The 10 Best Travel Hacks for Southeast Asia

The best travel hacks for Southeast Asia. Travel tips to plan your holiday, packing advice and safety info.

Sunny days, pristine beaches, interesting culture and spicy food! Southeast Asia is the dream destination for many people and every year thousand of travelers flock to the cities and islands searching for the ultimate Asian holiday. But not everybody is prepared for Southeast Asia, for the good and bad things you can only find in this unique part of the world. So here are the 10 best travel hacks for Southeast Asia.

For the past two years, we have traveled to many countries in Southeast Asia and during this time we learned how to survive the heat and rain, to deal with spicy food and mosquitoes, and how to organize a hassle free holiday.  

Travel hacks for Southeast Asia, tips for you trip to Vietnam

The 10 Best Travel hacks for Southeast Asia:
1º  Travel Hack for Southeast Asia: Weather and Rainy Seasons

Sounds silly, but many people forget about it, so our list of travel hacks for Southeast Asia star with weather tips! Plan your trip according to the weather. Have in mind that the dry and rainy seasons can vary a lot between the Southeast Asian countries, so when it’s dry in northern Thailand can be pouring rain in Singapore.

The weather is divided into two seasons: dry and wet [and some super hot months in between]. The dry season is the best one, but the places will be packed with tourists, things get more expensive and accommodations are almost fully booked. The super hot summer is hot as hell. So If you want to face it be prepared with a hat, 50SFP sunblock and sunglasses. 

The rainy season is not as bad as people imagine, and in some countries like Thailand, it’s possible to travel and have fun. In the other hand, Indonesia and Philippines are a bit hard to get around, as floods and big swells can delay flights and boats.

One of the most important travel hacks for Southeast Asia: Don't travel on the rainy season!

2º Travel Hack for Southeast Asia: Visa and Travel Documents

The visa requirements are different among the 13 Southeast Asian countries. Depending on your nationality you can have 30 or 60 days visa free, or maybe you need to apply for the tourist visa in advance. To make sure you won’t have a sad surprise during your holiday, visit the country’s Embassy website and follow the instruction for getting the visa.

If you don’t need to apply for the tourist visa, even better. Although, double check if they don’t ask you to present a specific document when passing by the passport control. Some countries require an outbound ticket, proving that you are leaving the country before your visa expires.

Travelling to Vietnam? We have a post about how to apply for the Vietnam Tourist Visa Online, the easiest and the right way to do it. Want more information about travel documents? Read our post about the 10 travel documents you must have!

Flight Connections can be a nightmare. Follow our travel hacks to Southeast Asia and travel hassle free!

3º Travel Hack for Southeast Asia: Book Flight Connections Wisely

One of the biggest mistakes people do when traveling to Southeast Asia is to think that all the cities and islands are easy to reach, well-connected with flights, buses, and boat. Well, that’s not true!! Traveling in Southeast Asia means spending hours on flight connections, night buses and boat trips.

To avoid missing your flights do a good research. You can go to Traveloka website to find the best flights and connections. If you are traveling to The Philippines be really careful, allow plenty of time between flights, or between your flight and a boat ride. Delays happen very often there.

Two very important travel hacks to Southeast Asia: rent a motorbike and have your drive license with you!

4º Travel Hack for Southeast Asia: International Drive License

If you want to explore Southeast Asia, especially the small towns and the islands you gonna need a motorbike. To explore the Thai Islands, to get to secluded beaches in The Philippines, or to see Vietnam’s countryside, you will need your own vehicle, and nothing better than a scooter.

Don’t be a fool, bring along your drive license, even better if you have an international one. In most of the Asian countries you can rent a scooter with your normal drive license, but if you want to rent a car the companies might ask for the international document. Plus, the police can stop you and ask for your document, if you don’t have it you will be fined. Don’t take the risk!!

Pack lights is one of the best travel hacks for Southeast Asia, it will make you holiday easier!

5º Travel Hack for Southeast Asia: Pack Light

Pack light people!!! Even if you are traveling for a month, there is no need to bring three bags, or those giant suitcases that have the same weight as a person. There are plenty of laundry in Southeast Asia, and they are cheap. Plus, if you are traveling to a beach destination you will be wearing swimming suit most of the days.

Pack light, have a small suitcase or a backpack. Otherwise, you gonna suffer rolling your luggage through the beaches, jumping in and out from buses and boat… I have seen big luggage loosing wheels while crossing  the busy Khao San Road in Bangkok, or people carrying suitcase over their head to reach a nice bungalow on a cliff. If you want to know what I pack for traveling in Southeast Asia check out my packing video! [and be surpised by the size of my backpack]

One of our 10 Travel hacks to Southeast Asia is for the girls, take care with your closes and dress accordingly.

6º Travel Hack for Southeast Asia: Dress Code for Southeast Asia

Most of the people think about Southeast Asia as a hot paradise where you can show your skin all the time. Sorry, but it’s not everywhere that you can wear bikinis, cropped top and shorts.

Depending on your itinerary you need to think carefully about the clothes you gonna bring. If Malaysia and Indonesia are on your travel plans bring long skirts and dresses, they are Muslim countries and it’s important to show respect to their culture and belief. On Buddhist countries the same, you need to dress respectfully while visiting temples and monasteries.

Visiting Vietnam, Laos or North of Thailand? So bring a light jacket and a pair of trousers, the weather is a bit cooler there and you will be surprised how the temperatures can drop during night-time.

If climbing a mountain or a volcano is part of your travel itinerary, you will need more than a light jacket. Bring a woolen hat and warm clothes. We climbed Mt. Batur in Bali, and was freezing up there, even though at the sea level it was 30º Celsius.

Follow our 10 travel hacks to Southeast Asia and have the best of holiday ever!

7º Travel Hack for Southeast Asia: Language Barriers

English is an international language, but don’t take it for granted. In some Southeast Asian countries, as Thailand and Cambodia, English is not widely spoken, once you leave the tourist areas you will get stuck. Download a good language App on your phone, Google Translate works offline!

Learn a few words like “Hi”, “Thank you”, “Please” and “how much”, it will help you a lot, and local people will treat much better if you show interest in their culture and language. And try to smile, it has always worked for us.

 

8º Travel Hack for Southeast Asia: Mosquitoes and Allergies

You are traveling to a different land, surrounded by tropical forest, rice fields, rivers and mountains. There are tons of insects in Southeast Asia, more than you can imagine. Said that, my advice is: buy a good and efficient mosquito repellent!! Some natural or DEET-free repellents don’t work in Southeast Asia, those nasty mosquitos and sandflies are on steroids . If you are allergic to insects, bring antihistamine tablets, just in case…

 

Don't be afraid! Go Local! The list of travel hacks to Southeast Asia includes eating street food!

9º Travel Hack for Southeast Asia: Go Local

Southeast Asia is a universe of different cultures, religions and food. Make the most of your trip to Southeast Asia and go local. Forget Irish pubs, Italian restaurants, French wine… Try the local street food, drink local beer or tea, experiment the uniqueness and push yourself out of the comfort zone. Don’t be afraid, in two years traveling in Southeast Asia e got sick only once.

Public transport is also a good option to meet locals, discover the cities and save money. Taxis can be a real problem in Southeast Asia, all the haggling for the price, some of them don’t want to use taximeter and, especially in Thailand, they never know the addresses… Hop on a bus, or on a tuk-tuk and explore Asia.

Our last travel hacks to Southeast Asia is to have a good travel insurance!

10º Travel Hack for Southeast Asia: Travel Insurance

The last tip is one of the most important travel hacks for Southeast Asia: get a good and reliable travel insurance. During your adventure in Asia you might do rock climbing, snorkeling, kayak, boat rides, or your luggage can be lost in one of the many airports and bus stations you gonna stop at… Protect yourself and your stuff! We use World Nomads travel insurance and when we needed they were super helpful!

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The 10 Best Travel Hacks for Southeast Asia. Travel tips to plan your holiday, packing advice and safety info. Everything you need to know to enjoy your trip to Southeast Asia!

Do you have any other doubt? Or maybe you can share with us your personal travel hacks for Southeast Asia, don’t be shy we love to learn new stuff!

36 Comments

  1. I love this round up of posts! I’ve traveled SE asia a few times and totally wished my friends and I brought longer skirts/trousers to malaysia! We got a bit of staring on the streets haha! Can’t wait to go back and explore more countries though

  2. Great advice. I am travelling around Vietnam at the moment (www.teachingtraveller.com). Another country where it’s possible to travel in monsoon season- it still gets lots of sunshine!

  3. I have never been to Southeast Asia, but I know I’ll make it out there at some point, so it’s great to have all of these travel tips in mind before I go. Thanks for the post, and hopefully I’ll be out there enjoying the SE Asia like you both did soon!

  4. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an international drivers license. Now I want to know more. I thought my license was good anywhere.

  5. Some great tips! Recently spent two weeks in Bali and these all were true. Especially packing light. It was so helpful to be able to just throw my backpack on and jump out of a boat or hop on a bus.

  6. It is always useful to get some tips for a region/country/part of the world for someone who knows it very well. So your tips come in handy. I admit that I plan all my travels taking in consideration weather conditions (so I’d definitely keep this in mind for this part of the globe as well). And I also try to do a little research in what culture and dress code are concerned – also for all countries. Better safe than sorry 🙂 Really useful guide!

  7. Excellent advice! I love visiting Southeast Asia and appreciate the tips. I agree that the mosquitos are ruthless. I don’t like to use DEET, but make an exception in SE Asia.

  8. As someone who comes from Southeast Asia, these tips you’ve posted are absolutely spot on! Now that I’m living in Europe, you actually just made me miss those places on the other side of the world <3

    1. The ups & downs of traveling lol! We are always missing one place, someone or craving for a food that we ate in a distant country 🙂
      ps. end of the year we are heading to Europe, maybe we can meet up!

  9. Great guide. Very good to know about the long dresses and skirts. I’m planning on visiting Southeast Asia for the first time and had not read about the long skirts/dresses. Thank you! Pinning this so I don’t forget anything when packing!!

  10. Great list of hacks!! We climbed Mt. Bromo and found ourselves freezing! Always better to be prepared. The international drivers license is a good tip too.

  11. Thailand in rainy season is great. Prices are cheaper and there are fewer people. I’ve gotten caught in a few huge downpours over the years, but often the rain is at night, and you wake up to a refreshing morning. Good list of hackes

    1. Hey Nancie!!
      Thanks for your comments! Thailand in rainy season is great indeed. We have spend a few months there and I would say that I prefer the rainy season than the hot months of summer…
      Cheers!

      Nat

  12. Pack light is my #1 advice I give to anyone going to Asia. With humidity and hot sunny days all year round, the last thing you want to be doing is carrying a heavy backpack!

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