up!
It's all about bartering in Southeast Asia! Ask for the vendor’s best price and then start haggling. If they’re not coming to the party, they probably will once you start walking away. But keep in mind that you always need to carry cash and small bills in the region. You’ll hardly ever pay for anything using your card, and if payment by card does happen to be accepted at a hotel or for a tour, you’ll likely be charged a 3% fee on the total price.
Street food is very common throughout Southeast Asia. This is the home of the world’s tastiest cuisines, and the really good news is that the cheapest is often the best! But be careful too: street food is not for the faint of digestion, so we advise that you’re best off buying street food that’s cooked in front of you. Eat like the locals! You’d be amazed at some of the prices you can find at local food markets, hawker stalls, and street shops.
You may be tempted into subscribing for cooking classes, scuba courses or elephant tourism while in Southeast Asia, but be sure to do some research before you book in order to ensure that your tourist money is being used in socially responsible ways. You don't want to inadvertently aid in the mistreatment of animals or the environment, do you? Plus, safety is also important, especially when trekking, zip-lining or scuba diving, so make sure to read reviews in order to confirm that they’re right for you.
This one goes without saying. You will find your buses running late, your flights being delayed. Heck, you might even have a case of food poisoning. The main thing is you’re safe and you have your passport, and trust us - you will manage to get through everything else. If things go wrong, ride it out, don’t stress too much and call it an adventure!
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