There are many things lots of travelers should know. The best thing you can take with you when you travel Asia, or anywhere for that matter, is common sense. If you don’t have it, look it up. Always be careful and cautious, and don’t be too trusting.
Below are some general tips for traveling South East Asia. If you are looking at going to Cambodia, Vietnam or Laos, I have tips for public transport here, and a rundown of my experiences on public transport – trains, buses and minibuses – here. I found blogs invaluable in researching my trip, so am hoping to return the favor to fellow travelers planning their trips. I will add to the below as I come up with more. Hopefully it is somewhat useful 🙂
Some advice for travelling South East Asia
- Be aware of the typical scams.
- In Indonesia, you will often be told that tourist attractions such as museums and temples are closed, even when they are not. This is so the person can ‘buy you a special entrance ticket’ and take your money, or take you to a silver store or batik store around the corner where you will be overcharged and they will get a huge commission.
- Try not to buy souvenirs from children in Cambodia or Vietnam. These children are not in school because their families think it is better that they are at temples and on the streets selling items to make money for them. If you don’t buy them, they won’t be out there selling. And they might even get an education and make something of themselves.
- When you are buying a train ticket in Vietnam, make sure you buy it from the train station or from a reputable tour company. The tickets don’t show the travel class, so you may pay for a soft sleeper, but in fact have an upright seat (so you pay $53 for a ticket worth around $20). We booked our Halong Bay tour and train ticket from Hanoi to Hue through Tonkin Travel.
- In Hanoi, pre-book a taxi from the airport, as otherwise most taxis will take you to another hotel saying that the one you booked is full, under renovation or has closed down. Or that the hotel they take you to IS your hotel, even though it has a different name (this happened to us).
- In Hoi An, the beach chairs are not truly free – you have to buy a meal. Make sure you know what ‘free’ means.
- Watch your belongings. This is especially true in big tourist areas like Bali, Bangkok, Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh in particular, you should avoid carrying a bag on the street if possible. This includes being aware of pick pocketers and drive by snatchings of handbags. It isn’t a case of bad luck, it is a case of opportunity and allowing that opportunity to arise. So if you take a bag, hold it securely, and wear it over your shoulder if possible. Also stash some money in a pocket in case your bag is stolen. A girl at our hostel in Ho Chi Minh had her bag stolen off her arm the night we arrived. And don’t leave your valuables unattended in a public place. Even if you are there, things can easily be stolen if you are not paying attention.
- Get to know the money and the proper exchange rates. In Vietnam the 10,000 dong note and the 100,000 note are both green, and the 50,000 and 500,000 are both blue. Don’t confuse them!
- Ask how much taxis or motorbike rides should cost from the hotel. You will always be quoted a higher price and be expected to bargain with them.