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Southeast Asia has long been the destination of choice for travelers eager to explore the world. The region, which incorporates such fascinating destinations as Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, offers unforgettable new experiences for willing adventurers eager to fuel their imaginations.
Yet, whether you’re a thrillseeker, backpacker or holidaymaker, exploring Southeast Asia requires some preparation, especially if you’ve never been before. Even seasoned travelers need prep to get the most out of their visit. The countries that make up the region offer cultural delights you won’t find anywhere else, but to get the most out of your visit you need to know a few things before you step foot on that plane.
Preparing for your journey will help you know what clothes to pack, how much money you’ll need, and whether or not you’ll want sun cream or a raincoat. It’ll also help you de-stress before the excitement can really begin.
“Vietnam” by M M (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Know what you want to get out of your trip
Preparation is crucial when traveling in Southeast Asia. Know what you want to get out of the trip before you go (or at least have a good idea). Are you backpacking and moving from place to place, for example? If so, how do you plan to get around – bus, taxi or maybe a scooter! If you’re staying in a city or town, what does it have to offer in terms of places to eat, leisure attractions and historical interest spots?
Ensure you have your visa
Most places in Southeast Asia will issue American travelers a visa on arrival, but Vietnam and Myanmar require your visa application in advance. This is an even more important factor if you’re moving between different countries. It’s important to research visa requirements as well as entry and exit fees before you leave home.
The best prepared travelers will get the most out of their trip exploring Southeast Asia. But running out of money is one of the pitfalls of not budgeting properly. Thankfully, the region is fairly cheap to travel around in. The most conservative of spenders can probably budget for as little as $20 per day.
Our recommendation is to put aside $40 a day. You’ll be familiar with budgeting for personal expenses or even with managing your bankroll when playing bingo online through sites showcased on Oddschecker and elsewhere, so it would be silly to be caught short during your international adventure. $40 will allow for better quality rooms for backpackers as well as cash left over for leisure activities and some good food. If you’re in the region on holiday, use your budgeting time to plan excursions before you leave home so you’ll have a better idea of how much cash to take with you.
Beware monsoon season
The weather is also a factor in your decision making. The tropical region’s weather is as diverse as its cultural traditions so this isn’t a one-rule-fits-all. But there are a few things worth noting about the climate that’ll help make your trip more satisfying.
The monsoon season occurs around the beginning of May, intensifying in August through to October before the dry season returns in November. This doesn’t mean avoiding travel at this time altogether but it’s worth knowing, especially if you plan to visit one of the islands – as the rain storms can be extreme.
The hottest period is usually around April when travel can be quite challenging because of the humidity. If it’s a two-week holiday in search of a golden tan, April’s your month but if backpacking is on the agenda, this is the time to avoid.
Carry US dollars
No matter where you end up in Southeast Asia, US dollars will be accepted by most people. You’ll never know when you might need money so it’s always good to have a few dollars handy if you run out of local currency. It’s best to take USD with you before you travel but countries such as Cambodia will dispense cash in US dollars if needed.
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The worst health problem you might encounter in Southeast Asia is an upset tummy but it’s still helpful to be prepared for the worst. Make sure you have health insurance for the countries you are visiting to give yourself peace of mind.
Learn some common phrases
Learning to say “please”, “thank you” and “hello” in the language of the country you are in is a must. “Hello” is “xin chào” in Vietnamese, for example. Local people will really appreciate your efforts to speak their language and it’ll help you get more out of the experience through this interaction.
An app like iTranslate Voice is ideal for communicating in the local language. Although it doesn’t include every language you’ll need, it does support Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian.
Give the street food a try
The food in Southeast Asia features some of the world’s tastiest cuisines. Instead of seeking out the top-rated Trip Advisor restaurants, the best is to be found from street vendors where you’ll find sizzling woks serving up wonderful flavours at the cheapest prices. Backpackers will save lots of money buying street food while holidaymakers will enhance their visit and tantalize the taste buds with a trip to one of the much-celebrated night markets.
Once you’ve arrived, you’ll want to explore. Outside of the major cities, public transport is limited. You’ll need to research local travel companies for excursions they are running. Some people do choose to rent a car, scooter or motorbike but only the most confident and experienced drivers should attempt this as the roads are perilous. If you find yourself on the islands, there are inexpensive ferries available to move around.
Exploring Southeast Asia will prove to be a fascinating, life-enriching experience. It’ll provide once in a lifetime opportunities and unforgettable memories. But the best trip is a well-prepared one. Take your time to plan your adventure to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.