Sunny days, pristine beaches, interesting culture, and spicy food! Southeast Asia is the dream destination for many people and every year thousands 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.
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 the Philippines are a bit hard to get around, as floods and big swells can delay flights and boats.
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!
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.
What happens when things go wrong? Well, a delayed flight or even worst, a canceled flight is the traveler’s nightmare. Knowing your passenger’s rights can save you money and ease the stress. The problem is that the airlines won’t make easy for you to know your rights and to receive compensations. Our suggestion is to get in touch with AirHelp when you have a cancelled flight and let them do the hard work for you. They are specialized in helping passengers getting financial compensation for delayed, canceled or overbooked flights.
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 drivers license, even better if you have an international one. In most of the Asian countries, you can rent a scooter with your normal drivers 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!!
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 shops in Southeast Asia, and they are cheap. Plus, if you are traveling to a beach destination you will be wearing a 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 losing 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]
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.
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…
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.
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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