Southeast Asia offers the traveller a unique chance to explore a huge variety of landscapes and cultures. From Bangkok’s 24-hour frenetic modern buzz to the beautiful limestone karst towers of Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay and a million other incredible sights and experiences in between, it’s no wonder that the region has become a sought-after destination. In particular the popular tourist trail, tracing a route through cities, beaches, temples, rivers and parties has become well established. For those thinking of planning an adventure, here are a few hints and tips that will make life easier. www.travelrows.com
The best time to go
First, when to go? Southeast Asia has a tropical climate so it’s hot and humid all year round. May to October is the hottest and wettest period, so most tourists aim to avoid this. Bear in mind, however, that in the popular destinations you risk sharing your experience with the crowds. It’s also worth trying to time your visit to enjoy local festivals and celebrations. For example, the spectacle of traditional performing arts at the Angkor Festival in Cambodia, or the Thai New Year celebration Songkran. Check travel guidebooks and online to find out what’s going on and where.
Southeast Asia on the map:
Southeast Asia is well served by international airlines, so is very easy to get to. Make sure you book flights well in advance to keep prices down. Some countries require you to buy a visa on entry, others don’t. It’s worth doing a bit of homework before you travel to work out where you want to go and what the entry requirements are. In general, Bangkok is the centre for obtaining visas in the region, so people often start their travels from here.
Once you’ve arranged travel you’ll need to think about money. With so many different countries and currencies it’s easy to get confused and then ripped off, so again, do your homework. Exchange rates are sometimes better within the region than those offered outside, so the simplest approach can be to withdraw cash from ATMs on arrival. Make sure you bring more than one debit or credit card with you in case you lose one, and have an emergency supply of US dollars as many countries use them as a second currency.
Transportation, accommodation and food
* The sheer number of tourists means that there are always lots of transport options. Buses are most frequently used by travellers, but sometimes coastal or river boat journeys are popular. Local services will often be cheaper than tourist-specific ones, but a price may be paid in speed and comfort. For longer, journeys trains and budget airlines are available.
* As with all areas popular with travellers, most places are well served with accommodation, from basic backpacker’s hostels to luxury hotels, and at the cheaper end of the spectrum booking in advance is often unnecessary.
* One useful money-saving tip is about eating. Almost everywhere you go there will be street stalls selling cheap local food. If you live off this you can get by spending only a few dollars a day, but this comes with the usual warnings associated with eating local food. Western food is normally available but can be very expensive so it’s probably worth going for the local option.