Sweating through SE Asia
Countries visited: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia
Duration: 2 months (May-June 2008)
Pros: very easy to backpack (good transportation network, wide range of accommodation available), safe for solo female travelers, super friendly locals and other tourists, comparatively clean (worse than Western Europe, better than India)
Cons: tout scams, geckos, mosquitoes/malaria
In our society of shortened attention spans, none of us can read through a paragraph anymore so here’s a list of how to prep for a trip to South East Asia (can be applied to most other trips too):
- Google map the region, you need to know how it looks like and how long it’ll take you. However long you think it will take to travel from place to place, double it so to avoid being rushed.
- Get a travel book. My bible is Lonely Planet’s South East Asia on a Shoestring. It is THE first ever “on a Shoestring” book. Tab/highlight places you want to see. Tip: if you don’t need the entire book, photocopy the pages you need and throw them away as you travel to save space.
- Visit travelfish.org. Print out the free guides for a list of accommodation.
- Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site for list of World Heritage places to visit. The map helps narrow down the sites depending on what area you’ll be passing through.
- Get a student card if you’re still a student (or “borrow” one if you’re not but still look youngish). There are sometimes discounts for park entrance fees, transportation etc.
- Visit the doctor for vaccinations and travel medicine. Malaria medicine is required for parts of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. I took Malarone which was more expensive but with less side effects. Ask for Dukoral which is a preventive diarrhea medicine. Yes, no one likes to talk about this “collateral damage” of traveling but it will happen so you might as well be prepared. For more information, see post on travel medicine necessities.
- Book your flight. I usually get an open-jaw ticket for the long haul flight only. Domestic and flights within the region can be booked while you’re traveling. For Canadians, visit TravelCuts for super friendly service.
- Get travel insurance if not already covered. Again for Canadians, I found TravelCuts (through RBC) had the cheapest insurance compared to the other banks and travel agencies.
You can choose to follow/not follow this list but if you’ve at least thought about the items above, you’re already on your way to an amazing trip!