We have put together 12 pro tips for travelling to South East Asia including 6 pro tips for before you go and 6 pro tips for when you arrive. These are a few key things we wish we had known prior to our first trip to South East Asia and now, after countless trips to this incredible side of the world, we feel these are something every first-time traveller should know.
Before You Go
1. Pack Light
When travelling to South East Asian countries, the weather will be HOT so the last thing you want to be doing is carrying around a huge backpack/suitcase packed with expensive clothes you probably won’t end up wearing anyway. In Asia, clothes are super cheap, which means you can pick up vests, t-shirts, shorts, dresses etc. for the equivalent of a couple of pound. They are often lightweight too, which makes them perfect for the local weather. Plus, you won’t have to worry about losing or ruining these clothes as they can easily be replaced. However, the sizes are often pretty small so make sure you try the first few items on to get a feel for the size that you need and make sure you are comfortable wearing them before buying lots of items.
2. Don’t Over Plan
One of the great things about travelling is all the people you will meet along the road who will open your eyes to places you might not have even considered before. Therefore, although it’s good to have a rough plan on places you want to go and things you want to see, leaving a bit of wiggle room for a change of plans and spontaneity could lead to the experience of a life time. When we travelled to Bali, Indonesia, for the first time, it was only when we arrived that we found out about the beautiful Gili Islands. As we had already booked our flight out of Bali and are next accommodation, we could only squeeze in a one day excursion to the islands! We did return the next year though…check out our photo highlights here.
3. Get Travel Insurance
A wise man always travels with insurance. No matter how long or short the trip, having the right cover is as much of an essential as accommodation. There are many factors to consider including which destinations you plan to travel to, what activities you plan on doing, and how long you plan on travelling for. Therefore, ensure you provide as much accurate information as possible when deciding on your insurance. Our go-to site is compare the market as it makes it super easy to compare between various travel insurance providers to ensure you get the right cover.
4. Get Relevant Vaccinations
Depending on what you plan to do and where you plan to go when you arrive in South East Asia will determine which vaccinations you will need. For example, if you plan to spend a lot of time in Thailand’s jungle, you will likely need malaria prevention, among many others. However, if you plan on staying in the inner city, this likely won’t be a requirement. Prior to travelling, ensure you visit your local doctor and provide as much information as you can with regard to your travel plans as this will ensure you get the vaccinations you need. If you are unsure whether you will visit the jungle but it’s a possibility, it’s better to be safe than sorry and get the vaccination anyway. That way, you won’t have to miss out on any spontaneous trips for these reasons.
5. Have Some Local Currency
It’s always handy to have some of the local currency when arriving in a new country so you can grab essentials such as transport to your hotel and food and drinks. Plus, it might take some time to find a local currency exchange so having enough cash to get you through a day or two is recommended. It might be a good idea to change extra cash as you need it so that you are not travelling with lots of money on your persons. This can be more secure and should you lose your cash, you will always have a back-up with the money in your bank. Plus, you can often get better rates when exchanging cash locally in South East Asian countries.
6. Get to Know the Visa Requirements
Each destination you visit will likely have different visa requirements and it’s important you are aware of the regulations before you arrive. Often countries require you to have the visa in place before you arrive at the airport, while others (e.g. Thailand, Indonesia) allow you to complete a short form when you arrive at the airport and get your visa upon arrival. This is often for short stays (e.g. 1-3 months), however, it always depends on the country that your passport was issued, so it’s really important that you check out the guidelines on the country’s official government website in advance of visiting to ensure you have the correct documentation in place.
When You Arrive
1. Educate Yourself on the Local Culture and Respect It
South East Asia is beaming with culture that is very different to what you may be used to, specially if you are travelling from Western countries such as the UK, Europe or America. It’s important that we remain with respect when visiting these countries and particularly when visiting religious monuments such as temples and statues. Educate yourself on the local culture prior to arrival and then practice it when you are at the destination. There is plenty of information available on official government websites and travel blogs so you shouldn’t go short on places to find reliable information.
2. Agree a Taxi Price before You Get In
It’s always best to agree a taxi price before you get in the taxi and specially before you arrive at your location to ensure you get the best and most accurate price for the trip. Not all taxi drivers will try to take advantage of travellers, but just like in many other countries around the world, there is the possibility that this could happen in South East Asia. Therefore, we recommend agreeing a price before you set off on your journey and ensuring you are aware of the local conversion rate would help too.
3. Always Pay for an Air Conditioned Room
Although South East Asia has its storms and wet weather, it is renowned for its intense heat and humidity, something we from the UK might not be all too familiar with. It remains hot at night too, so make sure the room you are staying in is well air conditioned (and that the air conditioning actually works, well!), otherwise you could be in for a rather uncomfortable night, which could impede on your plans the next day if you end up super tired from lack of sleep.
4. Learn How to Bargain for a Good Price
Bargaining for the best price in Asia is expected, specially in the local markets – it’s part of the South East Asian culture. Therefore, you should become comfortable with haggling and never accept the first price offered by the seller. They know the price is too high and they expect you to try and get a better price. A rule of thumb is that you should pay around half the original price offered by the seller. But, it’s always wise to shop around and see what others are asking for the same item, then you can price compare and make a confident purchase decision.
5. If You Rent a Scooter, Ensure You Take Pictures of it Before You Leave
It’s great fun renting a scooter in South East Asia. You can easily explore the wonderful places at your own leisure and get off the beaten track to seek out quiet beaches and local bars and eateries. The price isn’t too bad either and for the equivalent of a couple of UK£/US$ per day (this varies depending on location), you can often take the scooter wherever you want, just as long as you bring it back in the same condition as when you rented it. Because you often have to provide your passport and hotel details, we highly recommend taking pictures of the scooter outside the rental place before you leave. That way, the existing damages are evident so you can’t be accused or charged for something that you didn’t do. Always lock the scooter up outside your hotel or when going for food and drinks because if it gets stolen, it’s your responsibility. Also, if you do plan on hiring a scooter, quad bike or car for example, ensure you have an international drivers license as its against the law to drive without one in South East Asia and your travel insurance won’t cover you.
6. Ensure You Have Evidence of Onward Travel
If you have a 30 days visa, you will be expected to provide evidence of your onward travel after the last date so although it’s always good to plan loosely not precisely, it’s always best to have some form of transport arranged for your exit from that specific country. Failing to do so might result in you being restricted access from entering the country or leaving the country you are already in to travel to the country you are aiming to go to. For example, you might be restricted from leaving Australia to get to Indonesia if your visa in Indonesia is 30 days and you don’t have proof of onward travel from Indonesia after the 30 day period.
Have you got any more tips that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below and we will add them on, with credit to yourself and your blog!