So you're leaving on a holiday to Southeast Asia for the first time and you're sitting in front of your computer thinking: Now what do I have to get done before I leave?
No two trips are exactly the same—after all everyone has different travelling styles, budgets, tastes and interests—but many of the aspects of planning a trip are largely the same, especially the planning required before even leaving.
Just as there is no “right” way to travel, there is no “correct” way of travel planning. Some people enjoy planning down to a minute level of detail, while for others anything more than a passport, backpack and plane ticket is over-planning.
We’re going to cover all the bases here, to create a broad travel checklist for planning a trip to Southeast Asia. You’re of course welcome to skip steps that don’t appeal or apply to you, but broad strokes, most first time travellers to the region will be well served by at least considering all the following.
We’ve broken the checklist out into thirteen sections (yes thirteen!), each aimed at a specific part of the planning process and while most of these are concerned with planning elements before you leave, the last couple cover planning considerations once you are out and on the road.
While each section is detailed, don’t feel you need to plan to the extent we’re outlining, as we said up top, there is no right way to plan a trip—as soon as it becomes hard work or tedious, you know you’re straying into over planning, so move on to the next section.
Lastly, if you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your suggestions and personal experience.
This is where you need to start when you’re still trying to decide between Southeast Asia and South America. Start with our Meet Southeast Asia section which briefly introduces each country. From there move on to wrap pieces covering beaches and islands, diving, food and drink, ancient ruins, arts and culture, cities and, last but not least kid-friendly destinations. Each gives an overview to some of the highlights in the region for that particular area of interest. By the time you’ve finished here, South America will be totally off your radar!
In this section we’ll look at regional itineraries and how some Southeast Asia countries fit together better than others, how the order of your trip can be important, and how some destinations are perhaps better suited to first time travellers than others. We’ll also talk about the weather and how sometimes a small shift in dates can make a world of difference weather wise.
Once you’ve got a broad plan outlined, you’re going to need to pay for it and for that you’re going to need to get some money. We’ll look at daily budgets for a range of standards to travel in different countries in Southeast Asia and from there coming up with a rough idea on how much money you need is as simple as multiplying the day rate by the number of days. From there we’ll cover a very similar set of steps to start squirrelling away that money to make sure you’re suitably cashed up by the time you walk through the departures gate.
Once you’ve got your cash hoard sorted, the temptation to start buying flight tickets and travel gear is considerable, but the first thing you need to do is get insurance. There are plenty of different insurance options, from specialist operators like World Nomads (who we use and recommend) through to insurance from credit card companies and personal insurance. Each of these offerings is different and what suits one may be a bad fit for another. We’ll also cover some of the common pitfalls along with some detailed information regarding motorcycling and travel insurance.
Once you’re insured you can start spending money and get your documents. If you don’t have one already you’ll need a passport and depending on where you’re from, where you’re going and how long you’re going for, you may need to get some visas. This is a brief overview of what you need to keep in mind. Detailed visa information is in the individual country sections of the site.
While your inbound flight will in all likelihood be your largest single expense, what you spend on a backpack and other assorted gear will be what you’ll be dealing with day to day. It is time to get your gear. We’ll cover some of the earth-shattering decisions such as wheelie bag or backpack, top-loading or side-loading backpack and how big is too big. “Gear” of course covers more than luggage, we’ll also discuss money belts, security, other gear, and also travelling with electronics.
While we touch on packing sensibly in the previous section, when the time comes to get packing you’ll realise what an art form good packing really is. How much to pack, what to pack, what to bring from home and what to get in Southeast Asia. Should you roll or fold? How about packing for a baby?
With all your kit sorted, now is the time to put the planning back in travel planning and figure out how to get the most out of your trip. We’ll talk about why we believe less is more, and that working to try and patronise small family- and locally-owned businesses can help to support sustainable tourism. We’ll also give you some tips on how to travel in a more environmentally sound manner and also some considerations for when travelling with kids. Lastly, we’ll also talk about the controversial growth in “voluntourism” and how it is often nothing like what you may have been led to believe.
If you’re looking at a prolonged trip to a single country in the region, an investment in learning some of the local language will Get You Talking and can pay off tenfold. We’ll cover phrasebooks and online language resources along with some options for further language study in countries in Southeast Asia.
Depending on how carefully you are planning, those with more detailed itineraries which are set in concrete, this is a good time to Get Booking. Compared to even a decade ago, it is amazing just how much can how be booked online in Southeast Asia. You can book your hotels and hostels, buses and trains, planes and often sights and activities. We’ll cover all of these, talking about some of the main providers and will discuss common pitfalls and things to watch out for when it come to booking online. We also cover some ideas on how to best get a cheap flight to Southeast Asia.
With all this talk about booking in advance, we’ll then discuss how to Get Around. This is a broad strokes discussion of how to get around, covering everything from flying and trains to buses, cars, motorbikes and ferries.
Swaying rice fields and coconut palms are just two of the many iconic Southeast Asian images and both tie in to one of the most amazing features of the region—the food. In Get Fed we give you an overview of the basics along with some thoughts to keep in mind when eating with kids.
We’ll also cover some of the most common ways you’re likely to seriously injure yourself—yes we’re talking about scooter accidents and the benefits of wearing a helmet—but there are plenty of other ways to injure yourself—what should you do in an emergency? There’s also dengue fever and Zika, perhaps malaria (depending on where you are going) and a raft of other contagions you’re best made at least aware of. You have insurance right?
Planning well is an integral part of getting the most out of your trip. Be it picking the right backpack, the right vaccinations or the right country, the simple decisions are often the most important.