We all crave adventure, so whether you’re a hiker, a beach lover or a wanderer, traveling South East Asia (SEA) will certainly give you
Create a bucket list
You will get swamped with the amount of stuff that you want to do in
Work out a budget
Your budget will determine what kind of traveler you are – most young travelers are on a limited budget, so they aim to spend around £20-30 per day. From this, you can work out how much to need to take with you/how long you will last on the money you have. You also have to consider traveling around, extra activities that may cost more, those heavy nights out where you blow a week’s budget, visas, and general things like this.
Get your jabs
I know this can feel pointless and expensive, but honestly, getting ill will not only ruin your experience, but it can be life-threatening and cost more than the initial injections. Some people say they’ll ‘be careful’ but there’s no such thing.
Is rabies worth it?
I always get asked whether I think the rabies injections are worth having – yes, I definitely do. A close friend of mine hadn’t had the vaccines because she was only traveling for 6 weeks, she got bitten on Monkey Island, Thailand and had to spend the rest of her trip searching for hospitals and getting her bandages changed. It’s not worth it, folks.
Get *good* insurance
Standard advice and, like the jabs, it feels like you’re just throwing money away. But in the unlikely event that something goes wrong, you’ll need a good, reliable insurer that won’t try to con you with its loopholes.
Get a light, reliable backpack
Your backpack will become your best friend, so you want to make sure you get one that won’t break or tear easily. Getting a light backpack will allow you a little extra weight when traveling by plane (it’ll also help your back!). It’s a good idea to have extra compartments so you can separate items. You ideally want to be able to lock all your zips up so when you do have to part with your backpack (on buses or flights) so that it’ll be safe from others.
What to pack
Don’t go overboard
You will pick up a lot of stuff on your travels as things are so cheap – pack light so you don’t have to leave belongings behind.
Solid shampoo, conditioner and deodorant are great and totally under-used. They’re cheap, compact, travel friendly and they can last a super long time.
Take the real essentials
Deet and sunscreen. They may just seem like added weight, but you will need them, trust me. They’re also often cheaper and of a better quality in the UK.
Cover up and stay cool
You’ll need to have clothes that cover your shoulders and knees to enter some temples and holy places, so it’s a good idea to take a couple of outfits. Females who want to stay cool without wearing long skirts or trousers can get shawls or scarves. These are lightweight, cheap and easy to buy in pretty much every market. Clothes that are baggy, light in color and made of cotton will keep you cool and covered from the sun.
A waterproof jacket will definitely be needed in
Water filter bottle
These can be fairly expensive (around £30) but if you’re ever out of
Take little bottles of cooling spray with you, which are typically £1 for 3 or 4, 50 mL cans. These are by no means a necessity, but they make you feel super refreshed after a long hike on a humid day.
Sleeping travel bag slips
These are perfect to protect you against any grossness when you’re sleeping somewhere that doesn’t have the highest cleaning standards. Whether it’s a hostel or a sleeper bus, you’ll have a little barrier against you and the worn out sheets.
The lovely people of SEA are usually very relaxed, which can more often than not mean they’re late. There is no point getting worked up about this as it will get you nowhere – you just have to get use to it!
Keep a flexi-route
So many people go with ridged plans, but I personally would never recommend this. There will be some places that you like more than others, so the amount of time you spend in a certain place may change. You may meet people you want to travel with or find out about another place what you want to visit, which could throw your plan out of the window.
Learn certain phrases
Quite a few people recommend learning phrases such as ‘hello’ and ‘sorry’. I focused on learning phrases like ‘excuse me’ and ‘thank you’, simply because I found this a little more helpful.
Always carry toilet paper
This is basically rule #1 of traveling Asia. You will pee in gross places, so at least be armed with a roll.
Keep an extra lock
You may need an extra lock for securing your belongings in hostels as you may just be given a cupboard and a hinge. Some places will sell these but they’ll make you pay through the nose.
Cross the road with locals
The street can be absolutely manic in SEA, so to avoid getting mowed down by a scooter, wait for a local and cross with them!
Be respectful, firm but polite
Many people are quite persistent when they’re trying to get a sale. This can get seriously annoying, be it’s important to remember that this is their culture – be respectful, firm but polite.
Quite a few Asian products will include whitening agents, so just be a little careful what deodorant you buy if you’re trying to get a tan!
Be animal friendly
PLEASE DO NOT RIDE ELEPHANTS OR VISIT TIGER SANCTUARIES. They’re cruel, period. There are lots of places where you can meet elephants, take them for walks, bath them, etc. For example at Into The Wild, Chiang Mai, Thailand. You don’t need to ride them, but you do need to respect them.
Avoid taking pictures of policemen
Sometimes they can get a bit touchy about being in pictures – like we all do I guess. I have heard of people being asked to delete their pictures or even hand over a memory card.
This app is great and totally free. It lets you scan pretty much anything, so you’ll always be able to have a spare copy of everything, from your passports and boarding cards to receipts.
Have blank pages and 6+ months on your passport
A lot of countries will want you to have at least 6 months on your passport which is pretty standard. You’ll also need spare pages to receive stamps and visas. Some visas, such as China and Laos, can take up a whole page.
Keep US dollars
US dollars are accepted in quite a few places and they’re exchanged very easily, so they’re always handy to help you get out of sticky situations.
There are quite a few different scams that go around SEA. They differ between each area; so spend 15-20 minutes doing a quick Google search to make sure you know how to spot a scam.
Learn how to haggle
There is definitely an art to haggling, and you will definitely want to master this once you’re in SEA. My main advice is to set a maximum price in your head, start by offering half of this, and do not go over. For more tips on how to haggle, visit How to Haggle Like a Pro.
Hail the ‘gram
Nothing inspires me to travel more than stalking an awesome blogger’s profile and ogling at their pictures. It will also give you some great ideas on where to go.
Sleep in non-air conditioned rooms
These will suck, and I will always recommend paying an extra few pounds if you’re not trying to save money, but they can help you stick to a tight budget.
Check out double rooms
Sometimes double rooms can be cheaper than two singles. So if you’re travelling with a friend, check it out!
This is a great way to meet new people and to stay for free/a low price.
Eat with the locals
There will always be cheap places to eat; you just have to know where to find them. They typically don’t come with the amazing view where you can sip cocktails on the beach, but they will have great, authentic food and are commonly where the locals eat.
Drink local beer
Each country will have it’s own beer. These are
Try the Street food
The street food is usually safe, contrary to popular belief. You can buy a meal for pennies, so it’s a great way save your budget. Personally, I didn’t like eating it too much, mainly because I was never sure which meat I was actually getting…
Go solo from tours
Having a tour guide is a great and easy way to see the sights, but it’s also more costly and it somewhat takes the adventure out of exploring! However, sometimes you need to be part of a tour, for example when visiting Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, so it’s just about doing your research.
Keep drinking to a low
If you’re more interested in getting out and about and seeing the culture than getting smashed every night, I would definitely avoid drinking too much. Too much alcohol will break any budget, even if the beers are only £1.50.
HOW TO AVOID GETTING ILL
Avoid tap water
This relates back to my ‘get a filter bottle’ tip. Although
Drinks with ice
Most ice is safe as it comes from factories where it has been cleaned and treated correctly. If you want to be super safe, avoid it all together, but I don’t really think there is a need to do that.
You will 100% not regret having these handy in your bag if you feel ill. It’ll save you running around looking for a pharmacy and then trying to figure out what you need from someone who likely only speaks broken English.
Berocca and Dioralyte
These little pick-me-ups will help you feel better, faster. They’ll replenish your vital vitamins that you may have lost to get you back on the road to recovery.
I met so many people that either didn’t take them or just stopped. What’s the point? Malaria is literally the last thing you want to get from your trip around SEA, and that is not being dramatic. They’re quite cheap and can save your life – don’t be a fool.
You’re going to be touching loads of icky stuff as you’re walking around, whether its merchandise in shops, public transport or just money. If you’re eating food, clean ‘em first.
…but keep your immune system up
A lazy immune system is never good. By being overly cautious with germs you’re actually just making things worse for yourself – use sanitizers in moderation.
Wipe cutlery with a napkin
Some people don’t like doing this because they think it’s rude, but I just think they don’t understand the word ‘subtle’. It grosses me out thinking about how clean the cutlery really is in restaurants in the UK, let alone SEA.
So some people can’t stop going to the toilet and others can’t seem to go at all. Laxatives are pretty common and easy to obtain. Just make sure you read the packet (or Google the drug if it’s not in English) and have a clear schedule. You don’t want to be running to the toilet if you’re on an overnight bus or visiting Angkor Wat.
These protect you from sea urchins (as well as other things). You do not want to stand on a sea urchin, period.
Deet and insect repellent will reduce the amount you’re bitten and therefore reduce your chances of getting ill. Even if you are still covered in bites, you’ll be covered in less if you deet-up!
Walking lets you discover things that you may miss if you were in a tuk-tuk or taxi, like a cute little flower market or a cheap but delicious-looking café. When I was in
Get an offline map
These are handmade by God. For those who don’t know what an offline map is, you download a map of the city you’re in (when you have wifi) and it’ll let you see where you’re going, how to get there, how long it’ll take, etc when you do not have internet. I used Lonely Planet and Maps.me, which saved my life quite a few times.
Always use a taxi meter
Unfortunately, some people may try to
You’ve been before… many times
I always tell people that I have been before and that I am familiar with the area. This means you’ll be less likely to have a taxi
Agree on a tuk-tuk price
Some tuk-tuk drivers will hurry you in and charge you a crazy amount when you arrive at your destination.
Know how to get to/from the airport
Taxis are always going to be the most expensive option. There will be plenty of other options depending on where you’re landing, it’s just a matter of Googling it beforehand.
Use the underground/metro
Just like the underground, these are fast and effective ways of traveling about. They’ll differ in every city, but in quite a few you can just get a card that works like an Oyster card.
Take photos of your bike
Getting a scooter can be a dodgy business, so it’s best to cover your back. The scooters may be a little beaten and scratched, so take photos of your bike before you set off to prove the condition that you got it in. This way, you can’t get blamed for any damage that you didn’t do.
Lock it up with a separate lock
So companies do a scam where they give you a lock, follow you to your first destination, wait for you to leave your bike, and then steal it as they’ll have kept a spare key to the lock they gave you. For this reason, it’s good to have a spare lock because it’ll deter them.
Know your insurance
If you have an accident, you’ll only be able to claim if you’re following the rules of your insurance. This could mean you need to wear a helmet, appropriate footwear, and that you’re not intoxicated. (This may sound obvious, but the first time I hired a bike the guy said to me, ‘If you’re going to drink and drive after dark, just avoid the police…’).
Night buses, trains
Keep your valuables
Night buses and trains usually have low crime rates, but I have known people to be pick-pocketed in their sleep. Keep passports, money, technology etc on you at all times (not in bags where someone could have a rummage if you fall asleep!).
Take Rescue Remedy
This is for people who are particularly nervous or anxious. Driving in
Lay at the bottom
If you feel particularly sick or nervous, I would recommend lying at the bottom, as it’ll be a little smoother than if you lay at the top.
I LOVE inflatable pillows, especially when traveling on sleeper buses. Sometimes you’re given a pillow, but it’s a bit… gross, to say the least. Slips are also awesome, because if you ever have to sleep anywhere that isn’t the cleanest, you can literally just slip into it, and feel relatively protected. Eye masks and earplugs will obviously block out any unwanted light and noise, which can be hit and miss on overnight buses.
ALWAYS carry cash*
*and keep it in a safe place. You never know if you’ll need a little extra cash for an emergency, whether its to buy a new jar of Nutella or to get you through a border. Better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t argue with Border Enforcement
Sometimes you may be charged a little more to get into a country, but unfortunately, this is just one of those things. I’ve had friends who have argued with officers, but it got them absolutely nowhere and they were just asked to wait in a room for hours. It’s normally only a couple of pounds, so the best advice I can give is to pay up.
When you return
Share your stories
The best way to inspire people to travel is to share your stories. Traveling is such a great way to meet new people, to learn new skills, and to make some lifelong memoires.
Keep up the travel bug
Travelling SEA is most probably going to make you want to go back and/or see the rest of the world. Everyday life can stop you from concentrating on traveling, but make sure you keep your travel bug alive!
Hi, my name’s Lucy and I’m an editor from Ipswich, Suffolk. The first country that made me fall in love with
For more travel inspiration from Lucy’s travels check out her Instagram!
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