12 Pro Tips for Travelling South East Asia: Before You Go & When You Arrive

We have put together 12 pro tips for travelling to South East Asia including 6 pro tips for before you go and 6 pro tips for when you arrive. These are a few key things we wish we had known prior to our first trip to South East Asia and now, after countless trips to this incredible side of the world, we feel these are something every first-time traveller should know.

Before You Go

1. Pack Light 

When travelling to South East Asian countries, the weather will be HOT so the last thing you want to be doing is carrying around a huge backpack/suitcase packed with expensive clothes you probably won’t end up wearing anyway. In Asia, clothes are super cheap, which means you can pick up vests, t-shirts, shorts, dresses etc. for the equivalent of a couple of pound. They are often lightweight too, which makes them perfect for the local weather. Plus, you won’t have to worry about losing or ruining these clothes as they can easily be replaced. However, the sizes are often pretty small so make sure you try the first few items on to get a feel for the size that you need and make sure you are comfortable wearing them before buying lots of items. 

2. Don’t Over Plan 

One of the great things about travelling is all the people you will meet along the road who will open your eyes to places you might not have even considered before. Therefore, although it’s good to have a rough plan on places you want to go and things you want to see, leaving a bit of wiggle room for a change of plans and spontaneity could lead to the experience of a life time. When we travelled to Bali, Indonesia, for the first time, it was only when we arrived that we found out about the beautiful Gili Islands. As we had already booked our flight out of Bali and are next accommodation, we could only squeeze in a one day excursion to the islands! We did return the next year though…check out our photo highlights here.  

3. Get Travel Insurance 

A wise man always travels with insurance. No matter how long or short the trip, having the right cover is as much of an essential as accommodation. There are many factors to consider including which destinations you plan to travel to, what activities you plan on doing, and how long you plan on travelling for. Therefore, ensure you provide as much accurate information as possible when deciding on your insurance. Our go-to site is compare the market as it makes it super easy to compare between various travel insurance providers to ensure you get the right cover. 

4. Get Relevant Vaccinations 

Depending on what you plan to do and where you plan to go when you arrive in South East Asia will determine which vaccinations you will need. For example, if you plan to spend a lot of time in Thailand’s jungle, you will likely need malaria prevention, among many others. However, if you plan on staying in the inner city, this likely won’t be a requirement. Prior to travelling, ensure you visit your local doctor and provide as much information as you can with regard to your travel plans as this will ensure you get the vaccinations you need. If you are unsure whether you will visit the jungle but it’s a possibility, it’s better to be safe than sorry and get the vaccination anyway. That way, you won’t have to miss out on any spontaneous trips for these reasons. 

5. Have Some Local Currency 

It’s always handy to have some of the local currency when arriving in a new country so you can grab essentials such as transport to your hotel and food and drinks. Plus, it might take some time to find a local currency exchange so having enough cash to get you through a day or two is recommended. It might be a good idea to change extra cash as you need it so that you are not travelling with lots of money on your persons. This can be more secure and should you lose your cash, you will always have a back-up with the money in your bank. Plus, you can often get better rates when exchanging cash locally in South East Asian countries.  

6. Get to Know the Visa Requirements 

Each destination you visit will likely have different visa requirements and it’s important you are aware of the regulations before you arrive. Often countries require you to have the visa in place before you arrive at the airport, while others (e.g. Thailand, Indonesia) allow you to complete a short form when you arrive at the airport and get your visa upon arrival. This is often for short stays (e.g. 1-3 months), however, it always depends on the country that your passport was issued, so it’s really important that you check out the guidelines on the country’s official government website in advance of visiting to ensure you have the correct documentation in place. 

 

When You Arrive

1. Educate Yourself on the Local Culture and Respect It 

South East Asia is beaming with culture that is very different to what you may be used to, specially if you are travelling from Western countries such as the UK, Europe or America. It’s important that we remain with respect when visiting these countries and particularly when visiting religious monuments such as temples and statues. Educate yourself on the local culture prior to arrival and then practice it when you are at the destination. There is plenty of information available on official government websites and travel blogs so you shouldn’t go short on places to find reliable information.

2. Agree a Taxi Price before You Get In  

It’s always best to agree a taxi price before you get in the taxi and specially before you arrive at your location to ensure you get the best and most accurate price for the trip. Not all taxi drivers will try to take advantage of travellers, but just like in many other countries around the world, there is the possibility that this could happen in South East Asia. Therefore, we recommend agreeing a price before you set off on your journey and ensuring you are aware of the local conversion rate would help too. 

3. Always Pay for an Air Conditioned Room 

Although South East Asia has its storms and wet weather, it is renowned for its intense heat and humidity, something we from the UK might not be all too familiar with. It remains hot at night too, so make sure the room you are staying in is well air conditioned (and that the air conditioning actually works, well!), otherwise you could be in for a rather uncomfortable night, which could impede on your plans the next day if you end up super tired from lack of sleep. 

4. Learn How to Bargain for a Good Price  

Bargaining for the best price in Asia is expected, specially in the local markets – it’s part of the South East Asian culture. Therefore, you should become comfortable with haggling and never accept the first price offered by the seller. They know the price is too high and they expect you to try and get a better price. A rule of thumb is that you should pay around half the original price offered by the seller. But, it’s always wise to shop around and see what others are asking for the same item, then you can price compare and make a confident purchase decision. 

5. If You Rent a Scooter, Ensure You Take Pictures of it Before You Leave  

It’s great fun renting a scooter in South East Asia. You can easily explore the wonderful places at your own leisure and get off the beaten track to seek out quiet beaches and local bars and eateries. The price isn’t too bad either and for the equivalent of a couple of UK£/US$ per day (this varies depending on location), you can often take the scooter wherever you want, just as long as you bring it back in the same condition as when you rented it. Because you often have to provide your passport and hotel details, we highly recommend taking pictures of the scooter outside the rental place before you leave. That way, the existing damages are evident so you can’t be accused or charged for something that you didn’t do. Always lock the scooter up outside your hotel or when going for food and drinks because if it gets stolen, it’s your responsibility. Also, if you do plan on hiring a scooter, quad bike or car for example, ensure you have an international drivers license as its against the law to drive without one in South East Asia and your travel insurance won’t cover you. 

6. Ensure You Have Evidence of Onward Travel 

If you have a 30 days visa, you will be expected to provide evidence of your onward travel after the last date so although it’s always good to plan loosely not precisely, it’s always best to have some form of transport arranged for your exit from that specific country. Failing to do so might result in you being restricted access from entering the country or leaving the country you are already in to travel to the country you are aiming to go to. For example, you might be restricted from leaving Australia to get to Indonesia if your visa in Indonesia is 30 days and you don’t have proof of onward travel from Indonesia after the 30 day period. 

Have you got any more tips that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below and we will add them on, with credit to yourself and your blog!

Benefits & Challenges of Travelling on a Budget as a Couple (+ How to Overcome Those Challenges!)

Travelling as a couple has its own benefits and challenges. Unlike travelling alone, you always have someone with you to share the experiences with and together, you can plan and make decisions along the way. However, when travelling on a budget as a couple, there are certain things you might have to give extra thought to compared with travelling solo. For example, you might want some privacy at night, so staying in mixed-dorm hostels is off limits. Given that this is often the most affordable accommodation, it can be a bit more tricky to travel on a budget as a couple. Having done this for almost eight years now, we have gained plenty of experience on how you can enjoy taking on the world with your other half without breaking the bank. 

You can still stay in hostels, just pick them wisely

You can still stay in certain hostels, just make sure you do your research beforehand to check its suitable for couples. In other words, check they have private bedrooms with/without a private bathroom depending on your preferences. Also, you will have to book ahead to make sure you secure these type of rooms as they often sell out first and fast. 

Our first hostel experience as a couple was in Kuala Lumpur (KL) back in 2015. Our Malaysian friend picked us up from the airport and dropped us at Back Home where we stayed for 4 nights. Despite him warning us to ‘be careful roaming this area at night’, we had a great stay. We booked a private room and although the bathroom was shared, they were same sex facilities. The entire hostel was wonderfully designed, clean and offered a delicious breakfast in the open roof terrace. We had a great first-time hostel experience as a couple here and would highly recommend it if you are travelling to KL. There are many hostels around the world just like Back Home and we recommend checking out Hostel World  or Booking.com for the best deals.

Costs can always be halved 

When two become one, often they share or split finances. This can come in handy when booking accommodation because it’s always more affordable for two people than one. Just a quick search on Booking.com will show you that the price for a 1 person room and a 2 person room doesn’t differ all that much. Therefore, you can always split the costs down the middle and benefit from savings over time. 

You don’t have to split the costs on everything though. For example, Brett often spends a lot more on food and drinks than me, therefore, we tend to pay for our own rather than split the bill down the middle. He also likes to spend on souvenirs from the places we visit whereas I save my extra cash for Yoga classes and facials. Therefore, splitting costs in certain areas while remaining with a spare savings pot for yourselves could make the trip more enjoyable because you can still indulge on things separately. After all, just because you are a travelling couple, you are still independent from one another with your own interests and things you want to spend your hard earned cash on. 

Safety in numbers 

One of the great things about travelling as a couple is that you will always have someone by your side. This means you will likely feel safer in general and especially when travelling off the beaten track. There are certain budget locations throughout the world that have a reputation for being dangerous for female solo travellers (e.g. India). So travelling with your partner could really take the edge off and allow you to experience these beautiful locations where your money can be stretched much further. 

Of course, never take your guard down fully. Just because you are with someone else doesn’t mean nothing can happen so always remain aware of this. It’s just more comforting and reassuring to have someone there with you. That being said, travelling as a couple can also test your relationship. You will be spending the majority of every day with this person, so it will likely either make or break your relationship. For this reason, ensure you make time for yourselves. For example, one could be relaxing by the pool while the other is taking a dip in the ocean.   

Stay in an AirBnB and cook

Staying in an AirBnB is a great option for couples because it provides you with all the space and facilities you could need to really make yourselves at home. One of the best things is that you can have a night in and cook your favourite meals. This can be an adventure in itself: finding the local supermarket, experimenting with local produce and figuring out the new apartment. You can even light some candles and make a romantic night in with a movie and wine. 

Plus, dining in will save you lots of money compared with eating out. You can even prepare breakfast before you head out for the day and a lunch to take with you. That way, you can also keep track on what you are eating which helps towards keeping fit and healthy while on the road.

Save costs on travel essentials and suitcase fees 

Often hotels provide basic toiletries so you don’t have to carry much. However, if you prefer to take your own, or even just for those little extras, it’s always great to share them in order to save suitcase space and money while on the road. Also, sharing a suitcase means you only have to pay to check one bag in. This can come in really handy when you are travelling on short-haul flights where the bag check-in fee is often pretty hefty. Plus, you will only have to lug around one big bag between the two of you. It’s a win, win!

Although travelling on a budget as couple has its challenges, don’t let them put you off because the rewards outweigh them by far. There is nothing that cannot be done without a little planning and preparation. Therefore, if you follow the simple tips throughout this guide, you can easily save money together while on the road, which means you can travel further for longer or spend your extra cash in other areas.