General tips for travelling in Southeast Asia
You’re about to embark on an incredible adventure through countries that are most likely very different from your own – that’s the whole point of travelling, right? You will see new things and experience a different way of life.
While it all sounds quite magical at the moment, there may be times when things don’t quite work out as you expected, so travel smarter with these travel tips for travelling in Southeast Asia:
- Carry a small plastic zip lock bag with you everywhere! The weather can be unpredictable in Asia in the wet season so if it starts bucketing down a little plastic bag will keep your camera/phone dry.
- Never get your laundry washed at a hotel. A hotel will often charge per item when there are lots of local laundry stalls are everywhere that will charge a fair price by the kilogram and leave your delicates smelling delightful! Just remember to count your items so you know how many items to expect back and ask how long you’ll have to leave your clothes for washing.
- Turn your data roaming off before you touch down on the tarmac. Any emails or notifications pushed to your phone will cost you big bucks. Many restaurants in Asia offer free wifi (just ask your waitress) and most towns have internet cafes and offer telephone services which are cheap and easy to use.
- Remember that patience is a virtue! Service standards are not always the same (your dinner might not come out at the same time as your friend’s) and things do not always run on time, things are usually more relaxed in Asia which you’ll appreciate once you’ve settled in.
- Try different food! You won’t always be able to get food you’re used to but it’s an excellent chance to find a new favourite you didn’t know existed or learn cooking techniques of the same veggies or meat cooked in entirely different ways!
- Imodium and dehydration sachets. You’ll need them! If stomach problems strike and they probably will at some point, you’ll want to ensure you don’t get dehydrated too. Pharmacies in most major areas stock this medication but it’s wise to have a little stash in a first aid kit in case you get caught out.
- Don’t drink the tap water. This may be the cause for the aforementioned “stomach problems”. It’s not safe to drink tap water in Southeast Asia, and be careful when purchasing food from street vendors.
- Bring sunblock with you. Yes you can buy it in Asia but it’s hard to find sunblock with a high SPF. It’s not uncommon to see SPF 8 sunblock for sale. We recommend bringing at least 30 SFP sunblock.
- Likewise – bring mosquito repellent with you. You should also use DEET-based repellent and cover up at dawn and dusk. You can buy it in Asia but it’s a good idea to bring a little with you when you start your trip. You can always replace it when you’re getting low.
- Take some US dollars with you in small denominations (you might find it hard to get change for a 50!). US Dollars are commonly accepted in Cambodia and Laos, particularly for visas but make sure they are in good condition, notes that are torn or dirty might not be accepted. Likewise – don’t accept these bills as change, they’ll be hard to get rid of! There are ATMs in most major cities where you can withdraw local currency.
- Don't take drugs. They might be easy to access, but they are illegal (and punishable by death in some places) and you have no idea what you're really taking. There have been some pretty extreme cases of tourists dying from taking drugs in Asia.
- Wear your day-pack back to front so you can see all your things as you walk through busy areas. You don’t want to give anyone the opportunity to unzip your backpack. Money belts may seem geeky but are also a good idea as they’re much more discreet than a flashy Gucci (although it may be fake!) bag hanging off your shoulder.
- Keep toilet paper and hand sanitizer in your bag and do not expect western toilet standards. Maybe even start training your quads for prolonged squatting. You’ll notice signs asking you not to put toilet paper in the toilet (even in hotels) because the plumbing isn’t equipped for it. You’ll find a bin next to the toilet for the paper. In some places you may also need to pay a small fee to use a public toilet.
- Tip like you mean it. Tipping is part of Southeast Asian culture and shows appreciation of good service but it is entirely up to you how much you tip.
- Pick up a light shirt and a pair of Khao San Road’s finest parachute pants so that you can show respect and cover up at religious sites/temples. Many won’t let you in if you’re wearing a singlet and shorts.
Most of all, have an amazing time! Chat to other travellers and share tips and advice so that you have a fantastic experience in Southeast Asia.