Top Tips: First Time Backpacking In Southeast AsiaBy Angelica Malin
There is no place on Earth quite like Southeast Asia. The vast South China Sea, the myriad Hindu temples, the scores of archipelagos that dot the region and its diverse flora and fauna make this region a backpacker’s paradise. But backpacking in Southeast Asia is no cakewalk even for the most meticulous planner or exceedingly cautious traveler. Here’s our tried and tested survival guide for backpacking in Southeast Asia:
Always Keep Some Leeway
Plans get thwarted all the time: An unexpected challenge is often thrown in midway through the plan. It’s essential to keep some leeway or accept the fact that it might be difficult to stick to a strict schedule. What if, while exploring the magnificent Angkor Wat in Cambodia, you hear of the not-so-popular but beautiful city of Battambang situated on the Sangkae River? What if you want to explore it? Keep a schedule but don’t expect to follow it to the T.
Explore Not-So-Famous Sites And Trails
The best part of backpacking in Southeast Asia is that its geographic, cultural and religious diversity ensures that there are ample sites, temples, trails, parks, rivers and lakes waiting to be explored. Although the most popular sites are breath-taking and worth visiting, don’t leave out the possibility of stumbling on an off-beaten trail, a less populated, pristine and sandy beach or a bygone forest. Myanmar’s sparsely inhabited southern coast and Wat Pha Sorn Kaew temple in Thailand’s Phetchabun Province are two splendid examples of spectacular yet no-so-popular sites.
Street Food Is The Best
Perfectly spiced cabbages, gleaming insects, mouth-watering roasted pigs and deliciously fired noodles adorn most streets of Southeast Asia. Roadside hawkers specialize in cooking up a storm. The best part is that street food in Southeast Asia isn’t just scrumptious. It’s also super cheap. If you’re worried about an upset tummy while backpacking in Southeast Asia, then know that most of the street food is prepared in front of your eyes. Just check that the hawker follows basic hygiene.
Expect To Be Scammed At Least Once
Chaos dominates the alleyways of Cambodia, the streets of Thailand, the roads of Philippines and the bustling markets of Indonesia. The truth is that most travellers are scammed at least once. It might not be a significant scam – maybe you’ve been cheated for a few dollars or your sunglasses have suddenly gone missing. But it will happen. Always be on guard and use common sense and extreme caution while meandering the lanes of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries. Treat it as a part of the backpacking experience, a way to learn from keeping your guard down, and move on.
Don’t Restrict Your Budget
Unless you’re extremely short on funds, keeping a per day budget is a bad idea. Not only will unexpected expenses creep up, but there will be days when the budget overshoots significantly. Visa costs $40 or more in some countries. Scuba diving in Bali can also cost a pretty penny. And a three-day pass to Angkor Wat is $62.
The reason for traveling is to experience things, converse with people, understand differing cultures, sample unheard of dishes and get out of your comfort zone. Don’t let a stringy budget stop you from experiencing the infinite wonders of Southeast Asia.
Travel In Local Transport
When backpacking in Southeast Asia, always use public transport as much as possible. Experiencing the bylanes of Phuket’s Pa Tong in a Tuk-Tuk is certainly more enriching than in a private car. Moreover, conversing with fellow backpackers, travelers and local people enhances the experience. However, it’s important to be patient and accommodating since travel schedules are seldom followed by bus and train drivers.
Needless to say, it’s imperative to get vaccinated for diseases and take necessary precautions regarding health and well-being while traveling in Southeast Asia. Mosquito bites, upset stomachs and malaria are common maladies affecting people residing in tropics. Traveling in Southeast Asia is a treat. Strangers turn friends, enemies become lovers and remote beaches become home. Plan in advance, search for discounts and packages while booking accommodation and keep an open mind and heart. A well-stamped passport means a life well lived.
Andrea Boffo is CEO of PlusVoucherCode, a website that provides discount codes to save money on online purchases.