Some background first - Planning a four month(ish) trip around SE Asia with my boyfriend for 2013 (does this seem really early to be planning? I feel I need to get everything sorted now to be able to know how much money we need!)
I'm having some trouble deciding on the best route to take, I keep thinking I've almost got it, but then it turns out there are no direct flights between certain places or the flight is costing £200 so I have to scrap it and take a different way! I'm finding it especially hard to slot in the Philippines, which we'd really rather not miss out.
I know it's a lot to ask, but maybe someone with experience could help me out with our route planning? I'll put down what we've got so far, and the places we are keen on seeing:
We will begin in Bangkok.
Explore the islands & southern Thailand
Phuket - Singapore
Singapore - Penang (seems backwards to do Singapore first but flights are cheaper that way)
Penang – Kota Kinabalu, Borneo
Kota Kinabalu - Jakarta (have family there)
Jakarta - Bali
(couldn't get to Philippines from Bali so back to Jakarta first)
Jakarta - Manila, Philippines
this is as far as I've got that seems doable, it got a lot harder from here on (how do I get to Vietnam from Philippines!?) so I'll put down the rest of where we want to go and hope that someone wants to help!
Hoi Chi Minh (hoping to do the boat down the Mekong to Phnom Penh, Cambodia from here)
Laos (not sure where!)
(through N. Thailand) Bangkok once again, and we'll fly home (Belfast) from here too.
obviously we want to explore more than the places I've put on the list, but those are just the main entrance and exit points we've got so far
We'd ideally like to leave a lot open for flexibility and just have the knowledge of where to get the flights etc, as opposed to actually having them booked, but is this impossible? It seems that in order to be granted a visa in most places you need an outward ticket. Is there any way to get around this?
Thanks so much in advance for any advice at all
It’s never too early to start planning that dream trip! [img]smileys/smile.gif[/img]
Firstly, I would say it’s going to be impossible to do justice to 7/8 countries in 4 months – you may find it a more rewarding experience to visit less countries. It would also make the flight logistics simpler and plans a lot more flexible – once you get on the road you’ll find you change your mind about where you want to go anyhow!
But I’ll take timescales out of the equation for now and as you are planning so far in advance you may work out your priorities in the process of your research. So, assuming you do take in the countries you have mentioned ……
To answer your last question first – with the exception of peak holiday periods or other major events, generally you shouldn’t need to book a whole lot of inter-Asia flights in advance providing you can retain a bit of flexibility. The advantage is that you pick up the cheapest deals by doing so. However it does restrict you and I have booked more than a couple of Air Asia flights at rock bottom prices months ahead but then ended up forfeiting them as they don't suit my plans when the time comes. I think “oh, it’s only a few quid” but the reality is that overall I don’t think I make much of a saving than by booking them on the go, a couple of weeks or less in advance.
Are you planning on flying between all of the places you have mentioned? Of course, flights versus travelling by land saves time but it would be good to try andinclude some overland journeys which will also help keep things flexible.
One draw-back of tying your route in so far in advance or spending a lot of timemaking an airline routing work perfectly is that things in the aviation world in Asia have changed massively over the past couple of years and this is set only to expand further – there may not be a flight from Manila to Hanoi now but there may well be one in 18 months time! Air Asia and other low cost carriers (LCCs)are adding new routes all the time. Equally there is a chance that route operating now may have ceased in 18 months (although a bit more unlikely). There are talks of Air Asia Philippines and Air Asia Vietnam both getting off the ground soon so it could happen!
Which airlines/websites have you been using for your research? Air Asia of course have ever-expanding coverage of SE Asia; Cebu Pacific are a Filipino LCC with a lot of useful internationalroutes. Look at the route maps on theirwebsites for inspiration for a routing. For general searches Adioso and Skyscanner aregood for routes on LCCs.
For example you CAN currently fly from the Philippines to Vietnam on Cebu Pacific but from Manila to Ho Chi Minh and not Hanoi which would mean it would be logical to then travel Vietnam south to north, then cross into Laos and down toCambodia. If you really want to go the other way round as you’ve suggested you may have to look at flying from Manila via Bangkok to Hanoi. You say it’s cheaper to fly from Singapore to Penang and then on to Kota Kinabalu but recently I got a really cheap flight onAir Asia from Singapore to Kuching (about £25 including taxes etc) so I wouldn’t dismiss that as a routing. You certainly can’t predict what the best deals for 2013 are going to be at this stage!
So, assuming you are flexible on the order of travel here are a couple of suggestions, based on direct flights currently operating. Note that one longer flight often works out more economical than two shorter ones and can save on back tracking.
Bangkok– Thai islands – overland to Singapore via Penang – Fly Singapore to Bali – overlandor flight to Jakarta (I suspect your timescales with dictate a flight) – Fly to Kota Kinabalu – Fly to Manila – Fly toHo Chi Minh (or Hanoi via Bangkok) – Vietnam / Laos / Cambodia / Thailand(loads of route options and lots of ideas on TF).
Bangkok– Thai islands – overland to Penang – Fly to Jakarta – Fly to Bali – Fly toSingapore – Fly to Kota Kinabalu – continue as above.
Generally I favour circuits over dog-legs but in this instance I think I prefer the second option. Either way, I hope it gives you a bit of food for thought.